Sunday, February 8, 2009
I am writing from the Tokyo airport on a massive layover between Thailand and the States. What else does one do here for 6 hours?
Our final dinner in Chiang Mai was back and Jeff and Naomi’s. While we pitched in with some prep here and there, Naomi, Fern, Ying and the gang did most of the cooking. It was Thai grilling and salads and they really did some amazing stuff (the full meal is above). There was a Thai beef salad, not unfamiliar to us but of course better in Thailand (w/the exception of their beef being on the tough side), a fabulous fish salad, a white fungus salad (which sounds kind of nasty but tastes amazing), a cellophane noodle salad with pork, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, chicken wings and pork loin pieces marinated in black pepper and fish sauce and grilled with a spicy dipping sauce, and of course sticky rice to scrape up all the bits from our plates. Full and happy, we walked the night bazaar and ended up in a pool bar that was ringside for the nightly Thai boxing tournament. You need a strong stomach to watch this sport. It’s rough and brutal and the kids who do it look so young. Most of us just peeked in between playing pool with another woman named Fern (a fabulous, and I mean fabulous, Thai drag queen) and drinking our Singha on ice.
The last day was a Sunday so, after shopping a bit and packing our bags we met up at the Sunday Market. This is the market we saw our first day in town, exactly one week ago. It was really fun to see it again. Not only did we realize we’d missed half the vendors but, seeing it after immersing ourselves in a week of Thai food and culture made it that much better. We recognized more food, we could haggle over prices when buying souvenirs, and we could even find our way around. We said our good-byes at the market and waved a final farewell to Thailand.
What an adventure this has been. Never having been to Asia I really had no idea what to expect. Tokyo was a great starting point. We were in Mika’s capable hands and she surprised us with every move. Bangkok was nuts. It is a huge metropolitan city that in many ways could have been anywhere in the world. However, looking behind the urban veil, we uncovered markets and people that many tourists don’t see. We ate incredible home cooked food served by Ann in the back corner of the Chatuchack market. We walked the streets to see open air butchers and fish markets and we took a long tail boat through the residential canals to see how the real people of Bangkok live on the river. Finally, Chiang Mai and the north. This was the bulk of our trip and our ultimate destination. The city is vibrant and energetic. People are everywhere and they come from all over. The old walls of the city are still in tact but today they are flanked with Starbucks on many sides. Further north, in Thaton and Fang, we saw elephants on the sides of the road, tribal people selling their hand crafted wares, and delicious produce we’ll never find in the states. We cooked on a farm up north and on a deck at an apartment in the city. We met new friends and loved being with old ones. Memories were made and lots of laughs were had. These are relationships that will last, built around food and an immersion into a new culture. I feel honored and privileged to have been a part of it.