Street scenes in Chiang Mai, Thailand
On my first morning in Chiang Mai I called my friend Pek who I met when I was studying in Thailand in 2009. He no longer lives in Chiang Mai, but was planning to make the 2-hour journey from his hometown into the city to meet up with me that evening. He confirmed those intentions when I spoke to him and told me he’d call me when he arrived in Chiang Mai later that afternoon. We did not make any plans beyond that.
A few hours passed and though I knew Pek would be later than he originally estimated (a phenomenon known as “Thai Time”), I began to get a bit concerned when 5 PM rolled around and I hadn’t heard from him. I started to send him a few text messages to check-in and get an idea of when he may arrive in Chiang Mai. No response. It was now after 6 PM.
I was beginning to get quite discouraged. We really should have arranged a tentative meeting time and place earlier that day when I had him on the phone, but we didn’t and I was now trying to accept the reality that I just wouldn’t hear from Pek and our plans to see each other would fail. Pek had to fly to Bangkok the following day for a friend’s wedding, so this night was our only chance to see each other while I was back in Thailand.
It was, at least, Sunday night in Chiang Mai and that meant the city’s Sunday Market was in full swing. I decided I would go check it out while I waited to (hopefully) hear from Pek. When I arrived at the marker it was clear that its popularity, like Chiang Mai’s as a whole, had grown immensely since I first visited 4 years ago. I was instantly surrounded by TENS-OF-THOUSANDS of market-goers and swimming in a sea of heat, mosquitos, questionable aromas, and noise. As it was nearing 7 PM, I ducked off one of the main streets of the market into a quieter alley of shops so that I could attempt to call Pek and see where he was.
My heart sank as my phone call was answered with the Thai equivalent of "this number is currently not in service". I tried again and received the same response. WHAT THE HELL. I had JUST reached Pek at the same number earlier that day, and now it was clear that there was no way we were going to be able to meet up that evening or at all during my trip. I was so disappointed.
I put my phone back in my purse and decided I would go check out a few of the shops further ahead in the alley. I looked up and started walking and to my absolute amazement… there was PEK! It was an incredible moment, and I think my eyes may have welled up a bit as my overwhelming frustration was immediately replaced with relief. We hugged and after we got over the shock and excitement of running into each other, I asked Pek why he hadn’t called or texted me when he got to Chiang Mai…
As it turns out, after he spoke to me earlier that morning he traded in his old phone for a new one. The switch didn’t go well and his new phone was not receiving or sending any calls or texts, nor was his old phone. And his contacts were lost, which meant he didn’t have access to my number.
Amidst the thousands of people roaming around Chiang Mai, and without ANY sort of tentative plan for a meeting time and place (Pek didn’t even know where I was staying), it is truly incredible that we found each other that evening… in a very random alley. We proceeded to have a ridiculously fun time catching up, laughing, drinking too much, and dancing the rest of the night away.
This story surely doesn’t mean as much to anyone else as it does to me, but I see it as reassuring proof that from the very beginning, I was destined to be in the right place at the right time throughout my entire journey.
My 3 weeks in Asia have come and gone. I find myself already back to my usual routine, surrounded by the comforts of drinkable tap water, clothes dryers, and cushy pillows. And already I miss being on the other side of the world, where almost everything functions with an endearing amount of inefficiency and unpredictability. I just can’t resist the overwhelming beauty in the cultural and physical landscape of the region. And the food. Ohhh, the food.
My adventure this time around looked a little something like this:
After a 36-hour journey from Portland, I arrived in Chiang Mai- the city that I was based in when I studied abroad in Thailand 4 years ago. I spent 3 days re-exploring Chiang Mai before heading to…
Malaysia! My whirlwind tour of peninsular Malaysia involved 2 days in Kuala Lumpur, 2 days in the mountains of the Cameron Highlands, and 4 days on the charming island of Penang. From Penang, I hopped on a flight back to…
Bangkok, where I spent 1 day before taking a 6-hour bus ride east to the city of Khon Kaen. After 3 days in Khon Kaen, I made my way back to Bangkok to begin my journey home. My itinerary, however, incorporated a 60-hour layover in…
CHINA. Here I spent almost 3 days attempting to navigate the frigid air and confusion of Beijing. I was less than successful.
For your entertainment and mine, I will now begin to tell the story of these 3 weeks- with plenty of pictures along the way to keep things somewhat interesting.
I hope you enjoy the ride.
See you in November, Thailand (and Malaysia… and China!).
I hope this every-other-year luck continues.
Silver Falls, Oregon