Saturday, November 24, 2007

Leaving Chiangmai

The previous day, Watis, Alexander’s friendly colleague and one of the local organizers of the conference, wanted to make sure that I would find a good backpack to replace the torn one. He was willing to help, hence he told me to call him when I wake up. So I did, around 8:30, and we decided that he would pick me up in his car around 11, help me with the luggage matter and show me a little bit around the city. I checked out from Ben Guesthouse – the hosts have proven themselves very friendly. The room has cost me 200 baht – that is 6 US dollars – and provided the bare necessities of life. What I needed for last night was nothing more than that.
Watis and I went around the city to see mainly Buddhist temples. Although I am a Christian, I confessed being impressed with the Thai religious architecture. Watis had the same opinion about the European sacred buildings – having visited many churces while backpacking in Europe a few years back. I was amazed at the density of temples in Chiangmai and at their richness in details. The most impressive temple – maybe not the most beautiful but by all means the most imposing – is the Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang – a glimpse of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which I will hopefully visit next week.
As Chiangmai lies in a valley, plenty of people would often head to the mountains surrounding the city. They have names such as Doi Suthep (Peak of the Good Angel) and Doi Pui (Floating Peak). Watis was very entertained when I told him that Doi Pui, pronounced precisely the same, means Two Chicks in Romanian. I do not know whether I will be ale to learn Thai myself – fair enough, nothing is impossible – as Thai is a tonal language. Chinese is tonal as well, olny that Thai is a very sing-sung idiom, and a very nasal one. For the untrained ear, it may be difficult to recognize, but after four days, it started to make sense to me. Maybe there is a chance I can learn some words, given that it is extremely sexy, with girl names such as Supaporn and guesthouses called Chalermporn.
Watis and I were both hungry, so given that he has been an excellent host and was of great assstance to me, I was very happy to offer to buy lunch for both of us, at a restaurant of his choice and with a menu of his choice. So he did, and we had three courses between the two of us – a rice dish with green curry, a noodles dish with crab meat, and a soup. Prices for food here are extremely reasonable, whereas alcoholic drink cost about the same as in Romania. The reason is taxation – as explained by Watis; Government imposes heavy excises in order to discourage drinking, Anyway, in four days I have spent in Thailand until now, I have not seen any drunken Thai.
With due respect to my Indian and Chinese friends, whose cuisine I love, I have to confess that Thai food is, nonetheless, number 1 in my list. The flavour of lemongrass, the heat of other spices, tempered by the smoothness of the coconut milk, makes Thai cuisine a heavenly one. I do understand very well why so many “farang” (foreigners) come to visit and even settle here; I could never see why would one want to leave. All the flavours, the very reasonable cost of life, and the kindness of the Thai people, makes Siam the ideal place to be.
Neither did I want to leave, but I had a plane to catch – though a domestic one. Watis had to go back to the Chiang Mai university, as he had a class at 1:30, so he dropped me at the extremely modern Mall near the airport. I found a good backpack there – they were on sale – and I headed by foot to the arport, which is within walking distance from the Airport Plaza Mall. I checked in, and as the claims office was closed (being Saturday and also the festival of Loi Kratong), the checkin staff were extremely helpful and contacted the Phukhet office. Hopefully, I will have this matter sorted out while in Phuket.