Saturday, May 10, 2008

Out of the Jungle

On our 3rd morning staying at the resort on the Ping River we were marooned. The friendly owner had promised to take us into town with her but when we reported for breakfast at 7 AM to be ready for a 9 AM departure we found that she had already gone into town. A taxi would set us back 300 baht each way or around $9.50 US. That is, if we could find a taxi. The accommodations were fine although the owner admitted that the reason she hadn’t picked us up at the airport was because she accidently deleted my email containing our flight information.

When we checked in the owner asked if we had any dietary restrictions and since she was asking I checked “no pork” but each meal arrived containing pork, sometimes in multiple forms such as pork ribs with a side salad garnished with fried pork rinds. Moo! Moo’s the Thai word for pork. So we went back to our cottage, broke out the laptop and booked a room in town and found a way to call a cab. Within a half hour we were gone.

But by the afternoon we were back, in my haste I had left a bag behind. Eleanor did some hard bargaining with a tuk-tuk driver who took us tear-assing through traffic and into the hills and back for only 200 baht to retrieve the bag. Most of Chiang Mai’s foreign visitors seem to be European. I’ve seen and heard more than a few willowy gay German couples with shaved heads around town. Souvenirs seem to be targeted to Europeans as well. Lots of soccer jerseys with European player’s names on the back are for sale along with some snarky and offensive t-shirts. Lots of shirts for sale in Chiang Mai equate George Bush with Adolf Hitler, because if anyone would understand that the deaths of 20 million Russians, 6 million Jews and countless European Frenchmen, Dutch, Englishmen, Czechs, Poles, etc are being repeated on the same scale today at the hands of George Bush it’s Europeans. Pictures of Bush and Hitler with the caption, “Same Shit, Different Asshole”, pictures of Bush with a furher moustache, drawings of Bush as a monkey being blown up by the dynamite in his paw. Picture of a woman’s public region labeled , “Good Bush”, next to a picture of a smiling George Bush labeled, “Bad Bush”, pictures of George Bush labeled, “Public Enemy #1”. Che Guevara staring into a bright revolutionary future, Mao as a disk jockey. Hard hitting satire that’s obviously far beyond a course American cowboy understanding like mine. Non political shirts say strange things like, “Eat Your Rice, Bitch!”.

In the afternoon I decided to go for a walk on my own and within minutes I was lost. I had wanted to get away from the touristy Chiang Mai of souvenir t-shirts and massages and instantly succeeded, within minutes I was in a land of tin shacks, dog packs and strange street food that I knew would curdle my tender North American stomach. The tropical sun rocked down out of the sky and toasted my pale white skin that has been nurtured on winters of Seattle’s cold and damp. After several hours of walking in what I later discovered to be a circle that was nowhere near my hotel I swallowed my pride and succumbed to a tuk-tuk driver’s pitch. I heard thunder off in the darkening distance and if there was anything worse than being lost under the searing tropical sun it was being lost in a tropical downpour. When I got back to the hotel I discovered that I had soaked through all of my clothing with sweat. My shirt was sopped and my pants looked like I had forgotten toilet training. I had even soaked through my belt. The friendly tropical sun that on this trip has given me abundant banana, mango, mangosteen, lychee, rambuttan and especially durian had a darker side. Actually the sun has given me a darker side, perhaps there is affirmative action in my future. Or skin cancer.

Look carefully, some of those signs are in Hebrew.


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