June 24, 2011

In the nut.

House Shrine

The smell of lemongrass is everywhere. Normally, a pleasant smell, but in excess it is as if you cannot rid yourself of it. When I leave my room, a swirl of the scent always manages to find my nose. It will follow me for the rest of my life, and will forever remind me of Thailand.

Upon arrival, the guesthouse I had booked, was full. I slept next door in an overpriced boutique hotel and might just as well have been in California. It was lovely, but I am a bit of a romantic when traveling, and prefer a place with atmosphere, which I quickly found.

The room is dark though, with only a tiny window, but it has airconditioning, a roomy bathroom and anything else I might need. I have been adopted by Tatar, a young man, who speaks excellent English and who tells me about daily life in Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside.

From the first conversation we had, there was one word that I didn't understand. I heard him say 'nut'. 'Here in the nut', and thought it was a Thai word for the region. Yesterday evening, again the word kept appearing in the conversation and I had to ask him what it meant. It was 'North'. 'Here in the North'. The 'th' is not an easy sound for foreigners to make.

I travel for the feeling of where I am, not so much for the things one has to see or do. I wandered in and out of Wats (Buddhist Temples) yesterday, did a little bit of shopping, but hardly bought anything. Tatar says not to waste money on the tourist shops, but to wait for the Sunday market, which will be right outside of my hotel on the main street. People from the villages bring their crafts for sale at the Sunday market. I am not looking to buy much because I am traveling light, and there isn't space in my luggage. In Bangkok, I bought some beautiful turquoise beads from Afghanistan and I will be looking for silver beads from the Hill tribes. I want to make a necklace for Marianne, and I know she likes things that are "different". I will do my best to find unusual beads and make a design that she will like. The stones themselves are very heavy, so I cannot add much weight to it. My niece (7), picked up the whole strand and said, "Oooof, who wants to put that around their neck?"
 In fact, I have not seen any silver beads in the many shops. Even the area, where on my map, it says 'silver beads', there were no beads to be found. Maps here are not very reliable. The main streets are shown, but the myriad of little allies are not, so you have to ask or guess where something is. The saa paper store was in a little back ally, and I was fortunate that an expat school teacher walked me there, otherwise I may not have found it.

I might have danced naked on a table last night. After dinner, I felt like a sundowner and ordered a gin on ice. When they brought me the glass, I thought it was water. Two lonely ice cubes floated in a glass filled to the brim with gin. I decided that a third of it was more than enough. Wisdom comes with age, thank goodness.

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