It is a good feeling to be back in the land of smiles. A first day between temples, markets and mango sticky rice.
The stewardess‘ announcement before landing in Chiang Mai is clear: people with flu-like symptoms or respiratory diseases should definitely report themselves to the health officials. The four-year-old, two rows behind me, coughed the entire flight (while his baby sibling drove the gentleman in front of me insane with his crying). I don’t know whether the family actually did so. That the corona virus is an issue in Thailand, I now do know.
The first golden temple roofs shine in the sun from the air. This part of Chiang Mai looks a little like a North American suburb, in which identical single-family houses are lined up. My anticipation is huge, because Thailand was actually not on my travel list. Two years ago, during my first visit to Asia, I traveled to the south of the country, enjoying food, nature, markets, people, hustle and bustle. Two weeks ago, a super cheap flight brought me undecided traveler back. In the back seat of tuk tuk I make my way from the airport to the hostel in the city at a tearing pace. The driver is on the phone. Flowers, warm air – a blessing after cold, rainy, and snowy days in Canada. Hard to believe that both places are on the same planet.
It smells warm, a little sweet and nasty of durian (stinkfruit), sewage and something fried from the street vendor. The power cables buzz above me as I go about a portion of mango with sticky rice and coconut milk. First things first.
Well-breathed despite a long flight
The journey from Vancouver via Taipei to Chiang Mai took almost 20 hours. Nevertheless, I‘m in top shape, feel downright energetic and just have to get out of the hostel, stroll among colorful pants, wooden elephants and fried foods across markets, whila a fat rat runs across the path, Thais smile, tourists shop and take pictures, and I make a detour into a temple (don‘t step on the threshold, it brings bad luck). What a contrast there is between the hustle and bustle and meditative silence just meters apart. After just half a day, I feel like I’m coming home. The western world couldn‘t only geographically be further away.
I admit: in the late afternoon the tiredness spreads. High time for a red Thai curry – my absolute favorite. There’s Thai eggplant in Nun’s Restaurant’s version. Reminiscent of figs, but tastes heavenly. And red curry is best when the line between hot and spicy blurs at some point. It is already warm enough: at 6:30 p.m. the thermometer shows 31 degrees celsius. Time to go to bed in the air-conditioned hostel room.