03 June, 2011

International Traveler – Day 1

Today I awoke in Thailand.

Let’s see … when I last left you, I was still finalizing all the details of pre-departure. How’d that go, you ask? As far as I know, the insurance situation has been handled. Anisette got her fancy (and SPACIOUS!) new house. Rosy the Argosy was emptied and cleaned and disassembled for storage/sale. The last of my gear arrived. And I got to celebrate with beloved family and friends before my departure on Memorial Day Monday. (On a side note: I’ve been getting some good renewed interest in the camper, so please cross your fingers, say some prayers, do some trance dance, or whatever you do to send me some luck that she sells soon. Thanks!)

My flights from NC to San Francisco were pretty uneventful. I always try to sleep on planes as much as I can since the seats are designed in such a way that they are the most uncomfortable and unnatural torture devices ever invented. (Sorry … soap box.) However, there was a little tiny bit of freak out when I realized on the way to the airport that I had miscalculated my layover in San Francisco. I had an entire extra day that I didn’t realize I had. Apparently the notion that May has 31 days rather than just 30 was getting lost on my frazzled brain. Luckily, my gorgeous and generous friends, Valeda and Elijah, were willing to put me up overnight. (Thanks, again, you two!)

It was so lovely to visit with good friends in such a colorful, big city like San Francisco. They took me to lunch at Café Gratitude where I had a raw foods version of macaroni and cheese – zucchini strips with sun-dried tomatoes and cashew “cheese” sauce. It was delicious. Washed it down with an effervescent juice concoction of ginger and lemon. Refreshing! Then we all shared dessert; a couple of chocolate treats and a brilliant raw + vegan + gluten-free strawberry shortcake. Yum-a-rummy! After lunch, they brought me back to their charming home in Bernal Heights so I could take a nap. That nap turned into 16+ hours of deep sleep. Aaah. It was just what I needed. Tuesday we went shopping at a local natural foods co-op, had lunch at Samovar Tea Lounge (wasabi Caesar salad + Thai mulberry tea), and took Valeda to work at the italian restaurant, Ragazza. Then Elijah and I went to a gorgeous little herb + gift boutique, walked with Dulce (the sweetest little dog in Cali) to a hill with the most spectacular view of San Francisco to watch the sun set, then back to the house where Elijah was offered the job he wanted (Yay!), and back to Ragazza’s to pick up Valeda and have a snack with her at the bar (and to celebrate Elijah’s good news) before taking me to the airport. What a great time with great friends!

At the airport, I discovered that, despite all my careful packing, and despite culling my luggage down to what I thought was the bare minimum, I had brought too much stuff. I had not considered the weight requirements of international flights, and was over the limit, so I had to check a bag. Luckily, I was able to get creative and managed to consolidate my computer, snacks, and a book into a little fold-up shopping bag I’d brought ‘just in case’. Then I put a few ‘less necessary’ items from my backpack into what was my ‘purse’/shoulder bag. That allowed me to check the shoulder bag, and still have my most important stuff with me. It actually felt a lot better carrying the lighter load. I have a feeling I will be losing some of this excess by the time I fly from Thailand. Other than that, there was nothing really out of the ordinary with any of the three flights from San Francisco to Chiang Mai. I slept a lot on these, as well.

Once at the Chiang Mai airport, I made my way to the gentleman carrying a sign with my name on it: “MELANIE HAYES”. The gentleman is Mr. Pathom. He is the facilitator of the Chaba Guest House, where I am staying for the month. Mr. Pathom, a very sweet and jovial man who speaks fantastic English, drove me to the Chaba House while giving me a brief, but thorough, tour of the city along the way. Once there, he gave me my choice of two rooms – one an upstairs room in the main building, and another just off the courtyard and near the outdoor kitchen. (I splurged and got the courtyard room. I figured I’m going to be here a month, so I might as well treat myself well while I’m here.) Mr. Pathom got me all checked in and left me instructions on when breakfast was available. He made sure to get information regarding my dietary restrictions and preferences, and promised to take me out in the morning to show me where the Old City Center and the massage school are located. Then he left me to my solitude. I managed to put away my things, catch up on a few emails, and Skype with my folks before, at around 5pm, Thai time, I went to bed.

This morning I awoke at 5:30am in my comfortable double bed with the gauzy mosquito netting draping around it. I’d been having a dream about Ashton Kutcher. Not sure what prompted it, but I am certainly not complaining. I also realized that I arrived in my very first international destination on the new moon. That’s an auspicious sign, as the new moon has long been associated with beginnings. I took my time getting out of bed, luxuriating in the sweet newness of it all. Then I showered, dressed and set out for breakfast on the lanai. Mr. Pathom was out there and greeted me with his customary large smile. They say Thai people are renowned for their smiles, and Mr. Pathom is a shining example of this wonderful stereotype. He and his staff prepared a most delicious breakfast for me: vegetable fried rice, egg sunny-side up, fresh fruit, and sticky rice with taro root puree. It was heaven. He introduced me to another woman staying in the guest house. Her name is Patricia. She is a French woman who lives in Maui, Hawaii. She also arrived last night. Mr. Pathom was to take us on a tour together so he didn’t have to do it twice. It turned out to be a wonderful gift, that introduction.

Mr. Pathom dropped us off in the middle of the Old City center. Patricia and I went to the bank to change money, then decided to walk around the town together to see what there was to see. She has traveled extensively in her life, and shares a similar travel style to mine. We just walked around with no specific intent, getting to know each other. We stopped at the Corner Café to share a bite to eat (bean thread with tofu and oyster sauce, brown rice, and banana spring rolls) and to have a drink. Patricia was craving a cold beer, so I got wild and had a gin + tonic. Under the heading of “It’s A Small World”, I discovered that Patricia used to own a restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant in the space where hers used to be is Ragazza – the very restaurant where Valeda works and where we had a late snack before my departure. Small world, indeed. While enjoying the food and conversation, one drink became two. That, of course, along with the jet lag and the heat, made us sleepy. We hopped a tuk tuk taxi and made our way toward Chaba House. The tuk tuk driver wasn’t familiar with it, so we directed him to a nearby [larger] hotel. He tried to help us find it with the little map on the business card, but, after a while he gave up and suggested we walk until we found it. We set out … we knew we were in the general vicinity of the place … cursing ourselves for not paying better attention to our landmarks on the drive out earlier. Eventually, we stopped to ask a street policeman. He wasn’t familiar with it, either, but a friend of his rode up on a bicycle, and he knew exactly where to take us. We were only one street past the street we needed. Whew! Crisis averted! We made it back just fine, and parted with the promise of getting together later this evening to check out the Night Bazaar. Exciting! I have a travel buddy! I am already feeling that this trip is going to be everything I needed and so much more. Stay tuned! Xoxo!

1 comment:

  1. Melanie! Here's to a marvelous beginning! Can't wait for the next installment. Pictures?