Saturday, 17 May 2014

Travel Journal: Chiang Mai Week 1

Day One,  May 5

I remember having a dozen thoughts run through my mind last night... the mixed emotions were like a strange concoction i've never before tasted.  I've been dreaming about this moment for the past few months --my journey to discovery of self, of God, and of the beautiful world around me. A mere twenty-four hours ago i had imagined myself in an entirely different world, and here i am, breathless with excitement at the fact that i'm taking off in thirty minutes.  

Heather's mom got us a lounge, which was very nice. A final regale in Singapore before leaving to a foreign land for two months...quite a spread, i must admit!

Couldn't resist a picture on the plane... the excitement i was feeling just half an hour ago is now tainted with some apprehension. The feeling is a strange one, a mixture of two seemingly contrary emotions at the endless possibilities ahead of me. Somewhat glad i'm not traveling entirely alone... i expect it will be good to have someone to share these inspiring moments with.

P.s. Cut my finger (unintentionally) on the plane... not cool.

Day Two, May 6

Quite enraptured by the culture... i've only been here a day but already i can sense the general feeling of unity in the village. The villagers seem to share a bond that cannot quite be encapsulated by the mere medium of language, and i felt fairly heartened observing their interaction. It was nice to see how they were so much like a "family", being so agreeable and disposed to helping each other out. Such open generosity is pretty much a rarity in the self-seeking, rapacious culture of Singapore. Got to try out thai street food which was quite decent!

Pi Tom and Pi Am ( "Pi" is used as a title of respect for a senior ) were such hospitable hosts... Pi Tom's kindly disposition made me feel at home immediately, and Pi Am was really amiable as well. Her culinary skills are superb! Hopefully i shall acquire some of those at the end of my two months stay.

Day Three, May 7

Today was comparatively enjoyable, if only because the weather was so much more compromising (yesterday was 38 Celsius degrees, we are talking legit stuff here).  Spent the first half of the day helping out at the Good Kids Pre-school, tidying and cleaning up the place with the teachers, who are especially passionate about their jobs. They are as much janitors as they are teachers, and they're perfectly happy with that. It was sufficiently cheering to see such ardor and dedication... something i've always thought rather lacking in Singapore, with our packed, routinely lifestyles. It really reminded me of how education and careers shouldn't be something you do because you have to, but something you do because you want to. There's a rather significant difference to be established.

Visited the Chiang Mai night Safari, which was personally such a delightful experience because the animals were allowed to roam free. It was the first time i've seen a deer, much less been close enough such that i could stroke it should I reach my hand forward. I still can't believe I fed a giraffe from my very own hands... the creatures were magnificent up close, with lovely doe eyes and long, fluttery lashes. Rather lamentable that no flash photography was allowed however ):

Day Four, May 8

It's kind of weird but i think part of me is slowly getting accustomed to the leisurely, unhurried village life.  I've gotten somewhat inured to the living conditions... the heat, the lack of air conditioning, and the gargantuan insects that seem to thrive in all abundance (slight exaggeration there, but you know what i mean).  Nothing special today apart from the pre-school teachers conducting a demonstration for when school re-opens on the fourteenth of May. Being a pre-schoolteacher is truly admirable, considering the amount of mental alertness and physical energy the job demands. It was precisely this fact that caused me to be pleasantly surprised by how ready the teachers were to offer help i.e. giving Heather and i rides home on their motorbikes despite the long day at work. I really love being on the back of a bike, with  the sun's rays kissing my skin and the light breeze in my hair.

Day Five, May 9

Incredibly thankful for today... hands down the best since i've arrived. Every Friday evening, Heather and I move from Narada (our village home) to Aunt Marg's house for our Sabbath, which is pretty much a rest day from all the week's work. It was a pleasant, relaxing evening characterised by some light shopping and a scrumptious dinner treat. The highlight was probably that we got to stay in an air conditioned room for the first time in what felt like forever. Spent a fair amount of time snuggled under the warm sheets just relishing that reality, which made me think about how many things i often take for granted back home. What would be considered mundane is now regarded as a luxury... the "givens" feel like extravagance now.  I imagine i am too often foolishly preoccupied with what i don't have, so much so that i fail miserably in seeing what i do have.  They say comparison is the basis of all discontentment. But if it's possible for feelings of dissatisfaction to arise as a result of comparison with the affluent, surely the opposite must be true and far more healthy? 

Day Six, May 10

Today was off to a wonderful start... got to sleep in, which is such an indulgence ( I've been waking at 6:30am everyday since i got here).  Walked out of the room, into the kitchen, and was greeted by an extensive spread that smelt heavenly and tasted so wholesome. I do believe i'm beginning to grasp the concept of breakfast and how it can literally make or break one's day. It's the first day since the beginning of the trip that i've felt settled enough to do any reading, which was followed by some piano practice. I feel adequately refreshed.

Day Seven, May 11

Lots of things weighing on my mind today, but i shall put them aside temporarily. Today was the first time I got to properly experience the sights and sounds of the bustling city life in Chiang Mai. Heather and i went to walking street, which is a huge night market said to be one of Chiang Mai's most keenly sought after tourist attractions. It was sufficiently engaging just to stroll through the little stalls and to try out all sorts of street food. The thais are extremely innovative people when it comes to food... i am absolutely spellbound by the dozens of different dishes, all equally tantalising to the tastebuds. 

Heather bought me with a friendship bracelet and gave it to me right then, which i was completely surprised by because i was so absorbed examining everything else. Felt reasonably placated after food and retail therapy, so i expect i shall go to bed content tonight. It has been quite a satisfying first week, although i wouldn't yet claim to have met with any radically transformative experiences. Still... all good, i'd say (:

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