January 29, we visited Tapai Gate. The gate is part of the ancient city walls, most of which have been torn down. The portions that remain serve as a tourist attraction, and attract they do!
Every Sunday, merchants line the street in front of the gate. When I say line the street, I mean for miles, literally. We walked for nearly three hours and did not see half of everything. Masses of people visit the market each Sunday, and it’s hard to describe. Mostly you just move with the crowd, or I should say, the crowd just moves you. On the occasion that you do get to pause to look at something that catches your eye, it’s hard to concentrate on anything but people passing by. On one occasion, I tried to pinpoint each accent as I heard it. In the span of about one minute, I heard Arab, Australian, French, Greek, British and Asian accents. It was crazy.
The street scene is mesmerizing, but also quite sad. Blind people sit right in the mid-section of the sea of people and play their instruments or sing for money. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” your heart goes out to these lost ones. Something tells you they are not singing to put money in their own pockets.
Open markets are everywhere in Chiang Mai, although none surpass the tourist feel of Tapai Gate Sunday Market.
THE PLANE! THE PLANE!
I also keep meaning to mention the airplanes! We live not far from the Chiang Mai airport, so we constantly have to pause class for the roar of airplanes. They are so loud! When a plane goes overhead, it looks as though you can reach up and touch it. The first night we stayed here, a plane flew over, and I thought the city was being invaded. The girls asked, “What was that???” in a panicked voice. I honestly couldn’t answer them. Now, we sometimes don’t even notice them – unless we’re talking or trying to hear in class, of course. I relate it to living next to a railroad track. At first, the noise kind of drives you nuts, but then it just fades into the other sounds around you.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER? PROBABLY RICE
The big joke around lunch and dinnertime is always, “What’s for dinner today? Oh, what a surprise, it’s rice and vegetables.”
Once in a while, the restaurant that caters our meals surprises us with noodles. Vegetables generally are mixed with any combination of ginger, mushrooms, broccoli, baby corn, chicken, scrambled eggs, onions, chili peppers, tofu and sometimes the kitchen sink. Since we have such a conglomeration of cultures, dishes generally aren’t spicy. The restaurant includes sides of dry chili and chilis in vinegar for students who want to add a little kick. I have my favorite meals, and I have my not-so-favorite favorites. I try to remember that Jesus ate whatever he was served by whoever would feed him, but this weekend, we just had to get a salad! Last Saturday, we found a burger joint. Outings are special, and we have to pay for transportation (which is super cheap – about $1 per way), but still, we try to keep traveling and going out to eat to a minimum. The girls are doing fairly well with this. They do get tired of rice, so they pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a lot for their school lunches. We keep bread and a few other grocery items on hand. Some foods are inexpensive. Restaurant meals are very cheap, about $1.50 to $2.50 for anything. Oatmeal, on the other hand, will cost you about $7 a box. We don’t buy oatmeal!
Today, I got a treat of all treats from a class member – a Dr. Pepper! This was like a pot of gold to me because Dr. Pepper generally is not sold in Thailand – or on any airline, for that matter. I have not had a Dr. Pepper since Dec. 31, the day before we left. Ugh. I mentioned my slight craving a couple days ago, and a classmate said she found Dr. Pepper at a market pretty much across town. She brought me two cans this morning. I will savor them! J
Cheers and blessings! Have a great week!
Korina, Jaynee, Justine