Thailand: In A Fog

The misty Kiw Lom Pai mountain range in northern Thailand

The misty Kiw Lom Pai mountain range in northern Thailand

So sadly … I’m sick again. Thankfully this time I’m not staring, bleary-eyed, into toilet bowl full of tiny frogs. This time – just an annoying head cold brought on, perhaps, by dramatic changes in climate and elevation as I traveled up and down the mountains of northern Thailand. Or maybe my body is simply saying enough. Four months of travel can wear a girl down a bit. Regardless of how it happened, my weary body and foggy mind are having a tough time figuring out what to write about my time here. So as before, I’m going to be a bit lazy and rely on pictures to tell the story of the past seven days in this beautiful country….

Mountains of fresh curry paste in a fragrant local market in Chiang Rai

Mountains of fresh curry paste in a fragrant, local market in Chiang Rai

A long time fan and student of Thai cooking, I was drooling over this display. I’ve tried as many kinds of curry as I can here and have yet to be disappointed.

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai

Local artist Cha Lerm Chai has stated he’ll work on this modern marvel until the day he dies. I think Elton John would like it here.

Wat Chedi in the center of Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi in the center of Chiang Mai

My former-Buddhist-monk guide sat with me in front of the Buddha statue at this historic temple, patiently answering every question I could think of about Buddhism…which is a philosophy (NOT a religion) I’m coming to admire more and more.

Lod Cave - in Pang Ma Pa

Lod Cave – in the Pang Mapha district

With a majestic, shallow, koi-filled river running through it, this “spirit cave” was a magical place.  We were lucky enough to be there at a time when we were surrounded by silence – no other tourists in sight. Far into the cave sit several coffins believed to be thousands of years old. Staring down at the narrow teak boards just barely held together – several of which previously held the remains of mothers and children – was staggering.

Pack of pups at Fern Resort, Mae Hong Son Province

Pack of pups at Fern Resort, Mae Hong Son Province

Perhaps my favorite spot in Thailand to date … These dogs gathered around me when I arrived and found me at this fire pit early the next morning as I tried to warm myself against the chill.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After drafting this post I was struck by my feeling that these pictures – even these words – don’t have a great deal of soul. Perhaps my cotton head, which is making me feel dull and numb, is contributing to this lack of joie de vivre. But really – I am coming to realize that my feelings about Thailand are quite different to how I felt about Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. There isn’t as much grit here. Thailand’s edges are polished, its people more tame. At least in the areas I’m visiting.

I miss the rawness of the first three countries I visited. Granted, the strife they have and continue to experience causes them to struggle more than their neighbor Thailand. The people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have had to overcome much more and their progress has been, understandably, challenging. They aren’t as modern, as advanced, as westernized. And I loved that about them. And I miss it.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things I love about Thailand. Upon entering a public bathroom in a national park I found a “western” toilet WITH a toilet paper dispenser which I literally greeted with the words, “hello lover” (a la Carrie Bradshaw upon seeing her beloved Louboutin’s glimmering in a Park Avenue boutique window). And I so appreciate this country’s progressiveness. I’ve had not one but two female tour guides (only male guides in the previous countries) – one of whom was named Beer (yes, BEER!).

So – I’m conflicted about Thailand. Is it beautiful? Yes. And I t’s often referred to as “the land of smiles” – which I find apt. But as I get to know this country – I am happily learning as much about myself. I’m finding that shiny and modern is not my speed. Give me bamboo huts and crazy drivers and inexplicable customs and mysterious food any day. I feel so strongly about this that I have decided that, rather than travel to the sunny, white sand beaches of southern Thailand next month, I will return to the jungle and my beloved elephants – hours outside of Chiang Mai at a remote “retirement home” called BEES Sanctuary. And we’ll just wait and see if I’m still praising the simple yet wild flavor of the jungle – and the more primitive way of life found there – after a week of no internet and cold showers 🙂

1 Comment

  1. I just love reading these Kathryn. And I wish I was there to experience it all too! My friend is in Viet Nam right now – she’s a major traveler and has eaten up every word of your blogs! xo

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