Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chedi = Temple.... Temple of REALLY nice wine

Chiang Mai was, overall, a bit of a let down. Lovely, and wonderful and all, but just another city (the 2nd city of Thailand, for those keeping score). It wasn’t until my last night that I actually felt any sort of connection to the place.

A friend and I had gone the Night Market, the “must do dahling” of Chiang Mai. It is, of course, a huge, overwhelming tourist trap, full of badly made Thai fishing pants and hippies buying up authentic Buddahs to put on the wall of their garden flats when they get back home to Croyden, right next to the bong and the poster of Che Guevera. My friend and I had fun, though, buying up silly little things (fairy lights, a wildly hippie skirt and more dvds than you can shake a stick at) and giggling at all the fake ethnic crap you can buy.

This was fun for, ohhhhh, an hour, then we were hungry and tired. Bear in mind, that is the major central attraction of Chiang Mai and an hour about covered it. We scuppered down an alley to get away from the crowds and found some ladies squatting behind HUGE woks perched on camping stoves. “Pad THAAAIIIIII” they screech in that inimitably Thai way and, before we even really nod yes, bits and bobs are being chucked in the wok and skooshed around, we are plonked on the curb, handed some chopsticks and plates of pad thai which are so spicy I got tears in my eyes from just the steam. I acquitted myself well, though, my friend, who is Korean, complimented me on my skilled use of chopsticks and, it must be said, the food was extremely freakin’ good. As in I’m getting a bit teary-eyed thinking about it right now, as I sip my warm beer in the Nairobi airport.

After that, we stumbled out on to the street, in need of alcoholic sustenance. I had been told of this hotel nearby that was supposed to be nice, the Chedi, so we wandered a bit until we found this huge, cement monolith of a hotel. I looked at my friend, my friend looked at me, we almost turned away. But then I realized no, the girl who recommended this is stylish and chic and sophisticated, she wouldn’t recommend some Intercontinental three-star karaoke bar. So we stepped around the cement wall that served as a barrier.

Oh. My. God.


Huge rectangular pools stretching out in all directions in which lemongrass candles floated serenely giving everything this surreal glow and amazing smell. The buildings were low, straight clean lines, all dark wood and huge floor to ceiling windows with shutters and wide, wooden verandas (I love a good veranda). We go up to the bar, every inch the ratty cargo trouser owning field workers we are, and the waiters treat us like royalty. Before we know it, we are ensconced on day beds, low tables with more lovely scented tables at our elbows, cool towels redolent of lime and something else I can’t place are placed gently in our hands and lovely Thai wine (a kind of Rose) given to us with lots of bows and quiet smiles. We sat there under the full moon, looking and the river (what river I couldn’t say if my life depended on it) and chatted about life and families and work and relationships and all the other things you talk to someone you barely know about when there is that sudden, intense sense of friendship and well being.

Most of all, though, we kept on going “godDAMN we’re lucky.”

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