11PM On A Side Street In Chiang Mai

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11PM On A Side Street In Chiang Mai

It’s late but today’s ‘power nap’ has spun me. I dig through my tiny fridge and the pickings are thin. I need ice, bread and cheese. I’ve just invested in an electric wok for my room and midnight-hour grilled cheese sammiches are high on the list of things to shovel into my mouth-hole.

Normally, I’d just walk across the street and grab ice and beer from the Mom-n-Pop but they’re closed at this hour. The matriarch, who I just call ‘Mama’ would normally sell me a bag of ice, shoveled from a large cooler for 5 baht. And she always says “Ice. five baht!”. I could buy 500 baht’s worth of beer and she wouldn’t say a thing but for some reason, she insists on reminding me that ice = money.

She’s bent double. A handful of decades spent picking and planting rice have left her unable to stand up straight. This is common throughout Asia. I try to help and sometimes she lets me shovel the ice into a bag. Sometimes she slaps my hand and does it herself. Pride is pride and it blankets the world.

But she’s (hopefully) in bed now and I have to walk the back streets to the Tesco Lotus, some 10 minutes away. Bread, cheese, booze, ice — most everything you want on a quiet night…

Midway I pass two Thai men, sitting by the edge of the soi, obviously shitface drunk and laughing boisterously. The one to the left has timed it right, catching his buddy with a laugh just as he’s taken a sip of whiskey.

The poor guy is struggling not to lose it and his friend is pouring it on — I can’t understand a word but I know: there is no greater joy for a smartass than making someone spray liquid through their nostrils. I have no idea why this is but I’ve found it to be pretty universal. It’s like the “pull my finger” joke. Everyone knows it.

I find myself laughing out loud and my smartass buddy notices me for the first time but continues his verbal attack. We nod at each other and both instantly know:

We are kin.

The grilled cheese is good, later, but it can’t top that.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Nathan March 26, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Hey Wes, love the description of just another late night in Chiang Mai, you have a way with words my friend!
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wes March 26, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Thanks, man :)

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Hannah March 26, 2014 at 7:26 pm

No street food?? :(
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Vagabond Tim March 26, 2014 at 11:02 pm

That is absolutely hilarious, last weekend I saw a kid tormenting his younger sibling and had the same situation. Some things truly transcend culture and language.

Also I am going to be in Chiang Mai on April 17th for a week, any chance you will still be there? There is a free pint in it for you :)
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My7Lives March 27, 2014 at 12:01 am

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Rashad Pharaon April 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm

There is nothing like it – finding that kind of connection with someone when don’t speak the same language. My bartender in Siem Reap always knew exactly what I needed before I needed it without me ever having to say a word. Sometimes I’d begin to speak and he’d have another beer poured before I could get the word out. That’s great service, sure, but it’s even more impressive without words.
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naz April 2, 2014 at 5:37 pm

hey wes,

just came across your site and i love reading your words! me & my partner just started our own blog so im reading everywhere to know more about other people’s travel and at the same time, perhaps learn this art of blogging :) yours has been entertaining! thank you for sharing :) and please do check our site too – we are still learning.

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Douglas April 6, 2014 at 3:33 am

I lived in Chang Mai for about 7 weeks, very cool city when you get in the nooks and crannies i love the bottom floor of the big chines market for some great eats….
that Wok idea sounds great are you staying for a while or will you carry with you?

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wes April 6, 2014 at 6:38 am

The wok is too much to carry. I’m donating it and a tea kettle to the hotel — they’ve been good to me. All in all, I’ll get about 3 month’s use out of it for $25.

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Douglas April 6, 2014 at 11:43 am

yes have paid for them selves very easily in the end, would this be something easily found at the market or Tesco? what do they think of you cooking in room? When i stayed for 6 weeks wanted to do the same. to save a bit

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rebecca kroegel April 12, 2014 at 12:03 pm

great story! love your blog! ;-)
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