Sunday, May 23, 2010

Motorbikes, Night Bazaar, and Peace House

Sunday was a very relaxing day. Almost everyday, the seven of us (Rachel, Nate, Deirdre, Brady, Zach, Christa, and I) are awake around the same time. In the kitchen for breakfast, we manage to keep the coffee flowing while we whip up numerous servings of eggs and cream cheese (one of my new favorite combinations). I just realized that I haven't yet shared a picture of the little guest house where Christa and I stay on Rachel and Nate's property in Chiang Rai.

It's perfect. We have a shower, bathroom, and the water runs most of the time! It's commonplace to run out of water now that seven people are taking their showers around the same time. Ha ha, it also took Christa and I a few days to figure out how to get the hot water working each time we showered. Alas, it's been all fine and dandy! I also realized I haven't yet introduced Ooshki, Rachel and Nate's little pooch.

After breakfast, Christa left with Rachel and Nate to sit at a coffee shop in town, so the rest of us gathered our things, gave a load of laundry to the groundskeeper, and headed into Chiang Rai on scooters (which are everywhere). Zach, Deirdre, and I took a few laps around a small lake to allow Deirdre and I to get our footing on the bikes and make the mental adjustments about making turns from the right side of the road, accelerating, etc.

Once Deirdre realized she was a natural on two wheels, the three of us made a quick detour to a Buddhist temple just down the street from Rachel and Nate's house for a few snapshots. This was the first time I had visited a Buddhist temple where monks live and worship. It was quite a sight, and there were a few monks walking the grounds that morning.

Needless to say, the quick detour was enough to satisfy my curiosity, so we made our way to Doi Chaang (the adored coffee house from the day before) to meet up with Christa. When we arrived, we found Christa chatting up a group of students from Westmont College that had just arrived with Rachel Goble-Carey who works next to Rachel with The SOLD Project. While she and her husband Kevin are here with a group of students as program coordinators, they'll be returning afterward for a year in Chiang Rai to replace Rachel and Nate when they depart over the next two months.

It was great to meet the students from Westmont (Go Westmonsters!) and to hear about their experiences in Pattaya while witnessing firsthand the trafficking they came abroad to learn about. With three days ahead of them in Chiang Rai, I would be joining them again in the village to do work for the SOLD Project's Resource Center.

Later that night, we found ourselves in the Night Bazaar of Chiang Rai for dinner and shopping, but within 5 minutes of arriving, it began to downpour. The vendors who had a solid roof or were under the patio kept their shops open, but many of the smaller vendor stands quickly packed up their items and were closed shortly after the rain started. I managed to find a great t-shirt (only my second thus far), and I have to say it fits a little better than the one Nate found!

Once things started to die down at the Bazaar (since the rain never let up), we decided to find an alternative place to hang out with some of the Westmont students and the rest of our group. After walking down a street near the hotel where the Westmont group was staying, we passed numerous other watering holes on either side of the street. We started to get a little suspicious of our surroundings because of how some of the places looked, but with a little twist of the arms, an offer to pick up the first round, and a shout from Brady saying that the others were inside, we settled in to what is known as the Peace House.

Despite the 11pm curfew, the Peace House really started to pick up around 8pm as many other "falangs" (a commonly used Thai word for tourists or Westerners) arrived. We enjoyed great reggae music, a few competitive games of pool, and some hand-rolled cigarettes out on their patios. We met other students and young falangs that night who were in Chiang Rai working with different organizations or teaching English at the local schools. It was great to be with so many other falangs, laughing together, and sharing stories of our experiences. I made a few new friends, but it might have been due to the fact that I owed those who kept on walking down the sketchy street their first round of Chang beer. They kept walking, and of course, it was another evening in Chiang Rai not to be forgotten!

Next up on The Dandygram: Cow Soi, Scooter Rentals, and Rachie in Action!

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