Last Sunday Amy and I, along with Mum and Dad, had to attend a funeral in Chiang Mai. It’s a three plus hour drive and meant a 5am start for us. I know we’re getting older and getting up earlier is kinda normal but damn, 5am!
I was hoping to be able to spend some time listening to podcasts but when we arrived at Mum and Dad’s and found Dad asleep in the passenger seat it was obvious that I would be driving. It was still dark as we left the city and approached the mountains. The air turned grey and dusty as the sun rose slowly somewhere in the sky and it was entrancing to watch the changes to the colours of the mountains that I was driving towards and soon driving through.
Dad’s big truck made easy time as we settled into the long valley and then through the twisting second set of mountains where a never-ending road work slows things down somewhat. I had to ease off once into the Chiang Mai valley though as, eager after the road works, I was starting to hit 140 km/h without even realising it.
This funeral was for cousin Ting’s mum. Ting had taken the time to travel an hour or so to my own mother’s funeral in the UK so it was only appropriate that we attend her mum’s and it was good to catch up with her despite the circumstances.
Monks did their thing and relatives did their thing and I followed where and when I was told. I noted the ‘No women allowed’ sign outside one of the buildings and wondered when Thailand will discover its enlightenment. Is it my place to judge and do I need to care about how people following certain religions behave? Well, if it feels like injustice it feels ok to care. Just know that progress of this sort often takes more than a single lifetime but we can hope that the progress is made before the world burns.
Having left Chiang Rai before the sun came up, we returned after the sun had set again. Chiang Rai missed us for the day and still the Earth turned without care.
And so it was we arrive at Friday and this time I’m on a solo adventure in my own car, again to Chiang Mai. This time it was for my UK passport renewal and I had allowed myself an overnight stay so as to split up the driving.
I had challenged myself since the Sunday journey to drive more conservatively and having that extra time I planned to enjoy the drive and take a few extra seconds to check out the views. It also meant I could listen to music uninterrupted for 3 or 4 hours.
For some reason I enjoy driving; I’m not sure why. This trip towards Chiang Mai was especially entrancing and I arrived in a very good mood. In fact I was a little annoyed that the first half of the travelling was complete!
The first port of call was back to International House, where I had studied for my CELTA certificate, almost two years previously. I bumped into my favourite tutor there and was pleased to have a quick chat and also to see a few other staff members that I still recognised, though had forgotten their names.
The environment here on the mini campus still amazes me, it’s so beautiful and not what you would expect. Like a holiday resort but with not much to do except study. I somewhat envied the students who would be arriving after the weekend but then I remembered the feeling in the first week when I was questioning myself whether I could do it or not.
I had hoped that they still had copies of my work for the course in the office there but unfortunately, they only hold on to them for six months. Never mind. It was nice to drive through those familiar small lanes where nothing has changed too much. The city is sprawling out that direction but has only had minimal impact so far.
Back into the middle of the city and everything went well with my passport application, though I had some difficulty making my signature similar to what it was 10 years previous. The staff laughed with me and I’m guessing it’s not that an unusual problem as they had paper prepared for applicants to practice.
Quickly out of there and across town to a book shop that had been recommended. An hour and 1000 baht later it was time to find some food and I treated myself to a tiny pizza and salad. Woohoo! Holiday time!
Dark by now, I waited at the Mohawk Bar to catch up with Facebook friend John Murrie. The bars opening time is 8pm and it was only 7pm so I sat in the car reading some more Anna Karenina, taking the opportunity to cross off one of my daily challenges. By 8.30pm the bar was still closed and Tolstoy was taking a sleep-inducing hold of me and I had to quit and head out south to my overnight lodging with one of Amy’s old school friends.
Tired and sleepy I was somewhat energised by meeting the two puppies of the house, once I was accepted as a welcome enough intruder. I was warned to keep my shoes away from them so placed them in my room and shut the door. Not long after, I placed myself in the room and fell asleep but reminding myself I must make an effort to talk more with my hosts Oh and Namtan when I was in a more lucid state in the morning.
In a flash it was morning and after getting my reading challenge completed before 8am, I did 40 squats, took a shower and planned a breakfast coffee for my hosts. Unfortunately, I had left the bedroom door open and hadn’t noticed the dogs sneak in looking for some bounty.
Everyone showered and set I went to get my shoes but they had disappeared. Obviously, the dogs had got them but no problem, whatever, let’s just go on a hunt for them. One under the car, another at the back of the garden. Unfortunately, they hadn’t just been deposited but chewed on and spat out! Ah well, farewell my shoes. Luckily they were just about wearable as I had no other shoes with me. The girls were very apologetic for their pups’ behaviour but I just thought it was funny. I’d had the shoes for a few years so they’d done me pretty well. Maybe an excuse to go shop for some others soon.
An excellent coffee later it was time to get back on the road and my mind was filled with wonder as I listened to good music and again enjoyed the twisting roads round rolling mountains. I counted off the landmarks backwards, breaking the 3 hours down; mountains, valley, mountains, home. The return journey never as exciting as the outset, slight melancholy following the setting afternoon sun.
However, once home I was awed by the feeling of comfort. Looking across our garden I gave Amy a big hug and declared ‘I love it here. I love this life and I love being with you.’
The local rock group down the street
Is trying hard to learn their song
They serenade the weekend squire
Who just came out to mow his lawn
Another pleasant valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care
I am so happy and grateful to have the energy and motivation to get up and do things. Today I took time to water the garden and clean the car.