Written in October 2008
Ah, adventure! I have three great new ones to tell you about: cooking, dancing, and jumping!
Yesterday I went to the Baan Hong Nual Cooking School where I learned hands-on how to make Phud Thai, green coconut curry, spring rolls, and Tom Yum soup which is kind of like the Thai version of the Vietnamese Pho. The cooking class started with a trip to the hot local market to buy the produce needed including fresh coconut cream pressed directly from the fruit in this big metal machine- it smelled SO good I wanted to slather it all over myself.
At this huge outdoor market they also sold dried fish, jellied coconut, whole deep fried chickens and durian fruit. Durian is a fruit that is banned from most hotels, trains, and buses because when you crack it open,
it smells like shit.
Actually it smells worse than shit- it smells like raw sewage left to rot in the summer sun for a month and then mixed with vomit and dead animals and then left again for another month. I really cannot describe how disgusting this fruit smells. My question is, out of all the wonderful, delicious, mouth-watering fruits in the world that DON’T smell like asshole, why on God’s creation would you eat one that does? I really don’t understand this at all. One shit-fruit, please!
Another piece of Asian culture boggling my mind is the toilet situation. Besides the ubiquitous squat toilets (which aren’t bad at all), they don’t use toilet paper (though Westerners tend to carry some at all times). By the toilet will be a hose, and that’s it. So you just wash yourself off and then walk around with a dripping wet crotch for a while. It’s this last bit that confuses me, the dripping part. I rarely admit any sort of cultural ignorance on my part, being all travel-savvy and shit, but this is just really bizarre.
The cooking school was great and I am stoked to know how to cook Phud Thai, complete with oyster sauce and tiny dried
shrimp. I can’t wait to try these dishes out on my friends. Did you know that most spring rolls contain jellied mushrooms? I didn’t even know that they existed- but they do, and they are delicious.
So last night I was bound and determined to find a dance club that didn’t totally suck- and I did! Great success! From a friend of a friend of a friend I heard of an underground bar on a rooftop by the east gate of the old city wall- called creatively, The Rooftop Bar.
I hopped on a tuk-tuk to get there and as I walk up to the front I hear some really sweet breaks coming from above- thank god, BREAKS! Breaks will work. We went in and climbed up several floors of stairs and ladders, surrounded by all kinds of crazy murals, client graffiti, and party kids. I was starting to get really excited and even twitchier than usual.
Climbing the last ladder with no shoes (‘cuz you take them off everywhere) I popped my head up into the bar and my heart just soared. “I love breaks!” comes screaming out of my mouth and a weird Aussie girl asks me if I like to dance too.
Yeah, a little bit.
The floor of this bar is bamboo and covered with brightly colored mats, making for a bouncy dancing experience- quite fun. Around the edges of the
big room are low tables and cushions holding all kinds of people drinking and smoking as well as a couple of dogs running around. The decor consists of bright paper lanterns, strobing Xmas lights, black-light murals and the Chiang Mai stars and moon. Peering over the edge of the bar you get a good view of the old city wall. There are funny signs all over saying things like Tribal Hertage Conservation (Get it?) and “We do not sell pot here.”
THIS is the place I have been looking for, and the best music I have heard since I arrived in Asia, for sure. Times ten.
The drink special is a passion fruit mojito, and I’m not talking passion fruit flavored rum- the bartendress scoops out real passion fruit, seeds and all, to mix with the fresh lime, mint, sugar, dark and light rums, etc. to make a glorious concoction that tastes like an island sunset and goes down like druggy koolaid.
By the bar the DJ is straight tearing it up and I notice one last CD for sale for 100 baht, or $2.89. The cover is hand-drawn in marker and just says “Breaks Vol. 1.” I was like nah, that’s too expensive…just kidding! I bought that shit for sure! I can’t wait to bring back some DJ Bank to the states! I said hi and told him it was the best music I had heard in Thailand yet; he smiled and kept cutting it up, playing a few familiar tracks and a lot of new ones.
I hung out for a bit dancing and talking to some Brits who had been traveling for a year and still have a year to go. When traveling I rarely meet other Americans; we just don’t travel like the Brits, Canucks, Aussies, Kiwis, or Continentals do. They consider it a rite of passage; travel is just something that you do to explore your world. Of course you have a passport and you travel. Other English-speakers are always SHOCKED to hear that 1) the US has no national health care plan and 2) Americans only get two weeks paid vacation IF you have a really good job and 3) in most states waiters and bartenders live off their tips only.
I love hanging out with new friends, strangers one moment and secret-sharers the next. The best part about traveling is not the temples or the jungles or the ruins or the beaches or the mojitos but rather the people you meet- other travelers, intent on going and doing and moving and shaking. My type of people. And The Rooftop Bar was my kind of dance club. Hell yeah.
Last night was great and today has been even better. After an American breakfast I headed out for a BUNGY JUMP! My grandmother describes me to people by saying, “she likes to jump off things,” and she is right. The Xtreme sports center is about 20 minutes outside of Chiang Mai and also offers off-road buggies, zorbing, go karts, and paintball- but I was there for the bungy.
I have jumped twice before, once in 1999 from a cable car in the Swiss Alps- at that point it was the highest one in the world. Last year I jumped from the Nevis bungy in Queenstown, New Zealand, the extreme sports capital of the world and the birthplace of bungy. At 134 meters, the Nevis is presently the third-highest in the world (the first is in Macau by Hong Kong, second is in South Africa).
Comparatively, the one in Chiang Mai is a puny 50 meters from a crane. But it is really cheap as far as extreme sports go ($40) and you get to dunk your head in water on the fall, which I have never done. I AM STOKED. There is nothing like bungy jumping; you are sure you are dying and you jump off that ledge thinking, wow, I am fucking crazy, what is wrong with me? I think bungy is a bigger rush than skydiving; something about seeing the ground RIGHT THERE really freaks you out.
I rode out to the sight with a van full of Israeli guys, a real fun-loving bunch who were celebrating the holiest day of the year (today is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement) by “torturing” themselves with the bungy. Once there I volunteered to go first, because I like being in the front and have an irrational love of heights (and turbulence, and airplane food). I was told I was too light to be able to dunk my head, but they would try; the wrapped up my legs and soon I was soon on the ledge with the weight of the rope pulling me forward. Right before you jump they let off an air raid siren right behind you, which really settles your nerves. Yeah right.
And like a fool I jumped off a ledge 50 meters in the air. As you fall things go much slower than they should, and you just plummet towards the ground thinking, this is it. Goodbye world. Also going through my mind was hmmm, I wonder if I will hit the water, I wonder if I will hit the water, I wonder if I will…
KAPLUSHHHH! I am submerged into the water head-first up to the bottom of my rib cage. Whoa. Water is pushed into my eyes, nose, ears, and brain. My tank top, now heavy with water, almost flies off my head and somewhere in between holding my top on and catching my breath I remember to look up and smile at the camera (because you KNOW I bought the DVD). I bounce and bounce and
spin and spin and laugh and laugh. Previously when I bungy’d I screamed, but this time I am just laughing and trying to keep from flashing the spectators.
Bungy is so awesome. You feel free afterwards, buzzing, high. I wanted to dance, to run, to skip to the moon and hug everyone I saw. I am still all psyched out and up and a little shaky; I have a smile on my face that is not coming off any time soon. Back on the ground
with my top half soaking wet I celebrate with the guys from Tel Aviv who are eating ham and cheese sandwiches and laughing too. I didn’t think about being so wet so I buy a tank top that says JUNGLE BUNGY for $5. Life is good. You know what I want to try next? The whole squirrel suit thing where you jump off a cliff with no parachute, nothing but a bit of material between your legs and arms and torso, and you fly. Ever since I saw Let’s Go Outside’s video from Italy, I have been wanting to, badly. And don’t worry Mom, I won’t tell you until it is over with and I am safe on the ground! If I was rich I would do this shit every day.
I am back in Chiang Mai now and will catch an overnight train to Bangkok this evening; the trip takes 13 hours- good thing I love trains. Once there I plan to shop like mad and see the sights and go dancing, of course- Bangkok is one big swirling party; then I will head down to the islands for a little more R&R (‘cuz I am SO stressed out). Remember that movie The Beach? That is where I am going in a couple of days. Right now? Time for another massage.
Your world is so beautiful, and much smaller than you think. The people are nice and the food is fantastic. I am already trying to figure out how I can take another trip this spring and where in Asia I want to go- because I have the travel bug, and I have it BAD.
As always much love to you my friends,