There comes a time when the novelty wares off, when things that once struck you as exceptional, now rarely make your head swivel while speeding by at 40 km/h on your motorbike. I would surmise that it happens to most people. It has happened to me, though it took a while to acknowledge the change. My first month in Thailand was marked by over-stimulation – everything was new, funny, odd, amazing, beautiful, absurd, different. It is not an overstatement to say that everyday was an adventure of sorts.
I am both happy and sad to report that is not the case anymore. Life here in Chiang Mai has settled into a comfortable routine, even if the routine is not always comfortable. I find myself having to push harder, drive farther, wander longer in search of new adventures. But there has also been a small-scale transformation over the last six months - the oddities of the everyday have slipped quietly into the normal background of life. Simply put I have become desensitized to Labradors riding circus-like on the backs of motorbikes. Doesn’t that happen everywhere?
It is wonderful to be comfortable living and working in Thailand and it horrible that I have come to take so much for granted. So here is an attempt to re-acknowledge and thus re-appreciate my no-longer-new home.
Things that are now (wonderfully) normal:
1) Monks bedecked in bright orange robes at phone booths and riding escalators in large shopping malls.
2) A plethora of soup stands where one can buy large bowls of meaty soup bobbing with ground pork balls, vegetables, garlic, chili, thick chewy rice noodles – all for the equivalent of less than a dollar
3) Driving by thousand year old temple ruins that abut Shell gas stations.
4) Sipping daily smoothies loaded with bright fuchsia dragon fruit, fingerling bananas, pineapple slices and passion fruit.
5) Getting a massage next to another woman who is decked-out in a deep purple shirt with an enormous white bow attached at the neckline. (I am convinced that Thailand has the oddest fashion sense in Asia.)
6) Encountering baby elephants (not a happy thing) being led through the old city so that tourists will pay to feed them bananas.
7) Riding open-air passenger trucks piled high with eggplants, cabbages and long, knobbly bitter vegetables whose name I have yet to learn.
8) Observing sinewy old men peddle rickshaw bicycles in banana leaf woven hats.
9) Passing spirit houses on street corners and tucked between buildings, complete with offerings of incense, flowers, cookies, Fanta soda bottles, and long trails of hungry ants.
10) And yes…dogs on bikes. Most recently riding alongside a pug who sat upright in the front basket of its owner's Honda, front paws on the rim, catching the breeze.