03
Aug
08

The final hours

Today is my last day in Chiang Mai.  Mixed emotions are always what I experience when I am faced with this reality.  I’m just thankful for the time I’ve spent here and I know chances are I will return so that is always comforting.  Just a few last day things to do here, including a quick trip up to Doi Suthep and a last lunch of somtam and grilled chicken.

Tonight I have an overnight bus down to Bangkok, followed by an immediate taxi ride to the airport there where I have a 7am flight down to Phuket.  From there it will be another taxi to the ferry pier where I catch a boat to Ko Yao Noi, my home for the next 5 days.  Kerry spent close to four months living with a host family there last year and I will be visiting with her family and other friends on the island.  I’m quite excited about this short trip down south, somewhere I haven’t been in over two years.

Saturday, the 9th, will find me back in Bangkok for my final three days with friends before flying home.  My internet connections could be hit or miss the next week so don’t expect to much blogging.  I miss you all.

02
Aug
08

race recap

Well, I had a great run this morning.  There was so much bloggable material presented to me before, during, and after the festivities that I almost don’t know where to start.  I awoke and 4am and chugged a can of iced coffee that I purchased the night before at the 7-eleven.  Accompanying this was one baby banana muffin and half a slice of watermelon.  By quarter to five I was wondering in the still silent streets , looking for a ride to the race.  I eventually settled on a songthaew that agreed to take me for 60 baht.

With the help of a map I’d printed the night before we found it rather easily.  Soon I was signing up and getting my shirt (woefully small) and race number.  There were a lot of people there, maybe about 500.  I did a mile warm up in the still dark streets behind the municipal court house complex.  Finally at about 5 minutes to six the pack started filtering towards the starting line.  We were squeezed in quite close to each other and I was literally head and shoulders taller than everyone.  I felt like a giant.  They then made us stand crammed together at the start line while thousands of photos were taken of women holding colored balloons and a  ceremonial floral starting wire.  Then a random man in front of them did about a 10 minute aerobics routine with his back to us and hyper-aerobics music blaring.  More photos were taken.  Eventually the balloons were released skyward and everyone started the creep towards the start.  A countdown started at 5 but by 3 people were already sprinting away.  I couldn’t believe how many people were literally sprinting!!!

As a result of these suicidal starters I found about 100 people ahead of me by the half mile mark.  Slowly I started picking them off.  I actually enjoyed this, passing person after person for km after km.  By half way there were about 15 guys in front of me.  I continued passing but only at about a rate of 1 every few minutes.  Finally I found my proper place and ran the last 2-3 km totally alone, as I usually am near the end of my races, not quite fast enough to be with the fastest but better than the other 98% by a fair margin.  I’m not sure my final placing, though I would guess about 12th or so.

I was 5th in the 20-29 age group and this won me a trophy and a trip to a big stage where my photo was taken with the other four age-groupers who had finished ahead of me.  Post race snacks in Thailand are always fun just because they are so different from what you get back in the states.  There is of course water but instead of gatorade there is piping hot sweet soy milk and rice porridge.

Atmospheric conditions were about as good as could be expected.  Overcast, almost foggy, with a ever so slight rain/mist.  Though this did create near 100% humidity the temps were only in the 70s at that early hour so it really wasn’t bad at all.  In the end, it was definitely worth getting up at 4am for this.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with this trophy, which is thankfully not as ridiculously large as the one Lindsay once won in a race here.

01
Aug
08

Race Day

Continuing on the running theme, I will be racing a 10k tomorrow morning. 6am to be exact. I think all races in Thailand have to start this early to beat the heat. This means I will be waking at 4 to eat a bit and then try to find where the race starts (I’m not exactly sure where). Though I’m have been running a fair amount I’m not in great shape so I’m not expecting a good time. There are usually a few super fast Thai guys that come out of nowhere to win these things. I always wonder if they have some kind of secret training compound somewhere because I never see fast people during my daily runs.

This race is held in honor of Prince Rapee, the founder of the modern Thai legal system. I actually just looked this up and now it makes a lot more sense why the race is starting at the Chiang Mai provincial court about 10k outside of town. This is my second ever road race in Thailand and I’m looking forward to it, despite the ridiculous hour that it is requiring me to wake tomorrow morning.

29
Jul
08

that indescribable something

The thing that has surprised me the most during my time here is my running.  I am so thankful I decided to just go for it and see if I could survive running here on a regular basis.  Little did I know I would run into personal issues that would best be dealt with through the release offered by my nightly runs.  I’ve given up trying to explain why exactly running makes me feel as good it does.  And I’m not just talking about feeling righteous afterwards about how many miles I just did.  It truly feels indescribable to be gliding along, pushing myself through the thick air, knowing my body is getting stronger.

I like how when I stop I can feel my hearth thumping and I always think to myself, wow that little muscle is working it!  I like the sweat running down into my eyes, having to lift up my shirt to constantly dry it off.  I like turning my hat around backwards and feeling a breeze blow through my eyes and eyelashes that I didn’t know was there.  I even like the scared thrill of menacing dogs nipping at my heels.  I chose to embrace running here and I feel as if I have been rewarded for taking this chance.  Time to go for a run.

26
Jul
08

Reminders of the good

As I’m sure you noticed from my last two posts, I’m going through some rough patches in my life right now. It’s really too bad this is happening in Thailand because it is a place that usually brings me great joy.  So, in an attempt to bring back a spark of this joy to my life I’ve been trying to remind myself of the multitude of things that bring me great happiness here:

  • Families of four or five squeezed together on the same small motorbike. 
  • How it rains here every day during the rainy season without fail.
  • The vivid shades of green that these rains help produce.
  • The near universal kindness that emanates from everyone here. 
  • How I have found a Pad Thai vendor close to my house who not only dishes up an amazing plate for 25 baht but knows exactly how I like it prepared and how only eye contact and a head nod places my order.
  • Regularly receiving compliments from the local people on my Thai language skills (if they only knew the truth!)
  • Buying a movie ticket and a popcorn for $3
  • Standing for the King’s anthem midway through the previews.
  • The feeling of accomplishment after running 10 miles and being drenched in sweat.
  • Watching a roti vendor work his/her magic. 
  • Waking up in the morning to realize that the hot sticky night has transformed itself into a delightfully cool morning.
  • The blast of chilled air when entering the 7-Eleven.
  • The pain and pleasure provided by a ridiculously spicy plate of somtam. 
  • Peoples surprise when I tell them I do not have a Thai girlfriend and their ensuing attempt to convince me that I really should have one.
  • Chatting with monks and taxi drivers
  • Understanding things that people are saying about me when they think I can’t understand them.
  • Reading Thai (with my improved reading skills I feel as if I have unlocked a secret code!) 
  • Receiving mail sent from the other side of the world.
I’ll try to add to this list as I am reminded of more. I could probably write an (almost) equally long list of things here that drive me crazy but that would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise!
22
Jul
08

Photo model signing out

I have given up trying to explain life let alone predict it. With this in mind, I should have known better than to try to foresee what this cycling trip would actually turn out to be. Yet there I was, jumping on the overnight bus to Bangkok feeling somewhat excited/nervous about doing my first real cycling trip.  I imagined grueling 50+ mile days that would turn my legs into jelly.  

What I got instead was a road trip with some periodic bicycling thrown in.  Let me explain in more detail: My contact for the trip was a Thai couple who operate a tourism cycling business.  They were teaming up with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to help promote cycling tourism.  My role in all of this was essentially to be the token foreigner bicycle photo model.  We would stop at a place, usually of great scenic beauty or historical significance and I along with one other foreigner and a few Thai people would hop on our bikes and literally ride in circles or pose with our bikes in front of whatever it was that warranted a photo.   

Honestly, I was pretty disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be a “real” cycling trip.  I was looking forward to the challenge.  I thought maybe I could just exhaust myself into not being able to think about my personal demons.  As it turns out I had plenty of time to focus on them. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time.  I made some great new friends, practiced a lot of Thai, constantly ate delicious food, was put up at nice hotels/resorts every night, saw an absolutely beautiful part of Thailand I had never seen before, and even got paid for my hard modeling work!

This trip made me laugh.  It was so strange in so many ways.  I will surely not forget it, that is for sure.  It did make me realize that as it stands now my mental traps are not going anywhere, they will be following me for the foreseeable future.  I’m having trouble doing much in my life right now, really just doing my best to keep it all together, and because of this I think my blogging time is coming to an end.  There may be a few more posts but I just don’t have it in me to do much of anything right now let alone write interesting and witty blog posts. Signing off for now.

16
Jul
08

Pedaling away from the demons

I’ve been going through some tough personal issues the past week that have nothing to do with Chiang Mai. It is hard being away from home and all the traditional support groups of friends and family when going through personal problems like this.  I have made friends here and doing things with them does help to get myself out of my own mental traps that I continuously find myself caught in.  But it is certainly not the same as being with people that I know and love.  I have travelled abroad in the past to escape my demons that were bring me down in Michigan so there are certainly positive things about being away from home.  This however is the first time something like this has come up where I can not immediately turn to someone who I know intimately.  

Thankfully, something very last minute came up yesterday and this means I am leaving tonight on a 4 day cross-country bicycle trip through central Thailand.  I won’t go into the quite ironic details of how this trip came to be but I’m doing it and I think it will be healthy for me to literally get out of town and maybe my mind can follow me to some new adventures and leave some demons behind here in CM (at least for the next few days).  So I will likely be out of touch until Monday.  I miss all of you, wherever you are reading this.




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