Thailand Diary

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mad in pursuit 5.18.90, Thursday

Chiang Mai. "Rose of the North"??! Sprawling city, much bigger than I expected. The din of traffic is constant with motorcycles the predominant form of transportation. Don't step off the curb unless you have a death wish. Tuk-tuks: 20-baht joy ride. Being on "wrong" side of road adds to disorientation. Dirty. Two-story city. First and sidewalk: retail. Second -- screened/barred off residential. Uninspired grillwork, meant more for security than esthetics.

Recycling. Mae Khajan fried banana bags -- exam papers from a medical school -- technical words (cardiac muscle, endocardium) in English. Heavy newsprint or craft paper -- folded and glued into bags.

Lipvitan-D (under license of Taisho Pharmaceutical Co.). A favorite pick-me-up -- a syrupy version of Lik-em-aid -- generous alcohol content -- pry out the cap liner to win prizes.

Chiang Mai. Puffs of exhaust smoke follow the small vehicles.

Night bazaar. uniqueness disappears when every hilltribe merchant has the same wares and there are stack and stacks of Burmese tapestry, row on row of Buddhas. Eye begins to seek out the special.

The music they play is 20 years old -- Beatles, soundtrack to Big Chill and Good Morning, Vietnam -- odd for "kids" in late 20's. Playing American/British music on the bus seems a way of clinging to home, like a sudden longing for a bag of potato chips. Would be more immersing to have traditional or contemporary Thai music. Singing the folk rock standards with Chan is only slightly better (like the incessant card playing on my Spain trip in '68) -- although it adds to the group elan. Among the tribes it also, I think, gave something back to the people -- we share our culture and let ourselves be gawked at -- evens the score a little. But the cassette music on the bus cocoons us from Thailand.

Language of fellow travelers. Crisp English, lilting New Zealand plus Belgian and Viennese accents -- especially with head full of snot, my Midwest drawl feels cottony, indistinct. Lots of what? at the beginning of each conversation.