A funny thing about traveling in Southeast Asia is how frequently you will bump in to familiar faces. I woke up one morning and decided it was time to try Bagel House, the only reputable option for bagels in Chiang Mai. I knew there was no way it could rival a NYC bagel but it seemed like they could at least pull one that would satisfy if I kept my expectations low. I had just started on my food when I heard my name. I looked up in confusion only to see Ayca from EASTanbul smiling at me.
Ayca had just arrived the day before from Laos where she had been tubing. Laos is a popular destination for tubing, although the operations were recently curtailed due to pressure from the Australian government. The copius amounts of alcohol consumed while tubing increases the risk factor, Australians have kind of a bad reputation amongst travelers for getting wasted to the point of causing injury and death. I haven’t been myself, but word is that most of the bars were shut down and now there are only four left. Ayca had not emerged unscathed, but more on that later.
We hugged and she told me that she was about to transfer hostels but we should definitely meet up afterword. I was supposed to meet Shin from EASTanbul later that day to resell my meditation clothes, so bringing Ayca along for a reunion seemed like the perfect arrangement. I messaged her my guesthouse details and we made arrangements to meet there when she finished her move.
When Ayca and I finally made our way to the coffee house, Shin was there with her friend Grace. Shin and Grace had met while travelingin Vietnam, and ended up hitchhiking across Cambodia and Thailand. When I met Shin they had temporarily parted ways to do their own thing for a bit, such as Shin’s volunteering stint at an English school. It was fun to catch up and hear about their adventures, and I was a little envious that I hadn’t the courage to try hitchhiking myself. It undoubtably increased their opportunities to meet with regular people in a way that is difficult when you stick to the typical tourist destinations.
After the coffee shop, we grabbed dinner at Chiang Mai Gate and then Ayca and I took off to see the Night Bazaar. I am not a big shopper (except online) but I figured I should at least visit it once. I was in need of a dress to wear for an upcoming wedding, and lingered just a little too long in front of Hong Kong tailor. The propieter sitting outside saw his chance, and asked if I’d like to come inside and look at more designs. I thought he meant finished dresses, so I took his bait, only to be disappointed when he handed me the typical outdated fashion catalogs.
Poor Ayca getting dragged along in to the tailor! He kept pulling more out of me, until I’d shown him the dress and gave him an idea what I wanted to spend. His quote was well out of what I was comfortable with but it was an expensive dress. Eventually he wore me down with his confidence and his promise that I didn’t have to take it if I didn’t like it. I caved and paid the deposit so Ayca and I could leave.
We made our way back to the old market with only a few stops to look at bracelets for Ayca. We passed the seedy looking bars with the Thai hostess girls waiting out front, hoping to charm men in to spending their money. It’s nowhere near as bad as the disgusting Pattaya scene, but I can’t help but feel a little gross when I see them. Our last stop was a pharmacy to get some fresh bandages for Ayca’s gashes from the Laos incident, and when we reached Ratchaphakinai we parted ways.