a little trek up north
this weekend taher's parents came to visit, and we all went to chiang mai for the long weekend. four wonderful days away from school and away from the heat! it was actually chilly
in chiang mai. chilly. honestly, it's been so long since i've felt cold while i'm outdoors. usually, i say, "taher, this air conditioning is freezing. let's go outside and warm up!" this was not the case in chiang mai.
but enough about the weather.
chiang mai is so lush. it's very irish, the way all of the greenery is so plump and abundant. there are mountains in the background, in every direction you turn. there are no taxis; only tuk-tuks and bikes. it's urban but quietly so, with lots of peaceful little corners and a long lazy river running through its center. people sitting on benches, gazing at the mountains. shopkeepers opening their doors late. dozens of backpackers wearing their sneakers, consulting their guidebooks, chatting in cafes. chiang mai is lush in so many ways. i liked its tone a lot. a huge, sprawling, sleepy little town. quite a change from bangkok, which asserts its urbanity in a noisy, bustling, colorful, whizzing, exciting way. chiang mai just sits there calmly and lets you come to it.
the first day there, it drizzled, so the four of us scrambled into a thai massage parlor and spent the next hour getting a variety of massages; taher's dad opted for the traditional thai massage, which tenderizes your muscles. taher's mom had an herbal oil massage. and taher and i went for our favorite, the good old hour-long foot massage. we were in heaven, sitting inside, being pampered, listening to the rain falling outside, dozing, waking up, dozing again. what a way to start a holiday.
of course, we did more active things as well- we shopped like maniacs, acquiring all sorts of foreign and exotic objects. nothing like a foreign bazaar to bring out the curious child in all of us; i find myself gazing at things, touching everything, picking things up, putting them down, shaking them, smelling them, buying them. haggling about every price because it's just so fun. shopping with taher's mom was fun because she was interesting in everything i called her attention to. we were easily mesmerized and, that being the exact reason we went to the bazaar, we had a blast.
the second night we were there was the Loy Krathong Festival of Lights. the highlight of this festival was the launching of hundreds, maybe thousands, of mini-hot air balloons. people all over the city were putting these small balloons into the air, and once they floated high enough, they looked like small pinpoints of light. there were so many hundreds of these launched that the stars stood no chance of being seen. the balloons, in fact, replaced the stars that night. i felt like i was far, far away from a city, where on a clear night every star in the sky can be seen; there are so many stars that they seem to blanket the sky. this night was that way. it was beautiful.
we saw many of these launchings up close and just stood and stared skyward as the balloons slowly grew smaller. i have never seen anything like this in chicago; fireworks are a fun way of celebrating, but these tiny lights filling up the sky, lasting for hours and hours, were far more wondrous.
this was my favorite part of the weekend- that, and the fact that the four of us had nothing but time together, and we filled it by talking nonstop. in chicago, in daily life, everyone is busy, including taher's parents, and there is no time to just linger over dinner and forget everything and just stand around bargaining for silk scarves and watching small lights dance through the air.
the other highlight of the weekend was a trek through the jungle on elephant. taher and i were on one elephant and taher's parents were on another, and we just spent an hour being led through the jungle, calling out to one another and shrieking with delight when the elephant's steep turns made our perches unstable. this trek was through the very green, very wet, very lush mountains of chiang mai and it was nice to experience it in this way...
all in all, a wonderful four days of elephants and lights and painted umbrellas and pandas and orchids and green, green, green.