Friday, November 12, 2010


I promise this won't become a blow-by-blow of my travels, but I feel I have to write about the feelings of ridiculous lightness and pleasure that have been tickling through me since I reached my neighbourhood in Chiang Mai. It's not just the running into people whom I haven't seen since the spring, nor the softness of the air, nor the loveliness of the apartment with its views of Doi Sutep, the mountain that floats on the western horizon. No, somehow it's the feeling that I am pulling on the familiarity of this place, clothing myself in it like a well worn familiar cardigan that warms and strokes me, and also transforms me in ways I am only occasionally aware of.

The transformations that travel effects in us are special. They take place as we are unmoored from our normal context, so it's hard sometimes to know what is just changed perspective and what is transformation. And perhaps it's a distinction without a difference, because there's a continuum, from the shifting perspective as we move into new places and contexts, and the changes inside us caused by that shifting and uprooting, and then the perhaps more gradual evolutions of our attitudes and thinking as we adapt to a new place and shed some of the anxieties and expectations of the place we left.

Is this too convoluted? It is a complex and interconnected set of issues, but they're intuitively commonsense "insights" I think. And it's fun to have the time to reflect on them at this very moment of transition. There will be more...

I promised last time that there'd be some food in this, my next post. My first Thai food was early this morning, a home-cooked streetfood plate of rice with two dishes on it: stir-fried ground pork with long beans, medium hot and succulent; and beansprouts cooked with slices of firm tofu and some air-dried pork. It was a great start to the day. I sat eating, with the cook's family and a couple of other customers, by a busy lane where children of all shapes and sizes were heading to school in their uniforms, looking shiny-clean and fresh.

But then as I strolled down another lane a little later and reminded myself that I had taxi and airport and a flight to Chiang Mai ahead, I bought a second breakfast: two skewers of grilled pork (moo ping) and a small bag of sticky rice, irresistable. The whole lot came to 15 baht, or about 50 cents (the plate of rice with two dishes had cost the same). The pork was tender and succulent, slightly sweet, and aromatic with a little lemongrass. Now I've really arrived here, I thought as I sat in the sun eating.

And we'll see what comes next, but for now there's a feeling of infinite possibility, and also a contentment with the here and now. So I bask in the transformations of travel.



lovely post. thank you.

Duncan said...

Great to hear you had an easy few flights Naomi, and sorry I didn't get to say a proper goodbye! It's interesting about travelling to familiar places, especially in a time of the year that you associate with that place. I remember when I was looking at schools in England - - - I went in March, and I was so used to having been there in the June/July months, that everything seemed strange and unusual and a little scary again, all because it was spring instead of summer. Hope things go well with the Burmese visa, and looking forward to hearing/reading more.