Thursday, December 15, 2011


But I'm not feeling ready to go. I've just settled back into Chiang Mai and have been getting work done in the gaps between preparing to leave. I'd love to have another week or two here. This moment before departure can feel fraught. It's such a turning point in every way, the moment before we launch into new places and feelings and rhythms. I feel a little like a diver hesitating at the end of the diving board. The next days will bring the plane travel and then the disorienting cotton-brain of jetlag, combined with the intensities of reurning to a wonderfully full couple of weeks over the holidays seeing friends and getting caught up on their doings.

No wonder I don't sleep very well in the nights before a trip. It's not anxiety exactly, more like adrenalin, expectation, a certain repetitive reviewing of to-do lists and worries about forgetting something vital (the money? passport? ticket? computer & power cord? checklist of the day of departure has a longer more complex predecessor list that evolves in the days leading up to departure day).

Tomorrow I fly to Bangkok in the late morning (my Toronto flight leaves early the following day). But I'm trying to push back against the usual time-wasting hours before leaving here by going for an early visit to the Haw Market tomorrow morning I'm meeting Mrs Lemur there, she who writes the "The Lemurs Are Hungry" blog, very entertaining and food-obsessed. She and Mr Lemur are in Thailand for the first time, after years of deep engagement with Thai food in their kitchen. I'm looking forward to eating Shan Soup with her tomorrow, thick and creamy textured (but no cream) over fine rice vermicelli. And then I'll pedal back to the soi, hand in my rented bicycle, come up to the apartment to grab my bags, drag them back down to the soi, and find myself a rot daeng (means red truck), the shared transport that serves as public transit here. Once I'm in the truck, I'll be like the diver whose feet have just pushed off from the diving board, launched.

This morning, feeling a little congested, I went over to the Jok woman, who makes a heavenly thick rice soup with pork balls in it, laden with fine strands of ginger. She heard my slightly thickened voice, asked if I was sick, then chopped extra ginger and added it in, along with plenty of white pepper. Food as medicine is rarely as delicious as her gorgeous soup was this morning. I guess I won't be eating that well again until I get home.

I'm not complaining, you understand, just sayin'...

POSTSCRIPT FROM BANGKOK: I have to admit I was very wrong in my prediction about food between then and home. First, on Friday morning I had a delish Shan soup over kanom jiin noodles, with the Lemurs, and tastes of other treats including semolina cake (recipe to come in RIVERS OF FLAVOR, as is the Shan soup recipe) and tart rice with shrimp "cake", a great savory. It didn't end there, my mistakenness, for last night I met a friend at a restaurant she knows here in Bangkok called Gedhwara, on Sukumvit soi 35, very close to a Skytrain station. It specialises in Northern Thai food, is intimate and does beautiful presentations. I loved the lon, made with dao jiao; the very chile punchy veg soup; the green mango salad made with fresh red prik i noo. The shrimp ep was fine, but not as terrific as it could have been. Anyway, if you are passing through BKK, or living there, do check it out.

Finally, I stayed at the Atlanta, a place with a lot of history, an odd and quirky hotel, very central (Sukumvit soi 2, convenient to the SKytrain, just a walk down the soi). It has a great pool and fan rooms for those who, like me, don't like A/C much. And the price is right: 535 baht for my fan room with large double bed, balcony, shower etc , which is about $18.

But of course who sleeps well when the wake-up call is at 4.30 in the morning? SO I'll be dozing for much of this flight, with DOnna Leon books to see me through the gaps.

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