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Lost in Chiang Mai, Stranger in your home


Jun 19, 2021 · 5 mins read

I've read in those young adult inspiration book about how we should go out and explore the world to find our inner self. As a freshly graduated university student, I take action on upon this suggestion almost immediately. To be honest, I've planned the trip once my last semester exam schedule was out, for fear of lacking time and opportunities.

A travel story in Chiangmai

As a political sciences bachelor, we all expected to attend civil servant test in half a year, that's why I'm in such a hurry to have at least one trip before going back in the system. I talk to a few friends who come from upcountry and see if anyone plan a trip back home when we've finished. Turn out; I could crash a week or two each at three friend's house, then I decide to book a ticket to their hometown, Chiang Mai, a scenic cultural in the northern region. To this point, it doesn't seem like it is a backpacking, isn't it? It more like a celebration trip from privilege middle-class university gradated, well, that's what it looks like to me in the first place. 

Just when the plane landed in Chiang Mai International Airport, the first message I've received the moment open my mobile data was "need to be out of town a few days, see you when I come back" from said friends. I didn't have a back-up plan, so I needed to find a place to stay the night. After strolling through almost all the old town area, which is far cheaper than those in Nimmanhaemin Road, I found a nice little hostel hidden in the local alleyway. After switching between asking nicely and bargaining a bit, I finally got a two bunk-bed room with ceiling fan. However, the old gentleman who was the owner ask me sometime to accompany their foreigner guest to the bus stop or offer help to those in require exchange for a surprisingly good deal he proposed to me, which I have accepted gladly. I adapted my expectation from a lovely villa with a maid and proper meal to 3x5 room with a buzzing old fan quite well. I still hoping to enjoy my plan after my friends come back. I even rent a motorcycle (which is quite a sum of money) to ride to his home second he came back. 

During this time, I enjoy the company of a foreigner traveler and offer help to those in need. I recommend a guy from Italy who was looking for an authentic restaurant that didn't get westernized their dish to serve tourist palette and then charge three times more. I help an old affluent American couple, who stay at the hostel just for an experience, to avoid the tourist trap from the shady agency who try to offer unrealistically expensive tour package. We were on our way for some morning coffee when the agency approached, and I have to pretend to be their tour guide to get away (they even ask me for a cut). There is one night that I've to ride my motorcycle to pick up 2 English ladies, whom I just met earlier that day, who is a bit too drunk to tell 'Rod Daeng' (Red Car - Chiang Mai public transportation) appropriately where their hostel was. I keep the company of a Chinese student, whose plan gone wrong and she was left alone for a week and bought her to some tourist attraction and restaurant. Apart from that, I live a pretty mundane daily life. As a Thai, it's much easier to just ask about the local spot and where should I go to hang out. I also made friend with people in tourist business when I'm just randomly walk-in ask for the direction and local stuff (It's almost ten years ago when google maps not filled with a place and Wongnai still a newcomer app). Some of them are great people whom I keep contact to this day. 

It's almost two weeks past, so I check back to my first friend, whose house should be our trip's headquarter. It is at the moment that I realized he's been ghosting me since I landed. Turn out that he had to fly back to Bangkok to do his stuff. I contact other friends who have made a plan together, and he apologizes me that his place has some immediate inconvenience. The last one is a girl whose home is the furthest, and I'm not comfortable living with her family as a lone guy (It worked in the first place because it should be a group of friends stay together). She sensed my frustration and kind of feel bad for me, so she would come to town from time to time to take me for sightseeing or cafe-hopping. It is then I learn that people, especially in Asian culture, even a good friend, don't know how to refuse politely, so they would agree to the deal and date that they never wish to fulfil. I've had to talk with the hostel owner, telling him the truth about what I am facing at the moment. He was kind enough to give me more discount until the end of my trip, and sometime invited me for breakfast to help me reduces my meal cost. And that's is how I become backpacker in my own country. 

When things don't come out as a plan, it occurs to me that what I've in front of me now is a vast array of opportunities. I post on my Facebook that I'm in Chiang Mai and anyone who wants to come, I'm more than happy to meet up. A lot of my friends message me about where I'm staying, as Chiang Mai is a popular destination. It couldn't happen if I still have to stick with the original plan. I get to meet-up with a lot of people, people whom I never have a chance to meet back in Bangkok. I would never guess how much beer my timid elementary school friends could drink. I never know that an old colleague from a part-time job is now a business owner. I come back room one night after talking 3 hours long with an exchange student, whom I met one time five years ago about life decision, and thinking to myself that I understand everything that people speak or do and sometime I don't understand anything at all. Maybe that the whole point of Backpacking, leap and don't overthink.

On my last night, the first friend finally finds the time, and he decides to invite our group over to an apologies party and the four of us laugh over how things fall miserably. While we cheered with his dad's old whiskey worth more than the room I've spent my last month into a thousand times, I'm thinking to myself that I didn't learn any bit about my inner-self. Instead, I know about trust, disappointment, anger, friendship, deception, or so to speak, I learnt a bit more about life

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