overprotective parent faced with the reality of their 20 something daughter traveling alone to the other part of the world would incite a bit of fear and anxiety. That is how I found myself corresponding with a man named Glen whom I had never met before in my life. He was a friend of a friend of my fathers, and there was a small demand that I pay a visit to him and his Thai wife. Here’s the kicker though, they lived in a village that even most well traveled Thai’s hadn’t heard of. It was called “Hang Chat.” When I asked people about it, they all assumed I was talking about a phone app, not a little village in the rice patties.
It was actually conveniently located between Chiang Mai and Bangkok via train, so I figured I would check it out for a few days, calm the ‘rents and get off of the tourist route for a little more authenticity. It became clear to me that I was headed somewhere few pharangs stop off at when I’d occasionally look up from my book to several sets of curious eyes. Apparently the norm for many in this area is that they will most likely never leave their village. ever.
Luckily Thai people are loving and amazing and with a point to my train ticket a nice lady frantically shoved me towards the door when my stop (a small post) approached. As I got off the train and looked behind me at it leaving, I saw several people hanging out the window staring at me in awe. I knew I was in for an adventure.
Glen, a retiree from Maui, moved to Thailand 2 years ago to be with Nui, a lovely Thai woman. They, along with their adorable and astonishingly responsible 10 year old granddaughter greeted me at the station and our first stop, in typical Thai fashion, involved food. I felt a bit smelly from the train ride, and slightly uncomfortable as I had no idea who these nice people were aside from a few emails, but I embraced it and hoped to be on my best behavior.
We went to a Restaurant that was unlike any experience I had before. You were assigned a pontoon boat-like Thatched floating house in which you sat on, ate your meals, then according to your ambition level could grab one of the ropes on the side and literally pull your houseboat out into the middle of the lake. I envisioned this type of place being at home and how much fun it would be to pound beers and race the parallel boat/restaurant/house-things to the other side, or to have some sort of swimming all day float-a-thon. It was such a clever novelty, though we left the boat pulling duties to the 10 year old, as we had serious beer drinking to do.
My days in Hang Chat were much more simple and calm then my previous big city destination of Chiang Mai. It was all about the small things. At night you could see kids outside with flashlights searching for a particular insect that only comes out once a year, considered a delicacy. We ate about every 3 hours, which even had me, the food addict, a bit overwhelmed. One morning after a huge storm one of the fishes from Nui’s pond ended up 70 feet away from the pond itself. Glen and I were stumped when Nui told us that the fish actually “heard frogs and jumped/crawled out of the pond to go find them.” So many Thai superstitions! During the lightning storm you would hear loud cracks, the Los Angeleno in me would duck and cover from gunfire but it was actually the neighbors shooting off fireworks to scare away the spirits which they believed were causing the thunder.
We would pick fresh lychee from the trees, and ride the scooter around the rice fields. The sunsets were phenomenal there, and the distinct smell of smoke and moisture and just Asia really, became something I knew I’d yearn for in the future when I’d have to return home.
Beyond the amazing hostessing, there were a few moments that really stuck out about my 4 days there. One, at the market, everyone would stare at me, which made me a bit uncomfortable, but then a crazy lady began screaming “CHEAP CHARLIE CHEAP CHARLIE!!!!!!” at me, and the entire group of marketplace attendees began laughing at me. awkward. Another memory – eating bugs with Faa. We had some worms and beetles and she just snacked away at them like potato chips. I nibbled slowly, but we both found ourselves giggling for the duration, though she knew hardly any English. We also went to a hot spring where they boiled eggs in the water, got foot massages nearby some cows, while eating the eggs.
FAA PULLING US OUT TO THE RIVER
The one particular moment in Hang Chat however, will never leave my mind. I had just arrived, after the boat restaraunt I took a short nap and awoke to Glen watching a show about earthquakes. We talked about them and California and volcanoes in Maui and how nice it was to be away from all that. We then went to dinner on the roof of a 150 year old wooden Chinese Restaraunt just an hour later when it happened. The entire building began shaking violently. Yup. Would you believe it? a 6.3 earthquake. A pregnant lady behind me was sheltered by her husbands body, people pointed up at the sky (but actually it was the powerlines shaking right above our heads,) Glen thought he was having a heart attack. It was quick but strong and ended up doing a bit of damage. The kicker was that it actually damaged the white temple I had just been at 24 hours prior and it would now be shut down for “years to repair.” Luckily all was fine where we were, but again I thought about my continual bad luck *see my Tsunami post in Nicaragua for reference ha ha.