Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Once upon a time in Pai

Yes, we got a guitar!

Since the turn of the month, we've been traveling as a five-some: Miles, John, Tom (John's brother), Ben (Tom's friend), and me. WE stayed a few days in Bangkok, a few days in Lampang, a few days in Chiang Mai, and now we're in Pai. Five is a big number to travel with, but it's working out great so far. Miles and I needed the extra company. Our conversations were getting short from so much familiarity, and we were tiring of our two-person card game.
After 10 days of hopping from place to place, we were all ready to settle down somewhere, and our place of settlement is a mountain town called Pai that is just a short drive away from the Burmese border. It's a touristy place, but instead western tourists, it's a vacation mecca for Thai and other Asians. In this way we feel exempt from the guilt a tourist may feel for invading a foreign place. It's the perfect place to take it slow in, and I was ready to take things slower.
It seems counterintuitive, but traveling is my least favorite part of traveling. Whenever we move from place to place, whatever peace I may have established in one place has to be regathered in another. I'm reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance right now, and at one point he says, "To travel is better than to arrive." I only agree sometimes. I've been on the move for nearly three months now, and now whenever I get into a vehicle of some kind I just stare our the window as my mind becomes a vast thoughtscape covering all points in space and time. I think about things done and things to do over the span of years, but when I was settled in an area all I would think about was what to do in a given day. Some regular readers may notice the hypocrisy between this post and the last. In the last post I was harping on how I had never felt "out" of a moment and how calm my mind is. I'll qualify the last post if it wasn't clear: I do feel calm here, but that's not to say that my mind doesn't have times where it's a blizzard of activity. Somehow though, even when I'm staring out a car window with my mind a million miles away, I still feel "in" whatever I'm doing--all the thoughts are somehow necessary parts of that moment. Even so, it's nice to settle down with our five-some.
But wait, I almost forget to mention our sixth companion: an electric water kettle. We bought a kettle in Lampang for Chad's apartment to brew tea and such, but we decided to take it with us when we traveled on. We're probably the only backpackers in Asia carrying our own electric kettle. It's a cumbersome thing to carry, but it probably gets used more than any other single item. We make tea two to three times a day, make oatmeal, boil eggs, make saline water for sinus flushes, and we're even thinking of cooking potatoes in it. Bringing it from place to place is like bringing a little piece of home along with you.

In the hills above Pai

He's stoked to be here.

Our sixth companion

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