A tinny PA squarbles some unintelligible noise in the distance, like the voice of the unseen teacher from Peanuts, drawing me from a jetlagged induced afternoon nap and reminding us that the Sunday market is about to kick off. Outside our hotel, Rachadamnoen has been wondrously transformed from a hustling, exhaust-filled road choked with cars, tuk tuks, and scooters to a bustling thoroughfare of market stalls brimming with a vibrant array of tastes, smells, sights, and sounds. It feels like Dorothy waking up to the splendor of Oz, and after a brief pause for the Thai National Anthem
we’re whisked away into its colorful menagerie.
Down one side of Rachadamnoen clay pots bubble over with spicy delights, while vendors nearby offer up a variety of grilled meats and veggies. Further on we’re drawn in by the smell of chocolate (yes, chocolate!) waffles being cooked. Omelets wrapped in banana leaves, Thai-style donuts, fresh fruit, the ubiquitous pad thai and, one of the tourist draws here, grilled insects of every shape and size. All pull us in and demand our attention. Shouldered in next to these are booths selling pottery, paintings, bracelets, ornamental lights, encased exotic flowers, and every possible knickknack you could imagine. Where Rachadamnoen crosses Jhaban a trio of blind musicians have set up and are strumming their way
through a few numbers. Off a side alley somewhere we find ourselves stumbling into a temple while young monks in training chant their evening prayers. They’re fidgeting; none seem to have learned to sit still for very long and it’s an interesting contrast to the parade of people milling about on the street. Back outside, small, delicately woven and impossibly detailed hemp figurines of dragons and other iconic creatures crowd a table. Near the end of Rachadamnoen beautiful hanging lamps of every color dangle from a blackened sky. Even a t-shirt bearing Joaquim Phoenix’s bearded face from his “I’m Still Here” phase didn’t appear out of place, though it did look considerably drab when compared to the rest of colors on display in the market.
The night was alight with spectacle, and as we shimmied our way through the throngs and the stalls — stopping to taste this, pausing to stare at that — I can’t recall a place in our travels that felt so vibrant, pulsing and swaying to its own rhythm.
(Click on a pic to embiggen and view the full gallery.)
Back in Chiang Mai from our stay at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, we had a little over twenty-four hours left in this wonderful city before flying out to Hong Kong for a few days on our way back to the States.
On our first morning in Chiang Mai we stepped outside our hotel in the Old City onto Ratchadamnoen Road with a map in hand but really with the intent to just allow our feet and eyes to lead us. One block later we came to...
I'm just about to climb over the top of the gate and into the elephant barn to join Lek Chailert as she softly sings lullabies to Faa Mai and the other elephants in the barn, when Kim loudly shouts my name in a panicked voice....