Khun Pa ("auntie" in Thai) Piak has been the most wonderful host a traveling bum in Thailand could ask for. My stomach has been thrown back into straining decadence after partially fasting through the meditation retreat. Breakfast comes in platefuls of fresh fruit, local yogurt, and sometimes even french toast. Lunch has been a mixture of traditional Thai food both at the house and around town. We've gone to restaurants owned by old friends of Khun Pa Piak's and tucked away gems that most foreigners would miss. I've had pad thai, mango and sticky rice, coconut curry, the tomato based soups of the north, and the coconut ones of the south. Dinners have been much of the same, dishes spiced to tickle your taste buds and keep your belly smiling. Basically, after the farm and Khun Pa Piak's culinary expertise, my stomach may be in for a rude surprise in the coming three weeks.
Beyond the scrumptious cuisine, Khun Pa Piak has helped me out in so many other ways. She has graciously taken me around town to errands both unpleasant (4 hours in immigration to extend my visa and 6 hours in the hospital to get a JE vaccine) and pleasant (walking through a humming hive of a night market, getting leg massages while said market bustled along outside, and exploring some of the lush Chiang Mai University farmers market to name a few). I hope sometime in my future I can provide a welcome rest stop to someone as wonderful as the one Khun Pa Piak gave me.
Throughout my stay in the city, I was also able to catch up with many of my friends from Mae Mut. Through meals and walking through the streets and bookstores, we were able to catch up on the past two weeks and say our final "see you laters." I hope my path can cross with all of these folks somewhere on this big planet in the future.
So overall I feel refreshed and prepared for the next step of my journey. This last leg is perhaps the most exhilarating and uncertain yet. As many of you know, I plan to spend the next three weeks traveling through Cambodia and Laos, mostly via bus. The two big spots I want to visit are Ankor Wat and the 4000 Islands. However, unlike past trips I've taken, this one is mostly unscripted. I have a guesthouse set up in Siem Reap (my first stop and where Ankor Wat is located), but after that I will take to the road when I feel like moving on, and settle down when a place feels right. When the time comes, I will cross into Thailand at the nearest border crossing and make my way back to Chiang Mai for my flight.
I am filled with a combination of erratic thoughts of various scenarios that could play out during my trip as well as a simmering excitement that has been growing ever since I bought my bus ticket for the first leg to Bangkok. For me, there's nothing quite like the moment when you have committed to journeying to a place never seen through your eyes, to ground never walked on by your feet. I stare at the maps and try to imagine what exploring the roads and alleys of these towns will be like, and its almost always even better when I arrive. I can't wait to see what this corner of the world has to offer. There will be good times and bad, but always an experience and a story to tell. I can't wait to tell you all along the way and when I return home.