Friday, September 14, 2018

I'm back in Chiang Mai with Nut

First bike ride this fall - McKean Hospital grounds
It's so good to be back! As I flew across the Pacific from the U.S. to Thailand on a Korean Air 777 watching the flight attendants scurrying about waiting on people almost constantly for the eleven and a half hour flight, I could feel a distinct cultural shift, one I rather enjoy. The way the Korean Air attendants treat customers is pretty much the way I'm treated here in Thailand. While the time I spend in Alaska and with my family each summer is always exceptional, my return to this less competitive environment is a welcome switch from the dog-eat-dog mentality of American government and business. I am forever amazed at just how friendly the Thai people are to foreigners, "farangs", like me.

Of course, by the time summer begins winding down I'm getting anxious to reunite with Nut. We're still living harmoniously together after more than 8 years. That in itself is, for me, something of a miracle. In hindsight, it seems my other relationships, and there were more than a few, were destined for failure after only a few years or sometimes only a handful of months. I'm sure being apart for four months every summer has a lot to do with our success. She's the perfect partner for a guy like me and seems able to tolerate my self-absorption, preoccupied as I am with my mapping and tennis. We have our individual lives and pastimes but neither of us resents that at all. As the old aphorism teaches, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It's been working that way for us.

Old bungalow on the McKean Hospital grounds
Ah, Thailand, so friendly, so foreign, so familiar. The neighborhood we live in is quiet, we have good neighbors, and I take delight in the constant murmur of the doves cooing away the daytime hours. As I take my morning rides, I'll be biking through wreaths of smoke from the many charcoal braziers lining the streets.  People on their way to work or school pick up skewers of grilled pork or chicken with sticky rice from the street vendors— it's Thai breakfast food. Later as the evening light fades to darkness, I'll hang out on our patio with a beer and listen to music for a few hours. I was in the habit of doing that in Homer too but here I'm dressed in shorts, no shirt, and sitting in front of an electric fan. In Homer, I'm often zipped up in a polypro jacket to keep the wind and chill at bay.

While I was in Alaska, Nut took it upon herself to buy a share of some land her daughter and husband recently bought with the goal of building a home. She sold the gold jewelry I've gifted to her over the years in order to buy a stake in their future homestead. I've always wanted to do something for her, to set her up for a future without me, maybe help her start a business, something, but I really didn't want to buy another house. Been there, done that. I'd rather rent. Nut worries about her future because she has no safety net like my Social Security or state pension. If I suddenly pass away, she'll eventually be out on the street looking for work. Still, when she told me what she'd done I was like, what? you bought land? Even though we had discussed the idea during the summer, at first I was a bit put off by her news. But I quickly realized that she has essentially ended my long-running dilemma about how to help her achieve some degree of assurance about her future. To further facilitate that goal I decided I will buy a chunk of gold as a birthday present each year so that by the time I pass away, she'll have enough stashed to build a small home on her daughter's property. Problem solved.

To change the subject entirely, I've been living here for almost 9 years and have always lamented the beer situation. There is a lot of excellent coffee available almost everywhere but up to now, no good beer. There were only Leo, Tiger, Chang and Singha to pick from; they're lagers, and all of them fairly lackluster. I'm a beer snob and make no bones about it. To my pleasant surprise, I learned that in my absence Chiang Mai has discovered IPA and it's available in several supermarkets and at least two nearby bars, Nampton's House, which is where I purchased the two IPAs shown in the photo below and a place called The Beer. Nampton's has a full menu of craft beers on tap and a cooler stuffed with a large selection of fine beers from around the world.

Some beers sold at Nampton's House Bar
By the weirdest of coincidences, I was drinking Ballast Point Sculpin IPA in Homer this summer! The other beer, from Knee Deep Brewing, was also quite tasty. Both are from California breweries. They're delicious but definitely not cheap. A bottle of the Sculpin IPA cost me about $9 USD while the Knee Deep Lupulin River IPA set me back about 8 bucks. The same bottle of Sculpin costs about $3 in Homer, Alaska, so it's not exactly cheap in either place. (Also shown in the photo is the head of a deep fried fish just before Nut munched on its eyes, her favorite part of any fish.)

The Beer is a more upscale bar and tap room on Mahidol Road. Tonight at The Beer I bought a bottle of Gancore IPA from, of all places, Cambodia! And a few days ago we went shopping at our local Tops Market where I found an IPA brewed in  Phuket, Thailand, called Full Moon Chatri IPA. It's pretty good and costs only $3 USD for a bottle. So, it turns out I can drink my favorite IPAs here in Chiang Mai on ocassion. The downside is the cost — I'll have to treat them more like one does a good bottle of wine.