Alright, let me wrap up this Thailand trip. (Be sure to check out the “Other Useful Links” at the end!!)
I had 3 nights, 2 days in Chiang Mai, which you should all go to in lieu of Bangkok.
It’s more laid back, more relaxed, more chill, more peaceful, more beautiful, and more affordable. The end.
The first night, I got out of the airport around 11, split a cab with two lovely Hungarian girls, escaped from some demonic dogs, walked along the Night Bazaar in search of Loi Kroh road (or some name like that), and crashed in a hostel that had *gasp* a hot shower. I was in heaven.
After enjoying my first good night’s sleep in a week, I spent the next two days at the children’s drop-in center run by The Garden of Hope.
Operated by a young woman named Ning, this after-school program works with kids from “the hill,” which is Chiang Mai’s slum center. The kids are at the highest risk for drugs and sex trafficking, so providing them with education is the best means to give them a different future.
(And yes, there is actually a sign there that forbids the taking of pictures. Probably something to do with the children being in actual danger.)
Ning herself is a tiny woman with a heart the size of Alaska (which we all know is at least 3X the size of Texas). She houses nine children herself–separate from the center–whom she has obtained from families wanting to sell their child or other likewise scary situations.
I also ran into these girls (from Teams Nehemiah Project and Freedom 5:8–if the link’s broken, just use the ones on the sidebar to your right under “1The World Race”) from the trafficking circuit of TheWorldRace.org, who were also working at The Garden. And I love them.
For lunch, I balanced precariously on the girls’ bicycles to ride to their favorite lunch spot.
Perching on the grate over the back tire, I suspended my legs in mid-air, hung on for dear life, and prayed silently as my driver tried to balance the both of us while holding her hand out as we crossed busy intersections in hopes that the oncoming traffic would slow down and not force me to use my traveler’s insurance.
It was quite the sight, I’m sure.
I spent my second night with a young girl who teaches at The Garden of Hope. Through a miscommunication, I was left without a bed for the night, so she offered me her floor. She lives above an internet cafe, next to a noisy street that had me thankful I was a deep sleeper and completely exhausted on top of it all.
It’s essentially a dorm-type setup. The bathroom has a wall around it, but there’s about two feet between the top of the wall and the ceiling, so there are no secrets in this place. She does her laundry by hand, and her “kitchen” consists of a couple shelves of bowls, some utensils, and crates of bottled water.
We feasted on some fresh mangoes, accompanied by a spicy sauce she whipped up which I learned is the norm in Thailand. It made me sputter and gasp for breath a few times, and rendered me speechless for several minutes, but was quite tasty. Although she did warn me eating too much of it could harm my stomach…
It was nice, though, to see some of Thai life first-hand, to hear her story and her dreams, to listen to her speak about her family, and to learn she’s a hopeless romantic who yearns for the love of a Taiwanese celebrity who sponsors two Mongolian kids.
The next day we meandered around a market. I bought some bracelets, she bought some mangoes. We enjoyed my last mango shake–I lived off of those my entire time in Thailand–before heading back to The Garden.
My last night I spent with the girls I had run into from The World Race. Every evening would hang out on “bar street” and talk with the women working there. The idea is to get to know the women–their stories, how they ended up with their job, if they enjoy it, what dreams they have, that sort of thing. Then from there, see if they can connect them to some local organizations or opportunities that help them escape their current situation.
I only had the one night (again, the slight miscommunication), but it was worth every bit of scheduling conflict. There is one girl in particular I met whose face haunts me. I sometimes lay awake at night hoping desperately she finds a different life, and feeling all sorts of helpless. But more on that tomorrow.
I ended the evening showing up to the airport before it was open.
I thought an “international” airport would be open 24/7, but I was wrong. Oh wells.
Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t flub up in some obvious way, as I’m sure normal people would check to see if it’s open or not.
Or not go to the airport at 3 a.m.
Well, I didn’t want to pay for a hostel to sleep in for only two hours. Makes sense, right?
I thought so.