“Eh…” I sputtered.
We were sipping cokes in center city. We had been haggling for nuts with a vendor, but I froze when I noticed something behind Anne.
Before I could say “Elephant,” Anne and Dumbo stood face-to-face. Anne shrieked. The elephant tooted merrily, amused by the success of his sneak attack.
No, he didn’t tip-toe up; we just hadn’t expected to see a walking mountain stoll by at the local bar. Shock factor is enhanced around low light and blond tourists.
Chiang Mai is full of surprises.
While markets tend to follow themes (daffodils, amulets, dim sum), there are no barriers to product entry. At one market, a shopper can scan twelve tables proffering Buddha figurines, and then stumble across a table of used dentures. A surprise lurks amidst every market. Owls, acid-inspired Hello Kitty paraphernalia, and second-hand teeth have all startled us during our stay.
The city’s smells are equally unnerving. Each five-to-twenty-meter stretch boasts a unique aroma. Odors transition fully and without warning. Every five-hundredth meter, a nice smell stuns passersby into respectful silence.
The biggest surprise for me came when someone yelled, “Perrin!” I walked on, because someone shouting, “Perrin!” outside of my stomping grounds is as common as meeting an elephant at your local bar.
Anne and I looked around to see JetSetZero cameramen Bogden and Evan scrambling our way. JetSet reunion!
To celebrate, we found some live music. The group danced through the wee hours, while an androgynous musician encouraged us. True to lady-boy form, the singer sounded equally authentic bellowing “Ring of Fire” as he did singing “I Will Survive” (a widespread international favorite, apparently).
Next, Evan and Bogdan introduced us to Cowboy Mom. Cowboy Mom is their name for their choice food cart. A pretty Thai lady sporting a Texas-size cowboy hat cooks, and her disgruntled daughter serves. Fried rice? Fifty cents. Cowboy Mom was indeed a suitable temporary mother.
Anne and I ended the night aboard Bogden’s motorbike. I should mention that, since the Italy season of JS0, “Big Bog” has grown a handlebar mustache and a fondness for petite scarves. He has also refined his finesse at scooter handling.
That night, as Bogden whizzed by locals, he laughed a snooty French hooligan laugh and howled, “Filet mignon, Chiang Mai!”
Filet mignon is the only French phrase Bogden knows.
We were a surprising set of winners.