Cultural Catastrophe

So we’ve been in Chiang Mai a couple of days now, time for a quick update. I’ve decided to split this blog post up in three “cultural” experiences that we’ve had in the last 24 hours, because they make no sense as one coherent piece. Enjoy.

1. Transport

So we rented a couple of beat up bicycles like the dutch idiots we are. Blissfully we pedalled away to the nearest town, revelling in our dutchness. Look and be amazed at how invincible we are, you other inferior backpackers on your damn scooters. Who needs speed, we’ve got two good pairs of legs and two slightly too small bicycles. Who’s laughing now.

Oh wait.

We’re on a dual carriageway. Four-by-fours and fire-truck taxis and tuk tuks and motor bikes race past left and right. Horns honk loudly. Potholes have to be dodged every three seconds. And we’re on bicycles. FUCK.

Considering I’m writing this blog, we’re physically fine. Mentally though the terror will never leave us.

2. Local Cuisine

Having survived our near death experience, we decided we deserved some food.  Being the cultured individuals that we are, we decided we couldn’t live in Chiang Mai any longer without sampling the local Northern Thai cuisine.

So, a short walk later, we arrive at a little garden serving the kind of food we were looking for. Everyone sitting there looked delighted with their meals, the menu was cheap, perfect. Until we realised we understood virtually none of the menu. Again. Thankfully we’ve grown used to this in the month or so that we’ve been on the road, so we point at random, smile at the waiter, and wait.

A few minutes later, four gorgeous plates of food arrive, two wrapped neatly in leaves. We smile triumphantly: another win for this moronic duo. The leaves are opened, and out wafts a deeply spiced, rich smell. Nodding to each other, we dig in greedily.

And choke.

What we thought were bits of tomato or pepper topping our food turn out to be chilli’s. Pure, unfiltered, satanic chilli’s. All but one of the four dishes are so spicy our little white selves can’t handle it. And everyone around us is perfectly happy, munching away, without a drop of water to wash it down. ‘What kind of balls of steel do these people have’ I splutter, gargling water and rice to try to put out the fire in my throat. Desperate to be polite, we have no choice but to brave the rest of the dishes: sweating, mouths on fire, eyes watering.

It takes more than an hour for the chilli’s to stop assaulting us, even after we finish eating.

3. Entertainment

After a long day, what better way to spend your afternoon than a nice, relaxing Thai cinema. What better on-screen trio than Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

Wait, what.

Another cultural mishap on our part, we hadn’t realised that before a film at the cinema, the King’s anthem is played halfway through the commercials. Everyone is required to stand in solemn silence, listening to the tragic song and watching three poorly photoshopped sepia pictures of the recently passed Thai King fade in and out of view, accompanied by sepia video clips of his dedicated followers bowing to him and waving Thai flags, holding up pictures of him.

None of the people in the audience smile, or move a muscle, so we follow suit, desperate not to insult anyone, putting on our best respectful faces to show our appreciation for the King. At last everyone sat back down and the film started, but it took Myrthe and I a good 15 minutes to get over that weird spectacle. Thankfully Ryan Reynolds distracted us well enough and we could move on mentally.


Hope you enjoyed those three snippets of our day, we’ll be back soon!


Eva & Myrthe.

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