Knowing we were nearing the end of our journey in Thailand, and our trip as a whole, we started to think about what would come next. Knowing that after India, we would be returning to Canada, we started making preparations, mostly due to the foresight of Theresa, who is always planning one step ahead. This included finding and creating gifts for family, and replacing some of our worn out baggage, as well as acquiring something large to accommodate some of our new purchases.
Luckily, the mall close to our house, Kad Suan Keaw, had several kiosks that sold luggage of all shapes and sizes. Finding a sturdy, large suitcase with wheels for ourselves, we set out to find a new backpack for Violet. It was a bit like leading Goldilocks through the house of bears. The first one was too small. The second was too large. But the third one, it was just right. It had the image of Marie, the world’s most adorable and iconic kitten of the Disney Aristocats fame emblazoned on the back, which suited her cat fancy perfectly. She was already quite upset by the knowledge that we would soon be saying goodbye to Muesli, the adorable adopted ginger kitten belonging to our French neighbours, and Marie was at least a small measure of comfort.
Kad Suan Keaw had several other treats in store for us, many of which we had explored during our stay. Despite our resolution to be vegetarian, we gave in to our temptation one afternoon and sampled the offerings at the KFC located in the basement of the mall. I hadn’t eaten at a KFC for over a decade, but the alluring smell broke down our barriers one day when we were particularly starved and exhausted, and weren’t interested in eating at the bug stand outside the mall. Perhaps it was the context that led to our discretion, that compared to bugs, eating at KFC wasn’t really that hideous, but we were pleasantly surprised by how much more like real food this seemed than what my memory served. It beat the experience of the Starbucks outside the mall, which seemed hideous compared to the amazing coffee we had been enjoying from the local coffee shops.
Far too late in our stay for our liking, we discovered an area near the back of the mall that was more akin to a Thai market than a western mall. The main grocery store in the mall was a favourite eating spot for many of my Farang friends, who particularly enjoyed the spicy mango dish, guaranteed to test your mettle as a non-Thai, but we craved something more authentic. The Thai area at the back of the mall provided this, and the Mango over coconut creamed rice quickly became a favourite dish, one that we tried (unsuccessfully) to recreate ourselves. It seemed that there was a knack to making this dish that only the Thai’s possessed. Venturing further into this mystic Thai area, we found an enclave of artists near the rear entrance to the mall, who possessed artistic skills beyond many famous artists.
We discovered that they were all too eager to be commissioned, and hired one we liked to do portraits of our children from photographs we had of them. Paying him in advance, and trusting that the portraits would be complete before our departure, we set our sights on our next set of portraits, those of a family in full traditional Thai regalia. Think of those tacky photo shops that do dressup in old style western or Victorian garb, but with old-school Thai outfits, and you’ll get the picture. We got ours, and they far exceeded our expectations, and our capacity for fun.
We still had a few logistical issues to deal with, such as what to do with all the stuff we had accumulated during our four month stay in Chiang Mai. Some of it, we gave away. Much of it was highly decorative, items we had purchased with the intent of using to set up a spa once we returned to Canada. We had beautiful Tatami mats, woven from a fragrant grass, Thai triangle pillows and mats, unstuffed for easier transport, various statues, artwork, wall hangings, incense, and more. Much more. So much more, in fact, that there was no way we were going to carry it all with us. We loaded it all into four giant boxes, got a cab to the main post office in downtown Chiang Mai, and mailed our boxes, trusting that the ship carrying them overseas would see safe harbor on the other side, that they would eventually meet up with us in Ontario, and that customs wouldn’t take the time to investigate what exactly we had put into these parcels from a far land.