Monday, February 02, 2009

Further Adventures in the Land of Smiles

I am currently unable to smile or talk. I'm hiding out in the internet cafe, while the novocain wears off.
It was a surprising visit to the clinic today. Even though I got there on time, the front desk people didn't tell the doctor I was there. So after half an hour she send someone out to check on me. She was a little pissed off, I think. Next time I'll check in! I thought that a wave would do it.
So the real surprise was that once she had me numb and cleaned up the left molar and took an xray, she didn't think it needed a new crown or root canal! She thought the problem was a filing gone bad at the base of the crown and she fixed it.
Now I should be glad, right? That's a lot of money and pain and time in the chair she's saving me. But this is the tooth that's been really bothering me, and I don't want to go home with out it being really fixed.
She says we'll know tomorrow if it's okay or not. I guess I hope that it is?
The other good news was that I may not need a root canal on the right molar either. She's referring me to the specialist who I see tomorrow. She did take the crown off (I've got it in my bag for a souvenir). But maybe no root canal.
She's definitely conservative, and I guess that's a good thing. She's also very good at giving shots. Only one out of the four today hurt at all, and that one just a bit.
There was only one thing I really didn't like. She used some sort of chemical stuff to either take the impression of my tooth, or maybe cement on the temporary crown. It smelled extremely toxic to me. I tried to mention it, with my totally numb tongue I don't think she understood what the hell I was saying. They acted like nothing was wrong at all. Weird.
Sorry if this is absurdly boring.
It's been a strange day. This morning I went out for a walk, trying to find Juicy 4U, a place my friend Bryon recommended. It took me forever to find it, because it wasn't open! Not open usually means a big metal roll down door obscuring the place. I walked right by it at first.
Not open! But the lonely planet said it was!
Chiang Mai is not a great place to walk about early in the morning. Too many roll down doors and too much traffic. People like to stay up late I guess.
I picked up my new glasses today and really like them. I think maybe they make me look less stern, so maybe I can find more people to chat with. I feel that people are avoiding me--I think I look scary somehow, even to the farang.
When I hear an American speaking I feel drawn to them! The mother tongue. I had the same experience in Bali when I was solo there. Conversation is one of the things I live for. And pigeon english is only fun for so long without a real talk.
Speaking of pigeon english, I hired a songtheaw driver to take me up to Doi Suthep, the mountain temple about 16km from downtown. He had me sit up front and wanted to talk, which was great.
Turns out Mr. Chairat Aphichai, my driver and guide, is 74 years old! He was a very mellow driver too. Said he learned english working with the US military in the Vietnam war. He actually still gets a pension, which is good since he has 6 kids. His oldest son is 53 and an engineer, etc.. I learned a lot about him and various changes in Chiang Mai.
For example, he said he was able to buy some land thanks to his military service for about 1000Bt. He sold it some years back for 500,000Bt! and now it's worth about 830,000Bt, according to Mr. Aphichai (if I understood him). I also learned the prices for songtheaws and tuk tuks and petrol.
Doi Suthep was okay. But can't hold a candle to the Chiang Dao Cave Temple, in my opinion. Maybe on a clear day it would be spectacular, but I couldn't really see much cause of the hazy smog. I wonder if there ever is a clear day? Maybe once or twice a year.
Doi Suthep has a very long stairway heading up the mountainside. Very steep. After getting down my legs were shaking a bit, so I ducked into this huge open air shopping area. Lots of stalls selling antiquey looking stuff. Nice stuff really. Those antique puppet dolls that Jerry likes, and masks and carvings and tons of brass buddhas and such. Some cloth stuff, but mostly dark wood and brass.
The women staffing the booths were hard core. It was like being in Bali. I almost fled right off, but I actually liked the junk I was seeing. Different from the street markets. And so I got caught looking at a teak spirit house. I swear to god the vendor held a gun to my head and made me buy it. Really.
Well, not really. She held an oversized calculator and kept calling to me with a reduced price. Since I really had no intention of buying it I kept walking away and that price just kept dropping! Trouble is, it's the one thing that Krista said she might want. And it was really gorgeous and well, it started out at 4600Bt and she came down to 2000. Now that's about $56 or so.
I've never seen one this nice in the US and the ones I have seen are always a couple hundred dollars. The real clincher was she kept saying 'only one kilo! come apart. pack very good. special box. Use credit card!'.
When I finally relented, two women showed up instantly and helped her package the hell out of the thing. They did a very good job very quickly but I just kept wringing my hands and moaning 'what have I done?'. How the hell am I going to fit that thing into a suitcase? Shit.
Maybe it will just sit on my lap for 19 hours?
One thing that I've noticed is that I don't attract a lot of sales attention from the Thai (aside from this one place, where I was the only customer). I think it's sort of racial profiling. White male, late 40's--unlikely to buy anything, don't waste your breath. Right. Well that all changed when I came out carrying that huge bundle in a big plastic bag. I still had to run a gaunlet of stalls all down the way and everyone was calling for me to come look and buy. Good god! I didn't know what I was missing.
I'll just mention one other thing. Today I discovered a whole new side of my guest house. The other side. I'd noticed that I had the only room on the pool side of the building. It's at the end and looks out over the alley. Today I was walking along the balcony corridor and the other rooms all had their doors open as they were being cleaned. Turns out they all look out over trees and ancient teak houses. Instead of dogs barking in the middle of the night and rowdy people and scooters, they've got birds chirping. I've been having a hard time sleeping because of the noise, even with my earplugs. Shit. Tomorrow I get to change rooms. Hello chirping birds, goodbye alley dogs.
Well, my tongue is starting to tingle. I guess this is long enough.
goodnight from Chiang Mai

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