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Undiscovered gem

Lampang, Thailand
11/26/07

Alex picked up breakfast Birdie coffee and a mass produced croissant. I picked up a packet of jackfruit that turned out to be dry and rubbery. It would have been the worst breakfast in history had it not been for a man cooking up some sausages on a grill in the street. We both had one. I don’t usually eat sausage but it was juicy and infused with lemongrass. I even considered the possibility of a 2nd.

Chang Mai has been my least favorite town so far. If it had not been for the festival, we would have left sooner. The reason I came to travel in Asia was to travel countries much different from my own. Alex always gets annoyed when he sees other travelers. I don’t mind seeing other travelers. I don’t mind seeing a few places that cater to Westerners. When I see the entire face of a city has been transformed and overrun, that’s when I get irritated. Although I’d wanted to take a Thai cooking class here, I decided there may be opportunities to take a course in another city in Thailand that did not completely suck.

Alex & I took a short a bumpy bus to Lampang. Lampang is only a 1/2 hour ride from Chang Mai but felt like worlds away. At the bus station, we picked up a paper map. Looking at the map, it looked like a short walk to the guesthouse we selected but it ended up being much further as the map was not to scale. We became hot and grumpy and made a pact from here on out to ALWAYS take transportation to our guesthouses. The only exception would be if we could see it from the train or bus station. Even walking a short distance loaded down with our backpacks in the heat is not pleasant.

Our first choice was full. We checked out and into TipInn, run by a Chinese family. This was the first time our hosts spoke zero English except for hello.

Lunch was around the corner at a noodle restaurant. As we waited for them to prepare our soup, I noticed colorful fish hanging from the ceiling. Looking a bit closer, I saw they were made out of plastic bottles. Everyday, I feel horrible for having to buy water since we are adding to all the plastic waste. Over the past few months, I’ve seen many creative uses for plastic bottles. This by far was the most interesting recycle seen yet.

The town was a stark contrast to Chang Mai. There were no souvenir shops, internet cafes, tour operators, aggressive touts, nor grungy backpackers. There were no Western influences. We were the only Westerners. The Lonely Planet only gave Lampang a small paragraph had no map of the city. Lampang is an undiscovered gem. I loved it already. The look on Alex’s face showed he was also pleased.

Lampang is a quiet Thai town. Literally. There was no noise from tuk-tuks because there were none. Instead there was horse-drawn carriages. It was like we went back in time.  We got looks of curiosity but people were polite went on with their business.

We mailed my mom’s puzzle, got some Thai tea, wandered the streets and markets. At one of the markets, we saw a new approach to selling fish: stuff banana leaves inside the mouths of the live fish, rub salt on them and let them flop around on the tables. Alex snacked on satay and quail eggs. I found fresh baked banana bread.

For dinner, we ate underneath a grand tree overlooking the river. Alex & I agreed it the best damn Pad Thai we have ever had. I think one of the key differences was he added small dry shrimp. Walking around town, stores were closed. It seems the town shuts down early. We didn’t mind, the celebrations over the past few days had worn us out. It did not bother us to retire early.

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