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Siamese Sinusitis in the Year 2550

THAILAND | Tuesday, 11 December 2007 | Views [1939] | Comments [2]

From a temple garden in Chiang Mai

From a temple garden in Chiang Mai

I haven’t written in nearly two weeks because I’ve been sick.  First it was a nasty cold that slowed me down and then that turned into a nasty sinus infection that makes me just want to chop off my head.  I kept thinking that if I just rested and took care of myself – drinking loads of tea, soup, eating fresh fruit, taking Vitamin C, gargling with salt – I’d get better.  But no such luck. 

Finally, I started on antibiotics for the sinus infection, and was so convinced I was getting better that I traveled to Chiang Mai, fully expecting that the antibiotics plus the change of scenery would miraculously cure me.  Not to be.  After realizing that I felt just as bad after finishing the first course of antibiotics, I finally went to see a doctor at the Chiang Mai Ram Hospital.  It was all very organized and the doctor spoke English and looked up my nose and wrote me a prescription for another antibiotic, which I started yesterday.  The most interesting part of the whole experience was the date on my prescriptions.  Did you know that it is already the year 2550 in Thailand?  My only quibble with the Thai calendar is that it already makes me 33 – and I still have 12 more days of being 32!  I’m already older than most of the travelers I meet (or else much younger) so I’m still holding onto these last few days of being 32! 

Being sick while traveling is absolutely no fun at all.  I am getting grumpier with each passing day that I don’t feel better.  The sinus headache makes me feel like my head is in a glass jar and I am far removed from all interactions.  It also makes it difficult to see and to judge clearly.  Chiang Mai is not winning my favor so far, but I also know that I’m not really in a position to enjoy it.  I just don’t feel myself and I’ve learned not to trust my impressions when I’m in this kind of state, since they tend to be pretty negative. 

The city is filled with temples, but otherwise there is not much green space and it’s not terribly attractive, and the streets are filled with fume-spewing traffic.  It seems de rigueur for travelers here to have dreadlocks, wear baggy cotton fisherman pants (truly only attractive on a very small minority of body shapes), carry bags woven by ethnic minorities, and have many piercings.  The women wear these tinkling ankle bracelets which drive me a little crazy.  The other variety is the tank-top wearing older white man.  You would think sex tourist, but they always seem to be alone.  But then, my observations are limited to daytime since I haven’t gone out much at night.

There are loads of restaurants of different cuisines, so I’ve enjoyed taking a break from noodles and rice, and am eating Middle Eastern and Indian food.  The city is a jumping off point for trekking, so every two feet there are guesthouses or travel agencies advertising treks to see elephants and the exotic, ethnic Hill Tribes, all promising “non-touristic area!  New routes!” 

I’d like to get out of the city, but I’m wary of the way the trekking companies seem to treat the Hill Tribes the same as the elephants – something the farangs want to see, and something they can profit off displaying to the farangs.  I’ll have to do more research on other options.  I had planned to practice yoga here, but my visits to the yoga studios have not been very promising – I think I was spoiled by the beauty and peace of my Balinese experience.  All in all, I haven’t felt very inspired by Chiang Mai, and have been puzzling over where to go next – to try to see more of Northern Thailand, or just go directly to Luang Prabang, in Laos?  Obviously I have to get better before I can make any decisions, and there are still many things I haven’t seen in the city and around, so I’ll definitely be here several more days.

I was feeling a bit down about it all and set out yesterday in the late afternoon to wander around looking for something to inspire me and shift my mood.  I walked down a lane towards the setting sun and the mountains, and noticed that the clouds were pasted onto the sky like stucco.  They were a glowing white, unevenly plastered against the blue sky, in a texture I’ve never seen before. 

Walking further, I saw an enormous tree that was very striking against the fading afternoon light.  As I got closer I saw that it was inside the walls of a temple, and as I followed the glowing light toward the tree, I saw the ruins of a giant stone chedi (or stupa, a bell-shaped structure where relics of the Buddha are often buried).  It was half destroyed but still quite massive.  On each of the four sides, steep stairs led up towards golden Buddhas, guarded by giant five-headed Nagas, the powerful serpents who protect temples all over Southeast Asia. 

As I was photographing it, I commented on how difficult it was to capture the image to a man who was also attempting to do the same.  He replied with: “I love this city!”  I just laughed and laughed since I had been feeling the exact opposite only moments before.  He explained that he had just come from Vietnam and Cambodia where he found the cities very dirty, and the hassle factor much higher. 

He turned out to be a real estate agent from Brooklyn named Stanley, and he invited me to join him and some other people he had met for dinner and drinks later, at a place on the river.  I drank some tea, popped some pills and joined them – a Danish man with his Thai girlfriend, a Swiss German-Filipina who just spent some months working in China, and a nihilistic Swedish writer.  We were an interesting mix – and it was a nice break from my evenings alone with my book – and I am feeling slightly more inspired about my time in Chiang Mai.

Speaking of books, I desperately need some recommendations.  I’d like something well-written, not too heavy, not too light, that might possibly even make me laugh.  Any suggestions?  There are many bookstores here, but it seems like I’ve already read everything on offer that looks good. 

I have a couple of stories from my travels to Sukhothai that I will post when I’m feeling better.

Tags: chiang mai, doctors, hospitals & health, sickness



Hope you're better. I'm sending a check for your birthday and Christmas presents to your Mother to put in your bank. The books I'm reading - the non-fiction is a gem - "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare: An Ecologist's Perspective" by Paul Colinvaux published in 1978. I'm also re-reading Hans Christian Andersen via a new translation by two Danish scholars. Every Sunday I tell Danish stories at the Petersen House Museum. Bob had his proposal for another sabbatical approved. If our luck continues we will be travelling in another year for six months while he collects data for a new book. Love. Peggy Moroney

  Peggy Moroney Dec 14, 2007 1:49 AM


Just read the following recommended by a french woman in Delhi and I think it fits your order- A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky. Sunee's trying to find someone there in Chiang Mai that she knows (through her family)- where in Chiang Mai are you?

  Nora Alogna Dec 21, 2007 3:20 AM

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