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A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective - Walking the street

THAILAND | Wednesday, 17 April 2013 | Views [114] | Scholarship Entry

The shocking heat from the day was starting to become bearable as I strolled through the city. I could finally find my breath as I took in the jumble of traditional wooden houses mixed with the more modern concrete buildings of the apartment blocks. Chiang Mai comes alive in the early evening, it’s still hot, but breathable. Hundreds of people bustle around, sometimes walking, sometimes zipping through the crowds on motorcycles with bags hanging from the handle bars.

I meandered around with no clear destination in mind, happy just watching people going about their daily lives. I turned down a street that seemed to be blocked off from vehicles, curious to see where the crowds were heading. From the top of the street, as far as the eye could see, I saw hundreds of stores. I’d found the legendary Saturday walking market!

My first impression is colour. Everything is so colourful! There are shops displaying every colour of fruit imaginable where they whip whatever you want into a delicious refreshing drink. There are stalls selling colourful lanterns in all shapes and sizes next to mats full of gorgeous Thai silk scarves. All the stalls are mats on the ground – except the little mobile food stalls, which pop up everywhere.

I take my time going down this little street, trying to look at everything at once; I’m surprised to see there are no foreigners here.

While I’m walking down the street and I hear loudspeakers start to crackle and groan. I look up and see there are speakers strapped to the electricity poles all the way down the street. After a bit of static, a song starts to play. I smile in delight and look around me, only to see everyone has stopped dead. No one is moving, not even an inch. I stop. I look around. I take a few steps. Stop. Look around, feeling very confused. A young Thai couple is smiling at me; I think I’ve done something funny.

I stay where I am, twisting and turning this way and that to see if anyone has moved yet. After a few minutes the song finishes and the loudspeakers fall silent. As one all the people around me start moving, as if nothing had happened. I’m left standing on my spot feeling very bewildered. As people pass me, they smile brightly.

I move off wondering what has just happened. As I carry on through the little walking street it dawns on me – it’s just passed 6pm. At 6pm they play the King’s song. At 6pm everyone stops out of respect. At 6pm I was briefly part of their world.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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