Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scream With Laughter

I am the wrong person to assess the charms of tranquility and orderliness. I have never left my heart in San Francisco and Singapore is my idea of hell. I was born in Manhattan and my home of choice is Bangkok. "Placid" and "peaceful" are words that make me twitch.

So I wandered around Chiang Mai for two days, acknowledging its pleasures and counting down the days until I could leave it.

"Massage." "Internet." "Cake." The quiet streets bristled with these signs that promised innocent, instant gratification. As I strolled past them, through neighborhoods that were so soothing, so easy, I felt as though I was sleepwalking.

Then after a visit to Suvannabhumi Gallery, a place filled with stunning contemporary art from Myanmar, I found a little footbridge that would take me back across the river. Waiting on the opposite bank were huge red and gold signs and the gold shops that characterize Thailand's Chinatowns, and sidewalks crowded with stalls selling flowers and fruit and cheap, plastic shoes, and clothes that were decidedly inelegant.

Lost in the glorious, swirling chaos of a market that was imperfect and irresistable, I found a nightgown adorned with teddybears that was embroidered with "Dear my family, Scream with Laughter. Forcing myself to contain my own mirthful screams, I paid 100 baht for a piece of 21st century folk art and, for the first time in Chiang Mai, I felt at home.

These pictures are of a shrine-- or art installation-- behind a huge temple in the old part of the City, a particularly gorgeous spirit house, traditional Lanna woodcarving meeting kitsch and concrete, and lovely little lanterns--they are everywhere in Chiang Mai.


Kristianne said...

Dear my Janet, scream with laughter!

Janet Brown said...

Oh I have, I have...

Tokyo Ern said...

I love the T-shirts you can find in Southeast Asia. I went to lunch at a place in Luang Phabang and this boy of about 10 or so had on this T-shirt with Japanese characters that translated into "High School Girl's Swimsuit Festival" That made me "scream with laughter" as well.

Nick said...

..screaming with laughter!

janet said...

Dear my son Nick--
I thought you might!
Dear my friend Ernie-
Wait until you see a photo of my latest find--tshirts in Bkk now that are written in English by Thai writers are pretty damned wonderful.