Monday, December 23, 2013

Mission Accomplished

10:40:36 PM 12/22/13
Just left the campfire and returned to my bamboo hut for some music, journal writing and reflecting on my time at the Bamboo Nest. The last 4 days have been the most relaxing and enjoyable days imaginable.

Had coffee and conversation with the crew at breakfast, then washed up in the propane heated shower that I finally figured out how to properly operate.  Showering when it is 45 or 50 degrees, basically outside on a concrete slab is….well, quite enjoyable…….with hot water that is, even if it is only with the trickle of gravity fed pressure.
Earlier today, at 1:00 PM left the mountain and headed to to Chiang Rai with Nok, Robin the Brit, the Dutch lady (fluent in Dutch, French, Spanish and English) and the French lady (a macro biologist).  The ladies, in mid to late 30’s, both living in Madrid, were departing today after 2 nights at the Bamboo Nest.  They were headed out on an organized 2 week bike trek over to northern Lao – to Luang Prabang – then down to Vientiane – both are destinations on my agenda several weeks ahead.
In town met a Brit – actually Nok pointed him out to Robin the Brit at the Nest – and he gave me directions to a leather place he had seen so I could get my backpack repaired.  It was a Sunday afternoon and even though most Thais are Buddist, many still take Sunday off.  Many places were closed, even the bakery/inet cafe that was enjoyed briefly yesterday.  
Set off, hopeful but not expectant and walked the 5 blocks to the spot described by Richard and found it was basically……….a tatoo parlor. But there were several thin leather hides laying around.

 I was hopeful.  Stood patiently for 10 minutes waiting for the owner to finish a tat job before asking for help with repairing my backpack.  I twice explained my need for backpack repair with a piece of leather.  I deduced that there was a communication breakdown somewhere and then politely declined his offer to help me today……by giving me a tatoo.  
However, I was told by the European lady that was sitting and unskillfully strumming a yukelele in the sun outside the tatoo parlor of a leather place “100 meters to the north by the clock tower……..with leather bags hanging out front.”  Maybe, just maybe that is the place.  Walked 100, 200, 300 meters, never saw a clock, much less a tower so then returned to the coffee/inet shop.  If I had only walked 50 more meters……..   
Reconnected with Robin and Richard, both Brits, at the inet cafe and ordered a 65 Baht banana strawberry smoothie.  Richard, fluent in Thai, retired at 43, and was big, strong, fit.  He had worked on offshore oil rigs as an electrician and diver in the North Sea and lives 9 months per year in CR and 3 months in England.  He gave me directions again, this time to the clock tower.  I set out again with the hope that this time Richard’s knowledge had somehow improved and my quest would end better than the first attempt.  
Travel, new places, adventure, the unknown.   A walkabout, I thought.
Set out walking and was elated upon finding the clock tower, a 40 foot tall, golden monument in the center of the main street in Chiang Rai, and a little further, the leather shop.  

 Quickly determined that repairs to the broken parts on the backpack (basically making the shoulder straps unusable) were within “Predious Gem’s” ability and turned the backpack over to him.  Precious Gem was a young Thai that was married to a friendly blonde from Ireland.  He looked like a Jamican Rasta, but he was a perfectionist in his work. 

Watched him precisely measure, cut, glue, hammer, stitch and replace with buffalo hide the broken plastic parts.  He  made the repair to the backpack several times better than when originally made 24 years ago.    

Took about an hour.  Even paid to have him make a case for my iPhone, which I will pickup tomorrow.  To quote George Bush, “Mission Accomplished.”
In back of the leather shop they had a bar and rented upstairs rooms for 150 Baht a night – or a little less than $5.00.  Looked at the room and the shared bathroom.  The decor reminded me of what a cheap hotel in Haight Ashbury might have looked like in the late 1960’s.  Rainbows, spray paint stencil art of Jimmy Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan (all artists I enjoy) and brightly colored rainbows, vivid yellow walls, sky blue walls.  It was sort of……cheery, bright and nostalgic.  The owner was anxious to book me for tomorrow night, but I deferred, not desiring to commit to a lodging decision so far in advance.
Hustling back to The Old Bus Station with minutes to spare, I was surprised when I passed the young, strong German bicyclist I met yesterday atbthe coffee shop.   He was sitting in a street cafe having an espresso.   I greeted him, we spoke briefly…..he suffered a bike problem that required a part from Bangkok for 3000 Baht.  He was waiting for it to be express delivered.  After wishing him safe travels, I raced for the Old Bus Station to meet Nok for the return ride to the Bamboo Nest.  
Had been told earlier by Nok that she was picking up 4 new Bamboo Nest patrons in her double cab 4 WD.  Robin and I would ride in the back of her open bed 4WD pickup for the return trip up the mountain…about a 50 minute ride.  By the time 6 backpacks, tonight’s food, the spare tire and who knows what else was in the truck bed, there was just barely enough room for Robin and me to squeeze in.  But we did.  And then all 7 of us were all off through Chiang Rai enroute to the Bamboo Nest.
Up the mountain road.  It was the first time I have ridden in the bed of a pickup since high school 40 years ago!   This was my third time on the road up to the Nest, and by far the most enjoyable and scenic, although cramped.  Made numerous videos with the iPhone of the journey up to our mountain retreat.
Dinner, then over to the fire pit for conversation.  One of the new patrons was a Dutch PhD biology candidate that was studying thrips…a small insect.  Also 2 Brits that did not want to talk much to anyone, 2 Spaniards that were here last PM and the couple from Quebec that were very friendly and energetic.
Last PM at the fire we had no wood, only bamboo.  Tonight we had wood about 2″ diameter, and it made a tolerable fire when fed with bamboo.
Retired to my bamboo house and listened to Meddle by Pink Floyd, Springsteen’ s Nebraska, then Linda Rhonstadt’s (with Nelson Riddle) For Sentimental Reasons, a nice mellow album for 11:50 PM at night.  All in all, a memorable day.
Will leave the Bamboo Nest at 10:30 AM tomorrow and return to Chiang Rai for the next phase of the walkabout.
After 4 nights of “Bamboo Nesting” with no heat, chilly nights in a house with bamboo floors, walls, doors, windows and a thatch roof – and feeling flush because of the large point gain in the stock market on Thursday – I am giving serious thought to carpet, heat, furniture and inet in my room Monday night.

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