As I’d hoped, The North was cooler. In many ways; temperature, the people, the fridge. I’d decided to go even further north, surely it’d be even cooler? I tried to ask at the bus station, which bus I needed to get to Chiang Rai.
Blank looks and noises fired back in my direction from an increasingly angry man. I’m an ignorant bastard, and I wanted to apologise, but I didn’t know the word. Fuck it, I thought, and I did what all British people do; pointed and shouted louder. They threw my bag on a bus and I was soon moving. No idea where, but I’m sure I’d find out.
I turned up at Chiang Rai and dumped my bag in a shitty little room. I thought the mosquitos and lizards in the room would keep an eye on my bag.
I walked down an alleyway, off a side street on the edge of Chiang Rai. The sun was beating down on a road made of dust and dead animals. At the end of the dust was a fresh fruit stall, with fresh fish, all kinds of weird meat on a stick. And there was a guy, with about five and a half yellow teeth, long scruffy grey hair, and a face that told me he’d had a million drunken nights with a million terrible mornings that surely followed. He’d had a hard life, and was still hard at work. By hard at work, I mean sat in the shade with a fan pointing at him, sipping on a cold one. I didn’t speak a word of this mans language and, I’m taking a guess, but I don’t think he spoke a word of the Queens either. I’d been after some coffee and water to help sooth the hangover. The guy was weighing me up, I could feel it, as I was stood there with my shit teeth and long scruffy hair, sweating. I couldn’t decide what to have. When, suddenly, the most wonderful thing happened. He pulled up a little plastic chair next to him and pointed at it. I was in no mood to argue. I sat my white arse down, in the shade, as he reached under his stall and lifted the lid on a massive cool box. He pulled out an ice cold beer and passed it to me.
His semi-toothless smile grinned back at me.
He sipped his beer. I sipped mine.
We didn’t exchange a word. Then he cracked another two for us. This went on.
Sat in the shade, drinking ice cold beer with a stranger. We didn’t even try to talk.
It was bliss, no mundane conversation to endure. I couldn’t have been happier.
Watching the lizards and birds eating insects.
Watching a dog across the dirt sleeping on top of a hot scooter seat.
Watching an old lady cycle past with 14 boxes of vegetables and a ladder tied to her bicycle in the midday sun.
Watching the world go by. Watching and drinking.
The clock ticked and I decided to thank the guy and head off. I slapped down $10 for the guy’s trouble. He handed it straight back to me, and I’m not a translator, but I think I was asked if I’d like to fuck off. What a guy! Off I fucked, back into the world, doing my best impression of a sober man.
At midday the next day I found the same dead end fruit and meat stall. I sauntered up. The same guy gave me a knowing grin from the shade. I opened my bag and opened two cold beers and passed him one.
We enjoyed no talking for a while. I drained my beer with him and left him the other four beers I’d brought along. I knew he’d enjoy them in the right fashion. I had a bus to catch across the border to Laos.