Day three has gone much better than day two- a relief because when you're in that unfamiliar jet lagged daze for too many days in a row you really start to question your sanity.
I'll start with the weather. 99 degrees today, and with low visibility due to what I've discovered is called "burn season". Apparently farmers in northern Thailand burn their acreage because the charred remains provide nitrogen-rich fertilizer. After burning, the farmer will plow the field to better distribute the fertilizer to help the field bounce back. The problem with this is that it causes poor air quality (see low visibility pic above). People are starting to wear masks when they drive around, and quite honestly, I've wondered why my lungs haven't felt quite right since I've been here. This is also done in neighboring Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, and the air gets kind of trapped in northern Thailand. So, back to my day, not only was it exceedingly hot, but it was difficult to breathe!
This morning I had made up my mind to get a yoga mat come hell or high water. I have to learn the names of about thirty new poses and my hotel floor is shellacked concrete, so I really needed a mat for hands on learning. I called a yoga studio and this sweet girl told me to get myself to Airport Plaza- a shopping mall.
Well, instant anxiety ensued when I realized I couldn't just walk to the mall. A hotel worker helped me get a tuk tuk, and while we waited, she asked me a million questions like if I'm a student, where I am from, what I'm doing here, and how old I was. She was so surprised to find out I am 28. "Me, too!" she told me. She must be a young 28 though because she looks like she's 15!
Anyway the tuk tuk driver helps me in and we're off. The mall is located near the airport, in...not the greatest area. He dropped me off, and for a second I considered asking him to wait for me for 100 baht extra- he was just so nice and his English was fantastic, but I chickened out once I saw there was a line of tuk tuk drivers outside the mall and I could just hop into any one when I was done.
To enter the mall, I walked through a metal detector and passed a guard who looks like a real life mannequin- small, serious, and waxy. The mall is larger than I had expected. Like five stories large. And, conveniently, no damn map anywhere to be found.
You know that hunger point where it goes from just a little stomach pain to GETMESOMEFOODRIGHTNOWBEFOREIPASSOUT? That decided to hit me that very instant, but I honestly just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, so onward I trekked.
Something wasn't right though. I felt very out of place. The mall was packed, and I realized I was the only foreigner. I could feel people looking at me- kids in their school uniforms pointing and whispering farang, farang. I stopped by a kiosk that sold handmade laptop sleeves and asked for a sports store. They stared at me, confused. Bright red, I kept moving. I stopped in to a cell phone shop and asked for a sports store. They point upstairs. I go to the next level. There is a restaurant with dead chickens in the window, a pizza hut, a starbucks (!!!!) but I was on a mission.
By some stroke of luck, I stumbled upon an information desk. The ladyboy (what the Thais call transvestites) at the desk tells me to go to the fourth floor and look for Super Sport. (Side note: apparently Thailand has had no gay movement because they were very accepting of gays/lesbians/transgendered people from the get-go. Don't you love that?) Anyway, I headed to the fourth floor. I covered the entire floor which is harder than it sounds, with people staring and pointing and giggling at you like you forgot to put your pants on. I didn't feel unsafe-I just felt uncomfortably out of place. There was no Super Sport to be found. Finally I wander into this department store called Robinson. I ask an older woman for Super Sport and she rattles off in Thai and points to the back of the store. I follow her direction and find a small sport section tucked in the back corner. A younger girl approaches me. "Sowatdee kahhhh," she says, wai-ing to me. (I've noticed that it seems like everyone draws out the last word when they speak.)
"Sowatdee kahhh," I say, and awkwardly nod back towards her (I've read that foreigners shouldn't wai (bow) back unless they are 100% sure of the situation. There are a lot of social rules to wai-ing- you shouldn't do it to service industry people even if they do it to you first because it could be rude, etc. etc.)
She opens her arms and her eyes go wide as she says, "Super Sporrrrt," as if she's showing me some magical rainforest.
You've got to be kidding me. This little corner of Robinson's, which has no sign, by the way, is the grand Super Sport I've been searching for?! I spot a few yoga mats and I walk over. 550 baht ($18) later, I'm walking out the door.
Down at the tuk tuk line, I encounter my first tuk tuk haggler. I hand him my hotel's business card, and he says, "150 baht." Ok, it cost me 100 baht to get there, so I know he's ripping me off.
"100," I say firmly. (Amateur move, I should've shot lower and then worked my way up.)
"140," he says.
He shakes his head and flicks his wrist like he's done with me. "No," he says. (Just so we're clear, the difference we're arguing about is about $2 and I know it's not a lot, but he's not even being nice about it!)
I go to the next guy, a wrinkly faced man. I hand him the card.
"150 baht," he says.
"100," I say. His eyes are warm and he is very old.
"140?" he asks hopefully.
"120," I cave. He smiles a toothless grin and helps me into the tuk tuk.
Back at the hotel, I finally order some food. I do a typically "me" thing. I just ask for what I want, even though it's not on the menu. (That's kind of a lie- I really want a fresh salad which is on the menu but I'm terrified to eat uncooked veggies here because if they wash them with their tap water I'm scared I'll get sick.) So I do the next best thing and ask for a lot of stir fry veggies and tofu. $2.95 later, I am served this at the pool:
Oh happy day! It was SO delicious.
The rest of the afternoon involved a plunge in the cold pool, and a study sesh:
Only two more days until the yoga training begins!