The pedestrian crossing lines on the streets of Chiang Mai are mostly decorative. The steady stream of red trucks, tuk-tuks, and motor bikes yield to no man or woman; they will swerve to avoid you rather than come to a complete stop.
Keeping this in mind, the walking time to a restaurant is always a little more than the number Google gives you. One might think we’ve become better road-walkers, and we may have slightly improved since our arrival, but for the most part when crossing the street we still look like a couple of weary herons standing on the bank of river that’s chock full of crocodiles.
The system we have in place now is to look in the opposite direction of each other and call out when the way is clear. We’re often at this for several minutes, so naturally brief conversations arise.
Elliott. We got a whole line of motorbikes this way.
Billy. Same here.
Elliott. It seems like everybody’s driving on this road today.
Billy. I booked myself a massage for Saturday afternoon at three.
Elliott. Yeah? You’re really going for it man.
Billy. Yep. It’s an hour Thai massage plus a thirty minute reflexology session.
Elliott. Isn’t that the kind of massage Roberta said was the most painful she’d ever had in her life?
Billy. Yeah, but she also said that it was the most eye-opening one she’s ever gotten. It was the one that showed her how connected everything is in the body. Because she had pain this part of her foot she had pain in her shoulders, or something like that.
Elliott. Clear this way.
Billy. Not here.
One of the many taxi red trucks slows down and beeps at us, which is their way of asking if we need a ride. We shake our heads and he drives on.
Elliott. More power to you for taking on the excruciating massage.
Billy. I’m trying to make the most of my time here. This will probably be our shortest stay in a country, and it figures that it’s one of the cheapest and most culturally rich places. Stupid visa laws.
A tuk-tuk beeps at us. Beeping, considered so rude in America, is just how taxis get your attention here. We may not be pros at crossing the street, but we’ve become pros at the quick head shake “no.”
Billy. Clear here.
Elliott. Not here. I feel like I get the most out of this city when I walk around it, looking at all the faces and buildings, and when I’m plopped down on some plastic lawn chair that’s pulled into a crooked old table. Then I know I’m about to get a good meal at an unreal price.
Billy. It’s all about how you make the most of a place. Clear.
Elliott. Here too. Let’s go.