Slice of Pai

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At Mam yoga I take my first communal yoga class in months. Mam is a serious yogi, nearly 70 and still standing on her head. She could easily compete with Dharma Mittra for ageless head standers. The studio is also her home, a bamboo encrusted cave of dusty Hindu deities and altars, photographs of her years competing in beauty pageants (and equally striking portraits of her daughter), and a long-haired pet kitty wearing snazzy blue jeans. The cat prances among the mats as we stretch. Class begins with meditation for 30 minutes followed by asanas, some familiar and some perhaps of Mam’s preferential creation. She practice alongside the six of us woman allowing us to work more individually. Although I am grateful for the class, I send her renewed energy to continue teaching with passion.

The class concludes with snack/sangha (community) time. Mam herself is occupied on her cell phone and I chat a bit with an awesome Austrian girl and a few others, enjoying the soy cake snacks that juice only consuming Mam encourages us to devour.

Lunch next to the yoga studio at a super delicious vegetarian restaurant where I meet the most lovable pair of Korean boys who just arrived in Pai via a 15 hour bus. They are sampling a traditional Thai soup dish and are repelled by the pieces of fresh lemongrass and galangal floating in their plates. I am amused by the cultural dispute and giggle as they place piece by piece by piece of detested ingredient individually on the table. The boys insist I meet them later in the evening despite our minimal ability to converse. I am simply thrilled for my ménage-a-trois date!

Attention white men. There is no need to pay for friendship in Thailand. Aho!

With a rented bike I scoot out of town chugging slowly uphill in the midday heat. Good plans Eve, I think, sweating gruesomely down my back. There are many who wiz past on scooters, the preferred form of transportation in Pai. (I will learn to ride before I leave Asia I persuasively promise to myself.) I reach the first of the two traditional Chinese villages and sit under a tree and like Buddha under the Bodhi, I refuse to get up until I receive answers to where I should be heading next. I can feel the itch to leave Pai but with no certainty where the next destination is. I feel a bit like crawling in my skin, full of a light force ready to fly…to Laos or south in Thailand to Phuket?

Laos is summoning a visit. I arise and continue on my bike excursion to the Shandicun or Yunnan Chinese village, an enclosed community with plenty of traditional tea ceremonies, Chinese noodles and other delicacies, assorted souvenirs. A man encourages me to taste dried salted plums, peels of ginger, candied tomatoes, some other native yellow berry on vines. It is all colorful and fun and I return to the town to ready myself for my evening activities with my Korean friends.

The boys and I chat mostly about the differences between living in Korea vs the US, not much it seems, and how Koreans are treated in Thailand and other parts of Asia (overall not great.) The “white” people receive more attentive service and compassion. Religion, culture, etc. we dribble away before the boys chaperon me to the ticket office to purchase my bus/boat ride for Laos, walking me directly to the travel agency with gentlemanly respect. “Korean courtesy” one says. I am honored.

I pass my Malaysian friends from Lod Caves on the street of the night market and then my Korean boys again, who are cruising around town like fierce warriors on shiny red scooters. They ask to go for a beer and I politely decline for I need to pack to head out to Laos. A new country awaits!

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