Incongruity is apparently part of Thailand, as we see beautiful, ancient shrines next to dilapidated storefronts next to new developments. The first thing we do in Chiang Mai is find more street food. Again, it’s better than anything you could get anywhere else in a restaurant. We hear the rules — don’t drink ice, don’t eat melons, don’t eat any fruit you didn’t wash — and then promptly discard them for Thai ice coffees & fresh coconuts, smoothies made of bowls of fruit & mango with sticky rice. This will catch up to me, badly, in Cambodia, but for now it’s food paradise. We sleep in a hostel with a mean stranger & no ambiance. We make plans to stay at a nicer place and learn that we are “flashpackers.”

We go to a Temple on a mountain called Doi Suthep. Getting there involves sharing a songthauew with 5 strangers, Jane deftly convincing them to pay 150 bhat instead of 50 so we can get going instead of waiting for more. We speed up the mountain road, no seat belts, songthaew back open. Jane says this is the most dangerous thing she’s ever done, but we make it.

At the Temple, no shoes allowed inside. Gold all around, emerald and amber buddhas. Statues of elephants & dragons. Shrines and elaborate floral arrangements. Color everywhere, all over-looking the rest of Chiang Mai.