Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pai in the Sky by Kathleen

Yesterday we drove three hours up the winding, twisting, sickening mountain road to a small valley that is home to Pai. Thirty years ago Pai was nothing more than a small Thai mountain village, albeit with an ideal location between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Song, two major travel destinations.

Fast-forward to the present day and Pai is a thriving stop on the not-so-touristy tourist route. It once had a big population of hippies and artists trying to escape the world, but as is often the case, the world found them, liked their spot and realized it could charge admission to see the sites... the sites in this case being the local hippies. There really isn't much here besides the town, which is basically Amherst/Noho in Thailand. Its crunchiness is a bit more exposed, but it is here to make money.

One thing that has really impressed me is that it is so like home in its attitude, well that isn't the impressive part, that’s actually kind of dull. What’s impressive is how many people think this place is paradise. It makes me proud really. I live in a place that people would call paradise. I just take it for granted. We in the Valley are truly blessed, I suppose if I hadn't grown up in it I would be over the moon about it too. Actually I still pretty much am, which is why I haven't left. It’s nice to be remind of how awesome home is, but aren't we supposed to be traveling here? I want sightseeing!

To be fair it’s nice to be here and have a bit of rest from it all. To sleep in without feeling like I'm wasting time that could be spent seeing something. And Pai is pretty chill, there are lots of artist and musicians and foodies. I am always pleased and heartened to find so many like-minded people. We are everywhere! It gives me hope.

This also gives me the opportunity to process and talk a bit about things that don't really fit in anywhere.
Things like water. In Thailand, as in most of Asia you cannot drink the tap. When you can't drink the tap you start to notice water like never before Wow, do we take it for granted. Think of all the times you use tap water, to drink to bathe to make food with to clean dishes with.

Now think of all the times you get tap water in your mouth, when you drink , when you brush your teeth, when to take a shower, when you eat veggies or fruit that have been washed. Now that you’re thinking, imagine doing none of it. Replace all of that with either bottled water in the case of drinking/cooking/ brushing teeth, or keeping your mouth closed tight and spitting occasionally, in a shower, to not eating anything raw, like fruits of veggies, that haven't been peeled.

Think of washing your hands and not being able to pick your teeth. We use water for so much. It gets to a point, when you are minding all this that you start to realize that " if I was home, I could be drinking toilet water" and it would be ok, it would be clean. That we wash ourselves, our dogs, our cars, flush the toilet, mop the floor, cook, clean... everything with clean water. Our tap is so clean that they bottle and sell it. It’s a real blessing to have clean tap.

It’s a blessing we waste constantly. Like really 5 gallons of water, clean drinking water to flush the toilet.... really? 5 gallons? We have half finished glasses of water that we dump, bathes that we drain.... all of it... drinking water. Now, I'm not advocating we wash in dirty water or anything like that. We should use our water but we could use less of it.

We could use it more mindfully. True you’re not going to get clean water to Thailand from the Quabbin, but we could show it some respect. We should all remember to be grateful for what we have. Though some days it doesn't seem like much. That's what I like about traveling. It reminds me to be grateful, and it shows me other ways to live. This time we have the better end of the stick, other times we don't.

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