2009 Thailand # 7: The Case of the Mysterious CupCake Lizard and the Meditating Chicken

Blind buskers at the night market, Chiang Mai

Blind buskers at the night market, Chiang Mai

On Saturday night we went over to Waialu Road to the Saturday market.  It’s held in one long line of outside stalls along the road and it goes for ages! It was nice to be in an outside one though – nowhere near as sauna-like as the inside ones. There are many disabled and blind people there with amps and instruments – some traditional and some modern – busking for money. This is really good value as you get entertained as you shop, and I’m sure it’s financially rewarding for them, as well as satisfying that they can do something to help themselves.

The stalls were an Alladin’s cave of handcrafts and other goodies. You can buy all sorts of food and drinks, such as meat and meatballs on sticks, Crysanthenum juice, Rosella Juice (hopefully not squeezed parrots), black jelly made with some sort of Thai herb and mixed with sugar, and the one we tried was coconut ice cream. The sign on the ice cream stand was a little unfortunate. ‘Ancient Ice Cream.’ Erm, well, we’ll try some anyway and hopefully it’s not gone off by now. It was delicious. Not as creamy as our ice cream, but more refreshing as it doesn’t leave that ’sugar thirst’ afterwards.

The crafts included metal 3-d pictures, made by putting a thin sheet of metal over some asphalt and chiseling designs into it. Some of them were enormous, and all very detailed and clever. We saw lacquer-ware, pottery, lanterns of many kinds, really intricate soap carvings and weaponry, such as crossbows and bows and arrows, all handmade. I bought a bow and arrow set, which hopefully they’ll let me back into NZ with. Other crafts included golliwogs, Rastafarian dancing dolls (I picked one up to look at it and got the fright of my life when it started wriggling), ornate letterboxes and silverware. You could also buy ancient bells, opium bowls and pipes (wasn’t willing to try that one on with NZ customs) and collectable amulets, which are clay images of Buddha, etc, enclosed in plastic or pyrex or something. Those stalls had men gathering around them with magnifying glasses to inspect them closely with, comparing and chattering with each other – something akin to an avid stamp collectors’ gathering. My favourite things were dragons made out of jute. Some of these were huge and you could watch the people making them right in front of you. Needless to say, I am now the proud owner of a jute dragon, which I’ve put beside my bed to hopefully scare our resident cockroach away.

Yesterday, we walked down the main road a few blocks and went to the Sunday market, which is held by the Tha Pae gate (there are four or five gates in the wall surrounding the old part of the city).  Again, a huge myriad of goodies. And once again, we found ourselves fending off the hoards of hilltribe ladies who all want to sell wooden frogs to Westerners (falang). I’m trying to teach Gill not to stop and tell them she already has one, as they take this as encouragement and don’t really have any English (or chose not to, it’s a little hard to tell). We’re getting better at refusing now. I’ve learnt to say ‘Mae ao’ (which sounds like you’re trying to imitate a cat) and look away. This seems to be reasonably effective. At this market, there were more wicked stallholders that ensorcelled me with jute animals and I now have in my possession a black jute scorpion. Gill and I have made a pact – she’s not to look at any more handbags and I’m not to look at jute creatures.

I put Gill into a tuk-tuk and sent her home after a couple of hours, then I wandered the market alone. Part of it was actually being held in a Wat (temple) complex, so I got to see a Wat up close for the first time. It was awesome, with huge banyan trees and gold buildings and Buddha statues, etc. One of the structures was surrounded by a 6 ft wall and I was blown away to see a chicken perching on the wall, eyes closed. Thousands of people teeming around him and he just sat there calmly seemingly meditating.Lovely.

As I was leaving the market, I came across a Japanese girl having her photo taken by her friend. Mischief came over me and I did a silly pose beside her. They actually took the photo then thanked me. Huh? I then came across a ‘ladyboy’ primping and preening in front of another camera so I did the same thing again, this time behind him so he didn’t know I was there. His friend took the photo then showed him and they cracked up laughing. On the way home, I encountered a cockroach so big it nearly knocked me over. We skirted around each other at the last minute and both of us got away alive.

Today we stayed in the room, having showers and lying in front of the fan, it was so hot. The temperature early this evening was 36 degrees, so I hate to think what it was at 3p.m. We went to Gill’s tailor’s shop/home for dinner and had several Lanna-style dishes who’s names I cannot pronounce, plus a variety of fruit (one of which turned out to be plums, which are apparently hard to find here because it’s only cold enough in the mountains to grow them). Dish after dish came out, until we were getting pretty worried we would explode impolitely all over the room. The tailor lives above her shop, which is at the back of the undercover food market on the corner of our soi (street). We all sat round a plastic table in her shop and her daughter interpreted for us. Afterwards, it was time for some entertainment. Which turned out to be us. The tailor wanted us to sing for our supper and hauled out her karaoke system. We could only recognise about four songs, these having been redone by a young group of gorgeous Thai girls, who sing so fast we only managed about one in every four words. It was hilarious. Then the tailor sang a few Thai songs. After that she wanted us to attempt some Thai songs written in the english alphabet. This, of course, turned into a complete disaster and was soon given up as a bad idea, thank goodness. When we got up to leave, she plied us with rice biscuits and fruit in a plastic bag and sent us on our way with not the least chance of being hungry for the next twenty four hours.

Every night and every morning, we hear a creature out in the garden behind us calling out ‘CupCake,CupCake!’ When we asked what makes that noise, we were told that a lizard a lot bigger than a gecko makes it. The locals are afraid of this lizard, as it apparently can leap at you, grasp onto you with it’s sticky feet, and if it bites it doesn’t let go! However, they are totally disagree that there is one here and say they only live in the country. Every time we mention we’ve heard it again, they try to put it down to birds fighting or some such thing. We’re not sure if they don’t want us to be scared by it, or they’re so scared of it they’re in complete denial that there could possibly be one here. We’re thinking of hunting it down soon and taking a photo to show that it does indeed exist and we’re not going nutty. (Well, it might not disprove our nuttiness, but it will help with the lizard situation.) If we do manage to do this though, we won’t tell them exactly where we find it in case they hunt it down and kill it, which is the last thing we want to have happen.

Jute animals, night market Chiang Mai

Jute animals, night market Chiang Mai

Meditating chicken (foreground), on wat wall at a Chiang Mai market.

Meditating chicken (foreground), on wat wall at a Chiang Mai market.

The tailor's dog. Not the most pretty animal in the world, but a very happy one.

The tailor’s dog. Not the most pretty animal in the world, but a very happy one.

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