POSTCARD #207: CHIANG MAI: Sitting in a taxi stuck at the red light in Nimmanhaemin, Chiang Mai town. The nearness to Southern China is obvious these days with the occasional Chinese number plate seen in Thai traffic and streets full of Chinese tourists, women in curious long white costumes and wide brimmed hats in the tremendous luminosity of sunshine. The border is do-able now the roads have improved; road 3Asia (R3A), part of the GMS North-South Economic Corridor. The total distance is 350 miles from Chiang Rai across the Mekong River into Laos, then on to the border town of Boten, and China’s Yunnan Region at Mohan.
I’d prefer it to be darknight, but instead it’s brightday, step outside and it feels like I’m in a television studio. Inside the car, cold air blasting through our enclosed metal bubble; this could be an ice-cream headache… then I remember this one is the one that’s always with me, ‘my’ headache is part of my life; ‘my’ arm, ‘my’ leg. Part of everything and right now, undeniably out there too, exposed in high resolution Photoshop enhancement. Light penetrates everything; the orange color of papaya fruit blinds me, street vendors’ cut pineapple painfully vivid. I feel I’m really a nocturnal owl-like creature, squinting in the daylight through slit eyes; a quiet presence behind sunglasses vibhava tanha, (buddhist term for the desire to not exist)… I am not here.
I’ve been away for only 2 weeks and now I’m back, all recollection of where I went and what I did when I was away are suddenly gone. There’s this feeling it never happened, I’ve been here all the time, only imagined I went. Somebody asks: where did you go? I went to Delhi, North India 2,300 miles away. Sixty-eight hours driving time on NH 28 through Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India to Delhi… but I went by plane of course, so fast, and it’s as if I went there in my mind, gone from here for only a moment. A pause in mid sentence in the timeless ever-present…
My niece M, aged 12, is taller since I saw her 2 weeks ago; taller, longer and elongating as we speak, like a plant in the darkness searching for the light, sprawled on the back seat in an adolescent bundle of legs and arms, wearing a diver’s watch, colorful T-shirt; long black hair curtains a small oriental face, sometimes seen, when adjusting the thread of earphones cable, then disappears again. Sorry, she’s unavailable at the moment, plugged into the tablet device and YouTube videos while checking for messages at the same time on her phone device. Questions addressed to her remain unanswered.
It’s all one extended ever-present time, no seasons, nothing to say where we are in the year. Summer every day. Night comes at 6pm, instant darkness, then at 6am, instant daylight and each day is like the one before, and it all runs together, days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years. The whole thing is just one very long, continuous day.
Time disappears, I’m startled to discover I’m now an old person – lifetime is running out. Rip Van Winkle fell asleep and woke up with a very long beard. He discovers fifty years have passed since he fell asleep; people have died, his daughter is middle-aged, her children are grown up. There’s an awakening to this reality, unasked-for, it just falls into place…
Note: excerpts from an earlier post titled: ‘constructed reality’. Upper image: scene from the taxi window. Lower image: Chinese car number plate in Chiang mai