Perched atop a temple on a hill, watching the colourful swathes of fabric wrapped around each stone elephant quiver with each soft blow of the wind, it’s peaceful. The small town stretches out around me and the narrow winding road back down beckons. At the base, it’s even more still. A local or two are tending to their daily lives and the major road to the side only has the occasional vehicle whiz by. I wander over, but slowly I come to a realization. It is deserted. There are no tuk-tuks coming by to haggle with tourists over price of a ride to the next attraction. It’s just me.
The liveliness that suddenly greets me is unmistakeable, I’ve found myself on the main road that holds the day market. Uttarakit Road in Chiang Rai is lined with stalls and wide sheets laid on the ground. At this point of my trip, the bevy of beautiful colours and textures is no surprise but it fills me with an intense warmth of comfort – I’m home. The main market is shuttered already, empty tables littered with the remains of the day are scattered inside. My favourite part is the produce and street prepared bundles of food anyhow, so I’m not disappointed. Far from disappointed.
Women line up to buy sections of a coil of Chiang Mai sausage. The salty intensity is matched with the aromatic lemongrass and the turmeric stains my little eating stick, food prod if you will. The bags of colourful curries and rich smelling stir fries beckon, but dinner plans await. There is always room for fruit, however. Mini-pineapples disappoint. Trimmed into cute flower-like shapes, their bland flavour makes me feel like a tourist bewitched by the promise of exotica. My nose catches a scent, there’s no doubt what it is. The pungent smell draws me over and I watch anxiously as durians are cracked open and sections are carefully extracted and then weighed for sale. They’re only being sold whole and as much as I adore their rich custard-like texture and intense savouriness, it’s too much. Instead I move on and pick up a kilo each of mangosteens, sala, and my new favourite long kong. I still eagerly eye the melons.