A month removed from my trip to Thailand, I'm still thinking about my time there. Mental images of orange sunsets flit in and out of my head. I daydream about the food. I think about Thai women cutting long noodles like ribbons before mixing them with wilted veggies and shrimp. I'd eat my bowl of pad thai on the beach. There, I'd listen to the waves and watch Thai men make beds of their longboats. I'd swat bugs from my legs and bury my feet in the cool part of the sand.
It's weird, though. The travel moments I think about frequently surprise me. The particular memory I come back to most often wasn't magical, nor was it particularly unique. It was just a sunny stroll through Chiang Mai. I was on a quest for food, khao soi in particular. The soup-like dish is a mix of deep-fried and boiled egg noodles. It was nearing noon when I set off in search of a restaurant in the Halal area of the city. I wanted to explore, to soak up the life that oozed from every street corner. So I waved off eager tuk tuk drivers and took to the streets. People use tuk tuks to get somewhere fast. I wanted to go slow. I wanted to savor it.
I stopped only twice on my way to the restaurant. Once was to buy three pillow cases from a shy Thai woman. Their colors reminded me of the country. The second stop was for a Thai foot massage. I reclined in a flimsy, plastic chair in a narrow alley. A dirt-speckled umbrella shaded me from the sun. A woman propped my right foot on a stool and massaged it with oils that made my bug bites sting. I closed my eyes and let the sun beat down on me. The world went red.
As it turns out, I didn't get my bowl of khao soi that day. I overlooked the fact that it was Sunday and many restaurants were closed. I walked for 20 minutes in the hot sun looking for the place before realizing it. Hot and hungry, I walked to a nearby bakery instead. It was small and modestly decorated. I paid for what looked like a chocolate loaf and ate it in the company of two Thai women. For some reason, this is the memory I come back to most often. It's not a memory I summon when I talk about Thailand. Or when I reflect on my time there. I didn't take photos of my walk or even write about it in my travel journal. But for some reason, this memory plays out any time I let my mind wander.
It was such a simple moment. Walking hot streets. Finding out my restaurant was closed. Eating dessert among strangers.
Maybe I miss the country, the freedom, the dessert. Or maybe I just miss the simplicity. Yeah, I think that's it.