I was peddling…nothing around, no one around. Out of the corner of my left eye, I could see the sun was setting. I saw a pick-up truck, and then another, and another. Up ahead…nothing. I had no idea where home was, so I peddled up to the row of cars and trucks, to the small strip of restaurants that seemed to be perfectly tucked into the landscape. I got off my bike and tried to stretch what little Thai language I knew to explain my situation. Communication was obviously a problem, but I did actually receive one gestured offer to drive me to “jew-LAH-pborn” (Princess Chulabhorn, my school). However, the man was pointing and exclaiming that my bike would not fit in his car. I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t abandon my new bike in a place that was off my map and a complete mystery to me. I pressed on, smiling frequently, explaining “kor tort ka, poot pasa thai nit noi ka” (sorry, I speak only a little Thai) to the waitress. I sat at a table staring blankly at my phrasebook, realizing that phrases like “I just bought this bike and tried to ride home not knowing where home is, and now I’m lost” or “Would it be possible to sleep in your restaurant tonight? I’m an idiot” just aren’t part of everyday Thai conversation.
The waitress came up again, this time gesturing that I follow her. She had found someone who spoke English to listen to my pleas. After only twenty seconds of meeting him, and telling him my ridiculous predicament, he offered me and my bike a ride to PCC in his truck. Awesome! I quickly asked him if he was in the middle of dinner. As it turned out, it was his brother’s birthday. I joined the group of six or seven Thai men, and was immediately welcomed to the birthday celebration. After a nice meal, lots of “cheers”, and what I remember being two beers, the group asked if I would go dancing with them. I kindly declined the offer, and was reminded by my new friend, that he could take me home at any time. I said goodbye to the group, and took my new friend up on his offer. My new friend, Bomb (his nickname) is a kind Thai soul who spent eleven years living in New Zealand, and had coincidentally opened a language school in Chiang Rai three years ago. It took ten or twelve minutes of driving to get to the school. I said thank you and goodbye to Bomb and unloaded my bike from the bed of his truck. I was home, safe, sound, and optimistic!
The next day I downloaded Google Earth. It only took me four hours to locate the school on the map, but I am happy to report that I now know my way into town.