Chiang Rai is one of the last places in Thailand where you can walk down the street and see an elephant passing by all nonchalant, as if going for a morning stroll. From cafes playing only acoustic, Thai versions of 90’s songs to road side street stalls selling turtle soup, it seems that there is always a novel way to do things in Chiang Rai.
After a short moped ride through small Thai villages and elephant parks, we came to some natural hot springs. The obvious thing for a Westerner to do would be to take a dip, maybe even a sip or even research what kind of minerals were in the water. However we are of course in Thailand, and it seems that the obvious thing for Chiang Rai locals to do is to soft boil quail eggs in the springs and soak their feet in them at the same time
As it is said, you should do as the locals do. After a little dip in the springs, I saw a Thai couple that had taken a photo of myself and my boyfriend, Lee, along the Mekong River earlier that day. They approached us with a straw bag filled with small, spotted quail eggs and urged us to dip it in the springs.
The water was 87° C and was full of minerals such as iron, fluoride and sodium. After 20 minutes of hard boiling, we took the eggs out. As we dipped our feet in the spring and began to peel the shells off, we noticed that the couple had come over again.
After a struggle of hand signals and miscommunication, we realised the couple were trying to invite us to dinner. Having already seen how thoughtful the Chiang Rai locals were from giving us free eggs, we were taken aback when they invited us over to try traditional Thai cuisine. With only a phone for google translate, we were able to feast with the couple whilst hearing about their lives and past travels. I can definitely say it was the most random double date I’ve ever been on.
As Sayum went up to order the food, Lee and I chatted with his wife Jum, explaining that it was Lee’s birthday. After eating everything from Papaya Salad to the traditional Pad Thai, we counted that they had ordered 7 plates of food for us to try. After offering to pay for the dinner, the locals laughed at us, with smiles beaming, insisting that they would pay the bill.
We then realised the difference in charges to locals compared to tourists as the couple left 200 baht on the table which would have covered all of our 7 meals and a tip. (200 baht is the equivalent of $7.50 aud)
As the sun set on our evening, we realised we should drive back. It was getting dark and we urgently needed to return the moped. As we followed the bends and winds of the Mekong River, we noticed that a car was flashing its lights at us and speeding up. Just to be safe, we slowed down and rode over to the left to let them pass.
However, they did not pass us. The car was clearly heading for us. As we braced to swerve, the window of the car lowered and we saw the Thai couple yet again. “I forgot to wish you happy birthday- Suk San Wan Keut!” Sayum exclaimed.
– Jennifer Lund