It’s Called “Walking” Street!


So many different people have recommended that we go see “Walking Street” in Chiang Mai that we just had to go this weekend.  It’s a place where local vendors hawk their wares.  We thought we would take a few hours, see what it was all about and then head to church.  We were wrong.

 We found what we thought must be it and parked just out of range of the several booths that had been set up alongside the road.  At the time, there were several cars parked in the same place, so we had to parallel park to squeeze into a small place (“parallel wedge” might be a better description – inching forward sixteen times and back seventeen).

That accomplished, we unloaded the herd and headed to a street-side restaurant, had lunch and then began our walking tour.  About two and a half hours passed, and we were running late for church, so we started back toward the car.

But as we got closer to where we remembered parking, my anxiety began to grow.  There were a lot more booths than I remembered from a few hours ago.  In fact, there weren’t just booths on each side of the street; now they filled the middle of the road, too.  Hundreds and hundreds of vendors had brought their goods to sell, and there was maybe enough room for a motorbike to pass between some of them.

Leaving my family behind, I picked up my pace.  By the time I reached the car, I was at a nervous trot.  Then I saw it…a boat of a car in a sea of angry street-side vendors. 

walking-street-1-our-car.jpgwalking-street-2-our-car.jpg

Instinctively, I put my keys back into my pocket so that no one would notice that I was the owner.  Casually, with a bit of a smirk on my face to indicate how amused I was that someone would be so stupid as to park their car in the middle of this particular road, I passed by my car to survey the prospects of extricating it from the mess it was in.

It was hopeless.  I walked 50 yards up the street and only saw a congested series of expensive roadblocks just waiting to be knocked over or crushed under my tires.  I tried back the other way – no use.  Side streets – no point.  Everything was blocked. 

So, my wife and I huddled together to work out a plan.  Walk the streets for eight hours with three grumpy kids?  Nope.  Abandon the car to more responsible future owners?  Nope.  Hide out at the Wawee Coffee Shop until the whole thing blew over?  Bingo! 

Only one problem…our laptops were in the trunk.  You can’t go to Wawee without your laptops.  It would have been a definite giveaway, and by now, everyone within twenty blocks knew about the car.  Loudspeakers up and down the street repeatedly called for the owners to make themselves known for a public shaming.

There was no helping it.  The laptops had to be recovered.  Who was to do it?  For a moment, I entertained the fantasy that my wife would volunteer, but that was less likely than us navigating the clogged streets.  So, after kicking the dirt a few times, I coolly walked up to the trunk, inserted the key…and received a verbal tongue-lashing from the vendor, whose space I was blocking. 

Her English was pretty good, actually.  I’ll save you the adult-rated details, but her main point was that this was “WALKING Street!”  You don’t park your car on “WALKING Street!”  As politely as I could, I asked her if she could help me find a way out, but at this point, she said, “I’m not talking to you!” and turned away…for a moment.  Then, she started yelling at me again.

With tail between my legs, I returned to my wife, who was busy pretending not to notice me and trying to forget that we’ve been married for fifteen years and had three children together.  I gave her the laptop and told her to give the kids a good home and a good life; I was going back to the car to endure my fate.  No tears or long embraces marked our parting, just a hasty retreat, laptop bag in tow.

Returning to the car, I noticed quite a crowd had assembled.  There weren’t exactly an angry mob, but it was still too light out for the torches to be fired up.  They stood around the car discussing ways to get their lost earnings out of it.  Melt it down and recycle it?  Paint indigenous art on it and charge admission?  Convert it into the first four-wheeled tuk-tuk and transport tourists around the city?  It was either going to be one of these, or they were going to tie me to the hood as a warning to other irritating interlopers. 

Keeping my head low, I put the keys in the lock, avoiding any eye contact that might trigger the mob mentality.  I had no idea what I was going to do once I got into the car – maybe just gun it and hope for the best.  But to my suprise, as soon as I slid into the driver’s seat, a policeman emerged from nowhere.  I honestly believe he was an angel sent from God…with a bit of a twisted sense of humor. 

He led my parade the full hundred yards or so, making vendors pick up their wares and give way to the funny farang (local word for clueless foreigners).  He directed foot traffic and helped roll carts out of the way – even picked up and moved a motorcycle for me, but the entire time, he insisted on pointing me out to the people lining the parade route.  “There he is!  There’s the one you’ve been hearing about on the loudspeakers!  I’ve captured the monster!”  Then, he got out his cell phone to call his law-enforcement friends and share the story.

With my window down to hear his directions, I was treated to one-hundred yards of slow-moving humble pie.  Locals and foreigners alike laughed at me.

But to their credit, no one threw produce at me.  No one tried to pull me bodily from the car to subject me to a public beating.  No one shot out my tires.  Most got a good laugh as I confirmed all their assumptions about farangs living in Chiang Mai, but it wasn’t a mean-spirited laugh.  The only one who spit fire was the woman whose parcel of street I blocked.  I made it to the end of Walking Street with all my apendages, and the officer was too amused to even give me a ticket.

True to their reputation as people of the “Land of Smiles,” almost all the Thais grinned at me (about me) as I passed.  I lost a little face, but I had some extra to give.  And I learned a good lesson:  it’s called “Walking” Street for a reason. 

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11 Comments

Filed under Challenges, overcoming obstacles, self-image

11 responses to “It’s Called “Walking” Street!

  1. Thailand is an amazing place to stay and I find your observations interesting….

    Facinating isn’t it that people have different cultures yet different reactions to same things.

  2. mike

    so mike tell me the truth did you do all this just to get people to hit your blog. heck you even had your wife make a comment about your blog. Way to go bro. Hey did you at least buy something from the lady whose shop you parked in. What an awesome adventure you are on. Love you bro.

  3. Nanny

    Great story. Wish I had seen it before church – since today’s lesson in class was on humility. This is a great lesson and I am forwarding it to the class. You guy’s (not Texas slang – should be yawl’s) adventures sound priceless and life-expanding. Love, Roianna

  4. lol, you are my hero, shielding your wife from humiliation and potential produce throwing like that.
    And a wee tip – you probably shouldn’t park on walking street. I’m just saying…

  5. I will tell you the key to getting more people to visit your blog: sex. Just put that one word in your title or tags and there you go. Now I am going to go read m’s post on the parking in Chiang mai

  6. Pingback: sunday walking street « transplanting me

  7. Erika

    aahhh…a parade in your honor–too funny. I don’t suppose you’ll forget that day anytime soon.

  8. Well I will definitely use the “Walking Street” story somehow/sometime/some place.

    Your recital of “Walking Street” may get my vote in the battle of blogs between you & the wifey.

    Word of advice – perhaps you should have walked to “Walking Street” thus the words “Walking Street”.

    Luv you man.

  9. I have to admit…I do have a big of blog-envy about my wife’s blogs. She’s got this huge international following and always gets six and seven times the hits I do. I’m sure someone will call about syndicating her soon. You made my day, Papaw!

  10. juz

    Great story! I had to come and visit from your wife’s blog! Found that from Lillian’s Thailand Diary blog!

    Poor you, I can just picture you walking up and down past the car wondering what on earth you were going to do! lol

  11. Pingback: Movie Night « Build Your Walls! Guard Your Gates!

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