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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chiang Mai: Wandering the Sois

I go wandering a lot. I set out to purchase shampoo, and as I walk along I think, "Gee, I've never been down that soi." A few hours later I arrive back at the guest house. No shampoo, of course.

A soi is a lane, narrow and usually crooked. They have no names of their own, but are numbered based on their order along the larger street where they originate. The first soi off of Ratchamanka is Soi 1, the second Soi 2, and so on. An address would be Top North Guest House, 15 Moon Muang Road Soi 2.

If a soi connects two streets, somewhere it changes names. Start out on Ratchamanka Soi 4, walk to the end, and emerge from Ratchadamnern Soi 2. Cross the street and continue on what seems to be the same lane, and you are on Ratshadamnern Soi 1. It's confusing, and it doesn't help that the numbers are printed on all the maps in devilishly small type.Since the sois are so crooked, merging and intersecting with each other, they are hard for the directionally challenged, meaning me.

However, they are great for just walking along, seeing what you see and finding what you find. A residential neighborhood with only the Thai alphabet on display, a wat that isn't on the map, a shop selling things you haven't seen before, a monk at a pay phone, or a terra cotta pottery factory. Those are just a few of the things I found on my latest wander. Who knows what awaits me the next time I go wandering.

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