Wandering the city for a few days now, Sierra & I have found some interesting nightlife. Before heading out for the night, we make sure to fill up our water jugs at one of the lovely machines located all over town.
There is a central nightclub zone where all the twenty-something scoundrels and aristocrats come to play. It’s your traditional party street with pubs and clubs lining the sidewalks. The rats and roaches come out to play, nibbling on bits of pizza crust. At night, the sidewalk in Chiang Mai (and most of Asia) is very much alive.
We are drawn into a shabby little bar advertising cheap cocktails. The lack of crowd and soft music are a bonus. From here, we watch the sticky pandemonium outside without getting much of it on us. We see the same ladyboy doing the same dance in the same bar, night after night.
In Chiang Mai, the police enforce a midnight curfew. Only a few night clubs have permits to operate after hours and they are greasier than a pig on a marmalade slip’n’slide.
Thankfully, our hole-in-the-wall of choice closes its large aluminum garage door and becomes an after midnight speakeasy.
The bar doesn’t have a name (that we’re aware of). The walls are covered in sharpie scrawls and the air reeks of cat piss and cheap swill. There are tall piles of cardboard boxes behind the amplifiers and the back room is piled high with blanket-covered cages.
Sierra and I generally end up at this bar on our nightly outings. We enjoy being able to sit on the edge of the ritzy club blocks and watch the drunken scenes, scrolling & drooling past. Every hour or so, the bartender runs out to the liquor store for more supplies.
Her name is Yuhenna. She lets us choose the music sometimes & fills us in on her history.
She’s part Chinese, part Canadian. She’s quiet and polite, with a certain glimmer of sharp wit behind the eye. She can eloquently converse with the French, English, Thai, and Chinese.
We spend several late nights sharing drunken conversations with Yuhenna and company. She’s made quite a few traveler friends, some vagabonds and some high-class digital nomads. She’s a reformed internet addict and a brilliant chess player.
The cages in the back are full of stray cats she has rescued and is caring for. There must be twenty of them in the small bar.
While everyone is polluted and swooning in the wee hours, she pulls out the chess set and destroys any takers. I get my ass handed to me time and again. We learn that she’s in-between apartments and living in the bar.
The cardboard boxes behind the amplifier are filled with her personal library. She lets us delve into them and we find a real treasure trove, hidden in plain view.
She lets us take some books along with us. I trade an auto-biography I finished for a humorous bit on world history by Julian Barnes. Sierra grabs some ominous, thin little book about relationship riddles called Knots.
We make friends, play drinking games, trade war stories, everyone sharing blunts & spliffs while hookahs & cigars lay a thick fog across the room. The cages of kittens meow piss & moan to a softly thumping deep house soundtrack. At times, I get paranoid considering the trap we’re in. One way in, one way out. If the police come by and we can’t afford their bribes, we are all decidedly fucked. I shake off my paranoia with a few shots of cheap tequila.
At some point a deck of tarot cards come out and Sierra & I find ourselves giving readings to the different bar patrons and this inevitably leads to discussions about the Elysian Mysteries, the Knights Templar & Freemasons, as well as the history of the Caucus Mountains and a theory on why Caucasians are so damn pasty white.
At some point, a few hours before daybreak, Sierra and I lift the squeaky metal garage door. Yuhenna gives us hugs, closing the door behind us.
We sleep until the heat of the day beckons us outward again. Wash, rinse, repeat for several days.