China Redux: a Trip about Nothing by an Unrepentant Beta Male…

20181216_110914 (2)Cigarettes dangle from the liquid tea-stained lips of disenchanted shopkeepers and hotel managers, uttering clipped replies and forced pleasantries in order to do what only comes all too naturally, make a buck, and never too far down on their luck, that’s poker, or pai gow, but not when trafficking in biological necessities and imagined luxuries, psychological desires and sociological niches, far from the tossed dice of playing cards and thankless marriages, so these are almost certainties…

Alpha travelers arrive with itineraries in hand and cash in bank, cards and codes and kabalistic telephonic inscriptions the key to fulfillment in a world increasingly full of governments and corporations, individuals left to their own devices, mostly electronic, appointments with destinies subject to change so hardly worth even printing out: terra-cotta warriors and great firewalls, temple tours and rice terraces, a song and a dance and an invitation to tea, a nod and a wink and an invitation to drink, all for the price of a minor Christmas binge, minor for an Alpha male, anyway…

20181215_103412So finally after forty years I finally find the Holy Grail of travel: a trip about nothing, a pure Seinfeldian nothing, i.e. no itineraries, no plans, no sightseeing, and no major thrills, just the down-to-earth civility of human interaction and the quiet reflection that follows, neither bad nor good in and of itself, in this the period of my life in which miles and klicks take second place to notes and chits, the accumulated apocrypha of a lifetime…

The deal is this: the existential conundrum of life is such that a physical person has to occupy a physical space, by some law of nature, so some of us prefer to do that in far-flung and interesting places, though rarely random, rather than surround ourselves with fences and the familiar in well-planned suburbs of over-developed countries, secure in our certainties, if uncertain of our securities, for those places are best for making money, and once that is no longer a prime motivational factor, then all attachments are off…

So if that makes me a Beta male, supposedly meek and submissive, then so be it. Alpha males are sometimes sorta’ kinda’ maybe you-know: jerks. I’d rather be a Beta male Beta tester, conscious and reflective, selective in temperament, rather than the proverbial bull in the China shop, haha, breaking rules to break records while logging up frequent flyer miles by flying first class, all for the purpose of stuffing bellies and minds, with fats and figures, grabbing life by its bits, until the sound of screaming is almost overwhelming…

20181213_102226I prefer the silence of indecision, and the science of non-selection, perfectly calculated to yield non-results, and perfectly suited to play another day. And it suits me perfectly, me and my late-life desire to read, write and study, while still enjoying those aspects of travel that I always enjoyed most: hangin’ with the homies, learning the local lingos, and staying in a place until I get tired of it, and time to move on …

Jinghong (Chiang Rung) is perfect, so similar to my erstwhile digs in north Thailand, that they almost share the same language, if you care to take the time to learn it. And no I’m not talking about the lingua franca of Chinese, but the original Tai Lue dialect, so similar to northern Thailand’s kam meuang. Okay, so the temples are almost all gone, and the Tai culture has been almost entirely overwhelmed by the dominant Han Chinese, but still, it’s nice…

But these Tai ladies still wear the traditional rags, so as to distinguish themselves from the predominant Chinese, I suppose, something you’d only see in northern Thailand in such out-of-the-way villes as Pai or Mae Sot, where a northern Thai majority is not assured, and so becomes a matter of pride, similar to the African dress of Trinidadians, where a black majority of the population may or may not exist, and where such clothing doesn’t exist elsewhere in the Caribbean where blacks indeed do have the majority…

20181205_104152But Jinghong resembles Chiang Mai more than Chiang Rai, if only for the larger population and greater strategic importance, even if Jinghong is much more attractive, really, with its tree-lined streets, of mostly palm, something any place in Thailand could only dream of, that and clear clean sidewalks, which you do have to share with the occasional motorbike, unfortunately, but still…

And so for kicks I go to the nearby town of Menghai, which apparently hasn’t seen a foreign Westerner in many many years, judging by their reaction to me, ranging from fear, to endearment, to outright befuddlement, but the city’s no beauty, and the altitude guarantees a chill, so I put it on the back burner for the hot season, just in case I have no other way to beat the heat…

So now it’s all over but the sad goodbyes to no one in particular, but myself in general, and make plans to get out, and make plans to come back. For this looks like it might just be my makeshift home for the next year or so, for lack of anything better, and the need to park it somewhere…

So a not-so-weary traveler lays down his pack and his pen and the thrill of the road for the books and theses of letters and links, food no real issue, and even less to drink, just as I like it. It’s time for a change, so if I write no more travel blogs, then so be it; it’s been fun, but it’s just not my brand any more, and better to be nothing than to be bland, thank you, and Merry Christmas…

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