I bought a card at Chiang Mai Stamp, a line drawing of an elephant brushed on mulberry paper. Elephants are everywhere in Thai culture, having been relied on for centuries in war and for logging and transportation. This morning I realized that I didn’t know how to mail the card.
On my way back to Chiang Mai Stamp, I passed this goddess.
I love how she is placed to hide and protect the red standpipe behind her. Why shouldn’t beauty stand beside the ugly? This seems more practical than trying to design things which are at once functional and beautiful, the western approach. Sometimes we succeed, but usually the functional and the beautiful dilute each other.
Most shops and homes have a place like this somewhere outside for offerings of food, drink, and incense.
Small industrial and craft operations are common in the city. You are never far from a motorbike repair shop or a tailor. Here is a paint shop farther down Ratchaphakanai Road.
At Chiang Mai Stamp, I asked how to mail the card.
“You need stamp.”
A young woman was hopping about the shop. She had shortened arms extended at an unusual angle and seemed to be the owners’ daughter. She made several loud cries, and, after each, her mother responded, closing a display window once and moving a telephone to a different place. The daughter came close to me. “Kaak! Kaak!”
“She wants you to shake her hand,” her mother said. I bent over. The girl took my hand and didn’t let go.
“Kaack,” I said, more softly.
“U–U!” She let go, and squatted on her heels. “KAACK!KAACK!KAACK!” It was a pleased sound, like a giant macau who just ate the best mango ever.
The mother applied four different stamps to the envelope and a piece of tape to close the back. “28 baht.”
I paid and asked directions to the post office. She looked out the window and pointed to a red mail box.
“Ah.” We were all pleased.
The language of the heart is universal. After days without conversation, it was good to be reminded of that.