The Sunday Night Market, in theory, sounds awesome. Cheap shopping. Cheap eats. Stall after stall of items you don’t need, but suddenly have to have. My kinda market.
I should have known better.
Crowds and D never mix.
And yet, there I was, being the cheerleader for Katie, Isabelle and I heading out into the darkness to go and experience the Sunday Night Market.
We headed out into the city, rain hovering above us and waiting to pour from the clouds at any moment.
As soon as we hit the market, I was kicking myself.
I knew I had to experience it. Everyone said the Sunday market was a “must” when in Chiang Mai, and far better than the more touristic generic night market. Cheaper prices. Better stuff.
But, this. Ohhhhhhh. It physically pained me to step foot into the market.
At first, I tried to close my eyes and breathe deep.
Sadly, my shoulders crept up to my ears within minutes and a grimace replaced the smile I had so wanted to stay put on my face. My jaw clenched. My hands formed tight fists.
We walked through the food part and I snatched up some sushi — five pieces for five baht. Not a bad deal at all.
I tried to keep my cool, but once we were back on the main drag of the market, I couldn’t take it.
All around me there was something going on. Lady Boys dressed elegantly posing for photos and shouting in Thai. Children and performers sitting in the middle of the street with jars for donations. People stopping mid-street for no apparent reason. Umbrellas threatening to poke out eyes. Elbows in sides.
It made me feel sick.
I grabbed Katie’s arm as Isabelle stopped at a stall to look at clothes.
“I can’t do this,” I said through clenched teeth. “This crowd is way too much for me. We should split up.”
“Just try,” Katie urged. “We don’t have to do this long.”
The truth was, I wanted to do it. The stalls had a mix of great stuff. I just didn’t want to do it with anyone else. I needed the freedom to bop and weave through people. To decide to turn a different way without making sure there were people aware of my change of direction.
For about 30 minutes, we tried to navigate the intense elbow-to-elbow crowds. Then, I was done.
“Let’s go get dinner and wait out the rain,” I suggested as the water began to beat down on us, prompting the vendors to throw sheets of plastic on their goods, and the crowd to pop up even more umbrellas, threatening to poke out eyes.
We grabbed dinner at a cute little restaurant with a garden patio and a band. For an hour, I watched the crowd in front of the restaurant, meandering around.
The crowd had thinned somewhat, thanks to the downpour, so we hit some side streets of the market and wandered for a bit more. Finally, sleep was creeping up on me. So was an early morning pick-up to the Elephant Nature Park.
I went to bed that night incredibly grateful to have experienced the Sunday market. And with plans to check it out again upon my return the following week. Round Two could be better, right?
I had a week to prepare myself.
A week living with elephants.