A number of years ago when I lived in Bangkok, the house I was staying at was on a very busy soi (street). There was only one road in and one road out of the neighborhood so most traffic went by my house – at all hours of the day. 🙂 Fast forward five years and hundreds of kilometers away to Chiang Mai. Welcome to the village of Suan Nonsi!
Entering our mubaan (village) from the 8-lane road is always a relief; that means I’ve successfully battled the congested bottleneck of traffic outside the local food market as well as found a quick break in traffic to dart across at the U-turn. Driving past the brand new shopping complex called 5th Avenue, my tire finds the well-worn pothole that signals I’m “home” in the mubaan. Of course I have three speed bumps to go over in quick succession and I chuckle inwardly at the pretense of security: an empty guard shack and a fuzzy television. Mubaan Suan Nonsi is the second oldest village, built long before the era of snazzy guards snapping to attention and electronic gates. I pass a little restaurant on the left side of the road; the cook doubles as a bicycle repairman during the slow times.
On the right is one of a handful of mansions in the mubaan. The ever-present Buddhist spirit house is nearby with today’s food offerings visible for all to see. As I approach the next speed bump, one of the stray dogs scampers away, looking for food and avoiding the wheels of my truck. Motorcycles zoom by in the opposite direction, intent on joining the traffic madness on the 8-lane road I left behind me.
I approach the fifth speed bump on my journey home and prepare to turn left onto a smaller soi. This left-hand turn is tricky because the house on the corner is built right up to the corner, making it a challenge to see any oncoming traffic. To add to the challenge, the second house in has had construction being done for the last nine months, so there’s always a vehicle parked on the road – making the small road feel extremely tiny. No traffic is coming so I skirt past the construction vehicle as I mentally calculate the progress made since yesterday. I still can’t figure out if this structure is going to be a residential home or a new business. I hope for it to be a home; there’s simply no room for parking if it’s a business. As I drive by, I smile to myself that the building isn’t completed, but that the water fountain out front is up and running!
Thick, overgrown grass juts out into the street courtesy of our rainy season. More stray dogs run by, one with a limp. I briefly wonder if that limp is from getting hit by a car or from a dog fight. I continue down the street and navigate around a car parked in front of *the* mubaan restaurant. A quick glance reveals the delivery man hopping on his bike, delivery bag in hand. Delicious, cheap Thai food delivered for free… it doesn’t get any better than that!
A few potholes down the street leads me past Khun Rak’s house and coffee stand. I’m pretty certain she stays in business (and earns a living) strictly because of the Sapphire building a few yards away. Sapphire is a research group that employs dozens of young people – who all eat lunch at the mubaan restaurant and then grab an iced latte from Khun Rak on their way back to work.
Two speed bumps later finds me driving past the mystery mansion. The place is deserted, except for the gardener and family who lives out back. At one time the home must have been beautiful and lively, but now everything is in disarray and in need of a coat of paint. I continue down the road, past the tiny street with the warning sign of “dangerous insects” hanging in a tree. I’m not sure what makes the insects dangerous, but ever since a lady driving by stopped me on my walk and told me to be careful, I’ve avoided walking down that tiny street.
I finally come to the very last soi of the mubaan – our soi. It takes a full five minutes to get to our house from the mubaan entrance, but the quietness of the street is worth it. Well, mostly quiet. There is that house on the corner that is currently being built and crawling with workers, but other than that…. it’s quiet. Only five townhouses on our side of the soi and one huge mansion across from us and that’s it. Directly behind our house is a wooded area and we hear birds chirping all the time.
All of this? This Mubaan Suan Nonsi is our home.
Living in Thailand is a daily adventure for Anne Williams and her family of five. In between all of the many language blunders, running after toddlers, and giving the neighbors plenty to smile at, she is grateful God’s grace is always available just when she needs it.