Today I was waiting in line for the light to turn green. An old moped carrying a lady dressed in polyester pants, socks, flip-flops and a bright red, made-in-China, bought at-the-local-market-for-5-dollars was in front of me. Beside the moped a steel wagon was attached, carrying a stainless steel container. This I knew, from experience, was homemade ice cream, the kind with coconut flavor that tastes good with sticky rice. On top of the container were hamburger and hotdog buns that, of course, were to put the ice cream inside. They are not hotdog buns. They are ice cream buns. Her old moped was spitting out smoke as if it was the chimney of one of North Korea’s factories. The smoke came out in waves, at times hiding the lady and her ice cream. She looked concerned down on the exhaust pipe, but there was nothing she could do. So when the light turned green she popped the clutch and continued on her way to sell ice cream on the street corner.
Later, as I was driving I saw another woman on her moped. This woman was the largest creature I have seen on a moped. She was covering the vehicle with her abundant flesh, her feet were overflowing in her flip-flops. She looked unhappy and her helmet did not fit her. In front of her basked was a pug dressed in a camouflage dog-shirt. It looked like he was telling her the directions.
The other mopeds were ordinary. Only one, two or three people on each, most carrying their purses or other shopping bags. Some holding their kids on their laps. From time to time there would be some of them holding a book above their heads while driving, in that way being protected by the sun the way we use sunscreen.
I passed people who had set up a small camping table by the side of the road where lottery tickets were displayed neatly, promising wealth in abundance. Then a bit further down, somebody had tied a string between two trees, hanging a line of feather dusters and rubber pools on the string. For sale, said the sign in swirly letters. Parasols in bright colors were displayed, providing shade for the women selling BBQ chicken. The meat was cooked on sliced oil barrels and the chickens that were already cooked were standing on display over the coals, bamboo skewers had penetrated their bodies.
Then there was the building with the Drink Sky Terrace and another one called Bread Butter Lunch and Homemade Bakery. Later I was tempted by the sign leading to Healthy and Wellbeing.
A truck had pulled up by the side of the road selling freshly picked mangoes. In front of me was an old man riding his old bicycle. In the front he had tied a wicker basked containing a thermos with a cup, a lunch box and a mat. In the back he had tied another wicker basket. This one shone brightly of plastic and silk flowers. He was wearing a Panama hat with a scarf and red plastic flowers tied around it. He also wore hiking shorts and an ankle brace. Slowly he weaved through the traffic that was almost at a standstill.
I was driving in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it was just an ordinary Tuesday in March.