Our host who turned out to be my most favorite person in Thailand.
That’s Chaibutr in the extreme right. I took this photo when we were leaving Chiang Mai.
When we were searching for a stay in Chiang Mai on Airbnb, I zeroed in on her “Ban Come in” stay because of the extremely good reviews left by the previous guests. But nothing prepared me for the kindness that she exuded when we stayed 3 days with her.
We were a bit lost in Chiang Mai on arrival because our Grab taxi dropped us at a point which according to Google maps was our stay. I called her up, but it was difficult to understand the directions, so I gave the phone to a group of ladies in a motorbike rent shop who were helping us understand the Airbnb address. They guided our cab driver and assured us that the place was just a walk away from a temple on the other end of the moat. What was surprising was that they asked us to walk right into the Buddhist temple where they said Chaibutr will be waiting.
We walked near the moat, excited that maybe we were going to have an authentic stay inside a Buddhist temple. We entered the temple which looked like it was undergoing construction, and saw her, smiling with her arms open to welcome us.
I was a bit disappointed that she took us through a back lane away from the temple. The temple was only a shortcut. But my disappointment vanished when we reached her place and her two dogs greeted us.
She welcomed us into her outdoor kitchen and gave us water, then showed us to our rooms. On the stairs, there was a pigeon warming her eggs in a nest! She told, “Don’t disturb her, she is a permanent member here.”
We didn’t get much time to talk to her that day as we rushed out to explore Chiang Mai.
Also, read about Chiang Mai here- Chiang Mai, the most beautiful city in Thailand.
The next day, early morning I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. I went to the kitchen to make myself some tea. I noticed two other guests lounging in the common area, helping themselves to tea. Chaibutr appeared from her room and called to me. She showed me how to brew Thai tea from the small containers that she kept filled with tea powder. I am helpless when it comes to cooking. She laughed at my kitchen antics, and said, “You from India. Don’t know how to make masala chai? I bake bread every day, take how many you want.” I tasted the bread with honey, it was the tastiest cinnamon bread ever.
The breakfast was what got things started. I asked her what tea it was. She said it was Ceylon tea. It had a slight orange color and a citrus flavor, which was different than Indian tea. My friend had appeared in the kitchen too by now, and she liked his genial nature too much. She exclaimed, “You know I didn’t tell you. I worked for Aditya Birla, an Indian company.” We were like, Whoa! She said she had worked for Birla’s yarn manufacturing unit in Bangkok, and when she retired she moved to Chiang Mai where her daughter Ice was studying psychology. Ice also came to the kitchen, dressed in her uniform and she was a little shy to us in the first meeting.
Chaibutr said, “Indians are very good. I learned English because I was in PR, so many Indians to talk to.” And she laughed reminiscing her work days. When I asked her if she knew any Hindi, she said “Yes, I only know Challee Chaloo. They would say all the time”, in a singing voice that made us laugh at this Hindi line that meant “Let’s leave.”
We bid adieu to her and started for the day’s travel to Mae Rim and Mae Taman.
The next day, in the morning she gave me a handful of milk candy which was so tasty and different than the usual chocolate or caramel based toffees. She taught me how to make jasmine green tea and we talked some more about Thai culture, why the new generation could not speak English as much and Indian affairs. She said the only time she went to another country was to Indonesia where she tasted fruits grown in volcanic soil. I reflected upon her life. Here she was, running a successful Airbnb enterprise(She was a Superhost on Airbnb), and yet she had not traveled much farther to other countries. She met people from so many countries every day, I think she heard more than enough of her share of wanderlust stories.
The next day we came back from wandering around earlier because we wanted to spend some time with her before leaving for the airport to Krabi.
We talked, drank tea, ate cinnamon bread and I felt extremely sad to be leaving Chiang Mai and Chaibutr. She blessed and hugged us, and as we were leaving I was teary-eyed in the cab.
I wish there were more kind souls like her, who offered comfort, warmth and a home to travelers.
The people we travel to make all the difference to the places we travel to.
Read about my experience in a cabaret show here – Ladyboys are just like us.