“What do you want to have today?” – my “smoothie lady” asked me every day while already pulling my favorite fruits from the refrigerator.
“You choose! I trust you” – I’d tell her and be delighted every time.
“Let’s start with passionate fruit, your favorite”.
“Sit and smile”
Because of this woman, Jirawan Chaidoungkaew, and her magical smoothies, I will remember Chiang Mai. Visiting her fruit stand in front of her home became my favorite routine while staying in the city.
I stumble upon it accidentally, when leaving the Thai massage salon run by the former female prisoners just across the street. I needed refreshment and saw the sign “Sit and smile”, as well as the names of the fruits I’ve never heard of or even tasted before, like passionate fruit and dragon fruit.
Not that I was just buying refreshing and healthy smoothies for 30 Baht, but I was always greeted with a smile and no money can buy the feeling of being truly welcomed.
Becoming friends with the local vendor
As her husband was Canadian, she knows English so we could chit chat. When Jirawan wasn’t behind the stand, her daughter Leah would yell to her mommy that “someone is outside”.
She revealed that her daughter Leah was the reason for starting this business a few months ago, along with the tour agency Grand Travel Chiang Mai, that offers popular tours outside the city, especially the ones including elephants and trekking.
“She wanted a strawberry shake, I made her one and the idea was born!” – Jirawan explained and now Leah and her son Heng can have a different smoothie every day.
Her shakes are made only of fresh fruits, purchased on the local markets. Customers prefer coconut, strawberry and mango.
As her home and the business are situated in Jaban street, surrounded by schools, she gets the most visits from the students, passers-by and the travelers from the nearby hostels and guesthouses.
What do “they” think of “us”?
What does she think of us, the tourists, I wondered. Thailand is one of the most popular tourist countries in the world and she understands why people come to Chiang Mai.
“Tourists come because of the fresh air and nature. They can breath here. A lot has changed in the city, but outside it‘s all like a few years ago” – Jirawan said referring to the smog and crowded Bangkok where she went to college.
What she doesn’t like is some people’s behavior. Some visitors could become more respectful. Sometimes customers don’t take their shoes off when entering her home or they put paper tissues and sanitary napkins in the toilet bowl, although it is widely known that Asians put their tissues in the garbage bin (without flushing the paper) and that is very well stated in most of the toilets.
Other than that, the way she does her job reveals her warmhearted personality. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I kept coming back. Because I didn’t see her as just a lady who sells me smoothies. I saw her as my friend and a mother figure away from home.
“Where would you like to travel?”- I asked her while she was mixing dragon fruit, banana, mango and apple for me. She paused, her eyes lit up and she said:
“To Africa! I was watching a movie with my daughter about Africa and I said to her that one day we’ll go…”
All people in the world are built from blood and have dreams. Therefore, respect the people around you, whether they are strangers, new friends or a person selling you spring rolls, ice coffee or a fruit shake.