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Often when I travelled in a land whereby I could not speak nor understand the language, instead of intrepidation and fear, I ventured forth knowing that I could use one language – the language from the heart! I have received so much care and concern from strangers who did not know me from Adam but yet chose to embrace me with their benevolence and gifts.  So … what exactly is this language from the heart? It is a language whereby you seek something or ask for help not with malicious intents, without expectations but genuinely wanting to make a connection.  Words may not be needed, appropriate gestures, a smiling face and genuine communication are the keys to the language of the heart.  It’s gratifying how I asked for so little and yet was blessed by much.  I discovered that people do want to help – it’s how we convey our needs.

My son, Ivan had encounters with locals using this language from the heart.  Indeed he was touched and overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of the people he met while backpacking in Thailand with me.  I believe that after this backpacking trip, he will throw away all his preconceived ideas of how travelling should be.  I have been the recipient of many a generous soul while I was backpacking and I am glad that my son was able to experience the heartwarming hospitality of the locals as well.  We don’t know their names but their benevolent acts of kindness will forever be imprinted in our hearts.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Our upgraded room

The Hostel’s Owner – Our Room Was Upgraded
As the budget accommodation in Chiang Mai was pretty reasonable, I decided to spare Ivan from staying in the dormitory and booked a twin room with shared bathroom (this meant that the bathroom was in a common area). After checking into the room, we found out that the sockets were not working very well. The amicable receptionist said that she will change our room and to our surprise, we were given a much bigger room with an attached big bathroom, a TV, a fridge and an air-con that actually worked.  At 380 baht, it was really a bargain. That room (No. 306) became our room each time we came back to Chiang Mai to stay after our trips to Chiang Rai and Pai. Allan, the owner who  is a New Zealander, decided to bless us with that room at the same price and needless to say, we became fast friends with him and his dog, Nooni.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

The beautiful honest vendor

Honest Vendor – Gave Us Our Change
This was the very first stall we bought some food upon our arrival to Chiang Mai.  I spotted a sweet banana concoction wrapped with banana leaves and wasted no time to buy some as we didn’t have any breakfast yet.  As I didn’t have small change, I gave her 500 bahts to pay for a 20 baht dessert.  I thought she had given me all the change and was about to walk off with Ivan, when she grabbed my arm and asked me to wait.  Her assistant had gone to change the 500 bahts and while waiting, she gave me 80 bahts first.  Lack of food had made my brain a bit lethargic and it was great that we met an honest vendor who didn’t take advantage of my carelessness.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Our knights in shining armour

The Two Brothers – Fed Us Lunch
While we were in Chiang Rai, we went trekking for one whole day.  We started our trek at about 8 am and after 4 hours we reached a Chinese village.  After a futile search for somewhere to buy food, we asked a young man who was sitting by the window of his house to direct us to a food stall.  He told us that there were none and as we were walking away, he chased after us to invite us into his home for lunch.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Heartwarming Food from People Full of Heart

As you can see from the above photos, the house was bare, the food on the table was simple but yet these two brothers offered to feed us with the little they had.  The younger brother quickly chopped up and cooked some cucumber while the elder brother fried some crackers to add more food for us. Ivan being a big eater ate very little and he said that there was so little to start with and he didn’t want the brothers to go hungry because of unexpected guests… us!  It was the most meaningful and tasty lunch for Ivan and I because it was given out from the pure hearts of the two brothers.  We left their home not only with a nice warm feeling but also with a bunch of bananas and a packet of plums.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Our heroes of the day with Ivan

I was glad that my son was with me to experience true giving … not from loved ones … but from total strangers.  He learnt a life lesson that afternoon in a tiny village in Chiang Rai.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Generous Lychee Seller

Lychee Seller – Gave Her Lychees To Us FREE!!
After leaving the two brothers’ home, we saw two ladies surrounded with mountains of lychees.  They were sorting them out to be sold in bunches and we walked near to have a closer look.  I wanted to buy some and asked them how much … in sign language … as I couldn’t speak Thai.  The older lady chose a bunch of the biggest and reddest juicy lychees and gave it to me and both of them smiled at us and indicated that it was for us. What touched me was that – they didn’t give us the worst of the lot but chose to give us the best!!  I tell you … those were the juiciest and sweetest lychees I have ever tasted – because it was given out of a generous heart.

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Our new friends were always close by

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Ivan and his newfound friends

Backpacking with son, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, budget travel, language of the heart, why you should mingle with the locals, generous, beautiful hearts

Chilling with my “bodyguards”

The Three – Unexpected But Welcome Companions/ Bodyguards
When we started our trek from our homestay, the 3 dogs which belonged to the owners made an impromptu decision to be our bodyguards.  They walked closely to us, kind of leading the way and barked ferociously when locals crossed our paths.  A woodcutter had to take out his parang knife and waved menacingly at them just to get past us.  They didn’t walk with us just for an hour or two but a total of almost five hours!  As it was a very hot day, thirst and hunger must have got the better of them and they reluctantly left us to go back to the homestay.  Their company was very much appreciated and we kinda felt very loved as these four-legged creatures thought that we might need protection and guidance. We are not sure whether they accompany other guests but we were glad that they kept us company for such a long period of time. For once, we began to understand why people say that dogs are truly man’s best friends!!!

So, when you look at the faces of the people and the dogs who willingly gave something of themselves to us, they were just simple folks and non-pedigree mongrel dogs.  But to us, they are beautiful inside out and we were so privileged and honored to be touched by their grace and generosity. So when you travel and have an opportunity to spend some time with the locals, grab it and you will leave with a nice fuzzy feeling inside. Do not let your inability to speak the local lingo hinder you from mingling with the locals. Instead rely on & use the language of the heart.  It always work when intentions are pure from  people that you come into contact with. Try it! ……

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