I’ll start this post by acknowledging that I am fortunate to be able to travel the world with my family and enjoy unique and interesting experiences with them. But today, on our full day bike tour around Chiang Mai, Thailand (where it is currently about 7:30pm), I hope that my children saw something beyond the sights in Chiang Mai and got a taste of more than just the amazing food. I hope they learned a lesson from Nooh who was more than a tour guide, but an inspiration for life.
Our day started at 8am, when Nooh greeted us at our hotel with a huge smile on his face (and it never went away). From the moment we met, he took great pleasure in helping us and showing us his beautiful city. When we looked hungry, he stopped to buy us food. When we looked thirsty, he stopped to buy us drinks. And when we looked tired, he stopped to give us a break.
You could say that he did this because he was being paid to do this. But, the reality is that he charged the equivalent of $33/person (including bikes, breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc.). This time of year, he does 2 tours per week. In high season, he does 4. We should have been buying everything for him – but he wouldn’t take our money.
We came to see that Nooh’s happiness simply came from helping others. In fact, at one point on the ride, Nooh stopped to buy “some chicken for his friend at the Temple.” When we arrived there, we realized that his friend was a stray dog that lived there – he was proud to tell us that the dog was finally gaining weight and looking much better these days.
During lunch, we learned more about 36-yr old Nooh – an only child born and raised in Bangkok with nothing. As he covered his lunch with chili powder (enough to send anyone else to the emergency room), he told us how his father told him that if he could eat things that are very spicy than he could eat anything – and, often times, he had to. With both parents now gone, he left Bangkok for a “simpler” life where people cared less about material things and more about one another. He lives is a room above the bike rental “shop” – no kitchen, no refrigerator, no tv. But, he is part of a community that truly cares for one another. And, with that, he is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met.
Today, we saw the true Chiang Mai – the sights, the food and scenery. But most importantly, we met Nooh – an amazing person who truly lives by the belief that happiness doesn’t come from what you have – it comes what you give.
Khap khun maak (thank you very much), Nooh, for a great day in your amazing community – and for setting an example for everyone to follow.
I hope this brought some light to your day. And, if you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, please reach out to Nooh.