A Chiang Mai Fourth of July.
Celebrating July Fourth in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Fourth of July at Coney Island has become my tradition. I wake up early, make my way to Surf and Stillwell. Stand in the heat for hours. Witness more than a few people who have come to be friends scarf down double digits worth of hot dogs for ten minutes. Celebrate on the boardwalk with a couple of beers. Indulge in excessive drinking while watching the ESPN recap at a bar.
I’ve made it to New York, and the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, every year for the past four years. I couldn’t imagine not being there. So, I had a tough time when I needed to make the decision of whether to come home after India or stay abroad until I met the year mark. I knew if I stayed abroad longer I would have to give up my Fourth of July.
But, I also knew I wasn’t ready to return.
Holidays are always hard abroad. You miss your traditions, whatever they may be. And you miss the people you normally share those traditions with.
And so, we celebrated the Fourth of July together.
There was a barbecue out back. A trickling of fireworks. Sparklers. Beer.
New friends, from the USA and from all around the world, gathering to have a celebration.
I decided that just because I’m not home doesn’t mean I have to scrape tradition altogether. So I made it my mission to initiate the first annual Deejai Backpackers Fourth of July hot dog eating contest.
Since I couldn’t afford to buy an unlimited amount of hot dogs for an unlimited amount of competitors, we bought a pack of hot dogs from the Tesco, a loaf of “traditional Thai bread” that we fashioned into buns, and a bottle of ketchup because we didn’t know what quality these Thai brand hot dogs would have. And we gathered four contestants (me, my friend Jenny, an American guy, and an Australian) and faced off to see who could eat two hot dogs in the fastest time.
On the line was international pride. And a Heineken.
After about a minute and a half, after I nearly threw up too many times (hey, I usually watch the sport, I rarely compete), after I got ketchup all over my pants, after discovering that the hot dogs were covered in plastic, all of us Americans got our asses whipped: the Australian won it for the world. He basically ate them whole, plastic wrap and all. He probably deserved that Heineken.
Later in the night, I snuck away for a little bit and turned on my computer to stream the ESPN feed of actual contest live. I managed to get a choppy, but decent stream of it using a cable-provider log in someone gave me and a VPN. And me and Jenny and a guy from my hostel who was a little curious about what I was so fascinated with, watched from my Macbook as Joey Chestnut ate 68 hot dogs in ten minutes and tied his world record.
I have to admit, I was happy Joey won. Because I’m not quite sure I could have handled it if there was some great upset and I wasn’t there to witness it live.
While I’d like to say I’m looking forward to being back at Coney Island next July 4, I don’t know if I will be there. If all goes as planned I will probably be somewhere in Central or South America and not able to make it back. But, I still hope to return again some day. And I still hope, that no matter where I am in the world, I’ll get to witness someone eating more hot dogs than they should every Fourth of July. Plastic wrap and all.