Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Calm Gets Calmer in Chiang Mai

Thailand in 3 parts… First came paradise in the islands. Then came controlled chaos in Bangkok. Now, it's peace in the jungle. It’s easy to understand why so many Europeans and Australians settle permanently in Chiang Mai. It is both lively enough to be engaging, but calm enough to be peaceful. The old city is a mile-wide square block of narrow cobblestone streets that randomly curve into each other. Each turn of a corner brings a new set of guesthouses, massage parlors, and fresh juice bars. It is a city where the number of bookstores outweighs the number of 7-11’s. It is a city where an entire day can pass without notice.

I wasn’t planning to update my blog until I had experienced a few of the incredible excursions I have planned over the next few days. But then I realized that the way I’ve spent the last few days in Chiang Mai perhaps better exemplifies life here than any of the adventures slated later this week.

Sitting next to an infinity pool as still as glass, eating fresh pineapple and listening to the silence, I have officially settled into the northern way of life. Clouds fill the sky and a thunderous rain quenches the earth for an hour or so each night. Shopkeepers nap in their plastic lawn furniture, unsure whether a customer is worth the waking. Vanilla-scented incense wafts slowly out of windows. Tuk-tuk drivers recline with a cigarette and watch the market-goers stroll by, more content to people-watch than keen on securing a fare. I enjoy my sweet, Thai iced coffee each morning and languidly linger with a book. When it's time for a change of scenery, I find the next cafe and repeat the process. The weather is warm, but not sweat-through-your-t-shirt-by-9:00-in-the-morning-hot like the islands. The people are kind, not like the where-are-you-going-do-you-want-to-buy-some-fake-jems-overbearing people in Bangkok. The food is spicy and the massages are cheap. At $8 a night for accommodation, $3 for a used book and $1 for a cold beer, it's probably less expensive for me to stay than to leave. Except, of course, I may run into a problem with my Visa eventually expiring. Details.

Today I took a cooking class. Tomorrow I will visit an elephant sanctuary. The day after, I will tour the secluded hill tribe villages. Perhaps I’ll find a day to mimic the monkeys and zipline through the jungle. So much activity may come as a rude awakening to my blissed out being. But I may invest in a few extra days here just to breathe in the calm and savor the silence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Chiang Mai so far, it’s that slow and steady would win the race, if there were a race, but there’s not… so just relax.


  1. Definitely stay there longer--now I'm coming over! =)

  2. Your amazing maybe you can get a gig with the travel channel. Agencies from around the world should be knocking at your door to help them sell vacation or relocation packages.

  3. I wonder how many days it would take us busy city folk before we could actually enjoy this calm and quit place. Good changes are definitely happening to you. The more you share, the more I wish I could join in. Dad

  4. Anybody and everybody is welcome... come on down! Lots of good stuff ahead!

  5. Every time I read a new post, I want to go THERE. Probably about the time I get my stuff figured out, you'll be on your way back. But I just may pressure you to turn around and be my tour guide -- you never know.

  6. You know, we had a fun time in Chaing Mai, but I wish we experienced THIS Chaing Mai! Sounds amazing, glad you're relaxing. xxo

  7. Did you always know you'd be a great travel writer? In less than two posts I immediately felt transported.

    I'm happy to hear you're having the time of your life. I opted to go back to the work world and I'm paying for it dearly by working 12-14 hour days and over precious weekends. Please enjoy every minute of it, for yourself and for us working-stiffs.