December 2017 – February 2018
After doing my time as a teacher in the People’s Republic, I found myself in my old stomping grounds of Chiang Mai, Thailand. But why here again?
The slower pace of life in Buddhist country attracted me mostly. I had to plan out my remaining time in South East Asia. I had books to devour that could only be found at a unique little bookstore within the moat of the city center (one of my favorite bookstores that I’ve ever been to).
There was more Thai food to eat. I had more exploration and learning to do around the area. I had time to burn and a few extra Yuan in my pocket to let me do so before adventuring on.
First order of business upon arrival was to get an apartment for the next two months. After a quick phone call to my previous landlord, I made my way to the apartment complex. Within 15 minutes I was given the keys to a Thai style apartment, which is basically one big room (no kitchen), a bathroom, and a very small balcony. All furniture included. There was no 6 month or annual term contract to sign. Getting into one of these is not a hassle. Simply hand over the cash for the 1st month rent and a matching deposit. The agreement was that I’d stay there on a month-to-month bases. When I was ready to leave, I’d have to let the landlord know about a week in advance
Next order of business – a motorbike for the month. Visiting the same mom and pop motorbike shop as months before, the transaction was just as easy. Unfortunately, the ‘pop’ of the operation had passed away from lung cancer while I was away. I shared a moment of silence with the widow and the son who now filled in for his father’s position before I left. I didn’t even bother haggling for a lower price…
Next order of business – a gym membership at the same fitness center…
In a matter of a few hours, I was ‘re-settled’ in and carrying on. The cherry on top was that so many people recognized me and greeted me like a friend who had gone away and returned home. Even people who I hadn’t spoken to when I was previously there. I had no idea they had great English speaking skills!
I had many great adventures while laying low in Northern Thailand. I’ve gotta give a shout out to my local friend Jay! If it wasn’t for her, I probably would have not had the chance to do certain activities such as kayaking down Ping River and taking day trips out to a handful of local spots.
We went white water rafting, visited Doi Inthanon National Park to see the largest waterfall that I’ve seen in my life, chatted with local goat farmers while their flock grazed, and visited an ancient sandstone canyon range (Pa Chor). We also invited ourselves into a large Thai organic farm operated by monks. While there we observed a kid learning (in his own way) how to round up a herd of cattle as well as water buffalo by throwing large sized stones at them. He was trying to direct them into their pins for the night. The monks were not going to scold or correct the kid while we were there. Instead, they stood in observance of the young fellas actions. I’m sure they would teach him through parable form after we had left. Especially since the animals were literally non-responsive to the shouting orders and stones being thrown at there backs from the feisty fella. We decided to leave since we were holding up progress we thought…
Sweet Ellen also came to visit during the Christmas holiday and yet again at the end of January. I mentioned her in http://getting-comfortable-with-my-new-life-as-a-foreigner-in-china
During Christmas Day, we drove south of the city for about 35 minutes along Ping River to a village where there was a nightly market. There, we met a genuine family who operated a small restaurant along the outskirts of the main market area. Their 5 year old daughter spoke a little English and attached herself to us while we ate. Her parents encouraged her to practice the English she had been learning at school. She shared with us what she liked, here age and other random details of the life of a 5 year old.
Afterwards, we left the village to enjoy live Jazz music at the North Gate Jazz Co-op back in the city. https://www.facebook.com/northgate.jazzcoop
If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, do yourself the favor and go here! That night a local group really gave the audience ear orgasms since it was the holidays. I can’t promise you that if you go there you’ll be fortunate to see the same group perform (I didn’t even get the name of them) but know that more then likely you’ll be in for a treat. There are talented and creative artists who really deliver and perform their hearts out at this place!
It’s usually not conventional Jazz music they play but rather a fusion of, well, a variety of styles mixed in. You may even hear a Thai style melody guiding the ‘Jazzy’ elements of their music if your lucky. Go early if you want a seat in front of the musicians since this place gets packed! Often, there will be people flowing out onto the side walk and into the street.
The very last treat I gave myself before leaving CM to continue onward with my SE Asian adventure was renting a bigger motorbike and spent a weekend in the mountain valley of Pai.
If you know how to drive a mid-sized or bigger motorbike/motorcycle – whatever you want to call them – do yourself this favor! The only road up the mountains toward Pai has over 700 curves. Yes, that is correct! And the scenery is picturesque – full of greenery and a handful of look out points to gaze out into the surrounding mountains.
Once getting to Pai, after 3 or so hours of blissful driving, you’ll realize that there are ALOT of backpackers there. Like a ton! Supposedly its a sort of hippy haven…Yes, you can find magic mushrooms, marijuana and other sorts of ‘herbal’ intoxicants if that’s what your into. Matter of fact, you can find smoothie shops that make magic mushroom shakes! I really wanted to try this but decided not to hunt one down since I made the trip into the mountain valley solo – on 2 wheels. Yes, I make responsible choices – when I choose to…
Instead, I opted for joy riding deep into the mountains and taking dips in hot springs where very few people go. The nature in the accessible areas on the out skirts of Pai are alone, enough reason to learn how to drive a motorcycle. You will find yourself literally swallowed up in the middle of valleys filled with plotted farm land, rivers flowing, lush greenery, wild life and all sorts of imagery that your eyes can feast on. If your lucky, the sky will be a deep blue color with minimal cloud coverage.
If the beauty captivates your senses and it gets overbearing, do yourself the favor of pulling over and don’t hit a chicken crossing the road like I did! It was out here, in the middle of nowhere where I seriously pondered the age old question of most corny childhood jokes of “Why did the chicken cross the road?”…
He lived folks, don’t worry! Although, with maybe a bruised wing…If I go back one day, (hopefully) I’ll speak with the village head and put in a recommendation…for a chicken crossing sign.
Later that night, I found myself in some jungle enjoying a Reggae party where marijuana was blazing and being passed around while the music reverberated through the lush surroundings. A few hundred of us enjoyed music from a Reggae artist that took center stage. I forgot what his name was or what country he came from. All I know is that the artist was the first black person I’d seen in what seemed like ages. I had been in Asian countries for way to long at this point…
A few days later, back in CM – keys to the apartment returned, motorbike returned, gym key card returned – I found myself standing in line. I now carried my overstuffed hiking pack that weighed down on my sun burnt shoulders. I waited patiently and inched my way toward the Thai bus that would be taking me to Mae Sot – one of the only two land crossings into Burmese territory from Thailand. I’d walk into Myanmar the following morning to start yet another adventure…and yes, I’d be returning back to Northern Thailand very soon…
Here are a few pictures for your entertainment: