“I’ve been laid off and am looking for an inexpensive, enjoyable place to weather the recession abroad. Got any thoughts?”
Granted, this town has begun to be pooh-poohed a tad by cliche-hating, cutting-edge backpackers (who prefer the tiny, mountain-hippie-town, Pai), but from what I can tell, Chiang Mai will be a very livable place to place for my little rump for the next two and a half weeks. Perhaps you’d dig it, too.
While cross-city walking today, I passed about thirty silver-mirrored and gold-columned walls like the one shown, right. Oh visual joy! Wouldn’t those walls really spice up your living room?? Call your decorator today.
Green, leafy moat to the right, glittering disco ball temple wall to the left, strides long, sun blazing above… not a bad day, overall!
Chiang Mai is known far and wide as the cultural heart of Thailand, thanks above all to its abounding temples, but also because of its overflowing menu of hill trek offerings, cooking courses, Bohemian bookstores, Thai and Western (and even macrobiotic!) eateries, shopping bazaars, and (rubbing hand together now) massage courses. The streets are packed with equal parts tourists, monks, and everyday Thai folks. Neat place!
So why this massage course dream?
All my former coworkers can tell you that I have inappropriately fidgety hands, usually manifested by doodling faces over large swaths of agendas during important meetings. The majority of my friends can tell you that I purport to “understand the mystic energy of the human body”. I really do! I think.
Today, on the way to the massage school to sign up, I meandered between the tiny, narrow “soi” lanes (tranquil birds chirping in the silence) and the traffic-zipping main streets by the moat. A great feature of this city is this interspersed mesh of near-rural tranquility with hopping city-liciousness. Again, something for everyone!
Alas, here’s another something for everything that’s playing out here: sex tourism. Older Western men speed by with young local girlfriends clinging to the back of their motorcycles, or the odd couples sit awkwardly at restaurants, the Thai woman with her headphones on so she doesn’t have to talk to the rotund older gentleman. Oy vey.
I had rather forgotten about this aspect of Thailand, given that in Laos it is illegal for Westerners to have sex with Lao citizens if they are not married to each other. But so it is. And let’s remember that there are PLENTY of wholesome tourists and also PLENTY more to Thailand than this seedy aspect! Moving on.
On the way back to my hotel’s neighborhood, a little clay boy caught my eye (pictured, right). “Hello, jolly chap!” I said (in my head). “Why ever are you sitting up there?”
It turned out it was the Chiang Mai Public Library! I took a little trot around inside, couldn’t read a single word of Thai script, and, dum te dum te dum, casually trotted out.
Cool town, this Chiang Mai place! I’m excited to see how these weeks will go. Those of you looking for an interesting, inexpensive, enjoyable Recession Hideout, this may fit your bill.