Chiang Mai – Where everybody knows your name
Greetings from Chiang Mai. I’ve arrived back to my home away from home after five weeks in the Philippines, topped off with a four day stopover in Hong Kong. After that much time on the road I will be here for the next month to catch up on some much needed work.
I have been coming here so often lately that I don’t even announce when I am arriving or leaving. There are only so many going away dinners you can throw in the same town. Instead I just head down to the night market at Chiang Mai Gate, as I almost always run into someone I know there.
Sure enough, as soon as I got to the market I heard JAMES!! being yelled in unison by two farangs on a motorbike, who then jumped off the bike and ran towards me – helmets and all – to administer welcome back hugs.
[Chiang Mai Welcoming Committee]
If by chance I hadn’t ran into anyone, I can always rely on getting a welcome back hug from Mrs Pa, who makes the best smoothies in Chiang Mai, at the Chiang Mai Gate market.
Over the following days I had more random meetups with friends on the street, which made me start subconsciously singing the Cheers theme song.
I have an apartment
On my previous stays in Chiang Mai I have usually not stayed longer than three weeks, so I have never bothered to get an apartment. This time I am here for a whole month, so I have rented a studio. It’s been good to empty the contents of my bags into cupboards and onto desk space. There is a fridge but no kitchen, but hey, what kind of mad man is going to cook when you have some of worlds best street food outside. I have breakfast at home, and everything else is eat out.
[My Chiang Mai Home]
I haven’t stayed in a rented apartment since I was in Mexico last year, so I will make a note of my living expenses for the month as a comparison.
While I loved my time in the Philippines, Thailand is a hard act to follow when it comes to food.
By the way, if you haven’t been to Thailand and you are wondering why I eat out every night, have a look at this incredible free ebook that has just been released: the Bangkok $1 Menu guide. I can personally attest that all of these prices are true, and the food is every bit as delicious as the photos portray them to be. This is a Bangkok guide as well, so you will find that the prices in Chiang Mai are a little bit cheaper.
Songkran is coming
In a case of poor timing, I have been in Thailand for the previous two years right before Songkran, so I have made sure to clear my calendar to attend this year. Songkran is the water festival that celebrates the Thai Buddhist new year. It’s one giant water fight, and from all accounts it’s a ton of fun (at least the first time around.)
My friends who were at Songkran last year looked like they had a blast, and it killed me to see these updates while I had just left. I’m already seeing super soaker water guns being sold in shops, so it’s time to shop around for my Songkran gear.
[Songkran – Choose your weapon]
Any road trips planned?
I usually arrive back in Chiang Mai after slogging it out on the road for a month or two at a time. By the time I get here I tend to chuck my bag under the bed and stay put. Even after all this time I still haven’t been to Pai. The amount of hippies that go there makes me think I won’t like it, but I still like to go to a place before I say I don’t like (that’s only fair.)
I had some friends go on an epic Northern Thailand bike ride recently, which I would like to do at some point. I might save that for later in the year for when some Northern Thailand newbies will be coming up.
During the dry season in Thailand farmers burn off the land before the rains arrive. While there is always a bit of haze, this year is one of the worst on record. Looking out my window Chiang Mai resembles more like a city in Anywhere, China.
[A sign in Chiang Mai, preaching to the converted]
If there is one benefit of the smog (if you can say such a thing), check out the sunsets, or should that be smogsets?
[Chiang Mai Smogset]
This was a clearer night than usual as lately I haven’t seen the outline of the mountain. This smog might be a good incentive to knuckle down and stay indoor for the month and get stuff done, before heading off again to…