Life in Chiang Mai

It has been a week since we arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand and it surprises me that we have settled into doing nothing so easily! Prior to arriving here, we had 3 solid weeks of finishing up with work, packing, then crazy packing and the final move. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. A time full of goodbyes – adjacent to a time rampant with possibilities, a window to a new life for both of us. 
The result…
We landed in Chiang Mai both exhausted and excited and walked 16km on our first full day here! As it is with all beginnings we were true to our generation, trying to take it all in at once. And so, day by day, I begin to realize that it will take so much more than one massive walk to drink in all the sights and sounds of this beautiful city. 
On our previous visit to Chiang Mai – the one that inspired us for 3 years to work towards this adventure – we slept outside the city, to the north, in a beautiful small resort on the banks of the Ping River. There, we had the perfect combination of city and country. It was from there that we participated in almost every tour available to the tourists of Chiang Mai, and it was from there that we made the first pact inside of our marriage to return to this place and, somehow, make it our home. But now we are staying in a guesthouse on the edge of the Old City, a land full of guest houses, scruffy travellers and tuk-tuks. I remember Chiang Mai as being almost a quiet place with locals doing their own thing and monks walking the streets robed in orange. Trying to think back to how I first saw Chiang Mai compared to what I have seen on this trip is almost like remembering a different place, but then, I was a different person 3 years ago too. This is not to say that I don’t like it here – not at all. What I have seen of Chiang Mai in the last 7 days has only grown my love for this beautiful, ancient city. 
Through all of our exploring since that first huge day, I have come to realize that there are 2 distinct parts to Chiang Mai. The first is the city moat (yes it has a moat!) that surrounds the city, where it is virtually impossible to cross the road for all of the traffic – which seems to be ever present no matter what time of the day or night. The second is the quiet Soi’s (laneways) off the main roads which are filled with suburban housing. The minute you turn off the main road you are transported to a different world all together, simply by turning a corner. Thai housing is interesting to me. The differences between Australia and Thailand in this sense are immense. The houses look grubby and there is always someone standing outside their house talking to someone else, or a bunch of kids running around the street – yet you can tell that these are a proud people. You get a much stronger sense of community here, which seems to be common in the third world no matter where you are. It makes me wonder why we lose that sense of community in the first world. Here, there is not a great deal of fear from people about being out on the streets at night, I see women walking past our guesthouse alone late at night who don’t seem to be frightened or even cautious the way I would be at home. But then here I see kids riding around on motorcycles at age 15 with no helmets either. This is something that I intend to explore further in my time here. To understand the differences in the community, the fears and the grievances of these quiet new neighbors of mine.  
The next step for us is to move away from this guesthouse riddled area we are in, to a place that feels a little more like home, to an area that isn’t so tourist focused (which is not hard to find in a place like this). We have spent our week as tourists in this city and now it is time to settle in and become part of the furniture that makes Chiang Mai what it is. 

Chiang Mai by Night

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