Ahh, Chiang Mai, what wonders lie within your dingy streets and lawless lanes. What ancient marvels do you offer the wandering traveler, where do you hide your visual, visceral treats… who bloody knows, not I.
The minibus dropped us off at their affiliated guest house, in what can only be described as the dodgy part of town. Deciding against this hostel because of its “feel”, we spent a somewhat tempestuous couple of hours in search of a slightly less dodgy guest house. As we wound our way around unknown streets of Chiang Mai in search of the elusive good feeling, my senses were assaulted by the seedy feel of this place. From previous experience we try not to judge a location until we have shucked the bus ride and weight of our packs, knowing the negative outlook they have the power to bestow on a place, this, and the knowledge that affiliated companies do not have the welfare of their customers in mind when depositing you at a domicile, told me to keep my feelings in check.
While walking we got to see parts of Chiang Mai we probably would normally stay away from, the multitude of bars catering to the farang who have given up on their lives back home, and have come here to feel wanted. Wanted by the multitude of scantily clad thai woman selling the last vestiges of their dignity to the highest bidder. It would be a sad sight if it wasn’t so interesting. We were invited into the multitude of places where music pumped through hidden speakers and the women did their best to look like they were having a good time, onwards past restaurants priced to western budgets and massage parlors offering $5 hour long relaxation. Onwards and slightly upwards, into one guest house after another, disappointment and resignation rising, until fatigue set in and we settled for the best of a bad bunch. Home was a small room in a rundown place, that time, cleanliness and hospitality forgot.
Chiang Mai Proper
Such was the feeling of this place that we decided to immediately find the “Smith Residence” and see what it had to offer. Luckily it wasn’t too far, and after walking for an hour or so, we stumbled into its luxurious foyer (after the disappointing places we have stayed in recently, luxurious has taken on new meaning). This was more like it, $300 a month plus utilities, a large room, comfy bed, A/C, couch, cable telly and a bathroom with toilet and bathtub/shower, the divider between washing area and waste removal an uncommon luxury throughout Asia. This was the Chiang Mai we had been imagining.
So after seeing The Smith, we faced the disappointment of going back to our hole in the wall with some resignation, even considering moving out that night despite having paid. With gritted teeth we returned and tried to end the night ASAP so as to enjoy the boundless pleasures to be offered by our future accommodation.
In the morning we moved into Smith, and immediately unpacked our backpacks into the waiting drawers and cupboards, excited at the prospect of not having to reach into their murky depths to fish out the desired apparel. How sweet the simple things seem when you have been without them for awhile.
I have since purchased a kettle and 3in1 coffee pouches, boxes of cereal and milk, and bottles of soft drink, all the important stuff to keep us going in case I cannot make myself leave the comfort of our new home, a very real threat if the past week is anything to go by.
“Who bloody knows, not I.”, refers to my current outlook on staying in Chiang Mai. We have traveled through 3 countries in 2 months, seen numerous sights and wonders, and I have worked for a large part of it. This is our first real chance to relax, and I am making the most of it. Doing so however is harder than it sounds, the immediate urge or feeling is that we are in another country and should be exploring it, but the secondary urge, and the one which is currently winning out, is that I should take this opportunity to do whatever I bloody well please. Currently what I please is watching a lot of telly, doing stuff on the tinternet, and sleeping until the early afternoon.
There is still a feeling of guilt though, my guess is bred in from years of working hard, for ridiculous hours, to try and make as much money as I could, with the end goal of going on a short holiday and seeing as much as I could in the given time. It is difficult to get out of this mind set, but rest assured I am making decent headway. I am going to the gym (conveniently located on the top floor), and eating street food (a cultural experience surely), and have even ventured out to a night market (although mainly through the desire for food). Somehow I have even found the time to take a few photo’s..from our balcony.
And I have plans, big plans, at some point I will venture out and maybe buy a guitar, I have always wanted to learn and now have the opportunity. There is a Muay Thai school a few blocks away, and once I get my fitness level up, I intend to learn, nay, master this ancient art of biffo. Sooner or later I will probably wander out of our immediate area and visit a few sights, later being the more likely scenario.
Right now though, I am focusing on chilling, on recovering from years of work born stress, and just catching up on life, Chiang Mai streets can wait… oh, and growing an awesome beard!