Chiang Mai is north of Bangkok, up near the golden triangle.
First impressions: another large Thai city with some interesting differences. The old town is a large square surrounded entirely by moats.
The inner town is skewed to tourists and providing them with services of all types. And many that are not so obvious.
No Thai city could need that many coffee shops, motorbikes for hire, massage parlours, hotels, restaurants with menus in languages including english, german and mandarin, tailors etc. No, the outcomes of a long term reliance on tourism are very obvious when you arrive in old city Chiang Mai.
Oh that I had visited a few decades ago when it wasn’t so tourist dependent. No negative price shock then. The worst was yesterday’s coffee. Nothing special but it cost ~ $A6.80. A latte. A common latte. I picked the cafe as it overlooked a wall i wanted to draw. Should have known better. Very expensive wall for what I got. The lack of patrons most days suggests it should have been obvious to even a half witted observer. 😁
Many prices look reasonable. The secret is they add a 10% service charge and then a 7% GST/VAT on the total. So, if you are coming here, be warned. Price shock isn’t fatal but does affect your pocket nerve. And yes, street stalls provide a cheap option. My mango and sticky rice always comes from them. My pho equivalent and various odds and ends came from local cafes.
Be warned though. You can tell that the innocent seated blissfully below has yet to get her bill. Look at her happy face. She will soon need to focus hard on the lotus flower.
Another noticeable difference in Chiang Mai is the number of Buddhist wats here. And most are beautiful with some amazing statues and other iconography.
They are clearly integral to life. Why chooks and pigeons and genetically modified rabbits? Who knows.
Some wats charge entry fees. Even better: one charges everyone and then limits women’s access. (Yes, here I go again: show me just one widely accepted religion in which being female means being equally human, no iffs or buts…….)
So, time here for us can be summed up as a non intellectual indulgence, a holiday: visiting markets daytime and nighttime, streetwalking, haunting coffee shops, and wat viewing. Oh and cat hunting for JP. Those poor pussies. Hunted down, encouraged out of safe holes, patted, photographed…. on and on all over town.
And did I tell you the one about the Pom and the exKiwi/Aussie? Don’t tell but it goes like this: one of us (who shall remain unidentified 😊) challenged an old Pom who crossed the road to stand near us at a market, lit up a cigarette and blew smoke all over us while his young Thai girlfriend went back into the market for something. The two protagonists (him and **) both snarled at each other as she wanted him to take his smoke away and he wasn’t going to move at her behest. In the end I couldn’t drag ** away fast enough. Before the guy became more aggressive or she said too much more. 😊
As I dragged her away she got the final say….. I’m not repeating it and I’m sure NZ will deny any future passport applications she makes to them. And no, I don’t think he’ll be more thoughtful in future but he’ll possibly be more careful around snarling Aussies, or should I say Kiwis?
According to ‘my’ tailor tourists here at this time are mainly Chinese and they spend their money on food, not tailors. I don’t know if this is true but I do know their street etiquette is different. They don’t move over for anyone. I’m a bit touchier than usual as I had a very large area of skin over a deltoid (upper arm) surgically removed the day before we left. About 20 square cms of it and deep, to the deep fascial layer, 20 internal stitches and 4 or 5 external. (Not quite the 50cm2 and 4cm deep crater it felt like!). Unsurprisingly I don’t appreciate being bumped into on that arm with its quite visible tape. So it’s sometimes a choice: push back into ungiving fellow tourists or fall foul under a tuk tuk, motorbike or a 4-wheel drive or van. Yes, push back wins.
JP hired a motorbike. She enjoyed riding again and exploring the nearby hills and more remote wats. Can you see her Apple watch? Her pride and joy. It sends absurd messages quite often.
I’m sure my cards wouldn’t have suggested Chiang Mai on a motorbike as a good idea. Too many important people around me have died over the past 9 months: Erwin, Jean, Alex and now Jo. I can’t be added yet.
so, having visited Chiang Mai: glad we came, I don’t plan on coming back, and, based on what I’ve seen so far, don’t expect to join the large expat community here.