Living in Chiang Mai. It’s not all roses!

choiceI think we all can talk ourselves into just about anything. Right? Even though we KNOW that there are few red flags, we can still talk ourselves into believing that our choice is an excellent one. So if you move to another country, would you force yourself to stay even though you it’s not what you thought the place would be like? Would you stay just to be stubborn or not lose face?

Hold on! In this case, I am speaking about my choice to live in this city, here in LOS (Land Of Smiles)  – Thailand! Since I had made my choice from 80% reading material on forums and online articles and the other 20% was from people who had actually lived here then who am I to defy all these “experts”?! Just say YES to Chiang Mai!

So I moved to Chiang Mai February 2015. However…

The truth is that after about 5 days here, I really just didn’t “get’ this place at all! But I dare not voice what was in my heart, this would be showing the world that I messed up! Especially if a Facebook post read along the lines of: “It took me about $1,000 to buy a one-way ticket from Mexico City to Bangkok, 36 hours of travel and a huge amount of energy and logistics to arrive here in Chiang Mai. However, after 5 days, I hate this place, so I think I will move on”. Not to mention the fact that I had sold everything I owned in Mexico in order to arrive here with 2 suitcases in tow.

That was honestly the truth of how I felt about my arrival here. I had read dozens and dozens of blogs and hundreds of forum topics about this city and 87.6% (approximately) stated that this city was a fantastic place to live in. So imagine me writing this blog, as the other 12% to say, nope, this place is not for me. I have since learned that most of those blogs were written by 25-year-olds. Digital Nomads who have a totally different energy and interest level about Chiang Mai than I do at age 64! In fact, things got MUCH worse about a month later after my arrival. The infamous “burning season” had arrived. Farmers for hundreds of kilometres around Chiang Mai burn rice fields. I have never found out why exactly, I can only guess like you the reader can.

This burning results in epic smoke filling the skies 24/7. In March, the sun is actually supposed to set at about 6 pm but because of the smoke, it was sorta dark at 4 pm. EVERYTHING in the city turned to an eerie orange-yellow hue. A sort of post-apocalyptic scenery in all directions. The mountains, notably Doi Suthep faded from my view for about 6 weeks. That landmark was about 10 km away and rose another 1,500 meters and it simply vanished. Closer to my room at the Smith Residence the buildings about 200 meters away were now just a foggy outline. Six weeks of this.

I was told, no problem; next year I can just leave town and get away from the smoke. Wait! I don’t want to be FORCED to leave my chosen home because of uncontrolled burning of stuff that may harm my health and certainly looks ugly. That’s just wrong and it accounts for 10% of a year! Then comes along Songkran in April. A “water” festival” don’t make me laugh. It is 5 days of stupid silly behaviour by locals and tourists. Thousands walk around town, Clint Eastwood style with water guns drawn, and these water cannons deliver a huge stream of water to your body! Sometimes this water is ice cold and sometimes it might come from the moat water around the old city. The bacteria in that moat water could be life threatening. So, 6 weeks of burning, 5 days of drunken water gun fights and this is only two months of living here!!

But, I never spoke a word of my true feelings to anyone.

In Mexico, where I lived before Thailand, I could sit in a QUIET street and sip on a cold beer at sunset or cup of coffee in the morning. I have yet to find a nice quiet people watching place. You know those special kinds of magical places where you can sit for a few hours sipping a drink and watch people and the world go by with no chaos nearby. Here in the city of Chaing Mai every cafe every restaurant I sit inside or at best on a sidewalk, right next to a busy street.

The streets here are ALL full of motorbikes and cars. At breakfast time and sunset is the worst, rush our traffic and riding my motorcycle here is hell. In fact, what the hell was I thinking even buying my new motorcycle? I had rented one for a month as a tryout but I only rode around the old city area. The few times I rode out of the city on my newly bought bike I had visions of meandering quiet roads leading to roads in the jungle with quaint villages. Nope, didn’t happen. From my condo I rode about 45 minutes in several directions and I was STILL in heavy traffic with buses and trucks driving at speeds of well over 80 kph, not fast in a car, but when you are on a motorbike the vulnerability and fear factor should and does kick in big time! Plus the scenery was still awful, no jungle, few green patches so why even bother?! After 6 weeks I have driven a whopping 127 km, I could have walked or taken a 20 baht songthaew for 90% of the same trips that I did. So my motorbike is for sale.

To wrap up this post I could say it very simply: I have lived in Chiang Mai for 7 months and  I miss Mexico! I miss the music, plazas, people, language, the culture and I really miss the bus system. It’s funny when I left the USA to live in Mexico January 2013, I NEVER looked back to missing the USA where I had lived since 1974. But here in Thailand, Mexico is very much on my mind.



About John Arnold