Dear Chiang Mai,
First of all, thank you for our wonderful stay for 6 days within the old city. We thoroughly enjoyed our studio apartment rental via airbnb.com and used it as a launching pad from which to roam your endless maze of cluttered streets and timeless back alleys. Your beautiful and numerous temples kept us humble and curious, and we loved our impromptu chat with a young monk in Wat Jedi Li…did you know he loves hiphop music?! You welcomed us with open arms and a warm sunrise to witness the procession of 10,000 monks and we will never forget it.
One of our favorite days was one, like most, with no agenda in mind – simply strolling the back streets to see what the universe puts in our path. After a lap around the moat and through the park, construction forced us into a rural area and we became wonderfully lost. From there we ran into a great little temple bursting with Chompa flowers which, as you know, Megan proudly tucked into her hair. Around the next corner was a couple of local yokels training cocks for fighting. After standing outside the gate watching for a few minutes, they invited us in for a ringside view. Those crazy cocks were clawing and scrapping, much to the delight of the proud owners. I tried to bet 20baht on the clear favorite but the ringmaster laughed it off amusingly – though I think he was tempted. Just watching those birds brawl stirred an appetite in Megan and I so we moved on but didn’t have to move very far. Around the next corner was a wonderful woman cooking up some of the most delicious noodle soup we’ve encountered thus far. She had only one table and the place had no name, but you know the one I speak of. She had no beer to offer but kindly steered me to the nearest vendor where I procured the essential liquid gold. How else were we supposed to wash down that insanely spicy concoction? Simple pleasures.
Did I mention this was Christmas Day? Well it was, and it was lovely. Megan and I had split up the previous day to do a touch of shopping and exchanged gifts that evening. She scored a beautiful and flattering hemp dress, while I made out with a handsome yet studly thai-style shirt that will serve me for many years to come. That evening it was off to see live reggae and drink small buckets of mojito. We had wanted to quietly dine at one of your wonderful restaurants, the one with fish curry served inside a coconut, but the obnoxious music cranking from the entire place drove us away…pretty sure it was the soundtrack from Frosty the Snowman. Oh well, we improvised and loved it.
The local band was rowdy and fun, but our favorite watering hole in your city is without a doubt Freedom Bar and the huge smile of the owner, Selly. He became a good friend of mine when I spent 2 weeks here about 7 years ago and has not changed a bit. One of the great pleasures for me personally was presenting him with a picture of he and I that I had taken on that previous trip. I never would have thought his smile could become larger but as he proudly showed the picture to everyone around, I swear it touched both of his ears. Please look after him kindly because Megan and I both look forward to seeing him again in the future.
Our final night was spent with countless thousands of others at the Sunday walking market. Craziness. I had regaled Megan with tales of this epic shopping mecca in the months prior, but words do not do it justice. We spent a solid 4 hours checking out the goods on display but still couldn’t see it all. Luckily for our bank accounts neither one of us has extra room in our packs to fill with frivolous items, though we did end up shipping a small but stuffed box of goodies home the next day. The one thing we were not allowed to ship was a bottle of laolao whiskey which had burdened my pack since leaving Laos. Not sure if this was a blessing or a curse because while we will enjoy consuming it, it’s still laolao and it’s still lethal. We shall see.
So adios again, Chiang Mai. You’ve changed a bit since we last met, but you needed a fresh coat of paint and you wear it well. You have retained your old world charm while moving forward with the rest of this busy planet. Until we meet again…