Just 2 more nights to go then we are heading back to Chiang Mai.
There is a lot of love about Chiang Rai, it has the small city feeling that we had back home in Washington, there’s plenty of beautiful temples, outdoor activities and sights around the area to see but (and no offense to some of our new friends) Chiang Rai feels a bit like Leisure World. I think we’ve seen almost everything that Chiang Rai has to offer, in fact I think we covered almost everything in the first month or two that we were here. Perhaps we should have spread our explorations of the area out a little more but we wanted to see as much as we possibly could. I just didn’t think we’d run out of things to see so fast and unfortunately, we can’t fabricate an active social life out of “good intentions”. The bustling expat community and social activities in Chiang Mai are hard to beat.
The weather from November – February was just incredible, if I had to guess it’s among the best in the country, maybe the world during that time of the year. Mornings were in the mid 50’s with highs in the afternoon in the upper 80’s AND NO RAIN!!! After 50+ inches of rain in WA. the previous year with barely 8 hours of daylight in December, we felt like we were in heaven. Believe it or not we even wore jackets on a number of trips out at night on the motorbike.
Unfortunately, we were amazed (more like dismayed) at how bad the smoke was from the annual burning that began in late February. Many days it looked like the valley floor was blanketed in fog and to say it was gloomy is an understatement. We barely saw the sun for a couple of weeks. But, now that we’ve experienced our first smokey season, we’ll definitely take advantage of that time to travel next year. And, as the temps have started to rise, we’ve become acutely aware at how necessary a good air-con is and unfortunately, the living room in the house we are renting doesn’t have a/c. With floor to ceiling glass, it’s become unbearably hot during the day. All fun little lessons during our first year in Thailand.
For anyone that is interested, Chiang Rai definitely offers a more authentic Thai experience than some of the other popular cities in Thailand. English is not nearly as prevalent here (not that I expect people to speak English) and we’ve picked up far more Thai expressions than we did in Chiang Mai but I’ve gone days without speaking a full sentence in English. I’ve even started using ‘kop’ with my wife purely out of habit. I will say, there’s a certain solitude to not speaking the native language, and I’ve learned to adapt by using gestures, and non-verbal forms of communicating and when it just doesn’t go right, I smile and say thank you. It’s humbling (liberating kinda) to learn how unimportant you really are when you realize that bitching and complaining about things is fruitless BECAUSE no one understands you anyway.
We also discovered the best massage place, check out my notes about Pai Massage on our Local Favorites page. We said goodbye after one last good foot massage this afternoon. We enjoyed them so much, I think we’ve had 2 massages a week since we arrived ( 30 – 40 in total probably). Our quality of life has definitely improved in Thailand, no doubt about it.
Lastly, we’ve missed the food variety that Chiang Mai offers. We love Thai food, don’t get me wrong, but being from the west (and quite spoiled) we prefer a little more variety than Chiang Rai has to offer. We tried Mexican one night and when we ordered the nachos, the woman brought out microwaved Nacho Cheese Doritos and I believe it was Pace Picante Salsa. Jamie and I got a good chuckle out of it no less but you can’t do that to a guy that grew up in Southern California. I don’t know what the Thai’s think of OR would think of legitimate Mexican food, but it might be a great opportunity for someone looking for a small business to setup (there’s tons of fresh chicken, hot chiles grow incredibly well here, there’s plenty of corn for fresh tortillas, avocados to top em off, setup a small cart down by the school and voila). It’s possible to get a decent burger and even a pizza but like most farang food, they just aren’t the same caliber that you can find in Chiang Mai.
We are unfortunately having a bit of an issue with our landlord but I’m going to wait and see how our departure goes before I blog about that part of our Chiang Rai experience. The whole situation may have spurred a new business idea anyway, so stay tuned.