Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hello Good-gye Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai at night - homage to Thailand's beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Chiang Mai at night
Homage to the King
Thailand's beloved King Bhumibol passed away just days before we got here. The impact is hard for outsiders to grasp. How can we? In America, bloated monster Donald Trump grabbed power overnight by inspiring hatred and bigotry. In the UK, self-serving politicians gerrymandered the Brexit thus threatening, not only the stability of the UK and the European Union, but perhaps the world. In contrast, King Bhumibol was that rare, actually wise, actually virtuous leader who inspired, guided and stabilized Thailand by the force of his personal example like a wise, loving father. The country is in mourning for a year and the sadness is tangible.

White wat - Chiang Mai
White stupa in Chiang Mai
We were planning to stay in Chiang Mai for the next five months, and did for a week, but have decided to move on. There are a few reasons but mainly it's because, this time, we didn't stay in the old city and by "old city" I mean that part of Chiang Mai located inside the moat and crumbling walls of what was once the Lan Na Kingdom.

The words Chiang Mai means "new city" which was true in 1296 when it became the new capital of the old Lan Na kingdom, founded in 1262. Today it is that part within the wall and square moat. This trip we stayed outside and walking to the old city required crossing the belt line road which is something like a foreign body trying to cross the body's blood-brain barrier. There are only a few crosswalks over this daunting road and most of those don't even have a traffic light. You cross at your own risk. And even where there are lights, they barely give enough time to run across before changing back to red.

Bangkok spirit house with pigeons 2
Bangkok spirit house
with pigeons
Of course we went there, sometimes taking a songthaew (red truck) just to avoid crossing the road but it just wasn't the same. Yes, the old city is extremely picturesque but I already spent months photographing it on earlier trips. Also Khun Churn, our go-to vegetarian restaurant, moved away from the center and the peanut butter smoothies at Beetroot Cafe are now watered down and the girl working there acted like she wished we were dead. So, we decided to move to Bangkok. You have to know when it's time to go.

One note though—on our last day in Chiang Mai a friend turned us on to a different, excellent veggie restaurant, Imm Aim Vegetarian & Bike Cafe. They serve even better peanut butter smoothies and the people were really nice so who knows? We may move back but, for now anyway, we are apartment hunting in Bangkok.

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