It’s been a whirlwind of emotions coming back to Chiang Mai. I can't believe I lived here for so long and made this place my home only 3 years ago.
We immediately rented a motorbike (Jase and I made a deal: I drive in the city, he drives outside) and tried to remember where all my favorite spots were. Felt really weird. Driving here is absolutely insane – the traffic is unbelievable – like L.A. traffic going 50 mph and no lanes, no rules, no blinkers, u-turns everywhere from 0 mph or you can just drive on the wrong side. So dangerous...I'm lucky that despite a few accidents when I lived here, I was never seriously injured.
The city looks the same with a lot more Starbucks and hotels that are being redone. This is not the best season (April) to be here because even though we're surrounded by mountains, the pollution just hangs. We need a huge rain! You can see the oil and pollution on the streets, they look wet ALL the time and you can feel the back end of the bike fishtail slightly when you turn. It's like a hair dryer blowing on your body all day and night.
Our guesthouse is awesome, Gap's House in the Old City...we have this huge Thai-style room with old décor and a lounge area. It’s set behind bamboo trees in this beautiful garden for a whopping $10 a night.
My boyfriend is in the process of getting a suit made – cashmere/Thai silk – and had his first fitting last night. He'll get another few fittings when we come back to the city in a few days. $100 for 3 ties, fitted shirts, and the suit!
Last night we went to my old favorite Thai restaurant right down the street from where I used to live, near all the Thai college students which is always a trip. Then we went to a bar/restaurant on the river...one of my old favs. They have live music with the coolest girl vocalists and if you can believe it, the girl I use to love was still playing there! Complete with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beyonce, Shakira, Guns and Roses, Cranberries, Killers and many other cover songs in perfect English. Pretty impressive.
Interesting observation: Thai people (and most Asians I think) have this thing about being by themselves...they never do it. You will never see a Thai person driving a car, walking somewhere, definitely not eating, or even just hanging out by themselves. We decided that with all the stimuli around here, peace, quiet and solitude would be too weird for them. They’re always in huge groups of people, even on dates, and are always talking or touching.
Today we did a Thai cooking course complete with a trip to a Thai market that falang (foreigners) would never see. I couldn't handle the butcher shop section, but other than that it was a beautiful array of colors and aromas. We made a curry paste (massaman and green), then a curry soup, a stir fry (ginger chix), and a noodle dish (kho soi and pad see ew). It was great and we all got to try each others, so a definite feast!
Tomorrow we're heading up to Doi Suthep, the "temple in the clouds," at the top of the mountain overlooking the city. There's great waterfalls on the way up and obvious views from the top. Looking forward to it!
Now we're off by bus to Chiang Rai...as far north as you can go near the border. We're going to help out a friend from college who is working for an NGO up there for her grad school thesis. Sabaii dee kha!!!