I’ve had this travel log ready for about half a month now, but I just keep getting more photographs that I want to add there’s a point where I just have to say publish.
Since I last wrote, there’s been a Christmas, New Years, two and a half colds, friends departing, a switch of a scooter for a small motorcycle, a dentist appointment, visit to a few temples, more friends left, and a truck and various tools bought…
Early December my friend, Koko, whom I met in Maui a few years ago while doing a yoga journey came to Chiang Mai. She was here to do a vapasana retreat, a silent meditation, at Doi Suthep. She also did this crazy visual experience that she was trying to get me to do, but I for some reason resist these things quite a bit. I till haven’t had a Thai massage here either.. We hung out a lot when she was free, and I drove her to the airport and was sad to see her go.
I could write a whole thesis statement on where my mind is these days, but suffice it to say that it rests very little on the thought of renewing my Visa. If somebody could explain the reason for this whole Visa thing I’d be very interested to hear, because to me it really has no sense to it at all. Pay money to the government to… pay more money to stay in the country (lodging, eating, traveling, etc.). Isn’t tourism like a stimulation of the economy? Shouldn’t governments give us like a coupon for 50% off our first meal in their country? I get that they don’t really want foreigners to come and make their new home in their country unrestricted (foreign invasion etc.), so maybe this has something to do with it. You know, protecting the purity of the country and all…
So Christmas Eve Day I had planned to go to Doi Inthanon (2-3 hrs south) on my scooter with friends Nat and Janpen, but on the 23rd I realized in the evening that my Visa had to be renewed the next day in Mae Sai (5 hrs north). I told this to Janpen, who said: “No problem, let’s go!” Nat wasn’t interested in such a long haul. 10 hrs later my Visa run north into Myanmar through Chiang Rai was finished. I spent most of it shivering behind the handlebars trying to do Jedi mind tricks to warm my body up. Two days later, on the 26th, I had a full blown fever and was in bed all day watching movies.
Christmas was much different than mom’s cozy Christmas dinner table, but still lovely in it’s own right spent with Janpen. I think we were both still exhausted from the day before’s Visa run. I forget what we ate, but it was accompanied with strawberry wine that I had picked up North in Mae Sai, it being kind of what the region is known for. I wasn’t impressed with the wine, as it was too sweet and too strong, like a fruity port. As one drives along the highway, there are dozens of stalls that one can stop at, all directly in the sun but with shading up so maybe it had had too much sun. Even Aunyuong who knows the wine said it was a bit stronger than she’s used to.
One of the local indigenous peoples, the Hmong, had a week long celebration of New Years. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t celebrate the Thai New Years, which happens in April I believe. I think it was mostly local city folks who bought their Hmong clothing and wanted an excuse to wear it around, but perhaps it was just the celebration I decided to attend as I believe it was happening all over the countryside. I have long since stopped feeling like I stick out like a foreigner, but if I did, I might have been a bit uncomfortable watching people walk back and forth in their beautiful costumes and taking selfies everywhere.
They did this cool courting game where they tossed a ball back and forth in a big long line. When I was younger, we just slow danced extra close…
I recovered from my flu before New Years, which was spent with Janpen, Aunyuong, Dale, and Mild on the rooftop of my apartment building. We had a little bbq up there, table and chairs, guitar, wine, beer, chips, and cameras. It was a very special evening spent with some of my closest friends here with a panoramic view of the entire city of Chiang Mai that had fireworks from multiple locations going off. We stayed up very late playing guitar, singing songs, and chatting happily about all things of life.
A week later I was sick again with a cold that a few of my friends were sick with, too. They say people often mistake flu with food poisoning, but there was no projectile evacuations so without that I’d never suspect either of my colds to have been the food. But, who knows.
Anyways, around the 12th or so I was running at about 100% again and fully active. It was at this time that my friend Aunyuong told me that her brother’s small streetbike was just sitting in the garage and she said that I could use it if I wanted to. Being a rather thrifty person, with the option to save some money, I said heck ya. I drove around the block for 20 minutes getting the hang of manual again, and promptly returned my scooter. A clause in the scooter contract was that there was no returns, but luckily I was personable in my entire dealings with the owner and she was in a good mood, so she said that if she could re-rent the scooter she would give me most of a refund, which a few days later I did get. I know you’re reading this mom, please don’t worry, it’s max speed is less than the scooter at ~ 70 km/h and I drive slowly and carefully. I think I look kind of funny on it, me being a bit bigger than the target user.
Late January, Janpen, G, Tak, May, Mordecai, and myself all woke up super early and got into G’s SUV and drove to Doi Inthanon. Quite a beautiful place to go and see that’s about 2 hours south of Chiang Mai. It is called Thailand’s highest peak at 2,565 m (8,415 ft). Read on a sign and also taken from Wikipedia: “This mountain is an ultra prominent peak, known in the past as Doi Luang (‘big mountain’) or Doi Ang Ka, meaning the ‘crow’s pond top’. Near the mountain’s base was a pond where many crows gathered. The name Doi Inthanon was given in honour of King Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai, who was concerned about the forests in the north and tried to preserve them. He ordered that after his death his remains be interred at Doi Luang, which was then renamed in his honour.” When we got near the top, we stopped for a hike on the Kiu Mae Pan Trail that took us about 3 hrs to do. It weaved through the ‘trees of the cloud’ forests, which is similar to a tropical rainforest with roots, vines, moss, and a thick canopy, and came out at a peak with a view of the whole valley. This could very well have been the top (which it wasn’t) for the views it offered were spectacular. I hope before I leave to go back for there are waterfalls and a Royal Project (I believe these are government or King sponsored projects as I see them everywhere I go) garden that I’d love to see, too.
Korn also closed Jojo Smoothies and now I feel like I’m wandering around blindly every day wondering where I’ll get a smoothie from.. I miss seeing Korn every day, and I miss his smoothies too.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to conclude my trip here in South East Asia, as I have about a month left now. I return to Canada on March 14th. I have entertained the thought of: heading south to the ocean and enjoying the beach down there; doing a full loop from Chiang Mai, into Laos, over to Hanoi, Vietnam, down the coast to Da Nang, then on further to Ho Chi Minh, up to Phnom Phen and Ankor Wat, then back over to Bangkok, Thailand where I will fly home; or just staying in Chiang Mai where I still have lots to explore and friends to share my time with and also the opportunity to save money that I won’t be spending on expensive buses and hotel rooms.
I decided I will stay in Chiang Mai. So, I’ll be here until the start of March, at which time I’ll migrate to Bangkok and head home. I think I knew this in myself for a while, but I can’t help but feel I’ll be subject to ridicule from people along the lines of: “You were so close to ___ and you didn’t go?!” Yes, yes I was. But I still had many experiences.
I have started a collection of tools that I’ve bought here ranging from 1/2 to 1/10th the price that I would be able to find in Canada that will be very useful on the farm. This collection is growing and causes a little complication of adding another fairly large suitcase to my assemblage. Mailing it home would probably mitigate the entire savings I’ve accumulated so far, flying with it is free for me. Back in Canada, dad also bought our farm truck that I’ll be driving across Canada this spring when I return home.
I am getting very excited for starting the farm and nearly everybody I talk to here in Chiang Mai I tell about with excitement, giving me encouragement and positive ideas. The lists I’ve started building is overwhelming at times, but good thing I have the whole family to help – both me helping them in their plans, and them helping me in my plans.