January 20, 2023
Last full day in Chiang Mai. There isn’t much that I feel compelled to do before I leave. I finally decided on walking to the only park in the old city. Once I got there it was closed off. In preparation for an upcoming flower festival. I tried to find another park but there’s no way around it- Chiang Mai is very urban. Parts of the city are quaint even though it’s a cement jungle. But there is not much reprieve from the incessant traffic and gray sidewalks and walls to be found on foot.
After a quick Google search, I found another park nearby and dodged traffic to get there. While it did look like a park, the traffic noise from the four Lane road next to it did not make it feel like a park. I opted instead to find an outdoor cafe. I definitely don’t need to eat more, but it seems to be the only option for an enjoyable outdoor experience. I settled on the Baan Bakery and walked against the three lanes of incessant traffic. Hopefully it’s worth the walk.
I really wanted to like Chiang Mai. 10 years ago. I even imagined moving here. All I knew about it then was that it’s the hub for many digital nomads. I think it still carries that reputation as there are lots of co-working spaces. Some that are co-living and co-working spaces. A serious digital nomad could live and work here very cheap.
Made it to Baan Bakery. It does appear to be a little oasis in this city. I ordered a peppermint tea and orange Danish for 65 baht ($1.98) and began to read outside. Still picking up constant sounds of traffic, more sensitive to it now that I put so much effort into avoiding it. Made the most of my time here before deciding to enjoy the tranquility of my hotel courtyard. I picked up some fresh mango which has been my lunch everyday here in Chiang Mai.
Around 530 I left for a Go With Less meetup across town. I don’t know anyone in this group, but it appears to be people who are centering their lives around travel. We met at the Kalare Night Bazaar, with perhaps every other tourist in Chiang Mai. Mihaela, Jack, Miki, Steven and others welcomed me into the fold. We swapped introductions before getting into deeper details of how we got to be able to travel more long term. Many of them recently retired and were enjoying their newfound freedom from uninspiring work. It was really nice to meet everyone and I hope to run into them again sometime. Sadly I forgot to take any pictures of the group or the Kalare Night Bazaar.
On my walk back to my hotel I passed a woman asking for money in the street. This is the first person I’ve seen in Thailand asking for money. I walked past her, immediately feeling a surge of guilt. Here I am, extremely fortunate to be in this beautiful country where everything is extremely inexpensive to me, and I can’t spare a little of mine that could mean so much to her? I found the biggest bill I had and walked back and gave it to her.
The rest of my walk I felt quite guilty. Guilty that I initially passed her, guilty that such extremes exist and that I do little to lessen them. Guilty that I get to see the best of Thailand while some who were born here will never get to experience it. Then I thought of the positives that occur when women have money. They are less likely to be in abusive relationships, less likely to have unwanted pregnancy, more likely to help others. I need to continue to separate myself from my own wants to help others meet their needs. Heavy thoughts.