Thailand is like the American Wild West. This is my epiphany. Trying to explain why I like it here has been an exercise in watching, wondering and patience. Since I have spent many years contemplating the perfect place to live, I have discovered that the cost of living, the friendliness of the people, both the Thais and expats have made Chiang Mai a great place to be.
But, to be certain, Thailand has that Wild Wild West feeling which I have eluded to before. If I take this comparison ever further, I realize this is what I truly like about Thailand.
I grew up watching Spaghetti Westerns and my favorite books were the Sunfire series. The main characters were girls in historical settings, like the American West. The girls always went through some adolescence to adulthood transformation and they always were spirited as good heroines should be.
Caroline cut her hair and pretended to be a boy so she could follow her brothers on the California Trail. Josie put her life in danger for the Pony Express, and Amanda went unwillingly on the Oregon Trail to emerge as a true pioneer.
Maybe that is why I spent 6 years in Colorado. I fell in love with the mountains on a family road trip when I was 13, and vowed to return for college. Folks thought I was brave to go to a school and a town, I never visited, but I did the research. It was a small school, in a small town, in the mountains, and Fort Lewis College had my major: archaeology. What else did I need to know?
Now, that same word – brave – is being uttered when friends learn I live in Thailand. I suppose it is a brave thing to leave home, to leave the territory you know, for the unknown. But just like those who went to the town of Independence to head West, there is this promise of a new beginning and adventure that I find irresistible.
Motorbikes are the horses and the primary mode of transportation. Your bonnet is your helmet. At least it’s mine, and I have to check to see there isn’t a bee in it before I put it on.
Businesses come and go. Businesses are mobile too. Prostitution and families live side by side, and bargaining is a way of life. You can’t always find everything, like you did back home, so you have to do a little searching sometimes. And if that doesn’t work, then you learn to live without or get creative.
Tailoring and laundry services are abundant, but I’ve yet to find a place for a 5 cent bath. I suppose it is not something I’ve needed, yet. Friends and folks pass through at a train station rate. And if you live in Chiang Mai, well, you know, it’s one dusty town.
I’ve watched the locals outrun the law and the law, for the most part, minds its own business. Canned beans are expensive so I buy them dry and soak them. It’s a bustling town though and experiencing a boon. I see new buildings going up and construction all around me. Books are heavily circulated and recycled among us expats, and hats with brims are a good idea for the strong Thailand sun.
It’s not for everyone. I suppose it depends how civilized you like it. I like it civilized enough. But I haven’t been here but 2 years. Perhaps if I can’t stake my claim then I’ll move on – again.