After about 4 years in Chiang Mai, I finally made the move. And what a move! I was so stressed out over our things making it in Kuhn Jan’s truck. I was fretting over the motorbike falling out of the truck as it seemed precariously perched on the tailgate. And I wondered how the office chair and desk were doing on the top of the truck cover.
But we did it. Kuhn Jan did it. Somehow we survived the mountains without a slip or a hitch. Oh, but how we sweated, I must have lost half my body weight in water that day.
Our first night here, we encountered a big storm complete with strong wind, rain, thunder and lightning (and blackout) so we had to close all the wooden shutters around the house. Was this normal? The following nights were tamer storms, but so far I’m surprised by how much cooler Chiang Rai is than Chiang Mai. I’ve learned CR receives twice as much rainfall than its more popular city down south. Should make for an interesting rainy season…
As I’ve previously posted, I lived in 5 different neighborhoods in CM. One of them was 14km from work in the bamboo woods. Affectionately dubbed by friends as the “cat cave” and not so affectionately dubbed as “a shithole” by another. It was a rustic cabin, to say the least. I battled Mother Nature and her elementals, and sometimes lived with power outages and other minor inconveniences that strengthened me in ways that I felt would surely come in use one day.
That day, I believe, has come.
My last place in CM was in the city center, conveniently close to everything, so I started walking to the market, work, wherever I needed to go. When I lived in the States, I was conscious of my commute time and enjoyed walking and cycling as much as possible. I didn’t want to use the car unless I had to. I know, how un-American of me. But walking in CM, for those of you who know, is challenging and often unpleasant.
At the beginning of 2013 (yes, it’s been that long), the wear and tear of the city was starting to get on my nervous system. The traffic pollution, the noise, the tourists, the lack of clear and clean walkways were hard tradeoffs to having friends and family nearby.
Work was overall, pretty good, but I felt the winds of change rustle the old leaves, and help the new ones to shine and wag in the light. It was time for a new challenge, new students, new colleagues and a new city that would foster the growth that I crave and enjoy. I think that is why I like teaching (and writing), you can get into a routine and you can experiment.
So it was time to move.
When I told my mom I was moving up here, I was pleased to learn that she lived in Chiang Rai for a couple of years when she was a teenager. (I’ll dig up more of that story later.) Although I first visited Chiang Rai in 2009 when I first moved to Thailand. My then boyfriend and I went on personalized tour to Doi Tung and the tea plantation of Mae Salong. We loved it.
In 2010, my friends and I drove up to the Golden Triangle and Mae Sai. That was another memorable trip because it was a new place for me. I like seeing new places. We stayed in CR, in the same guesthouse as when I was here in 2009 (the Ben Guesthouse). The guest house was bigger and had lost its old charm, but it’s an overall alright place to stay – very Thai.
Last year when I was thinking about moving up here, I took a better look at the city. It is unremarkable, as far as Thai cities go, which is saying, it’s rather average, but I was curious to learn about the other side of it, the side that goes unnoticed by passersbys. I tried to envision myself here. I wondered how I would fit in.
And a month ago, when I was looking specifically for a home, I indeed uncovered a little more, which seems natural since I received help and because I was making CR my new home. I think CR has more to offer than it first appears, but it’s all about what you want and what you are used to. As I sink my teeth into this town, I’ll be able to better compare CM and CR…stay tuned.
The neighborhood in which I live is about 4km from the city and work. I think our new home will be a good compromise between “cat cave” and urban downtown living. My partner is already impressed by my ability to live in a house surrounded by nature. (Secretly I think he was impressed I had a flashlight ready during the blackout, and was unfazed by the numerous bugs and lizards.)
But unlike my last house, and despite this place being so much more open, we are not getting inundated by mosquitoes (famous last words). It’s incredibly green. It’s quiet and feels safe. There are little stores and restaurants easily within walking distance, and folks are friendly in a small town way.
Folks are friendly in CM too. But when you live in a tourist town, with international backpacker scene, it has a different feel or vibe. Living in a local town such as CR will be the tradeoff to not having “Western conveniences” and will most likely spare my pocketbook and revive my Thai language skills. But who knows? I’m cautiously optimistic.