“My ideal journey: set out early and never arrive.”
― Marty Rubin
Getting to Chiang Mai was quite the experience. I was so dead set on the idea of “arriving” that I did not fully have the opportunity to enjoy the journey. Yes, everyone was telling me from afar it was part of the adventure and somewhere in my mind, I knew that. Yet, that was still not the important part. The key I have realized in just this first week is I do not want to arrive. I want this journey of life to be just that, a journey with no real destination – the chance to experience and live all that this world has to offer.
Landing in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was a relief after the trip to getting here. Gathering my luggage and making my way through the airport, I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I stopped at the ATM to get some cash (Thai Baht) and this was my first experience, 60 USD is equivalent to about 1,815 Baht. Then it was time to find transportation. I started to wish that I had the foresight to book transport to my living quarters in advance because it was a madhouse around the airport. The wifi was not working in the airport so we could not use the Grab app. For those back home, this is their version of Lyft. So, Chuck and I went to a taxi counter and booked a ride. And we were off!
The unknown is often a very scary thing and part of this trip for me is about conquering that fear. I know myself and knew I needed to gradually come into this. That is why it was such a blessing to have Chuck along this first month. He was in Chiang Mai last year, so he kinda knows his way around. He had chosen Hub53 Coworking and Coliving for our home base. The accommodations are sufficient for my needs and the staff seems friendly. This part of town leaves a little to be desired, as there is just not a ton going on within a decent walking distance. Given the opportunity again, I would definitely stay in the Old City (more to come on that) area. The social aspect we were striving for in choosing coliving over a hotel, apartment or hostel is lacking. The “group” activities do not seem all that planned out for groups staying here, leaving a lot to you independently arriving and then finding the group. The couple of people I have run into are nice enough, but no one has been overly engaging. But, hey, it is week 1, right?!?!
Sharing meals is important in nearly every culture that has ever been. This is no doubt true for me and is the center of almost all of my social activities. I have been a fan of Thai food for years, but I must admit I was never overly adventurous in my choices. This journey of conquering my fears also means more adventurous choices in food. I must say, I may never be able to eat Thai food in the States again. I would love to detail all my meals, but in just the first week it would take pages. I will just say it is all so very good. I will be highlighting some of my favorites in separate posts in my food section along the way. I also have found my go-to place and they will definitely be getting their own post. Just know this, my worst meal was still really good.
Many of my adventures over the years have been after the sun goes down. There seems to be a magic in things once you are under the cover of night. That magic definitely comes alive in Chiang Mai once the night falls. This is never more evident than in the Night Markets. Booth after booth of food and wares. The vibe is electric and the smells are so strong, even I can smell them (I have not had a sense of smell in 2 years). Sunday Night Market in the Old City is by far the largest and my personal favorite of the 4 I visited in my first week. Yes, I went to 4 in one week. It took 4.5 hours to get through and I think we missed one section, but our feet and backs would not allow us to continue any longer.
From afar, I have seen photos, read about and dreamed of visiting the beautiful temples of Asia. Never in my wildest dreams were they as beautiful, intricate and awe-inspiring as they are in person. Temples are a staple all over the city. Some are tiny and in private yards. Some are enormous and filled with tourists. All are beautiful and worthy of a moment of your time. By far the best thing I have done so far in Thailand was the hike of Monk’s Trail to Wat Pha Lat and What Phrathat Doi Suthep. Wat Pha Lat was my favorite. It was quiet and serene, with breathtaking views. I took a few minutes to reset here and the calm that came over me was something I had never felt. Doi Suthep is a tourist locale, for sure. The temples and grounds are beautiful and the gold shimmers in the sun. The views from this location atop the mountain are out of this world. But you are shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of others all here to see it with you. I was privileged enough to be blessed by a Monk here. I was blessed with peace and reflection. My body was washed over with a feeling that I still have yet to find the words for. If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai and you do not make this trek, you have done a disservice to yourself.
So, I have made it to Chiang Mai, but I have not arrived because I am making life about the journey. This first week has been eye-opening and wonderful. Having this opportunity is not something I am taking for granted and my responsibility to myself has grown. I look forward to sharing more of my story with each of you.