|Tiffin boxes: part of the dark rituals of Buddhism.|
|I lived in soi 9. So did a lot of other hippies.|
I only expected to stay for two weeks. I had all these plans: I was going to stay in Chiang Mai for long enough to get re-assimilated to normal society and stop waking up at 5am to meditate, and then as soon as I'd gotten back to normal, I would go stay at Watra Songtham Kalyanee (Thailand's only feminist monastery, run entirely by fully-ordained women). I'd maybe go to Ayuthaya or maybe I might even go down to Phuket or something. I had a lot of time to kill before having to be in Bangkok for my flight to Canada on May 30. Time was a yawning gulf stretching out in front of me; I had nothing but time.
|You know what's weird? Pickaninny lawn ornaments in Thailand.|
Instead, I stayed in Chiang Mai for almost a month, and seemed to fill almost every waking hour with some awesome new thing. This was probably mostly because of the spontaneous and amazing friendship circle that rose up around me -- after the first week of meditating alone, walking around alone, and working in internet cafes a lot (although I did have a nice routine going), I suddenly fell smack into a vibrant social life.
|Usually once a day, these tuk tuk parades would go by.|
As an example of how perfect this was, I posted on the Chiang Mai couchsurfing forum looking for people who don't like drinking or staying out late, stating that I'd rather watch movies at someone's house than go to a bar, and rather do yoga than kegstands. Wave a magic wand and a week or two later I was getting invited to movie nights, making salad for dinner, and discussing asanas. Basically, it only took a few days for exactly what I wanted to land in my lap.
|Very! Emphatic! Sign!|
My Chiang Mai crew were primarily yogis -- through a complicated pathway of chatting with a teacher after class and slowly insinuating myself into activities (although this group is mostly amorphously hanging out with each other all the time: you go for dinner, they're all there...you want to go to the movies, everyone will come), I suddenly ended up being on the invite list for swimming pools, yoga practice, lunch at Pun Pun, and dinner at the macrobiotic restaurant. I was teased and hugged and welcomed and given a nickname. I was family. And then on top of the yogis, there was also Dustin, the computer film buff guy...you know, exactly who I've been best friends with my entire life. He and I went on a photo shoot adventure together (these remain the only photos I took in Chiang Mai), ate lunch, saw The Avengers, texted.
|Oh Buddhists. You sound creepy sometimes.|
Friends made Chiang Mai amazing. Chiang Mai is pretty great, with its organic vegetarian restaurants and friendly faces, its misting machines outside restaurants and beautiful looming mountain, at the top of which Wat Doi Suthep glowers down like a white and gold deity. Chiang Mai has leafy back alleys and open, airy houses with lush backyards. Chiang Mai is pretty good. Friends made it fantastic.
I can't really tell you what it's like, except for everything I've already mentioned. It's basically the best city in the world for me except for the oppressive humidity and constant mosquitoes: there are secondhand shops, markets where you can get an all-fruit smoothie put together especially for you for only 20 baht, a vegetarian buffet with fresh local food made daily for about 10 baht a plate, art exhibits, yoga yoga yoga. I got everywhere by cycling, a rickety fixie rented from my hostel. Even the rain was warm. If you could have made a town especially for me, I don't know how different it would have been. Maybe the rain would have been made of chocolate.