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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Chiang Mai...Life in the slow lane for a while

THAILAND | Sunday, 28 September 2008 | Views [2106]

Since my last post nothing much has been happening. It is good to be 'off the road' for a while to re-charge, as I can spend my days doing simple stuff and relax for a change. Some days I just read a book, the present one being A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. An interesting book about dispelling the limiting factors that govern the human race's view on themselves...the so called 'Ego'. It isn't earth shattering in its message, but most messages rarely are...just common sense. The opening premise is that we attach labels to things from our first words in life such as your own name, and from that point onwards continue to be restricted by those labels in our depth of understanding of the world around us. To rid yourself of those restrictions brings a depth of understanding of who you are. May all sound a bit nebulous, but it is worth a read.

Also been making some nice contacts in the area to find out what life is really like here. Many opinionated people around as you would expect, especially from an expat community. Don't want to settle in amongst too many expats, as that would be like bringing England to Thailand, but with a better climate! There is a compromise here though.

Sunday was street market day as usual. The whole length of Rachedamnoen is closed off and becomes a wonderful strip of stalls referred to as a 'walking street'. Selling good quality merchandise, and plenty of side areas selling so much good food to try that you could burst at the seems! Amongst the stalls are musicians giving the place a beautiful atmosphere. I was taken by a truly beautiful girl singing traditional songs at one of the crossroads, accompanied by an excellent guitarist. Very captivating.

A great place to hang out on a sunday night is right in the middle of the market street at the Garden café. Live blues music from 8pm until near midnight depending on how they feel. Had a nice evening talking to a philosopher/journalist from the netherlands and a guy into the oil business plus a chat to the lead singer/guitarist of the band about picking up a second hand guitar while i'm here.

Simple things...I recently got a hankering for cheese and biscuits....don't ask why, just fancied some. What a struggle to find a shop selling cheese nearby. Eventually I gave up and got some cheese slices as the nearest thing I could find. Took the food back to my room to have before bedtime and left some on the side table. When I woke up, the room was crawling in the biggest nest of ants I had seen in ages...seems as though i'm not the only one with a hankering for cheese and biscuits!

Got some bad news this morning. Victoria who has only parted to go south a few days ago, has been bitten by a dog and had to go to hospital. A course of injections for the dog over the next month and a bloody and bruised wound for Victoria (only joking Victoria). Wanted to be there to give her a cuddle :-(

Found a good place for breakfast at the Gatehouse Inn by the Tha Pae moat. Not the cheapest but good.

Had enough of the ants and had to move rooms as they were making me nervous. Couldn’t sit anywhere and everything I moved revealed another army waiting to annoy me. At least the new room has beds off the floor rather than the futon style.


Whilst having a coffee and cake in a local café I picked up a magazine that had some interesting articles. One was about a bit of scaremongering going on in the south about the potential for Bangkok to flood following extreme rains. It was saying that some people are panic-buying non-perishable foods and wind-up torches in case they are cut off for weeks or months. Many people are also relocating up north…not necessarily a good idea as there is also warnings that things aren’t so good up here either, as Chiang Mai is on an earthquake fault line and also there is risk of flooding when China decides to open the floodgates when it fills its dam projects. All a load of rubbish according to other evidence, but there is always going to be some doom merchants who will predict the worse.

Another article was about the miracle herb Jiagulan (5-leaf ginseng, poor-man's ginseng, southern ginseng, miracle grass, fairy herb, gospel herb). From China. Referred to as the immortality herb and supposed to make its takers live to in excess of 100 years old. It doesn’t say how much you are supposed to take and what happens if it doesn’t work? Do you get your money back? Who will you claim against?....Food for thought! I would also have to ask whether I would want to be immortal? Will put some thought into an answer to that question…..42! (For non- ‘Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ fans….the answer to the ultimate question is 42….But what is the ultimate question?....need the ultimate computer to work that one out).


I sometimes wonder what unusual things some people do with their spare time…Write silly articles for small inserts for newspapers that’s what.

Some useful information….did you know that the dot over the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle. Now that’s a sweet word isn’t it!

Did you know that an average of 12 babies per day are given to the wrong parents…how did they find that out and how long did it take….or did they just never admit it and let them carry on with the wrong child?

Alcohol makes a scorpion go mad and sting itself to death…lots of students out there with a weird sense of humour and thought it was worth seeing what happened! What happens if you give it red bull instead?


Had a Dental appointment late afternoon at the V-Smile clinic near to Tha Pae gate to get some fillings sorted out and check on the costs of some future dental work. A very good service but not as cheap as I expected it to be. I had a couple of fillings – more like repairs to chipped teeth, and that cost 1200 Baht for about an hour’s work. I might have a bridge made to fill in a gap and the average prices work out to about 17,500 Baht although she did say to expect to pay 20,000 when all finished. The big problem is that it would take a number of visits over a period of many weeks to complete and will not be spending that long here this time. Maybe if I come back another time I will have it done then. In contrast, If you have a plate made with teeth attached, then a plate with one tooth is about 3,500 Baht plus 300 Baht for each additional tooth. There are generally some extra hidden costs but they don’t amount to much. One final option available is a dental implant where the gap left by a missing tooth is filled with a stud fixed into the bone and a tooth fitted on top. They cost between 50,000 and 70,000 Baht per tooth and take an age to get done – upto 3 months! Mainly due to the effect on the gum settling down and repairing before the final tooth can be fitted. It is a serious outlay if you were to have many teeth done, but for some people it is the only way as you end up with perfect teeth.


Later in the day a nice meal at the Mayflower Restaurant on Loi Kroh road. It could be easily missed squashed in amongst the girlie bars, but great food. I was aiming down towards the river to visit a couple of music bars offering live music and jamming sessions. Luckily I took a random turning down one of the side roads to see what was there and came across a really nice cooking school/gallery/massage place and got talking to a lovely girl who was involved in all three. We got on so well she decided to come for a walk and we ended up at the Guitar Man restaurant where I had originally been aiming for. A super night’s entertainment where anyone can get up on stage and entertain…I joined in with one of the guitarists and did some singing plus dancing with the girls and some nice wine to set the atmosphere. Will probably be going back armed with a guitar to do some playing when I get one! It was a lovely night with a nice cool breeze, so went for a walk down across the river and found the Brasserie bar, where a band was still playing some bluegrass music at 1:30am. Stayed till they finished, and then walked my friend kan home to her place and chatted for a while before I set off back to my place.

Close to the guest house I saw a girl crying in the back of a tuk-tuk, so went over to see what the matter was. She was only a young girl, maybe in her 20’s and was lost. She had an idea what her place looked like but didn’t know what it was called or where it was. Also, she had split up from her friend who also wouldn’t have known where it was. From the description she gave I knew where it was as I had stayed there myself, so calmed her down and walked her back there. This is where a quirk of some people’s behavior causes question…When we got there, I wanted to see if her friend had returned. She hadn’t, but a guy they were travelling with was. He was completely out of his head and still drinking…this was 2:30am now! He was totally disinterested in the fact this other girl wasn’t back and would only get involved if she bought him another ‘good quality’ beer. There wasn’t much that could be done. In a town with many roads all looking the same and she didn’t even know where they had split up let alone where she was staying, you could walk the streets for hours and not find someone. The only way was to wait and see if she came back. Don’t know what eventually happened as she wanted to be left to wait, so left her to it.


Tue 23rd Sep - A late start this morning but headed off for a massage, first since I’ve been here this time. Relaxed and rejuvenated……Had a nice Mexican meal at the Toro bar on Loi Kroh chatting to the owner about why nobody in Chiang Mai seems to do Salsa when some play the music but have no idea what Salsa dancing is. Seems like another opportunity there. I know of a girl who is running Salsa/ballroom classes here and will have to make contact to see where I can dance.


Met up with Kan again in the evening and went to the cinema to see the ABBA musical Mama Mia. A superb movie with some great actors such as Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Piers Brosnan to name a few. For anyone who likes ABBA music, it is fantastic fun. We were the only two in the cinema! When we came to leave, the lights were off in the building complex and the attendants were waiting for us to leave to lock the place up! Outside a group of youths were practicing traditional Lanna style thai dancing. Kan was well versed in this so gave me a demonstration. It is a very graceful and attractive dance style. Off for a drink at Babylon…a collection of bars playing rock music in one, Reggae in another….I would have let my hair down but I haven’t got any so had a good boogie instead!

A standard nightly thought crosses my mind when I’m walking around this area - In this case back to my guest house at nearly 1am….There are so many middle aged and upwards guys with pretty thai girls on their arms and in a daydream thinking that they have made it and it will all be rosy and they have found the girl of their dreams. All most of the girls want is their wallet and will freely tell them so when they are asked. It is an easy trap to get into, as this place is a money bucket and cash can vanish quicker than a thai girl that’s been told you have no money! But every night there are countless guys going through the same well rehearsed play, saying the same well rehearsed chat-up lines and getting the same well-rehearsed responses….where are you from, how long have you been here, when are you leaving, are you married, you want massage, will you buy me a drink, etc etc It is shallow, but for the guys who are involved they are happy…. maybe…because reality then strikes! When it is over and the bars close and you then realize that your wallet is much lighter than when you started the evening, and your heart is emptier than when you started the evening….what then? Do it all again tomorrow? And the night after that?
Now you may wonder what any of this is leading towards? Well, I don’t want to be like any of the other middle aged guys (I’m 48 now), with the same heartbreak night after night. Sometimes I succumb a little and have some fun with the girls and a few drinks whilst playing pool, but at the end of the day, It is all very shallow and I leave before it goes too far. They end up disappointed of course as they have lost another paying customer who is feeding money into their cash-tills…but there are plenty of others to take over. To meet someone genuine in a town like this isn’t easy. You would never be certain whether they were only in it for the money as with a fair percentage of the women when confronted with a westerner…we must all have an aura of dollar signs radiating from us! The genuine ones are a treasure and hard to find I guess. I have been lucky to have spent the last day or so with a lovely local lady who has sound principles and a good heart. Why is it that I never feel that I am with the right person in the right place at the right time? Seems a common flaw that stems from the break-up of my marriage and subsequent relationship problems that always haunt me whenever I get too close to someone. It is easy to travel and keep moving on…so easy, that it is hard to stop moving on as there is always another place to go to. Some of the reading I am doing at the moment is aimed at trying to not provide answers to this sort of question, but help me find it out for myself, but not the hard way.

Time will tell I guess?


Wed 24th Sep – My breakfasts are getting later by the day as I stay out until late every night. This morning’s breakfast started at 11:45am! Started listening to the ‘Let’s Speak Thai’ Tracks that I have downloaded onto my iPod whilst I was having my breakfast…A difficult language that will probably cause me quite a headache to learn but want to give it a go - especially important if I choose to live here.

After breakfast I got talking to a nice Glasgow lady, currently living in Thailand but heading to Australia to live. Was a very inspiring conversation so we re-convened to Starbucks to get into the cold as Eleanor needed to cool down, and carried on our conversation over a nice latté. Turned into a rater spooky event as she was a very tuned in lady with an insight into people that most of us don’t understand. Now, I am a bit of a sceptic when it comes down to this sort of topic, but I try to keep my mind open that there might be concepts that I just don’t understand. Recently on my return trip into Chiang Mai, I was discussing with Victoria a proposed way of life that I was piecing together here. Just rambled on and a potential plan emerged. As the conversation with Eleanor progressed, virtually a total stranger, she was piecing that same scenario together without any guide from me at all. Not going to say any more in case I sound like I’m going loopy.


Prickly Heat powder….Snake Brand…. Now that’s another story!! Well actually, it is another story. Eleanor popped into a pharmacist to buy a large canister of it as she suffers from heat rash, not uncommon in this type of climate. She had also bought a small tin of it and later gave it to me as a gift. Not sure I need it as I don’t suffer from prickly heat. The strangest gift I have ever received from someone though!


Barbeque in the evening with Kan and her daughters plus friends and other children. 140 Baht for as much as you can eat. Each table is provided with a sort of hotpot cooker consisting of a solid fuel heater with an aluminium heating tray on top which has a water well for cooking fish and a section for cooking meats. Choose your food from the buffet and cook as you go. A superb selection of fruit and a crazy variety of sweet stuff for desserts. Felt stuffed afterwards but satisfied. Kan sent the children off home and we walked back to town and finished up at the great ‘Roots’ Reggae bar. Some great dancing until late and good buzz with everyone up boogying as the music warmed up to its finale.

One thing I am now used to in Asia is the proliferation of children selling stuff at ridiculous times of the night, rather than being in  bed. Kids probably as young as 5yrs of age selling threaded perfumed garlands for 5 or 10 Baht in the bars. Their mothers are possibly around but don’t see them. They are real characters and will play with you if you are ok with them. I do feel sad that they are in this predicament, but this is pandemic throughout and will not vanish unless something dramatic changes the situation.


Thu 25th Sep  - Yet another late start today, but felt great. On with my iPod and a good book in hand and hit the streets…first stop breakfast and then off to do some exploring and ‘watting’…that is visiting wats / temples. Been here for a long time now and still finding places I haven’t seen. It’s nice to get so many smiles when walking along as I must have a permanent grin on my face as I walk. Some great music to orchestrate the sights to. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur with doing a bit of writing and then a night out as usual. A funny thing happened on my way back to my guest house…was passing a bar on Loi Kroh road and stopped for a chat to a guy sitting at a table. A rather stroppy looking woman came up to me and pushed me in the chest with a vicious look on her face. I restrained her and just stood and looked at her…she backed off. Totally unprovoked…she was stoned out of her mind as I found out and happened to be the manageress! Apparently, she got like that often and probably mistook me for someone else. Not the best way to treat customers anyway. Some odd people around here. The guy I was talking to said that he had lived here for two years and didn’t understand it. One day they are great, the next they have gone weird and nasty. Probably due to a life of late nights, excessive drinking and being surrounded by strange foreigners all the time!

The highlight of my evening though, was being able to talk to my youngest daughter Katie in the UK on a video link. Hadn’t seen her for a while, so that was a treat. At 12 years old, she has turned into a young woman and a beautiful one at that…not biased of course!


Fri 26th Sep – No idea what I did today other than reading and playing on my laptop, and a bit of socializing. Average day then….


Sat 27th Sep – Was hoping that my replacement credit cards (the  would arrive at the local post office today. They hadn’t, so have to be patient now until the beginning of next week as they close on Sundays. Cannot really go anywhere until I have my finances back in order. I am hoping that the ‘Poste Restante’ system works here. Should be ok I hope as they have been sent express secure recorded delivery.


One of the best gadgets I bought this year was a small laptop. Had resisted for a long time but it has proven to be a great assistance in many ways. Not just for writing blogs on, but for photograph processing, music etc. The only thing is that it is hard to resist just one more hour doing things…and then before you know it, time has disappeared into the great void! Wouldn’t be without it now though.


After visiting the post office to find my package hadn’t arrived, I went on a long walk around yet another part of town I hadn’t visited before. Part way along Charoen Pratet road is the superb Chedi hotel. A top end place with cool layout inside…Went for a walk around it and took loads pof photos. Will stay there one day when I feel rich! Further along the same road is Wat Chai Mong Kol, Which also happens to be the place where the River Ping cruises start from. A really attractive Wat worth a visit.


What better after a long steamy walk..it’s about 31 degrees Fahrenheit today…scorchio!...than a nice oil massage for a couple of hours. Managed to catch up for a nice conversation with a friend in the Philippines and the day has almost disappeared again.

Went to the Guitar Man bar again in the evening. Being Saturday night, it was more lively than normal and had a good line-up of performers. I have been meeting all sorts of people recently. One guy this evening had lived here for many years and doesn’t work anymore. Instead he gambles on-line throughout the day playing poker and uses his winnings to survive. Didn’t seem to have any money worries and just plays around with the girls of a night, most of whom are willing to strip a guy of every cent they have if they are willing enough to let them. The worse part of his situation, which I learnt from my friend and not him, was that he refuses to use a condom and many of the girls here have HIV. They may be lucky enough to be able to carry the disease without any external signs and survive it, whereas others could be dead within months. It struck me that some of these guys have no life and as such don’t care about what effect they have or what they do. Almost a self destruct mechanism and a bit sad really…come to Chiang Mai and drink and screw yourself to death!

Sun 28th Sep – Street Market day again. It is getting worse…didn’t get out of bed until 11:30am this morning and had breakfast when most people are having lunch. Need to change this as it is messing up the day. Need to get out and start doing things as soon as I have my financial situation under control again. Went off for a walk again and visited an apartment complex on the southern side of the moat called the ‘Smith Residence’. Can get a furnished kitchen apartment there for 8,500 Baht a month plus utility costs (400 Baht for internet, plus per unit electricity costs). Will mark that one up for future reference. It is too hot to walk around today, being in the lower 30 degree region again. Time to get in the shade and cool off and catch up with some writing…..

That’s it for now folks….



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