Chiang Rai, Transformed ...

On March 30, 2011, Chiang Rai was transformed from a sleepy, rural, backwater, into a sleepy, rural, backwater, with a fancy new shopping mall.  Central Plaza offers new options for food, clothing, electronics and services while consolidating many of the preexisting merchants into one beautiful location.  Finally we have a department store, Starbucks, McDonald's and an expanded choice of restaurants.  I will be frequenting the various coffee shops and restaurants but probably not the hamburger joints.

Sure, there will be those who bemoan the arrival of such a place but it in no way detracts from what is already here.  It merely adds to it.  We skipped opening day, knowing it would be a traffic nightmare, opting instead to visit on the following day.  Bumped into many friends and saw many more unfamiliar farangs than usual.  Almost without exception, we all commented on how we felt transported to somewhere other than Chiang Rai.  It was a surreal feeling of stepping into a much more civilized place, in some faraway city.

The experience was entirely lost on the five family members we had in-tow on the day.  It is not a regular occurrence that you will find VF playing chauffeur to Mrs. Vf’s family but Songkran is approaching and the wife wanted to take them into town for some New Year shopping.  I dropped them off at their much preferred local markets, to do most of their shopping.  Free from having me as a distraction, they are reported to have had a great time.  Afterward they joined me at the new mall where I had been surveying what was on offer and visiting with friends.  Upon their arrival at the mall and during a quick tour, for the most part the family shuffled around feeling completely out of place.

Yesterday found me once again sitting in Starbuck’s, visiting with friends both old and new, after a ride into town on the Ninja.  Having lived in Bangkok for thirty years before moving to the Rai, I like these kinds of places, but never would have imagined that we would have such a beautiful location so soon.  So I still have my pastoral setting where I live, plus new comforts and conveniences less than an hour away.

While presently an inconvenience in some areas, roadwork is continuing at a frenetic pace in our region.  A new golf course is well on its way and buildings are coming up everywhere.  Hopefully, we have some time before we end up looking the way Chiang Mai does now.  Of course there will always be a comparative size difference, no matter how much Chiang Rai grows.  As Chiang Rai expands, I may end up looking quite clever, in my choice of location.  What appears to be distant and remote today, may one day be on the outer fringes of a growing city.

Not one to be nostalgic, I will make the best of whatever comes.  It is all about how you choose to look at things, and lamenting the passage of time is a futile waist of time.