Why Chiang Rai and Not Hawaii? ...

Chiang Rai


I was tempted to answer the bigger question of why Thailand but that was not the form the question took and would have required a much longer backstory.  Chiang Rai is easier having lived here for a little over four years.  Still, the backstory goes back fourteen years to when I first met my wife.

Since the question did not include details of how we got together I will skip over that part, to where we had been together for over a year and were starting to get more serious wanting to grow our relationship in new directions.  I had always made myself clear on the subject of marriage and children but as our relationship grew I wanted to be able to share more of my world with her.  To that end it seemed a natural progression to visit my people and where I came from.

After a little research it became clear that as a girlfriend that option was not going to be open to us.  So instead of the traditional route of meeting my family first, we got married first and told people about it later.  That was nearly two years into our relationship.  Marriage is far from being a slam-dunk for entry to the USA so we did an end run and went for the Green Card.  Not having the burden of proving a negative, made obtaining a resident visa much easier than getting a tourist visa, as strange as that might seem.  At that point we had no idea what we wanted to do but the road before us and our potential options had just expanded greatly.

Our trips to Hawaii started off short and got as long as nine months at one point.  That was a major plus of condo life in Bangkok.  We could turn the key in the door and be gone as long as we wished.  Not long after we started traveling and spending extended periods with my parents, my mother began her long slow decline into the dark foreboding realm of dementia.

Travel for us was surprisingly affordable back then.  My parents had a very large, four bedroom condo on the Ala Wai within walking distance of Waikiki, beaches, parks and the zoo.  My mother’s car was seldom used so we ended up with free accommodation, transportation and adequate privacy in our living arrangement.  All of our money went to our pursuit of happiness not to fixed overhead.  The Baht was very weak so for a while I was able to fly us business class for nearly the same price I used to fly economy.

I was torn between wanting to spend time with my aging parents before things got worse, mired as they were in their state of denial, and a need to expand the horizons of my growing relationship with my wife.  Our answer lay in extended breaks of up to a month, on long drives through the scenic back roads and national parks of the Western states.  We fantasized about living in places like Bolder, Portland, Vancouver or Hawaii during this time.

We were living a great life and our options seemed limitless, but of course we all have limits.  There are self-imposed limits, limits based on our potential or lack there of, environmental and economic limits, just to name a few.  A hard look at our situation made it clear that startup costs for a move to my homeland, to be nearer my parents, would leave us with much less disposable income and a subsequent drop in our standard of living.  Besides my parents were not keen on the idea, as they denied there was any need for us to make such a move.

I came to understand that I was drawn to the adventure and romance of traveling with my wife, seeing the world anew through her eyes.  I was not interested, however, in the monotony of day to day life in an environment of growing regulations and the oppressive authoritarian attitude that so permeated every aspect of life and seemed to be growing exponentially.

Things took a dramatic turn when on a visit that was meant to be six weeks, turned into a six month ordeal of moving my parents into a retirement home and preparing the condo they had lived in for more than twenty five years, to be sold.  With hindsight it was clear that we were at least a year behind the curve when it came to the move, making it that much more difficult to accomplish.

Upon returning to Thailand I was struck with the realization that I no longer had a home to go to in Hawaii.  That safety net and sense of security that had always been there, in the form of my parents and our family home, was gone.  Though my parents were still alive, clearly the burden of responsibility and care was shifting and before long I would be the end of my line.

After ten years of condo life in Bangkok the wife and I yearned for something different.  For the first time in my fifty some years I wanted a home of my own.  Land, a big house, pets, toys and all the things that I had as a child but had done without during my bachelor days in Bangkok.  In Chiang Rai we could have it all and much of it could be paid for by the sale of our condo in Bangkok.  If anything, I am practical and calculating in all that I do.  We thought long and hard about it.  We talked endlessly of our options and the pros and cons of each.  The more we deliberated the clearer our path became.

Though my wife had a Green Card, a move to America would have been a move to a foreign land for both of us.  For nearly as long as it had been my wife’s home, Thailand had been my home.  There was nothing to return to in my homeland and the cost of starting over there was just too high.  The truth is, once my parents are gone I can’t imagine any pressing reason to return at all.

Apart from my parents and some financial investments, all that I am and all that I have, resides here in Thailand.  There really is no other place for me to go.  So comparing a few random pictures of Hawaii and Chiang Rai one might ask, why one and not the other.  That would be a very simplistic question based on a very superficial observation, however.  It did give me the opportunity to expand upon my life’s story and path, which I hope you have found entertaining.