I Love Chiang Rai, but...

As much as I love living in Chiang Rai it is not a bad idea to get out of town now and again.  It helps to remind one of the bigger world which exists outside the boundaries of our little paradise.  Our international travels have mostly been limited to yearly trips to Hawaii.  Traveling within Thailand sometimes takes the form of long road trips but more often than not comes in the form of a three hour drive to Chiang Mai to visit friends.

This last weekend we had friends from Hawaii staying in Bangkok, so we flew down to see them.  We hadn’t been to Bangkok for a couple of years due to turmoil in the part of town where we like to stay.  Even when flying to Hawaii we opted not to stopover in Bangkok to see friends on the last trip or two.  With the end of protests it is now fun to travel to Bangkok again.

Having lived in Bangkok for thirty years, before moving to Chiang Rai, I was astonished by the growth and change we encountered on this trip.  Despite my long history with Bangkok it no longer felt like home.  I am not complaining, much of the change was impressive, it just didn’t feel as familiar as before.

On our first night we had to search for our friends in a teeming mass of humanity at a festival in Lumpini Park.  Fortunately we were looking for someone who is very tall in a crowd of short people, other wise we never would have found them.  I am attracted to the beautiful hotels, restaurants and shopping malls in Bangkok so I found it interesting that people in Bangkok came out in what seemed like tens of thousands to enjoy an outdoor festival in the park.  Our friends really enjoyed themselves and we were very happy to be able to see them before they returned to Hawaii.

The people watching in the Central World, Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Center and Siam Square was fascinating.  Siam Square had been completely remodeled and was unrecognizable from the front.  People were generally much better dressed, better looking, more modern, younger and moving at a more energetic pace than one finds in Chiang Rai.  At sixty, I am no longer young but the mindset of many expats I have met here in Chiang Rai is incredibly old, conservative and intolerant so it was like a breath of fresh air to spend time with our more sophisticated Thai friends in Bangkok.

We still find that our best friends live in Bangkok and live such interesting and varied lives.  On popular Thailand forums, foreigners often complain about Thais, saying nasty things about them, but our friends are some of the kindest, most generous, most interesting and well mannered people you could ever hope to meet.  As hard a we tried, they simply refused to let us pay for anything.  Fortunately my wife had brought along some small gifts, as she always thinks of the important little things which I would overlook.

Life in Chiang Rai is beautiful, comfortable and one can enjoy more outdoor activities than one can in a big city like Bangkok.  Except for a couple of months when the burning of crops causes terrible pollution it is a healthier more relaxed lifestyle up here in the north.  Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to attract the kind of people I enjoy the most, at least not as year-round residents.  Fortunately we have friends who come visit us or spend part of the year in Chiang Rai and we can of course take short trips to see them when we feel the need.

During our three nights and four days we were able to catch up with only a few of our very best friends.  Great friends, unbelievable food, beautiful surroundings, stimulating conversation and lots of photos to post on FaceBook, all without the aid of alcohol.  It was a whirlwind of activity and dramatically different to our lives in Chiang Rai.  There are things I miss about Bangkok, and I loved every minute we spent there, but I have to say I am really glad to be home.

Here are a few photos borrowed from my wife's FaceBook page.

High-Tea at The St. Regis Bangkok.

Enjoying an exceptional view in Bangkok.
Bangkok friends.
Hawaii friends.
Late night street food.

Mango and sticky rice.
Good friend.

Great wife.