Showing posts with label Chiang Rai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chiang Rai. Show all posts

Our Thanksgiving in Chiang Rai ...

I will let the pictures do the talking this time.  It was a lovely meal with friends, in a beautiful location on the River.

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.

Doi Din Dang Pottery, Yesterday ...

Yesterday found us dropping in on our favorite pottery place in Chiang Rai, in search of gifts and a cup of coffee.  So much to choose from and so hard to decide.

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.

Four Thai Girls and the Farang...

The girls are gone and my duties diligently discharged.  Day one, saw an early departure from home, arriving at the airport just in time to collect our three guests.  Off to Doi Chaang for coffee and breakfast before starting a day of sightseeing.  Black Village was first on our list before heading off to Doi Tung to visit the Garden and Royal Villa.  While I joined the girls on the stroll around Black Village, at Doi Tung my preference was to find a quiet seat with a view.  From there I could sip my Doi Tung coffee, enjoy the mountain setting and watch the parade of tourists, as I my wife and her friends shared some girl-time without me as a distraction.

After lunch we headed to the White Temple and then to the main market in town, to gather sustenance for the evening meal, back in the village.  We arrived home in time to settle in with a tour of the house and garden before preparing for dinner.  Our friend from Hawaii had stayed with us before but it was the first time for the other two.  The last time these four had gotten together was in Bangkok so it was nice that they went out of their way to fly up here to stay with us this time.

I feel it is important to find the right balance when we have visitors.  This was clearly a chance for the four girls to get together and my role was primarily that of facilitator.  My wife still feels uncomfortable driving alone, over distance or in stressful situations so it is understood that I will be the chauffeur for the duration of such visits, and fortunately I don’t mind, though I do find myself exhausted by the time they leave.  The animated conversation of four very talkative women can be a distraction while driving, however, and I did miss a turn or two along the way, unable to shutout what they were discussing.

Talk of the intimacies of relationships was restricted to when I was not present, I believe, but there was little else off limits when I was around.  Politics, Reds vs Yellows, Royals, family, friends, food, the past, the present and perceived differences between things here and in Isaan, where the three visitors were from, as well differences with the West.  I can no longer imagine what it would be like, surrounded for hours by an unfathomable noise, unable to participate in a meaningful way.

The most repeated observation about me, was how lucky my wife was (not sure if that was in reference to me or the house which they loved), and my inexplicable reserve and patience, in dealing with unexpected occurrences on our long drives and the sometimes long spells spent waiting for them in the truck.  You see I often remained in the vehicle to revel in the quiet and solitude of those moments, free of incessant conversation.  Not that I expressed such feelings to them, of course.

Exhausted from travel and sightseeing all had an early night and rose the next morning at a respectable hour.  We hung around the house until afternoon, before making a trip to the local marketplace followed by a very steep drive to the top of Doi Yao and down the other side, on a new yet even steeper and windier stretch of mountain road.  Sadly the haze has returned to the North and Phu Chi Fah in one direction and our village on the valley floor, in the other, were obscured from view.  Still it is a favorite little rest stop for us, amid a natural setting with a hill tribe village to drive through.

Later to bed and even later to rise the next day, we were off to a late start for a day that would have us dropping our guests off at the airport for their late night flight, before returning to a very quiet house and very lonely dog.  Trying to avoid some of the major road construction areas, we meandered through the back roads from Phaya Mengrai to Chiang Saen.  We came upon the river road very near Wat Phra That Pha Ngao so decided to take our guests up the hill to the chedi and the teak temple.  There is also an expansive view of the mighty Mekong River with Laos on the other side.

After and excellent riverside lunch, we proceeded to the Golden Triangle, where I once again stayed with the truck, while the girls did their thing.  Continuing along the river from there, we soon encountered some of the prolific roadwork in our region.  At first we engaged the four wheel drive and ventured on.  Before too long we were looking for alternatives that got us out of the dirt and back on to some windy backcountry roads.

Finally reaching the main highway between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, the pace picked up, until we reached the turnoff for Tham Pum Tham Pla or Wat Tham Pla.  Here at the base of the mountains, there are monkeys roaming wild looking for handouts, fish to be fed in crystal clear ponds and caves to be explored.  At first we had the place to ourselves but soon a tour bus unloaded its hordes in our midst.  Even that could not distract from our sense of peace and tranquility in this unique location.

With time to kill before heading to the airport, we found ourselves back at Doi Chaang, this time for a bit of sweetness and delight, in the form of cheesecake and apple pie.  Even with an early drop-off we arrived at our very quiet house, well after dark.  Today has been one of cleanup for my wife, while I have been processing pictures and writing. 

I must be looking very old these days, as my wife even found time to give we my weekly facial, which she recently reincorporated into my personal hygiene regimen.  We used to do that kind of thing more often, living in the big city.  So, now you are up to date with the goings on of the VF household.  Until next time...

Chiang Rai Flower Festival 2010…

With so much to choose from, I decided to focus on the perennial favorites, orchids and tulips.

Same location as last year, allowing them to expand further the already existing infrastructure.  In other words things are a little better sorted this year.  Well worth a visit.