Showing posts with label City Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label City Life. Show all posts

Speculation In Chiang Rai…

There is talk and speculation everywhere, as to what the future holds for Chiang Rai.  People seem to hold strong opinions on what will be built, when, where, by whom and what effect it will have on the future of Chiang Rai.  There are reports of the Chinese buying up land and driving up prices.  Our newest golf course, Happy City, was apparently developed by Koreans. 

Chiang Mai is still the primary destination for Thais escaping Bangkok but Chiang Rai is coming into its own.  Several Thai celebrities have properties in the area and we even have a few royals from Europe who spend at least part of the year on their own private estates, with one of them sponsoring football in the area.  We are slowly becoming a destination, not just a day trip or a stopover, on the way from Chiang Mai to Laos.

The new bridge over the Mekong near Chiang Khong is supposed to bring big changes.  There is talk of a rail line or two being built, from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and perhaps more likely from Chiang Khong to Denchai, but that talk has been with us for a longtime.  No doubt it will happen one day but I think it is still far in the future.  All this talk and speculation has got me looking back, not forward.  It started me thinking about how much has changed in the relatively short time we have been living in Chiang Rai, or Phaya Mengrai to be more precise.

Other than the bridge over the Mekong there have been two new bridges opened over the Kok River to facilitate traffic flow.  The bypass road which extends from the airport has opened two sections and it looks like a third is getting near completion.  I have heard another bypass road, on the other side of town, has begun construction but we don’t often get over that way, so I have not seen it myself.

Closer to home they have been widening the 1020 road from Chiang Khong to Thoeng and there is talk of another, yet to be built, road that may pass to the east of our village.  Landfill and roadwork seems to be constant and the roads to town are marked by the slow progress of heavily laden trucks hauling gravel from the quarries and dirt excavated from the hills.

The opening of Chiang Rai’s Central Plaza shopping mall has changed the shopping landscape and spurred other retailers to renovate and upgrade in order to keep pace.  New schools and restaurants have been added.  New housing developments are everywhere and now there is flurry of condo building.  I am not a football fan but I hear there are a couple of new stadiums in the area.  When we began our house they were still in the process of installing telephone lines, so the adsl high-speed internet I depend on, didn’t arrive until around the time our house was finished.

Living to the east of Chiang Rai we have perhaps been spared the most negative effects of development.  We enjoy the modernization in town but live far enough away, we only see it when we want to.  Close to us the biggest development has been the purchase of some 8000 rai of land between our village and the Ing River which has been planted with rubber trees.  Some rice land was lost but much of the purchase was scrub and prone to flooding, so the trees are a marked improvement.  Riding my mountain bike in the area, before, was a struggle and limited to the dry season.  Now the trees are getting bigger, there are trails everywhere and there is an interesting new embankment I rode on recently that helps to keep the river at bay.  The trees are tall enough to block views of landmarks, leaving me wondering where I am part of the time but with the trees boasting fresh young leaves it is a joy to ride through the plantation on the way home and I see real potential as a recreation area.

I have no idea how much of the new development and speculation will prove profitable for the investors.  Some think there will be increased traffic from China, while others think it will only be cargo trucks passing through as they head south, thus providing little benefit to the local economy.  I still stumble upon the ruins of old dreams from time to time on my rides.  Great ideas sometime lead to great folly and make for an eerie view of the gap between what could have been and what is.  I love riding through these resorts turned ghost-town but I am sure they represent a very painful chapter in the lives of others.

Since I began this post a while back, the smoke has become overwhelming and I have stopped all outdoor exercise until it clears.  My post about the burning from last year was republished by, with more people reading the post this year than last. 

I moved the mountain bike indoors and mounted it on the training stand.  Besides getting a little exercise while watching TV, I am playing with adjustments, trying to find the most comfortable and efficient riding position.  Now I know what I want for my next upgrade.  Here are a few pictures from my last couple of rides before things got bad.
Kok River near Chiang Rai.

Flowering tree spotted from the trail.
Ing River near the rubber plantation.

Nice road through the rubber trees.

Flood prevention embankment between the river and the trees.

One of the lesser used trails in the plantation.
With all the holes, not sure how long this embankment will last.

The Waiting Game ...

Sometimes I find myself waiting.  Take the other day for example, I was wandering around the Chiang Rai Mall as I call it, waiting for my wife who was having a treatment at a popular skin clinic.  I dare say my wife spends far less time waiting on me than I do on her.  That is a good thing I suppose, as I am much better at waiting than she is.

Now we all have our own little ways of coping with the wait.  Some read a book, or a newspaper, listen to music on their iPod, play games, use Facebook or chat on their iPhone.  In Thailand another option comes to mind as one can always find a foot massage or Thai massage, even in a mall.  I prefer to get lost in my own thoughts.  Sure I can’t help but notice what is going on around me and I can read volumes in the faces and interactions that unfold in social settings.  Still the main focus of my attention is inward.

I guess you could say I am no longer at a time in my life where I seek to read, absorb or explore the thoughts of others.  This is a time to form, explore and record my own thoughts and ideas.  For some there is no higher goal than to follow someone else.  Granted there were times in my past when I was taken somewhere I may not have discovered on my own. 

I was shown a door or two I hadn’t previously known existed but I walked through them on my own.  The idea of the modern GPS unit barking out detailed commands that keep me on a narrow path, guiding me to an unwavering destination, I find frightening.  An occasional wrong turn is what keeps life fresh and surprising. 

Some strive to build a life resembling a tower with one brick or accomplishment placed upon another reaching higher and higher.  As long as circumstances don’t cause it to come tumbling down, crushing us and perhaps others in the process, then one can claim to be the proud owner of that towering edifice. 

I imagine my own life to be more like a small stream following the contours of the earth as it meanders from its place of conception to its final resting place.  Will that will be a dry and desolate place or will I add a drop or two indistinguishable from the other drops that make up a more sizable body of water?  Most likely I will leave a faint path that will fade with time and eventually leave no mark at all.

Sometimes I ponder topics to write about and in the process of working through the ideas get to the end and realize I am not really all that interested in writing them down.  Before things would gnaw at me until I put it on the page.  Now it feels as though it is me who is gnawing on an idea trying to make something out of it.

Sometimes I find waiting is just another word for procrastination and putting off things we are afraid to do or just too lazy to do.  I was waiting for our pollution to get to an acceptable level so I could resume outdoor exercise.  At first the waiting was excruciating as my body ached to be outdoors.  After making the adjustment to being indoors and inactive it was hard to get started again when the weather changed.

Sometimes I suppose, waiting is the prudent thing to do.  Waiting for the light to turn green is clearly safer than the alternative.  Waiting for things to be just right, however, often leads to inertia and a wasted life spent dreaming of someday that never arrives.  I started writing this post thinking it was going to be about something different.  As I have waited for the main topic to come up the words have steadily crept down the page leaving me little room to expand on my original idea.

I thought I would be writing today about something more Thai in focus or dealing with my relationship to Thailand but I find that harder to do the longer I live here and the longer I pen this blog.  While other bloggers might focus on the minutia of all things uniquely and strangely Thai, I find that Thailand is simply the backdrop for my life and not the focus of it.

So now I am thinking perhaps I should wait for another day to ponder the Thainess of my blog.  After all I am good at waiting and perhaps by waiting I can find better words with which to express myself on what might be a fuzzy subject.

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.

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.

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.

Where to enjoy Coffee in the Rai ...

I am a coffee lover, and though indulging in coffee is relatively harmless, I do consider it a vice.  Being short of vices, one has to make do.  Making my own pot of coffee, in a rather large French press, left me drinking rather too much in the past.  In an effort to reduce my intake, coffee consumption is now restricted to public venues.  That means a minimum fifty kilometer drive, oneway.

I have by no means sampled every coffee venue in the Rai, nor do I intend to.  The cheapest place for anything, including coffee, is beyond my area of interest or expertise.  Flavor, presentation, ambiance and of course convenience are highest on my list.

Since shopping usually means a stop at BigC, among other places, my coffee fix is more conveniently found there.  S & P's, Blue Cup Coffee, is my favorite and just happens to be located there, but I can make do with Black Canyon Coffee, if perchance the wife would prefer eating lunch there.  A Blue Cup cappuccino is served in a signature white ceramic coffee cup, a bit larger than most and holds its foamy head well.  That is important if one wants to enjoy that unique cappuccino experience.  Neither of these two places have any ambiance to speak of, so it is down to flavor, presentation and mainly convenience.

The two main, Thai coffee brands, are Doi Chang and Wa Wee, both with their own coffee shops in Chiang Rai.  Doi Chang is arguable the better tourist or farang location, only a short walk from the Night Bazar area. 

Doi Chang is located on a convenient corner, in an older, slightly rundown building.  The decor wisely uses that to advantage with a rustic, relaxed feel.  The location, tight quarters, mismatched furnishings, a little garden/pond area at the entrance, as well as a couple of antique computers, create a place that seems to attract farangs.

Personally I like the muffins, and the food and pastry selection appears appetizing from what I have seen, but the cappuccino is served in a smallish glass cup with a brownish foam that I personally find unattractive and unappetizing.  At least it is not a paper cup, but neither is it a proper ceramic cup.  If you want to be among other farangs you will overlook the coffee presentation and substandard foam.  The cats, that sometimes make a leisurely perusal of the premises, (a Persian and a Siamese if I am not mistaken) add a homey touch for animal lovers.

Wa Wee is also located on a corner, but the parking area out front, can only be accessed by a oneway road not far from the famous Ha Yak intersection.  While convenient for bank and government workers in that area, it is not as convenient for many farangs.  Unlike Doi Chang, this place is very modern with a more Thai clientele.  Kind of a Thai version of Starbucks with clean modern lines, plenty of space and comfy seating options, that seem to appeal to a more upmarket Thai crowd.  Even the computers, Apple iMacs, say modern and trendy. 

The large cappuccino is served in a brown ceramic mug, which again, I prefer to a glass cup.  The food or snack selection did not appeal to me and the (order & pay) first, reminded me of Starbucks in Bangkok.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  The presence of Thais in office attire is in stark contrast to the sometimes colorful farangs one encounters at Doi Chang.  One can be fooled into thinking one is in a much bigger city.

Oddly enough, if a solitary outing on the Phantom leads me into town, the chances are you will find me at Doi Chang.  The reason being that more often than not, I will bump into someone I know or meet someone new.  A brief spontaneous encounter is something that suits me.  More typically I am with my wife when in town and less inclined to strike up a conversation with strangers so will be found in S & P nursing my favorite Blue Cup cappuccino.

The above mentioned locations are all located on my map.

(As an edit to this post we now have Starbucks and a few other coffee options at the new Mall.)

As of 2012 Chivit Thamma Da is my favorite place for coffee in the Rai.


City ...

The day begins differently in the city.  Step through the door of our friend's condo.  Negotiate a narrow corridor.  Step into a metal box and plummet nine floors to the chaotic world that awaits bellow.  Senses are bombarded by a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells.  Village smells are not all pleasant but they are separate, distinct and recognizable.  City smells are an altogether different beast.  Though of indeterminate source, they nonetheless permeate the air and linger on skin and clothing. 

City "trails" are made of concrete, brick and asphalt but are no less technical to traverse than an alpine scree slope.  As one progresses further down the soi the obstacles increase in number and complexity.  Vendors, storefronts, stands, tables, chairs, plants, poles, signage, animals, customers, pedestrians, cars, tuk-tuks, and motorcycles.  From above there are drain pipes, low hanging awnings and the ever-present confusing web of cables and wires, leading to who knows what from who knows where. 

Riding in a taxi it is perhaps best to distract yourself with music or conversation with a friend.  Whatever you do don’t watch the world passing inches from your window at speed.  If you find yourself on a boat on the river, then enjoy the views but keep your mouth from gaping in awe.  If one can make it to the Skytrain things begin to make sense.  Entering Paragon, Central World or one of the lovely hotel lobbies or health clubs we used to frequent and the world turns several shades of pretty.  People in these places bear little resemblance to village or street people.  Hygiene, attire, gait, style, demeanor and appearance make for an eye-catching dance of humanity at its most stylish. 

Shopping was frantic yet productive.  Meals were delicious.  Catching up and conversation with old friends, was warm and joyful, filled with laughter and remembrance.  Things went well and there were some obvious high points but I must say when we landed in Chiang Rai, loaded the bags into the truck and started down the road, we were struck by the green tranquil beauty of the open spaces.  I seemed to take my first deep breath in days, exhaled and melted deeper into my seat behind the wheel.  Back in my world at last, the ride home was a joy to be topped only by a good doggy greeting of tongue, tail and wreathing fur and flesh.  And of course, ones own bed never feels so welcoming as after a few days absence.

Don’t know that I will be eager to travel to Bangkok again for awhile but our time in the city did serve to heighten awareness of what is now important to me.  So I guess the city still has value.  Not least of all, as a looking glass to highlight what I love about where I am these days.