Sundays in Chiang Mai

Sundays have always been rather special days for me, and the ones I have been so fortunate to spend here in Chiang Mai have been just that. Is this an innate thing because I happen to celebrate my birthday in the zodiacal sign of Leo, ruled by the sun, which makes this day more special to me than the others, or is it connected to something external, such as environment or everyday circumstances? I will not attempt to explain why I think it’s more likely due to the former theory because I am spurred on to write this post simply wishing to let you in on what this Sunday has been like for me.

My husband and I have actually managed to carve out some kind of routine since we arrived in Chiang Mai with Sundays morphing into the day when we take a break from each other. He sets off early for his church activities, while I set about doing all those things I never seem to get done when he’s around. As I walked down the street to ‘Good Morning Chiang Mai Coffee’ for a delicious Western style breakfast of eggs, bacon, whole grain toast, and an americano coffee this morning, I was struck by all the things I could write about this colourful city (if I had the time) and felt an overwhelming urge to get another post done. So typical of this country and particularly this city which is becoming like a second home for me, as I turn down the little soi to reach my destination, I am greeted by friendly waves and “Sawadeekas”. I quickly note just how much I love these people as each year I get to know them better. The Thai are basically quite reserved and conservative compared to the Vietnamese, whom I also fell in love with, so it takes longer to get to know them, at least this is my experience.

Quiet soi on the way to 'Good Morning Coffee'

Quiet soi on the way to ‘Good Morning Coffee’

After my breakfast which didn’t disappoint, I managed to get my blog started and visit a nearby park where I caught up on some reading and some sun. This park attracts all kinds of people, both Thai and farang (Thai word for foreigner), who want to practice and quite possibly show off their talents ranging from singing, playing an instrument, practising complex Hatha yoga postures, or carrying out some healing modalities. With so much going on it, I found it difficult to get any real reading done. Additional items of interest were cute Thai toddlers and their families whose main past time is to eat and make sure the pigeons get their fair share,too.

A favourite past time.

A favourite past time.

This looks like fun!

This looks like fun!

Later on in the day, Graham and I met up with some friends from Holland over dinner at a little and cheap Japanese restaurant in our neighbourhood. For the past few weeks we had been crossing paths with this young couple, so we thought it was time to get to know one another a bit better. We both agree it’s a treat to talk to young people and get their perspective on travel and what they hope to achieve in life. They have been travelling throughout South East Asia for over four months and have no firm plans for ever returning to Holland. Meryn is what is becoming known as a ‘digital nomad’ eking out a living by writing on-line. He has already written a couple of books on poker and gambling and is now setting his sights on writing a book on meditation. Rosalie has plans to write a book but is having some trouble with her motivation. She is being distracted by the many yoga and meditation classes at her disposal in Chiang Mai. It is truly amazing how this city is fast becoming a magnet for all the ‘digital nomads’  like Meryn and Rosalie who are taking and using their skills wherever they travel. It’s part of a new generation.

Digital nomads - Meryn and Rosalie from Holland.

Digital nomads – Meryn and Rosalie from Holland.

 

Shopping the Markets in Chiang Mai

For seven years straight I’ve been escaping the Nova Scotian winters to come to Thailand using Chiang Mai as my anchor or base. Why Chiang Mai and not one of the many beautiful islands in this diverse country? Well, of course the warm and sometimes very hot climate is one reason, then there is the culture and the friendly people, but I have to admit another plus is the fantastic markets here and you know what that can lead to? Yes, it means lots of SHOPPING!

Since I’ve retired from full-time work, I am always on the look out for projects that are not only fun, but will make me a little extra income. After my second visit to Chiang Mai, I decided to use some of the experience I gained many years ago as a business owner in retail. Since I love buying and have a fairly good eye for colour and display along with a pretty good sense of what people like to spend their money on, I realized I had to seize the opportunity to bring home some of the beautiful bags, scarves, and jewellery I was seeing in Thailand. Hence, my little import business was born.

Although every year I travel to at least one other country somewhere in SE Asia, I always manage to do most of my buying while I am in Chiang Mai because there are so many markets in this city which just keep growing more and bigger each year. When I first came seven years ago, there was the Sunday Walking Market and the Night Bazaar which were the main venues. Then along came a Saturday Walking Market to rival the Sunday one and now there is the Arnusan Market right next door to the Night Bazaar. Interspersed with all these are numerous street vendors and stores selling their products not only to tourists but to buyers like me looking for wholesale prices. The old idea of driving a hard bargain for all it’s worth is slowly disappearing which makes it easier for both the buyer and the seller. There will always be those who like nothing more than to beat a person down to the lowest price ever who will no doubt miss the thrill of it all, but not me. There are simply too many people dependent on our business trying to make a living and supporting their families in an economy which at the present time is booming but at the same time causing a hefty rise in their cost of living. Many of them need to receive a fair price for not only their beautiful handiwork, but also their incredibly hard work.

Chiang Mai is undoubtedly a buyer’s delight often making the choice of what to buy somewhat daunting. However, my efforts are paying off, and I have found some exciting stuff which some of the following photos will reveal. Have a look and just maybe some of you will be lured into coming to see more at the Mason’s Hall where I will again be located in Annapolis Royal at the Farmer’s Market.

 

One of many food vendors.

One of many food vendors.

Yummy food. These are mushrooms!

Yummy food. These are mushrooms!

An artist at work.

An artist at work.

Designers of teak wood earrings I sell a lot of.

Designers of wood earrings. I sell lots of these.

New bags, scarves, and jewellery.

New bags, scarves, and jewellery.

 

Beautiful Na Ra Ya merchandise.

Beautiful Na Ra Ya merchandise.

 

Lots of fancy and really 'cheap' jewellery. Note the large, chunky bracelets!

Lots of fancy and really ‘cheap’ jewellery. Note the large, chunky bracelets!

A family affair - makers of  bags I bought.

A family affair – makers of bags I bought.

 

A Blissful Moment in Time

Have you ever noticed how many of our moments of pure bliss come when they are least expected?

I thought I knew the neighbourhood where my husband and I are staying in Chiang Mai since I did stay here last year, so now wouldn’t I be able to lay claim to knowing all about the neat places to eat and shop? Well, I was mistaken because I happened on a secluded little cafe/restaurant tucked away behind some shrubbery just around the corner from us.  After a quick peek inside and perusal of the menu, I noted this place as a ‘must eat’ one so next day dragged G down to try it out. As we sat there in the midst of the trees, flowers, and just a few like-minded diners, we thoroughly enjoyed our first lunch here. We agreed that we had found a little Garden of Eden. For me, it was a blissful moment in time reminding me that such places can still be found in the world and right here at our doorstep in Chiang Mai which is rapidly becoming a fast-growing city with too much traffic and smog. In addition, we found the food to be fresh and tasty, as well as reasonably priced.  The service was prompt and courteous, and there were even up to date glossy magazines to look at. Unfortunately, we couldn’t read them because for some strange reason every magazine in Thailand has only the titles in English. All the content is in Thai. However, we saw excellent photographs of what the Royal Family, Kate and William, and some of the top contenders for this year’s Oscar awards are up to. As an extra bonus, this little place is now becoming my inspiration and haven for tackling my blog writing and reading.  

Our Little Garden of Eden - The Ease Cafe

Our Little Garden of Eden – The Ease Cafe

 

Typical Thai Lunch

Typical Thai Lunch

Flowers Everywhere

Flowers Everywhere

Thailand's Official Flower - the Orchid

Thailand’s Official Flower – the Orchid

Welcoming 2014 in Chiang Mai

I feel very blessed that I had the opportunity to celebrate the beginning of 2014 in Chiang Mai this year. Because of the warm climate, I could enjoy the festivities the city had to offer in relative comfort. If I were home in Nova Scotia, I would have spent the holiday inside and if I dared to venture out, I would have had to bundle up in heavy winter clothing and still probably froze to death since I’m becoming more sensitive to the cold as I spend my seventh winter in Thailand.

This year I had my husband with me which made it all that more special as he is so good at mixing and mingling with the crowds. I don’t meet nearly as many people when I’m on my own travelling because I tend not to go out so much. Last year I was in Bangkok and went to bed around 11 p.m. only to be awakened with the noise of the thousands of fire crackers that went off at midnight. I rather wished that I had been a part of that. It’s only natural to want to share the hope the New Year offers with someone close to you whether it be family or friends.

We started off our festivities with a delicious meal at Peppermint restaurant, a restaurant we’ve been before and never been disappointed. Run by two Thai sisters, the food is a nice blend of Thai flavours and Western cuisine. We had their new addition this year which was a 12 inch three cheese pizza with just the right amount of Thai spices, tasty cheeses, and a perfect crust. I had my favourite drink – passion fruit shake. G had his usual glass of red wine and a small Thai beer. As usual during our dinners out, he manages to engage someone in conversation and at Peppermint, it was a young woman from Brazil who recommended that we visit some of the Wats (Buddhist churches) which were putting on special services.

The first one we dropped in on had the most beautiful array of lights burning everywhere and visitors even had the opportunity to sit and meditate with the monks and listen to their chants. They were giving a sermon on “right living” in Thai which was eventually to be given in English, but because it seemed to go on so long, we decided to give this a pass so we could see some others as well as get to our final destination where there was entertainment and fireworks.

On the way, we were drawn into another beautiful wat where we found people recording their New Year’s wishes and attaching them to  twenty baht bills which they hung around the wat. As we continued walking down Rachedumnern Road towards ThaPhae Gate, we came across many people lighting a fire at the base of a paper cylinder shaped lantern which they then released into the sky. Sure enough when we looked heavenward, there were hundreds of orange lit lanterns hanging amidst the stars. It was such a beautiful sight which, unfortunately, I could not capture on my camera. I was beginning to see that the Thai approach to the new year is to make wishes and hope that by whatever mode they employ they will have a better year than last. They don’t approach the whole thing by making resolutions on their own which they most probably will break.

We reached our final destination about 10 p.m. and just in time to find a viewing spot on the third level of Starbucks coffee. We purchased hot chocolate so we could legally claim a seat and were lucky enough to squeeze ourselves between a nice young Dutch couple and two Chinese girls. The entertainment put on by Thai singing stars really rocked priming us all up for the big countdown. Needless to say, in the space of two hours we got to know all our young neighbours and really got caught up in sharing their enthusiasm. The fireworks continued long after midnight showing us that the Thai really love to celebrate and will go to any expense to do so. The restrictions here seem to be more lax so we won’t be surprised to hear and see them for several more days.

After celebrating the New Year in Chiang Mai and watching the festivities around the world, I concluded that for all the people involved in putting it all together and for those taking part as observers that we all seem to have one thought in mind, and that is one of hope. May this year will be better for us both personally, for our families, for our country, and for the world than the year before. Of course, the skeptic in us says it won’t be much different, it might even be worse, but isn’t it human nature to want to hope it could still be better anyway? Who was who said that if we don’t have hope then we have nothing?

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Meditation at the Wat

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Making New Year’s Wishes

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New Year’s Crowd at ThaePae Gate

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Our Two Chinese Friends

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Fireworks