After a whirlwind of activity beginning with a special dinner with friends on Christmas Eve up to New Year’s Day which accounted for a total of nine days, I am now ready to face the reality of the other purpose I have for being here in Chiang Mai.
The reality I am referring to is to focus my attention on shopping the markets and my past suppliers to seek new and exciting merchandise for the clothing and accessories I will be shipping overseas to Canada for the Farmer’s Market beginning in May in Annapolis Royal. I have just three weeks to get this momentous task done because that’s what my single entry Visa demands.
Let me explain how Thailand’s present day Visa system for Canadian citizens works. I had three options to consider. My first was to enter the country for 30 days with no Visa at no cost….great for travellers just passing through on their way elsewhere. My second was to buy a single entry Visa which would allow me to stay for 60 days and then re-enter for up to 30 more days before leaving the country. This one costs $50. My third was to get a multiple entry Visa good for six months which would allow me to go in and out of the country as many times as I wanted. However, this luxury came at a hefty price of $250. Option number one was not nearly enough time for me, three was way too expensive, so I chose the second one.
I hope you now understand why I must leave here by the 25th of January, and why I must complete my buying and get my boxes into the mail for their overseas journey. My head is still reeling at how quickly my 60 days have flown by. This can happen when you come to a place like Chiang Mai where you have friends from home to show around, old friends to meet up with, and just have fun being a tourist.
Now that I am on to the topic of Visas, I will give you an idea of how it works for two other countries I will be visiting after leaving Thailand. I leave Chiang Mai on the 25th flying to Phnom Phen, Cambodia where I must buy a one month Visa at a cost of $25 US….if the price hasn’t risen. I can do this at the airport. They will probably ask me for an extra $5 as they did last year for some mysterious reason that none of us could fathom. This can happen in a country run by corruption. You don’t question anything; you just do it!
When my time is up in Cambodia, I plan to head further south to Malaysia where I was delighted to discover that this country has generously opened its doors to all visitors for a period of 90 days with no Visa required. I can’t stay for that long because I do want to come back to Thailand for that extra 30 days before heading back home. The plan for now is to return to Chiang Mai to complete any shopping I didn’t finish and possibly venture further north where the air may be cleaner and cooler.
Now, back to how I spent Christmas here in Chiang Mai. Would you be surprised to learn it wasn’t much different from what I would have done in Canada? The only thing missing was snow and cold temperatures. My friend Linda and I decided it would be fitting to attend a church service at one of the churches in this predominantly Buddhist city. On the advice of our Thai friend, Toi, we decided on All Saint’s Cathedral, of Anglican denomination. Except for some difficulty finding a Grab taxi cab to take us to where the church was… well beyond where we were staying… and a late arrival, we both agreed that we were glad we made the effort to go. The congregation was most welcoming and had decorated their little church with tasteful decorations in the Western World tradition. The sermon, which was delivered by a British pastor, was appropriate to today’s population in a world where we are questioning all of our beliefs and ways of dealing with Christmas. Keep in mind he was talking to a mixed group of people including many ex-pats from all parts of the world as well as some Thai who have chosen to follow the Christian faith.
For our Christmas dinner we made reservations to go to a favourite little restaurant, The Garden, on a quiet soy off the beaten track. I went there four years ago so knew that we would be in for a treat. We invited two new friends to meet us there making a comfortable foursome. Again the owner and her staff managed to provide us with a tasty, down home turkey dinner with all the trimmings, topped off at the end with our choice of pie, including mince. Thankfully, Eric brought some red wine which helped us to digest all the food piled on our plates. Just like Christmas dinners at home, we were stuffed when it came time leave the table to wend our separate ways back to our abodes.
The highlight for me during our holiday week was New Year’s Eve. Toi had arranged with her sister, Lec, for us to go up to Chiang Dao, to stay at her lovely home which she and her husband have made into a small resort. Chiang Dao is less than an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai and fast becoming a getaway for people from as far away as Bangkok. In fact, many Bangkokians are building homes there as a place to escape to for holidays or for their future should they have to leave Bangkok in case of flooding which is an almost certain threat they will have to face. It is nestled on the slopes of Doi Chiang Dao. Doi is the Thai word for mountain and Dao means “city of stars”. It’s located on the third highest mountain in Thailand in a Provincial Park. Visitors will like the decidedly Northern Thai atmosphere. Another plus is the temperatures which are usually cooler than in Chiang Mai.
If you would like to learn more about Chiang Dao you can go to a post I wrote four years ago A “Words of Wisdom” Walk
Once again we were treated to a delicious meal of Thai and Western food prepared by our friend and hosts. Chicken and pork were barbecued outdoors under a clear sky dotted with twinkling stars proving that its name was wisely chosen. Copious amounts of soup, salads, vegetables and fruit completed the picture, and, of course, some red wine.
Our hosts had invited some of their Thai neighbours to the feast which was great for us so we could honestly say we had an immersion into the Thai culture which would not have happened if we had stayed in Chiang Mai. Following the BBQ, we were all invited next door to take part in the lighting and releasing of the lanterns. This is a popular ceremony during our New Year’s and the Thai New Year in April where those who believe in making wishes for some good karma in the coming year do so by lighting thin paper lanterns which they release into the air. You make a silent wish just as the lantern lifts gently out of your hands into the air to join the stars. I witnessed this same event at the wat Prah Singh in Chiang Mai a few years ago when I spent New Year’s on my own. It was as moving an experience then as it was this time around.
We rounded out our evening with an invite to a local bar just down the hill from us for some singing and dancing. At first we were all a little hesitant to get out there on the tamped down, earthen floor to show off our dance moves. However, a few of the younger Thai got into the spirit and beckoned us to join in. We did and, wow, did we come to life! To add to this bit of fun, our young DJ pulled out his microphones and put up the words to some oldies by Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell. The less inhibited ones were the first to take a crack at singing along with the words. When a mike was handed to me there was nothing I could do but join in. I have to admit it was fun once I got the hang of it. We found ourselves belting out those oldies with as big a voice as we could muster.
I can honestly claim that the beginning of 2019 was one of the best yet for me. This is one I won’t forget. From all reports in the more esoteric world, this coming year promises to be a lot easier on us than last year. It has something to do with the way the planets are lining up providing us with fewer eclipses and retrogrades, those troublesome aspects that often throw a monkey wrench into our plans by holding us back rather than propelling us forward. It will be a year of creativity, better communication, and more positive changes. Let’s hope that proves to be true because our sorry old world needs this now like never before. It starts with each and every one of us who dare to choose making the changes which will enhance our lives as well as that of our world.