Goodbye, Chiang Mai

by Andrew Stein

I have been in and around Chiang Mai for about two weeks and am sad to leave but ready to move to my next destination.  Before leaving, there are a couple more sights, sounds, and smells that I want to experience.

At one stop in the Warorot Market, I have a chance to shop as the locals do. There are less wooden elephants, more practical items, and many fabrics. The colors coming from the fabric shops almost make me wish I know how to make something with it all; but instead, I am happy to realize that the clothing I already bought was sewn from those colorful rolls. When my feet began to tire, I take a break upon finding a stand selling sticky rice with mango, which I eat while watching a seemingly important Muay Thai boxing match on a television with other emotional locals. Rice, mango, Muay Thai, hot temperatures, humid weather, the smells of food from an open market, sights of cloth, and shops selling everything from kids toys to motorcycles made me feel like I am starting to better understand Chiang Mai.

Fabrics at Warorot Market

In addition, in my last 24 hours in Chiang Mai, I visit the Women’s Prison. Rumor has it that many of these women are being taught translatable skills that they can then use to get their lives back on track, and one of these skills is that of Thai massage. The money that the women earn while massaging gets put away and then is given back to them when they leave the prison as an aid in getting their lives restarted. Surprisingly, the atmosphere of this massage spa is one of the nicer I’ve experienced since away. Although the massage isn’t great, I am happy that I learned about the programs happening at the prison and had a chance to contribute a small amount while getting an extra massage in the process.

Lastly, I visit the Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium. The other visitors are mostly Bangkok tourists as becomes obvious when the tram driver only speaks in Thai. The zoo is a typical zoo, where the animals are placed in areas a bit too confined and many onlookers wait for the animals to do something spectacular like Mumble’s dance from Happy Feet. The Aquarium, on the other hand, I really enjoy from the fresh water tunnel to the obscure and beautiful sea creatures to the scuba diver feeding some of the larger fish. I also notice some fish, such as the stone fish and clown fish, that I had seen just several weeks ago while scuba diving in Bali. In the afternoon, sun turns to rain, everyone rushes for their cars and taxis, and back at the guest house, I do my last preparations before my sleeper bus.

Feeding at the aquarium

Stone Fish at Chiang Mai Aquarium

As with most places I’ve already visited, the people I met during these two weeks made the experience. These include the silent yet smiling other meditators at Doi Suthep, Aurelieu, my French friend, Beth, another meditator who I randomly ran into on the street after the retreat, Earl, a local from Chiang Mai, as well as those I had spent time with pre-monastery. I leave my second guest house, Grace House located on Soi 9 of the old city, watch out for any water-spraying Songkran celebrators, and make my way back to the bus station.