With less than 2 weeks left of our 6 months in Thailand, I’m feeling sad about leaving. 2 months ago I was almost ready to leave. But every month I’m here I get more and more comfortable and enjoy myself more and more. It took me a while to really warm up to Chiang Mai, but now I like this place and will look back on it fondly for the rest of my life.
Here are some of the top things I’ll miss about Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai:
1. $5 massages. This is definitely the #1 thing I’ll miss. I LOVE getting massages and getting a 1-hour massage for $5 is incredible. Granted that is the price for a Thai massage which is uncomfortable and at points brutal, but I love them anyway. Many times I go for the 2 hour Oil Massage which is more like a Swedish Massage. Total cost for 2-hours? $15. I’m trying to figure out how to get my favorite massage lady to come with us when we leave.
2. People-watching while driving. I hate driving here. Its crazy and people drive the wrong way and scooters swerve all around you and its so chaotic and dangerous (Thai roads are some of the most dangerous in the entire world). HOWEVER, the things you see while driving is one our favorite things about being here. You routinely see 25 people crammed into the back of a pickup truck (and usually they’re standing as they drive fast down a highway). We see the street carts being driven around with exposed food. And of course there are all the fun things people do on scooters. We’ve seen people carrying huge rugs, weed whackers sticking across their laps sideways, a guy with 3 tires around his waist (roadside assistance?!?) and our favorite, the baby with a handgun that was standing on the scooter as it went down the street and proceeded to level the gun at my head. No kidding.
3. No commercials during TV shows. WHY OH WHY can’t the US adopt this model for commercials?!? Almost all the channels (that are in English which isn’t all that many) don’t show commercials throughout the show. Commercials are shown between different shows at the top of the hour. It is so nice to watch a show or movie without getting interrupted every 5 minutes and being “sold” on what is “coming next” then seeing the same 1 minute again after the commercial. And everything isn’t being “presented by XXXXX company”. It’s so nice and refreshing and so much more enjoyable and relaxing to not get bombarded constantly. And when you’re watching something like a hockey game, you can stay in the action the entire time. What a concept.
4. Cheap street cart meals. Oh how I’m going to miss the cheap street cart meals. We actually don’t eat off street carts very often (we would more if we were in the city) but when we do, its so much fun to order various things for $0.30 to $1.50. We’ll get a Pad Thai, mango smoothie and maybe even some satay for under $3. I wish I ate more of the variety that exists and while we don’t eat many of the main dishes, we eat lots of smoothies and snacks on a stick for cheap, cheap, cheap.
5. Street markets. I LOVE the street markets here. Sure, many sell very similar items and I barely buy anything. But there is something special about the atmosphere of the street markets that makes for a nice evening out. I even enjoy browsing the “locals’ markets” which sell some crazy stuff like live turtles and snakes. I really wish we had more of these types of things in the US complete with the food carts and snacks on sticks.
6. All the fun things to do nearby that I’ll never have this close (and this cheap) again. There is so much to do in Chiang Mai. Elephant conservation farms. Ziplining. Trekking. Whitewater rafting. Waterfalls. Wats. Meditation retreats. Street markets. The list goes on and on and there is something for everyone here. Sadly, we aren’t going to get to do everything we would love to do before we leave. At least we’re hitting the most important things to us before we go.
7. The relaxed rules. Rules are made to be broken here and its actually kind of nice once you get used to it. Need to park? Just pull off on the side of the road almost anywhere. No shoulder? Just stop in the outer lane!. Going to the Chiang Mai FC game? You buy your food and drink (and beer) outside and take it in then are free to leave the game and come back in at any time.
I can’t even think of all the ways but there is something more relaxed and enjoyable without having strict rules for everything all the time…. Of course, the negative of this is that people don’t follow the rules for driving or wearing helmets (especially for their kids – come on people!) and a lot of people get hurt or killed because of it. So there are some real positives to having so many rules like we do in the US as well.
8. The culture. This one is tough to explain. There is a definite Thai culture that I really like. They seem more cohesive. They seem less rushed and there seems to be a larger sense of community. For instance, people offer food to the monks every single morning between 6am-7am. They rise early, cook the food and are out there to offer it to essentially strangers every. single. day. And then there is their love of the King. There are pictures of him everywhere. And everything stops at 6pm every day in public when they play the National Anthem and everyone stops what they’re doing, stands in silence, then bows at the end. There is so much respect for their country and their King and its beautiful.
9. Tuk Tuks. I wish every city and town had tuk tuks instead of taxis. Of course they’d be too cold in the winter most places but they sure are a fun form of transportation.
10. Same Same, but Different. There is something so fun about being somewhere where everything is written and done in a different language. And where you don’t understand where to go or what to do. Its exhausting as well. Its very cool to be so outside your comfort zone where the people around you are so different and look different and act different but to also realize that you’re all just people and at the core very much the same. I love seeing signs in Thai. It’s beautiful and usually doesn’t bother me the least that I have no idea what it says. I’ve learned so much about myself, about my husband and about my children by coming here. And I’ve learned a lot about the Thai people and their religion and culture. …It hasn’t been the easiest 6 months of my life and sometimes being uncomfortable can get exhausting and overwhelming. But it has also been one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and I know that my kids and myself are much richer for this entire experience…. Frankly, going back to the US seems so boring and easy. 🙂