We had a fun time in Bangkok, despite the constant traffic. Bangkok is like a child's toy chest that has been filled with new toys every year, leaving all the old toys on the bottom. Turn up one street and you find some of the largest shopping centers in Asia and just in back you find people living in tin shacks. Bangkok is a town with everything you could want if you know where to look. Every time I go to Bangkok, it seems my two biggest concerns are where to find what I want and how to get there. The streets are a constant flow of cars and trucks and motorcycles along with buses, both with and without air conditioning, tuktuks, taxis and so on. If you can't read Thai, you take a taxi or a sky train and pay the price. With Nee along, we managed to take cheaper transportation, though lacking in such creature comforts such as a soft seat or cool air. There is no real center of town, unless you think a shopping mall in the middle. Every turn takes you to another place that seems as central as the last. Getting around can take hours to go inches. At least it feels like to me.
When I first came to Thailand, I found Bangkok exciting and full of energy. However having been there multiple times now, it is more like being in with a room full of energetic dogs. After a while, I just get tired of it all. Chiang Mai, 10 hours north by bus, is about a quarter the size of Bangkok, or perhaps even smaller. The center of town surrounded by a square mote. Inside are temples, hotels, and endless back alleys filled with bookstores, restaurants, massage and markets. It is the old part of town so getting around is for the brave. The easiest way is by motorcycle though I prefer to leave the driving to songtauws. Outside the square, the town is surrounded by three outer ring highways that are filling in with new homes and malls. The pace is slower than Bangkok and much easier to get around. When I am in Bangkok, the roads and buildings all look so similar that I never know where I am until I reach my destination. In Chiang Mai you have the mote and the view of the surrounding mountains.
We spent some time in Chiang Mai at both ends of our trip, visiting friends in one of the outer suburbs. They are a family of vegetarian chefs who cook for local temples as well as families who order food from them. They have a lovely home surrounded by rice fields and each time I go there, I feel my stress flow from me.
We enjoyed being out of Fang for a time, especially our one-room apartment. We got to cook in Bangkok and visit friends at both ends. Now, back in Fang, I have taught the first two weeks of the new semester with my eyes out for a larger home. I hope to do some tutoring on the side and doing it here in the apartment is impossible. Bringing guests home is also not possible. Thus, the adventure continues.