When the rain came I thought you’d leave

cause I knew how much you loved the sun

– Rod Steward, Mandolin wind

It starts around 3:30 pm with the buildup of clouds over Doi Suthep in the west. The puffy cumulous clouds shoot up thousands of feet, turning dark with the promise of a daily afternoon rain. The last two rainy seasons have been anything but rainy. One or two hard rains in all that time, when normally the downpours are daily. The reservoirs are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, when normally they are overflowing at this time.  The rice fields struggle to produce one good crop when some years there are three.

Today the clouds build and build and darken, but then they begin to dissipate and like in those National Geographics movies of the Serengeti that are still popular on Animal Planet, we gazelles and wildebeests stare up at the clouds wondering if this year the rains will come again.

The rains bring big changes in our lifestyles here. Gone are the smoggy days of March and April, gone are the 40ͦ C days of the hot season. Now the mornings are glorious. The temperatures, perfect. The other day at the golf course, looking up at the beautiful cloud formations over the mountains, I thought, if I am a really good boy in this life, and I get to heaven, this is what the weather will be like.

But there is another side to the rainy season.

Since the rains begin in mid-afternoon they are sure to catch us all as we head home from work or school, right during the evening rush hour. Now we aren’t talking about a Seattle-type rain where you have to put out your hand palm up and still wonder if it is raining. It isn’t even like taking a shower-type rain. It is more like a bucket being poured over your head-type rain. And when it happens as you are riding your motorcycle home, it could be a bit of an inconvenience.

For some reason, motorcyclists tend to speed up as the rain pours down. Maybe they are thinking that if they get home faster they won’t get so wet. That never works. I always pull over, look for a shop awning and just wait out the storm. The downpour usually lasts only an hour or so. I’m retired. I have no appointments to keep.

Highway underpasses are popular places to stop and keep dry – but they are dark and cars speeding home during the downpour sometimes don’t see them, often with dire consequences. Roads outside of town get covered with flowing water. I once thought I was going over a mere puddle where the water had overflowed the rice field on my right and was emptying into the one on the left. When the water flowed over my spark plug and my engine stalled I had visions of being washed away, my body being found in a distant rice field. Luckily I was able to walk the bike out of the flood. Now that I am older I realize that relying on luck in a flood like that is not a great game-plan.

Houses get washed away, animals die. One night a few rainy season ago we lost our entire flock of ducks who were in an enclosed pen by the side of our stream when, after a huge downpour, a flash flood came by. It rose to more than 3 meters above normal and as incongruous as it may sound, all our ducks drowned. My heart is out to the people whose homes get treated in the same way during rainy season floods.

For those who don’t get along too well with creepy crawlies, the rainy season will be a bit more challenging. This is when the insects proliferate, especially the ants. Ants look for a place to get out from the flooded ground, and what better place than right in our homes. Currently, I have counted 6 different ant species living in our kitchen. And of course there are those biting red weaver ants who live in the tree right outside my kitchen door.

Much more dangerous are the mosquitoes and the diseases they bring. The rainy season is the time for dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, aka “sleeping sickness”. Both are often lethal especially to younger children. Insect repellent is probably a good investment at this time.

Snakes like the cool of the rainy season. We have had egg-eating snakes that have spoiled my breakfast omelets many a rainy season morning. They steal my bantam chicken eggs and swallow them whole by unhinging their jaws. Later, after cracking the egg inside their bodies, they regurgitate the whole crushed shell in one piece. I found a 2 meter long black egg-eater in my tool shed once. It jumped up and ran between my legs and headed straight for the canal, being quite familiar with our back yard. Some species of egg-eating snakes are toothless, the better to swallow those eggs. I’m hoping that this was one of them.

Then there is that 3 meter python that lives in the canal. I really want to catch him, revenge for our ducks and chickens that have gone missing. But then again, 3 meters? Maybe I don’t want to catch him after all.

I write these blog posts in my head. Then when I get to my computer, the words just pour right out. I am now writing this post in my head as I drive my 125cc Honda Dream home from an afternoon at the U.S. Consulate here in Chiang Mai. I usually avoid driving in the afternoons but couldn’t avoid it today.

Those clouds that were earlier dissipating over Doi Suthep are beginning to darken again. I can feel in my sinuses the barometric pressure building. We gazelles and wildebeests look up expectantly. Will it rain? Should I speed up to get home before I am soaked, or look for a shop awning?

The hard rains always start with very large drops. When you get hit by a large droplet, you know that a few seconds later a bucket will be dumped on your head. A misty few drops splash across my helmet’s faceplate. Maybe I’ll get home before it rains.

And as I think that, a huge drop of rain slams against my helmet.

I recently celebrated my 70th year on this planet. I really enjoy my 70 year-old mind, lots of good stuff going on in there. My 70 year-old body, well, that’s another thing.

Today I want to talk about how we can use the wonderful “personal” computer residing between our ears to live a happier and more successful retired life abroad.

Our “personal” computer has a fantastic memory capacity, and unlike the computer I am writing this blog post on, the memory never seems to get maxed out. Yes, sometimes our computer’s ability to retrieve information slows down, but if we keep it well-maintained (good food, exercise, less alcohol and drugs, and a daily belly laugh) it will serve us well for a lifetime.

This brings me back to the question of how to live a happier and more successful retired life, especially in a foreign country. And the answer is in that wonderful “personal” computer’s language-learning capacity.

We who live here in Thailand have good reasons and real motivation to learn the Thai language, and even though our aptitude for learning may have been slowed down a bit, it has not been maxed out yet. No, old friend, you are never too old to learn.

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First let’s get motivated. I’ll start with something that happened to me just yesterday.

I went to my favorite iced coffee vendor and I ordered my usual.  While the “barista” was making my cappuccino frap I struck up a simple conversation. I told her how much I liked her product, how in fact I was becoming addicted to it. I told her how I had already gotten 10 stamps on my card so this one was free. She laughed and told me I could get a free cookie too.

I know, not a deep exchange but I got to thinking – if I didn’t know Thai, the “barista” would just take my order and serve me my coffee –  a serving girl to me at most, and me, a mere customer. Instead, using just a few lines of simple dialog, she became a real person to me, and I to her. She handed me my coffee, I thanked her, took my free cookie, we both smiled, and both our days were brighter for it.

Sometimes, instead of making our days a bit brighter, knowing the language can make our days a bit less dark.

A while back I was at the driving range when behind me a long-time Expat, in English, told the 16 year old counter girl he wanted another tray of balls. She asked him in a three-word Thai sentence, “Old ones or new ones?” They are priced differently. The long-time Expat, not understanding a word she had spoken, turned to his paramour sitting nearby and shouted, loudly enough for all to hear, “Tell this girl what I want. She is too STUPID to understand me.”

I came so very close to breaking this guy’s jaw after telling him that he should not call the girl stupid, that she in fact did understand him, had asked him a simple question, and that he himself was the one too stupid to understand her.

The moral of this story: Just a few words of Thai and the Expat would not have become so angry, not have his blood pressure rise to unhealthy levels, not made a fool of himself by calling a young girl who was helping out her mom stupid, and not have had that physical confrontation with me. He would simply have hit some golf balls and then gone home, looking forward to spending the evening with his paramour in a much happier mood. All that with just a few words of Thai.

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I have heard the excuses for why one doesn’t learn Thai:

  1. “I tried but after a few weeks of study I just gave up.”
  2. “Everyone I need to talk to speaks English.”
  3. “Thais really don’t want me to speak Thai.”
  4. “I’m too old to learn something new.”

Well,

  1. A few weeks is not nearly enough to learn a language. I’ve been studying Thai for over 45 years and still have a ways to go.
  2. Very few Thais speak comprehensible English. Mostly it’s just the ones doing business with foreigners, and even then their English leaves much to be desired.
  3. Many Farang feel that Thais don’t want them to speak Thai because the Thais always answer in their broken English when they try. In fact, it is possible that they are responding in the little English they know because the foreigner’s Thai, often toneless, is incomprehensible to them. My barista never said a word to me in English except “cookie”.
  4. I’ve already told you what I think about being too old.

These excuses don’t do much to convince me that an older person can’t learn Thai, just that the effort to learn, sadly, might be too much for them.

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So why put in the effort to learn Thai?

Don’t we want a little more than “Me Tarzan you Jane.”? Wouldn’t it be nice to really get to know someone here and to understand their dreams and desires? Wouldn’t it be nice to tell someone how you feel so he/she understands you better?  Wouldn’t it be nice to order something at a restaurant and get what you are expecting, or tell the barber “Not too short.”, or let your barista know how much you love her coffee?

Can you at your advanced age learn a foreign language?

The main thing I want to stress in this posting is that anyone at any age can learn a language. You don’t have to become fluent, I still haven’t. But how about just learning to say “I love your iced coffee.” or “Give me the new balls, please.” Your day will be much brighter, as will your chances of getting a free cookie.

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So here are some Thai learning hints on what and how to begin. You can use it as your basic curriculum. Give this list to your Thai teacher and tell them this is what you NEED to learn.

  • Learn the Thai greetings and how to say “Please” and “Thank you”.
  • Learn the Thai numbers, at least up to 10,000. Learn the Thai money system.
  • Learn the Thai personal pronouns and how to refer to yourself and to others.
  • Learn subject/verb patterns. Learn everyday verbs. Learn to speak in the present, past, and future.
  • Add to the above the subject/verb/object pattern. Then add some adjectives.
  • Learn the vocabulary that is important and interesting to you. Learn the nouns that fit your needs. Enjoy gardening? Learn the Thai words for the plants, insects, and birds you will encounter. Enjoy eating Thai food? Learn to order all the Thai dishes you like. Enjoy cooking Thai food? Learn all the names of the condiments and sauces that you will need. I would stay away from talking about politics and religion for now though.
  • Learn how to ask “What is this?” “How do you say … in Thai?” (Use both to increase your vocabulary.)
  • Learn how to ask if someone has something, and the vocabulary you’ll need in order to ask a shopkeeper if he/she has the thing you are looking for.
  • Learn the vocabulary you will need to tell a doctor or your Thai companion how you feel if you are under the weather.
  • Learn to ask yes/no questions and other questions like when, where, who, how and how much. Then learn how to answer them.

The above basics will take you about a year of hard study. What fun. Get a good teacher and good learning materials. Anything with “Easy”, or “Fast”, or “Learn Thai in … Days” should be avoided. They are lying to you. I mean, do you believe everything a carnival barker running for the U.S. presidency says (and the other one isn’t any better)?

Learning Thai will not be easy, or fast, or accomplished in a few days? No! That is why it will take so much time but also is why it will be so much fun.

No need to be in a hurry. When we get older, learning new stuff just takes a little longer than it used to. Take your time. You have the rest of your life to get it right.

At this point don’t worry about learning to read and write Thai or learning the Thai tone rules either. Many people suggest this. But I feel that’s the equivalent of having to learn how to read music in order to sing “Happy Birthday”.

But what about those terrible Thai tones?

Yes, they are terrible. But Thai tones are really, really important to get right. Really!

First learn to laugh at yourself when you make a tonal mistake. I currently laugh at least a half dozen times a day.

Here is my suggestion on how to handle Thai tones. SING.

Thai is a tonal language, just like music. How did you learn “Happy Birthday” in the first place? You heard someone singing it. And then you sang it back just like you heard it.  Thai, and all tonal languages, work the same way.

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You in fact, can do much more than you think you can.  I completely don’t accept the idea that older people can’t learn anything new.

I took up rock climbing in my 40s, got my karate black belt in my 50s, became a blogger in my 60s, and started playing the piano at age 67.

I am now learning Latin in my 70s? Why not?

Here, you can cut and paste this into Google Translate to check my progress.

Fīlia mea cenam parat.

Learn Thai in your 60s and 70s?  Why not?

Just reboot that old computer of yours. No, old friend, you are never too old.

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Below I have listed some resources for beginning your learning Thai odyssey.

On-line Dictionaries

There are quite a few on-line Thai/English dictionaries, many with good audio to help pronunciation. Here are some that I frequently use.

  • Thai-Language.com – Probably the most extensive with lots of words used in sentences.
  • Thai2English.com – You can paste whole sentences into a translate box and it will return definitions for each of the words in the sentences along with their phonetic transcriptions.
  • Google Translate – Good for individual words and phrases but less accurate when translating complete sentences. Has good audio for all words.

Thai learning resources

Good luck, enjoy and I hope you get lots of free cookies.

The American rooster goes “cock-a-doodle-do”. The Thai rooster goes, “ake-e-ake-ake”. I have a few Thai bantam roosters and they in fact really do say “ake-e-ake-ake”.  Thai is really good at onamonapia, maybe because it is a tonal language, so I wasn’t surprised by that.  What I was surprise at was how Expats and Thais respond to a rooster’s crowing.

Thai roosters do not only crow at dawn. They crow all the time. Midnight, 3AM, dawn, noon, 1PM, 6PM, all day. And there is a big cultural difference in how Expats and Thais respond to this sound, or noise, depending on which side of the hen house you are on.

All the Expats I asked about this said that they really hated the roosters crowing. Some grumbled that the screeching poultry woke them up, and kept them awake all night. When I asked Thais the same question, 100% said that they really liked the sound. It reminded them of the “old days” and it gave them a feeling of peace.

So how does this affect our retirement here? Expats everywhere find cultural and environmental differences in their adopted homes that they sometimes have a hard time dealing with. They are things that get on your nerves, things that you’ll hear Expats complaining about whenever they sit down for beers together. But like the roosters crowing at 1AM, these aren’t things that we can do much about.

The Thais aren’t about to change their culture just because it gets on your nerves. My advice, do like the way I dealt with the rain in Seattle. Since I couldn’t do anything about the weather I just learned to love the rain.

When it comes to roosters, see if you can learn to love the music of the roosters crowing, like the Thais do. If that doesn’t work just learn to ignore them. In doing this you’ll be able to get through the day without complaining about things that you have no control over.  And you’ll be happier.

"Ake-e-Ake-Ake". Whether you love it or hate it may depend on your cultural background.

“Ake-e-Ake-Ake”. Whether you love it or hate it may depend on your cultural background.

 

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This is not a posting of my complaints. I don’t complain. Complaining makes me unhappy.  Look at this example of a real complainer on ThaiVisa.com who wrote aboutFrogs Driving Me Crazy“. If the poster can’t figure out what to do then his life here will be miserable. And it is just some croaking frogs.

What he can do about it: You live in a house right next to a pond so you’re going to have some frogs around. Complaining about them won’t help much. First of all, stop complaining. You decided where to live. If you can’t figure out what to do about the croaking frogs , just catch them and eat them; they’re pretty tasty. Or you can just learn to love the sounds they make. It’s a simple way to make your life happier. I live next to a pond and love the night music.

Until then, enjoy this.

Here are a number of other things that tend to drive an Expat in Thailand crazy. Let’s stop complaining about them like the frog guy is doing. I have given some suggestions about what to do about them, basically, how to “learn to love the roosters”.

 

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Driving

Just the word drives (no pun intended) most Expats furious, fast and furious. Thailand has the second highest number of road fatalities per capita in the world, and Thai roads are really dangerous places. Sometimes things happened on Thai roads that can make a peaceful Expat search their glove compartment for their hand gun (Oh, forgot, I’m not in America anymore.)

One way you can solve the Thai road problem of course is to not drive in Thailand. That would solve one problem but would create others. So if you do drive, remember, you can’t make the others on the road good drivers, but you can drive defensively, real defensively.

Here are just a few examples of differences on Thai roads that you will encounter here and some coping mechanisms. Expect road-craziness and you will be less prone to road-rage.

Turning right from the left lane – This usually occurs when you are approaching an intersection or a highway U-turn and someone on your left, usually a motorcycle, cuts across 2 or 3 lanes and then cuts you off in order to make a right or U-turn. This of course causes you to slam on your breaks and spill your ice coffee all over you lap.

What to do: Whenever approaching a right or U-turn intersection expect someone from your left to cut right in front of you, but don’t expect a turn signal. And put that ice coffee in the cup holder.

 

Turning left from the right lane – This usually occurs when you are approaching an intersection where one can make a left turn and someone on your right, usually a car or pickup truck, cuts right in front of you to make a left turn or sometimes just to park. This of course cause you to slam on your breaks again.

What to do: Whenever approaching a left turn intersection expect someone from your right to cut right in front of you, but don’t expect a turn signal. But someone may just cut in front of you simply to park. The concept of slowing down, letting you go first, and then making a left turn from behind never crosses anyone’s mind, so it shouldn’t cross yours.

 

Merging without looking – Vehicles will often, and motorcycles will almost always, merge into traffic from the left without ever looking at the oncoming traffic.

What to do: Always keep your eye on what is happening on your left, especially a merging lane or a left hand road. If you see a motorcycle you will be sure that they will merge right in front of you without looking, so slow down and let them. Otherwise you’ll be picking up pieces of a broken bike and explaining what happened to the police. Better to let them go first.

 

Tailgating – If you are going down the road at a comfortable and safe 80 klicks, you’re sure to encounter someone from behind who wants to go 100. They will approach from behind until they are literally inches from your rear bumper waiting to pass. And when this is some huge articulated dump truck barreling down on your tail it will scare the bejesus out of you.

What to do: Don’t freak out. Just ease over to your left, slow down, and let them pass. If it is a busy highway it might take a while but it is better than having someone inches from ramming your butt.

 

Zigging and zagging – Almost always motorcycles will do this but occasionally someone who has just bought a new sports care will zig and zag through traffic.

What to do: It is much better karma to try not to visualize (or sometimes even hope for) the terrible smashup that is about to happen.  Just pray that the driver doesn’t end up winning a Darwin Award by taking himself out of the gene pool. You don’t want that on your conscious. Stupidity should not be, but on Thai roads often is, punishable by death.

 

Walking across the road – Almost no one here will give a pedestrian the right of way and stop to let them cross the road. They will never let a pedestrian cross the street in front of them. The Thai pedestrian knows this, it is a cultural law, so it is no problem for them. They don’t know that in other countries pedestrians do have the right of way, so here they will just wait patiently until all traffic has passed before attempting to cross the road.

What to do: If you are the pedestrian, just wait. Remember, in Thailand you do not have the right of way if you are on your feet. When all traffic has passed, first say a prayer, and then cross.

 

Fruit drinks

I don’t know how many times I have ordered a nice cool lemon aide or a fresh-squeezed orange juice in Thailand, taken one big sip and then almost barfed it all up. Why? Unlike westerners, easterners love salt in their fruit drinks. And that wonderful sweet and sour tasting lemon aide you were expecting will also have a very unwelcomed salt water ocean flavor.

What to do: Make sure every time you order a fruit drink you tell them not to add salt. They might look at you funny and wonder why you don’t want that lovely salty flavor but will usually comply (although a few times they just ignored me thinking that I must be mistaken because who would want a fruit drink without salt.)  Or, you can change and like I have gotten lately, I am beginning to like the salty taste. Weird, but not bad.

 

Hot food

There are some wonderful Thai dishes that would be so great if it weren’t for the fact that Thais make them so hot with chilies that you feel you might be getting pepper sprayed on a protest line. One example of this is chicken with hot basil over rice, with a nice fried egg on top. The hot basil is more than spicy enough without the chilies. But one time I ordered this dish and I was only one number away from calling 911 (191 in Thailand) and getting an ambulance there to save me from passing out. I am sure my blood pressure was over 200. I had burning poop for a week. I later counted and there were more than 30 chilies in the one dish.  Som Tum, or unripen papaya salad, and Tom Yum spicy soup are other dishes that if you aren’t careful might have you considering an emergency room visit.

What to do: Learn this Thai phrase “mai pet”, “Not spicy”. But you might want to add something like “one chili” or “no chilies”. I usually order Som Tum by telling them not to add any chilies at all. It will still be hot because the mortar that they use to pound the ingredients together will still have some chili oil on the bottom from the last order. That is more than hot enough for me.

 

Running water

I have lived in places where the water stops running once or twice daily. There is always construction going on or ten-wheel trucks driving over those plastic water pipes. I once live next to a rice field. The water pipe crossed the field and in the dry season, because of the condensation around the pipes, the ground under them would get wet. Just the perfect place for a herd of water buffaloes to wallow, and break my pipes. And of course this always happens at the hottest part of the day, right between the time I have done some heavy exercising and when I want to take a bath.

What to do: Get yourself a large plastic garbage can, put it in your bathroom, and fill it up, when the water is running of course. Learn how to take a splash bath. And when the water comes back on fill it up again.

 

half full

 

Drinking water

Flint Michigan in the U.S. had that drinking water problem where the water was contaminated by lead.  Well, I don’t trust tap water in Thailand either. But those poor people in Flint seemed to have the hardest time figuring out that if your tap water will kill you then maybe you need to be using bottled water – like just about everyone in Thailand does.

What to do: We get a delivery of large white plastic bottles of clean water every Saturday, and that’s enough to last the week.

 

Electricity blackouts

Expect frequent blackouts, especially during thunder storms. They usually only last for an hour or two, but almost always happen when it is pitch black outside and just before you saved your work on your computer.

What to do: Flashlights and candles at the ready. Save your computer work often. Keep your phone or tablet charged. Snuggle.

 

Dual pricing system

One thing that drives most Expats up the wall is the dual pricing system Thailand uses at various tourist attractions, national parks, etc. They say that foreigners have more money so they should pay more. Sounds logical but not very comforting.

What to do: If the dual pricing system makes you nuts, don’t go there. All I want to do is go to a nice waterfall or picnic area without screaming my head off. Dual pricing is unfair, true, but I do have more money than most of the Thais going to this place, so what’s a few dollars more? It is worth it to keep my blood pressure down.

 

Farang

The use of the word “Farang” by Thais drives most Farangs ballistic.

What to do: Learn the history and etymology of the word “Farang”, and know that this word is very infrequently used in a derogatory manner. The “F” word is not the equivalent of the “N” word. There are a lot worse things you can be called.

 

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These are just a few of the things that can drive you crazy if you let them. Don’t let them. Forget about complaining and wishing that the Thais or Thailand would change. That ain’t gonna happen. We can change ourselves though, and when we do, we will be much happier here.

 

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I have been a bit lethargic lately and have not been posting as often as I used to. Maybe 2 months of temperatures over 104 degrees F (40C) here in Chiang Mai had something to do with it. But after over 100 postings I am finding it a bit more difficult to come up with original ideas. So, maybe you can lend me a hand.  If you have any ideas for a posting, or any questions about retired life here in Thailand, send them on to me (either through the retire2thailand.com website, or as a comment here) and I’ll try to make a posting out of it.  Thanks.

I usually avoid downtown Chiang Mai, especially during rush hour (I also never go downtown on holidays like Songkran, Loy Krathong, and Chiang Mai University graduation days). But I just had my 6-month check up with my trusted urologist and the appointment was for 5pm.  Happily, my PSA level was steady and I was good for another half year. I was smiling as I pulled out of the hospital garage but that soon changed.  I was quickly reminded why I had set my rule about avoiding downtown CM during rush hours.

An hour and 20 minutes later I got home, a trip that during non-rush hours takes about 20 minutes.

I know, you people who live in Bangkok must think I am a bit of a wimp. I mean, just an hour and 20 minutes. That’s nothing to complain about. Your daily commutes often take so long that many of you bring along a nice wide mouth bottle just in case your bladder threatens to explode. I’m sure my trusted urologist would have a field day with that.

No, Chiang Mai traffic isn’t that bad yet and I have never needed to carry a bottle with me. But in its growing traffic congestion and in many other ways, Chiang Mai is beginning to look a lot like our big cousins from down south on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

Chiang Mai is nowhere near the nightmare that our southern cousin is. In fact, it is quite livable and even though it isn’t the Shangri-La like town I came to live in and love 47 years ago (with lots of back-and-forths since then), a town where I knew almost everyone who owned an automobile, where today’s busy Nimmanhaemin Road, center of all things HiSo, was all rice fields, where there was only one nice hotel in town and guest houses hadn’t been invented yet, and where a bowl of noodles cost 1 ½ baht, I still love the place, but it has changed, and continues to do so.

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In the past five years 3 new shopping malls have sprung up, making a total of 5. I know it is questionable whether shopping malls are a benefit or detriment to a city. But when it is 104 ̊ F it is nice to have a cool place to hang out and have lunch. One of the malls has a beautiful round aquarium where I spend lots of time waiting for my better half to finish her shopping. At another there is an ice skating rink. There are 3D and Imax theaters and lots of good clean restaurants to choose from. I counted 9 Japanese restaurants at one mall.

But I like to avoid wall-to-wall crowds and traffic jams, so I stay away from malls on weekends, holidays,  and always on Children’s Day, and especially whenever a Korean boy band is in town.

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When we decided to retire to Chiang Mai we drove down the Irrigation Canal Road, dirt and gravel at  that time, and found a nice gated community about 1K off the road and nestled at the base of Wat Doi Kham, a quiet, beautiful temple where I would often visit; a place to be alone.

The Irrigation Canal Road is now not only paved, it is a 4-lane divided highway for most parts and now has been extended for many kilometers and has cut by half the travel time to Doi Intanon, highest mountain in Thailand, and another good place to go when the temperature is ridiculous.

And my quiet temple? Someone started the rumor that a certain image up there, if prayed to and offered jasmine flower garlands, would grant all your wishes. The image specializes in giving you the correct lottery numbers too.

The last time I was at the temple there were trinket shops on every corner, and thousands of people, everyone with armfuls of jasmine garlands. And of course the ubiquitous lottery sellers were there where you could immediately test whether your jasmine garlands were working their magic.

Obviously, there was no more alone-time for me there.

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The Chiang Mai International Airport recently had a complete overhaul, increasing its capacity by around double. Sorry, but the planners missed something. They saw that tourism to Chiang Mai was booming, both for Thai tourists and foreigners. But they never counted on the Chinese.

The Chiang Mai International Airport planners are now drawing up plans to double again its capacity. And BTW, I advise you not go to the airport between 5pm and 8pm, that is unless you want to see a real traffic jam.  If you have a friend arriving at that time, tell them to take a taxi to your house and give them the 300 baht the taxis are now charging. It will be worth it.

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If you are not like me and enjoy big crowds and the feel of a stranger’s body rubbing against yours then the Chiang Mai Walking Street market is for you.  It is said that here was established the first “walking street” in Asia. Now of course they are everywhere, towns big and small. Today about half of the tens of thousands of people at the Chiang Mai version on a Sunday night will be speaking Mandarin.

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Luckily, with the increase in the number of vehicles on the road came booming highway construction. The largest and most important of these projects is the Chiang Mai ring road system that circle the city.  And as the ring roads opened up, land prices skyrocketed, businesses opened, gated housing communities sprouted up (I know one that contains more than one thousand homes).  The ring roads, looking lots like Bangkok highways, skirt around the old city and make my visiting friends on the other side of town lots more convenient. In fact, if it weren’t for visits to my trusted urologist I would probably never even go downtown anymore.

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So far the ring roads are still open and the traffic runs freely. But if Chiang Mai continues to grow like it has in the last few years that might soon change. No problem, I have already scouted out a nice area on the outskirts of Lamphun, the province just one hour to the south.  I could maybe even find some alone-time there.

 

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