(Photo: Nice fruit juices everywhere at 20-55 Baht)
Chiang Mai is a European Town in the East, second home to digital nomads, a vegetarian friendly Buddhist city never short of slow-paced leisure-pleasure.
Brief Summary of the Chapters
In this chapter I am going to describe in depth my subtle feeling about this place, cool traveling freelancers, expatriates and others I met here, how Western it is, and how I am inspired by every part of the city and every book I read here.
In the third chapter, I will talk in brief facets of life in Chiang Mai. Some facts and figures will be mentioned as advice for travelers (how much to spend on foods? Accomodation? … )
The last chapter will be exclusively saved for foods! To me they are my stars—– I take photos of them from different angles as if they are celebrities.
I should add an additional chapter talking about other ideas that sprang out of my mind, those new inspirations Chiang Mai has given me, making me an updated version of Miss Craziness.
I have never been that lazy as a traveler—- this time I’m completely relaxed in such a state that I’m never up on guard even though I’m in a city that I have never been to—- I could have easily trusted some bad guys, having been kidnapped and trafficked somewhere forgotten by the world for forced marriage. I mean, I got no facts and figures about this place, but I have quite a cool impression about it, thanks to my friends introducing the best parts in Chiang Mai.
Temples of Buddha
Chiang Mai is full of shadows of the Buddha. One morning at 6.30am when I was jogging, I passed by and visited a hundreds-year old monastery, sat down in the middle of the temple, and just stared at the golden statue, trying to slow my mind down. It seems I am doing nothing but that “nothing” has consolidated my inner peace— that tiny temple of tranquility— in my heart, which has long since created a lot of exciting dramas better scripted than Oscar winning movies and easily influenced by opinions of others, be they sensible or not.
In Hong Kong, I can hardly find a good place to silence my mind. Especially it’s humid, cold and rainy now with a lot of noise and crowd. Chiang Mai is lively and hot at present, with dozens of very casual and tranquil open air vegetarian-friendly cafes that I can read, relax, and think about my next step. After all, I just quit my full time, that’s kinda scary.
(Background of this picture: Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong)
Basically my mission in Chiang Mai is to relax my mind, understand more about myself(relationship etc.), know what to do next to help my parents and I , what career I would like to take (freelance? E-lance? Business? ), cultivate focus, detoxify my body by vegetarian foods here (yummy and 14-20% the price in Hk!), and ultimately ——-
Simplify my mind. I now understand I have been using 80% of my intelligence complicating everything. I over-think, over-worry, and strain my imagination, which is supposed to be a valuable godsend.
By simplifying and relaxing mind, better choices can be made, because I start to be able to identify thoughts and ideas which don’t really matter but contribute to a lot of mess.
Not only should we travel light in our trip, but also to travel light in the journey of life, to unload unessential thoughts.
I even bought Conversations With God (by Neale Donald Walsh) at a second-hand book store here to guide me understand faster. I originally had a lot of bias about this book, but once I started reading it, I am surprised how some ideas from this series are similar to my own. I guess it’s because some of the ideas they don’t need to be taught; every one can come up to the same answers. The ideas in this book is just reminders of what we have already known deep inside our mind.
The elaboration of “God” here is similar to that is understood by Albert Einstein(at least from my interpretation). It has some philosophies that I feel comfortable to understand and accept, with quite expansive elaboration.
I like one of his practical practice to better my habitual mindset— Whenever I want to change habitual thinking pattern and eventually action, I need to take action of the new deed I want to perform without thinking much, because if I think too much, I will go back to my old thinking pattern, so I will stick to my old habit and action and not doing the deed I want.
This is how habits are formed (in VERY brief): First comes thought, then comes our words, finally comes our action.
To wire a new habit in our brain system, we need to go the opposite way: Take action without thinking much, talk the deed as if we have succeeded in doing this, and so our thought will be become a habit that we don’t need to think when come to performing. This is actually the advice suggested by psychologists or Buddhist masters:
Act as if you have succeeded, until you have really succeeded.
It’s a book 99% based on spirituality, some of the idea being kinda idealistic. Interesting. My mind has calmed down a lot because of this book. I have become aware of my internal dialogue and gaining more understanding in which part of my self-talk is sabotaging.
(Photo: Reading this sitting on my fav hanging fabric chair at my fav cafe Birds Nest!)
(I like Birds Nest because I can use any posture to enjoy my books. Do we have these cafes in Hong Kong? Is there only one way to behave in HK cafes: sitting upright sternly?)
I sold Conversations with God and then bought two other books, mostly of the reason that I want to broaden my horizon and practise speedy reading:
I am reading e-books about practical advice to work more freely without staying 9-5 in an office. I am not born to work this way. Free Spirit under construction!
Second Home to Digital Nomads, Eco-friendly Earth Houses Construction Projects, Simply A Casual Stopover for Creative Pursuit in Life
And surprisingly my dream has partly come true, because I met a lot of people who work on their own, mostly from their laptops, and be able to work from any corner of the world.
We call them digital nomads.
Whenever I go to some lovely cafes/bars to spend my time leisurably, there are always people with their eyes fixing on their laptops, mostly working on computer language of WordPress.
When I am reading, drinking fruit juices or enjoying vegetarian foods here without haste, here they are working their heads out, but always with a smile.
The bars, cafes and guesthouses are friendly environment for people not only to read but to work there. Plenty of chances for you to charge your battery, nice music, good foods, natural light, just amazing. Usually, the guesthouses already have lovely cafes for you to work or just to fritter away your time.
I met a Slovakian friend working as a web designer. Every day he works around 4 hours from cafes or his guesthouses, and he has been traveling for some months in Thailand, and then probably he will go to Japan. We read the same books and share similar vision, so I’m really excited to have met him!
From our conversation I know sometimes working as a freelancer payment terms is a headache— sometimes the client might don’t want to pay. This is actually my top-most concern—- I have been delaying my work on possible business because of this problem ( yet another excuse for Lady Procrastination!). I am scared of being cheated after all my effort I have put in. However, after some days rejuvenating in Chiang Mai, I slowly understand this fear is valid in reason, but it never helps. All I need to do is to really start working on my project—- the more I work on it, the more experience I get, the more I will know who is trustworthy for me to work with.
Any creative pursuit must take risk. If to take zero risk, life won’t be colorful.
There’s an American who has been traveling for 17 years, based in Middle Asia, working on teaching, eco-friendly projects and so on. He sometimes gives speeches on his projects and now he has been living in Chiang Mai for 9 months.
There are a group of enthusiastic Europeans I constantly meet wherever I go, working on building eco-friendly guesthouses organised by an English, and in return some of the volunteers might gain food and stay in exchange, while some of the volunteers donate to work on this project. That’s like what I did through helpx.net when I was in Europe.
There are two French street artists who come here this time every year, staying for a few months, and draw BRILLIANT graffiti in the streets. One of them volunteer to paint for the guesthouses in exchange of free room, but from what I heard his color sprays already cost more then the rent?
What captures my sight every day is that laid-back guy always playing with his small colorful guitar whenever he is walking wherever he goes., singing soothing folk songs. He successfully shared his nice music generously to the neigborhood of Chiang Mai.
I also met a Chinese woman who is going to stay here for a year. She travels from city to city. Wherever she likes it, she stays a long time.
Other interesting people include an Irish working for his football reporting website, travelers volunteering to work for the cafes, boys and girls traveling for months or year-long.
(Photo: I see the Irish football reporter working here sometimes, which is a beautiful bar right oppositive to my guesthouse, My Home. I did reading here, I love it except the mosquitoes. I commit murders like a dozen times everytime I am there)
A Closely-knitted Neighborhood of the Old Town
I keep meeting the same faces once in a while, seeing them at the east side in the morning and then west side at night. There are a lot of backpackers staying here long-term, together with the friendly locals. This makes me make friends more easier than ever. I once met a Hollander 5 times a day and I was like OH WOW.
In Hong Kong, I have rarely met friends by coincidence in the neighborhood, even if she is living only 5 minutes from my home (oh that bitchy girl!). This is because Hong Kong is much more complicated: it has more districts with convenient transport so you can spend your day far from your neighborhood. Also, there are a lot of high-rise buildings crowded with people. It’s already like a Guiness record challenge to meet your neighbor in the same building. Interesting.
The Backyard of Europe
Plenty of European digital nomads and Western backpackers (of course I made friends of fellow Chinese, it was a nice dinner with a sweet Chinese girl from Hangzhou), and Europeans re-settling here, so this has made my Holland friend’s description of Chiang Mai accurate—- Chiang Mai is somehow the backyard of Europe.
As a lazy traveler I stay 99% of the time in the square of Chiang Mai (inside the four 800 year-old walls surrounding the old town), all I can see are Europeans, Europeans, and Europeans… yes, some Americans, or South Americans too.
The people I meet they come here once a year for a few months, to the extreme they just stay here and never leave. The owners of my second guesthouse is a couple that the husband is an Italian. They have just started their cafe-guesthouse two months ago.
The Italian is from a city 50 km from lovely Menton. He said he was once an avid backpacker in early years. He once travelled for a year, and then shorter vacations after that. When he arrived at the age of 30, he felt tired of meeting new people who he could rarely make consolidated friendship. You know, nothing more than hi-bye friends. He then started a family and had his own kids.
After 2 decades of family life, he separated with his wife and re-settled in Chiang Mai, marrying a Thai and started this small guesthouse. Every night he and his wife serve All-You-Can-Eat vegetarian buffet at 110Baht(~30 HKD or within 3 euros) per person. This buffet is very homey and I enjoy quite a lot here. It’s a blue hut with plenty of old books on the shelves.
He once told me maintaining this small guesthouse and cafe has already generated more work then he would like. You can see how laid-back life is in Chiang Mai! I guess he would consider Hong Kong as hell LOL,
I am considering to visit Chiang Mai every year to escape from this gloomy rainy weather that triggers my hibernation mode when I officially turn into this ‘Sleeping Pity’ near winter time.
I need to detox from strain every year so Chiang Mai is quite a good choice — okay to be honest I do not like the air pollution here, and I hate it for not having good spots for exercising, but once I have successfully worked out my life-work balance, I would be able to come here maybe once a year to chill out in cozy cheap cafes and bars, enjoy good vegetarian foods, for every thing is cheap here. It’s a good place to relax and brainstorm for ideas, every second spent leisurely can never be wasted—-I feel relax but at the same time productive, which is much better than the time wasted by staying at office. For a lot of the times we stay in office just because the rule states that we must stay there in a fixed period of time, that’s it. It’s the topmost priority no one can break this rule. Being productive and contributive is already secondary concern.
I have made friends with locals here they are really friendly, making me feel like home here, from the guy selling mango sticky rice to tattoo artists, they are so friendly.
Also, Thailand is a good starting point to visit other countries in proximity, such as Cambodia and Vietnam. Buses are cheap. Together with the nice islands with unbeatable beaches much more beautiful than in Hong Kong, price reasonable (please I’m still tight in my budget :P)… I never knew that I would like Thailand so much!
The next chapter will be coming soon. If you enjoy please leave comments and like! Thanks~