Monday, 2 February 2015
First week In Chiang Mai
So one of the things that really inspired me to writing was the idea that I could show others the world as I see it. No guessing “What the writer is trying to say or his motivation for doing the story” like we were all asked in school. I think I have achieved that goal and I think many readers enjoy my view or “take” on the places I tell you about. Robert Dugoni is fond of telling a story where he is sitting poolside and the person he is with suggests he start writing. His response is that he is, plotting twists and turns in his latest book My Sisters Grave. I remembered that story as I came down to the pool this morning carrying my 13 MacBook Pro. It reminded me of a dream I once had; to be secure enough to be able to sit poolside as an author. To toss off the shackles of Starbucks and the leather padded tweed jacket and live the exotic lifestyle of a “paperback writer.”
Just as we need our dreams to drive us forward, we rely on self-sarcasm to keep us grounded and a creative memory as a guide book.
Never the less today does in truth find me poolside in Chiang Mai Thailand. Living if not cheaply then inexpensively enough to be secure in my dream as an author. It also finds me struggling to balance play time, research time, travel time, husband time, social media time, and writing time! Mr. Dugoni is again motivational today as I think about our conversation last week in which he told me about his guy who takes care of his social web stuff. So now I have a new goal, thanks, Robert. I need to get to the point that responding to fan email and messages is once again a treat and not one of those things on the list of things struggling for attention. Without achieving that dream, I fear the next book is a long way off! This should not be construed in any way to say I don’t enjoy your letters, messages, comments, and critiques.
So Chiang Mai. There is a ton of stuff written about this city in the North of Thailand. I have read critiques that people say too nice of things about the place. The inference here is that they are not entirely truthful. While it is true the country of Thailand is under Military Law and the Military has stated they are taking this situation and, as such, the interpretation of Military Law very seriously I don’t feel muzzled as a writer. As a foreign guest here and Russia before this I feel like I can comment on my observations. Just as in Russia I can say what it is like to me as a visitor to a new culture and country but to comment past that I think would be irresponsible. I am hardly an expert on either countries, history or culture. I think one of the things in this world that create problems are irresponsible “experts” interfering or commenting in other countries affairs.
This is not to say I haven’t noticed the increased Military presence. But it is unobtrusive and life seems to go on as normal from everything I have seen. The other day Inga and I walked up to one of the big Universities as it looked like graduation was going on. We were right it was and we walked around past hundreds uniformed officers of various decorations. To a person, they all smiled at us and many nodded and I should point out we were the only white people walking about. We stopped to have a drink at one of the many street side cafes in the area and after a time noticed a lack of traffic. Then two uniformed officers very politely approached us and ask we move back off the street table as the Princess was about to go by in a motorcade. They made the request in English and very politely. While obvious they fully expected me to do as asked it was none the less done with Thai friendliness and good manners. The Royal motorcade went by and the café’s owner and workers came out to see it and you could see the love and adoration they have for her and the entire Royal Family. Being Canadian I am not really a Monarchist but it was very cool to witness this here in Thailand.
I have been in Chiang Mai before so I am having fun being tour guide for Inga and we are doing the typical touristy things people do in this old city. We have also been doing a ton of walking and all over the city and not just in the safer tourist areas. I have yet to feel even a little uncomfortable and we have traveled into every manner of street and market.
The other night we decided to take in a Jazz concert held at the famous Ta Pae Gate, Chiang Mai. It was an outdoor event and was free. Jazz de LANNA it was called and we had seen signs advertising it all over Chiang Mai. It started very early at 5:30pm and continued all night long till about 11pm. The event had many sponsors along with the TAT, better known as the Thailand Authority of Tourism, and it was a well put on show. The military was there, and again they were all very polite and vigilant. It actually made me feel very safe as I witnessed how they scanned the crowd and watched what was tossed into trash bins. They even watched me when I tossed in the remains of the dinner Inga and I had bought at the market/carnival style food venues. The very interesting old/new mix Thailand does so well was once again on display. Night Market food venues with pricing in reach of the locals and fancy hotel sponsored tents selling exotic food at slightly higher prices but still within a small splurge range for locals. The stage was very professionally done and the sound was truly world class. The event headlined Jazz sensations, Howard McCrary, Koh Saxman and Khun. Legendary Jazz Master Howard McCrary has worked with many famous names in the music scene in the US. The backup acts were talented as well and the range in style and delivery really appealed to the very multinational crowd. Plastic chairs allowed many to sit and a VIP section of leather couches must have had some very special guests as I watched an army officer walk up and take a picture of one of the VIPS saluting before and after. Inga and I enjoyed a large part of the show from the ground before retreating to a third-floor terrace patio that was part of a Starbucks to finish the evening. Even from across the street the sound was perfect and the music and message magical. Harry’s voice communicating great respect for the King of Thailand in an individual song and the love of peace in the entire set, finishing the evening with Imagine.
So while we continue to acclimatize ourselves to the warm winter in the Jungle I really have to say Chiang Mai is as nice as it is reported to be. Tuk Tuk drivers are quick to smile and relent when they try to overcharge you for a ride home by 50 Bhat, or about a buck US. The streets are a little dangerous to cross but most car drivers are vigilant, so you just have to watch the scooters. The people are warm and friendly and not just because you’re a “rich tourist”. Things move at a little slower pace but perhaps that is a cultural lesson we could all learn from.
On the topic of foreigners and scooters we met a Russian fellow by the pool the other day who on spotting my tattoo was very happy to talk in his native tongue to Inga and I. He related an experience he had while driving a larger, more powerful, scooter. He was going north to visit a high mountain temple and got hit. His injuries were pretty bad, damaging his left arm significantly. He doesn’t remember the actual event, just being passed by two cars on a corner and then waking up in the hospital. He said the healthcare system was superb and he was pleased with his progress healing. He told us how the driver stopped and two men he didn’t know got him help and to the hospital. Glad to see this Thai kindness extended to my adopted countries nationals as well.
So to my friends, fans, and now famous Robert Dugoni, good afternoon from poolside in Chiang Mai. I am writing and please take the time to appreciate one another and the beautiful things we all have achieved. Don’t let those achievements rule your life as life is short and for the living. Specifically to my writer-types “this day we write!”