Arrival in Chiang Mai

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The view from my balcony in Chiang Mai, one of the few times I’ve seen rain since I’ve been in Thailand.  This guesthouse is serving as my home base for the time being.  I arrived in Chiang Mai via overnight train.  The second class sleeper was rather comfortable, other than the arctic temperature of the air conditioning.  I slept in the lower berth.  Two young Dutch backpackers were in the upper bunks above me, and I never heard from the traveller across the aisle, who was sleeping behind the privacy curtains and departed before dawn.  At the Chiang Mai station, I got in a songthaew, a pickup truck converted to a shared taxi, as seen above.  The driver asked where I was from, and when I said Chicago his immediate response was “Chicago Bulls!”  This happens all around the world.  Another country heard from.

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Unlike the famed Chiang Mai Night Market where you buy tourist goods at foreigner prices, the Wororos Market is where Thai shoppers go to get the deals.  I ventured here in search of white clothes for my upcoming meditation retreat.  This photo shows just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of vendors in this labyrinth of a three-floor shopping mall. Before you can even get inside, you wade through the sprawl of even more stalls set up outside in the streets.  It’s total madness, but at the same time very neat and tidy, as most Thai things are.

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That night I met up with my good buddy Brandon and his friends Dan and Matt.  They met when they were English teachers in South Korea several years ago and still get together every year to travel.  This year they did their first meditation retreat at the temple on top of Doi Suthep, the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai.  We had dinner at this rooftop restaurant before going to a Muay Thai kickboxing event.  I love when I tell people how I want them to pose for a picture, and then they actually do it!

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Traditional Thai dance interlude

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I became friends with Brandon two summers ago when we were taking the same math class at the University of Chicago.  We decided to be study buddies and started biking down to Hyde Park together every morning.  That fall, we ended up living a few blocks apart in Pilsen and planned many social activities with friends, including a trip to South Haven.  The crowning achievement of our co-organizing efforts was our meditation book club.  The first book we read was Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, followed by Mindfulness by Ellen Langer.  A dedicated group of friends met every Monday, meditated for twenty minutes, then had a discussion over a home-cooked meal.  Oh, fancy meeting you in the Kingdom of Thailand!

Before the main event, the younger boxers proved they could roll with the punches without throwing in the towel.  Nobody’s messing with these kids on the playground.

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Enjoying a few Thai beers at the boxing ring.  The next day I’d be off to my retreat.  The guys stuck around Chiang Mai another day or two and then rode scooters up to the nearby town of Pai.  No doubt we’ll cross paths again soon, whether in a land near or far.  I’ve heard that all roads lead to Rome.  I’ve also heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Well, as they say in Thailand, same same but different.  When in Rome…


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