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Posts Tagged ‘hemp’

It’s easy to love northern Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular and many people do. It’s easy to relax and start feeling that you could stay a few months and maybe even join the many ex pats who have made their temporary or permanent home here.lots of textiles

Start to think about finding a way to make some money and getting a work permit (and you don’t need to earn much to live here) or getting a retirement visa if you’re old enough (and I am, hooray!) or even just joining the queues at the Burmese or Laos border every two weeks to renew your tourist visa. And of course getting yourself a Thai girlfriend which is what just about every middle aged single man is doing here. In the interests of sexual equality I must report that of course as a middle aged single woman you could come here for a Thai boyfriend too, but it’s just that you don’t see that in every bar or café and on every street.

Yes, Chiang Mai seems to have mastered the art of pandering to the needs of the farang (the foreigners) in every way. There are umpteen cafes selling cheap and delicious Thai food or huge English breakfasts or mango and bee pollen smoothies – whatever your particular penchant happens to be. And on top of that don’t forget the yoga sessions, the thai massage schools, the cooking classes, the trekking, rafting, elephant rides, meditation retreats, mountain biking, and what have you. And the Thai language courses  – which is how I’m spending my weekday mornings. Sitting in a classroom being given vocab lists and practicing the five tones and the long and short vowels may not be every one’s idea of a good time, but I am enjoying it very much, thank you.

man holding signBut it’s not all sweetness and light – most of the “farang” here are polite and cheerful but still the Thais must get fed up of us. My guesthouse landlord confided in a private rant to me the other evening – he began by expressing his amazement that we would come here on holiday and then pay good money to spend a day COOKING?! And then proceeded to a general rage at having to smile constantly and answer the same questions over and over from dumbass tourists. In the end I wrote a big sign for him and told him to just point!

So what am I doing here? Between my morning Thai class, my evening yoga sessions and regular Thai massage in my local temple, I am very busy whizzing around the alleyways and back streets on a bright orange rented pushbike. I have settled into a regular routine – usually first down to the “H’mong village” at Warorot market. This is the section of the market where the H’mong tribal people have set up homes, where they watch TV, play with their kids, make clothes and stitch and embroider and sleep amidst their huge piles of somewhat tatty hilltribe embroideries and pleated skirts. This has all been developing in the past 5 years or so into a full on neighbourhood, and now I join the other traders (Thai, Japanese, other westerners) who are there most days riffling through the piles to see if anything catches our eye.

After that I visit the market shops, to buy indigo and hemp fabrics and buttons or beads or just to market stallssee what’s in. Once I’ve bought about as much as I can stick onto the wobbling handlebars of my bike I’m off to Poo’s. place. Poo has a shop selling clothes like me and she has usually already been down to the H’mong village that morning. By the afternoon she is flaked out on her settee at the back of the shop watching day time soaps – which are frankly appalling but quite mesmerising (and good for Thai practice – they speak slowly and dramatically – you don’t love me – you left me alone – you killed my father etc! )

Poo’s tailors make clothes for me, so most days I am there with my fabrics and my bits of hilltribe embroidered scraps and my patterns and samples, working things out and ordering or collecting. We can compare notes on what we paid for stuff, how the price of cotton is going up and the quality of hemp weaving down, have a laugh at the soaps and my crap Thai and share some mangosteens or other exotic fruits.

At the weekends the shopping doesn’t end, it just changes location – at the end of the road where I’m staying, the famous Sunday “Walking Market” sets up. From 4pm onwards the traffic is stopped, the roads are lined with stalls, the temple courtyards are full of food stalls and the road is thronged with people enjoying the atmosphere and the shopping. If it all gets too much you can stop and get a foot or shoulder massage at one of the massage “parlours” which get set up on every corner.

little sweets

people getting massages

So that’s my particular version of Chiang Mai – but there are so many others… girly bars and pool tables, reggae bands and beer, meditation and massage, sausage and chips and Premier league football at the Irish pub, cocktails and candlelit dinners, ancient temples and golden Buddhas, tennis or a round of golf at the Gymkhana Club. You name it, Chiang mai has it all!

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