Goodbye Chiang Mai

We didn’t think the day would come, but here we are: Packed bags, paid bills, shipped packages; it is time to travel.

A tribute to our six weeks in Chiang Mai begins with deep wai of gratitude to our hosts at the CM Blue House, especially Jimmy, the ever-smiling public relations concierge and trip-booker. You would think Jimmy would get tired of answering the same questions over and over again, explaining the city’s tuk-tuks and taxis, elephant treks, cooking and massage schools, etc. You’d think he’d get tired of dealing with a thousand special requests, lost keys, left bags, and complicated reservations; but he doesn’t show it if he does. Jimmy works hard, but takes joy in meeting the continuous stream of people from around the world that pass through his doors—and in showing off his two-year-old, Goi-Jeng (named after a Chinese movie star).

You’d think Jimmy would be completely dulled to saying hello and goodbye; and yet, after I’d booked our passage to Laos with him and paid our bill, he got a little sentimental. “We see you morning and night, every day,” he said. “Like family.”

Speaking of the brothahs and sistahs, I’ve written several times about the friends we’ve made in Chiang Mai. There were the Dubliners, Mark and Carol, Tay’s fellow massage school students and fellow Blue Housers, who accompanied us on a few double-dates before boarding a train for the south. There was Kalev and Monique, self-styled study-abroaders who created their own internships in town—he in the cardiology unit of the University Hospital (he gave us a tour one day); the nurse pictured below is not Monique; she was up in the woods, identifying rare ferns and trees with a crew of thai botanists. The muy tranquilo couple just spent ten years in Boulder before moving to Boston, and because of Kalev’s bluegrass proclivities, we even had a few fiddlin’ friends in common.

And, of course, there were Ed ‘n Brandy, Northern California hell-cats and our bosom companions these past few weeks. They overlapped with our lives in Tay’s massage school, in our common NorCal cultural heritage, and in our love for music and food. Brandy is a licensed massage therapist who plans on teaching thai massage in her business back in the Sierra Mountains, and Ed a chef whose careers spans thousands of grilled cheeses and “Ed’s Wraps” on Grateful Dead tours, to the fanciest restaurants in Yosemite Valley–he’s doing some freelance small kitchen consulting in Chiang Mai and plays a mean guitar to boot.

Ed, Kalev, and I even jammed on stage one night at Chai and Ud’s open mic, wailing out some bluegrass and blues. We named our one-gig band “Stonegroove Shanti”, in a proud shoutout to Kalev’s old band.

Chiang Mai has been good to us, no doubt about it. There were umbrella festivals, flower festivals, and a million Sunday markets (so it seems). There were wats, foot massages, yoga, and meditation. We accomplished a great deal here: nailing deadlines, graduating massage school, sending out applications and care packages—and spending waaaay too much time online.

We also went ahead and decided to rent a Scooter in Chiang Mai, which helped us to get around the city. Without a scooter, I don’t think we would of seen half the things we did and although Chiang Rai was just a Greenbus away, we opted to enjoy the city.

Our final week has been so packed that we haven’t even glanced at a guidebook for Laos, trusting that all the other tourists on the slow boat will be happy to share their plans, and let us tag along to the first guest house in Luang Prabang, down the Mekong River.

See you there.

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