Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CGNWWT Part 3: Chiang Mai, Thailand Part 1

Ahh, Thailand.  There is so much to say about Chiang Mai that I had to cut my CGNWWT Entry for Thailand into two parts.  Though my time in this amazing country was short, I am pretty certain that it is a magical place that would give Walt Disney a serious run for his money.  I realize that it’s certainly not perfect, and even the current political turmoil is evidence that my perspective on Thailand is one of great privilege.  However, there is something to be said about the quality of life of Thailand and how it is simply a lifestyle rather than something to aspire to.
Clouds outside my airplane window as we landed in Bangkok.
Homes downtown in the traditional Chiang Mai style.
The moment I stepped off the plane into Chiang Mai, I felt the feeling of coming home in a foreign country for the first time.  A lot of long-timers in China have expressed that they felt that when they arrived in Beijing.  I hate to say it since I do love aspects of China, but I am so grateful that I felt that feeling in Chiang Mai. 

As many of you know, Jason and I traveled to Thailand mostly to visit the Tang family—some friends of ours who took off to Thailand at the same time that we shipped off to China.  They are working with the Zoe House, which is a childrens’ home for young people who are at-risk for being sold into human trafficking.  It was amazing to go and speak with some of the rescued children who are now being fed, clothed, and educated in schools in Chiang Mai.  The staff at Zoe is incredible and their spirit is infectious.

Some of the Zoe kids & staff

While we visited, we were able to see the beginnings of a new era in Zoe history.  Zoe’s ultimate vision is to open a fully functioning boarding school with dormitories for families, single adults, single parents, and children.  Currently, they are finishing just a few dorm and office buildings, but it was amazing to drive out to the land where Zoe’s future will slowly be developed.

One of the Zoe girls at the site of the new Zoe complex.  She was using that giant leaf to shade herself from the sun.

We also were able to do a few touristy things.  These photos are from two walks in the downtown area.  The night scenes are from the Sunday night walking market, and the others are just from the city center of Chiang Mai, which contains tons of Buddhist temples.

 Jason will probably not like that I posted this one, but this is him eating some street food.  Clearly, it's a sausage.  
But it's filled with rice and pork and is a little chewy and a lot delicious.

These flowers are actually made of soap and individually painted.
This is a Buddha that was wrapped for some reason in that orange cloth.  It reminded me of a Rene Magrite painting.
Songthaws are like the lovechild of taxis and buses.  This is how Jason and I got from place to place most of the time.  Super convenient and surprisingly comfy!
 A Buddhist cemetary

One thing Jason and I noticed right away is the amazing friendliness of the Thai people.  In situations where many Americans and even Chinese living in Beijing would roll their eyes, fed up with the dumb tourists, the people in Chiang Mai simply laughed it off and gave us the help we needed.  Oddly enough, being around such patience and grace convicted me greatly of my own shortness with strangers and my unwillingness to express compassion in situations that don't benefit me directly.  It was wonderful to get a different sense of life and remember what it's like to not be caught up in the everyday hustle or the growing obsession with finding a clear career path and making money.  There is much that we can learn from the folks in Chiang Mai... certainly more than I expected.  I can't wait to go back.

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