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A Goodbye to Chiang Mai

Dear Chiang Mai,

I know we didn’t really click, but I am so grateful I got to spend some time here. Not because of your fancy temple on the mountain, or your tourist-saturated night bazaar. Not even because of your wall-to-wall temples or your absolute safety.

I’m grateful I got to spend some time here because of your people. I won’t leave here calling any of them friend (though if I’d stayed longer, I probably would have), but they are, to a person, kind.

You’re different, Chiang Mai, more western, a different vision of what Thailand might become than they have in the south. A modern, sprawling university. An uptown. A downtown. A city for artists and makers. A city with a progressive, keen eye on the future.

You had things that stunned me, in the best ways. the women’s prison massage, an amazing chef and teacher, the man next door who, in a concrete block house with a rusty tin roof, plays the same song on his guitar for two hours every morning, sound mixing with hundreds of birds, wafting up like morning prayers.

You were a city of more light than dark, outside the tourist places - there, the dark sticky, hard to wash out. You were a treat for the eyes, the ears, most definitely the belly. A place best taken in by pavement pressing feet.

You were goldilocks, really. Not too hot, not too cold. Everything, everyone, just right.

And as I sit, light fading on my last night here, I think what I wrote first was right. More than anything, you are a city built on clouds.

Tomorrow, I will step on a bus to see your brother, Chiang Rai, then a plane to the great tempest, Bangkok.

Thank you for the respite.

Nah, I hate curiousity.