Chiang Mai : Travelling without moving.

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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All the Spicy gang in the back of the SpicyThai-mobile.

'You expose the film in me, we're drawing :

Rings around the World.

Sooner or later we will melt together and draw :

Rings around the World.'  

'Rings Around the World', The Super Furry Animals

And so it is, in the comforting embrace of SpicyThai Backpackers Hostel and the soothing environs of lovely Chiang Mai that for the first time in my journey I surrender to near total, necessary inertia. “Hey, it’s Christmas after all!”. The weather remains hot.

Vampire-Stevie, Jon (NYC) & Paul
A world away from this time of year at home. There are though, plenty of home comforts here to help you recharge your batteries. I’m particularly fond of the little Beer Fairy who so attentatively returns to the hostel every night to replenish the stock of Changs, Singhas and Heinekens in the fridge in the communal kitchen. Magic.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t succumb 100% to sitting on my bum in my time in Chiang Mai. But near enough. There are occasional moments of inspiration; unexpected bursts of energy that tear me and the gang away from the home cinema setup, free internet and beer fridge and catapault us out into this scenic city. There are the tigers of course [see previous blog entry]. I do a good couple of my usual walking tours of the Old Town central spread of the city.

Jon fallen asleep mid-strum and much abused... also due to depart for Laos in 3 hours time!!
A large, pretty area that forms the heart of Chiang Mai. It is bordered by a giant square moat of water in line with the broken down remains of the old city walls and contains a wealth of Buddhist wats and temples.

There is an abortive attempt by Noom to very kindly take us all in the SpicyThai-mobile to the greatly revered hilltop temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Doi Suthep for short). This journey though soon grinds to a halt in a morass of honking car horns, motorbikes, police cars, glinting steel fenders and scrambling, opportunistic street vendors. Confusion, chaos and sweltering, exhaust fume laced heat reigns. It turns out, one of the Royal clan has decided to make an impromptu pilgrimage to the temple and stay at the ‘palace’ in its proximity. Word got out. The entire world, his marigold chain and his monkey have consequently dashed out here in an attempt to get up the hill and cop a glance.

The many pretty waterways of the 'moat' srround of old Chiang Mai
We ain’t going nowhere and no one can see this clearer than an apologetic Noom. No worries. It’s a mini adventure. In Chiang Mai I have been happily getting used to travelling without moving.

Because this is one of endearing facts about travel; long term travel, I am finding. Whilst you continue to float about the globe in your own incidental way, it goes without saying that you will meet many, many wonderful persons, fellow travellers and adventurers as you go. Some, if not many of them will, hopefully, and if only for a fleeting moment or matter of days become friends. Whether this be the case or not, it is assured that conversation will near always be dominated by “How are you?” - “Sohowlong’veyoubeentravelling?” - “Sowhichcountries’veyoubeentoo?” - “Sowheredoyouplantogonext?” - “What’sbeenyourfavouritecountrysofar?” and so on and suchlike.

The magnificent Wat Chedi Luang at Chiang Mai's heart.
Most of you reading this are well-seasoned globetrotting TravBuddies so you know the conversations I mean.

And it’s great (if a tad repetitive sometimes) for we are constantly painting paths for one another through our words and the relating of our experiences. As we start to utter our adventure and routes we are crafting little maps within the minds of our audiences. You can see the little red dots appears on these maps before the minds eye, being joined dot to dot as you gab away. Paths well trodden. Sometimes less so. “OhI’vebeenthere!” - “Ohyeah! Likethatplacewassoooobeautiful!” - “OhI’mheadingtherenext.” - “Anyrecommendationspal?”. And so we start to travel through others too within our own journeys. An exchange of anecdotes, advice and ideas.

Golden chedi spire of (I think) Wat Phra Singh
Backpackers the world over, like spores upon the wind, borne with their tourist dollars along the zephyrs and breezes caused by the flapping pages of Lonely Planet guides. The Trade Winds needed no more. I would so love to have any overview of the planet whereby all the infinite winding routes of each individual traveller could be seen, tracing its way in minute neon threads, east, west, north and south around the near entirety of the globe. Millions of little lives throwing rings around the world.

And this happens a lot. This interchange of ideas, when you stop still for a while. Call it a cross-pollination of destination. There’s a firm group of friends forming here over the week at SpicyThai, over easy beers, breakfasts, endless DVDs, Star Wars drinking games and games of poker and speed-Jenga.

:))))
There’s Albert, Ben, (Canada) Jon, Jon (NYC), Sarah, Jacinta, Leone and Roger, Paul, Claire, Henry and Patrick to name but a few. Other people come and go. Travel lines briefly passing through SpicyThai, and our lives. They would all intersect on that map I want if we could see one - these travel lines - not as neat lines of longitude and latitude but rather as geographical spaghetti. All knotting together at this one point before we all unravel and continue to travel our separate ways. And Thailand strikes me as like that. A real hub. The backpacker/ traveller crossroads of the world. All us Long Termers seem to pass through here at some time or other. To slow down. To stop for a time. To listen and travel through others’ stories of ‘The Journey So Far’ and ‘To Be Continueds…’ Travelling without moving again.
Making offerings with oil lamps at Doi Suthep

Many moments are enjoyed in Chiang Mai amidst the lethargy and Chang beers which I won’t write about too extensively about in keeping with the lazy mindset of the time. Doi Suthep (Paul, Henry, Patrick and I did eventually get up there another day) is an impressively ornate and beautifully decorated temple although its principle golden chedi was covered in restoration bamboo struts. Its hilltop position commands amazing views back down over the broader sprawl of the city of Chiang Mai. The airport and so forth.

For the most part us SpicyThais just mooch in and around the confines of the moat-bordered Old City or head out to the villages and trekking hills about. I pass on the latter activity having done very similar things in Nepal recently. There is - as already mentioned - a good number of fine and interesting temples within the city, Wat Chedi Luang being the oldest and most impressive, sat at the heart of the City square.

Under, repainting - the chedi of Doi Suthep temple
Walking Chiang Mai can be very pleasant with the many markets, street-food vendors and the pretty water ways reflecting the trees and flowers that bow down over them. The night markets are worth a look. Many people (not myself) also took advantage of the many affordable massage centres, Thai cookery and meditation courses that are available at ease here. I get about as adventurous as paying 80 Baht (£1.60) to laze about at the poolside of the reasonably plush Chiang Mai Hill Hotel, reading and sunbathing. “Oh yeah, it was a difficult period of my life!”.

But all good things must come to an end. The travel urge; the itchy feet reawaken from the beer-induced coma after a time. So, slowly fragmenting from the whole, in the days following on from Christmas we all start to peel off from the main group, and move away, alone, or in little clusters come together for company on the next legs of our respective journeys.

Chiang Mai from on high
But writing this sometime later (14/02/09) as I am, the lines of travel; the trajectories of the SpicyThai Christmas Gang have continued in many ways to intersect. Often unexpectedly as we all pinball our way around Southeast Asia.

So P, J (NYC) ‘n’ me, we all headed up to Pai for New Years. B, he headed south to Phagnan for Full Moon and the promise of getting laid. JC, C, S, A and (Canada) J, well they all stayed at Spicy a little longer. And L & R, they went to trek. And then P, J (NYC) and me, we all split in directions three. Chiang Dao, Phagnan and Mae Hong Son respectively. I return to SpicyT where once again A, L, R and a comatose (Canada) J still reside and they all are off to Laos. Meantime JC & S, a visa run and then Ko Tao maybe. P & C bumped into each other in Phi Phi, and P in Sukhothai had also met me.

Dressed to please the tourists and their cameras at Doi Suthep
I then made pals with N in BKK heading south, and turns out S from SpicyT’s her best friend so she gets on off to Ko Tao to see her too. The UK next for her. C in the meantime’s bumped into J (NYC) who also later happens once more upon P, much later in Hanoi. And so it goes and goes… a confusion of colliding travel itineraries. It’s a small world after all I’m told. Long may we all continue to throw rings around it.

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All the Spicy gang in the back of …
All the Spicy gang in the back of…
Vampire-Stevie, Jon (NYC) & Paul
Vampire-Stevie, Jon (NYC) & Paul
Jon fallen asleep mid-strum and mu…
Jon fallen asleep mid-strum and m…
The many pretty waterways of the …
The many pretty waterways of the …
The magnificent Wat Chedi Luang at…
The magnificent Wat Chedi Luang a…
Golden chedi spire of (I think) Wa…
Golden chedi spire of (I think) W…
:))))
:))))
Making offerings with oil lamps at…
Making offerings with oil lamps a…
Under, repainting - the chedi of D…
Under, repainting - the chedi of …
Chiang Mai from on high
Chiang Mai from on high
Dressed to please the tourists and…
Dressed to please the tourists an…
SpicyThai Backpackers Hostel (abst…
SpicyThai Backpackers Hostel (abs…
Yes, (Canada) Jon IS actually asle…
Yes, (Canada) Jon IS actually asl…
The Three Kings Monument
The Three Kings Monument
Tree Print (Chiang Mai)
'Tree Print' (Chiang Mai)
Tree Print (Chiang Mai)
'Tree Print' (Chiang Mai)
Paving slab reflection, Wat Chedi …
Paving slab reflection, Wat Chedi…
Nagaa snake guards to the main str…
Nagaa snake guards to the main st…
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang
BIIIIG Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang
BIIIIG Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang
Tree Print (Chiang Mai)
'Tree Print' (Chiang Mai)
Wat Phra Singh (I think?)
Wat Phra Singh (I think?)
The golden chedi of Wat Phra Singh…
The golden chedi of Wat Phra Sing…
Golden chedi (detail)
Golden chedi (detail)
Interior of the bot of Wat Phra Si…
Interior of the bot of Wat Phra S…
Unusual Alien Vs Predetor street a…
Unusual Alien Vs Predetor street …
Street art (detail)
Street art (detail)
Mosaic tiled nagaa protective serp…
Mosaic tiled nagaa protective ser…
Nagaa (detail)
Nagaa (detail)
Self portrait in dragons eye
Self portrait in dragon's eye
The many steps up to Doi Suthep
The many steps up to Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep prayer bell housing
Doi Suthep prayer bell housing
Tree and shadow at Doi Suthep
Tree and shadow at Doi Suthep
View of Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep
View of Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep
View of Chiang Mai city from atop …
View of Chiang Mai city from atop…
Bot roof and main chedi of revered…
Bot roof and main chedi of revere…
Making offerings & prayer at Wat D…
Making offerings & prayer at Wat …
Doi Suthep (abstract)
Doi Suthep (abstract)
Buddha head at Doi Suthep temple
Buddha head at Doi Suthep temple
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes