I’d forgotten how pungent Chiang Mai is at this time of year – the air is pregnant with rain and thick with humidity, alongside the usual engine fumes of cars, scooters, tuk-tuks and sorngthaews. Not to mention the smell of food everywhere – like cheap noodles, deep fried donuts, grilled meats, durian.
It’s been more than two years since I left and it was so surreal to be back. After my brief four day visit, I still find it almost impossible to believe that I used to live here.
Did I really eat lunch at places like The Salad Concept? Did I really walk along Huay Kaew Road every day? Did I really work a full-time job here and later, run the city’s first TEDx conference? What did Josh and I do on the weekends? I can’t seem to remember much of the day-to-day detail of our lives.
I stayed on the same street I used to work on – a happy accident – and walked past my old office the other day while retracing my steps…only the office is vacant because the company moved out last year. Just one of the many things which has changed. It’s obvious that the city has undergone huge development these past two years.
As I hung onto the back of my friend Mandy’s scooter the other night driving round the moat, it was like a late night dream with the wind blowing on my face. And that’s the thing about Chiang Mai for me; it never felt like my real life in a way. It really was a ‘working holiday’.
It’s been wonderful to reconnect with friends, to catch up and even connect it up with who I am now. In particular, I spent a lot of time with a friend who’s a yoga therapist. She was one of the first people I met in Chiang Mai, and we had an easy friendship from the start. I was always interested in her work but never learnt with her – and now, quite unexpectedly, and quite naturally, I’m embarking on a serious course of yoga with her, with planned future sessions happening on Skype. After two sessions I’ve already had some startling realisations about myself and I’ve even gotten a different perspective on the whole camera thing – which feels so far away already. I could write a whole other blog post about this yoga thing and where I’m coming from with this bit of work – the desire for more mindfulness, for one – but suffice to say, my few days in Chiang Mai seems to have given me some brilliant new ideas for the next year. Too much to go into here so I’ll elaborate later on.
I might find it unbelievable that I used to live here, but when I told my Thai ex-workmates what I was doing over the next year, I think my life seemed pretty unbelievable to them. One of them remarked that I was a millionaire – but clearly I’m not. I just have the good fortune of being a hard worker who also comes from Australia. As we all talked over dinner, I started to feel the gap between us widen just a little bit more. I’m not a colleague who lived and worked in Thailand anymore; I’m just a tourist now, passing through on the way to somewhere else.