Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Chiang Mai: Welcome to Thailand

Hot, flat and dirty.  Yum.  I am, without a doubt, back in the developing world.  (My travel companion says I am quite generous using the word “developing.”)  No more toilet paper in the toilet.

But, there are benefits.  Like an hour of massage for $5.  Unless they pull the bait-and-switch on you and replace the beautiful Thai girl with a young boy who seems more interested in making sure your upper hamstrings are loose than getting to the rest of the body.  “Wait, did he just mount me…oh jesus, here we go…”

I am intending to try and avoid Bangkok completely, if possible, because big cities make me itchy and nervous.  I flew in from Venice and went directly to Chiang Mai in the north, Thailand’s 2nd largest city.  Not a particularly pretty or interesting city in its own right, Chiang Mai is a good base of operations for some interesting tours.

Our first night was spent exploring the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, indulging in some crazy-looking seafood, and getting some tequila and a Connect Four lesson.  (For some reason, the Thais use Connect 4 as a bar game icebreaker, so if I’m going to successfully meet my 3rd ex-wife here, it’s important for me to pick up some skill.)

I’m traveling for two weeks with an Israeli and, for those of you who haven’t experienced this, they seem to have an entire network of global locations that cater just to them.  I was, quite literally, the only non-Jew in the hotel.  All the signage was in Hebrew and Thai.

“Would you like some breakfast?”

“I don’t know.  I can’t read the fucking menu.”

We were picked up the first morning and taken to a local market to buy some groceries and then off to a local farm where they have a cooking school.  There were six of us in our group and we had an amazing experience cooking one course, then wandering the farm to pick herbs and vegetables for the next. I would recommend Thai Farm Cooking School to anyone.

Later that night, we found a bar (ahem…sort of) where The Thai Marlboro Man was playing Bob Dylan and Neil Young.  (“Ohd man take a wook at my wife, I’z a wot wike youuu…”)  It did seem odd that there were 6 creepy old white dudes and 15 very young Thai girls in the bar…and then us.  And the dudes were all playing Connect Four with one of the young girls.  And people kept coming and going from a mysterious curtain in the back.  Ah, but never mind, the music was fantastic and we were too loaded on mojitos to care.

The following day, we went on a tour to a couple waterfalls and to a Karen tribal village.  A couple notes of import.  One, after Iguazu Falls, I think I’m pretty much fucked for waterfalls for life.  “Really, that’s it?  We drove all this way to see that?”

Two, I was particularly struck my our guide’s special notation that, “Look, used to live with candle, no power.  Now King provide power!”  I happened to notice that the power is metered.  Which would necessitate payment.  Which would require income.  Which means that instead of living in peace in the mountains as you have for thousands of years, you are now required to let groups of idiot tourists tromp through your village and take pictures of your huts, your chickens, and your dirty laundry.  To pay for the power.  Which the King was gracious enough to provide.  (This last paragraph is probably going to result in an ugly extradition, but I don’t care.  I was pissed.)

 

For those of you who don’t know, my arrival in Thailand was the culmination of a dream that was hatched more than a year ago in Cusco, Perú with my friend Will.  We have been discussing for a long time trying to settle here and lease a restaurant/bar property and try to make a life here for a while.  That may seem crazy considering that I have never been here, but it can’t be any more crazy than anything else that has happened to me in the past 18 months, right?

And so…my Intro to Thailand:  The spaces are amazing.  The people are beautiful – so warm, so friendly, so engaging.  The food is spectacular.  This is the place I expected it to be; I could stay here a long time.

But the Thai government absolutely does not want me here.  Most visitors are now given only a 30-day tourist visa.  If you make a border run to extend it, they give you 15 days more.  To legitimately open a business here as a US citizen requires a 2,000,000THB (~US$67,000) investment as up-front capital in a newly-created corporate entity.  And the money belongs to the “corporation,” not for you to use as actual operating capital.  And that only gets you one work permit.

There are always illegitimate ways to do these things, of course, but when it is widely known that immigration officials roam the streets and do random searches for white faces who appear to be working and ask for work permits on-the-spot, this is not the kind of life I want to be leading.  One of my ex-patriot contacts here said, “You wouldn’t want your dog to stay in immigration jail here for a day, I assure you.”

My options are:

  1. Be extraordinarily wealthy. (Please feel free to push the “Donate” button at the bottom of my site page.)
  2. Run for the back door every time someone I don’t know walks in the door of my business.
  3. Marry a Thai prostitute.

So, as much as I want to put a brave face on it, in some ways a dream died almost as soon as I hit the ground here.  And now I am back to that endless search for home:  I can go anywhere.  But where do I really want to be?

For now, I’m going to enjoy this amazing place for as long as they’ll have me and let the future come as it will.  It’s worked so far…

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