Sawatdee khrap! Which means ‘hello!’

I could not have landed at a better place in Chiang Mai. Owned by an American-Korean man and a local Thai lady who are very friendly and VERY helpful, Sethee Court sits in a quiet neighborhood twenty minutes walk south from the center of town. Having lived here more than 4 years now, Stephen knows all about how to extend one’s stay with which visas, where to go, what to do, etc., if I don’t get a job and B-visa (work permit) before my 30 days are up. They’ve given me tons of suggestions for interesting places to see and things to do, things to watch out for or avoid, as well as advice about the general ‘climate’ here as far as teaching English is concerned. They rent scooters and they own two buildings in town which they mostly rent as apartments, except for a few rooms which they reserve for shorter-term visitors, tourists, etc. Their rates are incredibly reasonable, and the rooms are clean and functional with a fan and A/C. Each building is close to popular local Thai massage schools. If you’re coming to Chiang Mai, I highly recommend staying at one of the two. Sethee Court

It’s very hot and humid here, highs around 90 in the day and lows around 70 in the evening, but I’m told the weather is cooling down as fall and winter approach. I have seen older residents wearing coats and hats already. The sunshine has been abundant since I arrived, although every couple of days it will rain, a very pleasant and somewhat heavy tropical rain sometimes with thunderstorm and never lasting more than an hour or so. From where I sit on the patio of Sethee Court, the mountain is often obscured by clouds; when not, I see beautiful hills. I’ve been up in those mountains twice now, on scooter, and both times experienced rain and fog, delightful waterfalls, and friendly people.

More than a little trickster energy has been happening ever since I arrived. On my first day here I went to a massage place where they employ blind masseurs, and had 300 baht lifted from the wallet inside my belt pouch. I was quite surprised by this, and have been a little reluctant to get a massage anywhere ever since. Twice now I’ve rented a scooter and both times, the scooter got a flat on the back wheel. The first time I was delivering my resume to a school out in the country, a beautiful place surrounded by lush green hills.

The second time was a ride purely for pleasure, to visit Wat Doi Suthep, the popular, touristy temple up high on the mountain. For a brief moment I thought I was back in China, given all the hawkers lining the approach walkway, and all the Chinese tourists.

From there I went to the smaller-of-two Hmong villages where they grow coffee and macadamia nuts, and make textiles by hand from bamboo fiber. The children wear traditional clothes, also made from bamboo fiber, at their school.

After leaving that area, I went to a local lake where one can rent a thatched roof platform right on the water. A lovely place to relax, where food can be purchased, and I was told one can even get a massage there on the platform. For both flat tires, the owners of Sethee Court were very helpful, the first time over the phone with a local: miles from Chiang Mai, a young couple who spoke no English whatsoever helped me load the bike into their truck and took me to two different places, the first of which was closed. I tried to offer them money but they would not accept it. The second place replaced the inner tube for a whopping $4.50, labor included! For the second flat tire event, the owners of Sethee actually came out to the lake to help. People are so friendly and helpful here!

I spent all last week going all over Chiang Mai and outside of it, by foot, red truck (taxi), and scooter. I’ve been warned to avoid the tuk-tuk’s here, they tend to rip off tourists. I’ve left my CV at about 20 different schools so far, and have yet to hear from any them. I’m told I’ve arrived at a good time, for the between-semester break has just begun; there may be opportunities arising in a week or so, at the start of the next semester, if and when teachers leave. Competition is stiff in this city, there are many westerners seeking work. I’ve learned that Thai people here are hesitant to hire someone unless they feel that person will stay a while, apparently they’ve been burned by frequent backpackers who leave after two weeks or so. Which means it may be a bit longer before I can not only say “I plan to live here at least a year” but also “I’ve been here a month,” or something similar. I’ve also been told that they don’t generally follow up on things like we’re used to in America, for example, the repair shop has long ago fixed the bike and is waiting to be paid but won’t bother to call and tell you. So I may need to exercise a little “friendly persistence” soon, and make some calls. Strangely, very few schools provide the exclusive B-visa, so there are some teachers who work under the radar. Not my preferred way of staying long term, but it may be necessary in the near-term until something comes through. So different from China in many ways!

There are Wats (Thai for temples) everywhere here. I’ve made friends with a few monks via the “monk chat” area of the main central temple, a place where monks sit and talk with visiting westerners to improve their English, and where westerners can learn about Buddhism and life as a monk. Or in my case, teach them English. Two are from Cambodia, one of whom took me to his University just outside of town where I left my resume. It’s an agricultural school which I’m very hopeful about working for. The third is a Thai, whose major is English, he’s agreed to meet regularly for a language exchange.

All things considered, and despite the trickster energy, I really like it here. I like being so close to jungle-covered hills and will likely buy a used motorcycle to get out and up into them more often. Repair costs are incredibly cheap so I see many older, well-maintained motorcycles of the small cc variety here. Traffic’s a little crazy in the center, tons of scooters and cars going every which way, all driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road like in Britain…just kidding, my Brit friends.

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