It’s familiar but different.
There’s a part of Chiang Mai that’s called the “old city.” It’s a large square area with old crumbling walls and a moat surrounding it. The old city has wats, stores, restaurants, markets, massage places, coffee and more coffee and more massage.
We rented a 2 BR apartment for a month about 3km from the north west corner of the old city. It has a living room, table and chairs, desks, cabinets, shelves, an armoire, and 2 balconies. From the balcony we have a view of a mountain close by, Doi Suthep. Yay! It’s so nice to have the extra space and sit somewhere other than our bed. We rented a 2 bedroom because my brother and sister in law are coming soon to join us for a couple weeks.
For our first week here we decided to take some of the numerous classes offered. We each found a studio. David signed up for Tai Chi and Chi Kung lessons and I signed up for a daily Yoga class. We rented bicycles, so we could bike to and from our classes in the old city. What a great first week. The Yoga studio, Wild Rose Yoga, feels welcoming with a variety of teachers and classes. It was so nice to have someone guiding me each day. I was pushed, strength and flexibility wise, more than when I practice on my own. The classes felt well rounded. They included the asanas (postures), some chanting, pranayama (breathing exercises), and brief meditation. I got to know some of the other students and even ran into people outside of class. I sense an opportunity for a nice yoga community if you stay long enough. I met a guy from Germany who comes here occasionally just for the yoga and food.
We were elated to find a plethora of vegetarian and vegan food here. Chiang Mai has that familiar but different feeling. It feels a little like a mix of Key West and Boulder transported to Thailand. Key West because I think of flat terrain, 3-speed or single speed biking with a basket on the front, warm weather, lots of people outside walking, open air restaurants, flip flops, Yoga, shopping, and lots of fruit. I think of Boulder because of healthy people walking around, Yoga, lots of veg/vegan restaurants, coffee, lots of bikes, and mountains. The pictures may make you reflect on the different part.
One of the days riding along on my 3 speed bike in my flip flops, with my things in the basket on the front, passing colorful temples, numerous vegetarian and vegan restaurants, street food vendors, vegetable markets, stores with the common elephant print baggy cotton pants everyone wears, with a mostly sunny sky, temperature around the 90’s, happy from just having enjoyed a new version of chai tea at home (made with thai tea adds a nice taste), a content, joyful, peaceful feeling came over me. For a split moment it felt too good. It felt easy, it felt comfortable, it felt good. Ahhhh…..exhale. I thought of what my teacher Manorama says…..”map that out.” Where am I? How did I get there? Well physically I am in Chaing Mai, Thailand. But I am not really talking about physically where am I. It’s that content, joyful, peaceful feeling I just felt on the bike riding to Yoga class. How did I get there? “Map it out”…backtrack….explore the internal route…..it is a feeling that’s accessible anywhere and at any time. I’m curious……what helped and contributed to create that feeling and experience in that moment?
On a small side street really only wide enough for bicycles and mopeds, I stopped at a friendly looking stand that offered juice, smoothies and coffee. David was at class and I had an hour before my class started. I thought I could sit and contemplate that content, joyful, peaceful feeling. There were mangos hanging and all kinds of veggies and fruit displayed…I saw fresh pineapples, bananas, oranges, apples, carrots, avocados, limes, ginger, and more. I saw a colorful blackboard in English with all kinds of delicious sounding drinks. And then a sign clipped to a fruit basket caught my eye – mango and banana smoothies for only 45 bhat (that’s less than $1.50). I couldn’t resist. I ordered and enjoyed a smoothie….oh it tasted so good. I thought to myself why haven’t I been having more of these? Then I returned to my contemplation of this content, joyful, peaceful feeling. How did I get there? Over that smoothie I realized that it’s a foundation we have been slowly building. It’s the yoga, the meditation, the exercise, the perspective that the glass is half full, the feeling that I have enough, the giving, the receiving, the curiosity, the gratitude, the reverence, and of course the grace of my guru.
As we were recently reminded; there are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences. Pleasant is the content, peaceful, joyful fleeting feeling I had on the bike. Unpleasant is the pollution here. There is a little too much pollution….riding bikes on the busy roads in traffic with black smoke puffing out of the exhaust in front of you. My throat and head hurt slightly. And that view of the mountain from our balacony….unfortunately it’s a quite a hazy view due to the pollution.
Neutral is the small ant problem that we are trying to get under control. They are very, very small. Tiny. A couple of them are exploring my keyboard and screen as I type now. I don’t think I have ever seen ants this small. They created a highway one day along the kitchen wall and into our bedroom and along our bedroom wall and then into the molding. We had to step over their transportation route to get into our bedroom. They were at least leaving us alone when in bed or in the bathroom. We are working with them and trying to stake out our territory and making some deals.
Neutral is what happened the next day when my body reminded me why I was not having more of those smoothies. I am comfortable here, but maybe I got a little too comfortable, because I forgot our rule about street drinks and ice. It didn’t turn out to be a good decision…I love smoothies, but I am still in Thailand. One has to be careful about water and ice.
I am loving Chiang Mai but nothing is perfect….or another way for me to look at it is that everything is perfect just as it is. There are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences everyday. I have encountered plenty of unpleasant things and experiences along the way but am working with what comes up. Slowly maybe more of those unpleasant will become neutral. Chiang Mai…. similar but different…..in what I see, feel, and experience.