“So how was your life in Chiang Mai?” asked me my yoga teacher on our last dinner together. I answered quickly and generally, “ Nice, I liked it very much.” But then going home I started to really think about the time I spent here. And it was as if I suddenly became aware of what surrounded me: the road I walked so many times, the shops one after the other, the people of the neighbourhood. I realized that what I had felt so new and unfamiliar in the beginning became unexpectedly normal and habitual during the five months I have lived here. However, all of this was soon to be turned into memory.
I remember that when I had arrived I could just see Chiang Mai’s touristic facade, it was only after living here for a while that I got to know the city and what it had to offer.
I came to the conclusion that, on the paper, it definitely is an easy and liveable city, mainly because it’s safe, cheap and it offers a multitude of activities. This means that it’s possible to walk at any time, in most quarters of the city without ever feeling in danger; that the amount of money you spend on a tiny room in Milano, London or New York will cover in Chiang Mai the expenses for rent, food, transportation and yoga classes in a month; furthermore, that it results even more appealing thanks to the several workshops related to many Oriental disciplines, the affordable courses offered in cooking, massage and Thai language, the frequent festivals and cultural events, not to mention the outdoor opportunities within an hour from the city centre.
Additionally, it’s possible to find any kind of food and restaurants that often offer vegan, macrobiotics and gluten free meals; it’s also a good place to treat physical conditions such as bad postures or chronic pains and dental clinics are some of the best and reasonably priced in the world. Chiang Mai is an ideal city to spend some time and take a course in Thai massage, yoga or Thai Chi. It can also be a good spot to teach, for example English. I would recommend to anyone doing a working or studying experience in this friendly city.
However, I would not choose it as a city to settle down: I love what the city has to offer but I didn’t fall in love with its soul, probably because I struggled to find it. On many occasions it seemed to me that Chiang Mai lacks its own identity, maybe because it got mixed with the international community living here. There are well defined parts of the city like the Chinese quarter or the university area, yet, its heart does belong to everybody or to no one and sometimes walking around it’s almost possible to perceive something similar to anonymity.
I reacted by adding my own emotional personality and now under the effect of the departure emotions a slideshow of the best memories runs in my mind, making it hard so say goodbye. Anyway, in Thailand you never say goodbye, you always say, “See you next time.”
I left Chiang Mai a couple of days ago and I see an image when I think about it: a figure of a person walking in an alley illuminated by a weak sunset light. Flowers and plants fall down from the walls of the narrow road. She is drinking a passion fruit, pineapple and mango juice and the women of the neighbourhood are smiling at her.