Leaving Chiang Mai

January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

There are many reasons to leave this city: air pollution, horrible traffic, noise (there are no rules about intensity or allowed times for karaoke and Thais have discovered they like it late and loud), fast rising prices, slipping food standards, changing climate, the fact that it has finally made it onto the list of the ten best places in the world to retire to; but for me, the biggest reason to leave Chiang Mai after living here ten years are The Citizens — the normals, the ordinary, usually elderly, white couples — who come here to settle (and die).

For years, one had avoided the expatriate community because it was a little unsavory, a little… perverse: a mixture of missionaries, adventurers, and misfits; the usual stories were of run ins with the law, drunk driving, fights, smuggling, quarreling priests and firebombed churches.  Now the dominant element is the lumbering, slow speaking, dull, careful, predictable — and clueless — suburbanite; one flees from them for the opposite reason: nothing remotely kinky ever will come from this crowd.

Thus, in addition to all the symptoms typical of the worst days of an Asian city’s teenage sickness, another threat hangs over Chiang Mai today: that of becoming Ridgefield Park upon The Ping. The place the old hands had run from in horror, trading it with relief for a bamboo shack, an easy woman, three cases of beer and, on occasion, a tiger, has come after us. It has pursued us long and hard; having arrived, it has laid siege to us with big box retailers, a four lane divided highway, and franchise restaurants.

But now it is ready to move on to the next stage: to bind us hand and foot with visa regulations, drivers licenses, proofs of address, fiscal numbers, and medication no longer issued without legal prescription. The habitat of The Citizens.

The horror, the horror.


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