Feels like home

We’ve grown to love Chiang Mai. We love the neighborhood we’d randomly picked online, and we love our wonderful host at Wayside Guesthouse. We have favorite cafés and restaurants, a temple down the street we visit nearly every day, a routine of market visits depending on the day. We’ve introduced ourselves to the local cats. When we walk down the street vendors greet us like friends.

After nearly six weeks in Thailand it’s time to apply for a visa extension. There are two options for this, one being a return to the immigration office near the airport, and the other going to a new office in one of the big fancy malls. We’re always up for a mall visit wherever we go, mostly to patronize some of the western food emporia that have infiltrated most countries. Auntie Annie’s, Baskin-Robbins, here we come.

Jackie, our guesthouse host, helped us print and copy the paperwork for the extension and despite a brief hitch because one of the printouts cut off essential info, we were on our way in about 45 minutes, with 30 more days to spend in this wonderful country. The charge was about $55 each. The cost of visas and extensions is something we need to budget for now. Of the countries we visited by boat we rarely paid anything for entry, and usually were granted 90 days on entry, sometimes longer.

Business done, it was time to explore the mall. There are three modern malls in Chiang Mai and this is our favorite. It’s got the biggest Uniqlo we’ve ever seen plus Marks & Spencer, H&M, and all the usual international brands you can imagine. We rarely buy anything but we both enjoy windowshopping. There’s also an indoor version of the ubiquitous street market where you can indulge in any of the foods you normally see in a night market. We still don’t know what half of it is, but the market is always busy.

I’m a sucker for stationery stores, and this one had me walking up and down every aisle, inhaling the smell of paper, examining the craft supplies. I don’t need any of this stuff but I had to touch everything nonetheless. Jack waited outside.

We were lured by the sound of a musical instrument that we initially took to be recorded but as we got closer we found this woman playing a guzheng, a 21-string Chinese instrument similar to a harp. I failed to capture a video, but it was beautiful and she’s obviously a master.

We don’t think of ourselves as tourists but rather travelers who plunk ourselves in a place and enjoy whatever comes at us. On our wanders around town we always read the tour offerings to see what people on a schedule come here for. Most of it doesn’t appeal to us. Bus tours are almost always nixed as I have an aversion to being herded and we generally manage to make our way to places of interest on our own. One place we haven’t visited yet is Doi Suthep, a large temple complex high on a hill overlooking Chiang Mai. “High on a hill” are the right words to entice Jack, who never turns down an opportunity to reach the top of anything.

Instead of a tour or a series of local buses, we took an inexpensive ride-hail car to the base of the hill where we faced the 309 steps to the top.

The temple is magnificent and there’s lots to look at.

But the real reason for us to come was the sweeping view of Chiang Mai. Even with the haze it was nice to see it from this perspective.

We soaked in the view for a long time, then wisely took the funicular down the mountain to save our knees.

And then, being the Schulzes, we ended our excursion at a café. Chiang Mai delivers.

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