Driving in Chiang Mai

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I rented a scooter for the first time a few days ago. I needed to get to the immigration office and didn’t want to take a taxi such a long way. There is a scooter/motorcycle rental place that I often walk past on my way to Maya Mall. So I just got it from there.

How can I describe driving in Chiang Mai? Its an intense experience for anyone who is used to US traffic laws. Keep in mind that they drive on the left side of the road here.

One example is that the scooters move in swarms around the cars. For instance, when cars and trucks are stopped at a red light, there will be like a stream of scooters weaving in between the stopped cars all the way up to the front of the line. They will drive through any spot where they can fit. Its pretty crazy, but like everyone does it.

Also, people don’t really signal when changing lanes. So that is another adjustment.

It also feels really weird to turn right when doing a U-turn.

It all just feels very unpredictable and a little nerve racking at first. I wouldn’t say I am used to it yet, but I’m getting there.

However, I have to say that nothing has given me a better feel for Chiang Mai than driving a scooter around the city. I finally sort of know where some things are in relation to other things. I just just have a better over all sense of place, if you know what I mean.

Escape Room in Chiang Mai

The other day, someone I met invited me to go to an Escape Room with some people. Apparently it had just opened like a day or two before. I had never done an escape room but it sounds like it is a quickly growing industry and is very popular is places like Japan and Toronto, CA.

There were 8 of us there and so we split into two groups. The Americans vs the rest of the world. (Basically just because there were 4 Americans.)

It was fun. You kind of have to piece clues together to get from one little room to the next. You have an hour to do it and it took us about 25 minutes. I think our room was the easiest puzzle. I think they have 3 different puzzles and like 2 rooms for each puzzle. Anyways, we beat the other team by like 4 minutes.

I would definitely do it again. Thanks to my new friends who invited me. The place is called Escape Hunt. If you are ever in Chiang Mai and are looking for a good group activity, check them out. We had a great time.

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Team America

Happy Loi Krathong!

Loi Krathong is a big festival which takes place on the night of the full moon in November. This turned out to be last night, November 25th. Really cool that I happened to be in Chiang Mai for it.

Basically people float these decorative flower baskets in the river, launch these paper lanterns, light off fireworks, have a parade etc…. I am pretty sure it has something to do with paying respect to the water spirit and floating away your sins and bad luck etc…

I didn’t really know what to expect but I have to say it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I cant think of anything I have experienced in the United States that can match it. There was this huge parade, and lights everywhere, fireworks going off all the time over the river, floating baskets with candles lining the edges of the river and then this steady, continuous stream of beautiful yellow floating lights slowly rising into the sky.

A friend I met here, Sam, described it well when he said that its really cool to see so many people commit to a festival like that. The party stretched on for miles and lasted for hours. It was amazing.

So here are some pictures:

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A shot of the parade. The parade would stop regularly and there would be these groups of performers. These kids danced and it was pretty cool.
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Many of the floats were really beautiful and cool.
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View of the river near where we watched a bit of the parade. You can see the bridge that we hung out on later.
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Its really hard to capture how cool the sky looked with all those lanterns floating in the sky.
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Another shot of the lanterns. Sometimes people would attach sparklers to the bottom of their lantern. You can see one of those in this picture. Also you can see one stuck in the power lines. That happened quite often.
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People launching their lanterns.
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More lanterns. You can also see another one caught in the power lines. I’m pretty sure that is just a sparkler causing those sparks.
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This is a panoramic shot I took with my iphone from our viewpoint on the bridge.
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Another shot from the bridge.
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This is my favorite picture of the night. You can see the floating baskets with little candles, you see all the lanterns in the sky, people launching lanterns from boats on the river. and all the lights from the main road.

The whole thing was amazing. I hung out with friends I already new and even made some new ones that I just met that night. It really was one of the funnest and best times I have had since arriving in Chiang Mai.

Mookata in Chiang Mai

I have been hanging out with this great group of friends many of whom are from New Zealand. They were nice enough to invite me to hang out with them for the evening for Loi Krathong (more about Loi Krathong in another post). For dinner, we went to a Mookata buffet place.

Mookata is sort of similar to that Hot Pot place I have posted about before except instead of cooking your meat only in broth, you can bbq your stuff also.

I only took a few pictures but you should be able to get the idea.

First of all, the place was like down this long shady looking dirt road and at the end of it, you turn the corner and see this huge like metal roofed warehouse like place.

Inside was HUGE. I was told it seats like 2000 people.

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Panoramic shot of the inside of the warehouse-like building.

They had like a stage with someone singing and then huge lines of tables full of raw meat, vegetables, deserts, cooked dishes,

So we get taken to our table.

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They lay out these coals.
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Then these tray things go over the coals and you can cook things in the middle or boil them in the water moat thingy.

It was very good and a fun experience over all.

Then after this we all headed down to the fiver for the Loi Krathong festival which was amazing.

Read more about that in my next post.

Hunger Games

  
Consessions here are quite cheap. I got a drink and these chocolate stick thingies for 100 baht (about $3) plus my ticket for 170 baht (about $5). 

 
 I’m looking forward to watching this movie. I walked from my apartment to Maya mall. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk.  Which is close enough that I don’t want to take a taxi but long enough to be annoying in the mid day heat. 
  
So after that walk and sitting in an uncofortable chair in the Internet cafe for 2 hours doing stupid homework, the thought of mindless enjoyment of the new blockbuster is very appealing. It certainly beats walking back to the less crowded cafe near my house that I usually go to. 

Also I am posting this through an app on my phone which is an interesting experience. Maybe I’ll do more of these quick casual posts. 

Anyways the movie is about to start. :)

Museum of World Insects

So I was walking home one night after dark and randomly saw this in the word “insects” in the sidewalk:

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My view of the sidewalk on my way home.

Thats a strange word for someone to write in the sidewalk. Then upon further investigation, I saw that it said “Museum of World Insects”. What? This is literally next door to my apartment building. Is there really a museum here?

Turns out yes.

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The Museum of World Insects. That yellow building to the left is my apartment building.

There is a sign on the gate saying it is like 200 baht (about 6$) to get in, so I figured I had to at least check it out.

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They give you this piece of paper with descriptions of what things are.

 

The First Floor:

The first floor had some random stuff. It had like pieces of wood the owners thought were cool. It had a whole mosquito room. Apparently one of the owners of the museum did a lot of research on mosquitos and the diseases they spread. The mosquito room isnt pictured, it is basically a room full of information to read about mosquitos and all the diseases and the research that was done by the owner.

The first floor also had these things:

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Huge wasp nests.

 

 

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Knowledge room with bugs and stuff.
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Display of insects and mosquitos in the knowledge room.
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If you look you can see butterflies, moths and other insects in this display. This is in the knowledge room.

There was also random things like this bell.

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Random bell to ring to “salute natures’s pure selflessness.”

And this:

 

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Apparently you knock the rock and touch the piece of wood.

But all the cool stuff was upstairs.


 

Second Floor

There were all sorts of collections of things, not just insects.

 

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Collection of coins.
Fossils.
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Rocks and minerals.
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Cool seashells.

Then there was the cool insect collection:

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This gives you an idea of what the room looked like. What you can see here is like less than half of the room.
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Lots of cool butterflies.
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Beetles of some sort.
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Cool butterflies.
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Cool moths.
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Sticky bugs.
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More beetles. Many of them have quite cool colors.
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More beetles. Again, cool colors.
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More cool butterflies, or moths, not sure.
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More beetles. The black and white ones are cool.
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Leafy bugs. Cool.
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Spiders, scorpions, and a few bats.
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More beetles.

Then I got a few closeups of some of my favorites.

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Aren’t some of these cool?
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The colors on these ones are really cool. Sorry about the glare.
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Cool colors again.
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More cool colors.
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Cool colors and designs.

The museum is not very big but the insect collection is quite impressive. Pictured here is only a small sub set of the collection.

The whole place has feels very personal. Its a personal collection of things the owner just thought were cool. Imagine being someone who just really likes collecting things. Then you go your whole life collecting things that you thought were cool. Rocks, fossils, coins, pieces of wood that looked interesting, carved elephants, seashells, and insects. Then you get a big building and invite people to see your collection. The whole thing was really informal and almost intimate. I think you can tell a lot about someone based on what they think is cool and interesting.

Here is an article about the museum and collection:

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So, yeah, that was my day at the Insect Museum. For $6 is was fun and totally worth it.

Old Friends and New Ones

I mentioned last week about getting invited to some things by some friendly people I met.

Meeting new people has been a very interesting and fun experience. Living in Utah, I never really had the need to try to get to know new people. I had established friends and people that I cared about. I often find myself missing my friends and family back home.  People with whom, I am so comfortable, and with whom interactions are so consistent that conversation can effortlessly take a turn into something meaningful and rewarding.

But, as you can imagine, being in a new country can be a bit lonely. I think its hard for me to admit that since I really do thrive on solitude and me-time, yet we all need some sense of community in order to be happy.

But imagine having to create that from scratch. What would you do? Well, I had no idea what to do, so I just started going out of my way to talk to people here and there who looked like they spoke english. Basically my success rate with white or foreign people has been like 100% which is sort of interesting on its own since nearly everyone is from a different part of the world. I’ve met people from New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Canada, and of course the United States. I’ve met expats who haven’t lived in their home country for over a decade, people who have been in Thailand for going on 6 years. I’ve met people who, like me are quite new to world travel and thought Chiang Mai would be a good place to start. I’ve met people who seem to nomadically wander from place to place and you can imagine that if they had to settle down in one place, they would probably kill themselves out of boredom.

Everybody’s life and background is so different. I cant help but have a sense of wonder that people from totally different sides of the world, from different countries and cultures, can get along and even become friends. That we can talk about normal things, and have conversations like ones I would have back home in Utah. I cant put my finger on exactly why this is so interesting to me but it feels beautiful somehow to me.

So, if you are me and you just start talking to random foreigners you will find that 90% of these interactions don’t seem to go anywhere the first time. You establish names, countries of origin, duration in Thailand, occupation, and other superficial fluff. You will leave feeling happy to have met these new people but not feeling any sense that the the subtle loneliness you have been feeling has been soothed at all.

Many of the people you meet will never be more than a person you talked to once and then forgot their name 2 seconds later. But, then you will run into someone talk to them again, and with some of them you feel a comforting context begin to develop around the conversations. Their faces and expressions start to feel familiar and your conversations develop a bit of a rhythm. And you will start to feel a bit of the sense of community or friendship you were missing.

One of them will message you and invite you to a get together of some sort. You will go and meet a ton of more new people and you will just give up on any hope that you will remember anyones names. But you will run into people that you had randomly already met and talked to.

Your friendships will fall within different groups. You will have coffeshop friends, random guy you met on the street friends, people from a big group that all know each other, and that you somehow got invited to a get together friends.

You keep talking to random people that you don’t know, but the stakes are lower. and now, sometimes, you have already seen this person at the coffee shop like 5 times so talking feels even easier.

What happens next? I don’t know. Thats where I am in the process. I’m still having the time of my life here and beginning to establish friendships has made my experience even better.