Slow Merge

"Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology."

This quote from an essay by Pico Iyer not only resonates with our motivations for this adventure if ours, it is in some ways a mantra - reminding us of the point of it all, the need to slow down when the urge is there, and go slower still in order to really absorb the places we are. I also think it is a way to look at oneself within that travel and slowness - a post-it note on your forehead to shed that notion you may have of yourself and make it a priority to just be that person. Making the choice to put things in neutral for a few weeks here in Chiang Mai has been an effort to ensure our health, hone our vision for our time in Southeast Asia, and digest the transition into this new place.

Arriving in Bangkok a few Tuesdays back, we eased into the city via a fuchsia taxi and dry highway roads. My father's cousin, Sharon, lives and teaches in the city, so we were welcomed in style with coffee, a big and comfortable bed, and crisp air conditioning - never mind wonderful conversation and a friendly face. We had spent a relatively painless seven hour layover in the Delhi Airport (which is not unlike an upscale mall after it's makeover) the night before and flown on a red eye to Bangkok. That day we managed to venture out just twice - once for a light lunch at the food court near the giant Tesco Lotus and once for dinner with Sharon. The first meal tested our math and pantomime skills, and we purchased some delicious and not at all mysterious noodle soups successfully. The second brought us through the dark streets and busy sky train in a total downpour to, of all things, a Mexican meal. Either way I'm glad for both, considering our unplanned and rapid departure to evade the impending floods the next day. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to make such a choice. See some photographic coverage of the current situation here. Bangkok, to me, remains a mere fleeting image of transportation, staggered apartment buildings and the general view en route from the airport. Perhaps the future will bring it into a clearer light.

A twelve hour bus ride took us out and around the usual route north; we rolled into Chiang Mai around 2:30am and pretty much fell right into our hotel beds. Something we both observed on the way, fresh, as we were, from Nepal, was how the bus ride felt downright glamorous, with air-conditioning and videos, and the road was smooth the entire way. Shocking.

This former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna has the Ping River flowing through part of the city. The Old Town square area is surrounded by a moat and several old brick gates sit quietly in the background at crossings. There is a Wat around every corner, so we should have a chance to brush up on our Buddhism some more. Though they look so similar, they are all mysteriously beautiful individually. The Burmese one is most interesting to us in it's simplicity - the teak wood, minimal gold, and traditional elements almost lost amongst the city buildings around it. In complete contrast, here is the sacred Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which resides high on a hill overlooking the city:

Chiang Mai almost instantly invokes a relaxed holiday mentality - so many businesses are focused on massage and spa services, cafes are everywhere and strolling the markets is a regular day or night activity. Given the circumstances, it is a very easy place to rest our feet and regroup our heads for a few weeks. To be honest, we were wooed by Nepal and our minds were still wandering back there in daydream and reference for days after arriving here. What we want is to give ourselves and our bodies time to pay complete attention to the present moment and place. To do this, we will step back some...and then take a few extra steps, just to be sure we are truly looking at everything in front of us.

Taking stock of our writing and communication, our big ideas for the future, our constant lists of craft and design thoughts, our lifestyle values - all of this is important. But it is also important for us to be right here in one place, turning it over with our eyes and letting its language tangle our tongues. The smaller moments spent dueling for the sidewalk on the street corners, ordering a mystery snack that is so-so, going on a failed visit to the university art center, traversing to the pharmacy for pro-biotics and just sitting around reading a book - these regular life activities are strangely grounding and comforting. Necessary, even, as without them we wouldn't be our human selves and therefore unable to candidly, curiously, or genuinely approach new places and people.

Location:Ratvithi Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai, Thailand