I Love Chiang Rai

I only got to spend 24 hours here, but it's been like one of those whirlwind first dates where everything goes right.

The city has that je ne sais quoi I couldn't find in Chiang Mai. It's regular people - in Chiang Mai, sitting at a restaurant and watching one afternoon, the longest I went between seeing a foreigner walk by was 9 seconds. Here, I walked through the food market, the goods market, and all around town looking for lunch for two hours, and I was the only foreigner I saw.

It meant that when I did find lunch, I really needed my Thai, which had atrophied in Chiang Mai. Nobody spoke English. It was tremendous. Living here, I would really learn.

Then, the White Temple. Clearly, you can't credit an entire city for a work of art - but you can tell a lot about a place from the art it supports and fosters. Art is like the flowers of a place. If everything is healthy, ecosystem thriving, you'll see it sprout out just about anywhere.

And speaking of flowers, I should explain that picture. That's from the flower festival, a three-month extravaganza of everything floral. There were beds of every kind of flower imaginable, petals as far as the eye could see. There were creations like this dress - dozens of them, in fact. Dresses made of daisies and dresses of roses. A dress composed of nothing but lilies.

All around the festival sprung up the night market. It was unlike the (mostly imported) same-same wares in Chiang Mai and Phuket. I'd guess 70% of the tables were the artisans and craftspeople themselves. The work was stunning. The food was delicious. Everything was in Thai. (Except a girl from Chiang Rai, just back from a year in Australia, selling deep fried milk balls with the sign "All you need is love and these deep fried milk balls." She, and her Aussie accent, were right.)

My words, so absent and threadbare in Chiang Mai, were back in full force. You should see the posts that are still to come. (And you will.)

This being Thailand, it was not without the dark. I noticed far more of the creepy old-white-man with younger-thai-woman pairings here. Certain bars contained only those couples. My feet walked through fresh blood, passing through the market.

A reminder everything beautiful, everything good, comes with a price.

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