I thought I was moving to the same country.
But, here, in Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand, that's not how it feels.
The land feels massively different. In Phuket, such a strong connection. Here, I can't make heads or tails of it.
All the nuances - the way people move on the streets, body language, the interactions folks have while out and about - have completely changed.
This is still Thailand, but it's Thailand where every small detail has been changed. At first read, I can see why it's so popular among ex-pats: it feels decidedly more western than Kathu or Phuket Town.
Even the language, the language I've spent the last two months learning, is different. This morning, I could have decently deep conversations about some of the important things in life. This evening, I struggled to be understood when ordering food.
Thailand has multiple regional dialects that are so different from each other as to be incomprehensible. Everyone also speaks the Bangkok dialect (taught in school) which thankfully, is mostly what I've been taught - but I'm starting to suspect I speak with a thick southern accent. That, mixed with a heavy farang accent and not-great tones, makes me nearly impossible to understand.
The local customs and mannerisms that just became natural in Phuket don't make sense, here. Everything I can see, everywhere, is different in very slight ways. It's like stepping into one of those weird alternate reality episodes. You know things are different. You just don't know how.
I've been caught off-guard, and now have to find some balance. To reframe. To think of this not as a slight move, but as starting over in a new country, one in which I might know some useful tidbits of the local language.
I like new. I like exploring. I wasn't quite expecting "comfort" to drop away.
Hello, Chiang Mai. I'm Steven. Let's get to know each other.