Kindred spirit

So, I left off the last post in the middle of my trek around northeastern-ish Chiang Mai, just after documenting my pause for an overcomplicated bathroom break.

Refreshed, I continued on up the road, but while I wasn’t tired, I was getting a bit paranoid about sunburn.  I don’t know how I’d escaped it for so many days here, wandering about in the equatorial afternoons, but I guess a combination of shade and alternating directions must have given me some protection.  But I’d been out for hours by that time, and it was 12:30. I didn’t feel at all burned so far, but I had at least an hour of walking to go to get home and it seemed unlikely that I wasn’t overdoing it.  There wasn’t much I could do at this point, though, so I turned up my collar to protect my neck and just hoped for the best.  The fear of burning did add a certain level of stress to the rest of my journey, though.

I made it up to what they called the super-highway, and followed it west.  This was all, essentially, strip malls: small shops along the road and one or two megaplaces like the one fronted with these signs.

Guess what caught my attention...

Guess what caught my attention…

Tesco’s a British supermarket chain; I think MK is a local restaurant chain; the Colonel needs no explanation; but my favorite is the sign for Electrolux.  I haven’t heard of Electrolux (maker of vaccuum cleaners, from my youth) in years!  Ah, nostalgia.

The traffic was blasting by with noise and stink, and the sun was beating down, and I decided to try to cut through the city off of that main road and diminish the noise a bit.  So I headed south at the first big crossroad, and then turned right onto some greener streets, where I found a small shopping center and a market that made me think of Whole Foods.

I am *so* coming back here, if I can ever find it again.

I am *so* coming back here, if I can ever find it again.

I wandered down a lot of back streets, didn’t get hit by a lot of traffic, and then hit the main north-south road, Chang Pauk:

I'm so done with traffic, you have no idea.

I’m so done with traffic, you have no idea.

I followed it south to Huay Kaew, turned west, and made my way home.

Later, I found that Facebook condo listing that Steve at Mamory Delicious had showed me.  It was substantially farther north than I thought it was, past the super-highway, and I was really nowhere close.  But at least I got to see more of the city, and what I’d have to walk through to get to and from there.  I won’t be doing that.  Plus, my walk was reinforcing my resolve to not live too near traffic or exhaust, and given the prevailing SSW winds in the area, that means on the west side, the Nimmanhaem area or further west (and possibly south).  And west is where the mountains and the national forest are, so that’s even more appealing.

Getting home, I showered and meditated and looked for signs of sunburn and wasn’t finding any.  I must be living right?  Then for the second night in a row, I ate at Khunmor Cuisine, the Thai place where I had the crispy omelet hairnet. And I had it again, with another Thai Iced Tea, because I’m a rebel and I play by my own rules!

That night, I again got about 6 hours sleep.  I suspected that it was the Thai Iced Teas that were waking me up early the last two nights, and resolved not to have them with dinner again.  I went back to the Larder for breakfast, and the staff remembered my order and proposed it as soon as I came through the door!  I was actually going to try something different, but now it felt ungrateful, so I professed my delight and amazement at their memory (which was true) and had the ham and cheese croissant again and enjoyed it again.  Variety is overrated.  It’s the spice of life, but you can have too much spice, you know.  I read Twitter for while, and then headed back to do more house hunting research.  My last day at the hotel was Thursday, and I needed to find a place or at least change hotels.

Sunday, I had scheduled to meet Damien Walter for lunch.  Damien’s a writer for the Guardian newspaper in England, writing on science fiction related topics, and a scifi/weird writer in his own write right, and much of the reason that I’m here in Chiang Mai now.  I think I’ve mentioned him to everyone who’s reading this (what with him being the inspiration for my choice of move).  I’ve followed him on Twitter for a couple or 3 years now, and occasionally had brief Twitter exchanges with him.  During that time, he’d been reading about digital nomads, realized his life allowed him to do that sort of thing, and then made it so — first to France for a few months, where he had relatives, and then to Chiang Mai.  Through that Twitter feed and his blog, he introduced me to the concept as a possible alternative, and as my work environment became progressively more unpleasant, I realized that this was a good solution.  So, not long after I started to move on it, I sent him a tweet saying that I was on my way, and he said to look him up when I got here.

Damien had suggested the Bird’s Nest Cafe at 12:00.  (You may recall that Steve had directed me to an expat/music thing at a place called the Pub, that ran from 1-6, but I didn’t think it would do any harm to get there after it started, so I wasn’t worried.)  I found a slightly less trafficy route there, crossed the Loop of Death with surprising ease — thinking as I usually do during such moments of success, “That’s great, kid. Don’t get cocky.” — and arrived with a few minutes to spare.

The cafe page I linked to above has, as its main image, the area that we sat in, in chairs on the right.  I’d already ordered lunch when Damien arrived, and he only wanted coffee, so now all I’m thinking about is how much food is going to be stuck in my teeth while we’re talking.  (It sucks being the only guy eating.)  On the plus side, at least I had something to do with my hands.  Honestly, I feel like that restaurant and I got off to a bit of an awkward start.  I started to step into it and then realized there were a bunch of shoes around the entryway and I was meant to take mine off (a Thai custom, but the first time I’ve seen it in a restaurant).  So I stepped back, and pulled off my shoes, but then had to take my toe socks off too — I don’t want to wear out the special, technical, antimicrobial socks by walking around in them.  Then I ordered lunch at the front counter, but the lady seemed to have trouble understanding my order, then she didn’t have change.  Fortunately, Damien arrived at that point; hands were shaken, and then he kindly coughed up the extra nickel required to make the change come out correctly.  Then I insisted on buying his coffee, somewhat over his objections, because when a guy says, “Hey, look, here’s a great idea!” and you change your whole life to do that, you at least owe him a coffee.

What followed was a couple of hours of really excellent conversation, about Buddhism and Hinduism and yoga and respective life paths and Ken Wilbur and politics and where he was going next (India for him, in a week and a half — though it’s since turned to Cambodia because Indian visas are slow) — and Chiang Mai and nice places to live here and a bunch of other stuff.  He’s been staying in Pong Noi, an area west of the airport, at the base of the mountain/forest (southwest of the Nimmanhaem area I’ve been in), and he talked about the artist community there (there’s an art college nearby), and the really great Buddhist temple, and how the cold air flowed off the nearby mountain at night so that he needed a blanket.  I probably got overenthusiastic at that point, like Mr Emerson exclaiming, “I’ve dreamed of Summer Street!”, but in my defense it did sound awfully appealing.

After a surprisingly long and thoroughly enjoyable while, we parted ways — him to his writing and me to this Pub-thingy — and agreed that we should get together again before he left for India (now Cambodia).  He followed it up with an e-mail giving me links to some wonderfully useful local stuff — his Chiang Mai apartment realtor, a great Yoga studio that he’d mentioned, and an online service called Meetup.com where a local philosophy/religion group organized meetings that he thought I’d be suited for.  He also suggested, rather synchronistically, a hotel/apartment complex called Green Hill Place as an option near Nimmanhaem.  I’d been looking at listings for that same building — it’s the one I mentioned that was perfect except for being pricier than I wanted (within my budget, but hard to justify when I could pay half that elsewhere).  So, that’s encouraged me to look at it again.

I left lunch and headed back.  I’d been told that this The Pub place was next to the MAYA shopping center that I described previously; I’d figured that I’d walk home, have a quick shower, and then walk over there in fresh clothes, but as I was walking I found I was still cool enough that I thought I could go straight there and not be a giant sopping stink puddle when I arrived.  I got to the MAYA, went inside to use the restroom and started to continue down the street to find The Pub, but then realized it was across the street on the south side of Huay Kaew instead.  This explained the super-loud alt-rock cover band blaring from the place across the street.  But the place across the street had a fence and barricades in front of it, and Google Maps claimed that the route to it involved going south half a block and then wrapping around it to come in on the south side.  So, I crossed the street and headed around to the south… but now I’d crossed the critical threshold and was starting to sweat.  I found my way around to where Google told me to go, but when I got there, it was just neighborhood with no way in.  Google lied, as it has done a few times since I’ve been here (as with Starbucks, my first morning here).  So, now I’m looking at going back around, finding my way through the barricades, and arriving with my shirt visibly soaking wet, to listen to a loud cover band and, what, try to talk to strangers over it?  This did not sound like fun.

Instead, I went home, showered, meditated for a bit, and then read the links that Damien had sent me, browsed Twitter, started reading a book I’ll mention in a later post, and generally enjoyed myself.  Win.

Dinner was yet another trip to Khunmor Cuisine; Pineapple rice with tofu, served in a 1/2-pineapple bowl.  And I had orange juice this time, instead of Thai Iced Tea, and, sure enough, I slept through the night.  8 hours.  Lesson learned.

Monday was largely uneventful, except that I walked up to Green Hill Place and discovered that they had almost nothing free except a tiny, 2nd floor, 1-bedroom that was really poorly designed and claustrophobic, and the bedroom balcony overlooked what appeared to be a construction site (though no one was constructing at the time).  Separately, I’d been in contact with a realtor about a possible condo for rent, and I met her there at 1:30, but it also felt cramped. So, 0 for 2 so far. However, it did give me a chance to find this:

If they actually serve cheese while you're studying, their motto might be true.

If they actually serve cheese while you’re studying, their motto might be true.

I sent another real estate agency an e-mail about a couple of places, and we’ve exchanged e-mails about several others.  There may be one coming open in Green Hill Place shortly, and if they get back to me we might look at it tomorrow (Wednesday).  2 bedroom, around $950/month, so double what I could pay for a nice 3-bedroom house with a yard near Pong Noi.  We’ll see.

On the dining front, Monday morning I went back to Rustic & Blue and had a Green Eggs Benedict, which had a kind of avocado-y topping and a croissant base.  I ordered a plain Americano, handing them my thermos mug, and it came back to me with maybe 6 ounces in it — very few places fill my 16 oz mug here. Wawee did.  The Larder puts at least 12 ounces into it.  Despite the deprivation, I lived.  The coffee and the food and the WiFi were all good, but someone was building something next door and it wasn’t really peaceful at 9:00 in the morning.  But, again, I lived.

Lunch was cashews and water.  I felt like I could skip a meal — but given the quantity of cashews that I consumed, it would seem that I didn’t really test that hypothesis.

For dinner, I went to a Japanese place called Musashi, and had a barely adequate udon.  Then I walked around looking for a place that sold ice cream or gelato, with no success.  I ended up going back to my room and nibbling on cashews.  I’m really going to regret that bag of cashews, and fairly soon.

Tuesday — OMGs, I’m catching up! — I ate again at the Coffee Villa, home of the American Breakfast.  I had a rather small ham and cheese croissant, but it was good, the coffee (I didn’t use my Thermos mug, and they brought me a normal cup) was good, and the WiFi was great.  I also took a picture of their symbolic mascot, which somehow I didn’t really notice the first time.

Did I really not notice this last time? Or did I notice it and then forget it 2 minutes later? Either possibility is disturbing.

Did I really not notice this last time? Or did I notice it and then forget it 2 minutes later? Either possibility is disturbing.

On the way back, I swung by the Kasikorn Bank, supposed to be one of the better ones and with ATMs everywhere, and pulled out some cash from Wells Fargo.  I’m probably setting up an account at K-Bank shortly. It seems more sensible to transfer money in from WF into a K-Bank account in small amounts, and then use the K-Bank account and ATMs to pay for things locally.  Probably works better locally, and reduces any risk of shenanigans affecting my WF account.

BTW, I also passed this place:

“Laser, Botox, Fillers, Face & Body Design”. They using "holistic" more ironically than I'm used to.

“Laser, Botox, Fillers, Face & Body Design”. They using “holistic” more ironically than I’m used to.

I’d spent a fair amount of time on Sunday and Monday researching a new hotel to move into, and by Tuesday it was pretty clear that I was unlikely to be in an apartment before my Nimman Boutique Resort stay ended.  So I hunted the hotel websites, and broker sites like travelocity, looking for things that were local and that had no criticisms of their WiFi.  I found a cool place in the Old City, just around the corner from the yoga place that Damien recommended — twice what I was paying for this place, but whatever.  But then, this morning, I ran into this place, Sang Serene House.  It’s a bit to the northwest of the Nimmanhaem area; a longish walk, and I may have to get a scooter to come in.  But it’s barely over the cost of my current place, looks gorgeous, is close to the western mountains/forest, and advertises wired internet in every room!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

With any luck, the rich tapestry of Elder Scrolls Online will soon be mine once more.

Lunch Tuesday was at this place:

Dude, Cafe! Dude! Bro, you know you want to eat here. Just do it, man, come on. Don't be a pussy!

Dude, Cafe! Dude! Dude! It’s a cafe! You know you want to eat here, bro. Just do it, man, come on. Don’t be a pussy!

I’ve been passing this place for 2 weeks, finally got around to eating here.  Except for the patio being right out on Nimmanahaeminda Road (hence, noisy), and the loudspeakers playing pop songs (that I mostly didn’t recognize, thank gods), it was alright.  I ordered this:

Food, Cafe!

Food, Cafe!

This was a spicy pickled pork with egg, and a soup, and a little bowl of extra spice, and a yummy, blended, mango ice drink.  I really liked it, but I felt those peppers later.

The afternoon: meditation, more research, blogging, Twitter, following up (a little) with a real estate firm that’s turning out to be pretty slow getting back to me, and then dinner back at Salad Concept and watching Gopher playthroughs on Youtube while snacking on cashews until bedtime.

And now I’m caught up!  Time to go outside and feel the warm summer(?) air and walk about and have lunch.  I’ll post again in a few days, once I’m settled in at the new place.

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6 Responses to Kindred spirit

  1. Holly says:

    Your meals look delicious!

    • Charles says:

      Their looks do not deceive! I really need a place with its own kitchen, so I can cook lighter fare, or I’ll start to get round. Well, round-ish. Oblong. A deformed spheroid, at least, stretched by gravitational tidal forces. Ok, I’m going to stop now.

  2. Familywitch says:

    Friday Night (2/13) Here. Just got caught up reading the last two posts. Sounds like you are getting into the groove there a bit and will be settled soon. Can’t wait to hear about the new place and the WiFi situation. Would love to chat on Skype, though I feel so caught up on the events. Miss you!

    • Charles says:

      Miss you too! I’ll try to get that online Sorry board created this week, but if I can’the, we could still do the original plan of Skype + physical boards. Next weekend?

  3. Mark says:

    Jane is right. It’s both fascinating and somewhat mournful to read these. We miss you terribly. However your Tolstoy-esque blogs make the distance seem shorter. Here’s hoping your journeys are safe and exciting, your air smog free and your wifi powerful.

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