By Al Lim, Yale-NUS College ’19 – See bio
I step out of a taxi and instantly, I’m surrounded by my future home. I breathe in the mountain air; the atmosphere starts to seep into me, slowly, slowly, slowly. The winding roads and sois, the aroma of “roti” from the roadside stall, the ubiquitous Red Trucks, the itching from mosquito bites, the smiles borne of land form a portrait. Welcome to Chiang Mai.
The beats sound in my head whilst I stare out the back of a Red Truck. The backdrop of fog hanging on the mountains with lush canals is punctuated by Thai flags and images of the King. The beauty of the rolling hills is almost too poetic to condense into prose.
Seeing that I’m in a new city altogether, I decide to take a survey.
“What’s the first word that comes to you when you think of Chiang Mai?” Here are the results: “enchanting,” “elephant,” “cultural,” “งามแต้ๆ (ngam dae dae meaning very very pretty),” and “สวัสดีเจ้า (sawasdee zhao which means hello in the Northern language).” Being half-Thai, it was not entirely foreign for me to be in Chiang Mai, but the culture and language are where the difference lies. In Bangkok, it is all about the traffic and congestion. In Chiang Mai, however, the word for me is—water.
“If it is not raining, it ain’t Chiang Mai.” Those were the very words I uttered when it was pouring, yet again. Chiang Mai is literally full of water. Full of water from the ponds that my beloved mosquitoes breed in (I have a vendetta against them since my incident with Dengue Fever); full of water amongst the waving leaves of wheat; full of water gradually permeating walls in thunderstorms; full of water—full of life.
Staring into the eyes of the kids I teach at the Mae Rim School; smiling whilst I purchase my dinner from a vendor; sympathizing with the man scrubbing the rust off his boat again and again; I get filled with water, with life.
Enchanted it is.