As promised, this week’s blog is about things that are not easy to find in Chiang Mai. Some of these are vitally important to us and quite challenging to seek out. However, their scarcity has not made us regret our time in Chiang Mai. In some cases, finding them has actually increased our joy here. Hopefully you will find this list helpful and entertaining. Here goes…
Chiang Mai streets are very busy. There are motorbikes, cars, tuk tuks and songthaews (a pick up truck adapted into a small bus for up to 10 passengers) everywhere. We learned very quickly that pedestrians do not have the right of way. No vehicle will stop for you to cross the street. There are very few traffic lights and people often run them anyway. Because we are walking almost everywhere we had to figure out how to safely get across the street. Here is what we have learned.
● Cross with locals when possible. They are used to the traffic and you can safe follow their lead.
● Cross away from intersections. Counterintuitive, right? Crossing in the middle of the street goes against everything I learned as a child but it is the safest place in Chiang Mai. Drivers can see you better and you avoid the cars that are rapidly turning corners from every lane.
● Cross in front of motorbikes and motorcycles. This was hardest for me. They seem to be coming at you with great speed and no intention of braking. That’s okay. A motorbike or cycle can and will go around you. A speeding car can’t. Wait until the oncoming traffic is two wheeled, take a deep breath and GO!
Products Free of Skin Bleach
Politically it makes me sad that Thais feel whiter skin is more beautiful. Practically I know this is something I can not change but simply want to avoid for myself. Skin bleaching ingredients seem to be in everything: shower gels, lotions and creams. This includes products which are familiar from home. So:
●Read the ingredients carefully as the main label doesn’t always say whiteners are included.
● Don’t buy any skin products that are not clearly labeled in English.
● Bring your favorite products from home (too late for us this time, lesson learned).
English Speaking Thais
As a privileged American, traveling in Asia, I have been challenged by my expectations that I can find local people who speak English. This challenge has actually been a great gift. Learning and speaking a few Thai phrases, however poorly, results in beautiful smiles and in people willing to help me learn more. I suggest:
● Try…even if you feel foolish or shy, practice a few new words daily.
● Install a translation app on your phone, I have Google Translate.
● Get a good language learning program and practice daily, before and during your trip. Mango is a pretty good one and you can get it free from many libraries. https://www.mangolanguages.com/
Sistah Sized Clothing
If you are blessed with hips and booty, Thai skirts, wraps and pants will be a snug fit. I searched and tried on things for a while to find these pants which are a loose and comfortable fit. Blouses and tops are also small. Most shopkeepers don’t mind you trying things however.
Sugar Free Stuff
I’m not a big soda drinker but I do enjoy a cooling sugar free iced tea or glass of crystal light. Except in the really big grocery stores that cater to Westerners they are not to be found. Same thing with diet sodas. I’m drinking more water as a result, so again this challenge is a blessing in disguise.
We travel a lot and are always on the lookout for our fellow travelers of African heritage. I get hungry for the nod, the look, the love connection that often happens when I see another black person. This can be in the states and even in the motherland. Chiang Mai doesn’t seem to have a lot of black folks, not in the expat community nor as tourists. Just as we were starting to feel the lack, a big group of folk from @nomadnesstribe (http://www.nomadnesstv.com) showed up to celebrate Yi Peng. Then Kathy met a sister who has lived in Chiang Mai for over a year. So, we are here if not in great numbers. Again this challenge is truly a great blessing. It makes my love, respect and connection with African folks across the diaspora even stronger and more appreciated.
The main thing Chiang Mai doesn’t have is you. Let’s talk about that. Our time here will be up soon but we definitely want to return. We would love to plan a trip for like minded folk. If you are interested in joining us for travel to Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia please let us know. Contact us at BOLTraveling@gmail.com or visit us on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/Bolt-803457456397914/
Let’s make it happen!