This week has been great! I moved to Chiang Mai on Monday, having booked into a shared dorm room for the equivalent of about £3 a night! It's so much easier to meet people in that situation, rather than having a bolt hole available in the shape of your own room.
On my first day in the city, I went to a “motivational speech” by Nick Vujicic, who I'd seen online and thought could be quite interesting. He was born without arms and legs so, as you can imagine, I was keen to hear what he had to say. However, little did I know the talk was a platform for converting people to Christianity! To be frank, I was furious. None of the marketing event hinted at a religious overtone (not even an undertone!) so it wasn't until I had forked out to get to the exhibition centre and was in the queue that i saw the signs. Now, I really have no problem with anyone believing anything….you can believe in tiny hippopotami living in your eyebrows for all I care! What I do care about, is letting people believe what they want and not forcing your own beliefs on others. It drives me up the wall that, although I am the one “without faith”, between me and, for instance, Nick Vujicic I am the one who is happy to let the other believe what they want without challenge. I won't go into the anecdotes he told the audience, which I believed to be utter horse sh*t, but it's safe to say I was watching the stage with one eye permanently raised….it's still currently hiding in my hairline five days later
I was genuinely interested, however, to hear what he had to say about his life and his disability and I wish I could say it redeemed the speech overall. The reality is that it made me, mostly, even more frustrated and angered. He swung between being so impressed with himself (although, admittedly, for good reason) that he bordered on smug to then, in the next sentence, totally belittling not only himself but everyone who has a disability. Frankly, I was depressed to be in a similar demographic as him as the majority of what he said totally went against what gets me through my life with a physical attribute I would never have ordinarily chosen to be lumped with.
I won't prattle on because I am sure it won't show me in a very generous light, but just know I left that exhibition hall with a lot of negativity fizzing through my brain.
On the upside, I found a missing child! The mother was frantically searching the 10,000 strong crowd, with a photo on her phone of her 9 year old son. Only a matter of minutes later, I spotted him squeezing through the throng and sprinted after him (any of you who know me will know I never sprint! I hardly even walk if I can help it! Haha!) and returned him to his sobbing mother. She was crying, the boy was crying, I was crying, the lady who'd come to the talk with me was crying. It was a nice feeling to have helped. (FYI, Nick Vujicic, if you're reading this, that wasn't a “miracle from God”…it was straight up human empathy and common sense…and good eyesight.)
The following day, myself and 2 girls I'd met that week went to Wat Umong which is a temple just outside Chiang Mai with tunnels in which the Buddha statues sit. It was a nice change from all the other, almost identical, temples.
In the afternoon, I went with one of the girls to Tiger Kingdom. I'd been debating with myself for 2 weeks over whether or not it was morally sound to go there. After much Googling, I had decided that I believed their claim that they don't drug the tigers, so decided I go with Eline when she said she was heading there. While it was amazing to cuddle huge, small and tiddley-wee tigers and they all seemed happy, healthy and affectionate towards the keepers, we were chatting on the way back and deduced that they must over breed the animals there. They always have cubs available for visitors to interact with and will only let visitors in with animals up to 30 months old. What happens to the tigers after they reach that age? A sad and sobering thought.
I then went out that evening with Eline, Hannah and Ladun from my dorm, as well as Charlie from Care for Dogs and Sanne and Elma who Eline bad briefly met in the airport and we'd bumped into them again at dinner. We had a lovely evening and then the sensible people headed home. Now, please keep in mind that I'd not had a proper “night out” in 2 months….so I decided to head onto the next bar with Eline and we ended up meeting a group of British lads and the evening ended in carnage. I haven't been as hungover as I was the following day in a long time. Massive error….and will not be repeated for many months!
Yesterday, Sanne, Elma and I got on a bus to Pai so spend a few days here. It is LOVELY here….so we immediately extended our stay by 1 extra night! Last night, we bumped into the same British lads so we have a little crew here to hang out with which is nice. Today, the 3 of us girls went around the area on scooters (they drove and I rode pillion) which was amazing. We went to a waterfall to swim, some hot springs, through a Chinese village and the Pai Canyon. The scenery is just lovely here so it was a great way to spend the afternoon!
The town is geared towards tourists and, notably, hippies. Unlike Kampot where the hippies were intent in smoking weed excessively, here it is limited to hair salons offering dreadlocks, shops selling rough sewn hand bags and the cafes and restaurants all having large arrays of vegetarian options and, usually, a wall of free books that you can add to if you have anything hanging around. It's all very relaxed and communal.
I am really glad I came here as Alex had loved it so much and now I have an idea why. We are actually staying at the same guesthouse/hostel that Alex stayed at. However, there wasn't any space for us in the main area so we are in a much more….modern bungalow a little way down the road. So I think Alex and I have had very different experiences of Pai so far; both of which have been amazing in their own ways!
So that's where we are up to! Alex comes back in a WEEK! I am so ridiculously excited to see him again and for us to head to Laos together!