Like most Thai people, I am not a walker. We hop onto our Honda Dreams, or in my case, Honda Jazz, to go to the Seven Eleven three hundred metres away. Laziness? Sure. Convenience? Well, the store is supposed to be one of convenience, so I suppose a mode of transport could enhance said convenience. Whatever the reason, urban Thais, unlike their many foreign counterparts, are not great walkers.
I have recently, however, started walking with a friend after work, for a spot of much-needed exercise. We waddle our way to fitness parks, we pant and puff along city roads and sois, or, more often than not, we simply sweat and swear up and down the roads around my house…it’s not a pretty sight.
I have heard many readers complain over the years of the state of the pavements in this city, but didn’t feel that it was a battle I felt a passion to champion. It always seemed like such a small gripe when there are so many larger ones to fret over. But now that I am an official ambler, I admit to being utterly appalled at the sorry state of our pavements and am now of the rank and file of those indignant over such travesty.
I live off Nimmanhaemin Road and generally our little gossip-cercise takes us back along this busy avenue, as we stop and grab a smoothie, alright, once or twice a beer, on the way home. Nimmanhaemin, as you well know, is a very busy street with few places to find a car park, so there are always shoppers, trendy coffeecianados, wandering locals and the hustle and bustle of daily trade moving back and forth. Navigating its craggy pavements is an exhausting exercise in balance which demands a level of alertness of a fighter jet pilot and patience in dealing with the invasion of private space. As the pavement dips and trips you up, you have to skirt sideways around a jungle-gym of obstacles and often find yourself slithering past someone, chest to sweaty chest, while attempting not to fall headlong into the oncoming traffic, all the while keeping an eye forward to be able to duck and dive, a la The Matrix, to avoid banging your head against signposts, dangling electric wires and tree branches.
To demonstrate my frustration, I have counted the impediments along Nimmanhaemin’s pavements (OK, lovely interns did) with quite appalling results. Along the 850 metres, from the Rincome intersection to the junction by The Room, they counted on the west side of the road 26 electric poles, 31 street lamps, 20 advertising signs on poles, 7 potted plants, 26 trees and 4 telephone boxes, and on the east side of the road 34 electric poles, 6 street lamps, 26 advertising signs on poles, 35 trees, 4 telephone boxes, as well as the usual clutter from businesses encroaching onto the public pavement which include tables, chairs, signs and whatever mascots they use to draw in clients _ so with a total of 219 pesky items blocking your walk, you are forced to bend, wend, leap, skirt, hop, and slither around something every seven metres!
So, am going to start a campaign to lobby the mayor to do something about it. I will set up a Facebook debate which you can find through Citylife’s web site at www.chiangmaicitylife.com and perhaps we can all motivate the officials to do something about it…I mean, really? Does a cosmetic firm really pay enough tax to warrant the risk of our decapitation-by-bilboard as we meander along the road at dusk? Can the municipality not push back those pesky businesses back into their own properties?
Citylife this month:
It is intern season! Our wunderkind 21-year-old intern, Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn, joins us for a second year and writes her second cover feature in a row, this time taking a look at the problems of English teaching in Thailand…and there are some serious problems. New intern, Benjamin Friedman from Georgia, US, risks life and limb on a jungle adventure, scaling lime waterfalls and braving spooky caves. 17-year old-intern Sophie L. Poulsen takes a look at the dangers of diet pills. Our other interns, 15-year-old Frances Ring from PTIS, 18-year-old Stefanie Mayr from NIS and 17-year-old Patcharin Saksirivetkul who has recently graduated from a school in Sri Lanka, also bring a bit of youth to our magazine this month by scouring the city for the latest young fashion trends.
The editors have had it easy this month, though Grace Robinson spent time with the Foreign War Veterans in Chiang Mai, a tight-knit group who meet regularly decades after the end of their war in Vietnam, and we take a peek at the French community here by interviewing the Honorary French Consul and a woman who has dedicated her life to fighting HIV.