|  April 29, 2010

With temperatures hot and tempers high, what to do but swelter and simmer or, better yet, escape?

Like many Thai people, I always wanted to explore the world far far away from home and in the first three decades of my life I did just that. I traversed the Bandiagara cliffs of Mali’s Dogon country, dog sledded across Canada’s Algonquin park, skied the Swiss alps, galloped astride pummeled saddles across Texan plains, gasped for air on Tibet’s higher plains, sipped wine in Cape Town’s Stellenbosch, raced ATVs on New Zealand’s compact shores, dived with manta rays in Muscat’s almost gaudy underwater world, ice-fished in Wisconsin (yes, I too asked myself ‘why?’) and wandered the streets of ancient Europe. The world was a drug I was addicted to and the further I went, the more obscure my destination and unique my activity, the bigger my high, and the more I needed the next fix. Life was the travel and daily living was a necessity to fill in the time…and coffers. It was therefore with great astonishment that I realised not many years ago that with all my gallivanting, I had never been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma or Malaysia, our very own neighbours!

So over the past few years, I have done my very best to begin to rectify this shameful omission and have discovered to my delight that we are surrounded by some of the most incredibly alluring and captivating destinations I have ever been to. Within one or two short flights we can be basking on a white sandy beach in the Andaman, diving with whale sharks in world class sites, cycling through legendary temples in Cambodia, cruising through Vietnam’s haunting Halong Bay, chomping down on Michelin-stared cuisine in Singapore, hanging with orangutans in Borneo, feeling the ooze of spirituality of Mandalay, larging it up in Hong Kong or falling in love all over again in languid Luang Prabang.

Citylife has more or less been a Chiang Mai-centric magazine, with the odd travel feature thrown in as an afterthought; we haven’t focused too much on destinations beyond our lovely province. Over the next year Citylife will therefore be bringing to you more travel features on nearby destinations, introducing you, or simply gently reminding you, of the wonderful places you can visit within a few short hours from your home here in Chiang Mai. While I admit it will not be a great hardship for us to feature these stories, I do believe that they will come in useful next time you simply want to get away from the pollution, politics, heat, or perhaps monotony of daily life. We will attempt to find a balance of destinations to suit a variety of budgets and tastes.

Happy trails…

Citylife this month:

Our Action Issue is pumped with adrenalin, starting with the series of photographs in CNX-treme by our photo editor Boontawee Russameenin, featuring the city’s young skaters, boarders, cyclists and other adventure extremists. Cindy Tilney braves fangs, venom and scales to bring you a rather disturbing, yet fascinating, story of a village in Isaan where most households have a pet king cobra and James Austin Farrell uses the excuse of writing an article to enjoy a day at the races!

As for myself, I am afraid that my adventure is less hair-raisingly intrepid, but simply thrilling in its abundance of wildlife. I visit Langkawi’s The Datai hotel for a week of sailing, swimming and nature walks, rubbing shoulders with all sorts of wildlife between exhausting trips to the hotel bar.