Milestone, from the founder of Citylife

 |  July 1, 2010

“Once upon a time…is how we began, but this is not folk-tale but real life, the beginning of what could be a long-term contribution to the multi-cultural life of this city.” So wrote the editor in the first edition of The Chiang Mai Newsletter and Advertiser in early 1992- a time when many of the present staff of Citylife, as the old Newsletter is today called, were still mewling in their nurseries. We like to believe that we are indeed still making a contribution to the life of this city of ours.

What has changed in the past 19 years? The changes in Citylife are obvious; it has become a colour, glossy magazine. And, of course, we have entered the internet age: the month of May this year Google recorded that 1.3 million viewers had visited the Citylife site (our all-time record); then there is CityNow! which has a fortnightly news-sheet as well as a do-it-yourself website. When we three Johns started the Newsletter we had no staff, today Citylife and its sister companies City Web Watch and Asia News Watch have nearly 100 employees.

Some of the companies that advertised in the first edition such as Neramit, Parker’s, AUA, Better Homes and Chiang Mai Real Estate (Chiang Mai Habitat) are…19 years on, still advertising with us today. And over the years, thousands of businesses in Chiang Mai have worked with us for their media and advertising needs.

The changes in the city of Chiang Mai itself have been much deeper and have dragged a delightfully slow and rustic community into the swirl of a global world.

In 1993 we published an open letter to the new Governor. Our main worry was that the first ring road was nearing completion but that it would come to a grinding halt at the airport – it still does. We also worried about the traffic jams at the Rincome cross-roads – we still do. The roads around and beyond Chiang Mai have been vastly improved. The red songtaew have at last been forced to allow taxis and tuk tuk into the city, but the ancient yellow buses that ambled, to their own timetable, around the city, have been put out to grass and there is now no credible public transport system. The great numbers of private vehicles are an increasing problem in the inner city where there are few places for them to park.

The airport has been upgraded and there are many more flights to many more destinations. The train chugs slowly up from Bangkok as it has always done, changing only from wood fired steam engines to diesel.

Then there are the condos and, on the outer ring roads, the moo baan. Five star hotels, boutique hotels and guesthouses have sprung up like a rash, as have an ever changing assortment of restaurants. Kasem Store used to be the only place to buy imported food products; now there are supermarkets, hypermarkets and shopping malls all over town.

From two universities and one international school, the field of education has developed to include all manner of universities, colleges and schools.

This expansion has left us almost breathless, as we keep up to date introducing our readers to the latest, the newest, the changes and the choices.

Although kham muang is widely spoken, Bangkok people have come to dominate much of the business in the city. Yet Chiang Mai, in spite of its Bangkokification, still has a charm and a friendliness that is distinctly Lanna – even if many of the ancient traditions and ceremonies are recent (re)inventions.

Citylife has, over the years, tackled, featured and shone a light on many of Chiang Mai’s problems. Some have been solved, others are an ongoing concern, and I am sure there will be many issues in the future which we must resolve to solve together.

Next year we shall celebrate our 20th anniversary, I do hope that you will be here with us to mark our auspicious milestone.

John Shaw MBE, along with John Hobday and John Cadet were co-founders of the Chiang Mai Newsletter.