A Chiang Mai Farewell

 | Wed 21 May 2014 14:46 ICT

Dear Chiang Mai,

It’s the end of an era. After nearly two years, it is time for me to say “I’ll see you later.” Not because I’m ready to leave you, not because I want to leave you, and certainly not because I’ve grown out of you.

In fact, over the past two years, we have grown together. I have watched you transform into the vibrant city you are today, a beautiful juxtaposition between the East and the West, modernization and tradition, development and cultural integrity. I have watched the construction of three supermalls bringing you all of the Western upper-middle class designer boutiques, tempting you with the allure of superficiality. I have seen new apartment buildings and coffee shops spring up on literally every corner of the booming Nimmanhaemin area as you have discovered that not all coffee is instant, and not all wine is boxed. And for every coffee shop and condo building I have seen a new beauty parlor advertising another product for skin whitening as globalization is taking its toll on the perception of beauty. Yet every morning, I have still driven by numerous people receiving blessings from monks in bright orange robes on the side of the road. I still see hundreds of people stand in silent respect as the awe-inspiring King’s song plays at the movie theatre and your national anthem broadcasts at the markets. And everyday, I am still moved by the unwavering kindness and generosity displayed by strangers that I have only ever seen in Thailand.

I know you will continue to grow and develop long after I leave – and I pray that you don’t lose touch with what makes you so beautiful. Where else in the world can I visit and play with a two-week old baby elephant, buy a fresh fruit shake or a cold, fresh coconut for less than a dollar, drive a motorbike less than an hour in any direction to visit a beautiful waterfall, lake, mountain, or cave, float on a tube down a lazy river, kayak through caves and rapids, play with baby tigers, take part in the world’s biggest water fight, witness and take part in the release of over 10,000 lanterns into the night sky, have all four wisdom teeth removed for less than $140, or spend an afternoon relaxing by an infinity pool in the mountains?

While I have watched you grow, I have grown alongside you – you have facilitated my growth by challenging me when I’ve needed a push and comforting me when I’ve needed stability. You have brought me together with some of the most incredible people I have ever met, who have influenced my life in ways that I could never repay. You have given me the outlets to grow as a teacher, a student, a mentor, a friend, and a lover. You have shown me my true potential to make a positive impact on this world through sharing my knowledge, passion, and joy with others. You have linked my body and soul to the practice of yoga and you have dared me to enter into the realm of meditation. You have cleansed my body with your fresh fruits and fresh cooked meals, and healed my aches with your Thai massage. You have guided me in the art of patience and remaining calm, as I slowly adapted to ‘Thai time.’ You have taught me how to truly be present and to notice and appreciate the small joys in life. And you have shown me what it means to be incredibly grateful for all that I have, all that I’ve done, and all that I am.

Even though I do not want to leave you, you have given me the courage to move on and tackle the world – to make my dreams a reality.

And now that you have filled me to the brim with confidence, strength, love, and a surplus of unforgettable memories, it is time for you to release me like a lantern into the night sky to join the rest of the ‘farang’ who are also better people for having known you.

I am not saying goodbye. I am saying, “I’ll see you later,” because in my heart, I know that I will see you again one day.