Welcome to Chang Mai - the city of backpackers and butterflies!
After an exciting night on the sleeper train I arrived in Chang Mai at 9 am in the morning together with Carla and Paul, an Irish couple I bunked with on the train. We entered the station and were immediately bombarded by TukTuk and taxi drivers. We needed time to wrap our minds around the new city, so we had breakfast at a local bar first. I find myself discussing the Brexit and the Donald Trumph phenomenon almost every day here, and that morning was no exception. So over bangers, eggs and French toast (!!!) we discussed the consequences of the Brexit, the bleached men trying to take over the world and what we could possibly do about it. In short, is was an interesting start to the day.
We were sleeping in different locations, so we parted ways. They went by TukTuk and I rented a motorbike. For 150 baht (4 euro) I could cruise around the streets like a real local. Two things that I forgot... They drive on the left side of the road here and I had my 15 kg backpack to carry. Also I had been many, many years since I had been on a motorbike. (Not to mention all of the people pointing and laughing at me) Anyway, I felt pretty adventurous (=dangerous)navigating the mean streets of Chang Mai. Going up to 70 km/h in my shorts while whispering to myself I was doing fine. I arrived at my hostel after a few hiccups and parked my motorbike with grace. (Or that's the story I am telling anyways)
After dropping my backpack and taking a shower I went out to discover Chang Mai. I had heard many stories about the city and the great vibe and experience people seem to experience there. Here is what I think: the city is a somewhat overgrown backpackers hub that has more bars than I have ever seen in one city. For me it is a city build up around a theme: backpackers, jungle trekking and night life. The city is simply there, or simply this big, because of the many back packers and tourists that wander through it. The city is commercialized to its core and totally aimed at one specific target public. You can go rafting, or zip lining, jungle trekking or visit the temples during the day and drink as many cocktails as your heart desires during the night. It might seem like a harsh verdict after spending only a couple of days here, but the authenticity of the experience is completely lost here and has made room for mass production, mass experience and mass commercialization.
So in short the authenticity of Chang Mai is hard to find, but you do encounter it in a few things: you find it in the people trying to make a better life for themselves, in the wildlife that is protected by them, in the beautiful mountains that guard the city and in the many butterflies that flutter around in it.
So I will dedicate Chang Mai to the butterflies, fluttering around the city like a reminder of how it could be.
PS: The city might not have been entirely to my taste, but the people I met along the way made all the difference. So here is to Paul and Carla with whom I shared some great evenings and stories. Hope we meet soon, either here or in Edinburgh, I could play `Who`s the banana` with you any time. To Julia from Baltimore with whom I shared air conditioning like it was a precious good.(To Megan, Sarah and Ciara who made me feel like 16 again. You are darling.