I’ve been here for three days, and I’ve got that feeling of being an observer, rather than a participant, in most of the things I do.
Culture shock hasn’t been as big a factor as previously, probably because Thailand feels like it’s somewhere between Borneo, Paraguay, and Sevastopol, and experience is helping me to know what to expect. On first impression, the roads here are a lot better than I expected, and generally it’s very clean.
The main frustration is not being able to say anything in Thai at all. I wasn’t going to make a particularly effort to learn the language, since I’ll only be here until the end of June and am unlikely to use it again in the future. Three hours of being in Chiang Mai and not being able to do anything for myself, relying entirely on other people who can speak Thai or the person I’m speaking to being able to speak English, has put paid to that. I don’t understand how people can live for years somewhere and not want to get to survival level at the bare minimum in the local language, at least for their sanity if not for politeness’ sake.
I’m staying in a very nice condo which could be anywhere in the world. It’s out in a village in the middle of nowhere, a 30-minute walk/10-minute bike ride from IH Chiang Mai, where I’ll be doing CELTAs from Monday. So far I’ve explored on a bike (the first time I’ve ridden for a quite a few years) and been on the hotel shuttle to the local supermarket a couple of times. There’s a beautiful temple a two-minute walk from where I’m staying, and I’m surrounded by local houses and paddy fields. Apart from being in the airport flightpath, it’s very peaceful, and I can constantly hear local birds, which I love.
My main new experience has been riding on the back of a scooter. I have no desire whatsoever to hire my own scooter. I’ve never driven. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been in control of a motorised vehicle was three hours of quadbiking last year. I was in the middle of the countryside with a group of friends, and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to go onto the roads at all. I don’t trust other drivers! Riding on a scooter was fine, but my hands ached after the first trip because I was gripping harder than I realised! I’ve bought myself a helmet now, so I won’t have to steal one from the driver.
On Friday I was taken into Chiang Mai for dinner with a friend. It was very difficult getting back to my accommodation, although I managed to get a lift in the end. I haven’t braved public transport by myself yet, and it looks like that’ll be next weekend. I’m hoping to have a little Thai by then so I’ll be able to manage it myself.
The plan is to do four CELTAs in Chiang Mai, taking me up to the end of June. I’m hoping to blog a little bit more regularly during these ones than I managed in North America. Watch this space!