I’m back in the USA, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing

The Cosmos: Hey Matt, remember that last blog post you wrote, where you said that all the tourists in Chiang Mai, Thailand were a bunch of jerks?

Me: Yes, I remember that.

The Cosmos: Well, guess what? I’m going to fill your vacation with so many friendly, awesome, really cool interesting people from every corner of the globe that you’re going to feel like a big giant stupid jerk for making such a gross generalization.

Me: Well…okay. I guess.

20160320_214632What can I say? I had a wonderful trip. Despite the somewhat melancholy tone of my last post, I had a great time. I met dozens of amazing people; Swedes and Scots and Brits and Poles and Germans and French and Hungarians. I got super drunk and had great conversations. I saw sights. I bathed elephants. It was excellent.

Although breaking into social circles remains something of a mystery to me. I’ve never been very good at it, and it always seems like magic when I manage to crack the ice and a group of strangers actually starts to treat me like a human being, and they go from seeming like standoffish dicks to being really great people. I suppose there’s a trick to it, but damned if I know what it is. It just happens sometimes.

Anyway, I’m not ready to be back. Every time I leave Chiang Mai, it gets a little bit harder. Picture me at the airport, trying not to cry in front of the taxi driver. It’s strange, how a place can get under your skin like this.

Goodbye, Chiang Mai. I’ll be back again.

20160322_110220

Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand

So, yeah. Here I am in Thailand. Why? Sometimes, when a man gets round trip tickets to the other side of the world for less than $600, a man’s just gotta go, you know?

I’ve been here once before, two years ago. And now I’m back.

20160310_172800This place stinks. It smells like trash and durian and fetid tropical dumpsters. It’s too hot. It’s more humid than a sauna. The traffic is insane. It’s filthy. I fantasize about running rampant through the streets with a pressure washer. There are staggering levels of poverty on display. The pavement is uneven. Buildings are thrown together. Everything is falling apart.

The Thai people are wonderful, gracious human beings, but the tourists are the biggest bunch of assholes you’ll ever want to meet. Snobby douchebag backpackers in paisley parachute pants and dreadlocks, do you even yoga, bro? Annoying flocks of Chinese grandmothers. Subtly condescending European retirees on holiday. Bald, troll-like German expat whoremongers in tank-tops with hairy shoulders. Loud, stupid drunk Australian teenagers.

So why do I love this place? I don’t know.

20160311_011037There’s something about this crazy, ancient city that keeps me coming back.

As usual, when I travel, I am surprised at what a solitary endeavor it is for me. I’m too old and square for the backpackers. I’m too young for the retirees. I have too much dignity for the whoremongers. I’m too introverted for the party crowd. So why am I even here?

This place is hard to explain. It is so many extremes, so many contradictions. So organic. It’s like what a city might be if nobody were in charge, and yet, somehow, it all just worked. It’s chaos, all the self-organizing splendor of a flock of birds or an ant’s nest. I’ve never met a friendlier people. It boggles my mind, how these locals, after being inundated with hordes of brash, ignorant tourists (not excluding myself) for generations, can continue to be so damned nice.

20160311_172553And so, even if I’m usually keeping my own company, even if I’m just reading a book and drinking a cappuccino in one of the hundreds of little coffee shops and restaurants in the old city and watching the world move by, like a post in a stream, somehow I just enjoy being a part of it.

Cheap food, cheap beer, cheap coffee. Wonderful, gracious, welcoming locals. A beautiful, vibrant culture.Thai massage for ten dollars an hour. No, not that kind of massage. An ancient, living city that manages to somehow be completely frantic and completely laid-back at the same time.

I haven’t explained it half as well as I’d like to, but I’m hungry and I need to go get some pad see ew for the equivalent of three dollars American.

Matt Kincade

Chiang Mai, Thailand.