The Only Constant In Life Is Change…
I wrote this article about 4 years ago upon taking up residence in Chiang Mai and feeling content having made the right decision on where I should settle down in retirement. As it turns out, it is 6 months ago that I left there to repatriate to Aussie
and to prove to myself once again that the title of the article still holds true.
The beautiful article penned by Scott McGregor, entitled "A walk between cultures", in last month's issue (City Life in CM), made me a bit nostalgic and thoughtful about life in general, and in particular about our beloved city of Chiang Mai!
My first visit to this "Shangri -La" was back in 1980 and I came back 6 months ago to settle down in retirement and spend the rest of my years here. Needless to say, the place had gone through tremendous changes, some for the better and some for the worse. That's not different from most places over a span of a quarter of a century.
One needs to view things from perspectives, which can be as variant as each of us individually and consider life from the where we come from, our collective experiences and the stage of life we're at.
One of the peculiar facts that I noticed on my return here after so many years, was the fact that the City and it's immediate suburbs has a very sizable number of permanent "farang" residents. Some of them are living here with their Thai spouses and their children, although many of these Thai spouses are not of northern natives, but come from other provinces of the Kingdom. Other farangs are retirees, mostly men, but a fair few are married couples, who reside here during the harsh northern winters in their countries. In addition to the abovementioned, and maybe this is even more surprising, there are quite a number of 100% western families living here, working in the city or running businesses and educating their children in the numerous international schools which sprung up here in the last few years.
So what is it that attracts all these people here in droves?
I tried to analyze it, to see if I could find an explanation or a common denominator, that would give me a handle on it. In the "moobahn" I live in, a few kilometers from the city, we have a fairly representative sampling of the aforementioned groups, and I took it upon myself to run an informal survey, by way of discussions on the subject.
Well, what do you know: it's the very changes which occurred in the last 8-10 years, that have made the city such a desirable place to live in, while at the same time preserving the very endearing qualities of the city and its people. It seems to be a perfect blend of new and old; traditional and modern, arts and crafts and technology, ethnic, tribal, Chinese, Thai, Muslim and western cultures peacefully co-existing side by side without threatening one another.
Commercial intrusions have arrived, for sure, but if they're unwanted, I can't see it, be it Lotus, Carrefour, Big C or Airport Plaza, they're all bursting at the seams with all type of customers, but the traditional markets are still striving!
Tourism is on the up and up, providing thousands of local jobs and prosperity, just visit the airport any day around noon, you'll be lucky to get a parking spot. Fortunately, the type of tourists we attract are mainly interested in culture, Buddhism, nature and handicrafts, therefore preserving the values that the locals care about.
My impressions of the local government authorities are positive, I see lots of public works in the pipeline, the beautification of the city is an ongoing project, people seem to be proud of their city.
Mind you, don't get me wrong, it's not all gain and no pain. But the price to pay for prosperity and progress at least in my opinion, in the case of Chiang Mai, was not so high! The rest of Thailand should "sit up and take notice" and use this city as a shining example to emulate, here they know "how to have their cake and eat it too"!
So getting back to my title, has Shangri-La changed, is it still Shangri-La, or is it something else?
Of course it changed, as does everything, nothing stays the same, least of all ourselves, everything and everyone continually evolves, that's why this thing called "Life" is so interesting, so lets live it to the full!
The point has to be made that when people bemoan things that they miss in foregone days, like a recent submission about the good old days in London or the fact that New Zealand ain’t what it used to be; well it applies to Thailand too.
The recent new section on this website about what Bangkok used to be like in the late 60s and 70s was a reminder to me what a great place Siam used to be and how much everything changed (for the worse).
If one decides to take up one’s roots and move to Thailand permanently having been disillusioned with their own country, you got to remember that the grass is always greener on the other side but it can be a mirage too. I’d met many people in Thailand who are permanently wearing rose coloured glasses and suffer from amnesia with respect to their roots.
Since the only constant in life is change, most of us will eventually change our perceptions about Thailand too, I certainly did after 6 years of living there, but you do not know the place until you live there full time.
There are such rapid changes taking place in the world today, it makes it difficult for some people to cope with this pace of change.
I think if you live in Thailand you should try to avail yourselves to studying meditation techniques, there are many wats where you can learn, some of them specially catering to farangs!
I've only been to Chiang Mai twice, and spent less than a week there in total. But I have to say that I really like it and can see how the lifestyle up there must be great. If only one could find decent paying work up there!