We have been thinking about how different Chiang Mai is now from 20 years ago. The main change we see is the vast numbers of tourists in the city now. 20 years ago Chinese could not travel outside China but today make up the lion’s share of tourists in South East Asia and growing at a rapid rate.
Just got back from a long walk down streets we had not been in yet (yes there still are some!) and found the same pattern of new tourist accommodation construction everywhere we walked. These appear to be more upmarket and contemporary than a lot of existing stuff which could be described as “a bit pokey and dated”. The fabulous 99 Gallery Hotel where we are staying is a great example of what is being built and they are constructing a huge extension next door. The largest group of visitors to this hotel appear to be mainland Chinese.
This gets me to thinking about the influence the Chinese are having on our world. All throughout Southeast Asia the Chinese migrants have been the catalyst for commerce and trade. Their influence far exceeds their weight of numbers. They are very good business people and have contributed greatly to the countries they migrated to. In Ipoh Malaysia for instance the Chinese arrived as guest tin mine workers in the early years but now dominate business and commerce there. All the Mercedes, BMW’s and Bentleys in Ipoh are either driven by the Chinese or their chauffers. We have noticed that they tend to be respected rather than disliked as locals can see that their own lives are better because of the Chinese presence.
Noticed 13 Monks being utilized to clean the apron in front of the old temple at the end of our street. We remarked that it was probably only a two man job at most. Passed the huge Monk accommodation blocks inside another Watt that extended about 500 metres along the road behind a high wall. We thought there must be a lot of monks!
Walked through the pleasant Buak Hat Public City Park with ponds green grass and palm trees, a veritable oasis inside the parched city. Was being well used by schools and fellow walkers. A brightly painted many coloured house that would have made Joseph’s coat look plain caught our eye in a back street and elicited the comment, “everybody is different”.
After nearly 3 weeks in Chiang Mai in “Investigative mode” we have come to the conclusion that to live in the inner area you would have to like tourists as their numbers are growing at a rapid rate. It is however still a mix of locals, Monks, and some expats and all in all is a very stimulating and harmonious place to live. Living here as a retiree would be well within the reach of an Australian pensioner with money left over for travel and trips back home.
The Wanderlust in us both has struck again and even though we still have another 11 days here and then a month exploring Sri Lanka we burned the midnight oil yesterday planning a trip into Myanmar for a month after Sri Lanka. The air fares into Yangon are cheap with Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur and cheap out to KL via Bangkok from Mandalay. We have done all the research and found they run new Scania Buses between Yangon and Mandalay during daytime so we could see all the magnificent scenery during the 9 hour trip for only about $20 Australian. Look out Myanmar here we come!