Firecrackers and fireworks are going off in the streets of old Chiang Mai tonight, in preparation of the Yee Peng / Loy Kratong festival. While the festival officially starts tomorrow, the big day is on the 21st. The festival, held on the full moon of the 11th month, is celebrated with river floats and sky lanterns. It seems that everyone is coming up here to witness the celebration (apart from those celebrating the full moon in Bangkok or Ko Pha Ngan) and so we were wise to show up a few days early to ensure a room.
Apart from the upcoming festivities, there isn’t much keeping me in Chiang Mai. The Chiang Mai of my imagination was a wild, leafy place with great rice fields and rugged mountains. Simply put, it was a sort of mix of Chinese Yunnan and Northern Laos and Vietnam. While not a far stretch of the imagination due to the physical location of the town, anyone knowing the landscape of any of these and of Chain Mai will understand my disappointment. It’s flat, overbuilt, charmless mess of businesses, hotels and restaurants. The salvation of the town, thus far, has been the high volume of temples and the lovely food market. This city is really just a gateway to hill tribe + jungle trekking, nothing more. But why does it have to feel so far removed from all of the jungle trekking it advertises? It’s quite a shame.
I remember 5 years ago when I set out for my big solo adventure Thailand had been the place I was the most looking forward to. At the end of my trip, it was my least favourite country (out of 11) and my biggest disappointment. It’s not to say that it can’t be amazing, fun and beautiful. I think that I had built it up too much in my head and that other countries just took me more by surprise. This time around, I was really looking forward to getting blown away by the North, where I hadn’t been. I don’t know if yet again I put too much hope in Thailand, but I’m not impressed.
This is my last big trip, my final hurrah before settling down and starting a family. It’s my hard-earned money and my precious time. I’m allowed to want to treat spend it as I wish, no? Should this trip be filled with only the best, whatever and wherever it may be, as long as it fits into the budget? Why do I feel so guilty about flying through countries where I’ve already extensively visited and feel shame tug at me for wanting to immediately leave a place I don’t really fancy? Maybe it’s the Catholic guilt. Maybe it’s the uneasiness of doing it my way instead of the well established backpacker standard. Maybe it’s a mix of many things. But I do know that it’s something that I’m going to figure out.