Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Livin' is Easy

If anyone from the Thai immigration authority asks, Erin and I are most certainly not working.

But we've kind of been working. I don't think it's any kind of work that the Thai officials would be troubled with. It's not like our presence here is stealing jobs from hardworking Thais who would love to be editing our book for us.

Believe me, if I thought I could hire a Thai guy to do this stuff for us for 50 baht an hour, I'd hire him. The thing is, copyediting is an annoying job that makes professional writers like Erin and myself feel like English is our second language, because in the opinion of our copy editor, we apparently don't know the first thing about constructing a grammatical, non-passive sentence. Someone who grew up writing in a squiggle alphabet and only recently learned how to speak in non-squiggles would have a hell of a time with the barracuda we're dealing with.

It's not a bad place to work, this. We've got an air-conditioned hotel room with both wired and wireless internet access, and our lovely hosts have set us up with a table and second chair, in addition to the desk the room came with. We're surrounded by cheap restaurants serving delicious food and if we get up early enough, the weather is really pleasant for cycling for several hours a day.

We changed guesthouses a few days ago. We moved out of the ridiculously cheap, but somewhat dingy and gloomy guesthouse we booked over the internet before we arrived and moved into a much cleaner, much nicer guesthouse run by much friendlier people. It's almost as ridiculously cheap as the last one. Less than $350 a month. Score!

The guesthouse is located on a quiet little laneway in the old city of Chiang Mai. The lanes are open to vehicular traffic, but they're so cramped that people have no choice but to drive slowly, and the narrowness of the lanes make them nice and shady for most of the day, so they're very walkable, unlike the major streets in this town.

There's a nice mix in the neighbourhood of the tourist-oriented services we need, like the Irish Bar where we watched a Canucks game this morning, and more authentic Thai places, which are much cheaper, offer better food, and make us feel less like tourists and more like brave explorers.

The best places, though, are the ones in between: cheap places hoping to capitalize on the tourist trade by offering english-language menus and beer at any time of the day, but which are run by people without enough money to gussy them up and make them fancy and expensive. Our noodle soup lady's place is a great example of that:

Our neighbourhood has more than one street bar, which offer nice atmosphere, although they do expose you to some risk of being run over by a motorbike while you're having a beer.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't feel too sorry about us having to work in this paradise. We're still enjoying ourselves, and we're not exactly working full time. We managed to fit in a 75 km bike ride yesterday. I took this video so our moms could see how safe and pleasant it is to ride our bikes here.

At our Thai lesson yesterday, Erin and I learned how to ask in Thai, "where is Chiang Mai city?" Coincidentally, yesterday was the first time we ever felt the need to ask where Chiang Mai is. Unfortunately, we didn't go to our Thai lesson until about an hour after we finally found our way out of those winding country roads among the rice paddy fields and back to our guesthouse, so I had to ask the question with a lot of gestures. The woman I asked had no idea what I was talking about.

We did finally find our way back. We saw a lot of nice scenery while we were lost. On the downside, we didn't get back until almost noon, when the sun was getting damn hot.

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