The highly-respected Bangkok Post ran a story on Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai in the business section of its 24 November 2018 issue. The thrust of the story was Chiang Mai’s star ranking among the world’s top three locations for digital nomads – that is, people who make a living “on the go”, through tech startups, blogging or any other online pursuits that don’t require a fixed office address.
The Cosmic Mandala
But is Chiang Mai all it’s cracked up to be? In my humble opinion, YES! Not for nothing are layabouts like myself attracted to Chiang Mai. This is a city where you don’t just come for a few days. Hotels and condominiums offer special monthly rates – and you don’t have to be a digital nomad – just a simple nomad will do.
Hovering above Chiang Mai is the temple of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. And following the principle “as above, so below”, the Old Town of Chiang Mai takes the form of a cosmic mandala – a giant square complex surrounded by a moat, with four gates and corner ramparts, with another temple at the centre,Wat Chedi Luang, depicting Mount Meru, supposedly the centre of the universe. And for those people who think THEY are the centre of the universe, it’s useful to stand back and try to get a different perspective.
Fun and Festivities: Fireworks blitz the night skies. Strolling bands enliven the daytime. At any time, day or night, no excuse is needed for a party. In short, Chiang Mai is a place where hedonism is definitely not a dirty word.
Hanging out and hanging even further out:
I gotta admit, most of the time in Chiang Mai I found myself just hanging out – in cafes, street food joints, cheap eateries. Or walking! Those 10,000 steps a day that any serious health nut is meant to do easily mushroomed out to 15-16,000. The reason? There’s so much to see and experience – from nose-tempting markets to great massages by deceptively expert young Thai ladies to tattoo studios and excellent bookshops. And out of town, the huge Royal Park Rajapruek and the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden boggle the imagination, saying; “You could make a garden like this at home, if you’d just get up off your arse and do something for a change.”
But maybe the biggest attraction of Chiang Mai is its ability to shift one’s focus. Here, in the cosmic mandala, my identity no revolves around my long-ingrained ethnocentric beliefs. I’m no longer “Mount Meru”. I’m no longer Australian, or American, or German. Instead, I see the world from a whole new perspective. And whether that’s unsettling or liberating depends entirely on my ability – or lack thereof – to simply chill out and take it all in.