A year in review. Wow – aside from a couple of road trip posts, it’s been 12 months since my last blog about our life and semi-retirement in Chiang Mai (CM). Has it been procrastination or perhaps its just been 2020? In the last update I indicated that life had moved into a rhythm of routine normality with far less to blog about and I had anticipated there would likely be less sharing.
It was fun to look back over the year gone by. The website is somewhat of a hobby for me as well. It is fitting perhaps as we draw to an end of 2020 and look forward to what is ahead in 2021? For family, friends and anyone else that may be interested, here is a look back over our past year, with a snapshot of activity covering – Exploring & Adventures; Out & About; Around Home; Foodie Treats, and Round Up.
Over the past 12 months life has been somewhat challenging and far from normal – like it has been for everyone. The pandemic impacted routine life, particularly in terms of health and economics, which has affected what we have been accustomed to normally. Living in Thailand, I believe, has been a benefit over the past year. The Thai Government’s response and citizens compliance have ensured a limited medical impact. The economy is a different story, with International Tourism a major contributor to the GDP – but there isn’t any foreign tourism. While domestic tourism is helping the economy it will not be back to what it used to be until borders open and the volume of International tourists come back.
As a CM local it appears to me that, although fairly busy, it is a much quieter and a more relaxed city without the normal hordes of visitors. Good or bad – that depends on what your livelihood is and what you value. For us, life has not been impacted greatly; just quieter and more chilled this year – but living tranquil in Thailand is still very enjoyable.
Exploring & Adventures
Doi Ang Khang Agriculture Station – It was February, Ace’s mother and friend were visiting so getting out on the road seemed a necessary idea. Clink on the title link for a post on this outing.
NARIT -Visited the newly opened NARIT Astro Park Planetarium for something different, when Ace’s mother was visiting us, just before the lockdown restrictions came into affect. Some space and astronomy displays and a 1-hour film show on the stars and the solar system, followed by refreshments in their restaurant was a learning experience and fun outing.
Tweechol Botanic Garden – We Enjoyed a relaxing adventure to the Tweechol Botanic garden at Horizon Resort. Lovely spot, nicely maintained. Lunch at the resort after checking out the grounds on a golf buggy and strolling about – very big place involving 320 rai and 60 gardeners. You can rent bikes to get around as well. Be nicest just after the wet season or during the cool season on a bike. We stopped at the resort restaurant after our look around for a tasty lunch.
Phayao Visit – we had a day trip to this town thanks to some work requirements. 8 hours and a bit of road works later is was an enjoyable day out driving in Northern Thailand. We had a yummy lunch at So Good Restaurant by Phayao lake and a stop at Wat Si Khom Kham – in addition to a couple hours work, visiting the local prison.
Khao Yai – Aces Birthday Trip – click this link for a trip post. We took a week off and headed south to Khao Yai area and national park. It was a great break, not having been out of CM since February. Nice to be a tourist at times and enjoy fun road trips.
Mae Kuang Udom Thara Dam – It was a magic afternoon for a drive to visit Mae Kuang Udom Thara Dam, about 27 km north of CM. Mae Kuang Dam offered picturesque views while enjoying an afternoon coffee and some picture taking. The dam is used to store and transfer agricultural water in Doi Saket District, San Kamphaeng District, and some parts of Lamphun. We encountered a few water buffalos on the road leading to the dam.
Chiang Mai walking street – hadn’t been to this weekly institution for a long while and was surprised at the volume of stalls and shoppers on Sunday night, with no overseas tourists. Thai domestic tourism seems to be doing well and helps the economy. Still a happening place, unique hand crafts and lots of food offerings. We stopped in a local temple ground where there is many food stalls to have dinner. I actually enjoyed the visit and strolling around checking out the items on offer, as it wasn’t as crowded as usual.
Out & About Activities
Loy Krathong – This year we took a stroll along the Ping Riverside after an enjoyable Vietnamese dinner on the 2nd night of Loy Krathong festival in Chaing Mai. We hadn’t gone into the city for this event for a number of years. It is believed that Loy Krathong, or ‘the festival of light,’ originated in the ancient city of Sukhothai. It is not necessarily a religious holiday, but you will see many Thais praying to the water goddess, Mae Khongkha, as they send their decorated ‘boats’ down the river.
Consular colleagues – Belonging to the CM Consular Corps allows for both working and social relationships with colleagues. From time to time throughout the year we get together for a meal, a drink and some fun chats. We usually enjoy these events around the arrival or departure of consular corps members. It had been awhile since we got together because of COVID so this outing in September at the Magnolia Cafe provided a wonderful setting and food.
Aus Alumni – The Australian Alumni Association President (& Austcham Vice President) often visits Chiang Mai and having become friends over the years, we try and catch up when possible. M.L Lasasubha Kridakon, who owns a boutique resort in Hua Hin, came to Chiang Mai to promote joint tourism thanks to the now direct weekly flights between Chiang Mai and Hua Hin. We hosted her, a friend and Australian friends to dinner at one of our favorite eateries – Ajarn Saiyud’s Kitchen (by Doctor Sai). The food is always nicely presented and some very different and delicious dishes.
Remembrance Day – A large number of guests gathered this year at the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery for a service of remembrance. Unfortunately our annual Anzac Dawn Service in April was cancelled due to restrictions. There was an Exhibition commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain with tribute to Airmen and Airwomen from many countries who gave their lives during the Second World War. Thanks to the British Embassy, British Honorary Consul and CM Foreign Cemetery Board for this event.
Yoga and Meditation – Ace and I were energetic and ambitious one morning in early December. The Indian Consul in Chiang Mai arranged a yoga and meditation session for colleagues and friends at the Amaravati Wellness Center in Mai Rim. A stunning morning outlook, some muscles stretched that haven’t been in awhile and followed by a delicious vegetarian lunch. The doggy knee went on me during some stretching exercises, creating a bulging meniscus. Now something else to deal with.
COVID Lock down – Interesting pictures of how quiet life was around Chaing Mai when the COVID restriction were in place. The pictures I am sharing were from an online Thai media post: -” ChiangMai is very quiet. Photos of the atmosphere of Chiang Mai 24 March 2563. A city where there are few people without tourists. Roads are empty. We don’t have many cars. We will hold hands together through this crisis together. #Chiang Mai #We will go through this crisis together. Fight Fight Fight Fight Fight Fight ” – Our only outing during the lockdown restriction period was for food shopping – & it was very quiet.
Family Connections – as international travel is not an easy activity these days, keeping in touch with my children and grandchildren has not been a problem. We have been using Microsoft Teams software as a great way to chat all together and to see each other. It makes family hook ups so much more fun. My grandchildren in Sydney are all growing up (the American ones are grown up) – Austin has finished year 6 this year, his sister Tilly is not far behind and Olive is really taking off. Looking forward to our Christmas connection.
Lex & Izzy – the fur baby team are well and fun to have around. They enjoy being with us and want to sample everything we eat. There was lots of grooming, walks and time in the garden enjoying each others company over the year. These two haven’t been following any social distancing recommendations.
Halloween – this annual celebration seems to be growing in popularity here, at least in our Moo Baan (housing complex). The local children got together to visit homes, parading in a group – but the rain fell on their parade, so in the end only some die hard trick or treaters survived. Great to see the kids having fun. Lots of adult parties at pubs and restaurants.
Home & Garden – We do spend lots of time enjoy our home and villa garden. While not large the garden does require upkeep and ongoing maintenance. With the weather varying from the cool, hot and wet seasons it is always a changing feast around the property. Here is a different view between the dry and wet season:
With rapid growth of the garden plants due to the Thai climate there is always trimming and tidying up to be done. Some things we can do ourselves, but other tasks require younger and more able, energetic assistance. We have some larger trees and with a small garden we like to trim them back annually to allow the sun to penetrate the garden and for the growth of grass and other plants. A younger body is needed to climb the trees for trimming – the guy in the picture was a very nimble tree climber. A few pictures best describe the changing season activities.
This year we also updated some wallpaper in the entry hall and lounge/kitchen area. What we had before was bold and in your face. Now, we are more subdued and restrained in our selection. It is calmer. The following is the house and yard currently in our cool season.
Friends & Special Occasions – we routinely catch up with various friends around Chaing Mai for a lunch, a dinner or for special occasions either in private homes or at a favorite restaurant. Usually we don’t bother with pictures and social media post, but one particular birthday celebration took place at Le Crystal Restaurant – a very fine establishment- for Ray’s birthday. It was soon after the restaurant had opened after Covid restrictions eased. It was a fine dinning celebration.
There are so many lovely and unique restaurants and coffee shops around Chiang Mai. In a lifetime, I don’t think you could visit them all. While we cook and eat at home, a hobby of ours is to get out and check out some of the many places on offer around CM – often for lunch, and coffee treats or dinner for special occasions. Thanks to Covid we have also discovered the use of Grab Food & Food Panda – so when really lazy and want to stay home & don’t want to cook – we order in. How easy is that! Here are some of the spots in pictures, in no particular order, that we visited through the year, enjoyed and would visit again.
Ajarn Saiyud’s Kitchen (by Doctor Sai), North Hill Golf Club – Mix Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Goodview All Day, Samsen Villa on Ping River and Mai Saigon Restaurant
No.18 Cafe on CM-Lamphun Road, Oasis Cafe. ChamCha. Heritage House & Garden Cafe. Fernpreso – by the lake, & Cafe De Lampun
LETS GO HAVES (50/50) PROGRAM – the Thai Government initiated the “Khon La Khrueng” COVID economic stimulus shopping scheme which allows Thai citizens to register and for SME shops and restaurants to offer services that the Government would fund on a 50/50 basis (to 150 THB a day). So it is handy to have lunch and for Ace to pay less. We tried out some local spots around our house we had not been before, as a result of this program – for a half price lunch – yummy.
So what is ahead for 2021? More of living life tranquil in Thailand for sure – enjoying our home, gardens, finding enjoyable foodie places, catching up with friends along with some more Thailand exploring. Each week Monday to Thursday we open our home based consulate office for 3 hours. A home office is a great way to work – to enjoy coffee, catching up with the online news and responding to enquiries & passport applications – it keeps me occupied. In relation to my website (personal) I might not be posting much going forward other than for any road trips or other special activities.
Reappointed as Australian Honorary Consul – I am happy to share that I have been reappointed as Australian Honorary Consul for Northern Thailand, resident in Chiang Mai, for a further 3 years (to 2024). I was originally appointed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2015 and report to the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand. The role has been interesting, and at times, challenging. The people to people consular service aspect can be rewarding but at times, difficult & demanding. The public diplomacy activities are usually the pleasurable aspects of the function. Here’s to looking forward – 3 more exciting years of supporting the Australian Embassy for the North of Thailand – “in the land of smiles”
I am routinely reminded of my mortality – taking reports of deaths of Australians in the north of Thaialnd does focus ones mind to this eventual event. Some are older and some are younger than me – so it is a reminder to enjoy each day as you never know when it will be your last!
Health wise Ace & the pets are doing just fine – happy and healthy. For me, it is often been a mixed bag & challenging at times with some residual bladder effects from my multiple prostate cancer treatments, a new liver problem, a bout of shingles in the head and gout flare ups have tended to impact the quality of life enjoyment from from time to time. I am still above ground – so it’s all good.
We are looking forward to more fun in 2021. All the best for the festive season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Chiang Mai.