Not in Chiang Mai this year . First time in 23 years

After enduring a five month renovation project that ended before Christmas, I decided to stay in Toronto for the winter. It isn’t that I like Toronto more than Chiang Mai, it is that it seems to suit my purpose more to be here in Toronto at this time. I wanted to enjoy my new space after enduing great discomfort for months while it was totally torn apart and rebuild. I’ve been running away from winter ,the cold and I made a decision to embrace it this winter. My only challenge is several grey days in a row.
One of my goals this winter is to begin a regular writing program. My new space provides the ideal environment to do this-it is warm , comfortable and sunlight when the sun is shining. My newly renovated kitchen is a treat to prepare food in. I say prepare because I became a raw food eater about 15 months ago.
I was introduced to it by my partner. I’m thriving on it in terms of renewed energy and losing weight in all the places I had always wanted to let it go, mainly, the waist and the small but evident love handles.
Even more than enjoying a better fit in clothing ,it is the new energy it gives me, that I enjoy the most.

I’m glad I didn’t go to Thailand in early November -my usual departure date.My friends have reported that it has been down right cold for the first time in decades in Chiang Mai. This applies to the night temperature.
It is a big problem because all the housing is geared for air conditioning ,not heating. It doesn’t help that the concept of insulation is foreign to Asia-at least all the countries -except ,Korea that I have traveled to.
I believe that this period has more of less passed.

Will I give in to Cabin Fever in the next two months? Time will tell.

A healthy and wealthy 2014 to all.

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Arthur’s Happiness Project Continues

This summer I began a major renovation project in the apartment I live in Toronto. The result is a cozy beautiful warm nest to spend the winter if I choose. For the past 23 winters I have flown to Asia ,primarily ,Chiang Mai ,Thailand in the Fall or early
In the new year and returned in April to do and pay my fair share of taxes to the Canadian government! The government decides what is fair not me.
Last year this time I had been living in Thailand for a couple of weeks already. This year I have no firm plans.

I’m happy living and designing the interior of my newly renovated space-new insulated walls,ceiling and a new honey oak floor make me want to spend time in the space experiencing how I want it to be furnished. I threw out all the old furnishings and I’m starting from scratch.

Not quickly jumping on a plane is also part of my new Happiness project -living a life by design not default.
I turned 69 last week. I experience myself asp rather ageless as in many ways I feel younger now than when I was 19.
This has a lot to do with the fact that I have been fortunate to do
Therapy with a number of good therapists-both physical and psychological therapies that have released bands of tension that freed me in such a m annex that I actually have more freedom of movement than when I was 19.
I feel comfortable with myself and quite enjoy my own company usually in silence but sometimes I enjoy classical music to further nurture my soul.

Lately, I have read a number of good postings in the App , “Lifehacker”. I concur with their writings on Happiness.

Happiness is a choice. Choose wisely.

The Wandering Therapist

Arthur j. Poirier

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Living by Design or by Default-

I recently came across two quotes that I had found in the past and jotted down on a piece of paper.
The first quote was ,”You are either affecting people or infecting people.
The second quote was ,” You are either living by design or living by default”.

The meaning of the first one appears quite evident, “You are either influencing someone in a positive manner or you are influencing them in a negative manner.

It’s the second quote. Living by Design or Default ” that interests me at the moment or should I say seems to suddenly become more relevant in my life.

In some ways, like many other well meaning person , parts of my life are lived by design and parts are lived by default.

As I approach my seventh decade-where did the time go- I find that in general that I have more or less lived a life of design.

Being self -employed I bought a small apartment building nearly 30 years ago knowing that at some point I would wish to retire or at least have the choice to work or not to work.

I meet so many people approaching 60 who had not made plans in the past and now financial security is a grave concern.

I also designed my life with the goal of having optimum health in mind. With a blood pressure of 100/70 on average and a resting pulse of 58 with a lean body weight I feel rather healthy. I have no pains or aches as I wake up in the morning unlike the majority of people my age.

I have made health a priority in my life. The ability to handle stress became important, educating myself on what to eat, exercising -walking running, yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, cycling and “The Wand” became my activities during my life time.

I came a quote once, “Saints are only Sinners who kept trying. Well , it seems that living a life of design rather than default is similar. There have been times that I did not eat as well as I could, but it was the best I knew at the time. As I became older , organized exercised seemed to have fallen by the way side. Attending weekly yoga was easier when my wife was alive.I can testify that the buddy system in exercise does work .

Recently , I moved up a notch in diet design with the inclusion of mostly raw food. I do not call my self a raw food eater as such. I abhor labels. I eat whole uncontaminated food. I do have some cooked food and I eat grass fed beef but mostly I drink a lot of different juices made by my trusty,” Blendtec”. The best place to buy it is ,”Costco”.
Without increasing my exercise program , I have loss inches on my waist and gain a leanness that I’m very pleased with.
Dear Reader if you are interested in Raw Food eating you can go on Y-Tube and listen to David Wolfe- one of the top reigning gurus of Raw Food at the moment.
You could also check out ,”Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D. who has been a pioneer in the field for quite some time now.
If you live in Toronto ,Canada or nearby he is lecturing at OISE at 252 Bloor ST W. on August 9th. Phone 416-617-3096 for tickets. You can also check , www.upayanaturals.com for more information. These folks have some of the most amazing Super Food products and they have fast delivery.

Because traveling is my passion and I shall more than likely head for the Far East again this winter to my mountain top , Chiang Mai, Thailand , I’m in the process of stream lining my life so that everything will run smoothly when I’m not in Toronto this winter basking in the sun and eating healthy permaculture ,organic food.

Shit happens no matter what one does but I think it is possible to minimize the amount of manure we spread in our lives by living a life of design and not one of default.

Happy Design living my dear reader.

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Mid March in Chiang Mai

March 30th departure to Turkey will signal the end of my 23rd winter in Chiang Mai. In many ways it has been a great winter.
My new partner, Marieline joined me for my 2013 winter stay in Chiang Mai. She fell in love with it as I had nearly a quarter of a century ago. My love for Chiang Mai could be compared to a love relationship.
You meet someone and are strongly attracted to them, but then you are aware of certain character flaws so you choose not to make it a permanent arrangement but choose to remain friends.
Alas, thus the feelings I have for Chiang Mai. The chief character flaws are noise-more noise- pollutions from many sources but the chief one from mid Feb.to April is the toxicity given off from,”the burning”. The other is the amount of traffic and the dangerous driving exhibited by a hard core of extremely dangerous drivers. I’m surprised the accident toll is not higher. About 90% of the loud noise is generated by the famous, “tuk tuk” or three wheel motorcycle drivers.
It’s unfortunate, because with some modification these,”Tuk tuks” could be an excellent form of transportation. In the mid 90’s before the financial melt down in Thailand 500 solar powered tuk tuk were ordered from a firm in California. Alas, the order was cancelled. Big noisy motor bikes are the other culprits.
If it was not for these depilating character flaws, Chiang Mai would indeed be Paradise to live in full time. There are moments of quietness when I walk down a small side in the early morning, sun shining, and air still fresh, that indeed it feels like a taste of heaven. This is especially so when I’m aware that North Americans and Europeans are having the worse winter in many years.
I indeed feel so blessed and fortunate to have escape the harshness of a long cold miserable winter in Canada for the past 23 years.

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Chiang Mai- the city of foreign settlers .

I have been a resident of Chiang Mai for twenty two winters. I began my annual stay in Chiang Mai in the winter of 1990.
At that time, I met a few ex-pats living full time in Chiang Mai Then ,there were a number of people living here because of the circumstances from their past. I remembered meeting Vietnam veterans in Bangkok I suspect that is still true ;but I have not been meeting many of these people for a long time now. About two years ago I did meet an American serviceman who had been an air force pilot during the war. He told me that in 1962 there were no motor vehicles in Chiang Mai -only bicycle rickshaw. At that time all the roads in Bangkok were canals. Bangkok was known as the Venice of the East.
I remember meeting one huge body builder from Europe whose mother paid him to stay away from his home in Europe. I remember meeting an Englishman with three lovely daughters who had a sorry tale of woe to tell. He had been a rather prosperous man when he landed in Chiang Mai. He married a Chinese woman who turfed him and his three daughters out after his money ran out. I had heard she was working on a Swiss man-husband # 3. i didn’t help that this same man overstayed his Visa in the Kingdom by ten years. A Thai man prevented him from spending a long time at the ,”Bangkok Hilton”as the notorious prison is often referred to by ex-pats. This of course led to his owing his life to this man.

Then I met a number of Americans living here on Social Security. One can live quite well in Chiang Mai on a modest pension.

Fast forward to 2013. In the past five years , I have witnessed a huge increase in the number of people both men and women who have been settling down full time in Chiang Mai. The majority of them have been from the United States but there have been many also from various countries in Europe:France, England, Norway, Germany, Austria, Denmark,and Holland.

A large number of the new ex-pats are ,”Digital Nomads”, the term given to those who can make a living with their computers any where in the world where they can find a reliable and fast internet hookup. A large number of them are IT specialist. Others create web sites and do marketing, still others write magazine stories or have a successful blog.
There are a number of men who marry Thai women and have business-many times it is a bar or a restaurant.

The Chinese have become the new tourist for the most part. Two days ago while seeking refuge from the heat in the lobby of a five star hotel I observed bus load after bus load of Chinese tourist disembarking. During the hour I sat there reading ,”The Bangkok Post” , I observed perhaps only a dozen of white faces belonging to Caucasian.
This scene has been repeated over and over again in the hotels here in Chiang Mai and I suspect in Asia in general,starting about five years ago.

There are millions of Chinese with new bulging bank accounts with one or two weeks holiday a year. They are boorish, loud and pushy- a new version of the ,”Ugly American “tourist that one dreaded meeting in ones’ travels in the past. They still exists but are a rather diminished lot. The American travelers I meet these days are a thoughtful and well behaved lot for the most part. Many of them are choosing to settle in Chiang Mai on a permanent basis after a few previous visits.
I do hope that the Yellow menace does not take over the planet in my life time. They appear to be devoid of the basic social skills we expect when in the company of others.i find ,the high pitch tone language is an assault to my years ,as it is often spoken at the loudest volume possible.This is not true of the refined Mandarin dialect; but of the Southern dialect that most of these tourist speak. I’ve been reading that the Chinese government are strictly interested in industrial expansion -not in territorial expansion. I do hope this is correct.
The Japanese were the first to begin settling in Chiang Mai upon retiring about ten years ago after the Tsunami. Then there was a big increase of Japanese population afte rthe nuclear melt down. I ,personally know a young Japanese lady whose job is to find housing for them.
It is dotted with many little Japanese restaurants. I’m presently writing this article in a Thai/Chinese establishment that caters to foreigners. Across the table from mine sits a Japanese lady and at the next table to her a young Japanese family of 3 has just sat down for lunch-the father ,mother and a son of perhaps six years.
More recently, in the past five years , the Koreans have begun to move in. Many new Korean restaurants have opened up in the new Yuppie area close to where I live.Both the Japanese and Korean men have one very bad habit in my opinion-smoking. As one writer put it,”they were late in beginning the filthy habit but are making up for lost time”.
I’m not mentioning the Chinese as they moved in a couple of hundred years ago. They were given rice concessions. After this other concessions were made until now it is purported that the most influential families running the economics of the Kingdom have their roots in China.

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Who did Arthur Meet in Chiang Mai Today

Chiang Mai may be one of the easiest places to meet interesting people. At one of my favorite restaurants recently, I met a young man from the British Isles. We had a number of common interests. He had lived in Japan at one point in his life and he was earning his living by doing healing work. We agreed to meet again before he leaves ;but perhaps because of his limited time here it may not happen. Nevertheless, we have exchanged contact information and I know our paths will most likely cross again.

It seems that 80 % of all the travelers who I meet have worked in Japan at one point of their lives. Presently, I am meeting many who have been or at the moment working in Korea. This is an innovative approach to both paying off ones College debts and also living in a very different culture.

Yesterday, I met a couple from the West coast of the U.S. She was retired ; but he continues working as he enjoys his work as a community worker. His enthusiasm for community work is rather infectious. He has the ideal personality of patience, people loving and networking skills that is best suited to this type of work. Usually, it is I who pulls out my card first ,but this time it was he who gave me his card. I had never met anyone who has had such a strong interest in and a clear vision of what constitutes a healthy community.

I shared with him my belief that communities are a disappearing entity on the planet. My feeling is that it is part of the process of centralizing power int the hands of the few. For this to happen, communities have to be disempowered.

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Never Judge a Book By Its’ Cover

Twice ,recently ,in my travels in Thailand , I have made the mistake of discounting people , and not being open to communicating with someone sitting nearby.

The first time was a week Sunday, on a VIP bus going to Burma. I was doing my mandatory VISA run- a 12 hour ordeal.

The chap sitting across the aisle from me was unshaven but in good shape otherwise. I didn’t have an impulse to reach out to him. I’m not sure what happened ; but at some point we began a conversation. He turned out to be a most fascinating man. He was German. His dark colouring had me thinking that he was of Latin descent.

His family owned a number of natural therapy clinics in Germany. This chap worked at the one in Berlin. They deal exclusively with hearing issues. We exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch.

The second man I met only yesterday. We were sitting under an umbrella in an outdoor restaurant called,”Khun Churn”. There were two tables underneath underneath the huge umbrella. I felt my little turf was being invaded as the waitress escorted a party of three- a father,mother and a daughter to our area. I carried on the conversation with my partner and ignored them ,assuming that they didn’t understand English.

At one point I had to use the washroom. Upon my return I heard classical music coming from an ipad on the table and my partner , Marie Line was chatting with the father.
He turned out to be a most interesting man. He and his family are in the midst of moving from Bangkok to a place in the country outside Chiang Mai.
His English was flawless as he had gone to university in Australia. For some reason he had not adopted the Aussie twang that is most difficult for me to understand with some Australian folks.

He has done translations and communication training session for INTERPOL. He talked about the 35 million cases of human trafficking that take place every year from asia to Europe. This not include the numbers from Africa and the numbers to North America.

A good day is when I learn something about myself. Yesterday was a good day.

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Value Living in Chiang Mai

If one possibly can, one should avoid going to Chaing Mai, or even Thailand from say Mid March to the first of May. This is the hottest time of the year in the Kingdom. The only way to survive comfortably at that time, is to go out early in the morning, be in your room ; or an air conditioned place, until about 3:30 p.m. to escape the unbearable heat and humidity.
The best time to come to Thailand are from Oct. to the end of Feburary and then from May to Oct.- during the rainy season.

I’m a contributor to TripAdvisor and I find it an excellent site. I have found many of the smaller, quieter, less expensive, and better value restaurants and places to stay are not registered on Trip Advisor.

Don’t be afraid to ask fellow travelers about their experiences. You will often find their advice invaluable.

I look at the places with high ratings in Chiang Mai and I shake my head. Often times, these places in their early humble beginnings were of good value ; but are no longer so. If you are in the city for a week or two and you live nearby they are of good value but for any longer time residences there are many places to eat and stay that are slightly off the beaten path. They are a good place to start off before exploring.

Lately, I have taken to dining at ,”Sahara” . I find it a good value for money and the upstairs patio is very comfortable. I especially like the chicken and eggplant dish.

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Chiang Mai : More important things to know.

When you arrive in the Kingdom make sure that the immigration officer has stamped your visa with the correct number of days that you are entitled to on your visa. It’s difficult to sort out later.

All visitors arriving by plane automatically get 30 days without any other type of visa.

Take my case last winter. I went to Mai Sai and I had a four month visa . I should have had 60 days left before leaving but when I checked it was only 45. I brought it to the attention of the officer. His superior, a woman took it and made the adjustment and handed it to me.

Recently, a retirement visa holder told me that she had not checked her Visa when she entered . They had given her the usual 30 day visa upon entry by plane. Yes, it got sorted out but only with a lot of effort later as she did not catch it upon entering.

I was given this tip last year by a kind gentleman who was living at the same guest house as I.

If you have to do a Visa run to Mai Sai near the Burmese border, I highly recommend the Green V.I.P bus. It is either a 18 or a 24 seat full size bus. This arrangement gives you a lot of space in your seat. You also choose your seat and there is a row of single seats if you are traveling alone. The buses may not be the most up to date but the space on this 12 hour journey -from the time you leave to the time you return- is worth the couple of extra dollars. I would recommend packing a decent healthy lunch the night before as the bus stops for only 15 minutes and there is virtually nothing to eat on the journey .You will be given a lunch of sorts with a drink each way but you will want more and perhaps a different kind of food if you are health conscious.

If you go to Vientienne,Laos, the overnight mini bus is good choice.
The tuk tuk drivers in Laos are very expensive.

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Chiang Mai- a visit becomes a new home

I first arrived In Chaing Mai, thinking it would be a good place to rejuvenate, renew, and rest. The date was April 1st, 1990.
I was totally exhausted burned out after ten years of running a successful alternative therapy practice. The practitioner became the patient as it were.
My plan was simple. Spend 3 months in Thailand and then move on to living and working in Japan.
The Eureka moment hit me at around the two month mark while staying in Chiang Mai. I’m totally burned out. What madness possessed me to consider working and living in Japan at this time, I asked myself. The answer was indeed sheer madness. I continued living in Chiang Mai for another month.

Ever since then, I have spent every winter during the past 22 years living in Chiang Mai. I truly believe that it has contributed in no small measure to my excellent health and happiness. I have a strong aversion to the cold. Being in the extremely cold, slippery streets in darkness for many months does not agree with me. Toronto summers and Fall, on the other hand could be quite lovely if it wasn’t for the gridlock of traffic and unpleasant transit system-often late,filled with loud, rude passengers, drivers and daily delays.

In the past two years I have been meeting many North Americans and Europeans who have come to the same decision as myself-to live outside the Western country. of their birth to enjoy a better quality of life. The American contingent appears to be the largest group.

Many are retirees,with many having taken early retirement. Perhaps, this population makes up the greater number of ex-pats in Chiang Mai.
Like me they have found a quality of life one can only dream of in their Western home cities.

Yesterday, for example , my partner had a massage and a facial. I had a two hour massage. The Thai Therapist came to our home. It was quiet and peaceful. There was no extra charge for house calls. The therapist was happy not to pay a fee to an establishment thus making a much greater profit. She also did not have to deal with the office politics of the establishment. She was with us for over five hours. Her charge was a mere $20.0 dollars. I gave her a six dollar tip.
Her work is excellent and is comparable and superior to many body workers (massage therapist) charging 20 times as much in a Western country.

My partner and I eat in an organic vegetarian ,restaurant every day. The average meal with fresh juices does not cost us more than five dollars apiece and usually less.
Here at my writing cafe , which will remain nameless; I’ve just finished a double chocolate piece of cake which has many healthy ingredients except the all purpose flour. I wandered to the back where the bakery is and had a chat with the baker. I explained to her that she could substitute the all purpose flour for something other than a wheat flour to make the cake a superbly healthy product. I gave her the website of ,”TheHealthyGourmet.com” and told her to check out some of the free recipes.
This site was put topgether by a woman who dreamed of becoming a Medical Dr.; but after a brief exposure to the training, she left and was determined to support people in bing healthy through healthy eating. She has done miracles to the many traditional recipes that we have come to love but are very unhealthy. I highly recommend her site if you are interested in your health.

There are many, “Digital Nomads” -the term designated to workers who earn a living with their computers. Many are IT professionals working for companies from the cities they lived in before coming to Chiang Mai. Others are copywriters, magazine writers, travel writers and bloggers.
A number of others who have established businesses here. Some do import and export. Others are in the tourist business with Thai partners.

Having been globally travelling for the past 45 years and visited 35 countries , I have found Chaing Mai to be a fascinating place to live and meet the most interesting collection of people.

Many people come here in transit; but end up never leaving or returning home to settle their affairs. Three to six months later they return to live in Chiang Mai on a permanent basis.

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