Today I was pondering all the reasons why I enjoy spending my winters in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have visited most of the other Asian cities in Asia and I’m always relieved to return to Thailand especially Chiang Mai.

I walked to almost every where I need to go much to the chagrin of the local ,Tuk Tuk drivers(3 wheel machine) that is loud and spews out black clouds of smoke as it zips about the city. It’s as if the drivers think you are insane for walking a block because why wouldn’t you choose to be driven if you can afford it. You will see very few Thais walking any distance unless they are rather destitue. When “farangs’ or foreigners walk I suspect they are considered rather mad.

I walk because I enjoy the art of walking and also because I am quite health conscious. We could add to that it is also to stem the tide of the “Battle of the Bulge ” that the most delicious Thai food encourages.

For the past two days , I have been eating in an outside ,hole in the wall restaurant that has become quite popular with tourists. Today there was a cross section of humanity from the hippie couple , to the party of four from France who chilled the room with their arrogant looks, a late thirties lady with a 4 year old and me with my two friends a 28 year old Aussie woman and a 43 year old German man who works as a tour guide in Japan.Yes, he speaks perfect Japanese.
I have been having a cum ghai or chicken soup with many spices, leaves soaked in coconut milk.

I’ve been talking to folks about climbing in Chiang Mai, diving down south, and I’ve seen various brochures on firing any kind of gun on a range -you get to shoot ten bullets for about 50 bucks. There are trained staff to assist you in your shooting experience.

One Japanese lady takes Tango lessons, i met a young lady who teaches tennis for 3 bucks an hour several years ago. It was at a French ex-pat community. You could study Japanese and Chinese here as well as thai .

For the health conscious there are many yoga studios and organic vegetarian restaurants. When I arrived 20 years ago there was only one Swiss man , Marcel who taught yoga. There were about three main vegetarian restaurants . Presently, it has mushroomed to over 40 or more through out the city.

There are body worker workshops with American teachers, yoga schools, thai Chi Chan schools, Chi Kung, and first class gyms with outdoor swimming pools at the Meridth Chain hotel for 30 dollars a month.

I forgot the many thai massage schools on every block as well as cooking schools every 20 meters in some soi (side streets).

Except for the pollution and noise on the busy streets , the maniac drivers, what is there not to like in Chiang Mai.

It goes without saying that there are many young ladies moving about gracefully. In the northern western climates where many of the tourist come from it is very appealing to the sight to see such lovely ladies in summer wear instead of covered up against the elements in survival mode.

To sum it up the smiling Thais with their winning smiles never fail to open my heart every time I land on Thai soil.