I have had a challenging week in Thailand, and the lessons for me, keep coming.
Chicago to Abu Dhabi to Bangkok to Chiang Mai - after three full days of travel, with no horizontal sleep, I was exhausted. My ankles and legs were swollen and lugging around my heavy suitcases, even on wheels had become difficult.
I took the first available air conditioned taxi from the airport, and the driver dropped me off at the front of my hotel. I was so looking forward to getting a good night's rest in a nice, air conditioned hotel.
It was very humid and near 100 degrees when I arrived in Chiang Mai. The taxi driver said there had been no rain in the city for some time, and it was unusually hot.
An acquaintance had made a recommendation for the hotel. He had stayed at the hotel in the past, and the price was really low.
I figured since I had been staying in a tent hut at the ashram for the past six months, a room with a bathroom would be a luxury.
I was wrong.
I had checked the hotel's website, but I did not check TripAdvisor or any of the other Guest Review sites - BIG MISTAKE.
When I walked up to the reception area, dragging my two suitcases behind me, a young woman looked up.
The reception area was open air, hot, not very clean and really run down. The woman spoke little English.
Walking down hot and dimly lit halls, I was shown four rooms. The room photos on the website looked beautiful, and while not 4 or 5 star luxury, the rooms appeared bright and fresh and quite lovely.
Each of the rooms I was shown, I recognized from the photos, but they must have been taken when the place was new, and nothing had been changed for years.
Rather than describing the unpleasant details, let's just say that the place was in need of massive renovation and repair.
I was so tired. It was getting late, and while I had a plan B, it was quite a distance from where I was and not about to happen that day. So I checked to make sure the air conditioning wall unit worked and paid for the room.
After I paid, I took a fast shower in a bathroom I didn't want to spend much time in. I sent and read a few emails - they did have wifi that worked - went to bed by 6 pm and slept on and off until 5am.
I managed to meditate and do yoga and felt a little better with the dawning of a new day. I found a place for a simple breakfast, and then walked around. It wasn't a very attractive part of Chiang Mai, at least not where I walked. It felt very concrete.
It was 8ish in the morning and already hot. After just 45 minutes of walking around, I was dripping wet. It was a day that turned out to be over 100 degrees. My fiery Pitta constitution was struggling with the heat.
I saw only one other person at the hotel, and he had just arrived. I was pretty sure the place was deserted. I decided by 10am, that I was not going to be able to stay at this place, even though the air conditioning in the room was a God-send and reprieve from the heat outdoors. Nothing other than the a/c appealed to me. This would definitely not be an inspiring place for me to write a book.
Lesson 1 - trusting in God does not mean turning my brain off - always check reviews when planning to stay at a new place, and especially in a new country where I don't speak the language! After I checked in, I read the reviews and they clearly said to have really low expectations, if choosing this place.
It was an hour and a half long, scenic, winding road to get to Chiang Dao (plan B) - a natural setting, in the mountains. I was leery about this move, mainly because there would be no air conditioning. I had another reference for this place, and the website photos were realistic. I also checked the Trip Advisor and Agoda comments, and generally people liked the place.
The fans in the rooms were supposed to be enough to comfortably sleep at night, as it is cooler in the mountain setting. Well, it is - sort of -
I was greeted warmly by the owners, who both spoke good English. I saw a few different types of bungalows. All were cute, solidly constructed and quiet. The bathrooms were an improvement and adequate. The surroundings were picturesque, with mountain views and nature everywhere. One of the owners has a passion for orchids and grows hundreds of them.
I chose bungalow 2 and settled in. I noticed that while a little cooler than in the city, it was still really hot in Chiang Dao - mid 90's that day and very humid. The fan seemed to be simply blowing around hot air. I tried to stay positive.
There was a nice open air dining room where I sat and did a little work, as it was cooler than in my room. There were three people in the small, above ground pool, when I arrived.
I slept ok the first night, but all the strange sounds of being deep in nature would need some getting used to. It sounded like something was falling into my skylight overhead throughout the night, and there were many other rustling and unfamiliar sounds. I found out it was the bamboo tree that bends and sways in the night, especially when it rains and hits the roof. It rained that night.
I woke at 5am and birds could be heard all around me - not exactly melodious birds - more like strange jungle sounds to me. I meditated and did yoga, showered and was at breakfast by 7:30am. Breakfast was not included in the rate, but offered for a charge, and made by the owner. I had a nice cup of ginger tea, muesli with fresh fruit and homemade brown bread with homemade strawberry jam. It was quite delicious and a pleasant start to the day.
I felt like I had made a good choice to leave the city, even if I hadn't slept that well.
I was going to pay for a full month, but the owner preferred I start on the 1st of the month to get the discounted price. So I paid for 4 nights.
It turned out to be a blessing that I hadn't paid for a month. God had a different plan.
It was Sunday, and the owners would be making a trip into the city that day. A woman who does Thai massage was visiting the property, and it was suggested to me that she was available that day and was very good. So for a little more than $15, I had a two hour Thai massage, that was painful at times, but great.
With the owners gone for the day, and the three people I'd seen in the pool gone, the only one left at the bungalows was the owner's brother, one of the helpers and it turns out me. No one told me I was the only guest on property, but I realized it after her brother and the helper were gone.
No one was around. It was a bit eerie.
It rained quite a bit that day. It was cooler, but not much, as there was no breeze. The mosquitoes, flies and other insects and critters were quite bothersome. Other than venturing to the restaurant next door for a late lunch, as my place only offered breakfast, I didn't do much.
I had tried to do some work on the computer in preparation for writing in the afternoon, but the bugs were really attacking. My arms and ankles were starting to fill with bites. The heat was also quite tiring, and I was suffering from jetlag.
Hanging out in my hot room or trying to take a nap there wasn't possible for me.
I went to bed early, like 8:30pm, as soon as it got a little cooler. It rained heavily that night, and about 10:30pm, the power went out. It was pitch black, with no property lights on outside the bungalows. With no electricity, the fan was not working.
It didn't take long to get hot, and my nervousness made me even hotter. I texted my landlords, but heard nothing back - until the next morning.
And the noises outside sounded like footsteps all around me. I used my cell phone's flashlight, but remembered the gecko lizard that I had seen earlier in my bathroom and worried that I'd attract him into the bedroom.
The power remained off for nearly two hours, and I admit to being quite shaken by all of it. I couldn't go outside with the sounds of animals and rain not very appealing. I didn't know if the owners, who live on the property, had returned from the city or not.
I was hot and scared and kept trying to do slow abdominal breaths and say my mantra over and over. I worried that the lizard was going to start running around making me even more nervous.
I doubted that anything serious would happen to me, and I kept reminding myself of the snake and rope story that Swami Brahmananda told at the ashram - but somehow it didn't matter that I figured I'd be ok. I was still feeling anxious, hot and frightened.
Lesson 2 - I'm still a novice on the path of meditation and controlling the mind. I've come a long way in dealing with fears during my year at the ashram, but a challenge like the one I encountered in the tropical setting of Chiang Dao was difficult. The breathing and mantra helped for sure, but I was still frightened!
The power came on, and so did the fan. I slept until 2:30am, when the power went off again for quite some time. I did fall asleep while it was off, and was too tired to check the time when it finally went back on and stayed on - at least it was on until the 9am-12pm shutdown that day of power for the neighbors to get a new transformer.
Morning came, and I was exhausted. After yoga and a shower, I went to the dining area for breakfast at 8am, and the owners had made it back.
They made light of the situation and tried to cheer me up. They recalled when they first moved to the area, and how it took them time to get adjusted. They also said they never wanted to move back to the city and had been in Chiang Dao for more than 20 years.
After breakfast, I ventured up to the temple at Thum Pha Plong Monastery, on the mountain. It was magnificent and such a peaceful and calming place. I needed to feel peace. I walked the 510 steps up to the top, reading the Buddha teachings posted on trees all along the path.
It was much cooler inside, at the top, and I meditated for about 1/2 hour, sitting on my cushion, yoga style. I was happy to be in this beautiful, spiritual place. It was the first real peace I'd felt since arriving in Thailand.
That afternoon, after some lunch, I tried to work again, but the mosquitoes were especially bad after all the rain. I retreated to my room. Unfortunately, the ants and now two lizards were also taking refuge in my room.
I was looking forward to an outing with the owners to the open market in the morning, but had started to wonder about how productive I could be if I stayed here for a month.
The morning market trip was fun, and the owners decided that they'd cook for me, for a charge of course, that evening. I was happy about it and looked forward to having someone to eat with, as they said they'd join me for the meal. I mentioned on the drive to the market, about the possibility I would be leaving the next day, after my fourth night.
They were disappointed, tried to convince me to stay and then they offered to drive me, if I chose to leave, for a charge that was $10 less than what I paid to get there. It was a generous and kind offer.
I visited another temple that afternoon and also enjoyed chatting with some people on vacation during lunch at the restaurant next door. It was a pretty fun day. When I again tried to work though, the same heat, biting bugs and humidity were obstacles.
That evening, more ants visited the bathroom and I had four gecko lizards in my room. I managed to shoo out two of them, and the other two, I had to just put out of my mind when I went to sleep. I slept pretty well, but had decided it was time to move on.
God's guidance showed me the challenges in this location would keep increasing during the rainy season, not get easier.
Lesson 3 - Being kind and honest with myself and others is always the best way. I couldn't work in the heat and deep nature setting. As much as I liked the owners and the beauty of the mountains, and I wanted to be one with the nature - I'm not really the type of true nature lover that is required to be comfortable here - at least not in this lifetime.
The next morning, at 10:30, the owner drove me the hour and a half to the hotel I'm now staying. She offered to stop for lunch about 10 minutes before we got to the hotel, at a favorite soup and noodle place she knew. I said sure, and we enjoyed lunch together, which she insisted on treating me to.
Lesson 4 - Good people just naturally do kind and generous acts.
Interestingly, we have the same birthday. Her kindness, generosity and genuine good disposition were a blessing for me. I may be back there another time, when the weather is cooler.
I'm now back on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, in another bungalow type hotel. There is nature around, but not jungle like, and the place has some very nice features. It is not new, and it would benefit from some updating. It is quite nice though for the money, and has a good sized pool and nice open air restaurant that serves all day long.
The staff here are also lovely people, very kind and accommodating. I feel at peace here.
It has air conditioning, and I have a desk in my room. I can work and have been writing daily. I paid a month in advance and have a decent price and breakfast included each day. I've had to move to a different bungalow, due to some nature issues - the ants followed me, it seems LOL
I like this new place and am getting into a routine, after being here four nights now. The bungalow I'm in has a couple small spiders, and I am thankful, as they seem to be keeping the ants away. I had a good night's sleep and my place is lovely.
I'm feeling very blessed.
Sending You Love from Chiangmai, Thailand.
Thank you for taking this journey with me!
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