Originally posted on 2024-01-01

I’ve been traveling for the past three weeks. Bangkok was the first stop for a few days, then went to Chiang Mai for two weeks. Currently, I’m on my second day in Taipei. I’ve been to these cities before, so the familiarity gives me some comfort.

Bangkok is fun. I can see why many people like it, and why many people hate it too. It’s a dense city with lots of restaurants, bars, malls, and other activities. It has too many malls, and each one has a confusing layout of its own. Traffic is pretty bad. Trains have no one unified card, but two instead. Fortunately, one train network accepts Visa cards. Getting around by motorcycle taxi is my preferred transport. It’s not all bad. I like it. I could have stayed longer to try more restaurants and bars, but I understand what people mean when they say staying for only a few days is enough.

Taipei was my favorite city to visit because of the cool weather, public transport, and food. Today is a cloudy, windy, and cold 16C, and my tropical body is not equipped for this. I also packed the wrong jacket, thinner than the more sufficient padded jacket I brought in December a few years ago. Because of this cold, I’m not motivated to walk around. This gives me time to sit in my room and think about the past days and write this.

Chiang Mai is now my favorite city. It has most of the things I like about Bangkok and Taipei but is less busy and is easier to navigate. It does not have an extensive train network or a public bus service, but many places are accessible by walking or by bike. You can rent scooters and motorcycles from many shops at almost every block for places that are too far for a pleasant walk. Other than that, a ride sharing app is reliable enough all over the city. The weather ranges from a tolerable heat to a comfortable cool, all without the wet, sticky humidity of my home city. This motivates me to walk everywhere. The city is mostly flat, so walking or cycling around is easy.

I can find food on every street, from cheap plates to more expensive fine dining choices. There are also several bars, from loud pubs, sports bars, to more refined cocktail bars, and jazz clubs. Everyone can find something that appeals to them. There are a few malls scattered around the city. Grocery stores and supermarkets are accessible. Markets are densely packed with goods and supplies for everyone. The same can be said for Bangkok, Taipei, or every other major city, but the point is that this relatively small city has everything one would need, without the hectic pedestrians, busy traffic, and constant city rush you would find in major cities.

I never went on any adventures or tours in Chiang Mai. All I did was walk, eat, drink, and read. That was more than enough for me. I walked so much that the soles of my shoes compressed, making my feet hurt, I had to buy sandals.

Living is different from visiting. It’s why I try to stay longer than my planned itinerary needs. Those days when you have nothing to do because you’ve ticked all the boxes on your list are what I think helps in deciding if the city or town is a good place to stay in for longer than a few weeks. In Chiang Mai, this was very pleasant and even exciting sometimes. In Bangkok, not so much.

The best part is that I met someone lovely. She immediately melted my heart with her softness. She is gentle and caring. The bad part is that this was a few days towards the end of my Chiang Mai stay. We did not have enough time together.

Being my overthinking self, I had several thoughts after the first time I met her. She obviously does not need me financially because she can sustain herself with her restaurants in her town. I think I need her more than she needs me. I need that softness in my life. Before I left, I asked why she was always so nice and gentle to me, and why she would not let me pay for any of our meals or drinks. She said that she wants to take care of me and that it would be my turn to pay when I return.

Now I’m in cold overcast Taipei thinking about when I can return to Chiang Mai.