So I wandered around Chiang Mai for two days, acknowledging its pleasures and counting down the days until I could leave it.
"Massage." "Internet." "Cake." The quiet streets bristled with these signs that promised innocent, instant gratification. As I strolled past them, through neighborhoods that were so soothing, so easy, I felt as though I was sleepwalking.
Then after a visit to Suvannabhumi Gallery, a place filled with stunning contemporary art from Myanmar, I found a little footbridge that would take me back across the river. Waiting on the opposite bank were huge red and gold signs and the gold shops that characterize Thailand's Chinatowns, and sidewalks crowded with stalls selling flowers and fruit and cheap, plastic shoes, and clothes that were decidedly inelegant.
Lost in the glorious, swirling chaos of a market that was imperfect and irresistable, I found a nightgown adorned with teddybears that was embroidered with "Dear my family, Scream with Laughter. Forcing myself to contain my own mirthful screams, I paid 100 baht for a piece of 21st century folk art and, for the first time in Chiang Mai, I felt at home.
These pictures are of a shrine-- or art installation-- behind a huge temple in the old part of the City, a particularly gorgeous spirit house, traditional Lanna woodcarving meeting kitsch and concrete, and lovely little lanterns--they are everywhere in Chiang Mai.