sent jess an email about my impressions of chiang mai, thought it would be cool to post it here also:
thailand’s pretty crazy, a little overwhelming.
there’s constant (and i mean CONSTANT) traffic on all the roads, but there doesn’t seem to be any traffic jams, at least none that i’ve seen. people just kind of drive wherever they want to, but there doesn’t seem to be any road rage either. we took a tuk-tuk (kind of like a rickshaw but with a motor) from the huge central mall yesterday. it wasn’t nearly as scary as i thought it would be! people drive all up in each other’s lanes. i would probably die trying to drive here, since i’m such a careful driver i’d be all hesitant about stuff, instead of just trusting everyone else to not hit you like people here seem to do. they drive on the left too, which is confusing when crossing the street. i’ve almost stepped out into traffic a couple of times already, but nobody’s beeped or yelled at me or anything, they just slow down and carefully drive around me. it’s crazy!
nobody here seems to walk at all, everyone drives these cute scooters and vespas around. anytime we walk anywhere, the only other people i see on the sidewalk are other westerners and monks.
there’s a ton of temples everywhere, and they are mad fancy. lots of gold, tile, and mirror work. i have to wait to visit one until i can find a shirt that covers up my cleavage (to visit a temple you have to be modestly dressed).
another crazy thing is there seems to be no litter whatsoever, and there’s also no out door trash cans either. i’ve been trying to figure out why, and i think the reason is they’re just really into being thrifty. when you go out to eat, even at fast food restaurants, nothing is desposable and you get like one dinky little paper napkin per meal. most of the water bottles and things are glass and don’t have any plastic wrappers around them. all the buildings look really old, and most of the billboards and signs are faded, so i think that people just can’t afford to have a bunch of disposable things around.
every square inch of the city someone is trying to sell you something. even at the mall, there’s vendors crammed into every nook and cranny. some things are really inexpensive, like services (rent, eating out, etc), but if something’s imported it’s pretty pricey (like my super expensive pantene pro-v shampoo) which isn’t surprising. there’s a lot of lotion products and such that offer “skin whitening”, and i have to read the labels carefully to avoid getting those since my skin really doesn’t need to get any whiter.
there’s a fair amount of street dogs and cats, but they don’t seem viscious. they look pretty healthy, aside from being coated in a thick layer of dust.
glad your conference is going well. i miss you!