Despite being Thailand's second-largest city, Chiang Mai has a wonderfully friendly, laid-back vibe with a historical center full of Buddhist temples, coffee shops (with free wifi), delicious street food (a meal will set you back 1-2 USD) and a surprising number of vintage and second-hand clothing boutiques. Call it quirky, hipster, offbeat or whatever other alternative synonym, but the more I wandered around, the more I was reminded of the film Last Life in the Universe. (Which, if we're being entirely accurate, was actually shot in Bangkok, but whatever it was still my first glimpse of Thailand).
It's the general atmosphere, I guess - a strange serenity beneath which lies a hazy malaise. (Dare I say it's vaguely Lynchian in that respect?) But even years later, I can't think about that movie without also remembering the boy who introduced it to me; who I harbored an all-consuming crush on for much of middle and high school, and who also turned me on to other films that I would later count amongst my favorites. I haven't been in touch with him for quite some time, but I often wonder what he's up to now. (Confession: thanks to Google, I sort of know the answer).
I've never been the type of girl to constantly chase after potential boyfriends, but the amount of wedding and engagement updates polluting my Facebook newsfeed in recent months has got me thinking or, to be perfectly honest, feeling slightly anxious. I thought your (early) twenties was the time to figure yourself out and start a career, not a family. But to each their own priorities, I suppose.
And yet, these days I find myself reflecting on the last few guys I felt any kind of connection with; the one that I met my last night at Stanford; the platonic friend in Paris who surprised me with a kiss when we said goodbye; the one that I came to know during my last hours in India. (If there's one generalization I can make about my personal life it's that the timing is always suboptimal). I know that it's dangerous to spend too many thoughts elaborating on the words "what if," but sometimes temptation wins out over logic and reason.
What if I hadn't left when I did? Where would we be now?
If you go...
Enjoy coffee and unpretentious health food at Bird's Nest Cafe.
Take a class at Yoga Tree (drop-ins welcome).
Get a massage, meal or both at the Chiang Mai Women's Prison Massage Center, which equips inmates with vocational skills.