Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

'Thailand has certainly bought into the commercialism of Christmas but ignore the religious aspect.'     The weather is so much milder than Maine's and yet it still gets quite hot in the "hot season" of March/April.  Christmas time is "cold season" which is the most pleasant time of the year.  Strawberries are in season and flowers come into bloom

Happy Christmas (as the Brits say).  This Christmas finds me almost 4 years into my life here and what a pleasant time it's been.

The King has died as you probably know and was like a father figure to the Thai people.  Many have never known any other king as he reigned so long.  As beloved as he was his passing was (and still is) a very big deal.  We are still wearing black in remembrance and all of Thailand is toned down.  Many bars and entertainment venues closed, but gradually are coming back on line as imposed restrictions are relaxed.  Wearing black (or pure white) was deemed the proper attire by the authorities and that too is fading slowly.  Some Thai people will wear black, and you really stand out if you don't, for a full year and all civil employees are mandated to wear black for a year.  As I usually wear a Santa hat this time of year, I had this one made by our nearby sewing lady.  The Thais seem to really like it because it shows respect but at the same time a tiny bit of festiveness.  My expat friends think it's stupid.  Apparently there is a line between silly and stupid.

My limited travel this year was to Singapore from where you can "see the equator", which makes it kinda warm, kinda humid, kinda energy sapping.  There is a huge contrast between walking out of air conditioned buildings and into the street.  Think refrigerator/oven.  There are some interesting sections of town like China Town where these full-sized puppets were just hanging around waiting for the next show.  The Arab section has some amazing Middle Eastern food as does the Indian section.  I actually made two trips in order to see everything and the highlight was "dining in the dark" where the dining room is totally dark and the waiters are blind.  What a fun experience trying to figure out what was being served by smell and taste alone.  I soon found that feeling the food helped a lot.  I was thinking they must have saved a lot by not having to paint or decorate!

All things considered it's been a good year although recently ( and why you didn't get a holiday card from me in the mail) I've had some shortness of breath issues.  It's been a slow process to investigate the problem and just last week had an angiogram for suspected clogged coronary arteries.  The test showed clear and free arteries with great relief, but still leaves the issue undiagnosed. Doctors are now investigating thyroid hormone imbalance.

I've had visitors.  Last Christmas Gary Edde and his friend Daniel came for a week and we breezed through a list of things to do and see.  They have been inspired to take motorcycle riding courses in the states because of all the motorcycling they saw here.  There's nothing comparable to two wheel riding in the mountains of the tropics.

Just last month my high school buddy Mayte came for a week and I got out the old list and added a few things like the elephant camp (at her request) and the traditional kantoke dinner and cultural show.

I have moved into a small, very small two bedroom house this year in an exceptionally quiet area outside of town.  This area was the original capital of Chiang Mai over 700 years ago.  All that is left of the town are scattered foundations and a few stupas that have been dug out of the overlaying ground,  I'd estimate this warren of windy tiny streets is maybe 50-60 acres and was abandoned way back when because of flooding from the nearby Mea Ping River, which is why these ruins are a meter or more below the present ground level.  In fact this part of town is called "sea shell" in Thai. The river now has flood control gates that prevent flooding in the area (hopefully).  My little house is next door to a wat and I often hear chanting and at 5:20 each morning a low gong is struck to perhaps calling the monks to start their daily alums rounds. I am usually awake by this time and if not it's a gentle reminder of what time it is.                                                                                                                  
There is still military rule here and as such our immigration rules and regulations have slowly tightened up.  There is more paperwork and timing of renewals of various reports that have some thinking of leaving the country.  It's certainly not to that point for me, but there is a level that would make it too difficult to stay.  For this reason I only rent.  As it is I report my address (in person) every 90 days, then renew my "permission to stay" (in person) annually.  If I leave the country I need a re-entry permit (another trip to immigration), otherwise my visa would be cancelled (and it's a bitch to get a new one).  Newly introduced is a report to immigration of the address you intend to stay when returning from out of the country (in person)... *within 24 hours of your return*.  We also now have to fill out a form of personal information which includes such things as Facebook account, email address, vehicle registration, places you frequent, your bank and account number(s), and other silly info.  It's not hard complying with all this, but you have to keep good records and a calendar, which many expats either can't or won't do.  Of course there are agencies that will track everything for you, but the price is high and going higher.

Even though the glow of a new and different culture has warn off, I still love Thailand,

Best to you all,

Daniel Croddy
172/2 Moo 11, Baan Chang Kham
T. Tha Wang Tan, A. Saraphi
Chiangmai  50140