A busy weekend. I'm returning in October, but that's not for another three months, so this was going to be my last weekend in Chiang Mai for quite a while.
Most of this weekend was 'dry': no alcohol was for sale from 6pm on Saturday, until 12am on Monday. The reason? Elections. Over the past few weeks, from shortly before my arrival, election banners have crept up all over town. I've asked a few locals what the election is about and it -seems- to be for something not dissimilar to the position of mayor. Chiang Mai city is inside a moat, a square canal around the inner city. The best banners were put up by candidate number 5: all around the moat, a distance of a few kilometers, he had put up banners with alternating red and white '5's. '5', in Thai, is 'ha'. So reading his banners meant laughing all the way.
And why no alcohol? I assume in some distant past, candidates would ply their voter base by handing out drinks on election day. In fact, there's still a rule in the UK, and I'm sure in many other countries as well, that at election rallies, candidates are not allowed to hand out food.
So it meant that on Saturday night, four of us were drinking at Felicia and Todd's new house. After a day of scouting out unchartered territory in town, on foot, that was a very welcome way of spending the evening. It's bloody hot at the moment, think over 30 degrees centigrade, which, with the humidity, is a struggle.
On the Sunday, Elyse and I shared the rent of a scooter and, together with Todd and Felicia, visited a few of the more further out wats, temples. Again, bloody hot, and no cool beer to quench our collective thirst.
I also visited the airport plaza and the Carrefour centre, two huge shopping malls, but not the only ones. The Carrefour centre is, you've guessed it, centred around a huge Carrefour store, a huge supermarket. The airport plaza is a more regular mall, with four levels of shopping madness. And since Thai love to eat out, much of the madness is focused on food. Good food, and a few fried bugs.
Both malls had a video arcade but, sadly, no DDR.
On Sunday, we also visited the walking market which happens all over downtown Chiang Mai. Every gimmick you can think of is sold here, and most are hand made, many of which by individuals from the surrounding villages. Prices are good, and it's hard not to walk away with every single cute thing you can think of.
But besides the gimmicks and gifts, you can also find hordes of blind and often 'special' individuals making music for petty cash. You get several different groups of musicians and sometimes solo artists, tucked away in many corners of the outstretched market. It made me wonder how these groups get formed. Do the individuals each choose an instrument and have a musical preferences and, through that, find like minded blind, struggling musicians? Or, as most appear to be coming from a care center, are instruments and groups assigned to them? What if they don't like to make music? What if they get assigned the guitar but want the drums instead? How do they actually get to the market? You will always find the same groups in the same places. Are their places reserved?
So many questions.
The work at HDN is going quite well. It's taking up a bit more time than I expected, but in the end the resulting systems will only be better. I'm now working on significantly upgrading HDNet.org, after which will follow the upgrade of AIDScarewatch.org and, what will be most of the work, a social news aggregator which will replace the current websites TheCorrespondent.org and healthdev.org. The latter is the interesting one of the two; a listserv-run communication platform with no less than 20.000 subscribers. Imagine being able to bring all those users onto a dynamic, socially driven, only news platform.
So, as said, that will see me return in October.
Oh, and I bought a MacBook today.
What's for dinner in Thailand? Part 14
A McDonalds happy meal!