02.02.2013 - 09.02.2013
View from my terrace at Chiang Mai Apartments, overlooking Doi Sup Mountain and monastery.
We arrived in Chiang Mai two days ago. A bit of hassle getting from the airport to meet Derek, our landlord at the apartment. We were told we had to wait an hour for a taxi, but eventually managed to find a tuk-tuk on a street outside the airport. Not sure why the wait was so long. The apartment is quite nice, located in a residential section across from the train station. However, it is a hefty walk into town, and the tuk tuks sometimes demand too much money. Derek is quite a character. An expat Irishmen, he'll talk your ear off, is quite obese, and has traveled all over, including Leh, where he plans to return this summer. How he manages at that altitude, with all the extra weight he is carrying, is a question.
Yesterday we reached Nyi Nyi and ate lunch together. He was the monk we had met in Mandalay three years ago, who we tried, but failed to help him get to the US. He was desperate to leave Burma at the time, as this was before anything had changed for the better in that beleaguered country. He managed to sneak across the border to Thailand, as so many Burmese have done, and ended up in Chiang Mai because he had a friend here. Looking nothing like the monk he was, he is a handsome young man, neatly dressed, who works as a receptionist at Le... Massage. He is much more upbeat and mature than when we knew him in Burma, and despite the improvement in things in his own country, has no desire to return. The owner of Le... seems to be a savvy business woman who has taken a liking to him, and so he has a lot of responsibility considering he is just a receptionist. The fact that his English has improved considerably is no doubt an important factor, as several of the masseuses and masseurs are Burmese, and don't speak English. He does the translating since almost all the customers are English speakers. It may not be too long before he is managing the place. What he hopes to do at some point, is return to Burma and get a passport. Then he can get a legal visa for Thailand and enroll in a Thai high school where he can study the language. Although not a certainty, this may enable him to live here on a permanent basis. It is really wonderful to seem him so happy. He feels there are some real opportunities for him to make some money, to continue studying, and to make a life for himself in Chiang Mai.
We stppped into his spa last night hoping to meet his boss, but she had already left. We did get great oil massages with two people who he picked out for us, also Burmese. There is a large, and mostly illegal Burmese community here, and I'm sure they are often paid less and treated badly, just like Mexicans in the US. Luckily for Nyi Nyi, he seems to have found a place for himself where this is not the case.
Tomorrow, he wants to take us out to dinner now that he is working.
Nanette and Nyi Nyi
It was a bit strange to be drinking beer, and more than one, with our former monk