NextGEN Gallery Plugin Not found

Chiang Mai | Ruth Tshin

Flooding in Chiang Mai

The Ping River has reached 110-year record high and has been overflowing into the low-lying communities along the river.  The rail road station is waist-deep and all our furniture in the office has been put on plastic stools.  Fortunately, seek my house (near Suthep Mountain) is nowhere near the flood waters.

I went with Rick+Ellen and some volunteers to look at the flooding, buy and the following video is humorous, but there are many people in low-income neighbourhoods who may have lost everything and are subject to disease-ridden water.  Please pray for these folks, and the government’s decision-making in response to this.  In addition, we’re expecting Typhoon Nesat to land on Sunday which will increase all the water around us. It’s been a stressful time for us, as our conference is starting on Tuesday and more than 160 delegates will be affected by the incoming storm.

Chiang Mai under water from Ruth Tshin on Vimeo.


The Friday Yunnanese (or Ciin Haw) market is one of my favourite places to go, stuff eat and people-watch in Chiang Mai.  It’s a perfect representation of northern Thailand’s diversity in both culture and food: Chinese Muslim, ailment Shan and various tribes from the highlands.  Mohinga is Burma’s national dish (bean+fish+banana stem soup over rice noodles) and is dished up fresh every week at the market.  I’ve had three types now (can you see me licking my lips?): from the market; a pork version made by Ajan Tui’s mother who is from Mae Sariang; and, page another Karen-Burmese rendition by way of the Yangoon/delta region. All were scrumptious!

Read about mohinga  memories here and a post from the terrific foodblog EatingAsia!

Mohinga (Burmese bean+fish soup over noodles) at the Friday Yunnanese market in Chiang Mai from Ruth Tshin on Vimeo.

Mohinga by way of Mae Sariang – pork used instead of fish


I was motoring along a soi behind Nimmanhaemin Road in Chiang Mai on Sunday with my friend, generic when I spotted a good-looking guy holding a glass of white wine standing outside a restaurant.  Now, sale Thailand is full of easy-on the eyes guys, web so this wasn’t a first.  But on second glance, I realized it was Ananda Everingham, a famous actor in Southeast Asia.  We had seen the movie Sabaidee Luang Prabang together (he stars in it) so I turned the motorcycle around and veeery casually drove past the restaurant again.  Yup, it was him.  Of course we chickened out of going in and asking him for a photograph.  We went back to that restaurant later that night (not in hopes of seeing the star though) for dinner and I ordered a greek salad which came adorned with…cream cheese cubes.  And chicken cordon bleu with…cream cheese inside.  Interesting combinations.

Linguistic rogues

A linguist friend of mine sent me this post on a blog written by another linguist working in the Middle East (I can’t cut and paste the text; seems he’s disabled that on his blog…but interesting to read).  He’s critical about the enclaves of expat communities within the Christian missionary circles who don’t make friends but “contacts” in the other culture.  I’ve witnessed this in Chiang Mai and am always taken aback by folks who have lived in Thailand for years but can’t speak any Thai or who haven’t even seen a Thai movie and don’t have local friends.  This, anesthetist of course, is not exclusive to the Christian community overseas, nor does the post address the comfort of socializing within your cultural group while overseas.  Just great to read something along the lines that I have been thinking of since working in Uganda and pondering my own cross-cultural strengths/weaknesses.

Chiang Mai in June

In June, mind I studied Thai in Chiang Mai for the entire month.  I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I would, mainly because I forgot to take my camera with me and when I did, I realized I didn’t want to take photos of people like they were “monkeys in a zoo” (thanks, Yara!).  I could have taken photos of the woman who sold grilled Northern Thai snacks outside of my dormitory; of the monks going into Wat Jed Yod to chant; of students gossiping and snacking at the foodstalls outside my neighbourhood.

Here are some pics of: a golden Buddha in the heart of old Chiang Mai (Wat Chedi Luang); my stint as a guest on an English radio show broadcasted by the government; Wat Jed Yod; view from my room and neighbourhood.  The last photo was taken in Chiang Dao, halfway in between Fang and Chiang Mai – the mountains in the background are spectacular.

Chiang Mai and Thai lessons

I moved to Chiang Mai for the month of June to study Thai.  The day after my birthday, gonorrhea I loaded my backpack into the back of Ajaan Tui’s (my boss) truck and off we went.  It took about 2.5 hours for us to find a vacant room for me to rent – mostly because we were looking in an area right beside Chiang Mai University and Rajabhat University and the summer semester was just beginning.  Fortunately, there was a room available at an all-girls’ dormitory behind Wat Jed Yod, one of Thailand’s oldest Buddhist temples.

Everyday, I bicycled along the Superhighway (yes, it really is called that…it’s a “highway” that hugs the northern curve of Chiang Mai.  Not the same calibre as the 401, though.) and crossed it as carefully as I could.  For three hours every morning, Ajaan Wilasinee taught me pronunciation, reading, writing and conversation in Thai in the ISDSI office.  At lunchtime, I would eat with the staff – who love food!  I think I had as much of an education in Thai and northern Thai food, as I did with the language.  In the afternoons, I would explore the city by bike or study.  It’s rainy season now, so timing is everything…sometimes I would be ready to hit the road after lessons but then hear raindrops hitting the rooftop.  Then it would pour and pour, anywhere from half an hour to several hours, or off- and on-again.  The good thing about the rain is that it cools off the heat, making it really nice to cycle around after a good drenching.  I found out that I had been biking in 35 degree celsius temperatures when it was sunny…no doubt the cause of the horrible headaches I’d have at night when I went out for a long ride.

I think the biggest lessons learned in June were about rhythms and cycles.  Temperature-wise, the coolest parts of the day were before 9am and after 5pm so I learned to adjust my activity levels based on that (I finally caved into hanging out in air-conditioned cafes in my last week and a half…my room only had a fan).  Language-wise, I gained confidence in ordering food at outdoor food stalls and markets after spending much time conversing with my teacher first thing in the morning.  But it was HARD.  I felt like a one year old (and still do, sometimes) and loathed even saying good morning to the office staff.  I remember finally realizing how tired I was of trying to communicate but not being able to, when I went out to dinner with an ex-pat friend and feeling really relieved that she could order the food in Thai.  My moments of success at communication were tempered with frustrating ones: I felt awful when I accompanied my teacher to her husband’s village and the kids there laughed at my pronunciation.  I think my language learning will be a continuous cycle of ups, downs and studying.

Emotionally, I think I experienced the gamut: loneliness, fear of looking stupid at restaurants and stores, confusion when I got lost, wondering why I was even in Thailand to joy at meeting new friends (who share your political and social views too!) and having them open up unknown parts of the city to me (morning farmer’s market, grilled pork and sticky rice for breakfast, live music, late night fruit market, Thai soap operas), enjoying Sex and the City: The Movie at the cinema, and finding my way through the maze of sois (or small lanes) in my neighbourhood and finally knowing where I was going!  Even though I’ve lived in three foreign countries in the past four years, the learning curve emotionally can be pretty steep and it never stops surprising me the cycles of emotions that run through when I’m adapting to a new place.