Here I am in Chiang Mai, one of my favorite places in the world. Romantic, historic, bustling yet peaceful. Touristy enough to have plenty of farang (foreigner)-friendly amenities, while still retaining its charm. As my friend Kurt (who’s spent a chunk of time here) says, “Despite the best efforts of all the ignorant tourists, sketchy expats, lazy NGO-types, and drunk Australians, Chiang Mai is wonderful.”
After booking my flight to Thailand, I found myself with an immense amount of time-sensitive non-fieldwork that needed tending to (and required fast internet), and realized that I didn’t really need to be at the field site in Trat until later this week.
So, I hopped on up to Chiang Mai. For a couple of days, I’m living a very pleasant existence of churning out work in various cute cafes, with breaks to wander along the tree-lined moat that surrounds the old city, picturesque streets, colorful markets, plethora of vegetarian restaurants and stalls, and awe-inspiring yet tranquil temples. It helps that I’d visited before, in 2005, and had seen many of the major tourist attractions, so that now I can be settled and soak in the lovely aura of the city without being distracted by any nagging “I need to go EXPLORE and SEE EVERYTHING!” urges.
Wanting to avoid the backpacker hordes (which I generally find annoying, though there have been some notable exceptions), I splurged on the tastefully-decorated De Naga hotel. Both nights, after enjoying a hot bubble bath, I settled (bathrobe-clad) into a night of work on my comfy bed, nestled among Thai silk-covered cushions. Not too shabby.
Being able to flit around various SE Asian destinations during fieldwork intervals has been immensely enjoyable and liberating, and I know that grad school might be the only time in my career that I can do so with such relative ease. I actually am often more productive during these trips than when I feel stuck in my office in San Diego. My main advisor, the big LTB, encourages her students to fully savor their field and related travel experiences, and she doesn’t seem to mind getting emails from the scattered and varied cities of Southeast Asia (“Hi Lisa, just wrapping up things in Jakarta before going on a diving vacation on a paradise island for a few days! Don’t worry, though, will be entering data during the nights!” “Hi Lisa, just had a great morning walking around Singapore. I need feedback on this abstract.” Etc.).
A bit sad to realize that such freedom will be hard to find in whatever next step I take. So, who wants to give me a job where I get to continue rambling around while working?