I have been in Chiang Mai for a couple weeks and I felt at home the first day I stepped foot here.
I have been staying at the wonderful Zion Cafe in the heart of Chiang Mai in which my friend, Emmi, has her organization, Lighthouse in Action. It’s a gorgeous hostel and cafe; if you are ever in Chiang Mai, check it out =)
I wake up between 7:30 and 8:30 each morning and head straight for the rooftop which is about 7 stories up where I get to hear and look over the bustling city as I do my jumprope and resistance band routine followed by a yoga sequence. It is the perfect way to start off a sweaty morning.
I then shower, get ready as my french press coffee brews and head downstairs where my lovely friends in the cafe know my breakfast order….fresh fruit with yogurt and scrambled eggs with hot sauce. Yum! I’ll sit and talk with my friends in the cafe for a bit. While I eat breakfast I get some reading done, journaling, singing praise and worship music or whatever I feel for this time =) Then it’s time to hit the town….
I will usually have a few stops to hit: visiting my friends. Over the past couple weeks I have met some amazing people. People who need someone to listen to their stories, people to laugh with, to pray with, to learn Thai and English with, to dream with; you know..what friends do together. Then it’s time for a long/ get lost bike ride. There is something you need to know about me if you don’t already. I like to get lost and then found. This is my time of adventure. This is my time to wander, to run into the coolest coffee shops, the hole in the wall boutiques, artists on the streets, monuments, parks, markets and places that tourists don’t go to- the hidden treasures. Many times I can’t buy anything but I love to walk into a place and ask the story of this hidden treasure- they are either really simple or extremely remarkable and inspiring.
Then it’s time to find my way back. Sometimes I have a hard time and end up riding about an hour in the wrong direction–there was one time that the sun was going down and I still had no idea where I was. I had to ask about 4 thai people until I was finally on the way home. PHEW! It’s always a good exercise let me tell you. Being a bike rider ( and no, not a motor bike but a bicycle) can be pretty intimidating in the city as you follow traffic and act like all the crazy cars. =) It’s my favorite thing really. It’s a place where I feel invincible, the wind blowing in your hair, heart racing, exercise without feeling like exercise, all the things you see..man, i love it!
As it gets dark I will take my bicycle home because I don’t feel like I need a hospital visit anytime soon. After the sweaty ride i’ll change out into something clean and head out on the town again. It is now time to go to the night markets where you can find the coolest art, clothes, food and anything you want! I’ll usually try something new each night and I generally get a fresh coconut to drink the water out of and eat. YUM, my favorite! This is also the perfect time for people watching. I can get lost in the atmosphere of the markets.
After I’ve gotten some yummy goods in my belly it’s time to hit up the “red light district”. This is where my heart lies. In the dark of night for some reason I feel peace in these streets. I look into the bars and see beautiful women, “he-she’s” and children that have some how gotten into this place. They all have a story. What I love to do is go where most people don’t go to genuinely love them the right way. No, I am not there to get wasted with them, I am not there to sleep with them, I am not there to ask them for anything…..I am there to listen to them, to laugh with them, to remind them that there is hope for a future other than this.
No, I don’t think it’s my job to “save” them. Maybe in the past I would have thought so. But I know it’s my job to share good news. To share that there is a freedom in a God that is Big. That there is restoration in what has been broken. That there is healing from the past and a bright future ahead! I just hope that by the time I leave that they feel genuinely loved for who they are..not what they look like or what they can offer but loved with knowing I want nothing in return, just because..unconditional.
After a while hangin out then it’s time for some shut eye. By this time I am tired! I’ve got a short walk home..thank goodness and then shower and lights out!