Yesterday we spent wandering in Chiang Mai. It’s very, very different from Laos. Even from the boat, on our last few miles to the border, the right bank ( Laos) was obviously a developing country, with muddy banks, wooden canoes, tiny villages with bamboo huts, and on the left bank (Thailand) more or less first world development with high concrete embankments and smart shiny new buildings.
Though slightly missing Laos, we are making friends in and with Chiang Mai. We came across a wonderful exhibition of art installations, and we spent yesterday morning enjoying art and sculptures that would look quite natural in Tate Modern, including giant umbrellas. At the same time, it does have its quiet corners. Clare found a peaceful Wat early this morning on her run, and there are orange clad monks everywhere in town.
The grief of the people of Thailand at the death of King Bhumibol is everywhere apparent. All Thai people of all ages are wearing black or white tops ( often T shirts over jeans but black nonetheless). There are portraits of the King with floral tributes on every corner and every building. Photographs in the Wats show the the King during his time as a young monk, which feels especially touching. He was deeply loved and revered in later life as a compassionate and conscientious monarch, and was, before his death, the longest reigning monarch in the world. The depth of grief everywhere mirrors that in the UK following the death of Princess Diana.