Chiang Mai – Police Scares & Morning Prayers

Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai, may be better known for its easy going attitude and ancient temples, yet it has an ever-growing nightlife. With no shortage of bars, jazz clubs and live music venues there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Zoe In Yellow

During my trekking adventure, I met two other backpackers who were also heading back to Chiang Mai the next day. We shared travel stories and agreed it would be nice to meet up the next evening, once we were squeaky clean and well rested.

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As I didn’t have any prior knowledge of bars in Chiang Mai, they suggested Zoe in Yellow. They hadn’t been yet but had heard it was a great night out, akin to a night on Khao San Road.

After a digital detox spent in the jungles of Northern Thailand, I was craving good music and a chance to dance, and so a group of friends and I arrived a little earlier than discussed, to scope the place out at around 9.30pm on 18th February 2016.

The timing is important I promise.

Already the music was blasting from the speakers and the place was crowded with people, mainly tourists. We paid for our drinks and made our way to the designated tables (there are a couple of seating areas which are specific to different bars, make sure you sit in the right area or you’ll be asked to move.)

Sipping our cocktails whilst avidly discussing our impending island hopping adventure, when we were abruptly interrupted by loud voices. Being the nosy farangs we are, we glanced around to see what the commotion was about, hoping for some gossip to bring back to the hotel.

Armed police officers stormed through and surrounded the tables. I lost count but there must have been at least fifty officers with large guns, they began lining people up and demanding that everybody else had to stay exactly where we were. Nevertheless some people tried to exit, they were promptly stopped and told that they were not permitted to leave.

Whispers travelled through the crowd, “They’re checking passports. They’re checking passports.” I shared a nervous glance with my friends, as we all knew we had neglected to retrieve our passports from the hotel safety deposit box after the trek.

Eventually the police officer stood adjacent to us and held out his hand. Not knowing if it was best to make eye-contact or not, I sheepishly handed over a photocopy of my passport, which I kept in my purse for emergencies. While I started to contemplate what life would be like in a Thai prison, he took the paper, glanced at it and handed it back before motioning for us to leave.

Luckily we had photocopies, we found out the next day that there were others that weren’t as fortunate, those who didn’t have their passports were taken to the police station and questioned.

Tangled Tip

Photocopy your passport.

Upon reflection it seems like a funny story to tell friends back at home, but at the time it was a genuinely terrifying experience. It was a good while before a member of the group broke the awkwardness with a whimsical remark, about how we didn’t get to meet up with the girls we met in Pa Khao Lam afterall.

Unfortunately I’m unable to review Zoe in Yellow as we weren’t there long enough to finish our first drink and as I didn’t have the balls to take a selfie with the military, I didn’t take any photographs.

What to bring:

Change! Stick to your 20 / 50 / 100 baht notes, the drinks are cheap, and there are rumours of shortchanging bartenders. Passport (or a photocopy) for pretty obvious reasons.

Location:

Rajvithi Road, Mueang Chiang Mai District,
Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

 

Morning Almsgiving

Following the events of the previous evening, the next mornings activity seemed a little oxymoronic. As part of a pre-booked tour with viator I was joining local Buddhist devotees in an alms-giving ritual.  At 5.00am, which was much earlier than I really wanted to wake up, I struggled through my morning shower and dressed appropriately in order to meet the monks.

During the drive my guide asked if I had any knowledge on Buddhism and I replied with only the very basic things i had been taught in school. He continued to tell me about himself, as a common person Buddhist he has to follow 5 precepts everyday:

1. To abstain from killing
2. To abstain from stealing
3. To abstain from sexual misconduct
4. To abstain from lying
5. To abstain from alcohol and drugs

He asked me if this sounded easy, and when I agreed, he delved deeper into explaining the difficulties. If a mosquito landed on his arm, he was not allowed to squash it and if a lady asked him to comment on her disastrous outfit, he was not allowed to give a false compliment.

He then told me that the monks we would meet have to follow 227 precepts everyday. Two hundred and twenty seven rules everyday! My mind was blown by that fact and I thought I would share it.

Tables lined the street with bowls of food and drink available to purchase for the monks. I feel truly lucky to have had this experience, after giving the alms to the monk, I received a blessing where I was instructed to pour water from a clay jug into a bowl and think of anybody I wished love and happiness.

I was told that the water connected me to whoever I was thinking about and they would receive good luck for the rest of the day. So you’re welcome family.

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What to bring:

With this being apart of a tour everything was provided for me. Ensure what you are wearing is appropriate, or bring a shawl / long skirt to cover knees and shoulders.

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