Chaos, Abandoned Buildings and More: Our Chiang Mai Neighborhood

Monday, August 18th, 2008

America not only favors order over chaos but seems scared of any disorder at all. Chaos has been pushed so far into the shadows that it only is acknowledged during big and mostly bad events like car crashes, shootings, or natural disasters.

One of the better parts of Thailand is how chaos is woven into everyday living. All you have to do is walk down a single street to realize that order is in a continual battle against chaos. Cars and scooters are zipping everywhere, coming from everywhere. Mechanically unsound, loud, and soot sputtering vehicles don’t turn a head. Want to drive a scooter and side car loaded with gas canisters down the wrong side of the road? Go for it. Want to drive without headlights at night? That’s okay. Knee deep hole in the middle of the sidewalk? No need to fix or mark it. Power lines sparking because vines are growing all over them? We’ll get to trimming eventually, we just need to find a bamboo ladder and machete. Flea infested stray dogs roaming in packs around the neighborhood? Well, we better put out some food for them.

Order is regarded much more casually here. Food is prepared and sold in some cringe-worthy scenarios, but rarely does anyone get sick. Buildings are built by men without hardhats climbing around on rickety bamboo scaffolding and throwing bricks at each other. Rain gutters acts as sewers if necessary. Rats, roaches, frogs, dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, and flies roam freely along the ground. While eating soup at a restaurant, a gecko is on the wall above eating flies. Between nice fancy buildings are shanty towns made of scrap metal and found wood. Buildings are constructed at weird angles, in weird places, and for unclear purposes. People wash and dry their laundry outside in colorful view. Sudden downpours splatter water into homes, flood gutters, get everyone nice and wet. Public transportation causes more traffic by clogging the streets to pick up passengers. Full size trees grow through the asphalt in the middle of a lane, and people just avoid them. And trumping all are the rest of the plants that work towards reclaiming the jungle.

I love the chaos; it reminds me of home. Thais don’t waste energy making everything perfect or by the book. Being casual about the little things lends itself to a culture of relaxation and smiles.

Today J. and I went for a long walk around the neighborhood. Our goal was to soak in some chaos and look for abandoned buildings. We were gone 5 hours.

Garbage left behind a large apartment building.

The rusting Jetrin water tower. Jetrin is the name of the neighborhood just west of ours.

Abandoned house attached to an occupied home.

One of two rows of unfinished town houses. One row has a finished unit that a family is living in. It must be weird to live in an apartment attached to this creepy space, especially at night.

Crossing Canal Road.

A dead end street we went down.

The first ripe bananas we’ve seen on a tree.

This building is what we were searching for. It’s a huge, totally abandoned condo/hotel in the middle of nothing and in fairly good shape except for missing windows and who knows what inside. Rumor is that there was some kind of structural problem discovered when it was finished. No one could move in. It hasn’t been demolished. I don’t think Thailand likes demolishing abandoned buildings.

The fenced off gate to the property.

Two workers trimming vines off power lines.

Metal fence.

Athletics building J. and I rested by. There was a shaded bench getting a decent breeze.

Manual score board for the soccer field. We could have easily turned this into a four letter word.

Rusted basketball hoop.

This building on the street I used to live on had been demolished. The only thing left was the bathroom.

My old street. Three years ago I lived at the last house on the left. Now it’s a Christian organization’s office, of all things. I hope they don’t find the pentagrams we buried all over the lawn.

Right about now, we took a lunch and iced coffee break. J. browsed inside a shop while I sat outside and watched people drive by.

Temporary building full of dangerous lightning bolts.

Vacant lot, with floor, for sale.


I don’t know how these repairs can be made safely.

Smokestack looking water tower.

During our walk, we stumbled upon an awesome narrow walkway built above a winding gutter. It went for a few blocks between homes, in the shade and in spitting distance of kitchens and altars and chickens. This passage is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Chiang Mai.

The walkway looking in from the street.

A cluttered storage area seen through a gap in a fence along the gutter passage.

A secret TV room part-way hidden by a refrigerator.

New building with bamboo scaffolding.

Enormous white apartment building.

Forgotten hat.

Looking into a complex of twelve abandoned homes. The gate was open, but there was someone squatting on the property and I didn’t want them to see me taking photos.

Power lines getting taken over by vines.

A worm hanging by its excretions.

Restaurant covered by flowering vines.

This teddy stayed out too late the night before.

I was dripping with sweat by the time we got home, but the walk was worth it. There’s so much to see at our doorstep. Its the fodder for many outings.

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