Chiang Mai 2022 || All the cafes & killing someone you love

I think there’s an entirely different level of heartache when you realize that someone you loved and thought you knew inside out, has always been this complete stranger. That even though you thought you knew them and that they knew you, it was all just hope that was messing with your head. It was just you negotiating relentlessly back and forth with yourself, wondering if *this* was the incident that was supposed to make you leave. Is this too petty, is this too small, is this something I should have known would be the culmination of all the things that have happened before?

I can’t listen too much to Taylor Swift’s High Infidelity because it makes me uncomfortable. The words hit too close to home, especially when she says “there’s many different ways to kill someone you love – the slowest way is never loving them enough”. There was one time in my life when I just *knew* I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing but did it anyway. I was 21 and 3 years into a relatively serious relationship. I was fresh out of uni and just started my first adult job. But even with all that, I know I don’t have any valid excuse. My needs weren’t being met, and I was being avoided by the person I was in a relationship with at the time (at this point, it was five months into a new job and he had never met up with me after work, didn’t even notice me pulling away). Some guy (try as I might, I can’t even pull up any detail on how he looked or even his name) from work had been showering me with attention. I didn’t really intend to do anything with this guy but I think on a deeper level, I enjoyed being on the receiving end of someone actually giving me the time of day when I talk about how hard it is to hold down a corporate job. And before I knew it, I was already having an emotional affair with someone I didn’t even have feelings for – it just was whatever was happening made me feel good and seen and heard and wanted. In my head, I tried to justify it with I’m not doing anything physical anyway. But I felt guilty the entire time, so I asked my ex for a break and some space. Instead of space, I was on the receiving end of a couple of grand gestures (think 3 dozen flowers, flower petals all over my room, getting serenaded at home, etc) as an apology for how he was treating me for almost half a year. We didn’t really hash out whatever has put us there but decided to get back together and begin again. The moment I got back with my ex at the time, I made sure to have a clean cut between me and this other dude. The guilt kept eating at me though. I initiated sex with my ex often (out of character), tried to spend all my weekends with him, and did anything to alleviate the guilt of spending roughly a month spilling my guts out to another dude instead of who I was in a relationship with. The second time I tried to break up with this ex, it was as I came clean about every single thing that happened. I gave a list of every interaction. I made sure to not miss a single detail of how inappropriate it had become. And while as a couple, we moved past it (stayed together for 7 more years, with zero incidents of any affairs whatsoever), a part of me will always be ashamed that I did something like that at all. I think the relationship, in part, lasted way longer than its due date, simply because sometimes, I’d be upset over something he did.. and instead of communicating how hurt I was, I’d always rein myself in with the thought that I had already done the unforgivable. So I should be extending that same grace and forgive him for the things he chose to do repeatedly. Maybe we’d been strangers to each other for a long time before we even parted ways. Looking at everything that had happened back then, through the lens of my present – I don’t think I’ll ever want to forget this feeling of guilt because I now know I’ll never be capable to take on another burden like that again.

I’ve been listening to Midnights since it was released. And for some reason, I feel like I’ve done a lot more introspection during this trip while relating to the lyricism of Taylor Swift. Today I spent it just cafe hopping (maybe I’ll detail those out later) and having dinner at one of the restaurants in Chiang Mai with a Michelin star. I think there’s a weird vibe when you just sit down in cafes with no plans at all, listening to music, and realizing how much has happened in your life. I feel like the time I’ve spent alive has passed by so quickly. But I’m 31, and that’s three decades here on earth. Parang ang dami ng nangyari sa buhay ko within the past few decades. But it also does not feel long enough to have gone through so much and so little that I’m barely scratching the surface of what life has to offer. Still, I quite enjoy having slow days and just enjoying the city without having to be checking out all the places every single time.

After eating a hearty breakfast at The Inside House (I will never stop gushing about this hotel, I tell you), I checked out my long list of cafes I’m interested in visiting. I mapped them from the furthest to my hotel/Old City/moat, to the closest. My first stop was Carp Cafe. Whoever designed this place started out with a fantastic idea, but I also feel like it could have been executed better? It still was pretty though and a nice place to take photos. But the food was not something I’d travel all that way for. Booking a bike or a car also took me about 30 minutes, and when I finally booked a bike – it was tiny!! One of those tiny ones that I felt like half of my butt was hanging out and that one hard brake and I’d be flying off it. Not the best way to die (still was not wearing a helmet on).

My next stop was somewhere I thought seemed a bit closer to the city (based on the maps), but was also slightly upland. I went to The Baristro Asian. It honestly felt like I flew to Japan with all the bamboos and just how much they managed to transport the Japanese cafe aesthetic to Chiang Mai. There were a lot of seemingly digital nomads working in the coworking space. Meanwhile, I took my time by heading to The Slow Bar where you have to take your shoes off, sit on the floor/the bar, and watch as they make your coffee/matcha. I got a matcha latte and some custard, and it was so worth the travel. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes matcha. I also realize that if I wanted to, I could totally just come back to Chiang Mai and work from there. Maybe next year, once the busy season for small brands is over (holiday season!), I could come and just hang around.

I got halfway through the novel I had been reading when I realized I had actually been there for 2 hours and decided to head over to another cafe. By this time, it was already 4 PM and this other Japanese cafe closes at 6 PM. I went to Transit 8 – which compared to The Baristro with its Kyoto/Osaka/chill vibe, is the polar opposite. It kinda feels like a small set that was made to shoot because in the area were a couple of other Japanese-themed establishments such as a bakery, an ice cream spot, and the cafe itself. The slow bar had an izakaya vibe, and the stairs leading up to the seating area on the second floor resembled a chic airport escalator. It was pretty cool. At this point though, I was already feeling a bit full so I just had a glass of a non-caffeinated drink (totally forgot what it was but it was yummy). I spent maybe more than an hour and was leaving before they closed up, but I can still see some people arriving at the cafe. So I’m not really sure if they do close at 6 PM.

I headed back to the hotel and took a walk to try and digest every cup I’d ingested while I was cafe hopping. The sucky thing about traveling alone is I don’t have anyone to share dessert with, and as much as I wanted to try a lot of food, I can only fit a small amount in my tummy.

Later this evening though, I decided to still push through and head to The Ginger Farm Kitchen which was another restaurant that had a Michelin star. I had fried rice (yummy), their recommendation (as it turns out, crispy pork – which I regret because we have lechon kawali at home haha), and a citrusy juice with ginger on it. I almost spit out my drink when I first took a sip because that ginger flavor was strong af, but the more I drank, the more I liked it haha. That was nice, but not really the best meal I’ve eaten while in Thailand.

I walked around One Nimman and checked out all the thrift stores although I didn’t manage to buy anything. But today is such a nice chill day, weird introspection into past relationships aside. Excited to finally see the elephants tomorrow!

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