I'm writing these words while sitting on a wooden bench in the lush green garden of the Peace-Love-Joy home. Chiang Mai’s December air is cool and fresh, birds are chirping, flowers are blooming under the morning sun. It feels almost surreal to be here, especially thinking back to three days ago when I was totally exhausted with work in Ho Chi Minh city.
I appreciate this trip a lot more than before, there's almost a feeling like a long lost child who gets to come home. Chiang Mai has always had such a very special place in my heart. I have no specific plan during this trip, so Pi Maew - my dear friend - asked me to join her to stay at her friend’s house (which also serves as an Airbnb) in another part of the city.
It is a short drive from the Chiang Mai city center to this home. Once our car arrived, three fluffy dogs ran out and alerted the owner - Pi Jim - with their barking sounds. Pi Jim greeted us with a warm smile and showed us where we would stay for the next three days. It was a Thai style wooden house with two floors nestled among green grass and hundred-year-old trees.
Our pantry, bedroom and bathroom are on the first floor, there is also a balcony with table and chairs for us to enjoy the view on the second floor. After showing us around, she winked and said: “I have a secret chamber you need to see!”. We were all curious and followed her to a small red bricked open-air structure nearby the house and inside was a big bathtub with a water heater, perfect for having a bath in nature!
After dropping off our bags in the room, we gathered in the garden, Pi Maew and Pi Jim are old friends so they had a lot to catch up on. I took out my embroidery kit to finish up an embroidered flower wreath I was making, which went quite smoothly since I felt so inspired by the tranquility of this place.
We had a lot of good wine that night, so I slept like a baby despite it being an unfamiliar place. The garden and the house looked even more gorgeous in the morning sun. I spent an hour just walking slowly among the greens while Pi Maew went to the market to fetch lots of delicious food for breakfast.
There is more than one kitchen in the house and each is very well-equipped. Pi Jim said she loves cooking and inviting her guests to eat with her, so the many kitchens are designed differently to suit various occasions. Sometimes she cooks pizza in a wood fire oven, other times her daughter would bring a chef friend over to host a chef’s table dinner for their friends. On this occasion, we would be making pizza together.
Pi Jim and Pi Maew prepared the dough early and let it sit until the afternoon. After a cup of tea, I took a nap in a day bed facing the garden. It was so comfortable just lying there and forgetting about time. After all these months in Ho Chi Minh city, I was emotionally drained pushing myself so hard at work, and dealing with the complex world there. I became quieter each day and did not talk to the people who matter to me as much as before. I was closing myself off from the world. But in that day bed watching a red rose growing toward the blue sky, I started to believe that nature can truly heal you, and it can soften your heart so you can again find a connection with everything.
Pi Jim gathered a lot of wood to fire up her brick oven. She told me the oven needed to be heated early before we could cook the pizza. I thought there would be only pizza for dinner, but I was wrong, she went into another kitchen and prepared many Thai dishes as well. During our chats, I learned that this house was built in 2000 while Pi Jim was working as a producer in Bangkok. She traveled between Bangkok and Chiang Mai for years before deciding to quit her job and retire in this peaceful city. The more I get to know about the details of this house, the more I admire the “super” lady who put in a lot of effort and creativity in designing and decorating such a wonderful place.
At the very beginning of my trip to Chiang Mai, I had once again found much peace and joy. I would like to express my gratitude to Pi Maew for her invitation, and Pi Jim for being our warm hostess.