The receptionist was apologetic when I inquired about my room. I was confused. The hotel was gorgeous: colonial architecture with a minimalist interior. And to my surprise the place matched the photos featured on their Flash heavy website. He couldn’t have been sorry about the weather. While the skies were an ominous grey, the heat was more than tolerable. The temperature hung at a cool 90°F. I remind you that I spent the previous two weeks in Myanmar where the temperature stayed in triple digits. It was downright chilly here.
The young man dressed in the Ricardo Montalban threads lamented over my bad timing. It was Northern Thailand’s burning season. Farmers across the region were burning rice straw and other vegetation in order to clear out land for cultivation. Unfortunately for Chiang Mai, the steep mountain ranges that wrap around the city trap the haze from the slash and burn. He gave me a complimentary facemask to help lessen exposure to the pollution and advised me to wear sunglasses.
I left the mask and my sunglasses in my room because I was skeptical. There was no way the pollution could be that bad. And I wasn’t going to wear the pink facemask he gave me. It would’ve cramped my style. But, I should’ve listened to him. A day of paying my respects in the city’s slew of Buddhist temples and shopping in the markets left my eyes stinging red with regret. To add insult to injury, I developed a small but persistent cough that I am positive was a result of the polution. I thought a couple bottles of Chang would do the trick, help ease the pain, but no dice.
Lesson of the day: listen to your hotel receptionist.