After living in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand for over two weeks, I have only now got into the rhythm of daily life here. In most hot climates the day usually starts early but not here. Most of the shops don't even begin to think about opening until 10.00 a.m. and many close at 5.00 p.m. Before 8.00 a.m. only the street cleaners and the odd jogger occupy the roads. Between 8.00 a.m. and 10.00 a.m, the city is awash with students, many on scooters, no age limit, and no license needed here! Although most roads have sidewalks it seems to be the norm that "first arrive - first occupy" Food carts, dining areas, signs, scooters, and even the odd car take a position at will, and most often the only place to walk in safety is on the road. Thankfully Thai people are very respectful of pedestrians and usually slow down or stop to let them pass. The main occupation of the Thai people seems to be eating. I have never seen so many different foods being cooked and eaten on the street, with nary a hot-dog vendor insight. Then there are all the wonderful fruits, peeled and sliced and served in plastic bags closed with a large toothpick, all ready for munching on. I take some back to my apt every day for midnight snacks and even for breakfast on my balcony. The second occupation is shopping, for tourists and locals alike. Markets abound. Day markets, night markets, Sunday markets, flower markets (extra busy today, Valentines Day) garden markets, and, my favorite, the walking market which is simply streets and streets of stalls selling clothing, jewelry, carvings, weavings, and everything else you can think of. The third major occupation for all is massage. Foot massage ($2 for half an hour) Thai massage ($9 for two hours), oil massages, herbal massages, take a chair on the sidewalk or go into a small store-front spa. Massages in the markets are particularly popular for all. Thai people are wonderful, kind, polite, and always smiling and right now the weather is perfect, cool in the evenings, warm or hot in the afternoons. If you are looking for a break from Canadian winters I can't think of anywhere in the world that is better than Thailand. Everything is very inexpensive here by Canadian standards and I have already bought another suitcase to transport my loot home - but that's another story. Barbara in Chaing Mai, Valentines's Day