Life in Chiang Mai
Ending up in Chiang Mai
By Lynn Davies
Arriving in Thailand on a three month tourist visa I planned to spend a week
in Bangkok, two weeks in Chiang Mai, and the rest of my time touring the
islands, maybe taking in a bit of Cambodia. Good plan. But I didn’t count on
falling in love with Chiang Mai. I cancelled all my plans, booked a nice
room, and 5 years later, I’m still here. I love life in Chiang Mai. The
people are friendly, I love the mountains, the temples and the hustle and
bustle of my local market. It feels like home.
I got involved as a volunteer with a dog rescue group and loved it. Going to
temples and villages, feeding and rescuing dogs, I felt I saw more of the
‘real’ Chiang Mai than I ever would as a tourist. And the people were
genuinely happy that someone was helping with their dog problems. I think
that was a surprise to me, so many local people calling in for help.
I started taking in stray cats while they recovered from their sterilisation
surgery. Once healthy, I’d return them to their street or temple, and then
get the next one. I started raising funds to get more cats sterilised and
vaccinated. I had a simple plan. When I had donations I would arrange
sterilisations, when I didn’t, I wouldn’t.
I didn’t bargain on just how many kittens would come my way. It’s a common
and accepted practice to dump unwanted kittens in temples, often without the
mommy. I had a constant turnover of kittens, sometimes two litters at once.
Many were sickly or malnourished, some needed hand rearing and two hourly
feeds were necessary. But the strong will always survive and once well fed
and vaccinated, I got them adopted into lovely new homes.
It was never my plan to get so involved with cats, it just grew over time. I
imagined I would volunteer for a while, enjoy the city, and then move on.
But I realised just how many Thai people are very concerned about animal
welfare. Things we take for granted in the west, like vaccinations and
sterilisation are rare here; partly due to lack of education, but also
because it’s just too expensive for most people to even consider. A cat with
a broken leg can cost 6,000 baht in vet bills, a month’s wages for a shop
worker. It’s easier now for me to understand why dogs and cats involved in
road accidents are left on the roadside to take their chances. There’s no
free vet care like there is at home, and many vets want money up front.
Now I spend time with two Thai ladies whose aim it is to educate people
about animal care. They go out into communities and try to find solutions to
cat and dog related problems, where possible keeping the animals in their
home environment. Over-population is the biggest problem, so sterilisation
is a priority. Vaccination is also high on the list. People are asked to
donate what they can, but most often, the treatment is given free.
The two ladies set up Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue which has a dog shelter
in Sanpatong and in July will open a western style cat rescue shelter at Doi
Saket. They are a non-profit, pro-life group who rely on donations and raise
funds through their website. They are in the process of becoming a
registered charity Foundation. They also have cat boarding facilities with
the profits going back into cat care. I love animals, and I feel lucky to be
doing something I enjoy so much, and to give back to a community that has
made me feel so welcome. You can check out Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue
|The Chiang Mai Mail is publishing a series of
articles on residents’ experiences of life in Chiang Mai. If you
would like to contribute please email [email protected]