Postcards from Paradise: The Delights of Distraction No.87

Hello from a mist-laden, lake-front coffee-shop in Chiang Mai where we are perched on cushioned day beds shaded by willow trees sipping on Iced Caramel Macchiatos and feeling guiltily smug about escaping to this paradise while a dusty heat wave envelopes Delhi right now.

As we mentioned in our last newsletter - we’re on our first trip since February 2020. We’ve called it a “work trip”, but it’s ostensibly been a 60:40 pleasure to work ratio… okay 90:10. But Thailand is such a spectacularly beautiful place on every level, that it’s hard for anything to feel like work - even sitting here writing this feels indulgent. Chang Mai, in the Northern Foothills of the country is known for its 3C’s: Crafts, Culture and Cuisine. Though there is the burgeoning 4th C:  - Creative and Meeting Place - which are co-working spaces littered across town as its beauty, food and friendliness make it a veritable magnet for self-styled digital nomads.  

This is the first trip we’ve taken where Ami hasn’t planned and researched every restaurant and activity to the letter. For Ami, prone to anxiety,  a continuous sense of safety and control is satisfying. But this time, we decided to lose our grip on certainty and go with the flow. According to a recent study, there are five dimensions of curiosity: Joyous exploration, Deprivation sensitivity, Stress tolerance, Social curiosity, and Thrill-seeking. While they all involve uncertainty, joyous exploration is most connected to well-being, resilience, and proactivity. It helps make venturing into the unknown, exciting. 

So, how do you tap into joyous exploration? David Cain, the creator of, advises you to go somewhere you don’t know and flip into what he calls “art gallery mode” to get the magic back. The trick haere is that there’s always something significant, poignant, or poetic everywhere you look, if your mind is in that certain mode –  of just looking at what’s there, without reflexively evaluating or explaining the scene. By dropping out of analyzing and stepping into feeling, you’ll discover a path to renewed energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration.  

And here are our recommendations for the week:

To ponder:

The poet Rumi, wrote: “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”

Science tells us children are the most open to exploration and experimentation, asking an average of 40,000 questions between two and five. Thanks to a so-called "learning trap," that number goes to almost none by the time we're 11. Exploitation related to exploration can be risky, thus teaching us to favor predictability over uncertainty. Yet research also shows curiosity is crucial for adults, unlocking many personal and professional benefits, including better decision-making, collaboration, and innovation. And it’s easily sparked by purposefully venturing out of your comfort zone of know-it-allness and accept bewilderment as a feeling. 

To joy scroll: An Instagram feed of architects from Chiang Mai, who integrate their love for nature and using local eco-friendly sustainable materials to create modern, state of the art structures.  

To listen: Exit Scam, is an eight-episode podcast about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the founder of Canada’s biggest Bitcoin exchange. When Gerald Cotten died, the password to $215 million of cryptocurrency was lost, and some people think he faked his own death. Not only is this a crazy, fascinating true story, but inspiration for us to concoct a pyramid scheme, escape to Chiang Mai, fake our own deaths, change our faces through plastic surgery at the “You’re so young!” clinic next door,  and live the dream! 

To life hack: The concept of pivoting from affirmations to “iffirmations.”  Instead of saying to yourself something like “I am confident and strong” you ask yourself “What if I am confident and strong?” By asking it in the form of a question forces your brain to search for evidence that this might be true. This works because it conjures images and examples of ways you could be confident or strong or have been in the past, which then elicits positive and encouraging emotions. Apparently a lot more effective than affirmations. 

To lexicon:A word we learnt from a school friend who lives here: Kreng Jai: which literally means “awe of heart”. Kreng Jai manifests itself as a general desire not to disrupt the happiness of others, even at the expense of efficiency, honesty, or one’s own interests. Kreng Jai might affect the lives of guileless foreigners like us. When a salesperson assures you that a delivery can absolutely, certainly, definitely be made within a required time frame (even if said time frame turns out to be impossible) they’re feeling Kreng Jai.

Too often, foreigners grossly insult Thais by thoughtlessly accepting their consideration and generosity without offering any in return - or worse, by interpreting Kreng Jai as a sign of weakness that can be exploited. Kreng Jai is essentially a dance – a figurative give-and-take of consideration and good manners. To give Kreng Jai is to receive it, and we think it’s a lovely sentiment that is largely responsible for the immense polite hospitality of Thailand. 

To wtf:“Vajiralongkorn, 68,  ascended to the throne after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016. His father ruled the Buddhist kingdom for 70 years, one of the world's longest-serving monarchs.During his reign, King Bhumibol was widely respected as a symbol of stability and unity in Thailand, which has been racked by political turmoil for nearly two decades.Vajiralongkorn, however, is not held in the same esteem. His unpredictable behaviour and reputation as a jet-set playboy have raised concerns over the future of the constitutional monarchy.” The history of the presiding monarch is the stuff of epics and soap operas; we didn’t miss any of our Netflix binge-series while reading about the royal family’s drama.  

To pause, whimsically: Quite literally a ‘novel’ way to tell the time, the Literature Clock uses passages from literature that have mentions of the time in them… so at 9, the clock shows a passage from The Great Gatsby that has the phrase “9 o’clock” in it, and at 12, it displays verses from Hamlet when the clock strikes 12. Ultimately, the Author Clock turns something as mechanical as the ticking of hands into something much more whimsical and joyful… especially if you’re a bookworm or a lover of literature. 

To cook: The best street food in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi - which is available at almost every nook of the city. A local recommended this website to easily recreate Thai dishes; you can make it your own using tofu or paneer and omit the chicken - as the idea is not to be authentic as much as it is to balance the firework of flavours.  

To end:

Part Three: Love


I HIDE myself within my flower,    
That wearing on your breast,    
You, unsuspecting, wear me too—    
And angels know the rest.    
I hide myself within my flower,           
That, fading from your vase,    
You, unsuspecting, feel for me    
Almost a loneliness.

– Emily Dickinson

Stay curious and give yourself permission to get exploring once in a while,

Viv and Ami

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