After having seen very few tourists earlier, I saw lots in Chiang Mai, to the extent that at times most people I saw on the main streets were Westerners. But I got off the main streets as much as possible into normal residential neighborhoods, which also had some interesting ( for me at least ) old Buddhist temples. I stayed at a quiet guest house way down a side lane near the Old City and spent much of every day taking long walks. I also went to the nearby town of Lamphun with the excuse of visiting a famous old wat but really just for the ride and because I'd never been there. The heat was building day by day, though, so I had to be careful not to overdo it walking around under noonday sun. No rain to speak of, though it's supposed to be the rainy season.
From Chiang Mai I went 3 hours north to Chiang Rai, smaller and less touristy though some people use at as a starting point for treks/river trips to see hill tribes - which actually don't appeal to me as they're very 'staged' to say the least, not to mention way over-priced. I did visit a hill tribe museum and visit the local branch of the famous 'Cabbages and Condoms' Restaurant ( their goal was to make condoms as cheap and as easily available as cabbages ). The heat continued to become more oppressive, and still no rain.
For the past three days I've been in the small, strung-out mountainside community of Mae Salong, formally renamed as Santikhiri though no one calls it that. In town pretty much everyone is Chinese and descended from Kuomintang army members/families who fled China in 1948, and there are hill tribe villages surrounding it. It's touristy in a very minor way, with hill tribe women ( who are dressed just like the ones in the photo ) selling handcrafts at stands along the roadside, and lots of shops selling locally-grown tea, which has mostly replaced opium as the main cash crop after a long and determined effort by the Thai government. Also there are a number of expats just hanging out up here for ages, enjoying the cool air and living very cheaply, renewing their visas as needed by making a border crossing into Burma at Mai Sai and then immediately reentering Thailand ( something I will be doing the day after tomorrow, though I won't return here ). I have never felt hot since I got here, and rarely even warm. I'm STILL waiting for a good rain shower, though - it has threatened every day with dark gray clouds and lots of thunder, but nothing has come of it. Yesterday I climbed to the top of the mountain behind the town - 718 steps, and that's after a super-steep slog up a twisty narrow road - to see the large, modern 'chedi' visible from here, and a small temple next to it. Both were anticlimactic - empty and 'sterile', actually - but the sweeping view made up for that, over the town and nearby tea plantations arrayed in curving rows down steep hillsides, with even higher mountains in the distance in every direction, including some in nearby Burma. As soon as I finish this I will walk to an odd-looking Chinese temple a couple miles out of town that I spotted from the mountaintop; I could see a road to it along a long ridge top. It has huge, cartoonish outdoor statues of various animals and what looked like a teapot. From there I may walk further if I spot anything interesting. There is also a Kuomintang army museum in the opposite direction, though I may 'pass' on that one.
Though I'm seeing new, interesting things every day I'm continuing to focus mainly on just 'winding down' from last year, and still mainly observing rather than taking pictures. I stop and chat briefly with people I meet along the way whenever I'm out walking, if they seem to want to practice English or whatever. Especially when I walk at dusk - my favorite time - everywhere I look families are out in front of their homes, kids playing and moms watching while chatting with each other, and I get lots of shy smiles and some 'hello's. And I've had a few long conversations with other travelers I've met here, usually over meals. I know I'll wind up with lots of fond memories of the trip as a whole even if it doesn't include many individually 'memorable' experiences.