Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chiang Mai

WHEW! That was some weekend we had. It was long, which after the strenuous week of we had (see previous post) was well deserved...OK, probably not well deserved.

Anyway, we jumped on an overnight bus in Bangkok and headed to Chiang Mai, in the far northwest of the Thailand. My record of not wearing a long sleeve shirt since October came to an end as the AC on the bus was set to just above freezing and I buckled much to Deb's delight about an hour into the ride. My record of not wearing socks since October 16th still stands!

We arrived around 8am on Thursday morning after a restless night of trying to sleep on a bus that was traversing the southern tip of the Himalaya's. We started the day with a shot of coffee at Starbucks. Then we headed to...Oh! Should I address the fact that we found a Starbucks? Well, we did and to be quite honest it was a bit refreshing to sit on a plush leather sofa with John Mayer crooning Christmas carols and sipping a Venti coffee after being bounced around for 9 hours. After the caffeine kick and my fill of “rockin' around the Christmas Tree” we explored the old city of Chiang Mai. Situated near the Laos border and fairly close to China as well, Chiang Mai was an ancient hub for merchants on the famed “Silk Road.” There is a good balance of the ancient and the modern in the city. Surrounded by mountains that are perpetually shrouded in haze the city was and still is an oasis for travelers.

We visited a number of temples and markets, walking about 6 miles in the day made for two hungry kids. Chiang Mai has its fair share of western food restaurants and we settled on an Italian place run by who else, but a Canadian born Brazilian guy and his Thai wife. The food was decent, but the ambiance was better. The night ended early as our full stomach's and sore feet demanded a good sleep.

Outside the city, still residing in the mountains, are tribes of indigenous peoples' that continue to live as they did hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, few of the tribes have been able to avoid the trappings of the today and the tourism industry has not helped them retain their ancient heritage. We decided against taking a tour into their villages partly because of the exploitation and partly because of the exorbitant cost.

Friday was another day of wandering the city and we were amply rewarded for the loose agenda. First we found a great burger place called Mike's ("Converting Vegetarians since 1976") and enjoyed a greasy burger for breakfast. Leaving Mike's we were called into an tailor shop by the owner. An hour and some confidential measurements later, I am the proud owner of two new suits and dress shirts. All hand made, the suits were ready 24 hours later.
Thinking our day could not get much better we dropped into a temple and to our surprise we found a producing beautiful paintings. We got a great deal from the woman and will be bringing home two paintings of Thailand.

We then headed into Chinatown and returned with our Christmas tree. We chopped it down, for real. Ok, in my mind we walked thru the woods, searching for the perfect Fraiser Fur. In reality we squeezed our way into a small shop that was filled wall to wall with stuff and pulled down a foot tall, plastic Christmas tree.
No need to tie it to the roof, it almost fits in our pocket.

Saturday was the only day we had made plans for and it will benefit everyone, we hope. We took a Thai cooking class for the day. It was most fun preparing 6 dishes from scratch and being able to enjoy them with other participant's who came from all over the world. The instructors brought us to a local market and helped us choose the ingredients we would use for the dishes. We have a new found appreciation for the effort the Thai's put into preparing their food! Hopefully, we will be able to show off our new skills and some of the recipes with you.

Leaving Chiang Mai was not easy as the city thoroughly impressed us, but we will be back. The work week is upon us again and it will be a true work week, we think. One never really knows what's around the corner in Thailand!

1 comment:

  1. We want an invitation to the first Thai banquet you prepare upon homecoming! Wronka Eltern