What do you Think - Thailand???

March 12, 2008 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Namita:
So after much deliberation, Dave and I decided to ditch Australia and head to Thailand instead.  We figured Thailand would be gentler on our wallets, and that Australia would always be there for another trip (e.g. post-retirement).  We were also excited to find out that Rupesh would be joining us!

So the last 2 weeks of our trip were spent in Thailand.  Well really it was the last 2 weeks of my trip as Dave decided to extend his travels and stay on with Rupesh.  Yes, Dave was making me go home alone!  He and Rupesh made plans to head to Bali after Thailand. 

For our two weeks in Thailand, we decided to spend 10 days in Chiang Mai (and surrounding area) and 4 days in Phuket (and neighbouring islands).  A perfect end to a perfect trip.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a fairly touristy city but not as touristy or busy as Bangkok.  Before getting to Chiang Mai the only thing we had pre-booked was our hotel for the first night.  We found our hotel, the Maninarakorn (it took Dave and I a while before we could say it correctly), on a site called Latestays which is a great site for last minute accomodations.  The hotel turned out to be quite nice, with pool and fitness room.  We took advantage of the facilities a couple of times, but the fitness room was very warm (30 degrees) even before we started working out!  We actually ended up staying at the Maninarakorn for the entire time we were in Chiang Mai.  At one point, we actually decided to move to another hotel which was new, quite nice and cheaper but then we found out the a/c didn't work all that well and the toilets couldn't flush down toilet paper! Not nice. It was only after we checked-in and had all our stuff in the room that we discovered this - little awkward. 

Some of the highlights for us in Chiang Mai were participating in a cooking class, taking a trip up north, watching Thai boxing and talking with the monks.  We also walked around some of the markets, specifically the Night market and the Sunday market.  At the night market Dave and I bought a copy of "the Beach" dvd.  We figured it was suiting as we were in Thailand, though it also made us feel very behind (the movie is over 8 years old!).  One of the action items in the agreement we put together for Rupesh (yes we put together an agreement for Rupesh as he was a new travel partner) was for him to watch the movie in the first 24 hours of arriving in Thailand.

Cooking Class:  I was very keen on taking a cooking class while in Chiang Mai.  Terry had taken a class the year before and really enjoyed it.  The course that was recommended to us by our travel agent was 7 hours long (9 to 4).  Initially Dave wasn't going to join but in the end was glad he did.  We made six dishes in total.  There were 6 courses and we were able to choose one dish from each course.  Some of the dishes we made were Phad Thai, Spring Rolls, Panang Curry, Papaya Salad, Stir-fried veggies and chicken, Fried Banana and Sticky Rice with Mango.  They all turned out quite good...if we don't say so ourselves!  We even got a certificate at the end.  The 3 instructors we had were hilarious.  In the middle of instruction, they would crack jokes or make sexual innuendos and then follow it up with "don't think too far". Dave was a little disturbed by the dogs running freely around the kitchen as we cooked and sat on the floor to eat.  One of the instructors had brought her 3 yappy dogs to class. It was the constant barking and fighting that distracted and irritated Dave.  I thought they were cute.  After a long day of cooking and eating in the heat Dave and I napped when we got back to the hotel.

Aside: Rupesh arrived in Chiang Mai a few days after we got there.  We initially told him to meet us at our hotel but after the changes back and forth on our hotel, we went to the airport to pick him up instead.  I initally thought it would be a nice thing to do anyway, but Dave didn't see the point (boys).  When Rupesh came out he was surprised and happy to see us.  We held out a little sign that said "Mr. Rupesh". 

Trip North:  We hired a driver with car for our 4-day trip to northern Thailand - which included Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.  We were really looking forward to getting out of the city and taking in some nature!

Day 1: In the morning we visited an orchid and butterfly farm followed by a viewing of an elephant show.  Yes, an elephant show.  These elephants were trained to pose, dance and even paint!  We were given the chance to feed the elephants too. (Dave: The elephants would grab whole bananas from our hand with their trunks. It was fun to hold on to it as long as you can. Just try to keep food from an elephant!) There was also the option to take an elephant ride but I didn't feel comfortable with it.  So Dave and Rupesh went on their own...they looked like a couple in love. 

That afternoon we took a guided walk through a cave.  It was dark (obviously) so our guide carried around a flashlight (as well as emergency candles) as we walked.  There were bats in the cave (eeek!) and smaller tunnels we had to squeeze through which Dave and Rupesh had trouble with (sorry guys).  On our way to the hotel that evening I discovered I had lost my bank card!  I was not happy as I had already lost two pairs of expensive sunglasses on this trip!  With no bank card, Dave and Rupesh were going to have to support me for the rest of the trip (hello sugar daddies!). 

Day 2:  In the morning we visited some temples and buddha statues in the hills, very close to the Burma border.  When we saw some smoke close to the Burma side, our driver/guide ("Joy") told us that the smoke was from the fighting going on in Burma just over the ridge and sometimes one could even hear gun fire!  During our visit, Joy also gave us a little lesson on Buddism.  In the afternoon we visited some villages.  At the first village Joy told us that it is custom for the women to do all the work (this includes working the rice fields, knitting, cooking and taking care of the children) while the men hang out together and...think, oh and drink!  Crazy!  (Dave: It's what we do best) I really wanted to sit the women down and tell them that it didn't have to be this way. Another village we visited was that of the "Long Neck" tribe.  Here it is custom for the women to wear brass rings around their necks.  As the women age they add more and more rings.  We saw a woman with 27 rings around her neck!  The necks of these women look longer than normal, however, its not their necks that have stretched but rather their shoulders have been pushed down by the heavy rings.  Apparently they never take off the rings (not even during bathing or sleeping) and its quite dangerous to do so.  Because their necks have been used to the support of the rings over time, their necks cannot support their heads on their own.  It was a little sad actually, but I guess in the village the women are all used to this.  In the evening we stayed at a hotel up on a mountain (Doh Mai Salong) overlooking tea and coffee fields.  Dave slept on a really hard matress so that I could have a bed (thanks Dave! :))

Day 3:  Today we visited the Golden Triangle - this is where the Burma, Laos and Thailand borders meet.  We were able to take a boat ride to Laos and purchase an inexpensive visa on-site so we could say we'd been to Laos :)  The Golden Triangle area used to be quite popular for Opium growing but not anymore.  We did however visit an Opium museum.  Joy also took us to do some tea tasting at a small shop where we were able to purchase the teas we liked (kind of like wine-tasting...but not).  That was followed by a hike up a hill to see another temple.  The hike up wasn't easy and when we reached the top (sweating and panting), we were greeted by an elder monk sitting by himself (in meditating position with fashionable sunglasses on).  Rupesh asked him "how do we find happiness?" and the monk replied "by clearing the mind".  Definitely easier said than done.

Day 4:  On the last day of our trip north, we visited some hot springs in the morning in Chiang Rai.  When entering the area, we were given the option to take an egg to the spring to boil - we opted out.  In the afternoon Joy took us shopping for jewelery.  You'd think the jewelery shopping was for me but it wasn't...it was for Rupesh.  Rupesh was looking for his birth-stone as it is supposed to bring good luck but we couldn't find a ring that wasn't ridiculously flashy.  Nevertheless we still had to convince Rupesh not to buy it! It was some serious bling!

Thai Boxing
We were told by many not to miss the Thai boxing.  So Dave, Rupesh and I decided to buy tickets ($600 baht each, or $20) for the Friday night match(es).  When we arrived we were surprised that the stadium wasn't bigger and that there weren't as many people.  Turns out most of the audience was made up of tourists and locals gambling on the fights. We were able to get front-row seats. This was great for viewing but unfortunately came with some sweat sprays once in a while!  Thai boxing is very different from North-American boxing.  First of all, it starts with the boxers stretching, posing and praying to music (oh yeah, there is a small group of musicians playing throughout).  Then as part of the boxing, almost anything goes including kicks and knees. At times, the boxers wrap their legs around their opponent to bring them down.  I won't lie, it looked a little wierd.  And at the end of the fight the boxers walk over to the opponent's coach for water and a handshake. Considering everything they show a lot of respect for each other.

Talking with the Monks
We had the opportunity to talk with some novice monks at one of the Wats (temple) in Chiang Mai. Three days a week foreigners can visit this Wat and talk with the monks and in turn the monks get to practice their English.  The 3 monks we spoke with were actually not from Thailand - two were from Cambodia and one was from Bangledesh.  The monks were very friendly.  We asked a lot of questions regarding their lifestyle and buddhism in general.  You could tell they wanted to talk about other things as well and at one point ask us some questions.  When our time was up we asked if it was ok to take a picture with them.  I made sure I kept my distance.  Apparently if a woman touches a monk it can be the end of his monk-hood! (Dave: the curse of a woman!) I didn't want to be responsible for that!


Pictures

Thai Boxing Match
The Band at the Boxing Match
Thai Boxing Match
Talking with Monks
 
 

1 Comment

January 8, 2009
Sounds like you had a great time. I have yet to talk with monks in Thailand. I will have to make that part of my next visit!
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