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Published: March 8th 2007
Thanks to those of you who wrote nice comments about my first entry. They have inspired me to keep this blog up. I feel a bit like a journalist now.
At the moment I am in Chiang Mai, a smallish city in the northern region of Thailand. Chiang Mai is famous for its Lanna architecture, jungle mountains, hill tribe people and tasty dishes. I’ve spent four days here so far and feel like I could spend four more weeks. There is so much to see and do. So, I had to be choosey. As usual, I spent the first day just walking around (my favorite pastime) and getting to know the city. It is set up with an old quarter surrounded by ancient walls and gates and a bustling modern city whizzing around its peripheral.
The second day I went to the Bor Sang umbrella village where craftsmen work building and painting on umbrellas and fans. This is also home to a very nice and inexpensive market, dangerous for the budget however. That evening I went to the Night Bazaar, which has hundreds of stalls selling just about everything imaginable. It also stages performances showing traditional Thai music and dance, both
Opium poppies at Hmong village
of which are mesmerizing and could be hypnotic if you let them.
The third day, I wanted to explore some of the numerous wats (Thai Buddhist temples) in the area. Supposedly Chiang Mai has more wats than Bangkok, but in a much smaller area. They do seem to be on every corner here. I ran into some people who are running an organization called Kids Ark, a NGO that raises money for hill tribe children who have been orphaned by AIDS, Burmese refugees and impoverished Thai kids. They sell handmade crafts and run eco-friendly treks into the Red Lahu tribe villages. Then I was able to map my way to the Wat Phra Singh Temple, one of the most renowned and beautiful in the city. The wat also has an all boys school in which half is for novice monks and the other half is for Thai boys from low-income families. I was lucky to meet a few novice monks on the grounds of the wat. They explained to me that they have been living there since they were 12 years old and will probably stay there until they are 21, the age they must decide if they want to
A strange exhibit at one of the Hmong museums
continue their lives as senior monks. At sundown I followed them into the main assembly hall where they doing their evening prayers.
That brings us to today. This morning seems so far away. Let’s see…I met a Danish man this morning who has been living here for 15 years and does consulting on everything and anything. His specialties range from helping organize marriages between western men and Thai ladies to working for the Thai-Danish milk company based here in Chiang Mai. Luckily, the milk company is across the road from the first waterfalls leading up to Doi Suthep Temple, so he gave me a lift. I walked around the waterfalls and then tried to get a sawngtaew (a truck with two seats in the pick up part) up to the temple. After about 20 minutes waiting on the side of the road in the blistering heat, one agreed to take me up. I got lucky because a family had hired the driver out for the day. For 150 ($4) I could ride around with them to the places they were visiting (evidence of the benefits of traveling alone). We went to a Hmong village high on the hills. We walked
Hmong Village Lady
In the market embroidering traditional Hmong dress
around their lush gardens, unconventional museums and small waterfalls. Although the Hmong village was interesting I felt it was too accommodating to the tourism trickling up from the city. We went to the winter palace and finally to the Doi Suthep Temple with more than 300 steps leading up to its gold chedi. The father of the family, weighing in at about 90lbs and about that same age, beat everyone to the top and was sipping on an orange Splash when we finally caught up to him.
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