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Published: June 17th 2009
(Again my apologies for being so lazy... These blogs were both written more than 6 months ago...)
My mom and sister made it out a few weeks after my father had left (November of 08). Unfortunately, I could not greet them in Bangkok when they first arrived but I did remain in the loop with phone calls from my mother all throughout there 30-some-odd hours in Bangkok. An arrival phone call and questioning about local transport, a phone call to let me know they had been swindled into a tuk-tuk tour of two attractions accompanied by a few tailor shops, jewelry stores and other souvenir shops and I think there was one more dropped call to tell me about how they were drinking beers and talking politics at some unknown location in Bangkok. My sister suspected the calls to be annoying but they actually just fed my excitement for my time with them in Chiang Mai.
The next afternoon Brian and I picked them up from the airport and were happy to hear that they already appreciated Chiang Mai more than dirty, smelly, old Bangkok (I say that affectionately about our capital). We checked them in and set off
to explore the streets. They both amazed me, my mother was using more Thai than I did in my first month here and right away my sister joined me at a fly infested street vendor for Thailand’s famous papaya salad. I was impressed; it took me months to eat off the street—especially when flies were involved. Then we wandered through the small alley sois in the old city, shared a plate of Pad Thai and headed to the Saturday Walking Market. The walking markets in Thailand are fabulous. An entire chunk of town will devote itself one day a week to become a walking market where vendors selling food, crafts, souvenirs or anything you can think of come to peddle their wares. We also stumbled upon one of Chiang Mai’s hundreds of Buddhist temples. Temples have become to Brian and me merely the ordinary scenery of our city—a shame and a luxury at the same time—so it is nice to have visitors who make us regain an appreciation for them. We watched adorable girl’s from 6-10 perform traditional dances in front of the temple while my mom disappeared to make merit by inscribing a leaf and hanging it on the
The next day we traveled in the back of a red pick-up truck, called a songteaw, to Doi Suthep, a beautiful temple on the city’s Western mountain overlooking the entire town. Legend has it that a Lanna King sent a white elephant (they consider everything albino to be auspicious in this country) into the jungle carrying a splintered piece of what was believed to be the Buddha’s shoulder bone. The elephant made it up the mountain half way, trumpeted three times and then died and so, of course, the King built a temple in that exact spot. The temple is gorgeous but unfortunately always under construction. My mother and I prayed and made merit, she was becoming quite Buddhist on this trip… and we all journeyed back home for another night at the walking market.
Our next big outing was the Lampang Elephant Conservation Camp. Elephants are everywhere in this country but unfortunately many of them are confined to tourist camps or worse, to handlers that take them through the streets selling bags of food to tourists. You can hear the desperate cries of these elephants as they come up the road. I always hope to
see them one day use their strength to take revenge on their merciless handlers that are known to only feed them garbage and keep them in pitifully sized backyards during the day. Elephants on the streets here are lucky to see their 10th birthday where elephants in the wild can live to 70. The Lampang Conservation Camp is one of the few refuge spots for them. They do put on a show but only of elephants’ talents in working in the logging industry with Mahouts. They do also offer elephant rides but one hundred percent of the proceeds go to their world famous elephant hospital where they take in inbred elephants from other less caring camps. We watched the elephants with their trainers, took a ride through the ground’s forests, watched the elephants bathe and bought elephant dung paper! So Thailand does recycle—yay!!!
The rest of the week my mother and sister enjoyed their days of pool side leisure, shopping and strolls through the city until we were supposed to take off for Hua-Hin, the King’s favorite vacation spot in the South. Unfortunately these pesky little protests that have been invading Bangkok since we moved here elevated to the
‘Final Battle’ as the protesters seized the Bangkok airport and halted domestic and international flights for seven days. For my mom and sister this meant they had to miss their two day stop over in Hong Kong and their return flight to L.A. all together. Worst of all we missed our 5 star resort on one of the beautiful beaches of Thailand! Needless to say frustration persisted until it was obvious there was nothing we could do but to enjoy what we could of where we were. For me, I had a little extra evil joy in realizing that seven more days with my family just landed unexpectedly in my lap. So what did they do? Well, they checked out of their meager guest house and into one of Chiang Mai’s finest new hotels, Le Meridian. Their giant window overlooked all of Chiang Mai including Doi Suthep way up on the hill. The infinity pool on the fourth floor had a similar view plus Bloody Marys! This is about the time we started over indulging in spas as well: oil massages, Thai body massages, foot massages, facials, pedicures, you name it! We also celebrated Brian’s big 3-0 at one of
Chiang Mai’s finest restaurants where he was treated to New Zealand tenderloin, the first real bit of cow ass (as he refers to it) he’s had here in Thailand (if you saw the cow’s in SE Asia, you’d understand why we don’t eat them).
My mother and sister took a few trips on their own: a private Northern Thailand tour of Chiang Rai, the White Temple and Mae Salong, the Chinese village on a hill. They also spent two days in Sukhothai, the royal city of ancient Thailand. Unfortunately I was at work during all this so can only post their pictures. When they were back we did manage to have a great day along the Mae Rim loop where we went to the Tiger Kingdom, they actually let you play in the tiger cages for about fifteen minutes, then we went to the monkey center where we took some of my favorite pictures thus far with a cheeky little monkey named Natalie.
It was wonderful having my mom and sister out. I’m glad that my sister thoroughly enjoyed her culinary experience here in Thailand. With the famous food we’ve become accustomed to in Thailand, there is nothing
better than taking someone to your favorite restaurant to share a plate of your favorite food and see the look on their face that reminds you of the first time you tried such a delicacy. My mother took a lot home with her from this trip. It was almost laughable to Nicki and me how many people—Thai, expats and tourists—she stopped to talk to but I think that is what she enjoyed most: learning the way of life in Thailand and bringing a bit of its tranquility home with her. We never made it to the beach but I wouldn't trade in our nap in the park, days at the pool overlooking Doi Suthep, breakfast buffets of all you can eat cheeses and our big night out at Van Bar for any two days on a beach!
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