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Published: November 6th 2009
After about 2 weeks in Thailand we are pretty immune to the common sightings of old white men with one to three tiny Thai women. We try to give them the benefit of the doubt - maybe they are married expats...But most of the time it is clear they are just here with ladies for hire. It is pretty disturbing how common and accepted prostitution is here. But aside from that, we have really loved the land of a thousand smiles. Thai people are amazingly friendly and helpful and Thai food (despite the spiciness) is delicious.
We decided to try our hand at cooking Thai food in the northern city of Chiang Mai. We took a really fun cooking class in which we each made 6 different dishes. The class started with a trip to the local market to show us all of the local spices and veggies and explain how different foods are used. We then spent the entire day cooking and eating...I don't think I have ever been so full! Now we are armed with personal cookbooks and many recipes to try out at home...that is if we can find all of the ingredients.
Chiang Mai has been a really great area to explore. Several days we rented an awesome hot pink scooter and explored the mountain area surrounding the city. We visited the "tiger kingdom," an elephant conservation center, small villages, the main mountain Wat, and were lucky enought to be here for their biggest festival of the year - Loi Krathong. Sam briefly touched on our tiger encounter...but I just needed to reiterate the craziness that is the tiger kingdom. There are no waivers to sign...very few rules to follow, and small children are encouraged to participate. The baby tigers are really cute and playful, and just seem like medium sized dogs or huge cats. But the large tigers, they are huge beasts that we were instructed to lay on, hug and of course - scratch their tummies, because apparently they really like that. Probably one of the more bizarre days we have ever had.
Another really interesting day trip was to the elephant conservation center. We did the obligatory elephant ride around the jungle and watched a somewhat silly elephant show meant to teach us how the elephants are trained and what they do at the center. We played with
a ridiculously cute baby elephant which was really amusing because even a baby elephant is pretty large, but it doesn't yet have all of its motor skills down. The baby would very clumsily run towards us and investigate us with its trunk and then stumble back over to its mom.
Per the ever knowledgeable Katie and Tucker's suggestion, we did a 2 day trek in the surrounding jungles of Chiang Mai. We did some really nice hiking and swam in beautiful waterfalls and got some great views of the mountains and valleys. The trek ended with a visit to the long neck village. The "village" itself was really more of a small market with wooden stalls full of crafts and textiles made by the villagers. Even though the village did appear to be very tourist-centric, it was really interesting to see the women with the long metal neck extenders. They also put similar metal coils around their calves just below the knee to extend their legs. While we were contemplating how crazy it seems that these women would go through such pain and discomfort to achieve beauty, I began to think about all the plastic surgery, dieting and botox
Karen Woman and Child
You can't see it very well, but they put the coils on their legs too
that western women partake in. Perhaps they would think the same thing about our culture. I guess everywhere people go to extremes to achieve unrealistic images of beauty.
On a much lighter note, we are now bidding farewell to Chiang Mai and heading back to Bangkok. We are taking the overnight train tonight, since we have wholly given up on buses. I am really going to miss seeing elephants all over the place, but I am glad we have gotten to spend a good chunk of time getting to know this part of Northern Thailand.
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