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Published: June 14th 2012
...playing with the trunk of your loved one.
Chiang is an old north Thai language (Lanna, to be precise) word for city. Northern Thailand seems to be full of places called Chiang; we visited at least three, plus a town called Phayao that is presumably awaiting confirmation of Chiang status. It does have a big lake and lack of foreign tourists, so surely deserves a mention here at least.
Outside its cities, northern Thailand is a favourite place for trekking among the villages of various ethnic minorities. It’s also close to the border with Myanmar where, just a few weeks before, we trekked for three days. The landscape and some of the people seemed quite familiar to us, albeit more developed and prosperous. With this and the searing heat in mind, we took life easy, trekking for only a day.
This was a day that started with a first for us – a ride on an elephant. We considered the ethics of riding on one of these magnificent beasts, couldn’t come to any firm conclusions, so decided to give it a go. It was good fun, but slow going, and had a novelty value that wore off well before our one-hour circuit was over.
Dummy monks, too real for comfort.
You had to go very close to see if they were real or not. Very spooky.
a camel in Australia anyway. He ate a camel burger too. We didn’t see elephant on the menu in Thailand, thankfully. But we did see numerous fried insects at Chiang Mai’s hectic Sunday night market. We couldn’t bring ourselves to try any, just yet. Give it time, and alcohol, or desperation. We didn’t try ‘horse pee egg’ either, which almost formed part of our cookery class. Our teacher wisely decided against poisoning us, and settled for watching us risk self-immolation instead (see the pics).
When we eventually make it home, our faithful readers are welcome to visit and sample the delights of our Thai cooking. Horse pee egg and fried insects are subject to availability. Our own cooking skills, face-melting chilli experiences, and weird ingredients notwithstanding, the food in Thailand, from street stalls to restaurants, was a constant delight, with much more variety than we’d experienced in Myanmar or Indonesia, for example.
For the first time since staying with Paul in Melbourne, we had access to a swimming pool, at our surprisingly cheap yet luxurious (for us) hotel in Chiang Mai. We presumed there must be some catch, but we never discovered what it was. Ignorance is bliss.
So was lounging by the pool, which imbued our days with a restful inertia.
Despite this, we dragged ourselves from our torpor fairly often, to visit more of the obligatory temples, and some of the numerous small waterfalls to which northern Thailand is home.
There’s something strangely addictive about visiting these Buddhist temples. Superficially, it can be somewhat repetitive, since they tend to follow a similar format: Dragon serpents (Naga) on the outside, a Buddha statue (or several) and friezes inside. Part of the fun is anticipating which one of the 57 Buddha poses the statue will represent. It transpires that it’s almost always ‘Subduing Mara’. Mara is a demon, and one can only assume a very tenacious one, given the amount of time Buddha devotes to subduing it.
Waterfalls have featured intermittently on our travels, certainly not with the frequency of Buddha statues, although perhaps with greater variety. There are ones to photograph; ones swim under; ones to jump into; and ones at which to despair about the litter that parts of Asia are suffocated by. There’s no easier way of spoiling nature’s beauty than with discarded plastic bags, polystyrene boxes and drinks cans. Sadly, we
again saw it at a waterfall near Chiang Mai. But at another nearby, and later close to Chiang Rai, we saw nature’s beauty, had a swim, slide and paddle.
In truth, the third Chiang, Chiang Khong, merely provided a stepping-stone for a hop over the mighty Mekong River, into Laos, where more waterfalls and good food awaited us.
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