, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

The Chatrium Hotel in Bangkok was a good find.  Because it was right on the river, access to the heart of the city where the main Wats are was a ferry journey away, rather than a crawl through crowded polluted streets.  We enjoyed our stay here, the food was delicious, and the bed was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve slept in. Thailand-63However, it was time for our next stop, so after getting up at 6.20 to have an early breakfast, we battled the early morning traffic to get to the airport.  A quick 50 minute flight and we arrived in Chiang Mai.  It was instantly noticable that there is less traffic here and after checking in before lunch, we had to wait an hour before our room was ready.  This wait was spent on a lounger by the pool in this pretty little oasis that’s tucked away off a main road.  The Rim Hotel is just inside the old city, and while many old cities all over Thailand once had walls and moats, Chiang Mai is almost the only one where the old walls are still mostly intact.

After having a delicious lunch by the pool we ventured out to explore.  Armed with a guide book and map we wandered down little lanes where bougainvillia tumbles over walls, and monks in their bright orange robes stroll, heading to or from a Wat. LOVE9370Thai people believe that all Thai men have to become a monk when they reach the age of 20. They do it for their mothers, so that when she dies she would hold on to your monk’s robe and go to heaven.
Thailand-73 Thailand-81At one Wat we walked through, there were signs on trees with Buddist sayings on them and the whole place had a very tranquil feel to it.
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I do like these bells.  Each one has a different tone.Thailand-75
Ornate Window Shutter.Thailand-72 Thailand-71
A copy of the Emerald Buddah below. This replica was given by the King and the original emerald buddah is in Bangkok.Thailand-77 Thailand-79 Thailand-80
We’ve seen several Wats now where there are waxwork models of monks.  I have to say that I find them rather creepy.Thailand-78
We soon found ourselves in the heart of Chiang Mai, and it seems to cater for Westerners a lot more than Bangkok does.  Cafés and restaurants have a more European look to them and of course there are a lot of places where you can stay very cheaply.  Coconuts are available everywhere and I fancied trying the fresh coconut milk.  It was very refreshing.IMG_2763 Jayne had done some reading and we had decided to treat ourselves to a Thai Massage at one particular chain; The Lila Thai Massage was established by a former Director of Chiang Mai Woman’ Prison  to help support the lives of newly released inmates in society. She has dedicated the greater part of her 40 year career understanding and bridging the gap between a non accepting public, and the problems released inmates encounter adapting to a new community. Prior to their release, these carefully screened inmates go through an extensive training program which allows them to make a living and contribute to society. Unfortunately these detainees often encounter discrimination from employers who refuse to hire these skilled therapists. Sadly, due to lack of employment opportunities some return to a cycle of crime, and find themselves back in prison. The Lila Thai Massage was established to help eliminate this pattern of crime and lack of opportunity. The Chiang Mai Women’s Prison and the Institute of Skill Development designed a 180 hour massage training course for these inmates and Jayne and I were pummelled, prodded, massaged and stretched for an hour, for the grand total of £4.00 each.  We couldn’t help but wonder ‘what did you do’? as we looked at our therapists, but they were very lovely and my girl had the strongest fingers ever as she got to grips with the knots in my shoulders and neck.  We left feeling loose limbed and relaxed and booked in again for Saturday afternoon!  Well, it’s only right to help these ladies earn an honest living isn’t it;)
Below is a photo of me having yet another massage at Elephant Nature Park. IMG_2807
After our massage finished at 8.00, we made our way back to our hotel and tried to cut through the Wat that we had come through earlier.  Unfortunately the back gate was shut so we had to backtrack, but it was a nice stroll on a lovely warm evening through the gardens again and to see this lit up at night.Thailand-84 The Rim at night is very pretty too……Thailand-85On our second night we visited a night market, which was pretty much the same as all other night markets in Asia.  However, it’s always an experience to wander round the stalls and we found a food place in the middle.  Two Pad Thai’s and a Tuk Tuk home cost us £4.00 and we even stopped to chat to some ladyboys who injected a bit of glamour into the evening!Thailand-86 Thailand-87Thailand-88 Thailand-90 Thailand-91A couple of nights later we went and watched the Ladyboys show.  What an experience! The miming and dancing was appalling and some of the costumes didn’t fit very well, but I was astonished at how beautiful some of them are.  It’s really very hard to believe that they started out life as male and whilst they’ve obviously had surgery to remove their unwanted appendages and had breast implants, some of their figures are absolutely stunning.  Tiny waists, slim thighs, small hips and flat stomachs.  There is a fascinating article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_reassignment_surgery_%28male-to-female%29

Just around the corner from our hotel we found a lovely restaurant and sat outside to eat, as we have for most of our meals.Thailand-157We had pre-booked a Thai cookery class with the Thai Orchid Cookery School  and were picked up from our hotel after breakfast.  There were 8 of us and we had a really lovely day.  We could choose what we cooked from a small set menu, and after cooking each course we then ate it.  I happen to love spring rolls and so that was the choice for my first dish.  With each course there is obviously preparation, but the actual cooking of everything was so quick.  Thai food is delicious and we’ve eaten really healthily here.

We were also taken to a local market and taught about the produce.  Everything is really fresh, apart from some pink eggs!  I joked that they must be flamingo eggs, but they are painted to signify that they are pickled.  They are soaked in horse urine and buried in the ground for 100 days.  We were brave enough to try a bit, and it really didn’t taste any different to hard boiled eggs but they do look disgusting!

In both the hotels we’ve been in there are signs in reception saying ‘no durian’ with a fine of 5000 baht.   Durian is a very stinky fruit that must leave a lingering pong!   Jack fruit is another one that doesn’t smell too good.  Notice the newspaper on top of the Jack fruit – Tesco gets everywhere!

We decided to walk back from the cookery school and found one of the Wats that we’d been looking for previously.

Having spent the day eating, we bought fruit from the market for our dinner that evening.  There is fresh fruit ready to eat everywhere here, and it says a lot that we have seen hardly any overweight Thais. Thailand-164
On our last day in Chiang Mai we went ziplining in the hills.  That was another great day too and we saw a wild gibbon in the trees.IMG_2885 Flight of the Gibbon
We then walked up to a waterfall which was a nice way to end our day trip.

On our final night there was a street market with a small stage where they had a display of traditional dancing.  Bugs for dinner anyone?
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