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Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai-goodbye To Thai!

THAILAND | Tuesday, 19 March 2013 | Views [1292] | Comments [4]

 

After an overnight bus, waiting in an airport for nine hours and a sleepless overnight train, we ended up in Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. How we managed to get to Chiang Mai and everything we were doing there was very much different from the rest of our trip as everything was pre-booked before we left for Myanmar. The way that happened was we went to a Tourism Authority of Thailand office (or so we thought) in Bangkok and our fast talking travel agent planned and booked everything within a blink of an eye. She was very good at her job and the way she added an "ahhh" of wonderment at the end of get sentences left no room for argument. (To possibly try to explain it better she would say: "you see elephants ahhhh and then you see tribes ahhhh" in a very drawn out way, much like you would ooh and ahh while watching fireworks) 

 After we left the travel agency not really knowing how we ended up booking the next 20 days of travel  with the intention of just getting a visa, I felt frustrated with myself for possibly making the same mistake we did with our jungle experience in Malaysia.  For that trip we had booked in advance and then realized we wanted to move our schedule around to do more things and couldn't. I was worried that would all happen again and that once again I would be disappointed. 
Anyway, we had booked all these things in advance and then just went with the flow not really knowing where we were staying or what we were doing. The one really good thing about it though was that instead of haggling with taxis drivers and tuk tuk drivers who always rip us off, we had a pre-paid driver to and from the bus stations and our guesthouses. It was really nice not to feel like we were getting ripped off every time we needed to get anywhere. 
 
We were lucky to have arrived in Chiang Mai on a Sunday, the day when a huge market sets up right downtown. You could buy anything you wanted including lots of handmade crafts and paintings. Although i absolutely love the markets, Jake and I try our best not to buy things for a couple reasons. (Tangent Alert!) First of all, we don't want to carry anything more than we have to and mailing things isn't cheap. Secondly, we want to save our money for activities or visiting more places along the way. Lastly, I spent the last half a year before we left trying desperately to get rid of as much stuff as I could, so to start hoarding again wouldn't make much sense. It's hard not to buy things though because all the crafts are so cool and so cheap. It takes a lot of self control! 
The next day, we left for our trek and sure enough we were with four other Canadians! They were four guys from Victoria who seemed to be drinChiang Mai, Chiang Rai-goodbye To Thai!king their way across south east Asia while getting in as many shenanigans as they could. Needless to say, they had a lot of funny stories. 
 
The trek consisted of a short elephant ride and then a two hour trek to a jungle camp. We passed a village of hill tribe people and I bought a handmade bracelet from a cute little girl along the way. Not nearly as invasive as our last trip to native lands and when I asked the tour guide if they care that we walk through, he said it wasn't a problem because people have been trekking through there for 9 years so it was more normal than anything. Its still a little strange to me how much people want to poke around native villages,  but one tangent per blog post is enough. 
 
When we arrived at our jungle camp we hung out with the guides who offered us "Thai-water" or rice whiskey they made themselves, muskrat and deep fried snake skin. We then sang campfire songs and drank beer,  and tasted frogs they cooked live on the fire. We felt so bad for the poor froggies but I guess that's how they do things in the jungle. As our tour guide said more than fifty times "never try, never know!"
It was a very fun night which ended badly as I woke up in the middle of the night and our water bottle had soaked all of our blankets and our mattresses. Luckily there were two separate beds beside us, with two extra blankets, but it was so cold that I barely got any sleep with just the one blanket. It was just horrible! 
The next day was nice and hot though and we headed back down to Chiang Mai. But not before we got on a bamboo raft and cruised down the river while our boatmen made odd jokes about ladyboys and yelling "no wet, no fun!" while splashing us with their paddles. Overall it was a great trek and we didn't feel any buyer's remorse.
We then did a cooking course which was super fun and delicious.  After taking us to the market to show us all the things we would be cooking with, they let us each choose four dishes and taught us how to make them, including curry paste. The people who were with us were very cool and our  teacher was super flamboyant and fun. In the end they gave us a certificate and a recipe book so we could make them at home. 
That night we me up with the four Canadian guys and our tour guides again and they took us out to the "real" Chiang Mai at a Thai bar. It was so cool to actually hang out with some Thai people and to see something other than the tourist side of Chiang Mai.
Our package then took us to Chiang Rai, northeast of Chiang Mai, which was a bit more relaxed. We went to a night market where we saw traditional thai dancing, and then rented a motorbike the next day. With the motorbike we went to a temple made by a contemporary thai artist. It was so cool! My sister Tina would live there if she could! It was supposed to represent the necessary suffering endured during life before reaching nirvana, and so it had skulls and demons all out front of the temple. And not even old demons. but modern day demons like Freddie Kruger and Predator.
 It was kind of like you had to walk through all kinds of human suffering to get in the temple. In a good way. 
 
I haven't uploaded my pictures from Chiang rai, but here is a link. Please check it out! It's so cool! http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/white-temple-chiang-rai-a-photo-essay/
 
To continue on the morbidity theme, our next stop was called "the black house". It was like a very large art project modelled like a large house where all its rooms are separate buildings. For example, one building was a bathroom, another two buildings were the guest bedrooms and so on. The decor of all these rooms was like an overdone hunting lodge with antlers, snake skin, bear hides and even a live cobra. It was pretty strange but interesting none the less. Here's a link for this one too, check it out! http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/black-house-chiang-rai-thailand/
 
Our motorbike tour continued to the most northern part of Thailand to the point where we kept thinking we had accidentally crossed into Myanmar again but this time without visas let alone passports. But we learned its not actually that easy to go into other countries and eventually saw the border crossing and stayed safely in Thailand. The sun was setting so we headed down the serene empty highway only stopping to check out the "golden triangle viewpoint" where you can see Laos, Thailand and Myanmar at the same time. We made it home just a little after dark with very sore bums from driving all day but slept very well that night. 
I feel this blog post has been long enough so ill write about our trip down the Mekong river into Laos next time!

Tags: art, campfire, cooking, elephants, rafting, temple, trekking

Comments

1

Great post - keep it up! I was sure the story about the fast-tyalking t9urism agent was going to end badly, so I’m glad it all worked out. Heading off to look at the photo links now. ♡ b

  Barbara Mar 19, 2013 1:17 PM

2

Great post! Was that the elephant you were on when you sang Happy Birthday to Kaitlin? That was so cool! That Thai cooking class sounds amazing. Getting the recipes is such a treasure, as you can re-create them some day in your kitchen and think back to when you actually did it in Thailand. Great pics in the other links you shared. Your mind must be exploding with all the cool things you are seeing. At least the pics will help you remember it all!

  Heather Roth Mar 19, 2013 6:11 PM

3

I have racked my considerable brain for hours and CANNOT THINK OF A BETTER WAY TO ADORN A TEMPLE THAN WITH PREDATOR.

Not sure what Predator was doing in Thailand though. Everyone who has never watched Alien vs Predator because those movies sucked knows that Predator only hunts in tropical jungles and modern, densely populated urban cities.

  Ron A. Mar 26, 2013 2:27 PM

4

Also, the Black House strikes me as the kind of place where a Russian aristocrat might wine & dine lost travelers for an evening before setting them loose with a three hour head start and hunting them for sport.

(see also: The Most Dangerous Game, and critically acclaimed man-on-man docudrama Hard Target featuring Jean-Claude van Damme in his Jean-Claude van Damme prime)

  Ron A. Mar 26, 2013 2:35 PM

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