Chiang Mai - Oh My!

Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
Trip End Mar 24, 2011

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

There's just so much to describe in this lovely city!  I'm happy to report that the ongoing explosive fireworks and firecrackers have all but stopped as the Festival of Lights finished last night!  My next door neighbor, the evil rooster, even relaxed his torture regime this morning.  He managed to control his need to strut around and crow at the top of his mangy little lungs until about 6:30 - bonus!!  Even then, he only let out a couple of feeble squawks - hmmm, I think he's got something up his feathers for tomorrow morning - I don't trust him.

So - since I've been sporting around the city for past few days, I thought I would take this opportunity to review some of the things I've seen, done and eaten!   First of all, it is hot here in Northern Thailand - every day the temperatures have been in the mid to high 30's and it is quite humid.  My Canadian/U.K. wardrobe just doesn't cut the mustard here - you really need loose and breathable clothes so I've been browsing in the markets and shops for some cheap and cool options

This is a great people-watching city - there are lots of benches, coffee shops, fruit shake stands etc. to perch on and take it all in while sipping something cold and refreshing in the shade.  I'm intrigued by the variety of residents and tourists here.  It seems as if people come here to relax and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and I'm convinced that some of those seekers have slipped into a 'Bermudian Triangle' of sorts and have never left.  There are lots of young trekkers who wear baggy clothes and beads and who are likely spending some time here before trekking into the surrounding hills to visit some of local hilltribes or who are just here to check out the scene before heading to the beaches in the south.  There are also many 'vintage' residents who must have come as younger hippie-types but just found it was easier and more relaxing to stay rather than to move on.  These are likely Europeans, Aussies or North Americans who are in their 60's or 70's with long hair, baggy or loose clothes, flip flops, a cloth bag over their shoulder, a vacant look and an old bicycle.  I've seen many of these folks and some of them several times over!  The local Thai people that I've seen are mostly young, pleasant, open and kind.  It's nice to see the younger teens and adults dressing respectfully and nicely but not in a trendy way like in Bangkok.  You can sit for hours and watch the changing human scenes on the streets here.

I have walked around most of the main streets over the past few days in the 'old city' and the newer main streets surrounding the moats and old city walls.  One of the highlights is the Wat Phra Singh Temple which is a collection of buildings in a lovely area of the city.  The temple buildings are so quiet and serene.  In Bangkok, there were spectacular temples but also busload after busload of tourists streaming in, taking a few photos and leaving.  Here in Chiang Mai, there are no crowds filing in and out of the temples and it is possible to take your shoes off and to sit in the temples for long periods of time, just taking in the peace and quiet in such a calm and sacred environment.  Locals and monks come in and out to make their offerings and to pray to the Buddha - it's really nice to experience.  I've read and seen that first of all, you must take your shoes off before entering the temple as the feet are considered unclean.  You must not sit with your feet pointing at the Buddha so most people sit on their haunches with their feet tucked under them and you must dress respectfully in temples, no shorts or bare shoulders allowed 

After walking through some of the temple buildings, I explored the interesting buildings on the grounds and then spent some time in a meditative garden where there were dozens of inspirational sayings attached to the trees - a really nice and peaceful way to spend an hour. 

There is a high school on the temple grounds for young Buddhist monks and there were hundreds of young boys with shaved heads and saffron robes milling around at lunchtime.  Although women are not supposed to have direct interactions with monks, if you sit for awhile, apparently you will eventually be approached as the young monks like to practice their English skills with Farangs (Westerners) like me.  I had a nice chat with a young university student who told me he has been a monk for the past 10 years - he enjoyed discussing Canada and my impressions of Thailand.  Neat. 

Now - I've kept you waiting long enough... the FOOD!  Fantastic!  I love Thai food but the options for eating here in Chiang Mai are so varied - there are so many wonderful restaurants that range from roadside noodle shops to elegant indoor testaurant gardens and of course, there are also the Starbucks and McDonalds options :)  I have found some amazing places to try pad thai (of course) as well as seafood noodle dishes, glass noodle salads, crispy deep fried morning glory leaves, addictive fruit shakes, fresh and cold mango and other local exotic fruits and there are so many more places I want to try!  I love the mixture of flavours and textures in Thai food but if I get a craving for pizza or a burger, these spots are only a street or two away.  I am so lucky that I am located right in the thick of things in terms of shops, markets and restaurants - just one or two streets over, there is a wonderful food market all along a small street that I walk along each day.  It's great to see the variety of fruits, vegs, fish, meat, drinks etc. that are for sale - everything is fresh and lush (I heard that there are something like 15 varieties of bananas here - imagine that)!

Feast your eyes on my food photos and stay tuned for some upcoming Thailand adventures that I have booked for this week - I'm on a little field trip outside of the city tomorrow......

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