The Reimanns Take On Thailand
Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
45Trip End Mar 30, 2006
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The group of us spent four fun and action-packed days in Chiang Mai. The first full day we made a tour of some of the best old temples in town and got a little taste of Buddhist ceremony. At one temple we happened to arrive while monks were blessing local children, and at another temple Jan paid a few dollars to set some doves free from their wicker cages (a lot of temples have ladies with birdcages and setting them free is supposed to bring you merit - a lot of birds end up getting recaptured, but the lady at this temple SWORE she doesn't do that...). We also just generally enjoyed the old part of Chiang Mai, which is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Thailand. It is surrounded by a moat and a city wall (well, the wall isn't totally intact) and is filled with little alleys that encourage getting lost. There are Bhuddist temples and monks everywhere. It's touristy, but in a nice way. The people of Chiang Mai seem to be in balance with the tourism.
The second day we went outside of town to an elephant sanctuary. First up was an elephant show: everything from elephants playing basketball, to elephants painting T-Shirts (ask Jerry to see the one that he bought), to a demonstration of the work that elephants used to do in Thai forests. Next was a trip on a bamboo raft down a pretty river with jungly hills on either side, pointy Asian sunhats for each of us included
The third day in Chiang Mai we let Jan and Jerry rest up a bit while we figured out some details for the next leg of our trip. We all reunited later in the afternoon for a trip to Chiang Mai's famous Sunday Night Market. The town closes off several blocks and the street becomes filled with a great mix of locals and tourists (including Thai ones) moving from vendor to vendor
Day Four was all about food. Jan joined the two of us in taking a Thai cooking class, an event the two of us had been looking forward to doing for months. It was pretty great. We got a tour of a market, learning about Thai ingredients as we walked through the stalls (Thailand has about 17 different kinds of eggplant it seems). Then we were driven to the cooking school, which is located a little outside of town in a beautiful location with lots of gardens. We each had our own cooking station, which were located outdoors under a canopy, and learned seven different dishes - fish cakes, spring rolls, tom yum soup, green curry, pad thai (fried noodles), a cashew stir-fry and a custard filled pumpkin. We got to eat about the half of the dishes for lunch and each person had enough food to feed about three people, so we were stuffed. And then we got to-go boxes for the dishes we made after lunch... Though the Reimann threesome wasn't the smoothest (Jan knocked all of the ingredients for one dish onto the floor, and Allison cracked an egg all over her stove), we can all claim to make some pretty mean Thai food now
The next morning we picked up a rental car and headed west for a three-day road trip through the beautiful Northern Thailand hill country. The first day we wound our way to a little town called Soppong and found a really great place to stay along a pretty river. It happened to be just after Chinese New Year, and some of the Chinese descended ethnic groups in the area celebrate it every night for about a week. A really nice local woman who worked at the guesthouse where we were staying took us up to the celebration going on the night we arrived. Although it was apparent that several nights of festivities had started to wear the villagers out, it still was fun to drop in for about an hour. We were the only Western visitors, and the people were incredibly welcoming. We (well, Allison mainly) were swept into a circle dance the women were doing to a sort of trance-like music blasting from a children's portable karoake machine, which was carried by a man who also supplied some vocals. Everybody was wearing traditional outfits that are only brought out for Chinese New Year and there was a healthy quantity of rice whiskey being passed around. Lots of famous Thai smiles.
The next morning Jeff and Allison visited a couple of local caves (one had extremely old coffins carved from tree trunks in it), while Jan and Jerry relaxed on the guesthouse deck by the river
The main reason we had decided to come back to Chiang Mai for another night before moving on to other parts of Thailand was so we could catch the best part of the Chiang Mai's annual flower festival, which had started while we were out of the city. The next morning we joined quite a crowd lining the city's main streets and watched a sort of Thai Tournament of Roses Parade. It was sort of like being back home - high school marching bands, beauty queens, crazy costumes, floats covered in flowers and a guy on a huge elephant (oh wait, we have fire trucks). It was a good time.
That night we took an overnight train down to Bangkok and then spent the next day resting up. Jan and Jerry specifically found a place with international cable, so the next day we all reunited in the early morning hours to watch the Superbowl (Thailand is 12 hours later than the Eastern US)
From Bangkok the four of us traveled south on an another overnight train and then took a bus to the city of Krabi, located on the southern west coast. From Krabi, we took a minibus and a couple of ferries to the island of Koh Lanta, where we spent about the next week relaxing on a beautiful beach. At the end of the week, we said good-bye to Jan and Jerry, who returned north to Bangkok so that they could make a side-trip to Cambodia before returning home. Another thanks to Mom and Dad Reimann for catching up with us and being part of three fun weeks!