Cobras and Tigers and Birthday Challenges...Oh My!
Trip Start Mar 21, 2012
24Trip End Mar 25, 2013
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February starts to get warm--too warm--everywhere in Thailand, even up North in Chiang Mai, so having a few comforts, like the pool we had at Top North Guesthouse inside the old city walls, is helpful! A/C helps too, but constantly going in and out of A/C is hard on the body.
We had made great friends with two Swiss Germans, Suzy and Lukas, who were also travelling to Chiang Mai after our dive trip in the Similans. Exploring the Chiang Mai food scene and taking them climbing for their second times ever was a blast! Thanks for the good visits you two!
Dinner time in the one of the many great night markets in Chiang Mai's old city
Ben getting someone's parrots to shake his hand...er, finger
Ben has a way of getting others to follow his lead, no matter how ridiculous!
And Ben continued to instigate shenanigans everywhere he went! See a short, silly clip of Ben, Lukas, and Lindsey's hometown friend, Scooter Anderson, blasting off in a speed-walking competition in Chiang Mai's narrow streets at night:
Suzy learning how to chimney climb!
Lukas practicing his newly acquired climbing technique
But before we blast you with more climbing pics, we took some time out from mostly non-stop climbing to see Chiang Mai's über-touristic Tiger Kingdom and Cobra Show! Ben and Lindsey are suckers for snakes! Ben in particular has a combination of awe, fear and wonder for these creatures and when he found the Cobra Show, he had to go!
Ben about to get sophicated by a python
The beautiful, rare and extremely large King Cobra. This one was about 20 feet long and was incredibly agile and fast!
And then came Tiger Kingdom, Lindsey's birthday request visit; where else can you see not one or two tigers, but over thirty tigers!
And the cutest of the kingdom, this little guy was only a few weeks old!!
Now back to the climbing around Chiang Mai (and Lindsey's 30th birthday challenge!)...
Chiang Mai's crag is aptly named Crazy Horse Buttress. The main limestone wall forms a pinnacle that is shaped by a horse's head! American Josh Morris and his crew from the Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Association (CMRCA) have done an amazing job with this crag and their approach to crag sustainability is commendable. This comment (among many glowing reviews) from Mountain Project sums it up nicely:
“I have been to Crazy Horse Buttress on two occasions now and the place is way cool. Josh Morris and his climbing company have built nice salas and restroom facilities and provide guiding services or just rides to and from including hot authentic Thai lunches delivered to the crag at lunch time.”
Lindsey cleaning the quickdraws off Absent Minded Bolter (7a+ or 5.12a) after Ben's redpoint. This climb's at the Ant Hill, our favorite wall at Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse is located about 36km outside of Chiang Mai. Some people stay in homestays near the climbing to avoid the commute, which is very viable, especially nowdays, in the nearby town of Mae On. Others take the red truck (sorngtaou) through the CMRCA, which includes lunch as mentioned above. But we opted for the cheaper still and more flexible route of commuting on our motorbike every day. This allowed us to beat the heat and leave Chiang Mai at, or sometimes before, sunrise and come back early to cool off in the pool and get internet time in.
Marshall (nicknamed "Marshie-poo" by his friends), one of the many climbers we met at Crazy Horse
But we have to admit that commuting a total of 70+km every day on a bike, with two people, backpacks on our back and often also strapped in front not only looked silly, particularly to the locals, it was at time a literal pain in the a$$! But our love for climbing never stopped us from heading back out to the crag, no matter how sore our behinds were!
Lindsey's birthday challenge.
February 28th was Lindsey's birthday. She celebrated her 30th in "typical" climber's style: by completing a challenge--something we active folk often do, perhaps to prove we're still not that old. She challenged herself to climb 30 pitches in a single day, leading them all. She finished at 2:15pm, with sore feet and caked-on sweat as the temps rose to 95-degrees! We celebrated that evening (after a nap!) with Ben and Scooter over a nice dinner and bottle of wine.
Lindsey about seven pitches in during her birthday challenge
Classic dinner pose with Ben, Lindsey, and Scooter (l to r)
Scooter breaking the ice with the locals
Scooter doing his best to expedite our dinner order
We also visited a few temples (wats) in Chiang Mai to learn a little more about Thailand's Buddhist history and what it means today for many Thais today.
Wat Chedi Luang - this central temple was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1990, it was partially restored, financed by UNESCO and the Japanese government.
Buddhism in Thailand is commonly associated with the presence of Buddhist monks, who serve as officiants on ceremonial occasions and preserve and convey the teachings of Buddha. It is common to see Thai people pray to monks as they go about there business in Chiang Mai, particularly in the early hours when the streets aren't so packed with people and traffic.
Monks still rely on receiving alms for most of their food; typically monks leave their monasteries early in the morning, usually walking single file and carrying their alms bowls in front of them. People wait for them, sometimes kneeling, and place food, flowers or incense sticks in their bowls.
Apparently the monks do not speak, even to say thank you. We were told that the giving of alms is not thought of as charity, but rather the giving and receiving of alms creates a spiritual connection between the monks and the laypeople. Laypeople have a responsibility to support the monks physically, and the monks have a responsibility to support the community spiritually.
Buddhist symbolism: the serpent Makara (Sanskit) is often portrayed protecting entryways to Hindu and Buddhist temples. Naga emerges from Makara's mouth
The gold trimmed, intensely ornate roof lines of the temples is feast for the eyes!
Many more pics of Chiang Mai can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157632863892974/