Chiang Mai a tale of two cities
Trip Start Jul 11, 2010
21Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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So now we get to Chiang Mai and make it to our hostel to settle in, after a couple of hours sleep we got out for a wander about, our first impressions of Chang Mai were that it was very touristy, lots of bars to get drunk in, lots of restaurants (Italian, Mexican, Coffee shops, Burger joints, Pizza parlours....) lots of places for old western men to pick up women, lots of market stalls selling the same old stuff we'd seen everywhere else.....aaargh..panic...what the hell were we going to do here for five whole days?....we started off with dinner in a french restaurant - WEIRD!! The next morning we woke up and re-assessed, there were lots of trips to book if that's what you are looking for, boat trips, elephant trekking, trips to Chiang Rai, sightseeing tours, hot springs, cookery days the list is endless of trips and activities that you can book, after the trip we had in Kanchanaburi with the elephants and waterfalls, we didn't really feel like we wanted to do the trekking, waterfalls, rafting type day again - as beautiful as the landscape in Thailand can be, once you've been on an elephant, it can't change that much can it - anyway, I feel so sorry for the poor elephants, they look so sad
There were a few busy days coming up in Chiang Mai as it was the annual Yi Peng (Loy Kratong in the rest of Thailand) festival which is a massive celebration especially in the Chiang Mai region of Thailand - the festival goes on for three nights and it to say 'thank you' to the water for all it provides. The whole of the city is adorned with colourful paper lanterns which are lit up each night and there are traditions of lighting and setting off into the sky at night large white lanna style hot air balloon paper lanterns - sending with them a good wish - even the airplane schedules have to be changed because of the sky being lit up with peoples paper dreams. As well as the paper balloons, candles and incense which have been delicately crafted into hand made garlands adorned with flowers and coconut leaves in all sorts of intricate and colourful patterns are lit and set sail on the Mea Ping river at night sending the bad luck away and wishing good luck to come - the pictures can probably describe it better than my words.
Other than joining in the festivities, we had pre-booked a cookery day for when we got to Chiang Mai, however, when we eventually got there, we were a bit off Thai food and didn't fancy a whole day of getting hot cooking and eating so we decided to spend our money on a bit of pampering instead, we booked a 3 hour steam, spa, jacuzzi, scrub, massage and facial at the beautiful Sinitiva spa - the whole package cost about 3,000 Baht - which is about GBP60 but it was so worth it and just what we needed and like with most things you book, you are picked up and brought back to the hostel after
Something else that had caught our eyes at the hostel was a leaflet for a Khantoke Dinner and Hill tribe show at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural centre - this is the kind of thing that we thought would have been in abundance when we got to Thailand, the chance to see traditional dances, eat traditional food and see traditional costumes but sadly we had found more singha beer and bucket cocktails so far - so we booked ourselves up for this the following night at the bargain price of about 700 Baht - GBP 14.
This was one of our most enjoyable experiences to date, we were picked up from the hostel and taken to the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center, when we got there we were taken in to a big dining hall and settle down on the floor for the Khantoke dinner
The meal was accompanied with traditional music preformed by musicians on a stage in the middle of the dining hall and then as the meal finished, the first of the dances were performed to us. The first few dances were Northern Thai classical dances, some of which included the Fingernail dance - a traditional dance that Thai people are highly proud of where the dancers wear long metal fingernails and have very precise hand movements, the Sword dance which was developed from and ancient martial art where the dancer dances with 12 swords (this was amazing to watch) the Silk - Reeling Dance; a folk dance that derives the movements from activities in village life and many more, we were then moved to an outside amphitheater for part two which consisted of Hill tribe and Northern Thai folk dances all in all we were shown 14 dances each time which different costumes and the accompanying music - we were also told that all of the people performing the dances were genuine tribes people and not city people dressed up pretending, all in all it was a great night and something we would really recommend to anyone visiting Chiang Mai
After the show we got dropped off in Chiang Mai centre - Chiang Mai is made up of four moats North, South, East and West, I was forever forgetting which one we were near but Rob was really good with getting us back to where we needed to be, we saw that a lot of people were setting alight the paper balloons and sending them off so we joined in and sent off our own wishes into the sky...we followed our lantern until we couldn't see it anymore and it became part of all the other lights floating accross the sky. We then went for a drink in what must be one of the sleaziest areas of Thailand and people watched, we thought Patpong in Bangkok was bad but seriously, I have never seen so many old, old men looking for Thai women as well as then there were lots of drunk westerners getting into festival mood by setting off fireworks in the street and even throwing them at peoples feet as they crossed the road, call me a granny but that's just not on and definitly not fun!
The next day we took a river cruise down the Mea Ping river, a two hour trip all in all down the river to and old farmers house where we saw exotic herb, fruit and spice plants and were treated to freshe fruits and local teas before making our way back, a really relaxing day - oh and I forgot to say it was the place where Rambo 4 was filmed apparently - how exciting is that?
So here we come to Chiang Mai, a tale of two cities, yes there is drinking, girls, burgers and cocktails but if you delve a bit deeper there seemed to be a lot more too, it was just a case of going to find it...