Tigers, more cooking and a spot of meditation

Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
lux hotel

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Sunday, November 21, 2010

We opted to take a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – a 13 hour journey. Despite warnings in all the travel books, a poster about theft at the station and the train security guards walking up and down with a letter saying that they will do what they can to stop thieves, we made it to Chiang Mai with our belongings in tact.

We had heard lots of good things about Chiang Mai and had booked into a luxury hotel (for us luxury was having a shower door for the first time in a while!). We had arrived on a Sunday which meant that the main street in the old town was closed for the Sunday market. The market was a great introduction to this chilled city with a mixture of locals and tourists buying arts and crafts, food and local wine. Having not drunk wine for a while Kate braved something called ‘strawberry wine’. It didn’t taste too bad but did cause her to fall off her chair halfway through her first glass. She did however save the wine (Nats you would be proud!).  

To complete our South-East Asian hat trick we went to Asia Scenic for a Thai cooking course – the one that we had been waiting for. After our market visit and a chance to taste the herbs and chillies in the garden it was cooking time. Gai was our teacher (and the owner) and was patient with us as we tried to master the skills of Thai ‘fast food’ – noddles, stir frys and curries. Restaurant ‘Le Rox’ is open for business when we return (for the small price of beer and wine).

As well as the elephants, Chiang Mai is home to Tiger Kingdom – a breeding programme for Tigers in the hope that they can one day release them back into the wild. As the tigers are hand reared you are able to go into the enclosure with them. We opted to see the fully grown tigers and 2 month old cubs. First stop was the adults. These girls are MASSIVE and our pictures don’t do their size justice. There are lots of rumours that the tigers are drugged but the trainers assured us that they are primarily nocturnal, are well fed and sleep for around 18 hours a day. The cubs were definitely not sleeping and were in ‘play mode’.  They were so cute but you had to watch out for their bite as they don’t know their own strength

We also took a trip to Mae San National Park to see its series of 10 waterfalls. Apart from the odd ‘DOM – dirty old man’ there was hardly anyone there so it was nice and peaceful. Ivor also went for a swim in one of the pools (that was before he found out that villagers washed their clothes and errrrmmmm did ‘you know what’s’ upstream – he was not happy!!!)

There is no shortage of Wat’s (or temples) in Chiang  Mai but still feeling a  bit templed out from Siem Reap we decided to view them from a different perspective and went for an evening at a Buddhist monastery. While we were there we chatted with the monks (so they  can practice their English) and had an introduction to awareness meditation. We spent an hour sitting on the floor cross-legged and concentrating very hard on our breathing. Kate did  really well. Ivor not so well and he admitted afterwards that this was because a dog strayed into the temple and broke his meditation as he had to play with it.

As we had crossed into Thailand by land we only had a 15 day visa so we spent our last day on a visa-run to Myanmar. We can now add Myanmar as a country that we have been to – although we were only technically there for less than 30 minutes.

The return journey had taken about 8 hours so we were exhausted BUT that evening  was the start of the Thai Lantern Festival – so we popped back to the hotel to pick up our pre bought lanterns and went to the moat surrounding the old town to light them and let them off.  Thai people believe that if you write wishes on your lantern they come true.  To see the sky lit up at night by thousands of lanterns is truly spectacular. All we can hope now is that our wishes will come true.
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