Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

After an extremely air conditioned overnight 14 hour train ride on January 30, , Anita and I made it to Chiang Mai, where it is much cooler than Bangkok or Ko Samui.  I would say it is about 20 here. Have been here now for 4 nights and feel extremely at home for some reason.  The Seven Sun Guesthousein Old Chiang Mai is clean, very hospitable, run by an Australian woman who lived in Vietnam for 5 years doing international development work.  It seems that every establishment, whether restaurant, cinema etc, hires way more staff than it needs; it must be a Thai employment policy.  Most people sit around, not because they are lazy, but because so many people divide up the work there is to do.  All except for our room cleaning person, who appears to be a 'lady boy' (speaking of which, the ladybody performance at Chrissy's Cabaret in Chaweng, Ko Samui was extremely well done, the dancing, choreography and evening gowns worn could rival Las Vegas - the Tina Turner number/impersonator hilarious and "Proud Mary' tune a hoot)  and is the only one cleaning the rooms and we have seen him wait tables in the restaurant as well! The Seven Sun has a lovely restaurant/bar, partly on a terrace, very comfortable, except for the ubiquitous traffic a meter away, which goes on constantly until about 10 p.m. and makes our room extremely noisy.  Again, thank heavens for ear plugs!  Anita was planning to leave tomorrow but we have spotted a 2 day intro to meditation workshop hosted by monks at a local Wat (temple), called Wat Suan Dok, where we sleep overnight and learn meditation, do yoga, etc. It is held every week on Tuesday and Wednesday so we are emailing them (email address Monkchat) now to see if we can participate.
Last night we had a wonderful dinner (total bill 4 drinks and dinner, about $7.00 each) at the Wok Restaurant on Ratchamanka road, our street.  The owners host the Thai Cookery School, quite famous for its quality courses and I couldn't believe it is about 2 blocks away from our guesthouse.  I may sign up for one or more - 5 one half days totals about $130 which includes eating what is cooked so includes lunch or dinner each day.
Before leaving Bangkok, I applied for a Vietnamese visa so had to leave my passport there at the Vietnam Embassy, thinking i would go back to Bangkok to pick it up. After realzing that going back will require another 14 hour trip (although costing only about $40 for the journey which includes overnight accommodation on the train - a very comfortable bunk, sheets, etc but one blanket only and they keep the temp so cold one cannot sleep that well).  my visa will be ready this Monday, Feb. 5 but have since found out that my 30 day Thai visa expires feb. 8 so I have to do a 'visa run' which means going over an international border and returning to Thailand and thereby getting another 30 day visa.  i thought the Myanmar (Burma) border was unsafe but apparently that is the border crossing used by those in the same predicament who are here in Chiang Mai or elsewhere in 'the north' and is only about 4.5 hours away by bus, costing about 37 baht or $1.50 one way in air con.
this weekend is the annual flower festival, the reason why we picked these dates to be here, but seems to be very little known about it. We finally have the scoop and will go to see the floats which will be parked in the Suan Buak Haad  park, which is also just down the street from our guesthouse, which is costing us the grand total of 700 baht a night (350 each), or $10.50 each. 
Before going there, we want to visit a shopping centre nearby, which has a cinema. Have visited the Night bazaar close to the Ping river, running through the center of C-m, which is a combination of many bazaars, street stalls with clothing, souvenirs, food, etc. set up every night of the year from 6-midnight and is a feature of every Thai city.  the downtown night market though is apparently really for tourists, and a local Thai directed us to go to the real Thai market called Warowot to shop at more reasonable prices and it was a huge conglomeration of various shops and stalls.  one could spend many hours just wandering, but the scooters and cars make it quite nerve wracking.
Tomorrow may venture by mini bus to a local 'mountain' where apparently one can get a good view of C-M.  The locals are so helpful and will flag down a Soengthaew or Tuk-tuk for us, explaining to the driver where we want to go. Yesterday a Tuk Tuk driver offered to take us where we wanted to go and to wait for us (a couple of Wats, including the ancient Wat Umong, so interesting with sayings in Thai and English tacked onto the trees ie "why worry, another 100 years, all new people".  We paid him about 300 baht or $9 for spending about an hour in total driving and another hour waiting for us.  The Tuk Tuk is like a miniature truck with very little to keep you in.  we'll see what tomorrow brings!
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