Trekking North

Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
Trip End Mar 10, 2008

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Where I stayed
Awana Guest House

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for this real-time blog update.....

Sa-wat-dii khrap!  Sa-bai dii reu?  That's "Hello! How are you?" in Thai, although after a few weird looks I've received, I'm thinking it might actually mean "I'm an ostrich!  May I have your baby?" :)

Since leaving Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on Wednesday, I've settled into the Awanna House in Chiang Mai for a really great week of rest and relaxation.  Chiang Mai is an amazing city, and I've had a fun time getting to know it a little better.  I've eaten some incredible food - khao sawy, fish ball soup, som-tom (spicy papaya salad), noodles by the bowlful, and a lot of sticky rice with mango.  While I've been eating well, I'm doing it in moderation, having freshly-squeezed juice with muesli and fruit in the morning at Juicy 4 U (my favorite breakfast spot with the best waitress, Na, in the city), a light lunch, and a healthy dinner- and God bless dinner, by the way!!

A big reason for the light eating is that it's extremely hot over here.  I know this is the "cool" season here, and they're apparently having a big blizzard in China, but it's been in the high-80s and low-90s most of this past week - about ten degrees warmer than it was 5,000 feet up in the mountains.  I packed more for spring than for summer, so a few dollars later, I have some nifty new Thai threads!  Mostly, I've been walking from place to place, developing some nice callouses and taking tuk-tuks for longer trips out of the old city.

I've run into a great community of ex-pats here - a lot of Americans are moving to Chiang Mai, and I can completely understand why between the quality of life and cost of living.  On my last day at Doi Suthep, I met another meditator, Matt, who moved here from Brooklyn this past year with his partner, Madeline.  I ran into the two of them at Thae Pae Gate on Sunday, and they invited me to a dhamma talk last night at Wild Rose's, which I attended.  We had a great discussion about the four Brahma Viharas (lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity) and I met some great people.  As I travel to and from Chiang Mai over the next month, I plan to join in on some of their regular activities, including meditation, yoga, films, and the like.

I've spent some time window shopping, although I'm trying not to load down my pack until toward the end of my trip.  The Night Bazaar is chock-full of bargains, and I had a great time there Saturday night.  Ironically, the ILGA's (International Lesbian and Gay Association) Asia region was having its annual conference here in Chiang Mai this past weekend, so I ended up participating in a huge gay rights rally on Th Loi Kroh when I was at the Night Bazaar!  As many of you know, I'm missing an important legislative session back in Maryland (don't forget to call your legislators, everyone!), so it was great to be politically active for at least an evening.  And let me tell you....the "ladyboys" in Asia are some of the most exquisite creatures you will ever see!

Had a great time at another Sunday Walking Market on Th. Ratchadamnoen, hung out in trendy Th. Nimmamhaemin on Friday evening, meditated in Buak Hat Park one day, and have had several foot and back massages, including an amazing, two-hour traditional Thai massage yesterday.  Also had some acupuncture on Friday to help re-stimulate my back and hip lines after all that sitting and walking meditation!

Today, I visited a few more wats, including Wat U Mong, which is a forest monastery a few kilometers west of the city (technically it's not a forest anymore, but definitely idyllic), and Wat Suan Dok right near Chiang Mai University.  They were both amazing and I did a little sitting meditation in the main temple at Suan Dok just before logging on.

Tomorrow, I'm taking a half-hour flight to Mae Hong Son, a little town north of here near the Burmese border.  I'll be spending a few days trekking in the area and then taking a bus to Pai, which is a small community of artists that's become increasingly popular with tourists in the past few years.  I've also been encouraged to check out Chiang Dao and a few other places by some ex-pats, and since my travel schedule is flexible at this point, who knows?!  I'll likely be back in Chiang Mai sometime next week for a couple of days while I plan my next move.

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes and nice comments!  And, I'm sorry again for the subscriber mix-up and for the multiple posting notices you've been receiving.  I think everything is sorted out now, but let me know if you continue to have problems.

I've attached a ton of photos from this past week, so enjoy!

Be good, be healthy, and stay tuned for more adventure stories from Doi Suthep!


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