Chinese New Year's eve in Chiang Mai

Trip Start Jan 28, 2013
Trip End Mar 02, 2013

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

We're in Chiang Mai now - got here around noon time. After arrival, we were taken to lunch at a Thai restaurant near the elephant camp which we would visit afterwards. Lunch was decent - a green vege dish made of "dragon's whiskers", a chicken with cashew nuts, a fried fish, and a curry dish. Dessert was fruits - strawberries, pineapples, and yellow water mellon. I was hungry and had a hearty lunch.

We went from the airport to this restaurant in a luxury bus. Since there were only 21 of us (most of the people on this cruise chose to go to Angkor Wat), we could each take a whole row of seats. Very comfortable. After lunch, the bus took us to the elephant camp, which was about a 2-minute ride. I did not expect too much of the elephant show, but I was pleasantly surprised. The elephants were really very well trained. Each elephant has a trainer, called "mahook" (I hope I got this word right). The elephants played soccer, did all sorts of tricks including 3 elephants working together to pile up logs. The most amazing thing was the elephant painting! Don't know how they taught or manipulated the elephants so they painted some real pictures!! All the elephant paintings were for sale and they have many of them displayed in the store. The most expensive ones go for about $100 a piece. I would have gotten one, if I knew what to do with it .... Somehow I feel sad for the elephants .... don't know what they had to go through to do all this .... 

After the show, we got to feed the elephants with bananas and sugar canes. When we took photos with the elephants, it was time for the "mahooks" to ask for money .... They instructed the elephants to use their noses to beg, and we put the bill in their noses, and they gave the money to their trainers ....

Elephant rides were optional. Bob wanted no part of it. I chose to do it - I remember my sister Rulan told me that she had a good time riding elephants in Chiang Mail, so I must try it. Only 6 of us wanted to ride the elephants. I rode it with a fellow passenger named Ed, a very nice guy. We had a good chat. He and his wife had also done an around-the-world tour, but with a different company 6 years ago, with a whole LOT less $ than we paid with Nat Geo. It was something called Travel Guild World Tour - I will have to look into it and see if we can take another one to different places! For this cruise, Ed and his wife will continue on after we get off in HongKong and they will go to Taiwan, Japan, and Beijing. If I had known such options existed, I would have wanted to continue on to see Taiwan and Japan! Oh well .....

After the elephant ride, our next activity was to visit the Hill Tribe Village where we would get to see the "long necks" and "big ears" (sorry I cannot remember the real names) tribes. It was up the mountain and the bus could not go. So we went in a truck, pretty funny. This village turned out to be kind of a show place, similar to our Plymouth Plantation. People there were doing their job - we saw them sitting in a truck ready to go home when we left the place after 5pm. But the long necks and big ears were for real! Those people were actually from Berma and they lived in a separate area, and I think they do actually live there. It was interesting to see the long necks and big ears - the big ears were a bit scary and it made me cringe to think how it must have hurt ....

After visiting the village, it was time to finally go to our hotel. By this time, everyone was pretty exhausted. It has been a LONG day! We got up before 5am, got to the Bangkok airport before 9am; boarded the flight around 10am, and got to Chiang Mai before noon. Some of the group members arrived in Bangkok late last night - it must be really tough for them. Note that this is not a young group! :-)

The Le Meridien Hotel is a very nice hotel and is at a very good location. We walk out of the hotel and right into the night market! Our guide, Mr. Chula, gave us recommendations for nearby good Thai restaurants. But I started feeling sick and very tired. After resting a little bit, Bob and I decided to take a walk through the night market, and to get me a diet coke, then see how I felt. The diet coke made me feel better, but not good enough to eat anything. Walking through the market cheered up, of course :-). But for the things I liked, they're asking too much - not that it's that much in $, but I hate the feeling of being had. So I came back pretty much empty-handed.

Bob went down to the hotel restaurant to grab a bite. I'm staying back to write my blog. Then we'll call it a relatively early night. The WIFI in this hotel is pretty shabby - I tried for a LONG time before getting on the net, and not sure when I would lose it. And it is pretty expensive - the internet was free all the way till now, and they charge close to $20 a day! Despite the fact that this hotel's room is quite nice, I really don't like how they handle the internet.

Oh, by the way, Chiang Mai is very nice! Much much better than Bangkok!!! The weather is much better - after the sun went down, it was actually quite comfortable! The air is cleaner. And the mountains and fields surrounding the city are beautiful! Our guide told us this is a favorite place for Thai people as well as foreigners to come for vacation.
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