Hopefully over the next two years I'll be sharing some amazing stories and photos, from what I know is going to be a life-changing experience.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chiang Mai

We in arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand in the evening and had our first experience in a sawngthaew, which is basically a truck that has covered seats in the back. If the driver is going in the direction you are then you negotiate a price and hop in the back. Our driver (almost?) hit a motorcyclist, but they got up and kept going so we assumed they were ok. The driver then brought us to the wrong hotel. Luckily I noticed this before getting out and we eventually made it to our destination, Lanna Discovery Guesthouse. Our room had the basic necessities and was fine even if the wireless connection was weak. I never managed to get hot water out of the shower, but Sarah did, so it must have liked her better. Given the outdoor temperature I didn't really mind. The combination of price, an amazingly friendly and helpful proprietoress, lizards scampering along the walls, and friendly cats made it a great place to stay :) Especially as the cats looked like both of our pets back home. Sarah dubbed them Pseudo-Wonder and Pseudo-Stella.
Many people had raved about Chiang Mai, and I liked it well enough, but it was the fourth cute town with markets that I had been to and I would have happily cut off time there to spend more time on an island. However, Sarah's meditation program only ran on Tuesday/Wednesday. We spent 3 days wandering and going to night markets. Had I not just come from Angkor Wat, I think I would have enjoyed stumbling upon temples as we explored.  Firstly, I was a bit "templed out". Also, the temples in Thailand are very colourful and overwhelming. While beautiful, I found I preferred the more serene feeling in Cambodia. I realize the Angkorian temples probably looked quite different when they were modern, but I could only take so much glitter. I also felt much more like an intruder, as these temples are still in use. We also visited the local museum, which was reasonably interesting, but very random. My favourite part was a temporary exhibit, where a lady was doing traditional weaving on a loom. I watched for a while, as it was amazingly complex. I could sort of figure out what she was doing, but only at a very basic level. It was very cool.
Another thing we enjoyed were the Thai massages. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it's like a combination of massage and yoga, except you don't have to worry about getting the pose right because someone else is manipulating your body. It was great, and at five dollars an hour, a daily indulgence. Another daily treat are the blended fruit juices, usually had at breakfast. I definitely enjoyed the random Western breakfasts and sandwiches. I know this seems like a terrible thing to do in Thailand, but it turns out I really missed these things while living in China.
While in Chiang Mai, I went on two exclusions, one a jungle trek/rafting/mixed bag of activities, and also to an elephant rescue center, but those will get their own post. 
One of the highlights of being in Chiang Mai proper was attending Monk Chat and being on the radio. The temple where Sarah did her meditation core (as well as other temples in the city) hosts Monk Chats on various evenings. It is exactly what if sound like. You go and chat with monks. The idea is for people to learn about Buddhism and the life of the monks, while they get to practice their English. I met up with Sarah after her program and we found ourselves talking to a group off monks, when one asked if we would be willing to go to another room to chat with him. When we got there we realized that it was a radio station. Turns out that Monk Chat is broadcasted across Thailand. So we asked him questions, he answered them and posed some 'life riddles', all on air. Afterward I gave him my email address so we could become Facebook friends. Welcome to the modern world. Afterward we returned to the group. None of the monks we met were Thai, they had all come to Chiang Mai to go to university, and many are graduating soon with BAs. From the sound of it, their schooling is very similar to ours (obvious Western influences there) while the rest of their life is completely different, which I find incredibly interesting.
Overall I liked Chiang Mai, and if I were to go back I would stay somewhere with a garden so I could enjoy being in the jungle on a daily basis.  And possibly have 3-4 fruit drinks a day.

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