|May 19 - 26 (only 3 weeks behind now!) We stayed at the Baan Koew again and enjoyed it's quiet, especially as Chiang Mai is a busy touristy city. It is actually the second largest city in Thailand, at a over a million people. Meaning "new walled city" it is a cultural city with 700 year old history, over 300 wats (temples), and the remains of the moat around the original city. It also has many guesthouses, markets, restaurants & bars, English bookstores, and of course,Starbucks. We really enjoyed it, but I was also glad when the week was over as racketing about town every day as a tourist is tiring as well. We walked everywhere, much to the disapointment/digust of the tuk-tuks, but we are Vancouverites and have a reputation to keep up:) It was very hot, so diving into one of the numerous A/C 7-11's became part of our daily routine, for water and a cooling off. Louie also became addicted to Mentos, which were purchased there! Anyway, we got up late, ate at Bake & Bite every day (those blueberry pancakes were the best!), and wandered around exploring the many wats and markets. The night market is huge and very well known, but we found it overwhelming and many vendors were downright surly, so we avoided it after the first night. The weekly Sunday market was more to our liking, much more Thais than farang, and less desperate vendors. Plus, we spotted a lot of "toms & dees" holding hands, and giving us the eye, but unfortunately never making actual contact. We tried a few gay bars, but only met men. Where do those Thai lesbians hang??
One day I actually got up early enough to do a yoga class, which was great. I also tried another massage as the streets are full of small massage places open till midnight. We also perused many a bookstore, I had to really hold myself back! But back packs are not conducive to book carrying! A huge highlight was accidentally coming across a free dharma talk by none other than Thich Naht Hanh! (the Vietnamese world-renown monk who practices activist/dynamic Buddhism). What a priveledge. The weird thing was that I had read in the paper earlier that week that he was in Bangkok and I had bemoaned the fact to Louie that I was so close yet so far! And then, there we were gawking at the wat and wondering why there were so many people and photographers!
One night we went to this bar overlooking the night market that involves walking up many different flights of stairs. It was neat, but as they only served water besides alcohol, we didn't bother to go again. We did not go to any of the outlaying places to see around Chaing Mai, but contented ourselves with where we could walk, which suited us fine.
One day we decided to treat ourselves to the new Spiderman Movie at an interesting Egyptian themed theatre. The national anthem is played before the movie begins and everyone stands up for it. Later we had coffee at the Lanna House as it sells fair trade coffee. Lastly, Louie discovered ka pow gai, a very yummy, hot chicken and basil dish. We are picking up a little Thai and doing our best to practice it. Mostly: Sawadee ka (hello), Korp kun ka (thank you), and various foods. Note: in Thailand, it is polite to put either ka (for females) or krap (pronounced kaap, for males) on the end of everything).
Some snapshots: 4 school girls crammed on a motorbike, a "working girl" praying at a buddhist shrine before starting her shift at the 'karaoke bar' (I put karaoke in quotations as they often double as sex work places), Louie learning about mindfulness and meditation while sitting on the floor for 4 hours! Getting a headache after my first true foray into bargaining (for my binoculars & a knife for Louie), a young man clutching my about-to-be-purchased sunglasses at a sports store, determined to get his commission, the many farang with their Thai girlfriends, the female sandals outside the room at our guesthouse of a man who had arrived from the States that day on his first trip to the "Land of Smiles", the young monk talking about his life and beliefs at "monk chat" offered at one of the wats. The good, the strange and the ugly...