Wednesday, November 19, 2008
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
Chiang Mai is our Northern Thailand home for a two week stay. Though we arrived in Bangkok directly from Delhi, India, we stayed only long enough to catch our overnight train to Chiang Mai. We will later return to Bangkok in Mid-December to visit before moving on to China.
Chiang Mai, which means New City is anything but "new" as it is over 700 years old. It is Thailand's second largest city and while it doesn't have the glitz of Bangkok, it still has plenty to do and has all of the modern conveniences that Bangkok has to offer. We had a slow start to exploring Chiang Mai since we spent our first several days planning and then executing Avocet and Siena's 10th birthday party. We have been playing catch up ever since.
Thailand is know as the Land of Smiles. This could be because there is a dental clinic on every street. Since it's been about 7 months since we all had our 6 month dental check up, we took advantage of the Land of Smiles to have our teeth cleaned and polished. You can do this for 1/4 of the cost of what you would pay in the United States. If you need any extensive dental work done, the cost savings is HUGE!
Personal care services in Thailand don't start or stop at your teeth. We have all had manicures and pedicures at 90 Baht each ($2.70 US) and hour long foot massages for 200 Baht ($6.00 US). You can have an hour long Thai massage for only 160 Baht ($4.80 US) or if you're a traditionalist, you can have an oil massage for 230 Baht ($6.90 US). They have spa packages around here that can have you serviced from head to toe at 1/10 of what you have to pay in the US.
If shopping is your thing then you can shop till you drop at one of the many markets and night bazaars. Chiang Mai's night bazaar which goes on every night from 6:00 PM till midnight is famous world wide. If you don't find what you want there, try the Saturday Walking Street or the Sunday Walking Street where they close off streets to traffic and set up mile long bazaars where you can shop and eat till the early hours of the morning. These are not just for the tourists - we saw plenty of Thai people spending their Saturday night hanging out on the Walking Street.
We have visited some of Chiang Mai's many Wats (Buddhist Temples) but you need to be careful as you can easily get "Watted" out. Many of the Wats also offer a "Monk Chat" which gives you the opportunity to sit down with a Monk and learn about Buddhism while they practice their English. Getting past their heavy accent was challenging but we did have the opportunity to be "Enlightened"! We also visited a site where we could observe several of the Hill Tribes that live in the area.
If animals are your thing, you can go to Tiger Kingdom where you can interact with tigers up close and personal. Monkey School shows how they train monkeys to be coconut pickers as they are much more adept at climbing up coconut trees than humans. You also have your choice of many different Elephant Camps to visit (more about that later).
Thai is a very challenging language. We have mastered thank you (Kop Kun Ka for women and Kop Kun Krop for men) and that's about it. We have down the bowing thing with your hands in praying position except we haven't figured out what you do when your hands are full. Thais remove their shoes upon entering a home which we have also managed to get the hang of but it did seem a little weird having my teeth cleaned barefooted.
And of course Chiang Mai was where we were during Thailand's Loy Krathong Festival (see previous blog). I think this will always be one our highlights of this lovely country.