Monday, 5 March 2007

Chiang Mai

We met up with Chris at the airport (He had been out at a meeting and it made more sense, since he would be passing the airport anyway, to meet him there) and got checked in. We then decided that we would get something to nibble since it would be a while till dinner (No, I am not stupid enough to eat any more meat substances from that god forsaken place but figured tea and cake couldn't hurt) so we headed to the main restaurant. Now, you can't just select what you want and pay at the end (which would be far too sensible) you have to pay for a card (500 baht or 1000 baht) without knowing what the prices are like and then you get your change back when you hand the card back at the end. We got two 500 baht cards then discovered that tea and cake is surprisingly expensive and that we didn't have enough on our card for Sadie, Margaret and I so the wee fellow that was serving us got out a calculator and tried to work out if Chris had enough on his card to cover the balance on our stuff. 10 minutes later (We now had about 5 staff round wee fellow with calculator - I'm sure there is a joke in there somewhere) we discovered that the answer to that would be no and we had to go and buy another card and, after all that, I couldn't actually eat the cheesecake I had didn't taste of anything at all and just glued my tongue to the roof of my mouth (Which I'm sure Chris was thrilled about as it kept me quiet for five minutes). The plane was a different one from the one we had been on with Tom so it meant that Sadie and Margaret missed out on the joy that was the safety announcement......delivered on video screens by......wait for it.....a little fairy!!

Anyway, we arrived safe and sound and got a lovely taxi driver to our hotel. We were staying in the Central Duangtawan Hotel which is older than some hotels we have stayed in recently but was still really nice (Breakfasts are good). It's located just a few steps from the Night Bazaar so is really central and the nice thing was that it gave Chris and I an opportunity to explore an area that we had not visited when we had been before. We got checked in then went out to find an Indian restaurant that my friend Steph had recommended which turned out to be about a two minute walk away from the hotel (It's not easy to find as it's above McDonald's and the sign is obscured by market stalls but if you look up you will spot it) . It's called The Taj and, although the décor leave a little to be desired, the food is absolutely fantastic. We ordered some Pakora (Yes, we are still on the hunt) and it was the best, and closest thing we have had to the Scottish version, a lamb dish that was sublime and a chicken dish which wasn't as spicy as the others but still damn tasty. (Must remember to say thanks to Steph). Then we headed back to the hotel and went for a drink in the, practically deserted, bar. They had a singer and band who were playing songs from old musicals and jazz lounge tunes - I'm not sure if we were entertained by the entertainment or if we entertained the entertainment (Does that make any sense at all) but we ended up singing along and chair you do!!.

On Saturday I arranged with our taxi driver from the night before to come and collect us and be our driver for the day (Before you have a heart attack at the cost it was £15 for the whole day and he was worth his weight in gold!!). It was Makha Bucha Day so we took Sadie and Margaret up to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep to see the ceremony taking place up there. (Look who i bumped didn't tell me you were visiting :-)) - Sorry couldn't resist)

Some Facts: Makha Bucha Day falls on the full moon in February and commemorates two separate events that occurred, during the Buddha's lifetime, on the same date 45 years apart 2,500 years ago. The first event was the uncoordinated coming together of 1,250 monks from all locations and directions, to meet and be ordained by the Buddha seven months after the he began his teaching. This was when he delivered the three main principles of his religion 1. Give up evil and refrain from sinning. 2. Cultivate good and make merit. and 3. Cleanse one's mind. The second event was when the Buddha foresaw his attainment of Nirvana and delivered his teachings on the responsibility of an individual or organisation. He said that a person should 1. Enjoy work or responsibility. 2. Be diligent in work. 3. Concentrate on the job while working and 4. Check all unfinished work thoroughly. Both of these events occurred on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month, a month known in the Buddhist Pali language as 'Makha'. The 'Bucha', also a Pali word, means to venerate or to honour. Thus, Makha Bucha Day is for the veneration of Buddha and his teachings on the full moon day of the third lunar month. (At least that is my understanding of it)

We then went to an Orchid farm where we had lunch and then onto the Mae Sa Elephant Camp that we had visited with Tom. Sadie and Margaret really enjoyed the show and were much amused when, at the end, an elephant came over and put one of the Mahout's hats on my head and then made sure it was on properly by bashing it with it's trunk - Elephant trunks are surprisingly heavy!!

On Sunday we hired another taxi and visited Baan Tawai which is an artisan village about half an hour's drive from Chiang Mai. It is absolutely amazing and has everything from wood carvings and interior décor items, to art, sculpture, ceramics, furniture, antiques, murals and more. Apparently acquiring unique household items here, no matter how bulky (They can be shipped very reasonably and it costs next to nothing to get things back to Bangkok), is a popular and cost-effective way of furnishing your home with Asian arts and we were told that retailers from all over the world beat a path here to make wholesale orders. Honestly, you should have seen some of the stuff they had - even Chris was moved to say that we should save up and buy some stuff (This made me look at him and say 'Who are you and what have you done with my Husband?' and 'You can't back out of that statement.....I have witnesses!!'). That evening we went out to a place called 'The Gallery' which had been recommended to us by Claire and Rodger who we had bumped into the day before. It was beautiful - it is a century-old teakwood house that sits on the banks of the Ping River. The first room is used as an art gallery which displays the work of local artists and then you go through to an attractive terraced garden restaurant which specialises in northern Thai cuisine. We had a fantastic meal - we ordered a selection of traditional dishes which comprised of crispy pork, Chiang Mai sausages, pork in gravy, spicy pomello salad, chicken with banana leaves, barbecued pork and a chicken soup thing. We munched away and watched the sun set over Chiang Mai before heading into the old city to do some shopping down walking street. It was a great day even thought Margaret and I had a Kamikaze Tuk Tuk driver on the way back to the hotel and Chris and Sadie both managed to hook their shirts on the Tuk Tuk they were in as they tried to get out of it!! (Madness obviously runs in the family!!!)


Peter said...

Loved the picture of you with your "Mom" - life back in Glasgow is clearly agreeing with her! (Only kidding, Katwoman!!)

Anonymous said...

The Thais have got it round the wrong round, Dad was always 'Fishface', (had to get my own back!)...Katwoman

Anonymous said...

It would help if I didn't have dyslexic fingers...Katwoman