Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of Our Many Modes of Transportation!
Elephant Riding in Northern Thailand Rain Forest

Chiang Mai is Surrounded by Walls and a Moat Which
Protected The City in Early Times from Being Attacked
An Ancient Temple, or Wat, in the Heart of Chiang
Mai. Quite a Spiritual Site With Many Praying Monks.
Another View of the Same Wat

With over 300 Wats in Chiang Mai it wasn't possible for us to take in all of them. We most enjoyed the ones we 'discovered' walking around the area near our B and B. One Wat had proverbs and powerful quotes on wooden posts nailed to trees throughout the park. All had incense burning lifting up prayers to Buddha with many food and other offerings stacked in front. Thai devotees would stop to kneel and bow in prayer (usually three or more times) and would then kiss the ground in front of the Buddha. We learned that typically every boy in Thailand will become a monk for some amount of time during his youth (for at least three months). It is a great honor for the family for one's son to serve as a monk. This helped to explain the wide age ranges we observed (some starting about 6 years old and up)of monks in their saffron color robes. We also saw many women walking around with large straw bowls collecting money for the support of the monks. Yes, at times we hid - as they especially like to request money from tourists.

Wat Doi Sutep, a Very Sacred Place Situated High
in the Hills Above Chiang Mai. Many Tourists Visiting
The Serpant Statues Guarding the Entrance to the
300 Stairs Leading Up to the Temple Doi Sutep
A Smaller Temple Area Within the Inner Sanctum
of Doi Sutep. Many Thai's Paying Homage Here.

We had anticipated a meditative place where silence would be revered. One always takes off his/her shoes before entering the temples and wears long sleeve shirts and pants to honor the sacred spaces. Yet aside from these rituals we found a plethora of paparazzi's. We had never experienced so many cameras flashing at once. There were loads of people (both locals and tourists alike) - it resembled Disneyland on its busiest day. Other than the hordes of folks that we shared the grounds with - we did enjoy the magnificent architecture and the chance to observe the locals in deep devotion (in spite of the cameras flashing)!

This is Thai Car Pooling. Entire Families Will
Ride on a Single Moped. No Helmet Law Either.
True Mass Transit. Day Laborers, Prisoners,
Soccer Fans? Who Knows for Sure?
The Motor Scooter is the De Facto Mode of
Transportation, as This Parking Area Confirms

Imagine very few if any road signs or signals - cars, motorcycles, tuks tuks and huge tour busses going out of either lane (whichever one is moving faster) and especially crossing these streets and thoroughfares. One positive result - I (Suzan) grew up in the country and have always had a fear of crossing streets. I'm now cured!

Suzan and Katea, Our Angel Who Rescued Us From
Sleeping on the Streets Our First Night in Chiang Mai
Another Type of Angel, Though Perhaps Only in
His Mother's Eyes. Very Unusual Site in Thailand.
Our Favorite Local Massage Ladies. Yes, That is
Only $5.50 for a 75 Minute, Full Body Massage.

We arrived in Chiang Mai after a 12 hour train ride (after waiting 2.5 hours for the train to arrive)! Someone from the B and B we had arranged was to meet us at the train station. No one did. A young Thai woman (late 20's), Katea, approached us and offered to drive us to the B and B. Fortunately she waited for us because the B and B did not have our reservation (the former employee I'd been e-mailing with had quit so they didn't have any information on us). Katea drove us around until we found a B and B for the night (albeit one without windows - a very simple concrete box with twin beds boasting hot water). Turns out Katea is a taxi driver (only 10% of women are in the area and she's had a successful business for 7 years). Of course this independent, enterprising woman would be drawn to us. We felt blessed. She later took us to many places in the area that we wouldn't have known about on our own so we were grateful that we met.

The massages in Thailand are from Heaven! We've spoiled ourselves rotten with foot massages; full body sport massages; and Thai massages. The photo we included is from one of our favorite establishments (35 Baht = $1.00 U.S.) so one can enjoy one hour massages for around $5.00 - $10.00! Rough life we've  been leading when almost every night we choose which type of massage we will have. So many blessings abound.

One Too Many Drunken Tourists Must Have Used
This Convenient Area for Doing Their Business.
This is the Real Toilet With Jim Showing Proper
Form. Maybe. Add Water With Scoop at Right to Flush.
After Seeing This Guy at a Cultural Show, Jim Made
Sure Not to Pee at the Forbidden Gate Area Anymore.

One needs an entirely new potty training course to use the toilets here! First you crouch down (and as a woman hope you can control your aim so your clothes don't get wet); then afterward you scoop a bucket of water a few times from a large bucket to pour in (as there is no 'flushing). If there is no toilet paper (quite often) you scoop some water into your left hand (the right hand is for eating) and clean about your private areas.  If there is toilet paper, you wipe and then place it in the waste basket - never in the toilet, as the plumbing can't handle the paper. All sorts of adventures abound here in Thailand. (And as the photo above shows - some people prefer to create their own toilet).

We attended a Thai Cultural Show with magnificent graceful women dancers (not pictured) and men who did sword and fire dances. Each person attending had a large pillow to lean into and we were served a tray of food on a small table (I think 12 courses or so). Many of the local hilltribes also performed their native dances (many young precious children as well). A sumptuous feast and fun evening.