Chiang Mai, Thailand

Boys Will be Boys the World Over
Getting Caught Giving the Family Dog a Haircut

Oxen Still Share the Road With Cars
This is in Thailand's Northern Country

Jim Meeting New Friend at the Local Market
Or as Suzan Says, This is Jim's Twin!

With every turn of the head and/or blink of an eye - there is another interesting sight to take in here in Thailand! Especially our tour of the local market (part of our cooking school). From the pigs heads; to tanks filled with fish (packed so they are nearly on top of one another); to the chickens with feet still on with butcher's knives slamming down all around us -- quite a stir for all of the senses.

Terraced Rice Fields in Northern Thailand
Rice is a Very Important Staple in Thai Diet
John Muir Suzan Leading Us Into the Jungle
Fortunately no Machetes Were Necessary to Hike
Bamboo Floating Rafts Which We Used to Lazily
Drift Down This River Outside of Chiang Mai

In one day we visited hill tribe villagers; went for a hike in the jungle for two hours to a waterfall; rapelled across a river in a cage; went on a white water rafting trip and then floated down stream on a bamboo raft. Oh I left out one hour of elephant riding (a very slow walk) up a hill in the jungle. The elephant in front of us was hungry and leaned into a tree on the right side to yank off some bamboo. There was a treacherous drop below and the two men aboard that elephant were clinging to the 'saddle' and looking away. Then the elephant lifted its leg to do a circus type act (leaning over the ravine)! At this time I was riding bare back on my elephant with Jim in the 'saddle' - the ears of the elephant almost completely covering my body. I started telling the elephant, "Don't you even think about it." I couldn't look either. No worries - we survived our full day of adventures - all in tact!

Deep in the Heart of the Northern Thailand Jungle
We Hiked for a Couple of Hours in This Pretty Area
Our Reward for a Strenuous Hike Was This 80 Foot
High Waterfall. Water Was VERY Cold.
Jim Showing Poor Form Coming Down the Trail
Many Water Crossings, Bamboo Ladders and Rocks

We hiked for hours with our swim suits on anticipating a great swimming hole near a waterfall. Not sure how many water crossings there were yet sure should have worn our Tevas. FINALLY arrived at the waterfall (what are they nuts?) the water was ice cold, no way was anyone in the group going swimming. Lovely scenery though - well worth it.

Suzan Meeting an Elder of one of the Handful of
Indigenous Hill Tribes That Live in Northern Thailand
The Villages are Self Sustaining, No Electricity
Crops, Fish and Dogs Make up Their Diet
A Member of the Karen Long Neck Tribe. Starting
at Age 5, Girls Wear Braided Metal Collars, 24/7!

We visited an area on the outskirts of Chiang Mai where the government of Thailand imported hill tribe people to live for tourism. Various members of different Karen tribes, originally from Burma, are now living here. We learned that they will never leave the compound - they are self-sustaining and anything they need is brought in. This is true communal living. The women from the Longneck tribes wear one continuous band of metal around their necks (and this is changed as they age). They also wear them around their legs. Often they can barely move because the bands are such 'heavy metal.' They mostly sit around weaving silk, making crafts, posing for tourist photos and quite honestly -- don't look very happy.

Chef Suzan at the Organic Farm Cooking School
We Made Pad Thai, Curry, Papaya Salad. Yum, Yum!
Body Armor Wearing Mountain Bikers, Prepared to
Plunge Down Treacherous Steep Trails. A Rush!
Suzan With New Friend at Orphanage, or as Thai's
Called it, "Home for Kids With No Parents"

Our major highlights in Chiang Mai included a cooking class taught at an organic farm. We first went to the local market to learn what to purchase. Then we drove out to the countryside and toured the farm  (vegetables, herbs etc). They do not use pesticides as the food is only grown for the cooking school. We wore our farmers hats as the sunshine blared at more than 90 degrees with lots of sticky humidity. Then we donned our aprons and began to cook a five course Thai meal. The real fun of course was eating what we prepared. YUM-MY! They gave us recipe books so we can (hopefully) remember how to cook when we get home. (If so, we'd love to make our friends/family some authentic Thai food - although we may go ahead and buy the curry paste - it is so much work to make it from scratch. Plus we don't own a mortar and pistal.

Another grand adventure was our mountain biking experience. We had signed up for a beginners ride mainly because of the description - riding through a jungle, farm lands and around a lake - sounded delightful. Also with all the adventures we'd been having - we thought we'd take it a bit easy. When the bus picked us up to take us to the office it was filled with only men and men who had signed up for more advanced riding. Turned out we had only one choice - join the advanced Intermediate group or we couldn't go at all. So we went for it. Easy for Jim -- yet I'm only used to the smaller hills behind our home in Tierrasanta! Turns out that the bike guides were to judge our skill level after 30 minutes of our ride and according to them - I was one of the guys. Great! So off we went mainly down hill (80% or so of this) I think 5200 or more meters that is. Riding on narrow roads with ruts, concrete, than thick mud,then slippery dirt -- I made it though without a scratch or a fall - screaming down the mountain! And Jim managed to do the ride while doing photography at the same time.

We felt very 'moved' when we visited an orphanage. We played with the kids that were up to 3 years (older kids not available) and when we walked in they all had their arms outstretched. All they wanted was to be held. At one time I think I had four little girls in my arms. When Jim walked in one of the boys yelled, "Papa. Papa." Whew! Most of these kids are abandoned by poor families who cannot afford another child to feed or by young teen girls who are only children themselves. The Foundation takes excellent care of the children (and does so without any government assistance or funding). We brought gifts for the older kids (paper and pencils with sports and Disney characters) and a Poloroid camera - a huge hit wherever we go. We'd take photos of the kids (and the adults loved it too) then give them their photos. I don't think they'd ever seen photos of themselves and you should have seen their faces - the biggest smiles. I held one little girl (in photo) with the biggest brown eyes to melt my heart - didn't want to put her down (though her wet diaper and runny nose did encourage it somewhat). The visit with the children at the orphanage definitely will stay with us for a long time to come!