Chiang Mai Oh My

I am quickly falling in love with this city.

I know I’m running the risk of saying this every time I hit a new place in Thailand, but Chiangmai is really quite amazing. I love the layout of the city WAY better than Bangkok. Bangkok is sort of just a sprawl, where as Chiangmai’s main city centre is surrounded by canals that form a sort of “moat” that was used at one point to fend off the bad guys. It keeps things really organized and traffic flowing quite nicely – which wasn’t too key until yesterday when I rented a scooter! – but I get ahead of myself.

Alright, so hmmm… when was my last entry? Sunday? Yes… I think it was Sunday. Sunday night, after returning from the city, I rewarded myself for my incredible walk home (actually I just got lost and was dead tired) with a movie at the nice air-con’d Central Airport Plaza. I chose Gothika, forgetting as I always do that I don’t deal well with movies of the scare-your-pants-off nature. It was good, but really at this point, any series of images that flash at me in sequence and are audibly English is heaven.

It was an early night for me because of my trek the following morning. The van picked me up at about 9:30 or so and I joined 7 other tourists, who thankfully were all about my age. There were four Brits, two Canucks and a Korean, not including myself. It was about an hour’s drive to the Elephant Camp, but well worth it. The elephant trek was so cool, and I must admit… I was a little nervous. I mean these animals, though likely beaten into being nice, are HUGE. And when you’re sitting on the back of one with some Korean girl who knows five words of English (which is five more words than you know in Korean) and you peer down ground-ward only to notice that the ill-tempered “handler” is leading you precariously close to the edge of a ravine… you begin to second guess the wisdom of paying for such an experience. But then you get to the end and go, “Holy crap, I just road an elephant, and not in a zoo.. but in the forest!” So, I guess it’s worth it. Though I did more than once feel some pangs of perhaps I was supporting an industry that perpetuated cruelty to animals. I checked into it and yup, not good things. So, not going to do that again.

From the elephant trek we visited a hill tribe village. The hill tribes of Northern Thailand are sort of a mix of ethnicity. Originally they were nomads from Tibet I think (about a 1,000 years ago). They moved through Thailand and into Burma, where they were persecuted and forced to leave, finding “safety” in Northern Thailand. The village we went to was, hmmm, quaint? It was actually humorous as it was just six or seven buildings with old people weaving scarves and blankets… and little kids trying to sell us beads… but squat in the middle of it all was a phone booth. I had to laugh… nearly as hard as I laughed when earlier that day I saw a monk, all dressed to the nine in his little orange robe, talking on a mobile phone. Too funny.

From the village we hiked about 10 minutes to a really nice waterfall. I was reminded of Rockway in Fonthill, as I got to climb on rocks and stuff. Good times. Also got chatting with the two Brit girls here – giving up trying to chat with the girls from Vancouver as they were really boring and snobby… so I left them to the British guys who seemed to find their lack of anything interesting to say somewhat charming (of course these guys had been paying for their female companionship only a few nights before). Anyway, the British girls (whose names I have tragically forgotten) were way nicer, and well… ahem, cuter. Note to self: Start with the cute ones. They are travelling around the world together over eight months – heading to Korea (as I write this I think) and then to Australia and New Zealand (Cass… let it be noted if I could have found a way into their luggage, I would have!). They are also coming to Canada and who knows, maybe when they get to the Niagara area we’ll go out for drinks or something. Man, my friends are going to love me if even half the people I’ve invited to come to Canada come… all these cool people descending upon Welland… the city wont know what to do with itself!

From the waterfall we hiked a couple kilos (through some soya bean fields) and ate lunch at a road-side Thai stand, which was so-so. After lunch it was time to get wet. We were led to a little river where there was a bunch of bamboo rafts. We needed teams of three, so I was going to team up with the Brit girls, but seeing myself and the other big guy in the group, the little Thai boatmen said him and I needed to go together on one. The English gentleman snagged the only seat so I was left sitting on the series of bamboo sticks that was our raft – needless to say, my ass got very wet. Eventually I realized one of the sticks I was sitting on was actually a secondary pole so I could help push/steer. Man, that really changed my spirits… all of a sudden I was Tom Sawyer polin’ down the Mighty Mississip’. Great fun… until we hit a BIG friggin’ rock. You’d figure that would have made it easier for the guy in front to see, but nope. It was ok though, the only thing to fall off the raft was a big chunk of the raft. Apparently it was the piece that the raft used to stay afloat because suddenly things started to get wetter. The Brit girls’ raft pulled up beside us and I was told to jump on. Sweet. Upon request, I broke into my best gondola captain impersonation and sung a few bars of “That’s Amore” which seemed to impress the girls… yeah – I’m just that smooth – so smooth in fact that all cool masculinity I gained from that moment was swiftly taken from me when I assisted in our raft’s rendition of “I Will Survive”.

Hitting terra firma again, we got in the van and headed back to the city. That night Ooh and Naomi rented a Thai VCD which was really great until we couldn’t get the second disc to work. I wonder if I’ll ever find out how it ends.

Yesterday morning I headed into town and rented a scooter. Having gained some experience from my time in Amalfi, I was somewhat confident, until I realized that these scooters had gears. Right, gears… what do I do with them? After just about burning out the clutch, I figured it out and was on my way. I rented the scooter for 150 bhat (about $4 or $5) for 24 hours and did my best to get all I could out of it. I took it up west of the city to Wat Doi Suthep, the highest temple in Thailand. It took about an hour of jackknife roads to get up there, but it was great fun, and the roads were freshly paved, so very smooth. The view wasn’t so great, as they are doing fire-control burnings this time of year and it sorta left the valley covered in a bit of smoke. But the temple was amazing. I had to climb a TONNE of steps to get up to it, but it was worth it, and besides, I’m an old pro at steps after the Eiffel Tower, Amalfi and Meteora.

Coming down the mountain was even more fun, but a bit more scary as gas was not needed and well, brakes were hard to come by. I went straight to a local orphanage where I had told Naomi’s dad I’d meet him. He is here for a few months and volunteers there and invited me to come along. It was great to chill with the kids and it really made me think about the possibility of one day adopting a child from Thailand or someplace over here. We made these pin-wheel fans and generally just hung about. From the orphanage her Dad, whose name I think is Darrel?, took me to a Chi Gong course, which is like Tai Chi but more aerobic, but has just as many old people. It was great fun and I worked up quite a sweat.

We headed back to the guesthouse where Darrel is staying so he could drop some stuff off before we grabbed a bite to eat. He showed me the room he was paying 150 bhat for, and well… I am writing this from one just like it. I loved staying at Ooh’s in my tent, but the no hot water thing was starting to cause me to skip showers, and that’s not fun for anyone. Plus their bathroom is a bit of a malaria factory as it hosts in about 1,000,000,000,000 mosquitoes. I’ve now got a HUGE queen size bed, a private ensuite bathroom with hot water, a desk, two chairs, a dresser/wardrobe and am right in the middle of town – for a whole $4 a night… rough I say.

Ooh and Naomi met us at the guest house and joined us for dinner. After dinner they headed back to their place where Naomi was going to check movie times for her and I to catch a flick. Her dad and I headed over to a Lassi stand and had strawberry lassies[sp?] (not the “Here boy!” kind, the creamy yogurt and fresh fruit kind)…

Naomi and I decided on Along Came Polly, the (new?) Zoolander/Rachel Green movie. It was hmmm… entertaining… I guess. It was actually crap, but funny in parts and it was cheap Tuesdays (yup, the Thai’s do it to!), so I only paid like $2.50 to see it (opposed to the regular $3.50… haha… I LOVE it here!). We met some of her friends out front before the movie and I got my first Thai girlfriend. Not entirely sure how it happened… and I’m reasonably certain I’m never going to see her again, but she sorta volunteered me to be her boyfriend by saying, “You’re single? Good… I am too… you can be my boyfriend.” I was like… “Ah… want some gum?” (Yeah, I’m full of good lines I tell ya!). So yeah, that was that… a whole five seconds of Thai-girlfriend – sweet deal.

This morning proved to be one of the most interesting logistical problems I’ve had yet: How to get my 25 kg. pack, my guitar, a tent, a bedroll, and myself onto a scooter, through morning traffic and to my new home. It was a fun time to be sure! It actually wasn’t so hard once I got going, as I had Naomi’s dad on the back of the bike yesterday and he weighs more than the pack and stuff… but I was nervous about my guitar because I had to clip it to the back of my pack (and then tied it with very nearly every piece of rope/string I had). But I’m here now and just taking it easy and enjoying the fact that I have a fan!

I guess I’ll go and see if the Internet café across the street allows USB devices. What ever happened to the people commenting on my entries? Remember when people did that… that sure was cool.

Peace

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