Archive for the ‘night markets’ Category

Chanting and Dancing

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Once we returned to the hotel after cooking all morning we were given an hour to freshen and up and then we had the option of visiting an orphanage that was a mile or two away from our hotel. While most of the kids on the trip were very eager to go, I took real issue with the idea that orphans would be used as a tourist attraction. It made me sick to my stomach that the kids on our trip would go to this orphanage to play with these kids for an hour, take pictures with them and then leave and move onto the next thing. I feel as though this makes a mockery of their whole situation, and their trivializes their lives which I am sure have been very hard. I have traveled to mexico and to various places in the United States to do mission work, and met children with whom I developed personal relationships and yes I have pictures and memories with them, but I was there to help, not just to take pictures and leave. Granted, everyone who went did make a donation of a few hundred baht which will be used to buy medications, and as a group we took up a separate collection to purchase new tricycles for the center, and these are good things to do, but I still did not think it was appropriate to use an orphanage as a tourist attraction. **steps off soap box**

So I didn’t go. I instead took a nap at the hotel, payed about three dollars to use the hotel internet for thirty minutes and changed into a long dress and shirt for the temple visit that we would be doing later. There were about eight of us who did not go to the orphanage, but everyone else just wanted time to get a massage (VERY cheap to do in Thailand, and massage places are EVERYWHERE) or take a nap. After an hour at the orphanage the eight of us who had stayed behind boarded a big tour bus and picked up the kids who went to the orphanage and proceeded to drive about 15km outside of the city up a huge mountain to wat Phra That Doi Suthep or the Temple on the Mountain. To enter the temple everyone had to wear modest clothing that did not expose shoulders or anything above the knee. When the bus dropped us off we had to climb 308 very steep steps up the mountain to reach the temple.

The legend of how the temple came to be as copy and pasted from Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge:

“According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothaihad a dream; in this dream god told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and is said to have found a bone, which many claim was Buddah’s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers; it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move itself and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dharmmaria who ruled the Sukhothai.

The eager Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic’s authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.

However, King Nu Naone of the  Lanna Kingdom heard of the relic and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The relic apparently split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the relic was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.”

Gold statue near the steps going up to the temple

The 308 steps up to the temple

White Elephant shrine

View of the valley from atop the mountain

Sacred building that only the monks can enter

Prayer shrine

Monk going up to pay tribute

Chinese style dragon. This temple was buddhist, but in Thailand their religion has been influenced by India and by China so the architecture of their religious spaces borrows heavily from those two cultures.

Indian deity Ganesha

Inside the temple

While inside this room you were not allowed to stand. Within the temple you could not wear shoes.

Monks chanting during their daily prayer ritual

Chanting monks. When a monk decides to dedicate himself to a life of religious observance he is no longer permitted to handle money or touch women.

This is a jackfruit tree. There is one outside of every temple because the internal bark of this tree is orange, and it is from this bark that the monks get the dye that they use to color their robes.

Entrance to the temple grounds

inside the temple

Whose mom is this I wonder

We spent over an hour at the temple before putting our shoes back on to climb back down the 308 steps to the busses. We were then taken to a thai dance dinner show.

Ladies sitting outside of the restaurant

This restaurant specialized in northern thai food, which is traditionally eaten while sitting on the floor, but we were totally able to cheat because there was a pit under the table for our feet. BUt we did have to take our shoes off before entering the restaurant

Northern thai food, served family style

Northern Thailand dancing

Thai drumming/dancing

My first and only cocktail in Thailand- a grasshopper. Mint and coconut, YUM.

Anneka, Lindsay, Me and Danielle enjoying our veg northern thai food.

After dinner we were driven back to the hotel and left with an evening to do as we wished. Lindsay was exhausted and went to bed, but Anneka, Danielle and I went back out to the night markets in Chiang Mai in search of some great bargains. We all ended up buying a bunch of postcards, because at 10 baht a piece (roughly 30 cents) they were a STEAL, because in Sydney you can rarely buy one for under a $2.00 and it costs another $1.50 to send it. Danielle proved herself to be quite a bargain shark. She wanted to purcahse a scarf and the stall owner’s original asking price was 450 baht but Danielle told her that she refused to pay any more than 200. They went back and forth haggling over price until the owner finally said that 220 was her final offer. For that price I decided I would buy one and I walked away with a gorgeous purple silk scarf for around seven dollars. Shortly after we walked away the stall owner chased after us and told Danielle that she would sell it to her for 200, and I gave the lady the dirtiest look I could muster for swindling me out of 20 baht. I guess I must have inherited my mothers ability for steely eyed soul piercing stares because when Danielle came away from the stall she did so with her 200 baht scarf in hand and a 20 baht refund for me from the stall owner who had apparently said “you friend hates me, here is her money back.”

After we had shopped for an hour or two we headed back to the hotel and turned in for a pleasant sleep, our last night in Chiang Mai.

Elephants, Tigers, and Tut Tuts

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Waking up from a night spent shivering on the floor of wooden cabin in the mountains I wanted nothing more than a hot shower. My hair was greasy and gross, my face was oily, and my legs were bug bitten and mud streaked. All the twelve girls in our cabin woke up and compared horror stories of nighttime terrors and noises. Four of the girls in our room swore that some four legged creature had been walking around our cabin in the middle of the night, which was perfectly plausible because there were three pigs that had slept under our cabin and I’m sure a few of the dogs had joined them during the monsoon-esk rains that had fallen in the middle of the night. There was no electricity or running water in the village and so when the sun went down it got VERY dark. Only a few people had brought flashlights so we had to take turns using them, but when we were in the cabin without a flashlight on you literally could not see your hand in front of your face it was so dark. A couple girls had gotten up in the middle of the night to go find the tiny mud floored shack that passed as a bathroom in the village, but how the found it in the darkness is beyond me.

Once we had all woken up and scrubbed down as much as we could with baby wipes we went up for breakfast, which consisted of bread toasted on skewers over a fire, cereal and fresh fruit. After listening to the horror stories of the people from the other cabin who woke up with vomit everywhere because one of the boys had a little more rice moonshine than he could handle, we packed up our backpacks, loaded back into the caravan of red trucks and headed back down the mountain.

We were all hoping to be able to go back to the hotel and shower but instead we were taken to an elephant camp about halfway down the mountain to do an hour and a half long elephant ride through the mountains. While I wasn’t too keen on this idea because I had my heart set on a hot shower, but as soon as we got out of the trucks and saw these magnificent animals my mind was quickly changed.

We rode the elephants in pairs and my partner was Lindsay. Our elephant had a very long Thai name which I cannot for the life of me remember, but he was incredibly A.D.D. and hungry. He kept wandering off the trail to munch on leaves and fruit from trees. We were initially the fifth or sixth elephant in the lineup but by the time we got to the end of the trail we were one of the last groups to get back because our elephant had spent so much time wandering off and eating. At the start of the walk we were given a bunch of bananas and a bag of sugar cane and the elephants knew that their passengers were in possession of these items, so every ten or so minutes they would just stop walking and curl their trunk back and poke you until you handed it over. Very clever animals, elephants are. At one point during the walk we had to walk about 100 yards through a river, which was really frightening for us, but the elephant didn’t seemed to be bothered by it in the slightest.

Elephants and their passengers about to go out into the jungle

Courtney and Kaela elephant riding

Elephants behind us on the trail

Baby elephant pesters for a banana

Anneka and Danielle on their elephant

Lindsay and I off-roading on our elephant through a river

View of Lindsay's back and the side of the elephant's ear from atop his back. This is when we went off-roading through a river.

Elephant riding!

Baby elephants never stop being adorable

The beautiful mountain backdrop to our elephant ride

I bought a commemorative picture of my elephant ride for 100 baht (around $3.10 AUD) and since I don’t have a scanner here is a picture of that picture.

Me and Lindsay in my cool Elephant Camp frame. I'm on the right.

After we dismounted our elephant we all loaded back into the red trucks and headed back into the city to check into our hotel rooms and shower. That shower was by far one of the best showers I have ever had. This is not to say that the bathroom I had it in was anything special, or the shower head was fancy or I used special soaps of any kind, but more because I was so in need of one. The linens at the hotel were all white, and when I scrubbed my legs my washcloth came away a dingy brown color. A lovely mixture of sweat, dirt, bug spray and sunscreen all topped off with a nice natural mountain musk and essence of elephant dung. I feel like I must have lost two pounds of dirt off my body in that shower.

After everyone was back to smelling more like human beings we had lunch at the hotel buffet and then had the option of an outing to Tiger Kingdom or hanging out in the city and shopping and getting thai massages. Since we were going to do shopping at the night markets later that evening I opted to go to Tiger Kingdom.

Tiger Kindom is basically a zoo that specializes in tiger training and rehabilitation. Upon entering you decide which tiger enclosure you would like to go into. Your options are the smallest tigers (2-5 months old) for ten minutes, the medium sized tigers (6-9 months old) for 15 minutes, or the biggest tigers (10-20 months old) for fifteen minutes. It cost about $20 to see the youngest tigers but only about $12 to see any of the other sizes, so I opted to go with the medium sized cats. Approaching the cats is really intimidating, but a trainer goes in with you, and if you have ever seen any big cats during the daytime in a zoo they tend to look very sleepy and lazy. This is because they hunt at dusk being nocturnal animals, but during the day they just kinda lounge around just like any house cat. Since most of the tigers at Tiger Kingdom were born in captivity they are also very used to human interaction so they don’t react hardly at all when you touch them.

Petting a girl tiger named Lu Lu

Having a little cat nap

Lu Lu enjoying the belly rub

I'm surprised I didn't start sneezing.

Petting Lu Lu's twin sister La La

La La yawning

Tiger play time

Kitty Cat wrestling

Lu Lu and La La throwing down!

After leaving Tiger Kingdom we headed back to the hotel where we gathered with the people who had decided not to go to Tiger Kingdom and all loaded into a fleet of tut tuts. Tut tuts are tiny little open air taxis that seat two- three people. We were driven around the city for about twenty minutes driving around the original walls of the city and through most of the city centers and by the night markets which were just beginning to open. I was in a tut tut with two girls who lived in Coogee beach and our tut tut driver seemed to have a bad case of passive aggressive road rage. He was zipping in and out of lanes, cutting people off, stopping short, and speeding. Every time he came close to hitting something or someone the three of us clinched together or gasped and he looked back at us in the rear view mirror and smiled or laughed. I was fairly thrilled to have life and limbs still in tact when we came to a stop at the night markets. Once we exited the tut tut we had the rest of the evening to explore the night markets which featured a labyrinth of vendor stalls selling all sorts of t-shirts, crafts, handbags, elephant figurines, and all manner of scarves and silks. Prices here were all negotiable and Lindsay, Danielle, Anneka and I bartered our way into some awesome deals. I was able to get a very large north face backpack for 400 baht (about $15) when the original asking price was 850 baht (about $28). Anneka and I also treated ourselves to mango and sticky coconut rice from a vender for about 40 baht (about $3.30) and then the four of us split a banana rotee, which is a essentially a thai crepe with bananas in it, and its amazing.

Back of a tut tut

Night Markets in Chiang Mai

Next to a Buddhist shrine in the center of the night markets

Buddhist shrine outside our hotel, they are all over the place in the city and people leave food and drink in front of them so that they will have food and drink in the afterlife

Thailand really likes their elephants

Around eleven oclock we were all starting to drag because we had gotten up around six and had such a full day. Some of the other kids opted to go out and explore the nightlife but the four of us headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime.