SE Asia – March 24 – 26 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Moat surrounding the Chiang Mai old city. Modern additions are fountains and permanent bridges at the gates.

Moat surrounding the Chiang Mai old city. Modern additions are fountains and permanent bridges at the gates.

East gate of the Chiang Mai old city

East gate of the Chiang Mai old city

One of the more ornate Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai with much gold displayed everywhere.

One of the more ornate Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai with much gold displayed everywhere.

The Sunday Market is gearing up for the nighttime crush. The main street across the old city is blocked off for the once a week market.

The Sunday Market is gearing up for the nighttime crush. The main street across the old city is blocked off for the once a week market.

The largest ancient stupa in the center of the Chiang Mai old city.  A replica of the Emerald Buddha which was once housed here is in the lighted niche at the top of the stairs. The Emerald Buddha is now in Bangkok.

The largest ancient stupa in the center of the Chiang Mai old city. A replica of the Emerald Buddha which was once housed here is in the lighted niche at the top of the stairs. The Emerald Buddha is now in Bangkok.

An impressive reclining Buddha.

An impressive reclining Buddha.

Nagas (snakes) guard the stairways to the temples. This particular one has a unique smirk.

Nagas (snakes) guard the stairways to the temples. This particular one has a unique smirk.

The Sunday market in full swing in the evening. It was almost impossible to move there were so many people. Locals as well as tourists are all out in the moderate temperature of the evening.

The Sunday market in full swing in the evening. It was almost impossible to move there were so many people. Locals as well as tourists are all out in the moderate temperature of the evening.

Vegetables laid out for selection and cooking at one of the food vendors at the Sunday Market

Vegetables laid out for selection and cooking at one of the food vendors at the Sunday Market

Octopus tentacles available at the Sunday Market. They were a bit chewy but good.

Octopus tentacles available at the Sunday Market. They were a bit chewy but good.

Sliced and prepared hard boiled eggs at the Sunday Market.

Sliced and prepared hard boiled eggs at the Sunday Market.

Fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice at the Sunday Market

Fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice at the Sunday Market

Egg rolls cooked to order at the Sunday Market.

Egg rolls cooked to order at the Sunday Market.

A Chiang Mai stupa with elephants on the lower tiers.

A Chiang Mai stupa with elephants on the lower tiers.

The monks solicit donations to feed the city dogs. Here their getting breakfast. The Thais do keep dogs and cats as pets. So they're much better treated than in Laos and Cambodia.

The monks solicit donations to feed the city dogs. Here their getting breakfast. The Thais do keep dogs and cats as pets. So they’re much better treated than in Laos and Cambodia.

IMG_2440

Mosaic of a peacock standing on a dog above the entrance to a temple built of teak rather than stone or brick.

Mosaic of a peacock standing on a dog above the entrance to a temple built of teak rather than stone or brick.

Donations from the faithful for the monks. This bowl includes toiletries.

Donations from the faithful for the monks. This bowl includes toiletries.

Deni in front of an elaborate chest housing manuscripts. In a temple museum we saw chests full of manuscripts which are mainly bamboo sheets inscribed with ink. Small temple houses isolated in the center of a water pond are used to keep rodents from damaging the manuscripts.

Deni in front of an elaborate chest housing manuscripts. In a temple museum we saw chests full of manuscripts which are mainly bamboo sheets inscribed with ink. Small temple houses isolated in the center of a water pond are used to keep rodents from damaging the manuscripts.

Deni showing off our lunch of prawn salad for her and venison for me. The white wine was good. Red wine is a problem.

Deni showing off our lunch of prawn salad for her and venison for me. The white wine was good. Red wine is a problem.

A faithful resident receiving a blessing from a monk at one of the main temples.

A faithful resident receiving a blessing from a monk at one of the main temples.

Remains of some partially preserved murals on the walls of one of the smaller temples.

Remains of some partially preserved murals on the walls of one of the smaller temples.

Young monk candidates out sweeping up the grounds around a small temple at the complex where they're resident.

Young monk candidates out sweeping up the grounds around a small temple at the complex where they’re resident.

The one hour flight from Luang Prabang, Laos, to Chiang Mai was easy. It eliminated a full day on a boat or a bus to get here otherwise. Chiang Mai is a little warmer than Luang Prbang because it’s not in the mountains. The air quality is just as bad as everywhere else in SE Asia during the dry season. Chiang Mai is an interesting city with an old town surrounded by a moat and the remnants of the original wall and gates at the entrances from the new city surrounding it. There seems to be about one wat (temple) per block all over the old city. It’s a wonder they can all be supported by residents. The temples require constant upkeep and support of the resident monks. There are restored and unrestored ancient stupas at some of the temple sites. The biggest one in the center of the old city even has remains of a tunnel that appears to have led outside the city walls. We’ve seen a lot of the temples. The Thais certainly go all out in their buildings honoring Buddha. There is a tremendous amount of gold leaf and gold paint applied all over the city.

At this point were about templed out. So we’ll be exploring the surrounding area over the next few days. Chiang Mai is a major tourist area. There are many Asian tourists as well as Europeans and a few Americans. We suspect that the major American tourist scene is at the beaches in southern Thailand. There’s a lot of cultural diversity in northern Thailand because of the history of the movement of various groups over time plus shifting dominance of the area from the Burmese to the west, the Chinese to the north, and the Tais (correct spelling) to the south. We’ll see what we find among the hill tribes that surround Chiang Mai.

Food here is good and plentiful. The fresh market with fruits and vegetables is just down the street from our hotel. There are many small restaurants with local food in the area plus a Mike’s burgers, a burrito place, and a pizza place nearby. There are larger restaurants with food of many international flavors. We think we have a large diversity of restaurants in Portland. Chiang Mai rivals that with many choices. The major difference is the price. Our kabob dinner last night with drinks was $8. A more upscale lunch was $12. There are some high end restaurants. But there’s little reason to eat there when there is so much local fresh food for low prices all over town.

Imported items can be a problem here. We need more lithium batteries for our camera. But they are not to be had anywhere in town. I was able to purchase some in Siem Reap in Cambodia. It’s a huge tourist area because of Angkor Wat. But the options here in Chiang Mai are limited. I even tried the two big electronics stores. But instead of one store such as Best Buy or Fry’s offering a large number of choices, it’s just a big building with a lot of small shops inside. Each shop has a limited inventory and there’s much duplication. We get used to the selection of goods we have in the US. But it’s much more limited in lesser developed countries. Few people have the large amount of capital needed to finance a large business. I guess we’ll have to use our phone camera for most shots and conserve the amount of battery we have left in the camera for the more difficult low light shots in the evening or in building interiors. We have less than a week remaining in our trip. But there’s still a lot to explore in this area.

Bob

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s