Monday, October 27, 2008

Oct.21-27: Chiang Mai, northern Thailand

It's sort of surprising that we've spent a week (well, more than) here in Chiang Mai since we didn't expect to, but we've been busy! Picking up a handful of brochures the first day, we at first thought we'd for sure have to spend a week here just to do everything that interested us: trekking, cooking classes, mountain biking, yoga, whitewater rafting, etc... Julie spotted the horse riding brochure so our first activity was learning how to control the temperamental little horses. Mine tried bucking me off, Julie's wouldn't go anywhere but home and our guide's horse succeeded in tossing him over the front. But we plodded around safely and had fun.
The picture show is available here.

In the evening we took a quick Thai cooking class where we learned to make curry (from scratch) and spicy Thai soups. We also got a tour through the market (to buy our ingredients) and learned what a lot of things were that we'd been eating for the past week. I suppose if we can find the ingredients back home we'll try to remember how to make it and possibly whip up some
tom khaw gai for you.

Pretty much every hotel, guesthouse, restaurant and regular travel agent will sell you a tour or arrange any ticket for you. The standard stuff that they all pitch are trekking tours into the hills to go elephant riding, rafting and a hill tribe. I was not interested at all in this "default tour" as I called it, but after heavy rains everyday Julie got her wish as I figured mountain biking wouldn't be too good in the mud. We got a deal on the tour (900ß vs. 12-1400) and really it wasn't a bad way to spend a day. The orchid/butterfly farm was neat [sorry mom, I was hoping to get you a pretty orchid brooch but figured it wouldn't survive my backpack]. My first white-water rafting experience was quite fun although our bamboo raft was barely buoyant. And the elephant ride through the jungle was entertaining too. But the hill tribe "village" was a total joke and confirmed my fears of feeling like a tool. We pull up to this little strip mall of huts with scarves in them and our guide calls out to the ladies to come out from their homes in back. A handful of "long-necked" women came out and did their thing on their looms. Our guide showed us the brass rings that they place around their neck and shins and said "take a picture! Buy something!". Our group wasn't impressed and it was a short stop. Julie bought a book on hill tribes and I was wondering why long-necks were not mentioned in it. That's because they're not really in Thailand, sort of imported by tour operators as a gimmick, although we think some of our tour fee went to the people to send back home. [More info available @]

We heard from others that if you took a 2d/1n trekking trip then you actually went out into the jungle and found real villages where real people really lived and it was more interesting. But it was time to move on; we are running close to our visa allowance time & still need to hit Thailand’s most famous beaches.

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