Updated: Nov 12, 2018
Today was an R&R day. No bikes, no charging around, just a tourist trip around old Chiang Mai city on foot, a massage & a dinner by the river Ping. Doesn’t sound bad, does it? It wasn’t. It was hot, but that wasn’t really an issue. The mosquitoes aren’t really a problem here & I discovered fruit smoothies, brain freeze style, for proper! We had a lazy start with a slow breakfast, only marred by a publicly rowing couple with a young child, who burst into tears watching her parents argue. After standing & raising his voice so everyone could hear him (but not necessarily understand as he was speaking mandarin), the father walked out. The child stop crying, the mother cheered up & all was good. Is that a pastiche of life? :(
Chiang Mai has changed since I was here last. Hardly surprising, it has been over 30 years. But it did surprise me how expensive things are. More than Bangkok. Thailand generally has got wealthier & more sophisticated & more confident in that time, but it is most evident to me here. The prices are high, even for the locals who appear to have little difficulty paying them, unless of course they are bartering when I can’t understand! There is certainly wealth in evidence, with some very large, modern & elegant domestic architecture tucked away inconspicuously; the same for hotels & restaurants.
The old city, defined by the old city walls that surrounded it, is the main area we have explored since we’ve been here, but we ventured outside them towards the river for dinner tonight & ended up on a very expensive stretch of real estate. We opted for the Riverside Cafe & bar which was blasting out mid-western American music, being hammered out by two old guys on guitars. They were good, but we retreated to a couple of terraces lower, nearer the river where we could actually hear each other. Their repertoire was extensive & at one point I could actually imagine I was on the Left Bank in Paris, with the river, the markets, the music...
Exploring was interesting, but for me people watching was the fun. The temples are fabulous & demand a visit, but there are so many of them! I was more fascinated by the little girl selling her father’s rope animals & the old Thai guy who accosted Simon with tales of living in Australia & teaching Muay Thai (kick boxing) who then tried to persuade us that we needed to experience a Thai ladyboy (with video on phone to hand as well)!
There were also the female German tourists who were quite vociferously irate (it is considered extreme rudeness to raise your voice in Thailand) at not being allowed to enter a temple that stated it was ‘Men only’! I have no idea why it was, that was just what the sign said. Imagine that in New Zealand :)
I was also intrigued by the fixed expressions the buddhists monks I took pictures of had on their faces. Normally I can get anyone to crack a smile - defeated this time! There is a thing called MonkChat where you can sit down with a Buddhist monk & ask him any question you like about the religion & how or why he lives like he does. Unfortunately, there were none to hand when we came though.
In the main temple people were hanging little banners representing the year of their birth according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. I am the year of the rat (hard working / industrious) but it appears so are a lot of other people as there were none left for my year. I have no idea why it was happening, but it made for a very colourful image.
After our temple tour, we happened upon a backstreet fruit smoothie cafe - wonderful. Real fruit & brain freeze. I had several more today after that, I have to confess. We then retired to the hotel to plan which massage establishment we should go to. There are various massage types available & we both opted for the hot oil massage which was part Thai, part aromatherapy. We chose different places. I went on online reviews & Simon went on his gut from a place we passed in the street. Interestingly both were very good, but mine was a bit more expensive. However, NZ$75 for 90 minutes of professional massage is quite a steal really. When I arrived, they gave me water, a gown & a sealed pack of skimpy netting type pants. These are to save your (and your massage therapist’s) modesty but do not really get in the way. Firstly, my feet were washed in a bowl of warm, fruit laced water with soap & an exfoliant, then I lay down for 90 minutes of excruciating heaven! My body really did need to have all the knots worked out & I can’t feel a one, now! When it was all over (and I confess I slipped off a couple of times) I was given a bowl of hot tea & a small biscuit. Walking back to the hotel, I couldn’t help myself. I rounded off the afternoon with another smoothie!
Now all set for tomorrow when we’re back on the bikes & heading for the hills. We haven’t yet decided if we are going to tour out & return to Chiang Mai for another night, or if we’ll stay a bit further south & start our journey back to Bangkok. We don’t like to plan too far ahead!
You’ll find all the images from my Rovings here:
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