Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category.

Chiang Mai

A one hour flight north from Bangkok took me to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. Compared to the insanity of Bangkok, well, there really is no comparison. Chiang Mai is almost sleepy, but in a really nice way. Central Chiang Mai is a rectangle surrounded by a moat, and you can ride the perimeter in under ten minutes. There’s a really cool park in one of the corners of the center, where you can rent a straw mat for a quarter and relax with a book or an iPod


Even within the center there is a Wat on just about every block


About 16 km outside of town, atop the 1700 m peak of Doi Suthep lays Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Established in 1383 under King Keu Naone, it is supposed to be one of the north’s most sacred temples. Just getting there was a thrill. Doing my best Valentino Rossi impersonation, I was flat out on the throttle of the 125cc Honda Dream for about 30 minutes winding through the s-turns up Doi Suthep.

Once you reach the top, you’re still not quite there. An imposing staircase of 300 steps gave me Great Wall flashbacks


But once up and in, it is pretty amazing. The Golden Chedi is the centerpiece


And all around it, people are either on their knees in worship or on their cameras clicking away




I even saw these two German guys on their knees bowing to a monk and donating money. I gave the monk a great big smile and kept walking.

Buddhas everywhere


And many rows of bells


There must be some significance to ringing every bell, because a lot of people were doing it


Out behind the Golden Chedi is a nice terrace with a great view of Chiang Mai over a mile below. The woman kneeling on the ground next to me had her eyes closed and was uttering something repeatedly, prayers I assume. I don’t think she even knew I was there


These little Buddhas were pretty cool. I kept envisioning a small man standing behind the row screaming “Step right up! Get your Buddha here! Pick a Buddha, any Buddha!”


In a house of worship, with my mind wandering like that, it was time to go, so I jumped on the bike and shot back down the mountain into town.

There is a great live music scene in Chiang Mai, especially at the Roots, Rock Reggae Bar. Job 2 Do and The Chiang Mai Brothers both put on great shows while I was there, plus Lima the DJ turned out to be from Rotterdam where I visited years back when my friend Nick was living there. Lima almost blew a gasket when I told him I had been to The Ski Hut, his favorite bar in Rotterdam, and we became immediate friends. Turns out Lima is friends with all of the Yugoslavian bouncers at the Baja Beach Club in Rotterdam, where Nick used to work. Pretty funny. At any rate, good times there and even at places without live music. Pinte Blues Bar plays nothing but, over 500 CDs of the good stuff. Got my mind wandering about seeing some live blues next time I’m in Chicago.

Funny, just last week in Bangkok Dave asked me if I’ve felt homesick at all, and at the time the answer was a pretty simple no, it just hadn’t really occurred to me. Yet back on my own now for a week, a few of those thoughts are starting to creep in. We’ll see where it goes. Was thinking about heading next to a little mountain town called Pai, just over three hours northwest of Chiang Mai by bus. But watching the bizarre Colts Steelers game a few nights ago at an all night sports bar, I ran into a guy who had just come from Pai. He had a hacking cough and a horrible cold, compliments of the near freezing nighttime temperatures in Pai. I told him I was traveling on a light summer bag, three Nike dry fit t-shirts, one long sleeve dry fit, one pair of shorts and one pair of jeans. He told me to go to the store and buy a coat and some sweaters before going to Pai this time of year. I thought about that for not very long and booked a ticket back to Bangkok.

I would like to have seen Pai, and have found out whether the bus ride there took exactly 3.14 hours, but that will have to wait for another time and warmer days.

I’m leaving Chiang Mai for Bangkok in a few hours, having decided that my time in South East Asia, at least for this trip, is complete. Later tonight I’ll be boarding a Thai Airways 747 for an overnight trip to the land down under. Next stop Sydney.