Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Well, our next stop after Bangkok was Chiang Mai, Thailand.  It was amazing and fun and we did way too much to put into one blog post, but I will try to keep it to just two - plus a Thai food one after that for all the people requesting that!  So here, we go - lots of photos, just a few words. Or, that's the plan.  But I'm only just now beginning...

In Cambodia, anything goes.  But we don't have a car.  In Thailand we got to borrow one so we let our three year old drive.

Totally kidding of course.  Actually we are extremely grateful to a super amazing couple from the IJM office in Chiang Mai who not only offered us their home during our visit, but also their car.  We have no idea how to thank them enough for their hospitality and we do hope they come to visit us in Cambodia so we can at least try! We had a lovely time seeing where they live and work, visiting IJM Chiang Mai, and experiencing things with them we might not have been able to do if we'd only been "tourists" for our visit - like eating the best NY style pizza we've had in 6 months! So thank you so much. You know who you are and I hope you know how grateful we are. And I hope you know we didn't ACTUALLY let our little one drive your car :)  

And did anyone else notice the steering wheel placement? Yes, they drive on the left side of the road. So, Stephen hadn't driven in 6 months and suddenly had to do it on the other side of the road. It was amazing how well he did it - and how he drove just like all the other crazy drivers out there!


"Old City" Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat and used to have a wall around it.  At each corner you can still see remnants of that wall.  I got zero photos of that.  Oops.  Here's some of the water and the birds around it.  

The next day, after we started to get a feel for the roads and where things were, we got up early and headed out to the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival.  Bo Sang is the name of the village and they make umbrellas and paint them by hand. This is what we were greeted with, and it's what the whole town looked like. Pretty cool.

As you can surely see, it's not just umbrellas. It's paper lanterns, umbrellas of all types, paper flowers, fans, those Christmasy lights you hang outdoors, and all types of things.  

We got to paint our own, too.

That sweet lady showed us how to do it. Then Stephen was helping the kids and they got up and ran away and he kept trying to "fix" what they'd done. Some European couple walked by and saw just him sitting there working on an umbrella painted by a 3 year old and the man says "That's what mine would look like if I painted one." Stephen didn't get to defend himself before the man was gone. I laughed hysterically thinking that man thought he painted it! Here's the finished products:

After painting we saw these girls getting ready for the parade while we ate lunch.  We weren't totally sure of the event order because the map and information was in Thai, so we were glad to know it was coming soon.  They got on a moto and headed out and we stayed put waiting for the big event.

The first event was these ladies riding bicycles with their umbrellas.  They were all dressed the same and wearing numbers. We gathered it was also a beauty pageant.

This little girl above was walking along with them trying to be one of them.  So cute!

And then the parade began.  It actually started with a real marching band like USA parades do but then this followed, and it was way more interesting  That's a big contraption all connected but made up of lots of different instruments with all the boys playing different parts of it. This part was called the "cultural parade." Or that's what someone told us I think. Here's one of the floats:

See the fingers?  Weird.  

And those are the girls we saw get on the moto earlier.  We guessed maybe they were winners last year?  But we were just guessing.  No clue why their dresses are different than everyone elses and they get to ride on a float instead of bicycles.   

And alas, it was over.  He couldn't even make it to the car before he crashed.  He slept like that.  We walked slow enough that we caught the end of the parade and people started pointing at him and taking his picture. 

That one's just for fun.

After a nap in the car our friend took us to the night market where you can find ANYthing and all sorts of unique gifts.  The boys bought Muay Thai boxer shorts and I got a couple things, too.  

I thought these turtle shell guitar things were pretty neat.  Photo worthy neat.  

And then we saw people playing rattan ball.  It's a sport like Volleyball, but you only use your FEET.  Seriously. The ball is made of that rattan stuff - like wicker/bamboo something or other and they kick it over the net.  It was pretty amazing to watch, though hard to capture in a photo, especially since it was in low light.  

After a bit we took a drive up a mountain called Doi Sutep.  Doi means mountain.  There's some Thai education for you :).  When we got to the top we saw all of Chiang Mai.  It was a bit hazy, but still a great sight.

I thought the monks taking in the view made a neat photo.  

And a monk taking a photo made a neat photo, too, or so I thought. I don't know why, but it made me chuckle a bit.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that these are sacred places to them.  I'm just a tourist visiting a neat, pretty, interesting place, but to them it's a religious place, often holy and sacred.  Below you'll see a photo of people placing coins in cups as an offering.  I don't know the meaning or the purpose of it.  I have learned a bit about Buddhism but there is so much I still don't have a clue about.  

And there's a family picture in front of one of the gold monuments in the temple on top of the mountain.

Those girls are from one of the mountain hill tribes in northern Thailand.  It's kind of like Native Americans in USA.  They are Thai people but live in a way separate from the others.  They were at the temple that day dancing and collecting money.  I'm not sure if they do that everyday or not.  They were just children but if you wanted them to look at you, you had to pay money for a photo.

Here are a couple more photos from the top of the mountain, around the temple.

Many bells to ring, again, don't know the semblance of that


Garden with small wooden children with open mouthed smiles, seen often in northern Thailand.

On the road back down the mountain that wound around and around for many kilometers, we stopped at a National Park to see a couple waterfalls we had heard were gorgeous.  It wasn't much of a hike, and the kids could do it themselves, which they thought was pretty fun.

They sure were a sight to see!  Can you spot the Schiffman Men?

Above was waterfall #1 and below is #2, which only Stephen could cross those wet rocks to get to.

And that's all the photos of the 1000+ I have to show you for now.

Except for all the animal ones.  And that includes elephants playing soccer, monkeys riding bicycles, tiny baby tigers, zebras almost eating out of our hands (if only we'd had food),  hippos with their mouths wide open waiting for food, and so much more.  That's for the next post.  The animals of Chiang Mai.  Tomorrow.  I promise.

For now, here's a dog driving a car we saw at the night market.  And some fashionable tie dyed leggings in the background. Thailand was pretty awesome.

See you tomorrow...

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