Thailand- Chiang Mai
We arrived safely in Bangkok on November 9th after a long flight from Johannesburg.We made sure to get to the J. Burg airport about four hours early.We are once bitten twice shy when it comes to missing our flights now.We decided to fly to Chiang Mai, northwest region of Thailand, the same day. We had a 9 hour layover and didn't even walk out of the airport.It was a grueling 9 hours.We had to stay with all of our luggage until we could check in for our flight to Chiang Mai.The kids and I fell asleep at one of the two restaurants we visited that day.Brent and Sam got their hair cut and Emma and I enjoyed a foot massage.We could have done school work or read, but our brains were mush.
We had a hotel booked (Eurasia, we renamed Erosia) for a few days when we got to Chiang Mai so we would have some time to scope out the area and find a home base for about a month.The hotel was disappointing as it was kind of pricy for Thailand and it wasn't that great of a place.Plus, they assured us they had internet in the rooms, but they didn't have anything close to it.We were not happy.But, it just motivated us to find something sooner than later for our month here.
Without going into too much detail, we ended up staying in a great condo/apartment type building for about as much for the month as it cost us for one week at the first place. Hi speed internet in our room that was free!Also, the pool is on our floor just down the hall right next to the fitness area.It is lekker, as our South African friends would say. So, we are now in our spacious 64 square meter (less than 700 sq ft) accommodations.It sounds small by American standards, but is just right for us.We have a small "kitchen" and somehow ended up with one fork one night, so we all just shared the fork.It's amazing what you can live with when you know it's temporary.Also, there is a long story about how we found this place, but it's one of those domino effects that started in a hole in the wall coffee shop on a street that sold mostly screws and other building supplies."Where God closes a door he opens a window".It really was one closed door after another that opened other opportunities to find the place where we are now staying.I know most normal people traveling to a foreign country with their kids would have this all worked out, but that's just not how we roll. We like to live on the edge a little and hope that the kindness of strangers will carry us through.
So, now about Thailand.
Food:The food is great and there are restaurants everywhere.It feels very clean and safe.Chiang Mai is not as busy as Bangkok, we are told, but it is still a very busy city.The main part of the city is called the "old city" and is surrounded by man made canals.There are "gates" into the old city where brick walls were put up during a war.Each gate has a name and our place is just outside the Chiang Mai gate and is a very short walk to the "old city".We have eaten at the plaza near the Chiang Mai gate where street vendors are scattered from one end to the other selling their quick cuisines.The four of us ate one night for $3.50 and it's good food too.It's a fun, bustling city.
People, Weather and Cost: There seems to be quite a few expatriates here.Especially retired men.It is cheap here and everyone is super friendly.We have had so many people sincerely willing to help us.The weather is great too this time of year.Brent and I would highly recommend it for anyone; single people, retired, families with kids, just about anyone would find something to do here.The exchange rate is about 34 bahts: 1 dollar.They are so helpful oriented in nature that their service oriented businesses don't put a big price tag on those kinds of amenities.I guess that's why people love to come here for cheap massages!
Language:The language is very difficult and while we have our phrase book and try our best to pronounce the words, we just haven't gotten the knack yet. I (Susan) have tried so hard to say a Thai word just to get a puzzled look.Then I show them the phrase in the book and they say it in Thai.It sounds just like I said it to my ears, and can't get why they didn't understand me.We have learned that the inflections here mean everything.A word here that sounds more or less like "key" can be said going down in the inflection to mean "ride" .If you go up in the inflection it means "poop".So you may think you are asking for a "ride" somewhere, but you may really be asking for a "poop".Very difficult.
Transportation: Transportation is easy too.We have ridden in taxis, tuk tuks and trucks with campers and seats in the beds where lots of people can sit.Also, we have recently rented scooters, which is how most people get around here.It is kind of dangerous because the streets are so busy, but so far, it's been pretty easy to navigate the city.
MaeTaeng Elephant Park
After settling in at the Smith Residence for about 5 days and getting caught up with the kids' school work we decided it was time to plan an outing.We booked a tour to the Mae Taeng Elephant park through a touring company we stumbled across while having lunch one afternoon.After seeing the African Elephants at Kapama we wanted to see what Asian elephants were like.Not only did we want to see them but we wanted to get up close and personal.The tour we chose included an elephant show, an opportunity for the kids to feed the elephants, a ride on an ox cart, a river bamboo raft ride, which the kids got a turn navigating, a visit to the Orchid & butterfly farm and to top it off a Buddhist temple. The temple is called Wap Pa Dara Pirom.Pirom means "happy".Now an all day tour in the states such as this would cost around $150 or so per person.However, when you are in Thailand things are pretty darn cheap.We paid about $150 for all of us including a van that picked us up at our hotel, tips for everyone, lunch and several souvenirs we purchased along the way.What an incredible day!We all enjoyed it, but I think Emma and Susan were wondering if the elephants were treated well and was this whole tourist attraction humane.Still don't know for sure.Our guide assured us they were treated well and he was a monk for about 21 days, so surely he wouldn't lie.He left the monk life because he couldn't take just one meal a day.Our guide,Samsan, was very knowledgeable about the Buddhist monk culture and the religion.It was a great day and our guide was very sweet.The pictures tell a better story.
Well, I (Susan) am off to my first Thai cooking class tomorrow.I am very excited about it.
We are planning a temple tour on our scooters Saturday.Buddhism is the predominant religion here and there are lots of beautiful temples or "wats" all over the city.
For those traveling to Chiang Mai and looking for accommodations there are several that we found in our search that seemed pretty good.We are at the Smith Residence.
·Nimman Viengping www.nimmanviengping.com.