There was so much to say about our 12 days in Chiang Mai so I thought I would list a few of Steve and I's highlights on top of the kids elephant and cooking summaries we already posted.
We all enjoyed a great bicycle tour in the Lanna countryside learning about rice farming, watching teak wood carvers and visiting a workshop were they build intricate and colourful burnable temples to put on top of caskets before cremation. Bicycle tours are the way to go - perfect combination of exercise and learning about the culture, history and geography of an area.
Steve loved walking up early and strolling through bustling markets where you are overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of spices, soups, curries, sweets, vegetables, frogs being skinned, live (only for a few more minutes) fish, and packaged goods all pilled higher than the short Thai people Steve towers over. It is fascinating to observe the monks make their daily stop at the market in the early morning for alms giving (all the food they eat during their two meals a day is collected by offerings from the people in the morning). Steve got used to pointing to his camera and then the people to ask permission to take photos, and the vast majority said yes as they went back to their tasks, wondering what they think of him photographing their food stalls in awe.
As for me, you can probably guess massages were a highlight, anywhere from $6-$10 an hour. I decided to complement the massages with an overnight meditation retreat run by young hip monk. Learned some new techniques which I want to use throughout the trip (I first need to curb my obsession with researching trip advisor reviews and logistics and slowly replace it with meditation!). The kids, Steve and my mom met me after for a "monkchat" session. The kids came prepared with questions to ask the young monks who were studying at the buddhist university in english. It was a very educational opportunity and good for all of us to realize its ok to talk to monks. They are the ones who need to watch out not to break one of their 227 rules!
We decided to stay almost 2 weeks in Chiang Mai to take part in the annual Loi Krathong festival which I described in an earlier blog while also having some school/relaxion days leading up to it. Loi Krathong is a festival of light, and I couldn't grasp the concept of lanterns rising into the sky until we saw them with our own eyes on the first night of the festival. It was unbelievable, within hours after sunset the ski was filled with large floating lanterns. They are very light white synthetic material with a fuel ring you light up (like a large mosquito coil!). The heat from the flame fille the inside of the lantern and after 5 minutes you let go and up up and away it floats. We discovered many people release them in temples and a young monk helped us with our lantern which we released all together along with a wish and positive thoughts.
Now some of you pilots and air traffic controllers might wonder....could this pose a problem for airplanes? Big time!! Turns out the Chiang mai airport cancelled all their evening flights for 2 nights as they have had problems with engines sucking in lanterns in the past. It was a beautiful sight that would never be allowed in Canada! The other traditional aspect to the festival was the release of krathongs, hand made ornamented biodegradable floating lanterns, on the Ping River. We watched for a while as some older couples said a blessing before releasing their krathongs, and younger people took selfies before releasing theirs and then setting off hand held fireworks. Firewords going back and forth across the river was the closest I've felt to being in a real crossfire. In addition to the lanterns and krathongs there were parades each night with the most gorgeous well dressed people I've ever seen...some of which must have been famous as they were followed by either throngs of young men or women. Throw in amazing street markets, mini amusement parks, live entertainment, and you've got yourself one massive street party! The next day we all crashed on the bus ride south to Sukhothai where it is much calmer and closer to our ideal daily pace, but so glad we stayed for the festival...I hate to miss a good party!