Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dec 23 Saying good-bye to Once and Future Traveling Buddies

This is my choice for a parting photo to remember them by.
The fantasy is to get together here again next year.
hmmmmmm. Or at least in the states somewhere.
California? Texas?

A farewell meal at Chiang Mai's Blue Diamond
restaurant. We'll miss their fun perspective and
great conversations.

Here is a quick photo from the song theauw on the way
back to Chiang Mai. Rice harvest time is pretty much
over for the year in this area.

Only a couple of engineers (and Keith) would study at great length
the mineral content score of the hot spring's baths.

Watching kids play in the warm pool at SamKaphaeng
Hot Springs was altogether almost too fun to leave.
This was also our last day before the couple with whom we
had spent several recent outings were scheduled
to leave for Luang Prabang -- and points beyond.

Dec 23 Recipe for How to Boil and Egg

Ever see a monument to the egg? I sure hope they
recycle the little baskets. It all made it seem closer
to Easter than the actual two days from Christmas.

Further downstream where the 105 degrees began to
cool a bit, were places where we could sit and soak
our feet. Many folks were enjoying the relaxing waters.

Just downstream from the geyser is this hot water tank with
hooks from which you hang your little basket of eggs. There
is a sign nearby that tells you how long to leave them in.
"3 min - soft boil, 9 min. half done, 15 min well done 105 degrees."
It must have been a cool day (it WAS December) because
after 30 min, it was only half done. We ate them
anyway -- well, 3 out of 4 of us did. I preferred the local
food shop version of som tam thai with sticky rice.

James, Irama and I check out the mechanics of what's
happening to the natural geyser. It is capped with
a pipe of the correct diameter to allow for a spectacular
spout. It's constant so no ETA is needed - unlike Old Faithful.

17.5 miles east of Chiang Mai (20 km east of SamKhampang)
are these hot spring geysers. This is a popular place for Thai
families. We saw very few farang this day, but many Thai
people enjoying the warm waters, public mineral baths,
and boiling eggs.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dec 22 Temple Doi Suthep - the pride of Chiang Mai (one of them)

And mine is the standing Friday Buddha.
Want to know what yours is?

Each day of the week has a governing
Buddha image. Here is Keith's which is
the Thursday Buddha.

Lots of things to talk about as we put our shoes
back on.

Irama gets a good shot of the worshipers surrounding
the central chedhi, a 16th century gold covered extension
of the original. The four multi-tiered gold leafed filigree
umbrellas at the corners, are very important for Thai families.

Elephants, Elephants, Elephants! These handsome
beasts are the base of the lampposts throughout
the temple grounds.

Sorry - (couldn't resist) More photos of the Royal Garden

I guess every culture might have its own version
of the monument pole. "Bauta" in Norsk. These
Thai versions were intricately carved with culturally
significant symbols.

The water reservoir was nicely done. The dancing aerators
were set to music -- a bit anachronistic, but not unpleasant.
You only had to accept where you were. Functional for sure.

But there WAS this little guy at the base of the giant
bamboo. He seemed intent on climbing and climbing, but then
he fell back down. We named him Sysiphus.

Just a colorful shot. . . .and then there were roses galore.
Too many to photograph actually. So I didn't.

What is it with engineers? Irama and Keith puzzle over
the map of the gardens. James shrugs with patience.

Dec 22 The Garden at the Royal Palace - James and Irama come to visit and we go out

The bamboo is big here too. The guys are only
there to give scale to the poles.

Then there is the requisite photo op before the
gorgeous orchids.

I want a job like this!

Peg was rather excited about the size of the Poinsettia
trees. Irama, a native of Indonesia, was only Ho-hum.
Apparently they grow that way in the tropics.

Catching a song taeuw (or however you spell it) out
to the gardens at the Royal Palace which is some distance
up Doi Suthep mountain just beyond the favored local
temple by the same name, proved to make the most
sense if we just hired the driver for the afternoon. That
way, he could wait for us, take us to the gardens AND the temple
and we'd have a ride home. The driver thought it
was a good idea too. 500 baht for him and we split
$US15+four ways. Very OK!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dec 21 From Tourist Town to Residence Condo -- Surprise!

6:00 AM and "the dawn comes up like thunder ..."
over the city. We also have ring side seats for the
fireworks that seem frequent and usually for reasons
unknown to us. Thai people just like fireworks.

Note: I know we wrote to many of you that we would
be spending Christmas in Cambodia. Obviously our plans
changed. What happened was our friend, Roger who was
to be our leader on the adventure, was hurt in an
accident as his school. He fell over a student on the stairs
and was banged up enough that he did not feel up to
traveling. So we decided to become residents of Chiang Mai
instead of tourists, and we took up residence at the
Chondoi Condohotel. The cost was reasonable enough
that we could afford to keep it as a base and travel out
from there. Roger is getting better and x-rays said nothing
was broken.

Stepping off the quick elevator and in only a few steps
we are at our door on the 12th floor. This will also
be a test of how we really like condo living - the kind of
thing we threaten ourselves with when yardwork and house
maintenance get too troubling. We are pretty sure
we won't like it. ...and No birds sing, well, not much but we do have a gecko.
But no mosquitos as they can't fly up 12 stories.

And of course there is high speed internet. We can
continue to skype Anya with webcam and generally
research places and traveling. We did not know then
that there would be a significant temptation to just
stay "home" and pretend we live here. Several other ex-pats
reside here, but most neighbors are Thai grad students
as this is near the university. And AWAY from the tourist scene.

While I was dyeing with the ladies, Keith took care of
the business of renting a condo for a month. We had
decided it only made sense. We saw it as an opportunity
to keep an inexpensive place from which we could afford
to explore about the country and still come back to.

We, "The Girls" --acquaintances of like-minded ladies:
Irama from Indonesia via Texas and Erica from Austria
via Sweden took a day together and signed up for a happy
Batik class offered by a local artist in her home. Such
good instruction and materials that it was impossible to
make a poor product.

Dec 20 When in a Tourist Town,. . . . . you do as the tourists do.

Late December in a city that caters to tourists
comes replete with Christmas symbols but many of
these lights are all year events.

I found these bamboo umbrella struts drying in the
sun rather charming.

Heading out of town a bit to see some of the handicrafts,
a few of us accept a ride from a relative of the hotel
management to where she works stopping at a few other
shops on the way back.

It was still a vibrant and fun place to be. This family
seems at home and enjoying a very clever means of
transport. You can also get an idea of how narrow the
streets are.

This movable feast of oranges is the kind of thing
you'll see making its way along the narrow streets of
old town Chiang Mai inside the old wall and its defining
moat. Our little NE corner was only one of several
guest house/trekker catering neighborhoods. While
it was considerably less crowded than normal (so we
were told) due to economic and political issues it still seemed
very gringoized to us. When the menus are ONLY in
English, there's something not quite right.

Dec 14 There's More to Chiang Mai

The Sunday night market (not to be confused with
the other night market) was an amazing and crowded
place. Here this excellent sushi was enjoyed at the feet
of the three kings while watching local community
theater groups give a rendition of something we had absolutely
no clue about.

a corner market where it is possible to find nearly
everything. With a fridge in our room, we could
keep a good supply of fruit.

The Three Kings monument and landmark had an additional meaning
during this holiday season. Religion aside,
you must admit these are handsome fellows.

At another wat, the elephants are getting a bath. We
wonder if the light yellow monk garb signifies novice monks,
and his toothbrush duty some kind of merit making task.

My favorite chedi from last time, the Chedi Luong.
I love the elephant's halves that are stepping out
to challenge intruders. Apparently the large portion
missing from the top was a victim of an earthquake in
the 15th century. Some sources say it was from cannon
fire in 1775 when it was recaptured from the Burmese.
Keith insisted on a monk chat. It was pleasant -
our monk was an authority on British poetry.

Dec 13 Getting to Know Chiang Mai

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec 12 Making a Small Move

Our new neighborhood had considerably more
population density. Family life spilled out on the sidewalks.
Indeed the corner laundry lady's little boy was doing
his homework when we came to pick up our laundry.

We got into a silly pattern of photographing elephants for
our granddaughter, Anya, who seemed pleased to see
them. There certainly was a variety.
This life-sized guy was quite glittery.

Of course there was the requisite neighborhood walkabouts
to explore the numerous wats.

Here for an additional $10/night we had really good
high speed wi-fi and could contact family and catch up
with other correspondence and planning.

As much as we liked the setting of Je T'ame we reluctantly
had to admit that we needed access to internet. So,
turning our backs on this 200 baht/night room (about 6$US)
we moved into the old city environs inside the moat to
another residence house.

Dec 9-11 Chiang Mai - settling in

Other features of Wat Ket Karam include a resident
gray and white cat unbelievably clad in a red and white
santa suit. To protect him from the frigid 70 degree
winter I guess. There was also a strangely misplaced
Maniken Pis, albeit a terra cotta version.

This handsome Naga and mythological gecko-like
critters lining apsara door decor were residents of the
neighborhood Wat Ket Karam, an especially
fun wat as they housed a drum museum and local boys
were pounding out some pretty powerful rythms on
genuinely traditional instruments.

Here at the corner of the flower market are the red
song teaws that proved to be the main mode of
getting around CM. They have a good bus system, but
no one seems to use it. Tuk Tuks are also common.

The walk to the "action" was along west bank of
the River Mae Ping. She is a broad river with tourist
boats going and coming. The Warorot Market and the
flower market as well as the famed night markets, were
just across the nearest bridge.

The courtyard of the restful and lovely Je T'ame
GH in Chiang Mai looking toward our very pleasant
room. The innkeeper was a very kind and serene lady who
made us welcome even at a way too early hour.
The train had arrived at 5:30 AM, but we managed
to stall the song teauw driver for a few hours before
taking us there. The location was a bit away from
the concentrated old-city/tourist scene, yet close enough
for a nice walk to get there -- if we wanted. Which we
really didn't. We relished this chance to catch our breath
and collect ourselves.