Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charming Chiang Mai

We are happy we connected with our Whidbey Island friend, Todd, in
Ayuthaya. As we are nearing the end of our journey, he was beginning
his. It was lovely to have this intersection for an afternoon, after
which we boarded a night bus for Chiang Mai in North Central Thailand.
Though we were on a luxury bus with reclining seats, a good night's
sleep still eluded us.

We arrived in Chiang Mai grateful to have booked a room in Riverside
House, a small quiet bed and breakfast with a lovely garden. We were
about 15 minutes walk from the center and right on the river which
runs through the city.

After spending a quiet first day, we set out to explore. Chiang Mai is
absolutely loaded with temples and monasteries. I don't think you can
walk more than two blocks in any direction without finding at least
one and often more. I was quite amused to come across one that had a
large Donald Duck among all the other animals staged in its garden. It
has surprised me to see a fair bit of kitschy stuff amongst the
buddhas. Plaster and plastic figures and plastic flowers abound in all
of Asia.

One of our must do's was a Prison Massage. We read in our guidebook
that the women's prison trained inmates about 6 months before release
in a number of skills. One of these skills is Thai massage. Upon
reaching a level of skill, they are able to work in the prison massage
shop and the money collected is saved for their release. We had great
massages and were put in some positions we hadn't experienced before!
Once again, we felt great about where our tourist dollars were going
and that these women would leave prison with a way to earn a

The following day, we both took a Thai cooking class at an organic
farm in the countryside. We first had a brief visit to a market where
we were introduced to about 20 different kinds of rice.

At the farm, we found all the fresh ingredients that we would pound
into our green, red or yellow curry paste. Most of these ingredients
grow year-round in Thailand which gives the food it's wonderful
freshness. Our teacher was a very charming and humorous Thai man, who,
while showing us traditional methods and ingredients, offered
encouragement to modify his recipes and make the food our own way with
the ingredients available to us when we returned home. David and I are
looking forward to giving it a try.

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