13.05.2007 - 15.05.2007 27 °C
After finishing at the Elephant Kraal we caught the overnight train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai. Our seats had already been made into bunks so we sat on the lower bunk and looked out the window for awhile until it was time to go to bed properly. Katherine slept ok but I didn't as we were close to the door and it would whoosh open then whoosh closed every time somebody went through it.
We were meant to arrive in Chiang Mai at 7:15am but we didn't arrive until after 9:30am. At least we had a chance to see the jungle scenery. Our guesthouse here is called Tha Phae Garden Guesthouse. It is fairly new and is clean and confortable but the room is a little small (not too bad).
After settling in we took a walk to the old city and Wat Chiang Man. This is the oldest wat in Chiang Mai. It has a Stone Buddha and a Crystal Buddha. The Crystal Buddha is only 10cm high. Like most important Buddha images they have had their own tiki tour around Thailand depending on whick king has looted which town.
A tuk-tuk driver was having a slow day so we helped him out by hiring him to take us to Bo Sang village. First we stopped off at another Wat to see it's unusual chedi in the style of a series of watermelons. I visited Bo Sang village on my first trip to Thailand many years ago, where I purchased a silver chain at a reasonable price. Last year on my birthday I had a cold and stayed home from work. When I was in the shower the chain came off and I threw it out the shower door aiming for the edge of the bath. It slid down the side of the bath and down the plug hole. End of chain. Now I was back at Bo Sang village where I was able to replace the chain.
As well as looking at silver and gems we also saw lacquerware, silk and umbrella painting. At each place they quickly showed us how the products are made and then ushered us into huge showrooms where they hoped we would spend up large. We managed to avoid this in all but the silver place.
Every Sunday night the main roads in the Old City from gate to gate turn into a night market. Back in Chiang Mai it was time to continue our shopping by wandering slowly along these roads. Katherine was in her element. We ate omelette and papaya salad at a stall sitting at a low table wearing plastic rain ponchos and holding the umbrella to keep the downpour off. The rains have come early this year and it has been grey and wet since we started at the Elephant Camp 5 days ago. The rain doesn't last all day though and it is still warm.
On Monday morning we walked back into the Old City and had a massage by the Thai Healing Arts Association in the compund of a wat. I had a Thai massage for two hours while Katherine had a foot massage for an hour. Then she enjoyed watching me be pummeled and prodded.
Lunch was at the Aum Vegetarian Restaurant. This is also a book store so it has great atmosphere and delicious food. We had kausoi - egg noodles and crispy noodles with tofu and mushrooms in a curry broth, a salad and fresh (not fried) vietnamese spring rolls. Yum.
After that we hired a songhtaew (red taxi truck) to take us to Mae Rim to a butterfly and orchid farm. There are at least four of these farms and I think they must get comission as they seem to favour one farm over another. The tuk-tuk driver was the same. The butterfly section was disappointing. It certainly wasn't as good as the one at Poring Hot Springs. The orchids were quite good as many were in flower.
The songthaew driver convinced us to continue a few more kilometres to see a monkey show. However, when we got there we didn't have enough money for the entrance fee. We thought this was a good thing as we suspected we wouldn't have been happy to see performing monkeys. Much better to see them in the National Park at Khao Yai. Somehow we were left feeling it was an unsatisfactory experience - it seemed a long way to go to see a couple of brown butterflies and a few orchids. If we were better informed and organised we would have made a day of it and gone to the Buffalo Camp as well but it was much further on and it was already mid-afternoon. The Buffalo Camp was more appealing to us than the Elephant Camp and Monkey Centre and Snake Farm that everybody tries to push you to see.
After a rest in our guesthouse we went to the regular night market. There were stalls for several blocks on both sides of the road. After awhile we realised it was more or less the same thing and we (me especially) had had enough of shopping so we called it a night. Somehow Chiang Mai has a way of sucking money out of you.
This morning we are heading off to Chiang Dao. We might not do so much there as the rain may have made all the tracks muddy. It will be a nice chance to chill out away from the bustling city.