Friday, November 12, 2010
BANGKOK AND CHIANG MAI
We had been watching the political situation in Bangkok for weeks before we left Australia, uncertain as to whether we would go to Bangkok or go on to Laos or Cambodia. The plan was to catch a train form Butterworth to Bangkok but after our boring experience we booked a flight from Georgetown to Bangkok. We caught a bus from the airport to Khao San Road, great street food and market stalls. Although some young British backpackers were a bit squeamish about the thought of eating scorpions or silk worm pupae!
We walked from our hotel down to the river early in the morning. Gerard practiced his tai chi forms while others were taking classes in yoga and aerobics. Walking back we came across a fabulous shop selling handcrafts from all over Thailand. I bought a beautiful hand woven silk shawl in the most amazing magenta that you could ever find. I doubt if a photo could ever do justice to the colour. The redshirts rally seemed to be heating up and there was a protest planned for the following day. We booked an overnight train for Chiang Mai as we did not want to stay much longer in the city.
The markets are fantastic, selling everything that moves or keeps still. We walked past a basket of what I think were some kind of strange fungi, but Gerard was certain that they moved! We took the ferry up the river and walked to the famous Wat Pho Monastery to see the reclining golden Buddha.
Years ago I was reading a book about Marco Polo. There were pictures of statues of him at the Wat Pho Monastary. Gerard had mentioned that he had seen the statues there and wondered who they were of as they were so out of place compared to all the other statues at the Monastery.
The last night that we spent in Bangkok things seemed to be heating up and there was a heavy police presence and tanks on the streets. We filled in the following day by taking a ferry up the river and sitting anywhere that we could find air-conditioning.....wont say where though! The overnight train to Chiang Mai was great, comfortable sleepers and the food was good. We woke in the morning to the sad sight of a region in drought, it seems like you cant escape that anywhere much at the time as parts of India were the same. The city was very smokey probably a result of their slash and burn agriculture. We found a beautiful hotel with a lovely garden but if you go be aware of the mosquitoes. Chiang Mai has a malaria center and with the mosquito population I can understand why.
We were staying in the old part of the city and every Sunday night there is a market. Many of the Hill Tribes People come down and sell their handcrafts. I have to say that I have never seen such a fantastic market and it was huge... street after street. The quality of the goods was high and nothing that had been mass produced, unlike the markets in Delhi where the items for sale were the same as you could buy here in Australia.
We walked home to our hotel past the famous Wat Chedi Luang and walked to see the famous jade Buddha lit up at night. The Chedi was built in the 14th century and it is worth looking at the link to other photos. We went back to the temple the following day and had a good walk around.
We walked down to the fitness gardens in the morning, a nice park where a group of people were doing tai chi, others running and a group of people taking a yoga class. We watched as some people came in a Ute, scaled the coconut trees in what seemed like a few minutes and took off to who knows where with the coconuts! We were fascinated with a man and his young daughter as they turned up with these small cane baskets with birds in them and set them free. When we walked back past the market there was a stand selling these birds in baskets. We asked why they were selling them? to be told that it is good luck to make a wish and set the birds free. Ingenious recycling really, they sell the birds, someone makes a wish and sets them free. Then they go back catch the birds again and the chain of events continues.
I walked up to the cultural center one morning to find half the population there. It was clean Chiang Mai day! everyone gets together and then they go home and clean the entire city ready for the water festival the following week. We had been to look at an amazing exhibition of photographs of the Hill's Tribe People at one of the hotels. The photographs were part of an exhibition at the cultural center called Songs of Memory, Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle.
The exhibition was just fantastic I was so lucky to be able to see so many of the Hill Tribe’s costumes that I have studied in books for the last 30 years and had longed to see in real life.
I took a lot of photos........maybe some time in the future they may turn up in tapestries???
I cashed in my travelers cheque's in Chiang Mai as I had found a wonderful shop in the street that we were staying in run by a woman passionate about keeping the crafts alive. So I had my retail therapy and left Thailand with 4 TBH! Because of the situation in Thailand being so uncertain when we had left India I had booked a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Singapore before we went on to Malaysia so as to avoid any problems in Bangkok as we had no idea if the airport would be open, Gerard had been there during the coupe in 2006 and had only just got through the airport before it was closed. My flight back to Oz was booked from Singapore.
I spent a quiet night in Singapore, staying at the Hostel where I had left some of my luggage. I left Australia with a back pack that weighed 11 kg's came back to Australia with a pack that weighed 10 kg's and carry on luggage that weighed about 3kg's but the thing that weighed less was actually ME! my weight had dropped from 56kg's when I left Australia and I was 50 kg's when I came home. After a chronic case of amebic dysentery that I had picked up in India that has been difficult to get over, the next time I go I will be taking antibiotics with me!
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