Thai massage: So what’s the difference?

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Front room of a Thai massage parlor, Bai Tong

Massages are a big deal in Thailand. We’d seen signs and brochures everywhere, often multiple storefronts per block. Prices varied wildly, with fancy places near expensive tourist hotels many multiples of the crazy-cheap prices quoted in small, local massage parlors. Some of these little places were “mass production” affairs where we could watch through windows or open walls as customers, side-by-side with each other in un-air-conditioned rooms, were manipulated and prodded… an experience which didn’t appeal in the least. Still, we wanted to try a real Thai massage and see just what that entailed. How was it different from a Swedish massage or an “massage with oil” which often cost twice the price of a “Thai massage”? We decided to dedicate some free time in Chiang Mai to finding out.

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The kind of Thai massage we didn’t want: no air conditioning and no privacy

After doing a quick scan of Tripadvisor reviews, we chose “Green Bamboo,” a small place not too far from our hotel which offered 1 hour Thai massages for 200 baht/hour ($5.71). How could we go wrong? Our hotel called and booked us a reservation for 2pm, giving us time to wander the streets a little and have lunch beforehand.

Following Google Maps through the winding streets of Old Chiang Mai, we arrived at Green Bamboo ten minutes early, but were greeted warmly and showed a list of available massages. They didn’t ask about our reservation, but that didn’t seem to be an issue. Scanning our options, I decided on the 1.5 hour foot and Thai massage for 350 baht ($10) while David really went hog-wild with a 450 baht ($12.86) 1.5 hour foot and Neck, Shoulder & Head massage.

To start things off, two ladies brought tubs of warm water in which lime slices floated to the “waiting room” chairs in the little main room.

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Our Thai massage starts off with a foot scrub

They gave us a delightful foot scrubs before leading us upstairs to a darkened, sweet-smelling room with two pallets on the floor.

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Side-by-side pallets ready for our massages

Crisply pressed cotton shirts and pants were laid out for us to change into. The pants were similar to the mahout clothes we’d worn with the elephants: a tie in the back being wrapped around the huge waist and tied, bag-style to hold them up. My pants were big enough for two or more of me!

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Baggy pants for my Thai massage

The stairwell had been worryingly warm, but an air-conditioner ran in the upstairs room, quickly bringing things to a comfortable temperature. Several other similar pallets lay behind a curtain drawn to make our area private. (I peeked!)

Dressed for our massages, David and I lay down on our side-by-side pallets and the ladies returned, draping cloths over our eyes as they began our foot massages. For 40 minutes, the sturdy lady who worked on my feet pressed and kneaded (with oil) and flexed my feet in all directions. It was heavenly and just what my overworked feet needed.

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Ready for my massage

With the foot massage over, the ladies began our two different types of massage. David had the more familiar massage using oil on neck and shoulder muscles. My Thai massage was a new experience: The masseuse began by raising and bending one of my knees and extending that leg slightly. She then began a firm pressure-point technique along the adductor muscles and the tendon of my inner thigh, manually stretching the muscles and tendon for me. It was painful in places, but I deliberately relaxed and the result was good and not uncomfortable. She proceeded to cross the bent knee leg over my other leg and press the knee inward and outward to further stretch things. Eventually, she raised the leg straight up and leaned her body into it, pressing the knee in the direction of my chest. She applied firm pressure, but there was no pain after the initial inner-thigh pressure points. The masseuse repeated the entire procedure on my other leg before directing me to roll over onto my stomach.

She pressed firmly on the various pressure points along my calves and back, kneading from time to time. When she got to my shoulders and neck, she quickly honed in on a knot near my left shoulder blade and worked long and very hard on the spot, forcing the muscle to relax. It hurt so good! She didn’t skip the glutes, something I appreciate.

Finally, she had me roll back over and sit up. She sat behind me with her legs on either side of me, then had me lean back against her where she’d placed a pillow while she worked my neck from that angle and then my scalp. As is often the case with a massage, it’s oddly personal contact with a stranger, but this lady really knew her stuff and I was happy to place myself in her capable hands. Beside me, the end of David’s massage was proceeding in the same fashion. My masseuse wrapped things up with sweeping motions across my face and brow, releasing any lingering tension.

An hour and a half flew by and it was time to get dressed again. Downstairs, the ladies had laid out warm sweet tea and crackers. Different than the plain or citrus water usually offered at home, but we tried both in the spirit of doing the full experience. Just in front of us, two men were in the chairs by the front window to the tiny establishment, just beginning foot massages. I could get used to this!

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Post-massage refreshment (with the common toilet paper “napkins”)

It wasn’t until I started to blog our Thai massage experience and look at photos to upload that I realized we’d made a mistake: We’d accidentally entered Bai Tong, the establishment next door to Green Bamboo! (I did mention how Thai massage parlors are everywhere, right? :)) Oh well. I’m sorry we blew off our reservation at Green Bamboo, but I can’t regret our great experience at Bai Tong!

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David in front of Bai Tong…with Green Bamboo just to the left in the photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Orchid: Cooking school in Chiang Mai

 

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One thing we knew we wanted to do while in Thailand was attend a cooking school. After doing a little research, I’d decided Chiang Mai was the ideal place for this and had booked a day at Thai Orchid Cookery School before we left the States. Like so much on this trip that we planned in advance, there’s a sense of unreality when the day finally arrives…but here it was!

As promised, a brand new van arrived shortly after 9am to pick us up at our hotel. Another couple was already in the van and we picked up a third couple before continuing on the short distance to Thai Orchid which is located in the center-east of Old Chiang Mai. Cooking schools have boomed in Chiang Mai and there are a bewildering amount to choose from. I’d narrowed it down to two before picking Thai Orchid over a school far out of town located in a farm where you can pick fresh herbs. After all the driving we’d done the day before on our Doi Suthep-Blue Elephant day, I was happy with my choice. Moreover, Thai Orchid offered air-conditioned space for dining and classroom portions of the school, something the farm didn’t have.

We were greeted by our cooking instructor and owner, “A” (“My Thai name is too long!”) and dove right in by choosing the 5 dishes we’d prepare, marking our selections on a paper checklist before moving to the “classroom” for our first demonstration: spring rolls and fresh rolls.

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Thai fresh rolls

David and I both chose fresh rolls as we’re fresh roll junkies. I make my own at home anyway, but was curious as to what A could offer in the way of variations. Fresh rolls are more Vietnamese than Thai, but the Thais have adopted them, giving their own twist by briefly sauteeing the main vegetables in a light sauce before adding lettuce, shrimp and herbs and rolling in softened rice paper. I’d always made mine fresh (save for when I add boiled shrimp)–and actually prefer them that way. Still, I liked the extra seasoning provided by the sauce.

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A with other students, frying spring rolls

For our next course we made soup; me choosing Tom Yum (in a clear broth) and David opting for Tom Yum Gai (chicken soup with coconut milk). Both were delicious and easy-to-make. The school ran super-efficiently, with our cooking stations prepped and ready to go when we came back from classroom or eating. We did much of the chopping and all of the cooking, but herbs and veggies were washed, meat chopped and apportioned, etc.

After our first two courses, A and her assistant Kong, drove us to a local market where she guided us around the stalls explaining unfamiliar items and showing us practical things like what sort of coconut milk at home would be equivalent to Thai “coconut cream.” (i.e., So long as it says “100%”, it’s the same as “coconut cream” even if it’s labeled as “milk.”) We had ten minutes to explore on our own, then it was back to the school for more cooking.

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A demonstrating “century eggs” that are buried for 100 days then boiled. Gooey and black–No, thank you!
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Market ingredients including white flowers for curry and 3 types of basil: Thai sweet, lemon & “holy”
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Fish sellers at the market

Fresh fried banana slices welcomed us back to the school as we prepared for the last courses. A demonstrated each option, showing us what ingredients our different choices shared and where they differed. She would prepare a dish with a “mild” level of heat (usually 2 small red peppers), then let us taste it to gauge whether we wanted to prepare ours with more or less heat. David and I usually opted for more heat, all the while being highly respectful of those blazing Thai peppers.

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David at his cooking station

David made chicken with cashew nuts while I opted for classic Pad Thai with shrimp. Both turned out really well, and I was surprised how easy and past the Pad Thai was. David made a really fantastic panang curry with shrimp while I went with my fave, green curry chicken. Unfortunately, my green curry was probably my least favorite creation, turning out saltier than I wanted. I think I added too much soy and fish sauce given that I went for a thicker sauce than the usual Thai soup-style green curry. Next time!

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Panang shrimp curry and green curry chicken…We made these! 😀
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Pad Thai shrimp and green curry chicken

A laid out fruit snack from the market, showing us how to eat mangosteen (press the “button” end to open the small black fruit, then pull out the yummy white sections from inside). She even provided Thai durian which are much more mild than the revolting Singaporean variety we’d tried in Singapore: Edible, but still foul-smelling and never going to be a favorite of ours. Besides, durian “sticks with you” and the recurring taste in your mouth is something to be avoided!

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Mangosteens (on the tray) and durian (in the bowls)
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An opened mangosteen

For dessert, our options were steamed banana or pumpkin cake or mango sticky rice. David and I both opted for the mango sticky rice, but the steamed cakes were really pretty.

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Mango sticky rice topped with crispy fried mung beans
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Steamed banana cakes in banana leaves

We feasted until we were stuffed and happy. A handed out small, bound cookbooks with recipes for the day’s creations and a few more. Her email is on the front and she encouraged us to email with any questions that might arise while recreating her dishes back home.

We highly recommend Thai Orchid Cookery School for cooks of all skill levels. If you’re experienced cooks, as we are, you’ll still enjoy the local ingredients, information and insight. If you’re new to cooking, A and Kong are patient and happy to explain. You can learn more at: http://www.thaiorchidcooking.com/ Cost was 1200 baht ($34.29) per person, including pick-up in the old city.

Elephants (& tigers) & butterflies, oh my!

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Riding elephants while they feed  in the jungle

Today was the day we ride elephants in the jungle! We’d booked this outing months ago, deciding on Blue Elephant tour on the recommendation of my niece-by-marriage, Christie. This was something we really wanted to do, but there are a lot of elephant tours in the area–some of questionable repute–so it was good to have real data we could trust. We wanted a private tour, caring treatment of the elephants and extended, quality time with them. Christie didn’t steer us wrong!

Our day started at 8:30am with a pick-up by private car at our hotel. Our driver and guide for the day, Zen, turned out to speak good English and we enjoyed visiting with him about Thailand, America and children. (He has a teenaged daughter and son so we spent some time discussing university and job opportunities and costs in our countries.) We had a full day scheduled with the elephants to come at the end.

Our first destination was the temple at Doi Suthep on a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. We could see the golden rooftops of the temple complex sparkling in the distance from our hotel balcony. The drive took thirty minutes or so after leaving the city, winding our way upward through lush jungle. Zen let us off at steps leading to a cluster of souvenir stalls at the base of the long stairway leading to the temple complex.

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400+ steps to Doi Suthep, flanked by the customary dragons
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At the top of the stairs
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View of Chiang Mai from the terrace of Doi Suthep
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With our flower and candle offerings before beginning our ritual 3 circuits of the golden stupa

Zen gave us all the time we wanted to explore the temple complex. We did the ritual 3 circuits of the golden stupa with our flower and candle offerings which we laid before the Buddha afterwards. The weather was delightfully cooler up in the mountains and the crowds relatively light although more and more people arrived during our well-timed visit. At the rate the complex was filling, it looked to be crowded by midday.

Our next stop was an orchid and butterfly farm. I wondered if this might be a bit of a tourist trap, but it turned out to be a beautiful place, filled with orchids of many colors, and with no sales pressure whatsoever. The butterfly portion of the visit made me laugh out loud with delight. Butterflies were everywhere! I was some yards in before I registered the truly huge butterflies on the net roof above–mottled tan and at least 8″ across! I couldn’t resist pointing them out to 2 Chinese girls ahead of me who were equally amazed.

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So many butterflies!
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Orchids grown suspended with roots trailing

We next made a quick stop at a local market where Zen purchased fruit and sticky rice snacks for later.

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Fruit and other snacks at the market

Lunch was scheduled for “Tiger Kingdom,” a stop I had some misgivings about. When we booked, I was told we could take advantage of this stop to take photos with tigers. In looking into this, I was put off by posed photos of people draped across tigers, pretending to bite their tails, etc. The only way this seemed possible was to seriously drug the tigers, something I wanted no part of. Sure enough, when we got to Tiger Kingdom, that was exactly what seemed to be the set-up. Dining areas were set up around large open-air pens where tigers lay sleeping until visitors were led in to pose with them. Sometimes, a handler would raise the tiger’s head and it would hold its head up, eyes open, but not moving. When the photo was taken, the tiger would plop its head back down, out again. A buffet lunch at Tiger Kingdom was actually very good, but we wanted no part of the tiger pics.

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Our next destination was Mok Fa Waterfall in a nearby national park. We changed into bathing suits, expecting to swim in pools like we’d found at Kuang Si in Laos. Instead, there was really only one swimming hole at the base of the falls. The falls were beautiful, no doubt, and I loved the idea of being able to get in and under a high fall like that…but not when I had elephant riding to do next. I just didn’t think I wanted a head of wet hair. David–whose hair is a lot shorter and quicker-drying than mine–did get in, enjoying the water with a group of tatooed French backpackers.

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Mok Fa Waterfall

Finally, it was time for elephants! Zen gave us our traditional mahout (elephant handler) clothes to change into at the waterfall dressing rooms. We looked kind of ridiculous in the cropped blue tunics and huge, baggy knee-length pants. Oh well, we were all-in for the experience. Zen briefed us on elephant commands as we rode:

  • “sigh” (shake your right leg) = left
  • “kwa” (shake your left leg) = right
  • “bye” (push with both feet on the elephant’s ears) = go
  • “houww” (push down with feet) = stop
  • “toy” = back up (hop back with your body)
  • “dee dee” = “good elephant” (a praising phrase)
  • “bone” = lift trunk

The car rolled through rural areas, past several elephant camps, before pulling into the driveway of a building where we swapped the car for a pick-up truck for the final, bumpy stretch to the Blue Elephant camp.

We arrived at a dirt parking area around which a number of buildings clustered. Three elephants were in a clearing just beyond a long, open structure with picnic tables where we left our things. In no time, we were introduced to our elephants and led to a stand where we mounted and were on our way. We sat far forward near their heads to reduce the side-to-side motion of their walking. Our palms rested on the twin bumps atop their skulls, soft flesh under rough skin sparsely covered with thick, prickly hairs. We liked petting and stroking them, leaning over to rub their trunks or cheeks. On steep downward slopes, we could grab onto the loop of a rope around their middles.

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Elephants!

The true elephant handlers walked with us as we rode, more in control (usually by grabbing an ear as they spoke) than we were with our newly-learned commands. It didn’t really matter much, though; the idea was to let the elephants graze where they wanted, within reason, in the jungle. I say “within reason” because there were a few times where David’s elephant drifted off up steep hillsides and where both of ours seemed alarmingly close to very steep drop-offs as they stretched and reached for the choicest flowers, banana trees or bamboo. At 2-3 tons each, the thought of tumbling downhill with one was sobering. I couldn’t even imagine the physics behind their natural counter-balancing, though, so had to assume they knew how far they could reach without falling. Their power was impressive as they ripped up huge chunks of bamboo, munching 1.5″ diameter poles like we would shredded wheat. At one point after David’s elephant was pulled back onto the trail with a big banana leaf and stalk trailing from her mouth, mine grabbed the other end, stripping the tasty leaves in a funny, lumbering tug-of-war.

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I loved watching my elephant drag her trunk through the cool water as she walked; it obviously felt good.

We made our final way back to camp, wading through a creek. [There’s a video with the handler singing on the way back on Wanderwiles’ FB page. Beautiful!] We were handed baskets of cut sugar cane, a routine clearly familiar to the elephants as questing trunks reached up for the treats. We dished the sweet sticks out quickly as the demanding trunk made rapid trips from our hands to their mouths. As a final end to the experience, we waded into the water of a dammed spot in a stream to bathe a lucky elephant. She kneeled down to let us scoop water over her and scrub her thick skin with brushes. A perfect end to our elephant time!

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Back at camp: Feeding the girls sugar cane treats after their dinner buffet
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A bath after dinner is always nice!

After changing back into our own dry clothes, we found a feast of fruit and sweetened sticky rice treats laid out for us on one of the picnic tables. It was enough for 4 people and I couldn’t eat again until the next day. We had about a 1.5-hour drive back to Chiang Mai, putting us back at the hotel around 6:30pm.

The entire day with Zen and Blue Elephant cost 12,000 baht ($342.86) for the both of us (6,000 baht per person). We tipped another 1000 baht ($28.57), most of which went to Zen and 100 baht (Zen’s suggested amount) to each of the 3 elephant handlers. Blue Elephant offers 1-3 day tours. We chose the 1-day Elephant-Doi Suthep tour. You can learn more at: http://www.blueelephantthailandtours.com/index.php

Temples of Old Chiang Mai (& a prison lunch)

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Wat Phra Singh on our first evening in Chiang Mai. A royal temple established in 1345.

Since our hotel, Rendezvous Classic House, is in the old city of Chiang Mai, we decided to spend our first full day here exploring some of the many Buddhist temples (wats) the city is famous for. A moat surrounds the brick walls of Old Chiang Mai, enclosing a maze of streets and narrow alleys. First impressions of this part of Chiang Mai were mixed as we discovered a serious shortage of sidewalks or safe places to walk, even on the main roads. Walking requires weaving around stalls, parked cars and scooters meaning you’re frequently walking among the swarming traffic. It’s hot, too. Still, we made our way to the first wat on our list, Wat Chedi Luang, without any real difficulty.

Wat Chedi Luang is renowned for two things in particular: the Vihara, a building that houses the “City Pillar” or Inthakhin Pillar, and the semi-ruins of a huge ancient chedi. The main temple is also impressive with its elaborate golden facade and soaring interior.

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Inthakhin Pillar Vihara at Wat Chedi Luang temple complex
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No women allowed. This kind of sexism gets a little old. Funny to read the semi-apologetic “rationales” on some of these sorts of signs, though.
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Facade of the main temple at Wat Chedi Luang
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Buddha in main shrine at Wat Chedi Luang

Behind the main temple stands the crumbling ancient chedi or stupa, the largest in Chiang Mai and the largest Lanna structure at the time it was built.  An earthquake in 1545 destroyed the top 30m. The Emerald Buddha, which was housed there at the time, was afterward moved to Luang Prabang, Laos, before eventually finding its way to Bangkok.

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Ancient chedi–the largest in Chiang Mai–at Wat Chedi Luang.
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Monks at Wat Chedi Luang

The all-wood Wat Phan Tao lies just next door to Wat Chedi Luang. It is much smaller than Wat Chedi Luang, but is a beautiful example of classic Lanna architecture.

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Wat Phan Tao
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Wat Phan Tao

After leaving Wat Phan Tao, we continued our walk north. The day was gorgeous, but hot and we couldn’t resist ducking into an air-conditioned little cafe for delicious iced coffees. Coffee arabica is grown in northern Thailand and we’ve found the coffee here to be really good.  Refreshed and recharged, we continued our walk on to Wat Chiang Man, a beautiful temple famous for the elephant statues surrounding its gold-topped stupa.

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At Wat Chiang Man with the elephant stupa in the rear right
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Elephant stupa at Wat Chaing Man

Our stomachs were indicating lunch was in order. On impulse, we ducked into a truly unusual lunch venue: the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute Restaurant. This nice little café, shop and Thai massage parlor is run by women from the local prison as an effort to train and rehabilitate them for employment after incarceration. We enjoyed our traditional Thai lunch and the friendly service. My khao soi was the best of the trip. Khao soi is a northern Thai specialty made with a mix of deep-fried noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime ground chillies fried in oil, and meat in a curry coconut milk sauce served with yellow crisp-fried curry noodles. Uniformed guards checked up on us along with waitresses in simple beige pant-and-tunic outfits.

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Khao soi
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Servers at the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute Restaurant

Last on our list of must-see temples for the day was Wat Pra Singh. We’d actually seen a bit of this temple the evening before on our first stroll through Old Chiang Mai. (See lead photo above.) A large group of military-looking people in white uniforms with black arm bands were gathered there for some event. We’d peeked in, but decided not to risk intruding on what may have been yet another in the many mourning events going on around the country for the recently deceased and much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pronounced “poom ee poon ah doon yah day”).

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David in front of Wat Pra Singh, draped in black and white mourning for the king
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Golden stupas of Wat Pra Singh
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At Wat Pra Singh

After Wat Pra Singh, we called an end to temples for the day. We’d really enjoyed the temples of Old Chiang Mai, but we were hot and ready for a dip in the hotel pool. It is a vacation after all!

“VIP” bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

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Onboard the VIP bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

All good things must come to an end, and our time at Chiang Rai was one of those good things. We’d loved the Maryo Resort Hotel, we’d had fun at the night market, we’d had some really good and inexpensive meals, but it was time to move on. Maryo quickly booked us seats on a VIP bus leaving the next day. The nice lady at the front desk said they’d had trouble using credit cards online so she gave us a printout of our booking, loaned us a couple of bikes and sent us to a 7-11 a couple of blocks away. (It seems nearly everything can be done at a 7-11 in Asia!) We pedaled to the 7-11, showed our printout and paid our 516 baht ($14.74) for two tickets on an air conditioned motor coach. (The “tickets” were actually a cash register receipt stapled to our original printout.)

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Bus “tickets” (with green luggage claim stubs for bags stored below the bus)

Note: There is a much cheaper bus with no air conditioning, no assigned seats and no designated space for luggage. We saw a few of those, crammed full of passengers, and never even considered taking them. At only $7+ apiece, the VIP bus was a no-brainer.

The next day, Maryo provided a free shuttle to the Chiang Rai bus station, which it turns out is new and still under construction, so we asked around until we were pointed to a sign under a small white umbrella. An Australian waiting for the bus with his Thai girlfriend confirmed we were in the right place and soon the bus arrived.

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Temporary waiting area in Chiang Rai for the VIP bus to Chiang Mai

We stashed luggage below and settled into our assigned seats, reclining in comfort as we pulled away. The 3-hour trip went by quickly as we sped through gorgeous countryside of rice fields giving way to jungle-covered mountains. Streams wound their way along the roadside, rushing over and around scattered boulders.

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From the bus window: Between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

A lady provided cold bottled water, a large snack pack of faux “Oreos” and a cool towelette. Very civilized and comfortable. Our only complaint was the frigid a/c that could not be turned off or down. Wouldn’t you know it, for the first time in weeks, I’d stashed the scarf/shawl I usually had in my carry-on in my big suitcase.

Arriving in Chiang Mai, we dodged the inevitable private driver wanting sky-high prices as we got off the bus and headed to a taxi booth where we bought our 200 baht ($5.71) taxi coupon for the ride to our hotel in the old city.

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Chiang Mai bus station with a VIP bus parked

Two-and-a-half months in Asia!

So we leave tomorrow on the trip that inspired me to start this blog: a 77-night ramble through Asia. This trip runs the gamut of lodging, transportation methods, and weather. It’s been a challenge to plan (and a challenge to pack for). We’re excited!

In a (large) nutshell, this trip includes:

  • Our first trans-Pacific cruise [the Aleutians, northern Japan, Yokohama/Tokyo]
  • 2 weeks in Japan [Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima island (where we’ll stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn), Fukuoka]
  • a ferry to South Korea [Busan, a Buddhist temple stay, Seoul, the DMZ]
  • a cruise from Shanghai to Singapore [Okinawa, Hong Kong, Chan May/Hoi An and Phu My/Ho Chin Mihn City, Vietnam]
  • Singapore and Kuala Lumpur
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see Angkor Wat
  • Luang Prabang, Laos
  • a 2-day open-boat trip up the Mekong with a stop at some to-be-determined-when-we-get-there guesthouse in tiny Pakbeng, Laos
  • 2.5 weeks in Thailand: Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai (a day with elephants and a Thai cooking school), Krabi (scuba diving the Phi Phi islands), the Bridge on the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi, Bangkok
  • a 1st class mega-flight on Korean Air from Bangkok to Seoul to Dallas (courtesy of airline miles and credit card points, a favorite game of ours)

I’ve tried to anticipate the trickier bits and done an incredible amount of research, but I know there will be things I overlooked or had no way of knowing. There are liable to be things that don’t pan out as we’d hoped (or maybe don’t even pan out at all). It’s the nature of travel, and also part of what makes it exciting and interesting. And besides, I don’t want to plan every moment anyway. I intend to focus on experiencing the trip rather than documenting it, but I’ll blog about it when I can. Hopefully, there will be fun as well as useful info to share…and, no doubt, our portion of clueless-fools-in-a-strange-land moments. Wish us luck!

[We’ll be incommunicado for most of the 16-day Pacific crossing, so other than a possible post in the Aleutians 5 days out, we’ll be in Japan before I do any posting. I know going off-grid is a weird way to start a blog, but that’s the plan.]

– Tamara

August 31, 2016