Cheiynghim swn Sxng aka Chiang Mai Part Two

…After riding elephants bareback you can count on a bit of soreness, #horsesonsteroids…So of course that called for massage, really any excuse will do!

Meeting new friends was a highlight of Chiang Mai. The second set we met while dining at @The Teak. A beautiful restaurant, semi fine dining on Loh Kro road, the decor is all this lovely wood, hand carved to delicate perfection that is common to the area. We had decided our American taste for thick juicy steak was in need of some attention and of course that meant a nice bottle of wine. A cocktail before dinner set the tone for the appetizer of a nice thin crust margherita pizza to satisfy a bread/carb fix. Then on to French onion soup for my honey and a house chop salad for me followed by my favorite, a New York steak cooked to mid rare perfection and a tasty lamb shank for my love. The wine was Italian, dirty and rich tasting paired nicely with our entrees, by my own personal wine steward. Our server was friendly, attentive and we had some interesting chatter about politics to add to the color. It is customary in this country to not speak ill of the King but the conversation went that direction a bit. (Will this heir be able to earn his kingdom’s respect?) The adoration for the late King Bhumibol was discussed in detail making for a little insight into these people and this land. As we finished our entrees, a deuce was sat next to us. They immediately ordered a light meal and all of a sudden we were chattering away. We enjoyed the conversation as we indulged in dessert. Housemade coconut ice cream served in shell and chocolate mousse cake, light and airy. We were rolling by this point, having fun with our new acquaintances and so, after dinner drinks were also in order. As they and we wound down our dining we found we were bonding with these two from Connecticut and so off we were to find a place to talk some more. Wandering back towards the hotel, (they were staying just across the street at Le Meridien) we decided on a “quieter” place, conducive to our conversation called My Place Lounge. The owner joined in our banter. He, an entrepreneurial transplant from Las Vegas. General closing time of the bars is midnight here but this owner advised that if the right fees were paid to the police it was possible to get a variance. Off the four of us went to a nightclub called Safe House which happened to be just out the back door and in the basement of our hotel building who belonged to the “after hours” establishment approved few. Dancing, drinking and debauchery continued until the wee hours. The DJ spun American pop music and the libations flowed freely. Our new male friend was “adopted” by some young Asian women and their bottle of Seagrams. Such good conversation and great fun with this young man and his Aunt from the east side of the good ole’ USA. A couple days later we headed out to dinner with them and their traveling companions from Wyoming and Seattle for some Italian fare in the old city. My female east coaster friend shared the pics and videos she had taken that first evening, yes we certainly had a good time. We hope these two will take us up on the offer to come for a visit to our mountain home

Wednesday we decided it would be worthwhile to have our own transport. There is definitely something about scrambling about in unknown territory on your own whim. Rentals are easy to come by and economical. We ended up retaining this mobility until Saturday, it was well worth it.

We started at Doi Suthep, a national park to the west of Chiang Mai. A beautiful winding paved road led us to a rest stop where we purchased chicken satays from the grill and tasty little strawberries and cantaloupe ripened to perfection from the vendors there. From this vantage point, we were able to see Chiang Mai spread out before us which was awesome for getting the lay of the land, spotting the airport, the old city and the tall buildings to the east that included our hotel. We continued on our way to the famous temple that sits on this mountain. This is a tourism mecca with much shopping available and a 50 baht fee to gain access inside the temple as well as need for appropriate attire (scarves are available on loan but knees and shoulders must be covered). My companion needed more food so we ate…when I calculate the extra poundage when we return home I can use this frequency as the culprit. We did, however, follow it with exercise, taking the Naga (snake) adorned 309 steps to the top to reach what drew us here to the mountain. This trek led to the Wat, where there was much beauty but in visiting these temples I wanted to find enlightenment…to a great extent I received confusion. I sought explanations that are not easily found, the language barrier (signage is in Thai only for the most part) was daunting. A cross between Hinduism and Buddhism, imagery and symbolism are predominate. I must say I wonder at the beauty and expense across this landscape in the extreme number of temples present, many overlaid with pure gold and adornment. I have concluded that no easy answer is part of the grand plan. A plan that would lead people to search and study and then hope to find enlightenment. I will continue my search via writings of others, the internet and our travels. If traveling alone I may have taken advantage of programs offered with the monks but they are a large commitment and I choose time with my partner, (at least this round.) One hand written sign planted in the mountain near the stairs had an interpretation as well, it read “If you don’t persistent everything so goods”. Rough translation is part of Thai to English but it makes you think. I like the sentiment in this one and I quite agree. We are always pushing so hard, stressing ourselves out, yes we must work hard but steady as she goes and our resulting life will be so much more rewarding. The constant struggle for “things”, they are not the true reward of life, let’s rejoice in what is natural. (That’s my interpretation anyway and my path.) We continued on our travels back the direction we had come and stopped to enjoy the trickling (dry season) of Mon Tha Thon Waterfall as well as the songs of many jungle birds. If you are a naturist there is camping available here and what looked to be some interesting trails. It’s 100 baht per person to drive in. We decided as we entered city limits that we were not quite ready to be done with exploring. We headed north to Mae Rim. Here we saw a more agriculturally driven village (although the entire area has learned the value of tourism). School children were just hitting the street vendors at the end of their day, farmers were driving a couple of cattle down the same street. We daringly headed to the countryside, onto narrower, less kept roadways to the true farmland where flowers (used for daily offerings in this land) as well as vegetables and fruits not all easily identified by this farm girl from Iowa were growing. We stopped at a roadside stand for refreshment. We were met by stares from the locals stopping here, and as I snapped photos of the sunset and a local boy peeking at me from time to time my husband made friends with an elderly man, who helped with translation with the stand attendant. We inquired about our return path to Chiang Mai and this native directed us and said to me “you go now” pointing to the darkening sky. His urgency indicated what he thought was in our best interest and we took it to heart and hit the trail back to the south, using good sense and keeping that setting sun and the mountains on our right since we hadn’t really understood most of the mans words of direction or the multiple hand gestures he had used. We found our way back from what will most likely be our favorite adventure. We tend to like it on the edge, the less common path.