Lanna Kingdom Adventures

Feeding the gambler/sports addict in us we made our way on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to the horse track located at the Lanna Sports Center. Yes, the thoroughbreds with color clad jockeys on their back with live betting amongst the Thai locals! Gambling is strictly forbidden in this country except for the races which are run by the Thai military. There was a line up of eight races and even though the program was in Thai we picked one up for reference on the opening line. By the third race my honey had the lines and the available bets figured out as well as his own method of communication with the writers. He took a picture of each type of bet from the board shown in the picture below and he would show that to the writer and then use his fingers to indicate the horse number. This track was really similar in the money handle that would have been seen back in the days of the Les Bois track being open in Boise, near our Idaho home. Not much chance of making money but a whole lotta fun. Families were in attendance, children played on the grass, whiskey and beer were available as well as home cooked street cart style foods. There was an ice cream man ringing his bell and serving hand stuffed pound cake ice cream sandwiches. Another female cart operator was using a hand grinder to make Thai style icees available in a variety of tropical flavors sweetened with layers of canned condensed milk. They looked mighty tempting but my tastebuds were on Chang beer! The winners circle had beautiful Thai girls wearing jeans short shorts, cowboy boots and flannel shorts tied seductively at the waist who presented the floral wreath to the winning horse and jockey of each race. Live music was provided by a group of horn players. There was an air conditioned indoor area for the owners and VIP’s willing to spend 100 baht instead of the 50 baht for the pair of us including parking which got us seats in the grandstands. It was a terrific, off the beaten path outing. We saw 5 total other non Thai people at the venue, 2 of whom were likely expats attending with their Thai families. We felt totally welcomed and high fived with our fellow attendees as horses we cheered on together crossed the finish line in winning positions. It was an awesome day!

Tha Pae Gate on the east side of the old city. Three years running this staff has treated us right and this treatment goes for 160 baht. The cost rose 10 baht this year. A whopping 32 cent increase American. No problem. Totally worth it and this last time we tried “combo extra” for additional 20 baht. This was a nice addition of neck and back massage that was totally worth the price! On a side note all locations we’ve been for massage offer free WiFi. Yep, I typically sat blogging away as I relaxed. What a way to get some work done! Traditional Thai Massage is 200 baht pretty much everywhere. This is the real deal work out for your body. The masseuse manipulates your body in similar ways as yoga moves. Oil Massage runs an average 300 baht and is a more relaxing, all over body massage, using oil for a soothing relaxation. Prices can increase with use of hot oil, scented oil or aloe Vera. I really enjoy the relief and relaxation offered by a foot and leg massage. This oil massage focuses on leg muscles and the pressure points of the foot and runs 200 baht. Head, back and shoulder can be added to the one hour treatment for about an additional 150 baht. Face massage; cream facial, seaweed facial and mani-pedi treatments also fell into my budget for the stay. All services are mostly 1-2 hour treatments and none of these we partook of ran more than 800 baht. I figured if I was to do nails and toes every two weeks at home and one, one hour therapeutic massage I would outlay $165 plus tips of around $30. Unless I really go “hog wild” on the end of the trip in Bangkok I will stay well under my budget (spending $120 with tips) and I have gone for 10 services. Seriously valuable relaxation, totally worth the enjoyment. I highly recommend the cleanliness and professionalism of the Lovely Massage across from the Imperial Mae Ping and the bulk of massage services I enjoyed at this location. Dreadlock Chiang Mai around the corner from our condo was my go to for my two mani pedi gel polish indulgences where the girls were always friendly and the clientele lively. La Best Thai massage across from the Kalare market offered clean space with good quality Thai massage but little personality from the staff. The girls at Nangnoot provided excellent care in their services, especially enjoyable was the seaweed facial. Honestly, prices are comparable throughout the city and for mid range quality use your eyes and go with your gut, at these prices how bad could bad really be!

The big screen adds value to movie going and it is a regular part of our date night routine whether home or abroad. We decided to try out the theatre at Central Plaza Mall by the airport in Chiang Mai since we had been to the one at Maya Mall last year. The cost is extremely fair at $3.60 American. The theatre is state of the art in both sound and seating. The ticket purchase is done via electronic screen and seat selection is included. We caught Winchester which we found to be a bit better than the ratings reflected and definitely entertaining as well as Death Wish which for a Bruce Willis action adventure was fairly par for the course but with some decent family/society oriented messages. We munched on caramel corn at one show. We got a great value on a bucket which was actually 20 baht less than the two seperate bags my honey initially ordered but then the concession attendant talked him into the bucket pictured below. We had after dinner snacking pleasure for the rest of our stay!

Ram Bar caught our attention one evening while wandering the street adjacent to the west side of the river. The open air bar was alive with music and dance provided by the drag queens showing off their lip syncing skills and the dance moves of their back up singers. Most likely they were young boys in training for these roles in the future. At show break I could see they were quite enamored by the stars. Chatting and flirting and practicing their moves. The whole production was quite entertaining in that “spectacle” sort of way. It was attended by a mixture of ages and sexes and everyone in the crowd applauded heartily throughout the show. Quite fun and not your every day kind of activity!

Baan Tawai Creative Village made for a great day trip out of the city. Following the 108 past the airport we made our way to Hang Dong District. This village is the center of teak wood design. The beautiful pieces of furniture, household decor, kitchen wares, lighting and landscaping art lined all the streets of this small village. Warehouses filled to the brim with raw pieces of the beautiful wood lined the main roadway leading to the village. Wells for drawing water were found on every block. Beautiful gardens were along the pathways that wound between the workshops where items were being produced for export and to be sent to markets throughout the country. We enjoyed a day of window shopping and being out of the hubbub of the city. Totally a worthwhile escape into this solitude we even considered taking it in a second time and talked with one shop owner about the cost for shipping just in case we decided to decorate a future home in this beautiful style.

Music is high on our list of entertainment so we ventured out a couple different nights to seek out this pleasure. We found it first at Kolare market where we wandered upstairs to enjoy the cover tune sounds presented at Boy Blues Bar. We were lucky enough to happen in at the right time to this intimate roof top spot and caught “Boy” himself preforming in his ripping guitar style. 70’s rock covers were provided by the next group on stage. There was no cover charge, the seating was cozy with a mix of cocktail rounds and more intimate living room style sofas, chairs and side tables. The drinks were reasonably priced and the service was attentive. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening with these artists. Another evening found us at North Gate Jazz Co-Op. The crowd was predominantly from the backpacking community and the vibe was hip and cool at this location at the north edge of the old city. Jazz is not exactly our first choice in music but the crew was talented and the experience was unique.

The arrival of my friend from home to join us for a few days gave me a great excuse to book a cooking class for us to just have some “girl time”. Thai-Akha cooking school in the old city was my choice for an evening class. We were picked up from my friends hotel, The Imperial Mae Ping, and transported with our fellow classmates to the kitchen. It was an intimate gathering with only 9 of us in the class. Our instructor Deau taught us the artistry of Thai and Akha cooking. We created 11 items total, some as a group and some individually. The art of using mortar and pestle for making curry pastes and the dicing and chopping of herbs such as coriander, betel leaf, kiefer lime, shallots, chile, garlic, basil and lemongrass was all part of the instruction. We enjoyed courses as we created them in the open air kitchen. At one point the moths became so thick that we had to turn the lights off and cooked by candle light. The school manager and the crew were extremely apologetic about the pests brought out by the recent rains. The entire class laughed it off and actually enjoyed it as part of the adventure. We received cookbooks for every item prepared and if we completed a review were awarded with an apron. The entire experience was excellent from the new friendships we made, to the actual instruction to the yummy food created. This class was an excellent value at $32 American for round trip transportation, 4.5 hours of instruction and a great dinner!

CM Adventures provided the highlight of this Lanna Kingdom adventure tale. A full day adventure that began with a van ride out of the city to the north to the Mae Thang district. The city skyline gave way to rolling countryside and then mountainous roadway to the base camp of this expedition company with a palapa style hut along the Mae Thang River. Our guide, Goi, provided our instruction on our ATV use, had us sign the waivers and we were off on the first half of this adventure. We rode the village streets meeting oxen driven carts and seeing the farmers in their fields and the elephants grazing in the pastures. We rode the dusty, willow shadowed trails of the mountains as well. 25 miles of riding was our exposure to this back country and the joy of riding. Lunch was ready when we returned to base camp and then we dressed for the second half of the excursion which took us higher yet into the mountains where we launched our canoes and rode the dry season 1-3 level “rapids” of the Mae Thang River. Butterfly, dragonfly, toucan and other small yellow and blue tropical birds as well as magpie and sand crane darted around us in the waters. Elephant bathed and Thai locals swam while others dined at cafes along our river path. Each of us enjoyed the luxury of single kayaks with a guide which allowed us to “paddle”, “lean lef, lean right, stop” and participate as we were led through some pretty exciting waters. I’d love to check out the action on this river at the end of the rainy season when the crew reported the waters to reach 4 and sometimes 5 rapid stage. Ah yes, just enough reason to dream of the beauty of these people and this land and possibly be drawn back again! This Chiang Mai window was fantastic! #cometravelwithme

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