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Chiang Mai

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Tuesday 13th April 2010, flew into Bangkok to meet Meena. We had booked a 4 night stay in Chiang Mai (Business Class tickets of course).

It was the Thai New Year water festival (Songkran). Basically this means you go out prepared for a soaking and prepared to give a soaking. The streets are lined with people carrying anything that can be used to throw water at anyone they come across. Of course this means the entire population are soaking wet for the day.

Chiang Mai is a medium sized town and has a central walled "Old City". It has more Temples than in the entire UK. The water festival made the short walk between temples quite pleasant. The temperature was up in the high 30's and the humidity in the 90's so having water thrown over you was a very nice way of cooloing down. Specially as some of the people had gone to the trouble of putting huge chunks of ice in their water barrels. Brief respite from the soakings can be found in the roadside bars and cafes, but this is not always guaranteed.

If you intend to get anywhere fast then this is not the time to be visiting Chiang Mai. The main roads through town are chock-a-block with cars, bikes and tuk tuks all carrying their own load of water and people armed with water weapons. It may take hours to get from one side of town to the other and if you insist on taking a taxi or tuk tuk they will charge you accordingly for the time taken.

Had a serious night on the Singha while Meena tried the Thai Whiskey. This mistake would put her in hospital on a drip for the next day, Thai Whiskey is only for people with a cast iron metabolism.

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Crab Thai style - They boil them for 20 of their minutes and then they smash them all to bits. Very tasty but the plain crab was difficult to eat because of all the shell pieces. So a few days later we tried the crab curry, thinking that the cook would extract the crab meat to make the curry - wrong!!! What they actually did was boil them for 20 of their minutes and then they smashed them all to bits. Then they covered the resulting debris in curry sauce making it almost impossible to eat them without making a hell of a mess and breaking your teeth. Luckily I just made a hell of a mess, much to the amusement of Meena and several other restaurant goers. ...


Maesa Elephant Camp was typical Thai fare with elephants doing various tricks for money and bananas - not much different to humans really. But the atmosphere generated by the crowd made it all quite amusing.

 


The paintings produced were really quite good by any standard and the fact that they were painted by elephants under the guidance of their keepers made them that much better. The keepers used hand signals on the elephant's ear to guide the brush strokes.

The final results were up for sale at around 40 quid. The best 2 went for over 100 pounds, possibly more. The framed pictures in the shop were going for several hundred pounds.


The elephant ride was actually quite scary. Not because the elephant was so big, but because the mountain track was so narrow. There were times when I thought we were going to go over the edge and I had a mental image of me, Meena and this this 3 ton animal doing a roly-poly down the side of the mountain. There could be no doubt as to who would come off worst in this scenario.

This daymare (as opposed to nightmare!) was exacerbated by the fact that the poor animal seemed knackered, and each time it stopped for a breather I thought it was going to just lie down and roll over - again resulting in a roly-poly down the mountain.


One surprise was the long-neck people village. I didn't expect to see this outside of Africa. The village and villagers were fully geared up for tourists and almost every house was also a shop.

The women we spoke to all had limited head movement and spoke as if there was something stuck in their throats, but they certainly seemed happy enough. I didn't see any men with long necks so maybe it's just the woman that have this dubious pleasure.

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Doiy Su Tep Temple in the Mountains on the outskirts of Chiang Mai.
 

The "Cah Noon" fruit would not look out of place on a Star Trek set. They grow out of the tree bark like giant zits. They have a yellowish flesh inside and are just a little sweet,
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