Chiang Mai, Thailand

As I close up on this vacation, I reflect back at the great time I was able to have in this northern city of Thailand. According to Wikipedia, it is the country’s second largest city, but it is so much smaller than Bangkok and so much more intimate. I do not feel the hustle and bustle that goes on constantly in the country’s capital, and it reminds me more of the city that I grew up in. It does not only have to do with the mountains that are always looming to the west of the city, or the slower pace that the city likes to enjoy. But it is the smaller town atmosphere that comes with Chiang Mai. Though it does sprawl along the base of the mountains, it does not feel like you are very far from any place else and if you wanted you could walk across the main parts of the city and come across a few people that you know while you are doing it.

I also have to count myself lucky that I landed in a country that has a variety of cities to go and visit during this uncertain time in human history. Thailand has done a wonderful job of keeping this pandemic out of its borders, but it is doing it by making sure there are strict rules set in place about who can enter and under what conditions. It is also stressed on everybody the importance of frequent temperature checks as well as wearing masks to keep the whole population safe. Things have loosened up every day because of these precautions, and even though wearing a mask is sometimes a little annoying, it is a small price to have to pay in order to enjoy these freedoms.

I also feel lucky that I am able to enjoy the sunsets over the beach towns in the south of Thailand during one excursion and turn around to enjoy the cooler mountain air of Chiang Mai on another one. The temperature out here has never gotten to the point where it is too chilly to go outside, but it was definitely cooler than the oppressive heat that we have been experiencing in Bangkok.

As we head into the holiday season in a part of the world that celebrates it a little differently than what I am accustomed to, it is nice to know that we have moved on from the quarantine struggle at the beginning of the year, to a time where I can go out and enjoy what the holidays have to offer. I still miss the opportunity to take a quick trip to my home country, but I know that as things progress that there will be a day that I will be able to see it again, and it means that I just have to take in stride all of what this part of the world has to offer me while I am here.

Even though it is a part of the world I have been to earlier, and I am already planning on coming back again for the lamps during New Year’s Day, it is nice to be able to take in Chiang Mai a second time around. The first time I was out here as a tourist, trying to experience all of it that I could as fast as I could, but this time around I get to savor the moments a little more. I was able to revisit the places I really enjoyed the first time here, and I got to find new places to look for the next time I am out here. And I found those little things that made it an even better experience, the art that amazed me, the people that made me feel welcomed, and the signs that made me laugh because of their loss of translation. It has been a great trip, and I am happy that I have been given opportunities to take moments like this when they are not always available to everybody.

No matter where you are, things will open up again some day, and we will be able to travel the world again. Until then, make the most of what you have and enjoy the experiences that are given to you. I have, and it has made life just a little more interesting because of that.

Wat Sri Suphan, Buddha’s Man Cave

From the first glance, the temple looked like any other temple you would have seen anywhere in the world. Yes, it has a unique design, and it was made purely out of silver, but it was still an example of how too much could be spent on something that was intended to give a religious figure praise and attract thousands of patrons to bow down in homage. All religions do this, and it is a marvel to see the designs that are produced from the various faiths.

But Wat Sri Suphan is not a temple that should be passed by quickly. You need to take a little bit more time to really inspect what is going on in this temple that was built on the site of a sacred older temple in 2004, and it took into consideration the modern age when it came to its design. From the intricate artwork carved into the silver to the wooden steps leading into the main part of the temple that looks like water pouring out of the doors, there is always something to look at.

Unfortunately, this work of art is only open to men as there are many signs at the entrance that claim that women are not allowed to enter. I know it is not fair, and there is still a lot on the outside of the temple to keep everybody entertained. There is also a pair of virtual goggles on the outside that women can wear to see what it is like on the inside, but it still doesn’t do it justice. One must go inside to truly appreciate the design that went into making this temple.

Upon entering, you are greeted with even more beautiful pieces of art, but that is when you start to notice that things are not quite what the seem in this temple. Is that an electric guitar that this sea deity is clutching on to?

That’s when you want to take a closer look at all of the pieces of art found in this place. You start to recognize what appear to be space ships zipping around on the floor, and you start to think that this can’t be right. There shouldn’t be U.F.O.s in a Buddhist shrine. They have to represent something else. That is until you start to see a couple of these ships filled with aliens, and pictures of aliens etched into the silver on the floor.

The surprises keep on coming. The designers must have been Stan Lee fans or Stan Lee himself because pictures of the Avengers start popping up. It makes you wonder why these were placed there in the first place and what they have to do with this ancient religion.

And why are the faces of these modern day heroes portrayed proudly while the face of Jesus is turned around from one of the most iconic locations on Earth. The list on bizarre things continue. It becomes like one of those pages in the old Highlight magazines where you had to find all of the items hidden in the cartoon picture. You can list them all down and you could spend a day looking for them all. There are the seven wonders of the ancient world, the six wonder of the modern age, important cities from all around the world, Thai mythological creature, and Buddha himself. By the end of the time spent here, it becomes one of the most memorable sites in all of Chiang Mai, and worth going to no matter what your gender might be.

The whole thing makes you wonder if the place wasn’t designed as a luxurious room for Buddha in the first place, a little man cave where he can feel comfortable with all of the images that surround him. Or was this just a place where they let middle school kids have a little fun as they design a temple? Either way it is a great place to visit and is a must see for anyone visiting Chiang Mai.

The Man with the Purple Socks with Golden Doughnuts on Them

The center of town is the place where most tourists come to when they visit Chiang Mai. It is the place that holds all of the wats that they want to visit, and has the best restaurants, and sites. The most impressive site is a a large wall that surrounds this square section of town the sits over an ancient moat. The moat is all there and they maintain it nicely, and there are still a lot of the sections of the wall left but mainly on the corners of the square and at the places where the ancient gates used to be. Despite it being a cool thing to check out, it is also a way of designating places as they are located near certain parts of the wall. This is how I ended up at the North Gate Jazz Co-op last night.

Jazz clubs can be an interesting place to go to because the term jazz is used very loosely these days. It can mean anything from rap, rock, blues and what most people traditionally think of as jazz. The problem with this definition is that most of the time, you do not get to see jazz at these clubs because it is the one style of music that brings in the smallest crowds. The places try to fancy themselves up as a lounge that really has nothing to do with the origin of the music style, and most of the artists that play in these clubs are good but could never let the moment take over them as they let the music just pour out of them. It isn’t like the traditional places that are holes in the wall with a small stage and musicians showing up to join the house band to make some great music.

The North Gate Jazz Co-op is one of those places in the world where you can experience a more traditional jazz experience. They do have bands that are scheduled to play at certain times and they are strong musicians with great musical theory that allows them to explore a song for all that it has to offer them. The musicians progressively get better as the night goes on. You can tell that sometimes the musicians have not played with each other before and they don’t know where they can take a musical thread. There is a lot of handoffs with the song and nods of approval as moments of brilliance are played out on the stage. And there are the special guests that have just popped in and join the band for a song.

This is where the guy with the purple socks with golden doughnuts on them comes in. He stood on the periphery of the club the whole night and would have been easy to miss if it wasn’t for the fact that other guests came up to him to get there picture taken with him. The other musicians would step away from their songs to talk to him for a minute before making it back for their turn at the mic. He seemed like somebody important, and it was in the middle of one of the sets that he finally showed his worth.

I know it is not the best picture of the guy but if you look closely you can see the socks I am talking about. Despite the fashion choice, he did grab one of the mics and impressed the crowd with his ability to improvise a scat mixed with a rap. It was good, and the crowd loved it. After his one song, he returned to his seat and the rest of the set went on as normal.

It begs the question as to who this guy was. Is he a famous Thai singer that just happened to be in the area that night and decided to join in for a song like what happens at all of the great jazz bars in the world? Was he a local favorite that happened to stop by and would do so again in the near future? Was it just some random guy that convinced the band that he was good enough to join them and proved it with his chops? Or was it a musician that plays at the Co-op from time to time and just decided to come down this night to have a little fun? I have no idea but it added a little flavor to the evening and made a great experience even a little more fun.

The North Gate Jazz Co-op is a must if you are in town. The music is great and it is a favorite of locals and tourists alike, and you never know who might pop in to share in on the fun.

A Different Pace

This has been a different kind of trip for me. A lot of it has to be because I have already been to Chiang Mai and I have already been to most of the tourist destinations, and I would rather spend the time relaxing by the pool and going out to eat at many of the great restaurants that are out here, and there are quite a few of them. I have not gone to the smaller local ones yet, but I have already had some great Thai, Italian, and Mexican food and there are plans to get some Khao Soi and go to my favorite place out here, Rustic and Blue.

It is funny that when I have been to a place before the tourist sites don’t hold the same kind of sway over me, and I would rather look for a place to unwind. This does not mean that the vacation has been a total waste of time. We all need those moments of relaxation, and some times when we go to a new place, we are so busy trying to get the most out of the moment that we forget that sometimes our bodies and minds need that downtime.

That doesn’t mean that I still do not see some beautiful things and enjoy the moments that I have. It just means that I take them at a different pace. It might mean that I am starting to get into the spirit of the tropics where everybody takes things a little slower because the heat just makes it harder to put forth the effort. It might also be the current situation in the world where places are not able to push that tourist mindset because there really isn’t tourists anymore. There are only locals who have already seen what there is to see.

I no longer see the groups of people walking around with their cameras trying to capture each moment so they could look at it later. It might be the reason that I have taken less pictures myself. I flip through my phone and I already have these pictures among them, so why should I sit down and take them again. It is easier to just take it slower and enjoy the moment without having to record it for prosperity’s sake. This is part of the reason that even though this trip as centered around a lot of eating, I have not taken many pictures of the food I am about to eat. I am too hungry to make sure that I take a picture of it, and by the time I am halfway through the meal, I realize my mistake. But on the other hand I am satisfied because I have enjoyed a great meal.

I do apologize if this trip seems a little more boring than usual, and there are plans for it to pick up, but for right now, it is the perfect pace for me. I know I will have to get back to the hectic pace of being a high school teacher here shortly, but for a brief moment, I can enjoy the fact that the world’s pace has slowed down a bit, and I can take that in for myself every once in a while. I know this pandemic has stressed a lot of people out lately because it has forced them to take life at a different pace, but maybe it is not such a bad thing. This go, go, go attitude that we have all subjected ourselves to might not be the best thing for us. It may cause us to miss the things we would notice if we slowed down for a bit. It will give us the pause to really appreciate the things that we have and not worry about what don’t.

Stay safe out there, and enjoy those moments however they may come to you.

A Day in a Bookstore

I know they are all over the place, and it does not make a big destination spot for people going on vacation, but I have always loved bookstores and I look for them when I go on vacation. It must be the English teacher in me. They are the place where I can lose myself and I can spend hours in one of these places combing the various cases, looking for that one book that will hold the next adventure I get to read.

I usually try to avoid the big chains because they are all the same. When you have visited one of them, you have visited all of them. Barnes and Nobles comes to mind when I think of this. Granted there are some of them that are more open and airy, but the only thing I am going to find in one of these stores are your typical bestsellers and reproduced classics.

There are some megastores out there such as the Tattered Cover in Denver and Powell’s in Portland, Oregon that have some deeper cuts. Powell’s adds a new flavor to the mix by selling used books as well as new and it is easy to really get lost in either of these places. They usually have a coffee shop in them as well that adds to the enjoyment factor and will keep me in the place a little longer. The Tattered Cover partnered up with Twist and Shout, one of the last music stores in America, that forces me to split my time between the two places, but I always enjoy the day.

Things get a little more difficult when I visit bookstores in a foreign country. It becomes increasingly difficult to find books in English. Of course, I could use this as an opportunity to learn the language of the country I am by reading a book written in that language, but it was hard with Korean and even more difficult with Thai. Of course the bookstores I find usually come with books on how to learn the language, but I have enough difficulty with the apps that I am using to try to pick up some of the language that I am pretty sure the books would be just as useless to me. There are a couple of used places that are nice, the best one being Dasa on Sukhimvit in downtown Bangkok. It is a skinny little store with five floors to explore filled with well loved books and a variety that can’t be found anywhere else. I also found a nice one in Hua Hin that a nice selection of books but most of them were the pulp fiction mysteries that most people bring with them on vacation and then leave behind as orphans after they are done with them.

The best bookstore that really highlights the culture of Thailand while giving a wide selection of books happens to be a chain brand. It is an Asia Books in Chiang Mai. You never know what you are going to get when you walk into one of these bookstores. Sometimes they are huge with a wide selection, and sometimes they are so tiny that they only focus on a couple of titles and a bunch of games for kids. The one in Chiang Mai is the only one that has a section dedicated to Thai history, culture and literature. Of course, you can always find some of this in the other stores, but nothing like you can at this one. I like it because every book I read about Thailand as well as living out here give me a little more perspective of the place. I have read a lot about the last century but I know that there is more to this country than that. Yesterday I found the depth I was looking for at the bookstore. I was able to add a book of folk tales to my collection that will give me insight about the history and culture here that came before the 1932 revolution, and I look forward to learning more about it.

It is not the exciting thing to write about with your vacation, but I do recommend stopping at these places when you come across them. You will find that you will learn more about your travels by going to a bookstore rather than just absorbing the culture around you.

The Same Town Second Time Around

It was only a year ago that I was in Chiang Mai and I even find myself at the same hotel we were at last time, the Shangri-la. During my last visit, we stayed here because we wanted to pamper ourselves a little bit, and even though that is part of the goal this time around, it was not the main reason we decided to stay here. Hotels are having great deals right now because they are competing for what little tourist dollars are out there considering the only people who can visit right now are the ones that are already in the country. For a country who has 40% of its economy based on tourism, this means that there are a lot of great places that are empty right now.

It is nice to stay in such a beautiful hotel, but we are not spending every minute here to get the most out of what we are paying per night. We still spent a day at the pool because it is a great pool and it is a wonderful way to unwind after a tough quarter at school. But we did not spend the whole time at the hotel. We have gotten out a couple of times and enjoyed more of what this city has to offer. It is crazy what you notice when you go back to a place you have just recently been to.

Small little things you see make you laugh because you are no longer looking at all of the sights. We saw this advertisement in the airport and at first glance it looks normal, but after a second glance, it is obvious that it was not written by a native speaker. First off, I know that there are a lot of Swiss people who live in Thailand, but I wonder what language that they believe they speak there because they have included it as a language on this poster.

Secondly, I am not quite sure what they mean by “Female Native Speakers”. Does this mean that they should be females, and if that is the case, I would hope that they rethink the picture that they used to accompany this picture. Or they are native speakers that know how to speak the females, in which case the guy in this picture starts to look even creepier.

There is also some really good street art going on in certain parts of Chiang Mai. I didn’t really pay attention to it the first time I was out here, but I have been surprised by the little corner I turn around and find these masterpieces waiting to show themselves to me. This has to be one of my favorites, a Bansky inspired piece that really speaks to the culture and people of Thailand that no other piece could.

I have travelled to a lot of different countries and places all over the world, and it has always been a great experience. Sometimes I enjoy the trip more than other times, but I always learn something new from going to these places. But rarely do I get to make my way back to certain places and really absorb the culture there. Many places I have been to top my list of places I would like to go back to someday because they hold a special place in my memory, but rarely do I make it back there. It is even worse that those select places where I do make my way back to, it takes me many years before I am able to get back there. I guess one of the advantages of the current situation is that I get to make it back to places in Thailand and really absorb the culture here. If it wasn’t for that, Thailand would have ended up being a hub for me, a place that I could jump off to so I could see other places in southeast Asia. I am glad for the chance to really experience the place I am living in now and get to know it better. It was one of the reasons that I decided to go into international teaching in the first place, and even though at the time I first made that decision, Thailand did not top my list of places that I hoped to know more about, I am glad to have landed here during this tumultuous time in world history.

When it gets back to that time to travel the world again, make sure you take advantage of it. Until then, take the time to really get to know the corner of the world you find yourself in. It may surprise you how rich it is in history and culture, and it will help you appreciate it more.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of many elephany statues found in Chiang Mai

When most people think of Thailand, they think of all of the exotic animals that can be found here. There is a plethora of birds, monitor lizards, monkeys, and tigers, and it is impossible to talk about this part of the world without bringing up the elephants. Many people travel to Chiang Mai just to spend some time with these majestic creatures, but if you do come out here to do that, please make sure you do your research first, and find the places that treat the animals well.

A statue of a horse found at Wat Phra Singh

And yes these types of animals all exist out here, and in the short time I have been here, I have been able to come across most of them as well as some that you would expect to see in other parts of the world as well, such as horses, water buffaloes, cats, and dogs. Yes, there are plenty of dogs all over the place. Someday, I will have to do a post dedicated to the soi dog epidemic, but that is not what this post is really about.

A naga at the entrance of the shrine at Wat Phra Singh

One of the reasons I became an English teacher was because of my love of mythology. I have always been fascinated by the stories that were told by the greatest of mythology, but more importantly the mythical creatures that I have come across throughout my travels. I knew that there was a mythology associated with Thailand that takes from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, but it wasn’t until I made it out to Chiang Mai that I was able to fully understand that rich history behind this mythology and how it is still ingrained within the culture of Thailand.

Nagas can be found at most temples as the guardians to the images of Buddha. They appear as large snakes, sometimes with more than one head, and even though the legend tells of these creatures being born from the Hindu deity, Kadru, their legend is more associated with Buddha himself. When Buddha first reached nirvana under the boa tree while looking out at a river, he was protected from any interruptions from one of these creatures. It is the reason why many of the temples have them at their entrances. Beyond this, they are also associated with the Thai New Year when people will have the biggest water fight anywhere in the world. It is believed that the spraying of water into the air will appease these beasts and they will pop their heads out the many rivers, and the ocean to squirt water in the air and allow for a very rainy season.

The statue of the Three Kings with the royal seal on the building behind them depicting a garuda

The brother to the naga would be the garuda. This is the mythical beast most associated with royalty in Thailand, and is a part of the actual seal of all official documents. It is a creature that basically has the head and arms of a man, but the rest of his body is that of a bird. As far as the stories go, there is only one garuda, and he is the half-brother of all the nagas. They both have the same father, but the garuda’s mother was Vinata. The two creatures fight in an eternal battle with each other with the garuda consuming as many nagas as he can come across.

A yaksha

Though the brothers have some sibling rivalry to content with, they both are mortal enemies of the yaksha. This creature can be found at numerous temples and as stone statues in front of people’s houses. They carry around clubs and cause havoc wherever they go. They are considered demons and they are most closely related to the ones that Buddha had to contend with during his lifetime. They appear in many of the tales across Thai classical literature, and even though they take on the role of the antagonist in many of the stories, they are not always evil.

There are many other creatures that can be found at many of the wats and temples all across Thailand, and they each add a specific flavor to the culture of this country that gives the world a unique and varied mythology. It triggers my imagination, taking it to places that will allow for me to create stories and campaigns for games, and I am happy to be able to learn more about this culture, not only from its beautiful landscape and food, but also from the collection of stories that it has told.

 

A Land of Color – Chiang Mai, Thailand

The east wall of the old city that was once used to protect the city

I was doing a quick flip through the pictures I have taken so far this school year. They started in Oregon City, Oregon a day before I got on a plane to fly out to Thailand. There was a distinct change in the amount of color that was present in the pictures that I took before I left as opposed to the world of color that I live in now. To be fair, that last day in America was an overcast day which is part of the reason why it was not as colorful because Oregon is usually a beautiful place to visit. But it is not Thailand with its explosion of color and its expressive nature.

One of the wats in the old town that transforms itself into a market every Sunday evening

Now, I know that there are other places in the world where the colors explode much in the same way that they do in Thailand. From the pictures I have seen from India, I know that it is an even more expressive place and the colors cause a sensory overload. But every corner that I look down in Thailand I am able to see the same kinds of color showcased. From the temples to the markets, I never feel bored with what I see.

A display of lanterns used to celebrate the end of the monsoon season

It might have helped that I was in Chiang Mai during a Buddhist holiday. What would best be described as their Lent period ends in October to signify the end of the monsoon season. The monks have been sequestered in their temples during the last three months so that their wandering would not tread upon the rice fields and destroy the much needed crops, but now that it is about time for harvest and the rains will no longer turn the fields into the muddy environment needed to grow these plants, they no longer have a need to hide out. It is at this time that they receive their new robes, and there is much celebration that accompanies this moment. This helped add to the color, as the temples were adorned with yellow, white, purple, and red lanterns.

Even boa trees are decorated in a display of color for the holiday

Despite the temples, markets, and celebrations, there is also nature that adds to this color. Thailand in covered in trees and there are always various shades of green that contend with the landscape. There is also thousands of flowers all over the place that add to the color. And when it is not colorful enough, the people of Thailand know how to add their own touch so that it creates a harmony with the natural surroundings and makes everything look festive.

Even KISS does not look as drab in this environment, but then it might be because they are made to look like giant lego mice

It is this addition to the whole color wheel to the landscape that makes even the drabbest of color pop out when you come across it, it still seems to add to the festive nature. Black no longer looks like it should be associated with evil, but instead it just adds to how colorful the place can be.

Thailand is a land not afraid of color, and they love to display it in all aspects of their lives from their homes to their food. It is one of the things that makes this place such a destination for millions of people each year, and it is what makes it a fun place to live in as well.

Making Food Babies – Chiang Mai, Thailand

The rice fields on the farm at the Thai Farm Cooking School

Have you ever played that game where you ask a person if they could only eat one type of food for the rest of their lives, what would it be? Many people would answer Italian, or Japanese. Every once in a while I have heard French, or Indian, but I have never heard anybody mention English food. If you ask them what their second choice would be, Thai food tends to pop up more than any other kind. Sometimes when hearing this second choice from other people, some may change their minds and make this delicacy their first choice. It is a type of food with rich history, tons of variety, and enough spice to keep you interested for the rest of your life. And if you are ever in Chiang Mai, it is a wonderful way to spend a day, not by hopping from restaurant to street vendor, but enrolling in a day long cooking class.

A wander around the garden requires a sun hot, and not just because it is so stylish

There are many different school offering all day cooking classes around town and it may be hard to pick the right one, but I was happy with the one that we went with, the Thai Farm Cooking School. The day starts early in the morning when they picked us up at our hotel, and drove us out to one of the markets so they could talk to us about some of the ingredients that we could find there, and what would we would want to buy to make the perfect Thai dishes. It was a fun introduction to the markets in Thailand, and the one they took us to was one of the better ones I have seen for produce.

Afterwards they took us out to a farm that they ran. The tour continued as our guide, Gift (yes, Thai names can be weird, but they usually fit the personality of the person that possesses them), took us around so we could try the various flowers, vegetables, and roots that could be found in the garden. It was interesting to see how complicated the process came to collecting the right ingredients to make some of these iconic dishes.

Cooking pad thai

The rest of the day was spent making a dish and then eating it. I had heard about what a test of endurance this could be for even the hardiest of eaters, so I made sure to have a light breakfast before I started on what would be a delightful culinary day. I learned about why my Thai cooking never turned out as good as the food I could have gotten at a restaurant, and I learned how to blend them together to make the perfect dishes. A lot of it had to do with ingredients that can only be found in Thailand, or at least the local Asian market in the United States. Either way, it takes a little more time to collect these ingredients, and then it takes even more time to prepare them so they are ready to be made. This includes pulling out a mortar and pestle to grind up chilis and other spices to make the paste needed for curries.

Tom Yam Kung soup, a great spicy starter

But it wasn’t just about learning how to make the perfect Tom Yam Kung, it was also about learning a little bit about the Thai culture and language as well. Gift was great about telling us about how to eat like a real Thai person, and the language that we could use to blend in a little bit more. She even explained to us all about the complicated wai as a greeting, a sign of respect, and a goodbye. I had heard a lot of this before, but I could see how the other people along the trip would have appreciated hearing all about it.

How to make a presentation out of a yellow curry dish

Thai food is not only delicious, but the really good Thai food also knows how to be visually stunning as well. There are numerous stories about why this is the case, but the most popular one comes from one of the ancient kings, Rama IV. One of his servants would craft the food that she made into some of the most intricate art including ships and flowers that when he saw it he became instantly enamored of her talents. He then required that his wife learn this art while she prepared food as well, and the tradition took off in Thailand. Our teacher tried to teach us some of the finer aspects of this art as she would made some of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen with what appeared to be the simplest of ease.

A failed attempt at making a presentation out of a red curry dish (Kaeng Phed)

I quickly found out that recreating these masterpieces was not as easy as it looked. And even though I could not make it look as pretty, at least, it still tasted delicious. The meals kept on coming as well. After the soup and curry, we made pad thai, and stir-fried basil chicken. We had a papaya salad, and even ended up by making a traditional Thai desert of bananas in coconut milk.

Chicken basil stir fry as a girl with pigtails

Along the way, I even was able to make one of my dishes appealing enough so a five year old might even want to eat it. There were no five year olds around, so I have to eat it instead. And it was delicious. By the end of the long day, and the five courses that I had consumed, I had created a food baby in my belly, and was verging on a food coma. I had learned a lot about traditional Thai food, and a little bit about their lifestyles. And all along the way, I had a great time. It was a great way to spend the day, and should be placed on anybody’s itinerary who makes it out to Chiang Mai.

Getting Some Culture – Chiang Mai, Thailand

A small Buddha temple made of teak wood and protected by dogs

I know I have been very lazy ever since I have landed in Chiang Mai, and there is a lot that this city has to offer which I have been missing. So I finally pulled myself away from the pool to go out today and see the sights which is a harder thing to do than you would think. It is not easy to leave the comfort of the pool out here to wander around in the confines of the old city walls because Thailand is hot.

I knew this before I moved out here, but I had no idea how oppressive the heat could be. It is even the official end of the monsoon season out here when the temperature outside should start cooling off a bit, but nobody has told the weather that this is what it is supposed to do. Granted, I have not seen any rain since I have been here, but the sun has continued to beat down on me and this might be up there with the hottest temperatures I have experienced since I have been out here. I didn’t want to leave the pool life and explore, but I knew that if I did that for another day I would have regretted it.

A bamboo grove on the grounds of Wat Phra Singh

So I went out to explore a couple of the various wats that can be found in the old city. I started early enough in the day so the heat would not drag me down, and I was able to explore both the Wat Phra Singh and the Wat Chedi Luang. These structures are the ancient temples that house some of the most spectacular buddhas that can be found in Chiang Mai as well as the grounds on which the monks can travel around and meditate. Not only are the gold encased buildings and statues impressive, but so are the well-cared for grounds on which they reside.

Look carefully and you can see the apple in the naga’s teeth

Every temple has a series of steps up to the inside of the building where you are supposed to take off your shoes. The steps are guarded on either side by some kind of creature depending on what part of the world you find yourself in. In Thailand, the common statue is of a naga. This mythical creature is said to live in the rivers, lakes, and ocean waters all around the country, and before the monsoon season, the citizens of the country will squirt water to appease these beasts so they will come out and spit water into the air causing for an exceptionally rainy season. Most of the statues I found at the temples had one head, but the ones at the Wat Chedi Luang seemed to be a hybrid of the hydra from ancient Greece. People do come and offer these creatures gifts, and you can see various fruits, and flowers laid at the ground in front of them. Somebody gave the one I saw an apple and placed it in his mouth.

The ancient temple at Wat Chedi Luang

The temples that hold the buddhas are also impressive. The one at the center of the grounds at Wat Chedi Luang was built in the 13th century, and even though it has seen better days, there are efforts to restore it to the magnificence it once was. The brick building reminded me of the types of buildings that could found at Angor Wat in Cambodia and as I walked around it, I was rewarded with sculptures of not only buddha, and nagas, but also elephants as well. It added to the majesty of this place.

One of the various Buddhas at Wat Chedi Luang

And there are plenty of images of Buddha around. There are many different ways that he is presented from standing, sitting and sleeping, and all of them were present at these temples. The ones that disturbed me the most were on the lifelike wax statues that were created of some of the more celebrated Buddhist monks. At first, I thought they were the actual monks that were waiting to greet visitors as they made there way into these sacred places, but they were just replicas. Why they did that I could not say, but it made for a unique experience as I went into my first temple.

The largest temple at Wat Phra Singh

I will admit that I did not last very long before the pool at my hotel called me from across the old city, but it was fun to endure the heat, and go see these ancient and beautiful places. It made me feel like I had earned the refreshing dip in the cool waters, and I know that I have a few more days out here to go out and get some more culture.