Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chiang Mai, Mountain Retreat

Trip to Thailand Part Three of Three

(Apologies for this much-delayed last post. The Chinese government blocked the program I was using to get around the Great Firewall. I bought a new program for my birthday though, so I am back in business!)

The last part of our trip took us to the mountains of Northern Thailand to the 2nd biggest city,Chiang Mai. Of all the places we visited, Chiang Mai is the one I could see myself wanting to settle down in for a while. It's a laid back city, with an obviously long history (the city walls and temples from centuries ago still stand and outline the city's structure) and a ton of great activities to choose from. Unlike other places, the focus of Chiang Mai is not sightseeing per se, but rather actively participating in various ventures. You can go on hill treks to see the waterfalls or forested mountains, learn to take care of elephants, spend an afternoon, a day, or even a week learning how to cook Thai food, or visit the ethnic minority hill tribes, some of whom still maintain their lifestyles in villages up north.

We narrowed down our list of priorities to go see some of Chiang Mai's most famous temples, take a day long trek in the mountains, a day long cooking class, and lots of trips to various night markets.

The first thing we did though was visit the Flower Festival. We were lucky enough to have coincidentally planned to be in Chiang Mai for their annual flower festival. Thailand is known for its orchids, and we saw plenty! There were giant moats made of flower, tropical plants of all varieties, and even a shop selling seeds for the ambitious (read: my mom.)

A Buddha made out of flowers.

There were also displays of many other types of plants besides orchids. I thought the cacti were quite attractive.

Of course, like every other Thai city, Chiang Mai has lots of temples, both flashy and new and old and decadent (like the one pictured above.)

I think you could guess that Chiang Mai was my favorite city in Thailand by how picture-heavy it is. Special thanks to Erin for reminding me to post and expressing appreciation for the pictures.

The next day was our trek in the mountains, which included almost everything you can do in the mountains of Thailand, crammed into about 7 hours. We visited an elephant camps and took a brief ride, watched some weaving in Karen and Hmong "villages" (more like a small market really, but that's fine by me,) hiked to a waterfall, and finished the day off with the grand finale of bamboo rafting down a river. It was a fun, if cursory, trip.

This part of Thailand is mountainous and covered in jungle. We were so lucky to be able to relax on the beach and hike in the mountains all in the same vacation.

A rice paddy high in the mountains.

For me, the cooking class was the highlight. We took a trip through an open air market, where we were informed about a number of basic Thai ingredients. Who knew eggplants came in so many varieties?! Then we were off to make 6 different dishes of our choosing. Luckily we got a recipe collection as a souvenir, or I'd never remember the recipes. The food was delicious, of course, and not at all difficult to make. The real difficulty will be finding authentic ingredients, I think. Pad Thai, Coconut Soup, Red Curry - all are things I can make from scratch, if I'm ambitious enough.

Sadly, there aren't any terribly interesting pictures.

1 comment:

Erin said...

It was worth the wait Melissa! Beautiful pictures and writing to match. You are gifted in that you can make your reader feel that they are seeing it all through your eyes...not just hearing it second hand. The flowers are my favorites...Thanks!