Whoa…it’s been two months since we’ve posted anything to this blog, and we’re still not through Thailand! Well, this IS the last Thailand entry, meaning we’ve dragged you through one short month in only one country in SE Asia. We left so much unseen that there’s a huge pull to return. Hence, we cannot strike SE Asia off of our bucket list yet!
The last two cities we visited in Thailand were Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. As you may recall from our previous post, we’d hopped on an un-airconditioned train from Pak Chong to Ayutthaya, which was not horrible by the way, for roughly 2.5-hours of clickity-clacking. Luckily, it was an overcast day, so we were spared what could have been a horrendously sweaty ride. One of the highlights of the train ride was the constant stream of vendors walking down the aisle selling either snacks and drinks or cool, damp hand towels for dabbing one’s brow. Occasionally, at certain stations there would be a changing of the guard – some vendors would exit at a stop and new ones would board – not unlike buses in Mexico. We bought some mango in a bag and Jenn bought at least one diet Coke. All in all, it was a nice crossing.
Most old cities exude character, and they all have stories. Ayutthaya was one of the original capitals of the Kingdom of Siam and it was a 16th century boom town, until it was overrun by the Burmese in the 1700s. Some comparisons from back in the day described the economy here as equivalent to that of Paris – pretty impressive. It is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, and the ruins are expansive and well-kept. Between the ruins, active temples and Buddhist Lent, the markets, and finding street food, we covered a lot of ground in Ayutthaya, and even enjoyed vegetarian food made for vegetarians. Yum! We loved this little city just 80 km north of Bangkok; in fact, it may have been one of my favorites.
After a couple of days in Ayutthaya, Jenn, Jason, Rand, and I boarded an air-conditioned train for Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. We had to leave Jeff and Brenda behind because of an unforeseen traveler’s illness that we won’t talk about – but rest assured, they quickly caught up to us in Chiang Mai. After three weeks of moving every two or three days, we had decided to settle in for an eight-day stint here. The four of us rented an Airbnb on the 13th floor of a modern condo complex and enjoyed vast views of the city and the mountains, time to just relax and do nothing (well, it was a nice thought anyway), and our own laundry facilities. It’s the little things…
Founded in the 1200s, the Old City, which is delineated by a moat and walls that are mostly still standing, is home to hundreds of ornate and active Buddhist temples, as this area was known as the city’s religious center. Juxtaposed to the Old City, is the hipster Nimmanhaemin Road, with its modern and massive shopping malls, high-rise hotels, and food craziness. There were so many food options in Chiang Mai, it was a bit overwhelming. And the markets here, both day and night, were utter madness. Not only did they encompass blocks and blocks of the city, they were overflowing with humanity. Oy!
Because there are sooooo many photos, we’re just going to give you the quick and dirty of our eight days in Chiang Mai: Laundry (haha!); walkabouts in the Old City and new alike; amazing wall art; temples, temples, temples; markets, markets, markets; street food, restaurants, Khao Soy noodles (oh my!); scooter rides in the surrounding mountains and rice paddies; and most importantly, cooking classes. One of the main reasons Rand wanted to go to Thailand was to learn how to cook Thai food, one of our favorite cuisines.
Rand took a class with Jenn and another vegetarian class with me and Brenda. He was is heaven! More than anything, we realized just how easy it is. All we needed was a wok, a stainless steel spatula, and a lot of really fresh ingredients – many of which are not available in Mexico, but substitutions make it all doable. The biggest epiphany came when making peanut sauce – hardly any peanuts are used in the recipe! What?! Crazy. The classes were super fun, we got super full (you eat everything you make!), and, most importantly, we came home with two Thai recipe books. Jackpot! Once back home, we bought a stainless wok and a stainless spatula. We’re all set for cooking Thai food in Mexico!
Train to Ayutthaya
Scenery along the way
Our accommodations – San Sook Guesthouse
Not much, but the owner was as sweet as could be
Fancy decor at the San Sook
Can you make out the name on the building? Wha…?
Beautiful wood craftsmanship
Scooters parked along the night market
Rand having his first beer in Chiang Mai
An elder creating treats with banana leaves
Night market noms
The youngest nom dealer
Fried chicken feet – eeeewww
Jeff partaking of the Pad Thai
To the first ruins in a city full of them
Jeff capturing the scene for one of S/V Adventurer’s many vids
Seriously, this family wanted a photo with Randy. I guess tall white guys are an unusual sight where they’re from.
They were inside this tiny building
A stranger enjoying some alone time along the river
These young ladies would not be allowed into any of the temples because of their attire. The shoes are perfect for riding a bike!
Stroll along the perimeter of one set of ruins to get to another
A long, narrow stairway down to the bowels of the temple
These murals were painted in the bowels
This woman has a hot date
No need for any best management practices here
Along the brick road
Can you see the guard and his dog in the background?
Finally found some elephants
Not sure they’re very happy about their circumstances
Preparing offerings for Buddhist Lent
More offerings – and a puppy
Rand couldn’t resist
The building of candles that will burn for three months
Practitioners flocking to the temple
Witnessing prayer at the foot of the biggest golden Buddha we saw
Even working temples need storage space
Big Buddha back
The people continue to flood the temple
Ummm, I don’t think so
In search of the Reclining Buddha
The road to the Reclining Buddha
Back to liking each other
Along the sidewalk on our walkabout
Old and new
Beautiful spirit houses
Entrance to the Krungsri Market
Veggies and handbags
Selling her noms from atop the table
Pad Thai deliciousness
Dino on the loose!
Now that’s a reasonably sized backpack
Lights on as night falls and the market really gets going
No love at the Thai Boat Museum
Women and kids selling fixins for some kind of wrap
Jenn waiting patiently for the train
The station’s spirit house and pet dog
Chiang Mai Gallery
Noms on the A/C train to Chiang Mai
Scenery along the tracks
Rice fields outside of Chiang Mai
The Trio – our AirBnB for a week with Jenn and Jason
Our humble abode for our last week in Thailand
The view from the Trio – if you look closely, you can see a rainbow
The Trio pool
The Bloom hostel
The Maya shopping mall – a goliath
On a walkabout town
Entering the old Chiang Mai from the north gate – the old part of town is delineated by a wall and a moat
Family tattoo parlor
Scooters and wall art
Chiang Mai is truly food crazy
Meat market with fly abatement
Jenn is happy about the free beer
Rand is happy about the IPA
Jenn and Rand’s first cooking teacher
Jenn in her happy place with a cute Korean kid
Mango Tango 🙂
SNAKE! (It was dead)
A visit to the
The Waroros Market outside the wall
Keepin’ it real
Business is slow? Take a nap…
Need any fishing gear?
Monks need stuff too
Feeding the pigeons seems to be a past time here
The Thai military gathering supplies for
Wat Muen Lan – one of a gazillion temples inside and outside the wall
Another beautiful temple
Interesting juxtaposition – ancient temples with neon advertising
Wat Phan Tao
Praying monks are a tourist attraction, too
A model of the old city inside the wall
Night market noms
Ganesh outside the mall
Veggie cooking class!
Rand intent on learning the tricks of the trade
The classic ingredients
Brenda showing off her dish
Mango and sticky rice
Scooter, spirit house, and a boat?
Night market fun
Off to a ladyboy cabaret
Restaurant by night
Scooter rental/sales by day
So we rented some scooters
Chiang Mai biker gang
First stop – a waterfall
Greeters on the path to the waterfall
Giant bamboo beetle!
Kitty cat welcome to the restroom
Unknown temple along our scooter route
Competition amongst those offering offerings
Entry to the Wat Prathap Doi Suthep
Buddhism as a tourist attraction – so weird
The welcoming committee
Contemplating the steps up to the main temple
Hmong children selling the opportunity to take photos with them
This one made me happy
A view from the top
More capitalism inside the walls of the temple
Scooter ride down from Wat Suthep
A brief stop at the Hmong Hillside Village
A beautiful waterfall park in the Village
A trippy tourist attraction at a reservoir surrounded by rice fields – with gorillas made of hay
Rand and Jas getting their OM on
A local shop in Chiang Mai
Cork – Rand has an obsession with cork
…except it was quite cloudy
Last walkabout for us in Chiang Mai
Finally – an elephant!
The Mofos making plans sans the Frasers
Thought about buying this – the size wasn’t quite right
Last supper of Khao Soy noodles – scrumptious
Last coffee together
On the truck-truck to the
Truly the last supper in Thailand
At the airport before sunrise
So-long Thailand…’til we meet again!
And, of course, S/V Adventurer‘s vids from these two fabulous places! Thanks, Jeff and Brenda!