Sawadee from Chiang Mai
After leaving you all in Singapore airport we flew to Bangkok and then on to the Northern Thai Capital of Chiang Mai. We have been here now for roughly a week and had a lot of fun and packed a lot into our time here (including switching hotels to avoid being electrocuted).
First off we explored Chiang Mai which although is smaller than Bangkok is still a busling Thai city with a million mopeds, Tuk Tuks and taxis charging up and down the streets. But in contrast it is a lot easier to explore on foot compared with Bangkok and the city has managed to maintain some of its old structures like the city moat and in places the old city wall and ramparts.
On our second full day in Chiang Mai we changed hotels and then went up the mountain to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, a very large and ornate temple complex believed to house some of Buddha's ashes within one of its spires. Here we also received a blessing from one of the monks and learned a bit more about the Buddhism. From the temple you also get great views of the City 1500km below. While there we also saw a Thai movie being made with some famous Thai actors (apparently). In the evening we then went to the Kavilla Boxing stadium to watch some Muay Thai boxing, unfortuately it was age range 10-17 but it was still entertaining and they still really went for it.
On our third day we attended our first Thai cooking class with the Chiang Mai Thai Cooking school and learnt how to make curry pastes from scratch and a number of tasty Thai dishes. This was very interesting and a lot of fun and left us both keen for our second course a couple of days later.
The day after our cooking course we headed further north for a long day of driving and site seeing. Our first stop was at a large natural hot spring well where you could puchase some eggs and boil them in the spring for breakfast. From here we headed through Chiang Rai and up to the Old City (home of a very old Wat). We then boarded the mini bus for a few more hours of bumpy roads until we reached the Mekong River and the Golden Triangle where Thailand borders with Burma and Laos. Here we took a trip along the river in a surprisingly fast long boat (very James Bond) and spent roughly half an hour at a Laos village where we were offered the chance to sample some snake whiskey. This is basically a jar containing a Cobra and some cheap whiskey and was not very appertising. From the river we then headed (via lunch) to the northern most tip of Thailand and a border crossing with Burma which is a favourite spot for extending you Thai visa by popping across into Burma for the day and then getting a new thirty day Thai visa. After this we headed south for about 1 hour and visted a tribal market/village where we met members of the Long neck tribe, Large earlobe tribe and Karen tribe. It was fascinating to meet these people but also felt a bit uncomfortable taking pictures and staring as though they are circus freaks rather than real people. But on the flip side we are told the money generated from their market stalls and donations from tourists help keep the tribes alive, but we were still left with an uneasy feeling. After the tribal market we settled into the minibus for our 3 hour journey home along winding, and at times bumpy, mountain roads. The scenary along these roads however was quite spectacular and varied (which is a relief after Oz) We past by mountains, rice fields, farmland, villages, towns and Wats (temples).
The next day we were in recovery mode and did some washing then went for a massage. Carl had a simple and safe oil massage but Charlie went for the Northern Thai massage and was pulled and crunched six ways from Sunday and came away feeling she had just paid for one hour of torture rather than massage.
Today we attended our second cooking session and spent the first hour learning to carve roses, lotuses and leaves from vegetables before learning another five Thai dishes. It's worth pointing out that after we cooked each dish we got to eat it and they were all delicious (not that we are biased).
From here we are not sure where we are heading but will let you know in due course. We have a ton of new photos to go on the site but as yet have not found an internet cafe with modern computers offering usb ports or fast enough internet links.