Thanks to everyone who has written to me about my blog. In answer to one question - how do I get around in Chaing Mai-well I mostly use Shanks Pony as it is such an interesting city and there is something to see and do at every corner. There are dozens of WATS which are temple complexes surrounded by a high wall. Inside the wall are statues, lots of gold ornamental work, the actual temple, and living and working places for the monks. Dozens of places offering Thai massage, which is quite wonderful, shops, street stalls, and literally hundreds of places to eat. Thai people seem to graze 6 or 7 times a day and I am getting into that habit too. But-getting around. Top of the totem pole is the Air Cons. Luxury air-conditioned buses with leather recliner seats, food service, and TV. Then there are other buses, some Air Conditioned some not. Then there is the city bus which travels on a fixed route for 30c a trip. My favorite though is the songkok, a privately owned open-sided, step-in at the back with two long seats and rails to hang on with. You just flag one down, tell the driver where you want to go and if he is going that way he says yes. If not you just wait until the next one comes along. Anywhere, anytime 50c. The drivers usually speak some English although not as much as they pretend, which can lead to some pretty amazing long rides. I usually tell the driver then get into the bus and ask if anyone speaks English, which many do. I then tell them where I want to go and they confirm that the driver is going to the right place. It all works rather well except that the other day I ended up at the airport instead of the dentist!!! Below that is the Tuk-Tuk the bain of the tourist. These are two-seater carts with tops, driving by maniacs on motorbikes. The only advantage is that it's a direct ride, unlike the Songkow which may have a number of people to deliver in different directions. The price for a Tuk-Tuk is $1.50 but a bit of negotiation has to take place to get to that price. Below the Tuk-Tuk is the bike rickshaw - man pulling rickshaw is outlawed here. actually, it's rather fun to take the rick-shaw if you are not in a hurry, you get to see a lot that way. So that's how to get around in Thailand. Tourists also rent bikes and scooters and of course cars although I am not sure I would be too happy driving a car over here. Do keep writing to me, I love to hear from you all and yes, I am buying beads and stones - more on that later after I have met with my friends from the northern hill tribes.
I am not much of a tourist, particularly when it's on an organized bus tour but as the elephant farm was a couple of miles in the bush off the bus route with no tuk-tuk or taxi, I chose a small group tour in a mini-bus and I am glad that I did.
We first went to a small paper-making facility where they make very nice paper out of elephant dung!
Then to see the beasts. They were amazing and performed lots of great tricks, even doing "handstands" and walking upright. They played soccer, had a band, and painted pictures with watercolor. Following this we rode on their backs through the river and through the jungle for about an hour, stopping at tree-high stalls to buy bunches of bananas and cane sticks. The long trunks came searching over their backs, until they located the food, which was then gently taken from us and, curving through the air in a graceful ark, found its target and into their mouths, bananas a whole bunch at a time!
A long lazy bamboo raft rides down the river, then a bumpy ride in an ox cart led to a huge buffet lunch in a lovely building on the river's edge.
Following lunch, we went to the Monkey School which was fun and amusing, the highlight for me being a tiny baby monkey who contentedly sat on my hand and played with my necklace.
The day ended with a visit to the butterfly and orchid farm.
It was a fun day and I can understand why its one of the main attractions for tourists coming to Chaing Mai.
So I am sauntering along, on my way back to my apt., when a very polite (and rather gay) young Thai man says "Excuse me but are you English" and when I rather reluctantly answer "yes" he produces a brochure from his bag. I am expecting a sales pitch but he says "please can you help me with the correct English wording on this brochure". So in the middle of the street, we start to re-write the wording on a brochure the purpose of which I have no idea. Turns out it is a very fancy club for Women called club Athena.
"Welcome to the club for ladies, you deserve to be loved at Club Athena, you will be treated like an angel." After we had sorted out the grammar and correct wording, he handed me a magazine with an ad for the club and a coupon for a free drink and politely left me. Will I go? mmmmmmmmm maybe I will tell you AFTER I have been - if I go!
The flight to Chiang Mai is a long way too long so I try and break my journey halfway and have the visiting different places at different times. Hong Kong was my favorite place so I stopped over in Hong Kong several times but I also stopped over in Hawaii twice in Shanghai once. Shanghai was a problem because it was actually winter there so I traveled in some of my old clothes packed a couple of old sweaters and pants and just abandon them in the hotel garbage bin when I left because I certainly didn’t need them in Chiang Mai