Got a lovely surprise yesterday, woke up to a downpour of rain. There are only three seasons here. The cold season (cold is very relative) October to Feb, the Hot Season Feb to about July, and the rainy season. Normally it does not rain at this time of the year. However, it was very welcome as It washed the dust off the trees and cleaned the air.
I look out from my balcony and see the highest mountain in Thailand and for the last couple of days, clouds have been hanging over the top, making it invisible at times so I should have known the rain was coming.
Yesterday evening was Saturday market on Silver Street. Vendors come from nearby villages and set up their stalls. Lots of great artisans and crafts. Was very tempted to buy myself a wide silver bracelet to replace the one that was stolen at Burlington Mall but the price of silver has skyrocketed so I resisted. Did buy a couple of simple batik dresses for $3 each and a few small items.
Today is Sunday Walking Market. A huge affair will masses of stuff including quilting made by the hill tribe people. Several of the main streets are closed and vendors, including lots and lots of food cooking on gas rings, line both sides of the street. It's very crowded but it's so much fun and you never know what treasures you will find.
Am enjoying my Kindle Fire but must confess I miss going to the second-hand book store to trade books. Am planning on watching The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo film tonight. I loved the book so am looking forward to the film.
There was lots of excitement at the hotel this morning. The arrival of a new small monument to the Buddha. It is quite lovely and stands on a new pedestal by the entrance to the hotel. Made of teak it's in the form of a miniature temple with working wooden shutters and doors, sitting in a garden of flowers and little trees. There are china horses and dogs and people in the garden, Buddha sitting on a throne, and other people around including dancing girls and dogs. There are places for tiny dishes of food, offerings to the gods. The whole thing is only about 5 feet x 6 feet. It is already garlanded with gardenias and roses and swags of ribbons. In all a delightful addition to the hotel. It will bring good health and good fortune to all who enter the hotel and the restaurant/bar/karaoke center. I hope that will include me although I already consider myself very fortunate to be here and not plowing through the snow in Toronto.
Pai - according to the travel books, is a small peaceful town high in the hills of Northern Thailand. What better place to visit to escape the bustle of Chaing Mai.
I went by mini-bus, up bumpy and winding roads, high into the mountains. Almost four hours later I arrived and looked for a small hotel in a quiet location. I found what seemed to be ideal, on a side road, with an inside courtyard, the quaint rooms had rustic balconies surrounded by trees, and tea and coffee were delivered each morning. I checked in and went for a walk.
Pai has four north/south roads and four east/west roads and is bounded by a small river, The streets mostly contain small shops, bars and restaurants, AND everywhere, MOTORBIKES, driven by topless foreign men with scruffy hair or dreadlocks (thought they went out with the ark) and on the curb dozens of hill tribe women all selling the same goods. Music blared out from bars and cafes, mostly ancient rock. The only mode of public transportation is on the back of "taxi motorbikes" no tuk-tuk or car taxis.
Seeking refuge from the noise I went back to my hotel to be entertained by the sound of Elvis blaring from a record player in the maid's bedroom. I went to her door, she was fast asleep and not at all accomodating when I asked her to turn down the music.
After an expensive and not very satisfactory meal, I went to bed early, to be awakened constantly by the sounds of dogs barking, people arguing, and for some reason, pots and pans being thrown around.
I thought that it could not get much worse but at five in the morning I was awakened by cocks crowing, dogs barking and the high pitch of the faithful being called to prayer by the small local Muslim community.
I left on the first mini-bus out that morning.
I think that the moral to this story is not to believe everything the lonely planet writes
Bargaining, haggling, discussing prices - it's a way of life here but sometimes hard to know what is a fair price.
I have been complimented on my good bargaining skills by several vendors here so I guess I have learned a few things.
I do know that no one will sell an item for less than they paid for it so I feel it's fair to "discuss the price". I don't think that it's fair to just bargain for the fun of it without any intention of buying so I try not to get into a discussion unless having some plans to make the purchase as long as the price is right.
I usually try to purchase "in bulk" I will ask "What is your best price" for one item, then have got a response I pick up several items and offer a price that works out to about half the price asked for. This seems to work quite well, so if for example I am told $2 for one item, I pick up 5 items that are similar and offer $5. Here they often ask for a bit more as "lucky money" and I can choose to say yes or no.
Sometimes they will look in amazement and say "oh no" and then I will say thank you and start to walk away. Usually, they will quickly come after me and say OK. The other day a delightful little old lady, wrinkled as a brown walnut, followed me and actually took me gently by the hand and led me back to her stall. We were both giggling like a couple of schoolgirls by the time we got there and how could I not buy from her after that?
When I had completed my purchases with her, she gave me a little carved jade elephant that now hangs on a chain around my neck, along with my rose quartz and my amethyst ball. A gentle reminder of how nice the Thai people are.
Bargaining is fun for the seller and, on the odd occasion that I felt the price was so little that I do not try and bargain, there is almost a look of disappointment on the face of the vendor
So did I get a lot of bargains - well I think I did - now if only I can bargain for more baggage allowance at the airport!