Retrospect Travel Log: Chiang Mai
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Read this on galpod.com.
Bangkok gave us a taste of how different the Thai culture is from what we're used to. Chiang Mai did that, too, but also gave me a taste of how similar the lives are. Also, it provided the adventurous part of our trip.
On our first day in Chiang Mai, we did a temple tour. We went to see the temple on the mountain (Doi Suthep) where we heard some Buddhist stories and got blessed by a monk. We visited an ancient temple where there are tunnels in the hill that have been standing there for hundreds of years, and where people still come to meditate. We visited the ruins outside of the city and saw temples built in the 13th century. We also visited a temple inside the city (Wat Chedi Luang), one of the first temples built in the city. We discussed religion with our local guide (the incredible Sam!) and found that the very concept of "secular" was utterly foreign to him. He couldn't even understand what we were talking about at first.
On our second day, we went to visit a local village. We went into the rice fields, watching the farmers work and asking them questions. Sam, our guide, turned out to have grown up in one of those villages and was a fountain of knowledge about local crops (mostly rice and flowers), the growing process, and crop prices. We visited a local doctor/massage therapist/sauna place, and we visited a local fish farm/cafe/artist's workshop. Those, in particular, reminded me so much of villages in Israel. Of course, it reminded me of villages in Israel in the 1980s and 1990s, when I was growing up in a rural community with family (on both sides) in other rural communities. The city was something you go to only when you must, and you hold your money/bag tight when you do. We also had places similar to those we visited - a fish farm/cafe was very popular back then. All day, as we were walking around the village, I could see my dad giving a tour of the fields to visitors (he loved to do that). It was unsettling.
Our third day was devoted to elephants. We went to visit a rescue centre for elephants. We met Happy, a 75-years-old elephant who was used for logging for much of her life. We made her breakfast, fed her(!), took her for a little hike and then washed her in the river. Then, randomly, we did some white-water rafting (well, white-ish water), and came back to meet with some baby elephants who were taller than all present adults. There is no way to describe these animals other than magnificent, except for, perhaps, majestic. And the idea that people see them and think "working tools" is jarring. I realise that I'm incredibly privileged never to have needed to use animals as tools, and I understand that in most cases this use comes from not having a choice, but still, it's terrifying.
On our final day, we went zip-lining. When my daughter said she was scared because she'd never done zip-lining, I explained to the kids that neither did I. My son and partner had both tried it before. My daughter and I were the noobs. The views were breathtaking, once I got over my fear of heights, and I now understand why people enjoy zip-lining. But it's not something I'm going to adopt as a hobby, personally.
From Chiang Mai, we continued to Koh Samui (the island of Samui), for our relaxing part of the vacation. More on that, and general observations, next week.
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