Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monday, Wandering Around Warowat

Although we didn't have a specific agenda for the day, we had a great day in Chiang Mai, just wandering and exploring.

We started our Monday with a visit to the flower market, which is a part of the big Warowot Market that we visited last week.  I never get tired of looking at flowers, and this market was a riot of beautiful color!

There were many vendors selling these arrangements, which are used as offerings at Buddhist shrines:

This young man is hard at work, carefully constructing one of those "towers"

We see theses hanging loops of flowers, both small and large, everywhere-used as offerings at shrines, hanging on tuk-tuks, and even on boats on the river.

These ladies were busy stringing them up, and seem to be having a great time, chatting and laughing.

There were orchids everywhere!

Beautiful tropical flowers:

Look at this flower!

After our visit to the colorful flower market, we decided we'd just spend our day wandering around this market area.  It's a bustling, busy fun place, with much to see and do.  We set off exploring down the narrow lanes and alleyways--it's a jumble and maze of shops and carts.  Not very many tourists, for sure--we love it!

 We turned down one very narrow street, and were soon greeted with a very friendly "sawadeeka".  It was a nice lady standing in front of her beauty shop.  A light bulb went off!! David's hair has been buggin' him, he swears he gets "bed head" if it gets too long.  So he asked "you cut my hair"?  She giggled and said yes.  So into her tiny shop we went, David seated like a guest of honor in her chair. 

Notice the lady next to David, she's getting the works--hair color, manicure and pedicure; all the while giggling and shyly glancing at David.

With much giggling and laughter, she very carefully shaved David's head.  Both hairdressers were quite taken with his goatee, tugging on it and laughing.  They wanted to trim it, but he politely said no thanks!

He said she was very gentle.  She asked if I wanted my hair cut also, I quickly declined,  having visions of looking just like David!

David pays her the big sum of $3.00 as she politely "wais' in thanks:

Here he is with his new girlfriend:

What an unexpected, fun moment.  We continued our walk down this narrow lane to the sounds of their giggling, tee-heeing and chattering.  I'm sure they don't get many "farangs" in their tiny shop, and I think they had as much fun as we did!

We walked and walked, really soaking up this wonderful area.  It's certainly not an area often visited by tourists, and we did get a few strange looks.  We were browsing in a particularly interesting clothing store, and the owners tells us "we have coffee upstairs, you want?"  We said sure, and she led us up the stairs to the loveliest little coffee shop!

 There was a nice view from the shuttered windows out onto the bustling street below:

 I had a delicious mango/blackberry smoothie.  The smoothies I've had in Thailand have been great; they don't add extra sugar--just yogurt and ripe fruit.  Very refreshing.

We wandered some more, just soaking it all in.  There is an endless variety tucked away in those fun alleys and lanes!

Need to buy a Buddha?  Here's a whole store of them!

 This old guy was selling quail and chicken eggs, notice how he's cooking them on the hibachi:

 Hundreds of motorcycles parked in one spot (this was only about 25% of them!)--how do they know which one is theirs?

 Look how perfect these papayas are, wish we had a kitchen, I'd be buying them for sure!

Beautiful fresh herbs and greens:

This gentleman was selling those pretty red strawberries we've been seeing all over.  He'd just pile them into these handwoven baskets already lined with newspaper, weigh them up, and there you have it! Beautiful strawberries in a pretty basket--much nicer than our plastic bag in the supermarket!

This is for my Mom and Dear Bren--if you go to Thailand and don't pack a-bra-a-day, just go to the market and pick your color!  You'll find them right next to the fresh herbs.........

By now it was time to give our feet a rest, so we tuk-tuked to an area around the old city wall, chose a nice restaurant and had a delicious lunch of the usual stir fries and green papaya salad.  Mmmmm, good!

It was a  nice short walk back to our hotel for a relaxing two hour rest before our evening trek to the night market.

Our Monday evening was spent cruising the streets of the big night market, eating some good street food and buying a couple of souvenirs.  Our dinner was another vegie/pork stir fry from this cart.  It's attached to his motorcycle on a side car--propane tank, umbrella and all!

As were standing on the street corner,  awkwardly trying to eat our food standing up, a nice vendor lady pulled out two stools and said "you sit"!  What a kind, gracious gesture.  We are sure enjoying the warm friendly Thai people.

 Here's David buying a cool t-shirt for his brother Dan:

Not to worry, Dan,  we didn't get you either of these!

By now we were tired, our feet hurt and it was time to call it a day.  Another of those fun and crazy tuk-tuk rides back to our hotel, and we were both out like a light!

It was a great, fun-filled day, with lovely surprises down every little lane and alleyway.  Who would have thought getting a haircut could be so much fun?

Tomorrow in Chiang Mai:  We have a FUN day planned,  starting with another trip up into the jungle!  Stay tuned!

Up, Up the Mountain to Doi Suthep

Today we're heading out of town up into the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai.  Our destination:  The Temples of Doi Suteph, about 12 miles from Chiang Mai.

We caught a songthaew from our hotel, then transfered to another for the drive up into the jungle.  It was a pretty drive up, up, up a steep and winding road.

Soon we were at the parking lot area for the Temple--it was a mad house! Cars, tour buses, songthaews,  lots of people, and of course the ever-present vendors selling food and souvenirs! What a scene:

We walked up the stairs to the landing, and-----more vendors and a small indoor market with stalls selling souvenirs.  Monks like to shop, too!  These two were very interested in some marble eggs:

We arrived at the main landing to find these beautiful dragons guarding the steps up to the temple.  They are made from glazed pottery (porcelain??) set into stone, and the tail snakes all the way to the top!

306 steps up to the temple!  There is a tram, but who'd want to miss walking up this beautiful staircase?
Up we climbed, stopping along the way to admire several Hill Tribe children dressed in their finest.  Although they are adorable, it makes us sad to think this is their life; dressing up and posing for pictures for money.  Of course we gave a few coins, but are we helping, or just encouraging it?  Who knows, but they sure are cute, and seemed quite happy:

We're getting close, we can see the entrance to the main temple:

At the top, we're greeted by this sign.  We certainly don't have a problem paying, but the wording tickled me!  By the way, this is the only temple in Chiang Mai that charges an admission.

Before we started exploring the temple grounds, we thought we should find the restrooms.  That was an adventure!  We were pointed in one direction, so we headed that way, and found these signs:

Seriously??? I checked out the #1 hall, and ......whew! It was just the tram entrance, thank goodness!  But it did make me laugh!  We wandered around a bit more, and finally found the toilets.  The sign at the entrance:  "Please remove you shoes".  Although we always try to follow local customs and be very respectful,  I am just NOT going to take my shoes off and walk barefoot into the bathroom!  Just not going to do it.   

Here are the good, obedient and respectful taking off their shoes:

I carefully walk through the piles of shoes, and the nice lady at the door quietly reminds me about my shoes.  I just pretend I don't understand, feeling only a little bit guilty.  On the way out I notice this sign, and then I understand (well, kind of understand)

I had noticed lots of blue plastic sandals--but just thought they were very common and popular shoes. Evidently they have blue loaner sandals!  But I'm not so sure I would have put my feet in shoes that hundreds of other people have worn into the bathrooms!

With that little adventure out of the way, we walked into the main courtyard.  It's a very pretty and well maintained temple, and seems to be very popular with the locals.  It was bustling!  Here are a few pictures:

  A view down to Chiang Mai.  The air quality is pretty bad here due to auto exhaust and field burning, you can just barely see the city through the haze:

We again find many young Thai children dressed in traditional clothing giving charming performances:

Thes two little beauties performed a graceful dance, using two big baskets of marigold petals.

After their dance, they carefully swept up the flowers:

These little boys were adorable:

They were very serious, trying hard to follow their Dad's instructions:

Here's the main entrance to the temple, we took of our shoes( for about the 1000th time this trip!!) and entered:

It was a very busy scene, with many locals worshipping and paying their respects at the many shrines and Buddhas:

Replica of the Emerald Buddha

The entire interior courtyard is tiled in these pretty tiles:

Hey, monks are tourists, too!  Here's a picture of a monk taking a picture:

After an hour or so, it's time to head back down those stairs, I love that dragon snaking down the stairs:

On the way down, we find two Hill Tribe women selling pretty woven straw bracelets.  Of course, I bought a couple-5 baht each, less than 20 cents each!   You can't see it in the pictures,  but they each have a  not so lovely beetle-nut smile (black teeth!)  Here they are:

Here are my pretty bracelets, the yellow-looking one is actually a pretty peach color with pink stripes:

And here we are at the bottom, by that pretty dragon:

Now on to our next destination.  We hopped on a songthaew, and took a drive further up the mountain to the Bubhing Palace.  This palace, built in 1961,  is the royal winter residence in Chiang Mai where the Royal family stay during their visits to northern Thailand.  It is also used as a guesthouse for important state visitors.

At the entrance we were greeted with this sign:

Uh oh!  Seems that dear David is not dressed respectfully, shame on him!    So off to the rent-a-long-skirt-trouser line we go!  It's a pretty funny sight, but he's is a good sport:

 He needs a little help getting his skirt  trousers all hitched up and secured.  Cute little Thai girl to the rescue!

Here he is, respectfully attired.   Doesn't he look just thrilled??

After passing inspection we paid our small enrance fee, and explored the grounds of the palace.  It was a lovely, serene respite after the chaos of the temple.

Of course, it was beautifully landscaped, with many colorful and unusual flowers:

 This was a huge, grand old tree:

A very pretty pond, complete with several colorful koi:

I loved these trees with big trumpet-like yellow blossoms:

 A close up of the flower:

There were several rose bushes, with some of the biggest roses I've seen:

Back near the actual residence, there's a huge banyan tree.   Here I am:

We're pretty close to the Royal Residence now, there's a guard near the entrance.  I don't think he liked me snapping his picture, he shoo'd me away!

We took a nice, cool walk through the lush, green jungle:

It's time for us to get back to our songthaew, our driver awaits!  It's a nice drive down the mountain, and he drops us off right at our hotel.

We do our usual "relaxin' at the Terrace Bar, after our busy day a cold beer and a mojito are in order! Then up to our room for a couple of hours of blogging and computer time.  We're resting up for our big evening ahead--the Sunday Night Walking Market!

There are several walking markets held each evening at different locations around Chiang Mai.  But the "Big One" is held each Sunday evening--right outside our front door!  A several block area is closed to traffic, and the vendors start setting up about 4:30.  There are hundreds and hundreds of vendors--hand made crafts from surrounding areas, clothing, shoes, Hill Tribe silver jewelry, gifts and, of course,  food booths.  

We head down to the street about 6pm, and it's quite a lively scene.  Thousands of people in the streets, all strolling, shopping and eating.  I'm in my element!

Our plan was to shop, stroll, people watch and eat some great street food.  Our first course--squid on a stick!  Here I am, carefully looking over his squid sticks.  Hmmmmmm, which one looks best?  

I finally choose one, and the nice young man carefully grills it for us:

When it was done just right he dipped it in some sweet chili sauce:  It was nice and tender and pretty tasty!  Here I am, enjoying my first squid-on-a-stick!

We strolled, shopped and munched our way along, and our next treat was a steamed pork bun.  This one was pretty cute:
 It was cuter than last night's pork bun, but not quite as tasty!  Pig=pork; that's easy.  I don't know what was in the green ones, and the brown buns looked like a dog.  I didn't even ask!

We were enjoying the crowds--it's great people watching!  There were several entertainers:

Some traditional Thai musicians, they were very good:

 This couple was great!  He played some type of long flute and she sang:

There were also a few "bands"--they sat in a straight line, right in the middle of the street!

Here's a video of one of the "line bands"

We did a lot of looking, but didn't buy too much, David found a t-shirt. And I picked up a couple of gifts.  I found a very interesting tribal "doll" sculpture that I wanted, but when I went back to get it, the vendor had packed up!  I was disappointed, as it was very unique.  It was made from tree branches, and a small round slice for the head,  covered with elephant dung and sawdust, then baked.  
This lady is painting a very intricate design on a lacquerware bowl:
 They were very pretty, it must take her hours and hours to paint one.

There was a gentleman weaving hats and flowers from palm fronds--reminded me of ones we saw in Mexico:
Here's my one big purchase for the evening, a couple of really cool bugs!  They'll join my Murrano glass bugs in my kitchen window at home.  Yup, they're real!

Speaking of bugs, we found a vendor selling an assortment of fried bugs:

 I know I said I was going to eat fried grasshoppers, but I just couldn't bring myself to put these in my mouth!  Ick!

 We'd spent over 4 hours munching our way through the market.  It was great fun, and quite an experience.  We ended our evening with a yummy desert of mango with sticky rice:

A sweet ending to another fun day in Thailand!

Tomorrow: The flower market