Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fabulous Friday in Chiang Mai

It was a beautiful, crisp sunny Friday morning in Chiang Mai, actually felt a bit chilly.  The locals were wearing jackets and scarves, and I actually put on a sweater!  We have  appreciated the cooler weather here, although "cooler" is a relative term--it's still in the mid to upper 80's during the day, and humid.

Today we took a trip to the zoo!  We're not normally "zoo" people, but really couldn't pass up a chance to see pandas.  That's not an opportunity that comes along often, so off we went......

Our trip started with another new mode of transportation for us--a songthaew!  That's a small pick-up with a tall canopy on the back, and it has bench seats on each side to sit on.  It generally costs less than a tuk tuk ride.  Here's David, doing the ever-necessary bargaining for the fare:


 Here we are on our first ride!


The view from the inside:



The zoo is on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, and is in a hilly, jungle area.  It's very lush and green, and beautifully landscaped.

Here's the pretty entrance:


 Elephant pond and fountains at the entrance:


I love the lush jungle:


We chose a week day for our visit, thinking it would be less crowded with families and children.  Well, we were wrong.  Today must have been official zoo field trip day for half of Chiang Mai's school kids!  But they were so cute, very excited about being at the zoo, and very well behaved!  Each school has their own colorful uniforms--the kids are just adorable.  I think I enjoyed watching the kids as much as the animals:




As our main reason for going to the zoo was to see the panda exhibit, we went there first.  It was quite a process to get into the panda area, we had to go through a shoe washing station, and then they taped over the flash window on our camera.  Photos allowed, but no flash, and they were serious!

It was a treat to see the pandas, they are really beautiful animals.  Sad to know that there aren't many left in the wild.





David shot two very short videos of this big guy munching on some bamboo sticks:

video



video

After we'd spent plenty of time with the amazing pandas, we continued on to see some rare and beautiful Siberian white tigers:



Next up:  Elephants, of course!   This little cutie is about 2 years old--he liked having his ears scratched!

This big boy is 17 years old:

The Chiang Mai Zoo has a very nice bird exhibit, it's enclosed and "walk through" so most of the birds are flying free.




This handsome bird is a painted stork:


As we left the bird enclosure, we came across these two beautiful, amazing women in their finest traditional Thai tribal dress.  They were very friendly, with big, sweet smiles.  They seemed happy to have their picture taken, and that's a good thing, because they were very popular.  It surprised me that the other Thai people seemed as fascinated by them as we were.  Here are the two lovely ladies:


                                                            Note the footwear:


Of course the Chiang Mai Zoo has all the other animals you would expect to see in a zoo, but we kind of whizzed past most of them, as we've seen 'em all before.  It is a very nice zoo and well worth the trip, even if it's just to see those beautiful pandas.

We rode the zoo trolley back to the entrance, and found an available songthaew.  Our nice driver took our picture:
We asked him to drop us off at an area near the city gates, we strolled around and chose a small restaurant for lunch.  David chose an interesting dish, a spicy stir fry with ostrich meat!  It was pretty good!

I wasn't quite as adventurous--just a nice stir-fry with pork:


We each ordered an ice cold drink, of course.  A tall chilly beer for David, and a very refreshing grapefruit margarita for me.  Instead of just salt on the rim, they mixed coarse salt and natural sugar--it was really a nice change,  I think I'll be borrowing this idea!

We still have a whole afternoon ahead of us to explore, and I've got a plan!  I'd spotted a very interesting  museum right around the corner from our hotel, and this seemed like the perfect time for a visit to.......

THE SIAM MUSEUM OF WORLD INSECTS AND NATURAL WONDERS!

***An important note to my SIL Cheryl:  B-I-G bug alert! Are you sure you want to look??***

This small museum is the life's work of one very enthusiastic gentleman, Mr Manop Rattanarithikul.  Mr. R met us at the entrance, and in a very animated fashion, explained all about his museum.  Half the fun of this visit was enjoying his excitement and pride in the natural wonders of Thailand! 

 He carefully explained that most of the insects in Thailand were not poisonous, and he had a very unique way of communicating the level of pain each insect bite delivered:  "If this one bite you, need just one aspirin ( aaas-peer-ine, pronounced with a long "i"!), this one two aspirin", etc--all the way up to "many, many aspirin."  He was delightful, and quite a character!

Here are some of the incredible insects, butterflies and assorted creepy-crawlies found in this very interesting museum.  (Please excuse the "glare" from the glass) Note the size of these critters compared to our hands!











These bad boys (below) were about 6" long!


The butterflies and moths were breathtaking!








As we were leaving, sweet Mr. R proudly presented us with a gift, an autographed postcard from his museum! Here's David and the lovely Mr. R.


After our delightful visit with Mr. R and his wonderful critters, we still had time left in our afternoon for one more temple visit.  

Phra That Chedi Luang,  we can see the top of the stupa from our window!

This temple was built in 1491 by a king of the Lanna empire.  The large, ancient chedi on the temple grounds is certainly showing it's age, but it's a grand old stupa:

 At one time, elephants encircled the mid-level, guarding the Buddhas .  Now there are only a few left on one corner of the stupa:


On each side there's a  big gold Buddha set into an arched niche:



There are several beautiful prayer halls on the temple grounds:




This one (above) even had a lion door knocker, and you know how I love door knockers:


This hall was covered in mirrored mosaic, but a photo just can't capture the beautiful sparkle:



There were some very interesting monks in these prayer halls.  These are enclosed in a glass case, and are  made of some type of poured material, not plaster or stone.  Maybe a type of "plastic"??  These amazing monks are life-size.

They are so life-like, I half expected this one to start chanting!


Another lovely reclining Buddha:

This one had an interesting explanation--a Buddha with a large, swollen belly is thought to be especially wise, as his wisdom is stored in his belly!

And one last picture from Wat Phra That Chedi, a monk-mobile, full of chattering happy novice monks!




On that happy note, we left amazing Chedi Luang, walked back to our hotel and settled on the terrace for a cool drink. 

We tuk-tuk'd over to an area of town just outside the old city wall, strolled along the interesting streets and found a nice little restaurant with sidewalk seating and a beautiful view:

This restaurant specialized in Northern Thai cuisine, and we had a scrumptious meal.

A vegie/pork stir fry with crispy noodles; good, but rather bland.  I fixed that right up with a bit (too much!) hot pepper seasoning!


Davi'ds  Northern Thai Chicken Curry was especially delicious-a very different curry flavor than we've ever had:

Very good veggies-still tender-crisp and full of flavor:


And there you have it- our VERY LARGE day in charming Chiang Mai--I think we packed a lot of fun into one day!

Tomorrow in Chiang Mai:  The Royal Flora Exhibition.  Stay tuned!

4 comments:

  1. Another amazing day! I love the pictures and video of the pandas and the tigers. Really cool to be able to get so close to the elephants. Thanks for the warning on the big creepty crawly insects. Of course I had to look. I thought that the big bugs we saw at museum in aBelize were big, but I think some of these beetles were bigger. The butterflies are beautiful and are very similar to the ones in Belize. The size and color are amazing.
    Food looks delicious-- great to see the pictures of your meals.

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  2. wow! great pics i miss my wife and the Thai people when i see them. the food is always good! i don't know if you have been for a elephant ride Yet or have you been to any river markets? not sure if Chang Mai has any!! is Ko Sumi on your travel destination? if so you will love the place. thanks for the wonderful pics Phil

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  3. Wow what a day you had. I loved the zoo and the pandas, elephants, children and interesting Thai people. Your mode of transportation was fun too. Lunch and suppers are appealing and that's saying alot for me! The zoo area was lush and green. To keep with the theme of the day you went to insects. Very interesting to say the least. Mr. R. was quite a character. He even had insects on his shirt! Monk mobile....everything was wonderful. Rest up...tomorrow is another exciting day. Can't wait to see the next post...Love Brenda

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  4. The prayer halls are so elaborate and beautiful. I also kept wondering what those beautiful butterflies would look like if they were recreated by the Venetian glass artist. Wouldn't those look awesome on your window sill? Beautiful pictures once again.

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