Chiang Mai City and Doi Suthep

Our ride to the market

On the way to the market

We took a songthau to Worowet Market in Chiang Mai City to start the day. Songthaus are the main public transportation here. They are red trucks with a canopy and two benches in the back. They can fit 10-12 people and function as sort of group taxis. You can get them for yourself or join up with others. They don’t usually have set routes, but just negotiate the fare and go where needed. So many of the things we’ve done from a transportation standpoint would be huge fines in the U.S. We haven’t seen a seat belt and have been in the back of trucks, and overloading little tuk tuks, not wearing helmets on bikes, etc. It is nice to be in a free country again where people can make decisions for themselves on the risks they would like to take on their own.

Market

Market

Worowet Market is the local’s market for food, flowers and other items. They have a huge supply of hill tribe clothing and crafts. There are various hill tribes in the mountains around Chiang Mai. They’ve lived there for centuries and are partly from Burma, Laos, and southern China. They exist nicely with Thai people now. The largest tribe is the Karen tribe and they have more than 300,000 members. Many of them go to Thai schools now and work their way into the city at some point. The market was good, but nothing too outstanding.

Our ride around the city

Feeding the fish

Feeding the fish

After walking a while we hailed a tuk tuk driver. The kids were falling asleep so we just negotiated to have him drive us around for an hour to see the city. It was 100 Baht which is a little more than $3. This 72 year old tuk tuk driver was awesome and really took to our girls. He loved kids and attended to their every need and more. He asked where we are from and when we said “America” he responded, “Oh America. Obama no good.” I thought that was pretty funny and immediately remembered a crazy taxi driver in Dublin five years ago that said his version of the F-word (“foogin”) at least a hundred times when bashing George W Bush the whole ride. Unfortunately, both foreign drivers have probably been right.

Old City Wall

The old city wall

We saw the old part of the city which is surrounded by a mote and has many temples and a lot of the rest of the city too. Chiang Mai is the cultural center of Thailand and the long held capital of the Lanna Kingdom that once dominated the region for centuries. Our tuk tuk driver took us to the riverfront and led the girls by the hand as he bought some fish food for them to throw into the river. It worked and huge fish can to the surface and ate it.

Lunch

Our lunch - Khao Soi, a Chiang Mai special

Now ready for lunch, I asked him to take us to a place for some Thai food. He asked if we wanted “Khao Soi” which is a famous Chiang Mai dish with a sweetish curry broth and both hard and soft noodles with a little meat–usually chicken. We drove out of town to this local food court where we ordered five bowls of food and five waters and paid just over $5. The Khao Soi was great and experience at the local food court was even better. While there are a surprisingly large number for foreigners that live in or visit Chiang Mai, we were still a bit out of place at lunch.

"300" steps to the Temple

Temple ground

View of Chiang Mai from the temple

At the hill-top temple

In the afternoon we grabbed a songthau and went up to Doi Suthep to see the famous temple overlooking the whole city and valley. It is a gorgeous temple and view. After a circuitous drive up the steep mountain you have a 300 step ascent up to the top to the temple. There is no way it is actually 300 steps, but that is what they claim.

Bikes at Joy's House

Matt and Hinckley on a ride

In the evening the kids at Joy’s House watched our girls while Kathryn and I did the full massage treatment. They tried to convince me their herb ball would fix my ailing back, but I felt much worse after. Even so, Kathryn and I had a good time and shared some laughs during the massage. The disposable underwear and time in the steam bath were especially hilarious.

After the kids were asleep, Kathryn and I (Ebey knew and was in charge) left for a night bike ride. We grabbed a couple of the classic bikes available at Joy’s House and went in search for some good food. We found a Western-style supermarket with everything you could ever need, and a large night market outside of a nearby college. We also found a McDonalds. The pad thai at the night market was outstanding and cost less than $1. The ride in the dark along those roads on the classic bikes, not knowing where we were going, was really something special for me and Kathryn. We put our groceries in the bike basket and returned to the Guest House. It was one of those special moments in life when everything is absolutely perfect and is exactly what you imagined happiness would feel like—driving a rickety old bike around in the dark in Northern Thailand with my wife and finding some really cool stuff you didn’t expect while the kids slept quietly after having a great family day. Great stuff.

Entrance to Joy's House

Joy's house

At Joy's House

Breakfast area in Joy's House

Girls at Joy's House

Joy’s Guest House, where we are staying, is a pretty neat project. It is connected to a Children’s Shelter Foundation owned by Joy. They have a farm about an hour out of town with around 45 kids from very troubled backgrounds. Most don’t have parents or at least functioning parents. They often come from refugee camps on the Burma/Thailand border. Some of them are deaf. They learn to live as a family with the workers and volunteers at the farm. They also learn multiple languages, including sign language, and many other important skills. When they turn 14 they come to work at the Guest House where they learn the hotel management and tourism industry. They run the Guest House under Joy’s direction. They do the airport transfers, check in, tours, massages, cooking, cleaning, etc. They all develop hard and soft skills that make them pretty amazing people. They learn English and German to a certain extent, to go with sign language. They all learn all related aspects of the tourism and hotel industry. They are friendly and open and remember all the kid’s names, attend to your any need, and seem to really appreciate their experience at Joy’s House. Sixteen of the kids live here currently with the boys in one section and the girls in another. They are amazingly happy kids. We’ve really enjoyed all of our interaction with them and hope the project continues in success.

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