Phitsanulok, Long Boats and Buddha Factory


We were at the train station by 7:30 in the morning, only to find that the train would be two hours late arriving in Chiang Mai. As I mentioned earlier, this is a common occurrence in Thailand.

We eventually arrived in Phitsanulok at 6:30 pm and checked into a quaint guest house. It was a little more expensive than our previous ones, but it included breakfast, a towel, a western-style toilet and something on the bed that could be a sarong or a cover, I wasn’t sure which. I used it for a cover as there was no other. There was no hot water either, but the days were so hot it didn’t really matter.

The next morning, after enjoying a relaxing breakfast at the outdoor lunch bar, while listening to sweet classical music playing in the background, we headed off to find the long boat races. They were held on the Nan River that flowed just outside the temple gates, and the event was a festival of vendors selling food, clothing and hand-made toys within the gates.

The long boats are similar to the “dragon boats” that we see racing at events across Canada to raise money for the Breast Cancer Society, but the paddlers are much more colourfully dressed and the speed of the boats is not comparable.

Long Boat Racers pushing hard

Long Boat Racers pushing hard

Waiting for the gun

Waiting for the gun

Long Boat Races

Pushing Hard

Long boat races

A colourful crew

Orange-clad monks enjoy the show

Orange-clad monks enjoy the show

Boats lining up before the crowd

Boats lining up before the crowd

A number of tin buildings, many using advertising signs, lined the far side of the river.  The larger one was a restaurant where we got a good lunch and had a front-row seat

Tin Buildings line the other side of the river

Tin Buildings line the other side of the river

Some of them looked like they could be homes to large families

Tin Buildings line the other side of the river

Tin Buildings line the other side of the river

We spent one more day in Phitsanulok before heading back to Bangkok. A tour of a Buddha factory was interesting.

Buddha Factory -  Phitsanulok

This Buddha looks ready for bronzing

Buddha Factory

This one is still an unfinished plaster cast

A Closer Look at Chiang Mai


We spent one more day in Mae Hong Son, doing a bit of shopping, catching up on emails and reflecting on our glorious days there. I recalled my first night in my little cabin at Sang Tong when I crawled under the mosquito netting that protected my bed, and a pale green frog looked down at me. The next night a very large snail nearly caught the weight of my foot as it slithered on the floor just inside my door. Colourful butterflies often greeted me when I emerged from my cabin. These things I found fascinating, but I was a little concerned by the swarms of ants that seemed to be everywhere. One morning I opened my eyes to see a whole colony scurrying around on the netting. I eased out very carefully and when I returned they’d disappeared.

By 8:30 the next morning we were bumping along a very narrow and twisty road in a battered up old school bus, towards Chiang Mai. At times I held my breath as the road seemed to disappear over the side of a cliff, before we made a very sharp turn to the left and down a steep slope. The scenery was breath-taking and a diverse passenger list changed at each stop along the way. It was 4:30 in the afternoon before we arrived in Chiang Mai, tired, hot and hungry.

Riding the Bus

Riding the Bus

Kendrick had been there before and took us directly to the “luxury” Guest House where he’d stayed. It actually was luxury compared to some other accommodations. My room was on the second floor and looked out into a courtyard.

Chiang Mai Guest House

Chiang Mai Guest House

Chiang Mai Room

Chiang Mai Room

The furnishings were sparse – a single bed with one thin cover and a pillow, and a night stand – but there were curtains on the window, there was running HOT water in the shower and there was even a mirror. I hadn’t seen myself since we’d left the Chiang Mai airport a week earlier.  Everything was very clean and the price was the equivalent of about $6.00 Canadian per night. We were there for another week. I sometimes shared my space with a friendly gecko and was lulled to sleep by the chirp of cicada perched in the overhead trees at night. The only downside to this Guest House was there was no source of food. I was an early riser and always awoke hungry. Sarah and Kendrick, on the other hand, preferred to do their yoga and journaling before even speaking. I soon learned to keep a cache of fruit and nuts handy.

Our first night there, we went to an Italian Restaurant for dinner, just for a break from Thai fare. We enrolled in a Thai Massage Course that filled our mornings for the next four days, at a cost of 2000 baht or $70.00, more than it was costing us for accommodations. After the first day Kendrick had some reservations about going back when he discovered that his “female” instructor really wasn’t, but once he made it clear where he stood the class went well. I learned that this is quite common in Thailand and it is often very difficult to recognize the boys from the girls. Sarah and I shared another instructor – a definite female. At the end of the four days we had a pretty good understanding of the massage techniques and we received a certificate.  I’m not sure that it would have gotten us a job outside of Thailand, but it was fun.

We spent the afternoons touring around the city. It was a pretty city, divided into two banks by the Pim River. There was a huge all-day market where we could buy all sorts of food – fruit, vegetables, grilled meats (including frogs and grubs) fruit juices sold in plastic bags with plastic straws for drinking, and freshly stir-fried Thai meals. The scent of fish oil and spices permeated the air. At 7:00 pm the daytime vendors packed up and went home; the evening vendors set up and stayed until midnight. In another part of town, we visited the Night Bazaar where the items for sale included clothing, jewelry, carvings, and other types of crafts. There were always people about, especially tourists, who would buy their wares.

Traffic was crazy and walking was like maneuvering through an obstacle course. Sidewalks were often broken or occupied by parked cars and motorcycles. Traffic lights didn’t allow for pedestrians, and crosswalks were ignored by oblivious drivers. Fortunately, there was a pedestrian bridge over the main thoroughfare.

Pedestrian Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge

One evening Sarah and I went to the Khantoke Dinner and Hill Tribe Show at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre. We sat on the floor, our backs resting against red vinyl cushions, and were served a variety of Thai dishes on a low, round table. The food was rather disappointing, but the entertainment was spectacular – colourful costumes and interesting dances, including a sword dance (nothing at all like the Gaelic version) sword dance

sword dance, using twelve swords

and the Fingernail Dance performed by “girls” dressed up in colourful saris,  and sporting very long finger nails. I use girls in quotes because even among these dancers there were a number of beautiful non-females. When we caught a sanlor (a truck with a cap and seats in the back, serving as a taxi) we shared it with three very jovial Thai ladies. Sarah learned that they were from Isaan and that they thought Sarah and I were sisters. Ahh, the best part of the trip!

Fingernail dance

Fingernail dance

Fingernail dance

Fingernail dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last day in Chiang Mai was spent exploring two more ornate temples, experiencing a two-hour massage at the Chiang Mai Old Medicine Hospital, and doing a little more shopping. We were fortunate that the rainy season seemed to have ended in Chiang Mai.  We read in the papers that many parts of the country had been flooded, including Mae Hong son after we left.

Next stop: Phitsanulok and the long boat races.

Word A Week Photo Challenge – Clouds


I’ve always had a fascination with clouds, so just had to share these in the Word A Week Photo Challenge.

Adirondacks, NY, USA

Adirondacks, NY, USA

California

California, USA

California

California, USA

Florida

Florida, USA

Florida

Storm Building, Florida, USA

Ontario

Undecided sky, Ontario, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

Trekking in the Shan Hills, Day 2


The sound of a crowing rooster and a crying baby pulled me out of my deep sleep. For a minute I thought I was living in a previous life when the baby was mine and the rooster was part of our farm. Once I’d rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and emerged from the hut, the bleakness of the night before soon faded. The gorgeous vistas and the chatter of our host families helped me to appreciate their simple way of life.

Lisu Village3

Kendrick tries to answer the curious questions from the Lisu children as Sarah looks on

Beautiful Lisu children

Beautiful Lisu children. Credit goes to Kendrick, I think, for this shot

Lisu Dog and Child

Lisu Dog and Child. There are dogs everywhere in Thailand. Notice our clothes and shoes set out to dry.

The one electrical piece of machinery that I saw was a rice cleaner, which was powered by water. Each Lisu family had their own.

After a breakfast of fruit and rice, we started out on our downhill trek. For a while my heart was pumping too rapidly, a little panic attack. It was probably caused by the lack of enough sleep, and the memory of my potentially life-threatening fall the day before. But we did not take the same route back as we’d taken up, and the going was much easier. I soon relaxed and began to enjoy the scenery.  I wore my sandals this time, because they had better treads and my runners were still soaked. The path was wider and switch backed making the descent much more gradual. The warm sun on our shoulders brightened the day and lifted the spirits.

Once again a delicious lunch of noodles packaged in banana leaves, followed by some passion fruit and banana bread, was provided by Chakaphan. The two young fellows employed by him to carry supplies, used their pocket knives to whittle  out some bamboo chop sticks for us, and we savoured the food, the scents and sounds while resting upon some downed logs near a stream.

Whittling chop sticks

Our supply carriers whittled us some chop sticks

We spent the afternoon crisscrossing the shallow river, the cool water soothing our hot feet.

Ready to Cross the river

Come on guys, we’re on the other side!

As we crossed through a farmer’s field, where women were out raking and burning old straw, the sky opened and the rain muddied up the trail again, but this time it felt warm and it lasted only about half an hour. Before we knew it, we were back at the road and the van was waiting to pick us up. “The Elder” had made it, and was very glad to have had the experience!

During the trek I did see some interesting things, despite having to spend so much time watching my feet! We saw many tree vines, which are amazing! They are vines the thickness of young trees but grow and climb around the larger trees, and stretch between them for great distances. Chakaphan told us that they grow up to 350 metres long.

jungle vines

Chakaphan tells us about the jungle vines

There were also different types of ginger growing everywhere, displaying beautiful flowers of varying shades of red.  And orchids grow in abundance too, but the most common type seems to be the ones that grow on the branches and trunks of trees. I wish I’d capture a picture or two of them. The various types of trees we saw included teak, bamboo, banana, and young rattan that were being planted by the government. There were also two varieties of pine trees.

Very large, beautiful spiders scurried from our path, and we saw many termite colonies working away, building high mounds that looked like rocks.  In fact, there were a couple of them in the common area at Sang Tong Huts. Obviously they were eating away at the wooden structure, but no one worried about it.  Everything appeared to be pretty solid. All creatures seemed to be respected and left alone.

I was in bed and asleep by 8:30 that night, after treating the three blisters that I found on my feet.