Day 2 and it was time to explore. We took a tuk-tuk to the centre of the old town and started a walking tour of the “Wats” (temples). Leaving early to avoid the heat, we covered Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao and Wat Chiang Man. Monks cleaned the courtyards or just bandied together as a group of lads. Each temple had a different characters and we watched as people came and bowed to Buddha images, burnt incense or left donations. One monk was receiving a massage, others gave lessons or spread water over those bowed, as a blessing of sorts. Lotus and orchids decorated the statues.
Outside you could pay to release birds from cages, “pay to free them”, and they’ll go and catch more with a cash incentive. They wouldn’t let me take their picture.
The 40C heat left us sweaty and desperate for chilled drinks, we ran the gauntlet of tuk-tuks, mopeds and trucks to get to “Chocolate Fact”, an air-conditioned cafeteria that makes an excellent Mango Frappe. Relaxing on the leather sofas, we waited until we were almost cool enough to have goose-pimples, before stepping out into the sauna.
At the Chiang Mai city arts and cultural centre our legs couldn’t take a museum wander, we instead watched a bus load of formally dressed Thai women place flowers at the three kings monument before posing for photos. They couldn’t wear heels on the monument’s steps, and it was amusing watching them unstrap their six inch heels. They were part of Miss Songkran 2010, each was thin and unnaturally pale (there’s a strange culture of skin whitening products), but all very dignified.
A quick nip around the corner and we had our cheapest meal of the holiday. Two cokes, chicken and rice, pork satays, chilli dip and a very tasty peanut sauce. All for the pricey 85B, or about £1.50.
A tuk-tuk home, a dip in the pool and some fruit shakes (our favourites, Mango and Watermelon–SO refreshing!) returned us to normal. After eating by the pool, and yet more rice, we collapsed in our hotel bed, air-con struggling to hit 22C.
After such exhausting activities, I took a two hour nap whilst Sam went for a Thai massage, which sounded very painful–with masseurs channelling their weight through elbows into Sam’s back. Sam described the experience as “forceful”.
At 8ish we ventured out to the nearby Chiang Mai night bazaar (Amusa), a market selling hand made silks, wooden elephant carvings, bags, clothes, purses, mango wood vases, lanterns, Buddha images, dried fruits, condiments, freshly made fruit shakes and the usual market thoroughfare.
At every stall you have to barter for a decent price. We found that starting at less than half their original price gave good results. If they accept your offer quickly you’re probably paying way too much. They also liked the hard sell technique, pulling out their calculators and offering a discount price before you’d decided you wanted it.
As per usual Sam spent an age comparing products, “this bed runner or that one? Do we want a table runner? Which vase should we get?”, and so on.
At the centre is a large seafood section, with lobsters, shrimps etc. out on display, on beds of rapidly melting ice, which formed waterfalls to the floor. Around 10ish we realised how hungry we were, so stopped at the last of the still open street vendors to try a northern Thai specialty, Khao Soy. The cheap plastic plates and cutlery that had questionable cleanliness didn’t detract from the excellent taste.