Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Chiang Mai - day 2

4 October 2015

I had booked a van and a driver to take us around for a half-day tour. We didn't want too early a start, so we'd asked him to come at 9 am. Contrary to our expectations, we were up really early -- before 6 am! It was the time difference and our body clocks, I guess. So it was really easy for all of us, including two kids, to be ready on time.

This little monkey was up at 6 am!

Oops, I stand corrected. She told me she was a bunny for the day. 

Our driver arrived right on time. I took a double-take when I saw the size of the vehicle.

It was the most gigantic of all vans, almost like a bus or a truck. 

My pathetic attempt at a family selfie...

Our first stop was the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, popularly known as just 'Doi Suthep', though that is actually the mountain on top of which it is located. Founded in 1383, the temple was only about 15 km from the city centre, so we got there pretty quickly, in about 20 minutes.
The uphill and winding path was short, so thankfully no one got sick. 

There is a car park at the base of the temple from which you can either take a tram or climb 309 steps to reach the pagodas on top. We considered taking the tram because we felt the kids might get tired, but changed our minds and took the steps instead. 

The steps to go up to the pagodas

A statue of Buddha at the temple's base... this was only one of the many many statues we were going to see!

Daddy and bunny pose for me.

Family shot before we start the real climb - 309 steps!

To our utter surprise, just as we had competed about 100 steps (or so we thought), we realised that we had reached! 

Xena was fascinated and at the same time scared of these gigantic bells. She asked me to ring them after she had firmly closed her ears.  

Xena's impression of an elephant swaying its trunk

Devotees were offering lotus flowers and incense sticks

I wondered if that was all real gold...

Xena had many questions about why this bhagwanji was sleeping!

Buddha statues everywhere...

Some of them were really ornate. 

"Mama, look! Such a BIG candle!" Xena exclaimed.

Can you spot the tiny statue hidden in this tree?

We were done pretty quickly, as the portion of the temple that is said to offer spectacular views of the city was under renovation. So we made our way down the 309 stairs to the base of the temple, which was full of souvenir shops and food stalls. 

Interesting way of cooking eggs

There were gazillions of shops selling clothes. 

Little monk statues... gosh do you see the one with headphones on? How adorable is that??

There were kids' clothes too, but I didn't buy any because Xena was not with me and lately she only wears stuff that she has picked herself. 

And of course, the classic snack stalls, selling fried bugs!

The group had been split up, and while Viv waited with Xena at the spot where our van guy was supposed to come, Pizzadude and I walked around, checking out the shops. He told me he wanted to buy some pants, but was hopeless at bargaining. And in Thailand, even though stuff is super cheap, if you don't bargain, you are a fool. I agreed to accompany him on the condition that I was not expected to bargain on behalf of him! (It's been 6 years since I went to India, and I've not exactly had a great track record at bargaining anyway.) 

Anyway, Pizzadude really surprised me. He was actually able to bargain! Though it was a not-at-all-dramatic kinda bargaining. He liked two pairs of pants listed at 250 Baht each. He said "400 baht?" and the lady responded with a "450". He went on to say, "400 Baht, please" and she readily agreed! I couldn't believe it. That was a surprisingly calm transaction. What a disappointment. 

Our van guy came to pick us up on time and we asked him to take us to a nice lunch place. He took us to this really cool restaurant, facing a pond and lots of elephant statues all around. The waiter came and asked us, "Noodles or Thai food?" It was amazing how loud we were as all of immediately yelled out, "Thai food!" 

This was the view from our table!

We ordered the food and then Xena and I took a walk around the place. She was delighted to see the sheer number of elephant statues. 

"Mama, look! The elephant's trunk is a fountain!"

Xena kicks an elephant's ass!

Finally the food arrived! We were famished. Check out the spread!

The fried rice we'd ordered for the kids came in a star shape. Super cute!

After stuffing ourselves with the yummy food, we were off again. Our driver dropped us off at the handicraft village, where you could see the wares being hand-crafted and painted. 

Pictures of the much revered king of Thailand - Bhumibol Adulyadej - are everywhere. The 87-year-old king is the world's longest-serving current head of state, reigning since 1946. 

A poster showing how umbrellas are hand-crafted

Xena keenly observes how an umbrella is made. 

The umbrellas are left to dry in the sun before they are painted.

Xena studies a brightly-coloured gigantic fan, featuring... elephants again!

One of the sections of the handicraft village had people painting pictures on canvas. 

There were also some pictures on display, including this one, which made me chuckle. 

A lady called Xena and asked if she wanted a painting on her top. Usually Xena immediately rejects such offers. She refuses to get her face painted at birthday parties too. But strangely, she agreed! She chose a pretty butterfly design and the lady did it in less than 5 minutes! It was jaw-droppingly amazing. And just for 50 Baht (2 dollars). 

The lady stuffed a rolled up newspaper between Xena's sleeve and hand before starting to paint. 

And then she took out a hairdryer and started blow-drying it! It was hilarious!

A happy little girl showing off her butterfly

I asked the lady if the design would wash off. She immediately took a toothbrush, dipped it in water and scrubbed it all over one of her existing samples to show me that the colour didn't come off. Okay, then!

Maya got this painted on Pickles' shorts. 

Pizzadude got a couple of elephants showing their bums on the sleeve of his A&F T-shirt. 

I got tempted to get something done too, but I didn't know what and where. The lady then pointed to my phone. Oh yes, my phone! 

So I got this cute little bird painted on it. 


We roamed around for a little longer, looking at the various handicrafts. Xena ran from table to table looking at everything with a keen eye. 

My baby poses next to a baby elephant statue. Little did she know that she was going to encounter a real one the next day!

Our driver wanted to take us to the gemstone factories but we were not keen. What is with these gemstone factories and why are we always taken there? I remember being forced to go to one in Bangkok many years ago. 

Anyway, the kids were also getting sleepy (and so were some of the adults!) so we politely declined and asked him to take us home. As soon as we were back, Xena and Viv fell asleep immediately. Me? I was making notes for this blog. :)

Bunny woke up, fresh from her nap, and insisted that we wear similar tops. I was only too happy to oblige.

Posing with her Poppy

In the evening, Pizzadude went to a museum and to do some exploring by himself, while the rest of us headed to the famous Sunday night street market. He said he would meet us at the market later. Tripadvisor had advised us to get there by 5.30 pm or so, as it gets crazy crowded after 7 pm. 

All set to go to the night market -- in Mama's cap!

A song thaew (a passenger vehicle, kind of like a shared taxi) took all of us there. Normally it's 20 Baht per person, but the driver quickly counted us and taking the two kids as one adult, quoted us 100 Baht. If only taxis in Singapore were that cheap. 

This is what a song thaew looks like.

The song thaew took us all the way to the main entrance of the street market. Can't see much of the market in this photo, but it was quite huge. 

The market was not very crowded and many stall owners were setting up their stalls. It was indeed a good time to reach there. 

Xena saw a candy floss maker and immediately wanted candy floss. But of course, she couldn't finish it and the sticky mess was everywhere - on her hands, her hair, Viv's shirt. Yikes!

The very first lane of stalls we entered drove me nuts. In a good way. I wanted everything. I'm not kidding. I wanted to pack the market in my tiny suitcase and take it home. I'm sure if my mom or mom-in-law were here, they'd have gone doubly mad with joy. Every little trinket you could think of was there, and going really cheap. I bought two skirts for myself, one for Xena, and some purses. Viv bought a pair of slippers. We also bought a handheld sewing machine which looked dubiously like a stapler, but the demo was impressive. 

My loot... if only I had more baggage allowance!

We had a Thai dinner in one of the restaurants near the night market and took another song thaew back. Pizzadude never turned up! Apparently, he'd gotten lost, but in a good way, as he got to explore a lot of places on foot. 

After we got back, Viv and R went for a two-hour traditional Thai massage, while Maya and I put the kids to sleep and grabbed a glass of Moscato each. And as if often happens, when two mommies get together over alcohol, resolving not to talk about kids, 99% of the conversation was about our kids. Sigh. 

But it was a great day overall. Of course, the main highlight of the trip was to happen the next day - the elephant encounter! 

Read Chiang Mai - day 3 here



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