As Janine keeps reminding me, it has been far too long since my last post. I have delayed because I wanted to post something about Thailand. One can hardly go across the world for three weeks without writing something about it, but how do you sum up three weeks in Asia in a blog post? Where would I even begin?
That combined with the fact that I am extremely lazy is how nearly two weeks have gone by since we returned and I am just now sitting down to record some highlights. For the sake of keeping me from sitting here all day writing, I have chosen a few memorable experiences, based around my favourite place; Chiang Mai.
For those who don't know, Chiang Mai is in northwest Thailand. It is considered in some respects the northern capital, and is a city absolutely filled with wats (temples). From the time my family first went to Thailand four years ago, I have wanted to see Chiang Mai. Finally, I convinced them. There is something so exciting about that many temples in a jungle.
Best New Year's Ever
Crossing Off My Bucket List
I am one of those people who is not a fan of New Year's Eve. I always find that there's so much build up to that one night that when it arrives, it almost always comes out as mediocre. So when we arrived in Chiang Mai in the evening of December 31, I was not anticipating much excitement. But because we were there for only a few days my dad, Janine and I decided we had to go out. The cab driver to our hotel suggested we go to the east entrance to the wall of the old city, where ther's usually a big party. Apparently it's the equivalent of Times Square here in Thailand.
There were food stalls selling friend rice and pad thai, there were musicians, the Thai equivalents of the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys performing (the Thai Backstreet Boys sang Michael Buble), and best of all, there were these lanterns going up in the air, made of rice paper and bamboo rings. You light a circle of wax held up in the centre of the ring, let the bag fill with hot air, and let it off into the sky. There were so many they looked like golden stars. Janine and I did one, and while doing so, Neen got hit in the head with a lantern someone had let go of too early. Thankfully, she only got wax in her hair.
In Canada, you could never do this, but in Thailand no one's so fussy about safety regulations and avoiding lawsuits, so after the countdown that was part in Thai, part in English, part in other languages people there may have been speaking, the fireworks exploded right over our heads. We were so close we were hit by falling ash.The whole evening was just so exciting, so unlike any New Year's I have ever had before.
Thrill! Fun! Safe!
New Year's Day we went on an excursion called Jungle Flight, where we rode zip lines between rubber trees as a fast way to explore the jungle. The longest line we rode was the length of three football fields, and we also rapelled down 40 metres.
I loved it far more then I thought I would. There was something so liberating about sailing through the jungle from tree to tree. We even tried some tricks, as simple as no hands, moving on to riding backwards or Superman style, and even repelling face first. These were of course nothing to the acrobatic moves of our guides Jack and OC, but we tried.
The Man With the Panda Parasol
Okay, this is kind of silly, but when my parents first took us to Thailand when I was 17, they showed us this video on the country beforehand they got fromt he library. In the video's section on Chiang Mai, there was a shot of a bunch of artisans in a row painting parasols. Since then, I have wanted to see someone painting a parasol, and the last trip, I came up short. Outside one of the larger wats in Chiang Mai, there was a huge artisan fair in celebration on New Year's. Sitting among the stalls was a man painting a panda on a parasol. I was so excited I took several pictures of the man, and luxuriated in the moment much more then rational people would.
Crossing Off My Bucket List
On Sunday afternoon our family decided to take a trip to Doi Suthep, a wat on a "mountain." Originally the plan was to ride bikes up, but the thought of that much uphill for that long in that heat became less and less appealing. So we settled for close enough by renting motor scooters and riding those up. We looked like a family biker gang.
I am actually petrified of scooters. I only drove one once when we rented it at the beach at my dad's insistence. So when we rented only three scooters, I was the natural choice for one of the people to ride in the back. On the way up, I rode with my brother, and as we drove up the winding road, we spontaneously burst into "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" in high and low pitched voices. When we had completed our impromptu recital, we both reflected on how we had just sung a primary song while riding up a mountain in the jungle on a scooter. Huzzah! We could cross that item off our bucket lists! What a great moment that was.
On the way down, I rode with Janine. Apparently neither of my siblings like riding with me on the back so they switched off. On the way down we had to drive through the lanes of terrible traffic and Janine did not like it all. So much so, she even wrote a song about it to sing as we rode, called "Riding a Scooter in Town." In it's most popular form, it followed the melody of "I'm Just a Little Black Raincloud," and used every word we could think of that rhymed with "all." Another great moment.
The Daddy Daughter Wat Tour
The Saturday we were in Chiang Mai the family was tired and went back to the hotel for a nap after a morning of shopping. Daddy and I decided it would be more fun to go see some wats and take pictures. So we rented a scooter and rode around to different ones that interested us and took pictures. Wat Phra Sing was where I saw the Man With the Panda Parasol, and Dad got equally giddy about a bamboo mug because it reminded him of one he had attempted to carve on his mission.
There was plenty going on because of New Year's, and I was so excited by all the different bots (buildings in a temple). Seriously, I love Asian architecture. Dad seemed to think it was fun to take pictures of me taking pictures, so I now have several pictures of myself squinting at my viewfinder. Delightful.
You Say You Wanna Revolution . . .
We went to Beijing for three days on our way to Thailand, and while there, I really wanted to Tiananmen Square, mostly because "The Lone Rebel" is one of my favourite photographs. So Daddy, Neen and I went. While there, Janine had the sudden desire to sing "Revolution" by the Beatles. It caught on and we all felt slightly rebellious and wary of communist soldiers, but we sang anyway.
Luging Down One of the Seven World Wonders
Naturally we had to go to the Great Wall. We went to a spot called MuTianYu, hiked along quite a ways, I took lots of pictures and then we had to get down. You ride a chairlift up to the wall, but on the way down, you have the option to ride these little toboggans down a metal luge track. It was definitely a highlight of the Great Wall, and now I can say I rode a toboggan down from the Great Wall. YIPPEE!
The Mandarin Oriental
As a special treat, Mom, Janine and I went to the Mandarin Oriental for tea while in Bangkok. FYI - the Mandarin Oriental is a very nice, fancy, old hotel. I like tea, I love dressing up, and pretending to be posh is one of my passions, so I was so excited. We made ourselves all pretty, took our designer knockoff bags from Beijing, and went for tea.
The room where the tea is held is called the Author's Lounge. Throughout history lots of famous writer's have sat in that room and had tea while they write. I felt the strong desire to have my pen and notebook while sitting there, but the tea itself was enough to keep me entertained. I had a delicious rooibos, and the sandwiches and cakes were also scrumptious. Plus they were so very attentive, the room felt like we were in a Victorian movie, and there was an acoustic guitar playing while we had tea. I loved it.
If I were going to make a pie in the sky kind of goal, it would be to return to the Mandarin Oriental and have tea after I'm published and really belong in the Author's Lounge. In that dream, I would bring my notebook.
I preferred other days more, but I can hardly skip over the whole week we spent at Koh Lanta. Mostly I just loved sitting at the beach with my nose in a book or writing, and jumping in to the sea everyday. I also loved eating very fresh fish, seeing monkeys, and deep sea fishing. It was great to have a week of relaxing in the middle of all that sightseeing, and I got some great sunset shots over the beach.
Well, there you have it, my Thai blog. Seeing as uploading photos is such a pain here, I'll be making a facebook album in a little while. Look for more photos there, unless you're not on facebook, in which case, well, enjoy those I included.