Chiang Mai, Thailand - Monday, March 01, 2004

Big town. Chaing Mai has been a traveler’s hub for centuries. It’s not challenging in the least for English speaking travelers to get around. Our plan was to stop in Chiang Mai for a day or two to organize a hill tribe visit and trek for several days then head east to float the Mekong River to Louang Prabang in Laos. Well our plans changed as they always do. We ended up getting sick again like we did in Turkey. We had nasty colds and some sort of infection requiring antibiotics which were easily dispensed for under $3 for two of us at the local pharmacy. No doctor required. Also, recognizable prescription medicine is available over the counter for pennies on the dollar compared to at home. A box of Tylenol is $.25. Incredible. Anyway, after 5 days of sleep and doing nothing but blowing our noses, we are ready to start moving our legs again. Perhaps we'll go see if the rumors are true: Elvis has resurfaced in Thailand:

We did manage to do a few things while sick to keep away the boredom. Our guesthouse offers 1-2 day classes for cooking school, a very popular and inexpensive activity. With five other English speaking folks, we donned our aprons, recipe books, and learned how to cook eight Thai dishes throughout the day. We started the day with a visit to the local market and learned about all the veggies and spices we’d be cooking with. Most were familiar, but some were indigenous only to SE Asia. We arrived at the school which consisted of an open air canopied kitchen with about 16 cooking stations. Luckily, our class was small which made it a really fun experience. The head chef John was a crack-up. He was like Emiril on TV in the States saying “Bang” every time he needed to emphasis something, except that said in a nasaly Asian accented, “ahhhhhhh”. I think you had to be there as it was pretty hysterical. It was informative, fun, and interesting as we learned some of the Thai staples: of course Pad Thai, spring rolls, Tom Yum Soup, chicken & cashews, and a sort of fish soufflé. Let’s just say we didn’t go hungry that day. We also learned how to carve onions to look like lotus flowers and make roses out of tomato skins. All in all, it was a great class but I don’t think we are going to end up guest starring on the Iron Chef any time soon!

Our classmates were a varied bunch from the US, Britain, Switzerland, and Australia: A folk singer, chef @ Spago in LA (why he in a cooking class?), interior designer, and a P&G marketer.

Much of our time was spent wandering around town. Every few blocks we stumbled into one of the many beautiful wats (temples) in the neightborhood. This was our first chance to get a close up peak at them. There are usually monks inside willing to chat it up and say a prayer to Budda and light some insense for you if you make a small donation.

We also visited the famous Night Bazaar for some shopping. The vendors are lined up on both sides of a main road hawking their wares. You can find anything: baby clothes, pirated DVD's/CD's, silk pillowcases, textiles, t-shirts, GOOD fake watches, photo albums, wood carvings, etc.. A shopper's paradise. Since we don't have a house, we shopped for items that might look good in any home. Hopefully our choices are good ones!

We also noticed that in Chang Mai there are more photos of His Majesty the King of Thailand than any other spot in Thailand! The photos are huge (billboards/painted on sides of buildings) and show the King and Queen particpating in various royal activities throughout their lives. It was a bit weird for us since it would be highly unusual to see photos of GW posted throughout the country except during campaign time. I imagine the GW photos would have alot of grafitti on them, not so in Thailand. Mucho respect for the royal family. We were treated to a 3 minute video of the King while at the movies. After the previews, we all stood for this unusual tribute to his excellency which included photos of the King and his ever-present camera in different areas of the country. These shots were strangely superimposed into raindrops and set to the national anthem. Very interesting....

In a couple of days we are heading out to do our hill tribe stuff and hopefully head of to Laos. However, we may end up staying in Northern Thailand for a while longer as the water the Mekong is supposedly quite low. This would prohibit us from our much anticipated float down the Mekong from the Thai border to Louang Prabang. If we can’t float, we’ll just spend more time here. No worries.

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