Chiang Mai was so fully loaded with things to do that I couldn’t fit it all in one post!
The night after we went to see the elephants and cruise down the river was pretty much a wash. We were both so tired that we napped, ate a delicious dinner, and then went back to sleep. The next day we woke up early, per usual to take a bus up the nearby mountain. We transfered to the local version of a mini-bus, a pick-up truck with a makeshift roof over the bed. You sit on low benches in the bed of the truck and they take you up through the mountains. We arrived at a tiny Hmong village called Doi Pui. The Hmongs, as Wikipedia dutifully reminded me, are an ethnic group of Thailand, originating from the mountain parts of China. They seem to have been persecuted for hundreds of years and always spring back, resilient as ever. The town itself is just one street, winding all the way up the hill, lined with tiny shops and stalls. We passed old Hmong women gossiping and sewing, and the view from the mountain top was incredible. These are the same people that make grow and make hemp as a replacement for their former cash crop, poppies for opium.
We descended the mountain a little bit to reach the majestic Wat Doi Suthep. This temple was built on a holy spot where a rare albino white elephant, carrying a holy relic, trumpeted and died while climbing the mountain. The temple enshrines the white elephants, but it is also one of the most beautiful temples I’ve seen. At the top of 300 stairs at the top of a mountain, you can see the whole city of Chiang Mai and beyond. The golden domes and spires are somehow more brilliant at the higher elevation, and every detail seemed just a little closer to heaven than the rest.
We spent our afternoon in Chiang Mai participating in one last Thai tradition, Thai massage. I’ve had my fair share of Swedish massages, but the Thai massage is a different beast entirely. After a quick foot bath in rose petals (something I certainly wasn’t expecting for my massage), they give you loose fitting clothing to change into and then you are told to lie down on a mat on the floor. Instead of a gentle soothing rub, the masseuse grabs your leg and moves it to some angle it has never been moved to before. This series of incomprehensible and sometimes painful stretching is alternated with pressure point treatment and kneading your toughest knots. When my arm moved to some position I didn’t know was possible, the area beneath my shoulder blade was exposed and the masseuse worked out some knots I never knew existed.
This post is hitting VERY late because there was first the back log from being in Vietnam. Now there is a back log forming from CHINA! I’m currently in Dali, China and I finally have a working WordPress, so hopefully the posts will be coming steadily over the next few days as I finally have the opportunity to catch up. I’m about 6 posts behind. Yikes.