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Donna in Thailand’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 27 Jul 2010

Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

MapHi everyone - I'm back! I'm sitting in an internet cafe just down the road from my hotel, with my last hour or so before I need to catch the bus back to Issan. I've had a very full 2 1/2 days here, and I literally ran out of steam, falling asleep in the lobby in my hotel. I stayed at a lovely place, with elegance and charm in Thai style decor. It is very clean and stylish with lovely tile floors and teak furnishings. The young staff at the front desk has been very friendly and attentive.

I arrived on Sunday after an overnight bus trip. Mrs. Djampi, the middle school English teacher suggested that the best way to get around and visit different places was to hire the services of a taxi driver she has used in the past, for an entire day. I was reluctant, but I agreed, and was glad that I did. The places I went to on the first and second days were both out of the city and required considerable driving. So, Mr. Air and I started out at a hill-tribe village, where people of five different tribes, with roots from different countries (e.g., Burma/Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos) all try to eke out a living together. They are dressed in traditional costumes, and engage in traditional handicrafts. They live in rustic conditions, with roofs made of huge leaves, but the surroundings are lovely! I bought some interesting things there, including a pair of simple sandals that I used for all of my subsequent activities.

Then, one of my two highlights! I watched an item of fine art being created in front of my own eyes. It was a beautiful and simple painting done by a most unusual artist - an elephant! No joke! I went to an elephant show, in which the elephants did the usual fun and entertaining things that they were trained to do, including playing soccer! Then out came the easels, with a different elephant painting with his back to an audience viewing stand. I was most fortunate in that our elephant was by far the most talented! In fact, someone bought his picture for 3000 Baht - about 90 dollars. Many people wanted that painting, including me. I did take two good photos of it which I will share when I get home. This is real fodder for the behaviorists in psychology, a la B.F. Skinner. I think Skinner once said he could teach a bird to play the piano. Well, an elephant trainer trained this massive animal to patiently lift up his trunk and gently put it down on the paper, and paint, beautifully!

After that, Mr. Air and I had lunch on the way to Doi Suthep, a high mountain on the west side of the city. The drive up was long and windy, with cars, motorcycles, and bless their souls, some brave cyclists! That kind of a forever climb is not within my cycling ability! Anyway, we went to the king's vacation palace. It's called "Phupping Palace" (pronounced "pooping"). It's a lovely and not overly extravagent property. It seemed very tasteful, with a mix of Thai and western architecture. Beautiful views on a clear day too.

Then I was driven to the Wat, or Temple, on Doi Suthep. Very ornate, interesting, and crowded! It was the eve of this significant Buddhist holiday, so there were many people there. I have no idea how Buddhists who go there can concentrate on their prayers as there are so many tourists! There were also hill-tribe children who posed for pictures, and then demanded money. Also, David and Matti, there was a group of children with Thai instruments, including some guitar looking ones, that played while two little girls danced in traditional costume. It seemed a bit like a three-ring circus up there, with so much happening at once!

Yesterday morning, I had an incredible adventure. Just think of me as the new Tarzan, or Jane, or the old lady who swings in the forest. I went for the morning and early afternoon for a zip-line adventure in the rain forest. It was on another, higher mountain on the east side of Chiang Mai. Again, we ascended an incredibly long and winding road that seemed to go on and on. We finally ended up at a small camp that was our starting point. Nine of us with two guides spent the morning zipping along on cables over the trees in the rainforest, from platform to platform. It was truly exhilarating and breathtaking. I have pictures and even some video of this old Mom having a swinging time! (Sorry...)

In the afternoon, after a visit back to the hotel, I went shopping at the Night Bazaar. I spent an enjoyable hour speaking in a foreign language I can actually speak - Hebrew! Somehow, all the Israeli tourists came out of the woodwork in the evening! I spoke with a man about my age who is planning on starting a tour guide service in northern Thailand for visiting Israelis. He's here doing his scouting.

I also had a foot massage. I swear, I warned the guy that I'm very ticklish on my feet, but he jumped anyway when I almost kicked him! Overall, it went okay and I felt better afterwards! He found some sore muscles I wasn't even aware I had!

Today I went on a very pleasant bicycle tour. I certainly saw things I would never have seen on my own, either walking or driving. It was fun, but afterwards is when I conked out in the lobby of the hotel!

So, now I must go to catch a tuk-tuk to the bus station and head back to Chaiyaphum province and my district of Non Bua Duang and village of Nong Plong!

Love you all, and hope that everyone is well at home!