Sunday, November 7, 2010

Notes from Chiang Mai: day 1

The hardest thing about returning from a holiday is returning from it.


- the flight is 2.5 hours. I want to advise the German passenger behind me to pony up the extra RM15 (?) for her next Air Asia flight so she'll have more space for her knobbly knees and the person in front won't have to receive an unsolicited lower back massage, as I did.

- Chiang Mai International Airport is small, but our guide is smaller. Mum and I were expecting a dude!

- our first sightseeing spot of the day: Doi Suthep temple. There are a few stories regarding the origin of the temple, but the most-repeated one is the legend of the White Elephant.

- the temple is located 30,000 feet above sea level* and the route to the top of the hill is long and widing. On a haze-free day, a vista of the city is yours to behold.

-  there are 300,000 steps leading to the temple, and if you cheat and take the tram up, you will not receive any merits.

- there is a little Miao tribe girl with whom you can take photos for a small "donation". Yes, she should be in school.

-  since it's still early (about 9 a.m. local time), all is quiet and cool. The ceramic tiles feel slippery and cold under our bare feet (no shoes in the temple, see) and I notice the stray dogs** lolling in the sunshine have glossy coats and appear very well-fed. Go, Thailand.

- Mum makes her first purchase of the trip: wind-up butterfly toys. Her first launch crashes, but the trader doesn't seem to mind.

- even though it's still morning, we have lunch right after we leave the temple and descend the hill. The pre-planned Thai laksa doesn't pan out as Mum vetoes anything with santan in it; I have regular tom yam noodles and she has pork 'n' rice.


- it's still too early to check in to our hotel, so we visit the Royal Flora Ratchapruek garden.***

- The place is so dead that we don't even bother to hop off our tram, shortening a 30-minute ride in half.

- it's with much relief we trundle up to the check-in counter at the Suriwongse Hotel an hour later. The place is just around the corner from the night market (which, I dunno) and a Starbucks outlet no local would be caught dead at.

- our heads (or maybe just mine) are still spinning from the efficiency of check-in when we reach our room on the fifth floor in the new wing. It overlooks... the back lane.

- clearly, ours is not a "family" room, given that a window from the bathroom opens to the rest of the room, and there is no lock on the bathroom door.

- dinner is a khantoke-style repast, where the food is presented in artful little servings ala Korea (as many refills as you can wolf down barbarously):

- I have a mai-tai and decide I should've stuck to plain water.

- dinner is joined halfway by a performance incorporating Lanna culture.

- on a totally unrelated note, the khantoke dinner place releases giant lanterns for the benefit of the European guests. Us Asians see all that during CNY.

Fun Facts

- hunger + lack of sleep + driving ala Thai (all gas, no brakes) => impending car sickness.

- there is one Buddha for every day of the week; except Mondays and Sundays, where there is one each for morning and afternoon.

- Tuesday (my birthday) is the day of the Sleeping Buddha.

- Thais don't plant bougainvillea in the home as it implies that the husband may take on a mistress.

- Malaysian tom yam: redolent with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves; tomatoes are always present, as are shreds of chicken meat/beef/seafood.

- Thai tom yam: a layer of chili oil glistens on the top; slices of char siew abound, and there seems to be no end to the chunks of minced pork. The noodles and spring onions appear to have been added as an afterthought, and the serving is garnished with enough deep fried lard to clog an elephant's arteries.

-  Thai tom yam merits its own poetry.

* this is an approximation
** mastiff-Labrador retriever combinations, it would appear (!)
*** Originally conceived as a tribute to the King in 2006, the place has since become a white elephant (see what I did there?) that rivals our own, uh, Rakan Muda activity centers.


Anonymous said...



(Elephants! Elephants! Elephants!)

Nong keay hen chang rue plaw?

(Have you seen THE ELEPHANTS?)

Chang mun thua tho mai bao


Jamook yao yao reeag wa ngooang

(with a long nose called a trunk!)

me keaw thai ngooang reeag wa ngang

(and fangs beneath the trunks called tusks!)

mee hoo me tha haang yaoo

(ELEPHANT has ears, eyes and a long tail!)



Angela Gripesalot said...

um... thanks. I'll tell Ae you said hi XD

Snuze said...

... deep fried lard...

Is that even possible?

*brain explodes*

Love your travelogue. All the highlights of the trip sans motion sickness or aching feet.

Angela Gripesalot said...

ooh, you're right. It was pork rinds. bet they fried it in lard though XD