2nd – 9th September 2013
Arrival in Chiang Mai – Day 8
We can’t believe it’s week two of our trip already. Time seems to have flown by but at the same time we have done and seen so much. Today we leave the dusty, noisy streets of Bangkok for the calm of Chiang Mai. In the early morning, I take a walk with Reuben to the nearby 711 (there are more 711 stores in Thailand, than anywhere else, besides the US) and sit on the steps eating instant rice porridge. We watch as people give alms to an old monk sitting next to us and he acknowledges us with a gracious nod.
We catch our Nok Air plane and it’s a smooth run to Chiang Mai and again back to familiar ground. We discovered a perfect spot last August to recharge our batteries and even at the time were keen to return to this hub. It has the cleanliness and yet well worn traditional decor of good accommodation. We have really never been into shiny and new. So in line with our idea to ease the boys into this journey, we return yet again to somewhere they have known and loved. We are situated in the area near the Chuang Puak Gate which is less touristy and more local than other parts of Chiang Mai. This evening we return to the local market near the gate where we have a great dinner and discover the wonders of the Roti Man. He is a master at shaping, cooking and folding roti. It is a wonder to watch and a delight to eat. He also becomes our local landmark and last day stop whilst in Chiang Mai with many a day ending in “Have you seen the Roti Man”.
Meeting the Relatives – Day 9
To wake up in a new place fills us with excitement and anticipation and we are keen to show Grandma our knowledge of Chiang Mai. We take the chance to call a distant cousin (who’s number we received at our pre-departure farewell at Clancy’s in Perth). To our pleasant surprise he and his charming Thai wife plan the day for us starting with a brunch of the famous Khao Soay, at a hidden eatery in the back streets of outer Chiang Mai.
We visit their newly built home amongst lush green rice paddies in the outskirts and then are whisked off to the san Kamphaeng hot springs. Here we soaked our feet in the healing waters, eat local fruit (previously bought at a road side stall) and the boys boiled quail and chicken eggs in woven baskets – tasty. Then Prunella and Grandma had a well-earned one hour traditional thai massage. Glorious.
Parcels of Goodness – Day 10
This morning Prunella is up early and makes the walk to the local markets. These start along the street and end at the corner in a large, noise and smell filled warehouse.
There she watches a stall making custard and sticky rice parcels, wrapped in banana leaf. Despite the language barrier, she asks the stall holder to teach her the method (trickier than it looks) and ends up filling a customer order of ten, under supervision of course.
We return to this stall almost every day during our stay in Chiang Mai and indulge in this sweet morsel. She also sells sticky rice with cooked plantain banana for the princely sum of 5 baht and good grilled sticky rice with taro. The stall holder and those around her become familiar friendly faces.
While the children & Prunella rest in the comfort of our hotel, Grandma & Graham set off on a walk culminating in a much needed coffee at the Ta Phae gate. This is followed by Khao Soay again in the Sois.
Then thanks to our research we set out to give the boys a treat. This led us to a long walk, a stop at a tiny drinks shop and another sorngthaew ride to the Central mall. There, after much searching and a walk thorough an area of car park and abandoned shops, we found the fabled ageing bowling alley. Despite the lack of barriers or a ball guide the boys managed to enjoy chucking balls into the gutter and experimenting with balls under legs, pushed with the feet, etc. A fun family event not to mention the fashionable shoes.
Where are those boat noodles? – Day 11
Today was a quiet one for most of us, the boys enjoying the pool, doing homework and DS games. Graham decided to see more of Chiang Mai solo and search for the famous boat noodles (My brother found them on a trip to CM and recommended them as a “Must Try”. We searched for them fruitlessly on our previous trip). He was also keen to check out the many good CM bookshops and enjoy a kerbside coffee. We spent a chunk of time finalising plans for our upcoming Mae Hong Son loop before plunging yet again into an evening at the touristy CM night bazaar. A pleasant evening wandering the stalls, haggling for clothing and sampling the many food delights.
Jumping into the Deep. – Day 12
Today was wondrous with a boat trip to a floating restaurant in The Mae Ngat Dam & Reservoir. Graham was brave enough to dive off the top diving board and Prunella the lower one. The boys enjoyed a short swim in the very very deep dark waters (with life jackets on) but although it was refreshing it took some courage with occasional large disturbances in the water by huge fish. Then came Graham and the boys biggest adventure yet with a climb up Bua Tong waterfalls. This was rewarded by Corneto Ice creams (they come in an amazing variety of flavours in Thailand). Then with takeaway Chiang Mai sausages and sticky rice – tired but sated home.
Luxurious Treats – Day 13
Today we were generously treated to what a lot of travellers take for granted, the all you can eat Hotel Smorgasbord lunch. Many tables laden with food of every kind including a full table of desserts and a couple of chefs for Crepe Suzettes and local fried noodles. We were all in food heaven and tried to try a little of everything. The boys were thrilled with the western desserts.
Then to shopping. Unfortunately Prunella’s hardworking hikers of many years gave up the ghost yesterday so she was in for a treat of some new North Face hikers. Then another peep into a privileged lifestyle with a visit to the CM Gymkhana Golf club – founded 1898. A pleasure to sit at the famous Leonowen’s Verandah Restaurant under the enormous heritage tree for a drink or three. Cheers.
Doi Suthep Miracle – Day 14
Today we caught the local public sorngthaew at the Changpuak gate to the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep. The boys and I were placed in the cab infront. We climbed the long steps, perused the surrounds and enjoyed watching families at prayer in the inner sanctum. That’s when it was discovered I lost my glasses. We backtracked to all the places we’d been and had pretty much given up the ghost when Graham heroically found the sorngthaew driver (not a small task among the many there), checked the cab and came up with the goods! A Doi Suthep Miracle.
Back into town to a local clinic for tears at our second Rabies shots. Visited a few temples on Loi Kroh Rd and then enjoyed the famous Sunday Walking Street Market. Lucas tried his bartering skills and managed to secure three fabric elephants (which he promptly dubbed Miniphants) for his brothers and himself.
This mini crew continues to join us, like yourself, on our travels…