>Christmas: Nakhon Sawan. 25 degrees celsius. 3 hours north of Bangkok. Doesn’t feel much like Christmas, except for the phone calls home. We buy an orange tree, and decorate it with ribbons and candy-cane striped wafer cookies. My gift was chocolate and beer (what more could I want?). Missi got a toothbrush and a jar of peanut butter. I have never seen anyone happier for a Christmas gift.
New Years: Chiang Mai. 20+ degrees celsius. 8 hours north of Bangkok. Still not that much of the holiday spirit in the air…maybe I’m waiting on the snow. Well it ain’t comin here! Chiang Mai is supposed to be the New Years capital of Thailand. Dozens of young people pour into the city in the few days before the celebrations. Phew, we were getting worried.
Thousands of paper lanterns glitter like stars in the sky, as our friend (Sage aka Steak) adds stars of his own…that nearly blow up people nearby!
Us in a crowd of paper-lantern-lighters. Sorry the picture is sideways, and no, I’m not gonna fix it. =P
The rest of our time in Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North” we spent on a few day trips. We headed up to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle (the border junction of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar/Burma). We even managed to pull off a border run to Burma to extend our Thai visas so we could stick around for New Years…and Grandma was worried about us going to Cambodia!
Myanmar was interesting, what we saw of it, although we weren’t allowed to enter very far. But from the moment you cross the border (and to be fair, even on the Thai side of the border), you can sense a great difference in cleanliness of the city, and poverty of the people. It is a terrible thing to watch children begging on the streets, some of them carrying their own siblings who are not much smaller than them on their backs.
On our return to Chiang Mai, we hit up a few night markets and FINALLY found some fried bugs…I had a few bees, some giant grasshoppers, a few different types of maggots, and a mother-huge water bug…they tasted like cold, fried crunchy things…not too bad! The maggots were my favorite. The thin crunchy ones at least.
A handful of tasty bugs to appease my appetite. I was hungry!
Waterbug as big as my tongue. I gotta say, his carapace was tough!
We did a trek up to see the hill tribes north of Chiang Mai as well, including a stop in to a village of the long neck people from Burma. It was kind of a sad situation because these people are such a tourist attraction for Thailand that they are issued work visas to live here outside of Burma, but they are constantly on display to gawking tourists with cameras and questions. Their culture is preserved, but is it worth the cost of being cooped up in a human zoo?
Their beautiful (but obviously carefully orchestrated) village rice paddies.
Our helpful and friendly driver Cha, showing us what the rings were like to wear. They’re HEAVY!
One of the locals at work on her…loom?
The scarf I bought for momma! I hope she likes it!
My absorute FAVORITE daytrip of all was just outside Chiang Mai…to an ELEPHANT SHOW!! We actually woke up at 10 am on new years day, completely hung over and some of us were half dead. I rolled out of bed to find out if it was too late to catch the show. We had about 10 minutes to leave in time! Missi wasn’t going to make it! Luckily our driver Cha came in and started shaking her and telling her to get ready, so she came after all! If you EVER get the chance to see an Elephant show: do it! They had these elephants doing things you would never expect. Prancing about, playing hula hoop, performing on harmonicas, playing soccer (there was even a GOALIE elephant!), painting pictures, beating human contenders at games of darts, and building walls with giant logs were only SOME of the feats performed! I was so astonished I couldn’t even get pictures! (plus I was hung over, and pretty much thought we were in some kind of twilight zone where elephants could do the insane things they were doing)
Playful elephants bathing in the river. After this they sprayed the crowd with water at their Mahout’s request. (The mahout is their human friend/rider/caregiver. The bond they share is incredible. Imagine having an ELEPHANT as your best friend!!).
Mahout and elephant showing off.
Wittle baby hula hoopin!
Elephant beating poor girl at dart throwing.
Big boy painting a masterpiece.
Recognize it, Richard??
Oh yes, these elephants are also polite.
Afterwards our driver showed us around to a less touristy spot where there was a momma and baby elephant! The cute little guy even wrapped his trunk around my hand! Awwwwww…