A Travellerspoint blog

And the answer is... "They wash your feet first."

Winter Vacation 2008/2009 - Boxing day in Chiang Mai

rain
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“How do the Thai women giving foot massages deal with gross travellers’ feet?”, Alex. Ping Pong. 200 dollars for me. I’ve spent the whole time in Chiang Mai wondering how the women giving foot massages all over the place deal with travellers’ feet. More specifically, I wondered what the grossest feet these women have ever seen were like. Fungus? Warts? Ingrown toenails? Horrible stench? Today I got my answer they wash your feet first, hopefully the washing gets rid of any stench and is time to screen people’s feet.

First thing this morning we went back to “Big Al’s”, actually called Art Café, for breakfast. This was the same place that had the greasy breakfast from yesterday. We went for something lighter and healthier.

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This is when our weather luck wore out, it started to rain. We left “Big Al’s” and went in search of a tailor to make some pants for Courtney and shirts for me.

We had a couple places in mind before we set out. However we stopped at the second tailor we found, G.G. Armani Collection. Inside there was one man working. He started to talk to us about the materials they had and what we wanted to get made. At some point during this he called his brother, “the closer”, to come in and talk to us.
“The closer”, with his slicked back hair and his well refined sales pitch, could give any salesperson back home a run for their money. He spent an hour and a half with us, going over materials, designs and smooth talking us. We eventually settled on three pairs of pants for Court, two shirts and a suit for me. I eventually haggled him down to 10,000 baht (¥30,000 or CDN$350). We figured we could have gotten this stuff for cheaper if we went around to all the different tailors in Chiang Mai but we really didn’t want to spend the time doing that.

After the tailor, we went to confirm our cooking class for tomorrow. The rain was coming down even harder and we did the only sensible thing we could think to do; we got foot massages. This is where we learned that they wash your feet first (I’m going to avoid making the Jesus/Easter reference). They took us upstairs to a large open room with mats on the floor. We settled in, head on the provided pillows, and the ladies went to work. Court figured her feet were too tense to begin with, because the foot massage actually hurt her for the first part of it. It wasn’t until 30 minutes later when her feet actually felt relaxed. My feet still feel good now. We may have to do this again before we leave.

We left the massage parlor, got rained on again and proceeded into the restaurant next door for lunch. This was not a good idea, the restaurant left a lot to be desired. Hence no pictures of the food.
The next thing on our schedule was to go to the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders. It was a little out of town, which involved haggling with and retaining the services of a tuk-tuk driver. I haggled him down to a fair price and off we went.

This museum is a privately funded museum that holds a strange variety of displays, materials and paintings. The owner/operator of the museum, Manop Rattanarithikul, was there to greet us when we arrived. He welcomed us gave us a sheet with a self-guided tour of all the displays and off we went.

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To give you an idea of the kind of man who runs this museum let me tell you a story. The first visitor that he had to the museum was an elephant. This elephant promptly left a present for him. Mr. Rattanarithikul took it as a sign of good luck and it is the first display you see in the museum.

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Manop and his wife, Dr. Rattanarithikul, did a lot of research on mosquitoes and mosquito borne diseases, e.g. malaria, dengue fever. They actually identified about 22 new mosquito species.

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Starting in the 1960s they did a lot of field research in areas that were suffering from malarial outbreaks. This research involved using themselves as bait and trapping the mosquitoes that were trying to bite them. They had a lot of signs up that were “written” by the mosquitoes of Thailand saying essentially, “We’re not trying to hurt you we just want to give you a special hug.” Needless to say they really like insects. The second floor of the museum had rows and rows of cataloged insects, beetles, and butterflies. I’m sure it would have taken years of work to catalog everything. Wow!

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The museum also housed a display of rocks that he had taken from special locations all around the world: Notre Dame, London Bridge, and the Grand Canyon are just a few of the places he’s visited. Dr. Rattanarithikul completed her Ph. D at Kobe University in Japan, so Mr. Manop had lots of rocks from Sannomiya and other areas in Japan.

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After the museum we meandered our way to a small shopping street. We actually missed in on our first pass and settled in at a coffee shop to warm ourselves up. We wandered through the upscale shopping area. Courtney bought a silver bracelet and then it was back to our hotel to do some laundry.

We did some laundry and watched a crappy Adam Sandler romantic comedy; it was the one about the remote control. For all you Food Network Canada lovers out there we also watched “Chef at Home” and “Sugar”. And for all you Larry King lovers out there, if there are any that read our blog, we watched Larry King with Jack Hanna and his animals. I’m sure Larry King couldn’t have been less interested in what was going on.

Then it was time for dinner: Mexican food! We made our way to the Chiang Mai Saloon and had a good meal of nachos, tacos, and burritos. Excellent food. While we were there we heard a lady who was playing pool announce to the person who asked that she was from Bathurst, New Brunswick. Of course we had to say something. We chatted with her for a while. She teaches at an international school in Bangkok and has been here for a few years. She’d also been in Japan, so we talked about eikaiwas for a while as well.

After dinner we had to meet the tailor again and get our first fitting done. Tomorrow we’ll do our second fitting. On our way back to our hotel we stopped to watch the show that was on at the big stage in the park as part of Chiang Mai’s winter festival. We watched for a little while when I noticed that the lady who is singing had much larger thighs than the other people up there dancing. Then she stopped singing and said something in her normal voice, which was close to one octave lower than her singing voice. Now we felt like we’d arrived in Thailand we’d seen a drag show. Yep, that’s a good way to end the day.

Posted by agc_cwm 00:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Cut yourself some slack

Merry Christmas from Chiang Mai, Thailand


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“Cut your self some slack, in a hundred years, different people.” That’s what the sign nailed to the tree told me at the temple we went to this afternoon. Another sign also told me, “The water that makes a ship float also makes a ship shink[sic]” Shink? Shink? Is that a Buddhist term? It was a deep enough message until I came across this word. Then I realized that it was a typo. ”The water that makes a ship float also makes a ship sink” makes a whole lot more sense.
First thing this lovely snow-less Christmas morning required us to get a nice hearty, calorie-filled American style breakfast. The Big Bowl Breakfast at the Art Café. Hash browns, tomatoes, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and scrambled eggs, all covered with cheese. Just the way to get the grease flowing through your veins. Very Smittys on a Sunday.
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We were moving slower after this meal. Oh, the stuff we didn’t eat was given to us to take back to our room. We have a snack for tonight if we want.
Instead of porting a full doggie-bag around Chiang Mai we had to stop back at our hotel. Both of us felt like taking a nap but powered on. We went to the coffee shop up the street to post the blog and make the first of a couple Christmas calls home.
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Then it was on the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre.
The Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre is a museum that is done right. When this former government building was converted into the museum in 1997 they didn’t spare any expense. But they also did it right. The layout of the building is good, the English signage is 98% correct, and the displays are extremely well done. They also had audio tracks in each of the rooms which could be played in Thai, English, German, French, Chinese and Japan (one of these things is not like the other…) . We learned a lot about the history of Chiang Mai, from prehistory through to present day.
This was one of the few incorrect English signs. It was on the computer screen where you can scroll from one page to the next.
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These are some pictures of the displays.
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We were walking through recreations of various scenes of village life, complete with life-size human mannequins. They were disturbing, and I kept expecting one to lunge out of its display and attack me, or at least follow me around. Very “knight-in-a-haunted-castle”-esque. As we were walking into the final room of this exhibit, this cat jumped out of a basket in the display. Needless to say, we were sufficiently startled.
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By this time it was lunch time and the grease had passed through our systems. We had to locate the next feeding spot. Seeing it was Christmas we settled on Jerusalem Falafel. Actually, I think Court just wanted Middle Eastern food. We did some shopping on our way to the restaurant, without getting lost on the trip. We settled down to our own little table facing the street and flipped through the book of the menu.
Courtney was blown away by the selection. Pita, falafels, Greek salad, baba ghanouj, and more: basically everything she’s been craving for months. She was stuck, unsure what she wanted the most. We eventually settled on the meze set: pita bread with six different dips. We thought we may need more food, so Court ordered an extra plate of feta cheese and two extra pitas. It turns out we didn’t need the extra pitas. I powered through my two but Court wisely stopped after one pita. We again didn’t finish all of our food and were presented with another doggie bag to fill our fridge.
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This meal required us to stop at the hotel for a post feast nap. 45 minutes later I was back on my feet and ready to go. We decided to head out to Umon temple which is located about 3 clicks outside of Chiang Mai. This involved bartering with a tuk-tuk driver. The first guy we stopped, or more accurately he stopped to see if we needed a ride, wouldn’t go lower than 200 Baht round trip. We walked. Not to the temple but away from that tuk-tuk. 200 was too much to pay. We rounded the corner and found another tuk-tuk driver. I eventually haggled him down to 200 Baht and decided we didn’t want to waste any more time looking for a ride. He was happy because he spent the whole time trying to get us to go somewhere with him tomorrow. We declined any tours with him tomorrow.
We arrived at the Umon temple, located out in the woods, and started to wander.
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Monks built this temple in the 14th century and was abandoned for a while until the 1940’s. The monks were holding a service when we arrived; we wandered the grounds. Unfortunately we couldn’t go into the assembly hall because of the service. We still went up to see the chedi, the spire, which is built in a clearing in the forest.
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The monks converted some caves into a worshipping areas complete with little shrines. Most monks are a little shorter than me, so the tunnels were kind of on the small side of comfortable for walking upright.
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Our tuk-tuk driver brought us back to our hotel just in time for Christmas dinner. Yesterday we found an Irish pub that was offering Christmas dinner. We had a full feast: ham, turkey, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, mince pie, Christmas pudding, bread, and, those perennial holiday favourites, watermelon and pineapple. .
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What a feast. Not as good as a home-cooked meal, but we’ll take what we can get. We still felt the traditional tiredness post meal. Mmm turkey coma.
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There were two sittings, one at 6:30 and one at 9:30, and we were there for the early one. There were approximately 40 people at our sitting and 10 people at our table. There were three recent engineering grads from Australia, who are travelling around before they start work, and another Aussie who is teaching in Bangkok and wanted to escape Bangkok for Christmas, as well as two other couples. It was a lovely meal, not as good as spending It with family but nice to spend it with pleasant people.
Now we are the café again making more Christmas calls. Here are some other shots of a temple down the street from our hotel, and other sites in Chiang Mai.
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Before I forget, to everyone who is reading this, we wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Posted by agc_cwm 00:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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