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Winter Vacation 2008-2009: Christmas Eve in Chiang Mai

semi-overcast 30 °C
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Our first day in a new city usually involves wandering; setting out with a destination and trying to get there. This ALWAYS entails us getting lost. Some times are more disorienting and confusing than others. Sometimes we just take a wrong turn and quickly correct ourselves. This is the case more often than not. Sometimes we have absolutely no idea where we are. No matter how lost we are we always feel a sense of relief when we recognize landmarks or places we’ve been and can navigate without a map. We eventually reached this point, but let’s start at the beginning.

This morning we slept in. It’s the first day of vacation after a long travel day. There’s no reason to get up early yet. Last night we quickly and sloppily unpacked our bags. Meaning this morning we had to fix that and straighten up before we headed out. While Court was showering I went to use the computer downstairs but one of the staff members was on it chatting with some friends. That was obviously more important than a paying customer. They were nice enough to tell me where I could find another Internet café. What they didn’t tell me was that the place wasn’t open yet. Had to go there myself to be privy to that information. Oh well.

In my travels to find an Internet café I discovered a quaint Thai restaurant which served breakfast. We chose a table in the back garden and settled in for our spring rolls, phad thai and phad see-eu. We remembered from our last vacation to always get the local breakfast.

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We had some things we needed to pick up. Because we didn’t check any bags, it meant we couldn’t bring certain things with us. Like razors and any liquids exceeding 100ml in volume. That’s the downside of not checking luggage. I also needed to get a new pair of sandals. For some reason the Crocs store in Nishinomiya Gardens didn’t have them in stock. I never stopped to think that perhaps the reason for this is because it’s winter in Japan. Before breakfast I did get on the Internet to find us a store in a shopping mall that had the Crocs I wanted. Map in hand, we headed out.

This is where the ‘getting lost’ thing came into play. Not all the streets on our map are labeled. Not that it really matters, as most of the streets we were walking past weren’t labeled either. In addition, the English translation of the same street can differ from sign to sign. At certain intersections, streets also change names. ON one side of the intersection, it has one name, and across the intersection it becomes another street. I suppose this can happen in an 800 year old city. I studied the map at breakfast and saw the easiest route to get us to where we wanted to go.

Be warned that if you have the map turned around before you even go anywhere, you are in trouble, even with a map and an easy route laid out. That’s what happened to us. Instead of turning left out of the restaurant, we turned right. We walked for a good 30 minutes and started to think something was right. We tried to get ourselves out of the way and had a little map reading pow-wow (aside: Andrew wouldn’t let me see the map for a little while, even after I asked if I could see the map. I take no responsibility for the results. I have mad nav skills. ~CW). We checked our map and found some landmarks which got us re-orientated and heading back the other way. About 45 minutes later we looked at the map again and figured out where we were. But we had no idea how we got there. We thought we walked in a straight line north, but somehow ended up northwest of where we were. This was disconcerting but ok. We were headed in the right direction.

Another 30 minutes and some harrowing street crossings later we found the shopping mall we wanted. As we went in Court stopped at a pharmacy and I went to find a bathroom. Instead of locating the bathroom I stumbled upon the store selling the Crocs. I quickly found and bought my correct size before meeting up with Court again.
Next we needed a Starbucks break; we were worried we were working too hard on vacation. Then went back into the department store. This is where Courtney actually found a pair of shoes! She’s had an impossible time finding shoes in Japan. They don’t have the size she needs. But not Thailand: they’ve got what she needs. This made her day or possibly her vacation.

After the exciting shoe purchase, we did our obligatory supermarket shopping trip. The really different things we found this time were the ostrich meat.

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And the mixed vegetables and Swede. We hope that swede is some sort of food product we’re unfamiliar with, and not actual Swede.

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Now that we were laden with all these purchases we had to head back to the hotel to unload. Not surprisingly, we got lost on our way back. WE had plotted our route on the map; putting it into practice was a little more complex. We were distracted by something and missed the road for our hotel. Five or ten minutes after we missed our road we knew something was wrong. We were getting a little frustrated and did what you should always do in this situation. We got some food.

We went to Kafé 1985, a restaurant with free Internet access and a recommendation from our guide book. We ate a good portion of wontons, more spring rolls, and salted cashews. It was a delightful mid-afternoon snack. Feeling less frustrated we made it successfully back to our hotel to unload.

In Chiang Mai there have been a lot of wats (or temples) built over the years. One of the first was Wat Chiang Man. Construction started when the city was first being built. This seemed like a good place to start visiting the temples.

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There were many structures within the confines of the wat walls. The first building we went into was the vihara. There were golden pictures stencilled on all the walls depicting the construction of the temple (we think). They were fascinating pictures to look at.

In the modern vihara there were colored paintings all over the walls. Each section was its own little mural , depicting some event. Even though I don’t know enough about Buddhism to guess at what was going on in these scenes, I enjoyed looking at them.

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Like any good tourist this cat was taking a siesta in the heat.

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Courtney in the meantime was putting her knew found photography knowledge to work. The modern vihara also houses two little Buddha statues, a marble one 20 cm high which came from Sri Lanka about 2000 years ago and a smaller jade one (~10 cm) which came from Laos.

The chedi at the back had a gold roof and lots of elephant sculptures on the bottom level.

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After our visit to the wat we strolled to the night bazaar. Having been lost two or three times already, we actually started to recognize places and remember which direction we wanted to head in. Meaning we didn’t get lost on the way to the market. We scoped out the market and didn’t see anything that really interested us, except for Mike’s Burger Restaurant which supposedly makes the best burgers in Chiang Mai. I’d been craving a burger for a while and had to stop. Courtney opted out on the burger and stopped for a nice thin crust pizza on the way back to the hotel.

Now we’ve arrived back at the hotel and are going to see if there is a Christmas movie for us to watch on TV. Here are some other pictures from around Chiang Mai.

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The closest thing we could find to a Christmas movie was a Flintstones Christmas Carol. It was festive enough.

Posted by agc_cwm 19:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Swank plane, ghetto plane

Which one did the long flight get? Winter Vacation 2008/2009 - day 1


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Andrew and Courtney’s first rule of travel, if you have more than one leg of unequal lengths in your journey, you will be on the older, smaller , less spacious airplane for the longer leg of your journey.

We learned this early this morning. We met our cab at 6:00, caught our bus at 6:15, and got our first flight at 8:00. As we were walking on the Boeing 777-300, heading to row 11, we walked through business class, the really expensive seats with as much room as a family sized car, into first class with the same amount of space as a small car, when we stumbled onto our row. I was blown away; I actually checked with the flight attendant to make sure we were in the correct row. Our seats had a ‘bed’ button which would fully recline and lower your seat down to within about 10 inches of the floor. Completely horizonal. Then you could actually get a good sleep. I obviously had to try this button but I was actually creeped out by the results; it felt so strange to be able to totally recline on asn aircraft. But, about five hours into a transoceanic flight, it would be a godsend. The only problem with these seats was we were only privy to them for a little over an hour before we landed in Tokyo.

We figured if they put the new version of the 777 on the Osaka to Tokyo run we’d have something nice for the trip to Bangkok. We were enthralled and betting on if we’d get the same quality of seat or not. Obviously the correct answer is, not. It was the older version of the 777, with business class and coach. We were back to the normal cattlecar seats for our 8 hour flight to Bangkok. Other than the disappointment brought on by the older model it was an uneventful flight. We felt bad for the five month old in front of us who wailed himself to sleep during landing. His mom apologized to us on the way off the plane but there was nothing she could do. And we really didn’t care. But I was definitely sensing an uncomfortable, angry vibe from the other passengers.

Aside: after our last trip, we were tired of lugging our larger-than-necessary backpacks around with us. We always had to wait to get them after we arrived in a new place or we found if we had to kill a day it was a huge pain to find a way to deal with them. With this in mind we bought new, smaller backpacks. Courtney’s is a 35 L Millet pack and mine is a 40 L Millet pack. After we had our packs crammed full we brought out the measuring tape to do the carry on check. Our measurements last night had us borderline; if some agent wanted to get technical they could probably make us check the bags. I am proud to report that we didn’t have to check anything and did carryon all the way here. With our immigration cards filled out and in hand it took us about 20 minutes to de-plane and go through customs.

This is Court with our bags.

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The only problem with clearing customs so quickly is, at 5:30, we are now waiting for our 7:45 flight to Chiang Mai. We went through security two hours early to get away from everyone asking if we wanted a taxi or if we needed help. We expected that the questions from everyone were coming; it is southeast Asia. For our sanity we decided to delay having to deal them as much as possible.

Courtney ordering at the restaurant in the airport.

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We're back in South East Asia, we bought a fruit plate.

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Hopefully we have only funny/entertaining things to report from our flight to Chiang Mai and our transfer and check in to our hotel.

Not from December 24th, it was an easy and uneventful trip to our hotel in Chiang Mai.

Posted by agc_cwm 00:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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