Winter Vacation 2008-2009: Christmas Eve in Chiang Mai
12.24.2008 - 12.24.2008 30 °C
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.
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.
And the mixed vegetables and Swede. We hope that swede is some sort of food product we’re unfamiliar with, and not actual Swede.
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.
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.
Like any good tourist this cat was taking a siesta in the heat.
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.
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.
The closest thing we could find to a Christmas movie was a Flintstones Christmas Carol. It was festive enough.