Temperatures hit a searing 40 deg C, but it was still bearable though we were sweating like frogs in water most parts of the day.
For the second largest city in Thailand, I think they copped out a little on the development side of things with few high rise buildings. Rather, it’s more of a old, culture-rich, laid-back town with padi fields and backwaters dominating the landscape, and where people are still nice and friendly, patient and obliging. So unlike city folks.
People in Chiang Mai are also happy ones who lead simple, grounded lives. What struck me the most was that they seem content. Having said that, they really are self-sufficient – enough to not want for basic necessities because food is aplenty and glorious, dress is easily obtainable for reasonable rates, and they are not short of land for houses.
Walking Street in the old city on Sunday evenings
I’m quite certain they are exposed to the bling of the outside world despite seemingly dated and lack the urban sprawl common in larger cities. I’m also sure they have their share of people who pine for trendy things who can easily afford to have them. I didn’t see haute couture shops anywhere, so I don’t see how they can get the goods. But they are resourceful enough to import high quality, made-in-china knock-offs that can quickly and cheaply satiate that craving – not just for the domestic market, but for some tourists too.
We took a day tour to the Golden Triangle and ended up in Laos. We found ourselves in a small, sandy village known as Done Xiao that sells intoxicating stuff like serpent liquor and all kinds of weird. The only people there were curious tourists and the local shopkeepers, and sadly many child beggars. I’m not sure the impression of Laos I got then was the right one, it probably isn’t as bad in Vientienne. But for what it’s worth, it is still an eye-opener and is another place to tick off my list. No more opium though!
I enrolled in a cooking school too, and successfully ate and digested everything I made. Green curry chicken, Basil chicken, Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai (my favourite!), and Banana in coconut milk.
The class had about 8 and we each had our own cooking station. Ingredients we used were bought from a local market we visited before going to the school, and some others were from the gardens in the school. The instructor was pleasant, speaks good English but a little cuckoo – she laughed hysterically at everything, literally. So much that it was kinda odd after awhile because she did seem too pleasant, bordering on crazy. But the class was fun – much better than the one being conducted next to ours that was constantly getting yelled at by tiger-lady teacher for not following instructions! We paid 1000 baht per person for a 6 course meal. Good deal because I was full way past dinner time.
We stayed at the Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa – beautiful place with very nice and warm staff. Free wifi in lobby and at the business centre. Very good in-house Spa. Grows its own rice. Daily demo of some form of artistry in the evenings. Free shuttles to the city and night markets. Highly recommended.
[First published: 5 May 2012]