Chiang Mai has been a perfect start to the trip! After going to dinner and out with some very new friends on Thursday night, I woke up at 6am on Friday (thanks jetlag!) to plan my next 2 days in Chiang Mai. Fortunately, my hostel had a full-time travel agent on staff who was able to help me plan some fun things.
I spent Friday morning exploring the area. After shopping for a bit and trying to talk myself out of buying items to add to my already heavy backpack, I wandered past Wat Bupparam on Tha Pae Road (a wat is a temple!). I walked through the gates to check it out, and noticed a monk doing his chants in a small side temple on the complex. I took my shoes off and stood outside, not wanting to interrupt but curious all the same. He looked up from his pages, smiled, and waved me in. I sat with him as he finished his chants. I couldn’t help but feel very humbled as I sat with him–just the 2 of us in the temple. I was not planning to take a picture, as I assumed this would be disrespectful. However, after he finished his chant, he gestured for me to take a picture. I asked/gestured to see if he was sure this was ok, and he smiled and nodded his head. So here’s my monk friend…I am so grateful that he made me feel so welcome, even though I was clearly very awkward and lost!
After more wandering around, I then spent the afternoon at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (you can read about that here).
Saturday morning, I headed to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep with one of my Canadian friends from Thursday. The trip to the wat took about 30 minutes in a songthaew (a taxi where you sit in the back of a pick-up truck!) and the ride was a very steep uphill climb. Once there, we trekked 300 steps to reach the wat, removed our shoes and explored the temple. It had an amazing view of Chiang Mai!
After visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, we took a cruise of the Ping River to a small farm down the river. The other two people in our boat happened to be Bible translators. I learned that over 1,500 of the 6,000 spoken languages in the world have no written form.Their work is to visit remote villages in areas of the world where there is no written alphabet and work with the people there to use an international phonetic alphabet to create a written language. They then translate the Bible, as well as information regarding best agricultural practices and healthcare that can be helpful to the community. At the farm, we visited the various crops and had a delicious lunch of lemongrass juice, longan juice, tamarind juice, and fruit before cruising back to Chiang Mai.
Above: U.S embassy in Thailand, black chickens, and a man fishing
After relaxing back at the pool at the hostel for a bit, I went to a cooking class with Mam at We Cook. After visiting an open air market to buy ingredients, we headed back to Mam’s house, where she taught us all about Thai cooking. Mam is absolutely fabulous…I learned a lot about strong flavor groups and balancing sweet, salty, hot, and mild flavors. The class was full of several other solo travelers, and by the end of the 5 hour class, we were all good friends after laughing at each other for 5 hours. I made spring rolls, green curry, tom yam soup, pad thai, and sticky rice with mango. Yum yum!
Tomorrow, I say goodbye to Chiang Mai. It is such a special place, and I’m happy it was my very first stop for the summer!