Chiang Mai means New City, it was new at one time but is over 700 years old now. The old inner city was one square mile with a brick wall all the way around and a 50ft. wide moat on the outside. The moat is still there but only small portions of the wall are still standing. It is the Capitol of the North and the second largest city, the largest, and the Capitol is Bangkok which by comparison is only 200 years old. Surrounded by mountains, Chiang Mai sits in the valley and has a warm climate all year round. At this time of the year (February) and lasting a couple of months, it is very hazy and hard to even see the mountains because of all the burning done both here and in the north. It all settles in the valley but after the rains come it clears up.
From a lake up in the foothills of the mountain there have been canals built to water the valley. They all flow slowly down to the river at the opposite side of the city. It is from these canals that the people get the water to plant the rice paddies which they flood. Rice needs lots of water to sprout and then it grows up like wheat, with the rice at the top. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of water here. Often along the side of the road, especially in the villages, on a tiny slice of dirt between the road and the canal there are gardens planted. The one lane roads twist and turn and meander along with the little makeshift houses all along the sides, when another car comes you have to almost stop to make it by each other. You need a compass to find your way out!
Yesterday we went to a huge 5 story mall in the city. At the entrance set up to one side were chairs to get a foot massage and behind them just on a mat on the ground by the wall people were getting full body massages, all for $5 for an hour. Lots of customers too! The entire top floor of the mall is dedicated to entertainment, 7 cinemas, large bowling alley, karaoke, an arcade, video games and tattoo parlour! This is where the kids hung out for a couple hours at the bowling alley while I looked around the mall. Saw a beautiful pair of leather shoes for $20 but they don’t carry anything past a size 7!
For dinner we went to a buffet, but unlike any buffet I’ve ever seen. Under a huge tent there were rough wooden and metal tables with plastic chairs enough for about 2500 people! I counted down and across to see because I just couldn’t believe the size of this place. It looked like a revival tent except with tables. Each table had a little Hot Pot BBQ on it and the idea is pick out your vegetables and meat and cook it yourself at your table. Stretched across the middle were pans and pans of raw meat, chicken, a variety of processed meats and every kind of seafood imaginable. There were sauces, hot and cold drinks and veggies that you put into little plastic baskets. Some cooked rice and noodles and a variety of stew like mixtures, fruit and bite size deserts. A sight to behold! No one is sick today, a miracle – with all that raw meat just sitting out!
Just up from the house is an area where they sell everything made from wood, mainly teak. This is a lovely hard wood that is extremely heavy. Beautiful furniture is made from it as well as solid pedestals for glass tables and many different decorative pieces. Amazing life size horses and elephants are created from scraps of leftover wood. There is also a little shop that creates works of art from discarded car and bicycle parts, nuts and bolts and any scrap pieces of metal. Full size horses, elephants, motorcycles and warriors all out of what we would consider useless material. Purses are made from the husks of coconuts or the tabs from aluminum cans. The city garbage cans are made out of old tires that look like an old pot with a lid. I’d say Thailand recycles!
Today I’m sitting in the beautiful golf club house, sipping on a pineapple shake, looking out on the meticulously manicured course dotted with Palm trees. The guys are all at the driving range and I am writing. So relaxing! This golf course is part of the gated community that Danny lives in. The community is huge with several different neighbourhoods included. There is a nice swimming pool, several little stores, a few restaurants, message and beauty parlours, garbage pick up, security that patrols the area, and a free shuttle to and from the entrance all for a very low strata fee. Your money goes a long way here.