Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thailand 2015 Day 3 and 4!

We woke up to a smoke filled sky in Chiang Mai. It was still super, super hot. We planned to head into the city and walk around.

But first a bit of breakfast.

The breakfast area was open air and overlooking the beautiful pool area of the hotel. The spread was gigantic and delicious.

Does it get any better looking than that?!

A quick swim and game of safety ball (basketball using lifesaving rings as hoops) before heading out.

These cute little guys hang out by the pool every day...

The pool was lovely, but cool. Not so bad, since it was boiling hot outside.

There were a lot of hours logged in the water.

One last pet for the hotel dog, named "Do-Mi (?)" which means black dog. She was hit by a car outside the hotel and they brought her in and fixed her up. She's lovely (and fortunate).

The city of Chiang Mai is walled by an old wall (destroyed by the Japanese during WWII and rebuilt in the 60s) and a moat. Inside the wall is old. Really, really old. There are dozens of wats in a very small area. Each one with a different focus or story.

They are each spectacular in their own ways. Quiet, peaceful places.

The sun was setting in the background, casting a golden light over everything.

I'm not totally sure what the deal is with this guy, but it looks like you make an offering and get a piece of gold leaf, which you then rub on...he was shiny.

One place was gigantic, ancient (like 1400s!) and teak. It was gorgeous.

The light was so beautiful.

I don't totally understand what this is...but it looked really old. Apparently there was a special ceremony the next morning where they were shaving the heads of 200 young monks (around 12 or 13) as they committed themselves to Buddhism. We didn't come back to see it, but I would have been interested to see it.

We took a tuk tuk to the Riverside restaurant, a huge place overlooking the river with seating for a billion people. There was a live band playing (with mixed results) and a very festive atmosphere.

The food was a good break for the kids. They had Western food for a change.

By the time we left, there was a little crowd outside trying to get in. Home to bed for us, though.

The next morning, we bolstered ourselves with another delicious breakfast and then we had planned to have Mr. Lucky (the very entrepreneurial taxi driver who had a "shop" across the street from our hotel...named Mr. Lucky because he won the lottery, which allowed him to buy two nice vans, a red truck taxi and build a house...pretty lucky) drive us around the area for the day.

Our first stop was Eagle Track zip lines. Can you tell Finny was keen?

We had done zip lines once in Mexico without the kids and we both thought they would love it, so it was nice to be able to do this one all together.

We took a pick up truck to the top of the course.

Our guides rode on the back. Eric was eying up the equipment. He has a fair bit of experience with high-angle stuff from the firehall.

One girl who was not concerned at all with safety details is Finny. She was raring to go.

She got herself to the front of the line and stayed there for the rest of the experience, until right before the last element. No fear.

I wasn't sure what to expect with Molly. She wasn't shy about it at all, though. She was a little more cautious than her brother and sister, maybe, but she didn't hesitate.

And's hard to know with him. He was really worried about taking the riverboat ride. He was concerned that the water was choppy and he didn't think the boat looked safe. I was a bit nervous that he might be scared. NOT AT ALL. He was the surprise. He was truly fearless. Who knew?

The views were spectacular.

And the zip lines were fast. A little too fast, maybe. They gave us a "brake" and told us we had to use it on all the lines, or we wouldn't have time to stop. The "brake" was a piece of bamboo. That we had to hook on the line and drag. THAT. IS. LOW. TECH.

Eric eyed the bamboo and I could read his mind. That thing was bunk. And you probably didn't really need it.

Except you did. Quite a bit. Or else you could use the trees...

What, you ask? Oh, there were quite a few trees on the course. Eric found out the hard way when he ran into one on the second line. Um, medic? I guess they are used to shorter legs on the course.

He got a bit more serious about the brake after turns out he wasn't all that impressed with the way they were using the gear. But thankfully he only told me waaaaay later.

The guides were really lovely and great with the kids. We only had eight in our group and were on the course all alone (except for one group that "played through" near the end).

There were a bunch of different elements, like zig zag bridges and cargo nets. And...absailing spots. Which was a little unnerving. It's just a straight drop. There were two of them. The first was 15m. The second (and final component) was 45m. Gulp.

None of the zip lines scared me at all. The last drop, though...different story. This picture of us is right before the last drop. I am terrified.

That's the look down....I never saw that. I didn't look down.

When they asked for a volunteer to go first, Lukey jumped quickly. Huh? Like I said, fearless.

Down he goes. Can you see the little man waaaaaaaay down there? And he's smiling?!

Finny next. And she's smiling, too? What the?! What's wrong with these kids?

Okay, fine, Eric is experienced. He can smile.

Wait, even Molly is smiling. And looking relaxed.

Dad and I were left up there. I knew he wasn't looking forward to it, but even he manages a pretty sincere looking grin.

I was up there alone. And the guide said that since I was last, I got a different set up...the rope was behind me. Nothing to hold onto. Hey, I squeaked out a {fake} smile too...

I never did look down.

The next picture is more how I really felt inside. Eric took that right by the bottom. I was for real scared. (Also, I can't believe I included this picture...but hey, in the name of blogging accuracy...)

My heart was still pounding when we took this picture. I was just glad to be alive. It was great fun, though.

I was most impressed with the kids' bravery. I was least impressed with poor Eric's injuries (there was another one on his hand when he didn't stop fast enough).

And it was great to be out in the countryside around Chiang Mai. There was lots to see.

Here's a map of our course:

Mr. Lucky took us around to a few more places, including a silk factory.

It was actually really cool to see the traditional method of making silk thread. These worms in cocoons were boiling, which meant you could pull fibres off and make a very sturdy thread.

It amazes me how far removed we are from understanding some of the most basic processes that would have been life necessities not that long ago.

Just weaving cloth looks incredibly complicated. We take a lot for granted.

Our last stop was a local hot spring. It is a government park, so it was primarily Thais there.

There was a (very) hot steam running through the whole park and people sat alongside and soaked their feet.

They also sold baskets of eggs (regular big chicken ones and small quail ones). You drop the eggs in the baskets into the hot water and wait while they cook.

Instructions for eggs:

Here are the egg baskets cooking:

And some monks. Because they are everywhere.

It was a lovely garden, but you clearly see the smoke in the air. The air quality was pretty poor, really.

The kids and Eric went swimming in the mineral baths. Molly, as usual, panicked about whether to put her hair up or get it wet...this picture was taken mid-panic:

There were some tourists from somewhere who really wanted pictures with the kids. It was pretty funny. They were mystified.

And we took some frozen things to go...Lukey enjoyed his Coronetto so much that he rubbed it pretty much all over his face!

That night Eric and I took the hotel shuttle into the night market. The night markets were really incredible. Instead of the usual junk you see at most, we were really impressed with the level of craftsmanship available. We picked up a few things, Eric got two custom shirts made (and delivered to Bangkok airport) and we also set up a small business opportunity for Finny with some little hair clips we bought. More on that later.

Lastly, we had foot massages on the side of the market street. Leather chairs and amazing half-hour foot massages for 80 baht each (about $3). Bliss.

Here was our view from the massage chair (you can see our feet at the bottom):