Monday, August 27, 2012

From Dubai to Chiang Mai: One Last Eid Trip

Almost all of our friends and family now know that Matt and I are plotting our move back to US this Fall.  For us that means a lot of things to look forward to, and of course, plenty of things to miss.  One of our most favorite times of year (although it does change with the sighting of the moon) is the Eid al Fitr holiday which marks of the end of Ramadan.  An annual 'Eid trip' is a hallmark of time in Dubai and in the past we've been fortunate to travel to some great places.  As this Eid approached and the list of things to do for our pending move grew longer, we thought that we might just have to stay in town for this final Eid.  Prices were up, time was low, and there was just too much to do.

Then it struck.  That nagging, stir crazy, cabin feverish feeling of missing out on an opportunity to see another side of the world.  Matt caught me casually (furiously) perusing TripAdvisor and I caught him logging into his Skywards miles and studying a world map.  I mean, what were we going to do, look at each other for the next 4 days?  There were elephants to ride, tigers to play with and rain forests to hike!  Thus our trip (all planned in the preceding 48 hours) to Chiang Mai, Thailand was born.

For those of you following our adventures for the last five years you know we have a problem sitting still.  How could we not end on a high note?  This will mark our fourth trip to Thailand in four years, and what started as a first date is clearly now a full blown love affair.  We are hopelessly in love with Thailand.

First stop, play with some baby tigers!

These tigers are rescued from abusive domestic situations where they were bought as exotic pets for some clearly crazy owners.  The sad truth is that it means of course that they don't get to fully indulge in their wild ways.  I must say however, it was a fascinating and once in a lifetime experience to see this stunning creatures up close.  They are spectacular looking, and I have nothing but respect for their sheer size and power.
Hanging out with the Buddha at Wat Phra Singh.  One of Chiang Mai's most famous temples. 
The temples are in the lanna architectural style, which is characterized by the sweeping upturned roof.  Today, what we now term as the ‘Lanna’ rule refers chiefly to the period AD 1259-1558 when northern Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular asserted itself as a centre of arts, culture and architecture - similar to the Italian city of Florence during the Renaissance - during an almost identical period of history.  

Wat Chedi Luang was started in the 14th century, when King Saen Muang Ma planned to bury the ashes of his father there. After 10 years of building time it was left unfinished, later to be continued after the death of the king by his widow.  It was then 82 m high and had a base diameter of 54 m, at that time the largest building of all Lanna. In 1468, theEmerald Buddha was installed in the eastern niche. In 1545, the upper 30 m of the structure collapsed after an earthquake, and shortly thereafter, in 1551, the Emerald Buddha was moved to Luang Prabang.
The beautiful Wat Doi Suthep is found on the top of a mountain overlooking all of Chaing Mai and it makes for some great views.  Learn more about the legend of the white elephant here.

Matt received a blessing by one of the Theravada Buddhist monks.
The Chaing Mai zoo held other adventures, like the chance to hand feed a hippo!  (A hungry, hungry hippo?)  And the opportunity to see fields of orchids who simply have no problem proliferating in the climate.  I've been trying to get the one on my table to re-bloom for a year!

A visit to a local market is always top on our list and the fantastic produce here didn't disappoint.  Neither did the delicious lemon grass smoked pork sausage we nabbed and noshed for breakfast!

Then there were the a protein only mean I hear they are South Beach Diet friendly ladies!

For another first we took the chance to zip line through the rain forest.  If you've never done it I can't recommend it enough.  Soaring through the jungle on a wire was an incredible feeling!  I was a bit nervous at first but I was clearly hitting my stride after a few glides.  The experience is called Flight of the Gibbon in reference to the way a gibbon would swing through the tree tops.
And wouldn't you know we ran into this baby gibbon during our travels.
The Baan Chang Elephant Park is a visit that I will not soon forget.  This wonderful organization buys mistreated working elephants and gives them a life in 'retirement' allowing us to bath and exercise with them.  There is a long history of domesticated working elephants in Thailand though to number about 20,000.  Not all are mistreated but many are ill cared for and worked to death.  In many cities in Thailand they actually roam the streets begging for a meal since they are unable to return to the wild.  This park is doing some incredible work in giving them a second life.
You haven't lived until you've been 'kissed' by an elephant!

Matt's a 'mahout' for the day.
A private joke!
Bathing beauty!  My little girl was just 6 years old and was born to her mother in the park (she was rescued pregnant).  She loved the water!
You can't escape Thailand without a few delicious meals, so we decided to try our hand at learning how to make a few of the specialties.
We made some great curries and pad thai, but the drunken noodles preparation definitely was highlight of the instruction.  If you can't take the heat, then...
Can you believe all of this....
...turns into this!  I have a new found respect for home made curry paste.

Speaking of culinary highlights, one of favorite new snacks was a spiral cut potato on a skewer.  Simple and delicious. 

Oh and did I mention the bug buffet?

It's clear that no matter how you whet your appetite Thailand will always make for a satisfying trip!

1 comment:

jimdad said...

Well done - all that exercising with animals and watching you cook caused some serious hunger pangs... which you totally cured them with the final two photos.