Thailand’s “second city”, Chiang Mai, lies 425 miles north of Bangkok, surrounded by the Thai Highlands mountain range.    Although it’s much smaller than Bangkok, it is still quite a busy place that’s up before dawn and still going into the wee hours of the morning (at least that’s what I’m told since I’m still crashing out by 8:00 pm and waking up at 2:30 am!)  The old town is surrounded by ruins of a medieval wall built in 1296, with gates on each side.
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We stayed just northeast of the Tha Phae gate (the East gate) in one of three rooms available at the Funky Monkey guesthouse.
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Our room was basic, but clean and comfortable and run by a very nice Thai woman, Nuy and her very helpful Brit husband, David.
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Our only complaint was the lack of a coffee pot in the room.  Finding coffee, especially decent coffee in Thailand, has become a scavenger hunt of sorts.  Coffee pots in hotel rooms are also apparently not the norm.   The other minor inconvenience was that we were on the fourth floor –  and there was 56 steps to get to our room!  I don’t mind stairs but 56 is quite the workout.  Needless to say, we tried to minimize the amount of time we were in and out of our room!  I celebrated as I reached the top stair for the last time the night before we left!!!

We spent a lot of time in our section of the city, walking to markets.
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and Wats (temples),
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and chedis, which are large mound like structures that contain relics and are used for meditation.
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There are wats and chedis everywhere!  Our first night in Chiang Mai fell on the Buddhist holiday, Makha Bucha Day, and we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time to  watch a  ceremony/festival at Wat Chedi Luang, built in 1441.  It was really interesting!
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I’m not sure what the deal is with monks here, but they are seen frequently, usually without shoes on.  They said hello to us, we saw them on their cell phones and on the red cars.  Interesting.

Street food is also everywhere.  You can literally eat your way down almost any street at any time – day or night!  Last night we had pork on a stick for .28 cents, then a fresh fruit smoothie for $1.12 followed by mango sticky rice for $1.40.

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Speaking of streets…. I thought it was difficult to cross the street in Bangkok…. Until I came to Chiang Mai!  Remember the video game Frogger where you had to direct your frog across the street without getting it squashed?  Come to Chiang Mai to play the real life version!  There are not many stop lights, so there is a constant flow of traffic with almost never a break to get across.  You just step out into the street and hope they stop!
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There are tuk tuks and  ‘red cars’ (songthaews) everywhere.
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You will not having a problem getting around even without a car.  They drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road in Thailand.  I think motorbikes outnumber cars here!
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I had prearranged our two days in Chiang Mai with tours set up by our guesthouse.  Day 1 – We took a cooking class at Siam Rice cooking school.
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We had a fun group of 8 of us, 6 Americans and 2 Brits.  First we were picked up by a red car and taken to the market for a tour of the Asian produce aisle.  Check out the jellyfish mushrooms!
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Next we headed to the school and picked out our dishes we wanted to cook from the menu.
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After that – prep work.
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Then on to cooking!
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The Thai pad and mango sticky rice were my favorites.
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We made our own curry paste with a mortar and pestule.
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I’m really not a big fan of Thai food but I did enjoy the class, not to mention it provided all our meals for the day!  Our instructor, Aun, was comical and made the class fun.
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Cost $23 each for the full day class which was from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm.

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Day 2 -Happy Elephant Home tour.  We were picked up in a crappy, disgusting smelling, dirty van and driven an hour and a half up into the mountains by a Thai race car driver wannabe.  I actually broke out the motion sickness pills on the ride up!  Our group consisted of a French family, 2 Germans, a 19 year old Bolivian girl, and a 27 year old California girl.  Once there we had to put on special mahout clothes so that the elephants “could recognize us”.  At least that’s what they told us.  Aren’t they smashing!
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We got to prepare food for them – today’s meal was pumpkin and bananas cut with machetes.
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We walked them to the river and fed them along the way.  The baby elephant only eats yellow ripe bananas and you have to peel them for her.  Picky!  One of the lady elephants would not eat bananas at all.  She repeatedly spit them back out.
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At the river it was time to bathe them.
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And right after that they dryed themselves off with more dirt.  So much for that!
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And then it was back to the farm for some lunch.

The elephants are a little intimidating, especially the baby.  She is 11 months old and weighs in at 660 pounds.  She still thinks she’s small enough to play with humans and a few times we saw her swat one of the guides on the butt with her trunk, try to charge and bump at him.  She was cute but I kept my distance from her!

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It was a fun tour.  On our way back, our crappy van blew a hose and spewed antifreeze all over leading to it overheating.  This happened right before our drop off point.  We were the first to get dropped off.  I have no idea if the others made it to their points after that.  Wouldn’t you know it that I left a pair of shoes back at camp!  Thankfully they had another group to bring back to town later that day and they were able to drop off my shoes!  Cost $45 each.

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One other interesting thing we did was a fish spa. We soaked our feet in fish tanks for 30 minutes while little fish nibbled at them. I have no idea what kind of fish they were. It was weird feeling and ticklish at first but you get used to it and it actually starts to feel good.
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After 30 minutes of being fish food, you get a 30 minute foot and leg massage. All this for the low low price of $4.22 each!  Sold!

I’ve enjoyed exploring a little of Thailand’s cities but now I’m ready to wind down and relax at some of its beaches!

Up next – Koh Lanta!