Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SE Asia day 4-Chiang Mai Day 2: we came here to shop?

For our first full day in Chiang Mai, we chose to hire a guide to show us the sites of the city by bicycle. There really are no large "comfort bikes" to fit Drew in this town, but he made do.

Our first city site was Pratu Chang Gate. Chiang Mai was surrounded by a wall and a moat to keep out invaders in the turbulent past. Thailand has only been the country it is today since 1934 (?). This gate in the wall was traditionally where the army would depart for war. They would return through another gate. Superstitions.


The moat today doesn't look like it would keep out any bad guys, but it sure didn't look inviting to swim in either.


Our next stop was the humongous Muang Samut market. There were probably about 12 streets or more just like this, with vendors lining each side selling all manner of food. The general public shops here for food, but also all the restaurants. We saw few tourists.


Our guide, Palm, pointed out various herbs and their medicinal properties, 6 different kinds of ginger, funny wrinkled limes, many differnt kinds of fruit and vegetable, many of which were familiar but also many new ones. He showed us that Thais eat lots of different parts of plants, including rose leaves and banana tree shoots.

And of course, there were chili peppers! Although, most of the food here has been only mildly spicy.
Lots of rice noodles.


And then there were the meats and fish. Here, live fish are transferred to a holding bucket to be sold as is.


There were piles and piles of meat just sitting out, unrefrigerated. They had some small propeller contraptions to sort of keep the flies away, but sometimes it wasn't doing much good. And of course, there were the "specialty meats". They eat many parts of the pig.
And, apparently, frogs.
I ate some fresh pineapple and friend bananas instead before traveling on.
We noticed this scooter looked a little rough - understandable when it has 20,000 or so miles on it

our next stop was the street market in Chinatown. Chinese New Year started yesterday so there was a stage and speakers and the Lion dancers were getting set to perform.

We walked around this huge market for a while. This is more geared to the public, and so there are many non-food stalls and shops as well as many types of food, if you are adventurous. Here were fried crickets, large and small, fried silk worms, fried ant larve, and fried cicada. Personally, I thought the fresh ant larve in the lower right of the photo on the banana peel looked the most appetizing. I did not try any though.
This stand was also selling some delectable items.
eel, fish, baby turtle, and baby birds. All so fresh they were squirming. Yum. That was making me hungry, so we got some street food. Palm advised me many foreigners enjoy this stew.

It had black tofu (thank god it wasn't some other gelatinous mystery mass), pork, and veggies. It was supposed to be spicy,but I had to add more chilies. It was ok, but not delicious. Drew wanted no part of it.

Enough markets and shopping for now. Wats were on our agenda. Palm took us to 3 of the city's 400 wats. There is pretty much a wat on every block of the city. A wat is complex of structures for Buddist worship. it ususaly consists of the chedi, also called stuppa or pagoda, which is where the diety is housed, the viharn, or temple, where you go inside to worship, and a school for monks. The first wat we saw was Wat Chedi Luang.
The chedi, below, is very huge and dates back to 1441. It was partially destroyed by either an earthquake or war. No one knows.
The temple was not the most ornate one we saw, at least from from the outside.


But Inside this temple, was very ornate. Many Buddhas.


As this was a holiday weekend and also this Wat is a major tourist attraction, there were tourists like us as well as Buddhists inside.

The dress code for women is no bare knees and modest top, so I had to wrap up with a loner shawl.


Our next visit was to a relatively new wat, Wat Phan Tao. This one is very picturesque and unique in that the temple is made entirely of teak wood, some of it salvaged from a palace, joined without metal fasteners.





The last Wat we visited was Wat Phra Singh, a very large and important Wat with a huge Buddha figure.



The banners hanging above our heads contained money, thought to bring good luck to your marriage.


Also Inside the temple is a resin statue of a very venerable monk. It totally fooled me!

The nagas, or mythical snake dragon creatures, guard the entrance from evil spirits.

At this Wat, there were two viharns. The one in the pictures below was much smaller, but also very beautiful.
The chedi at this Wat is a very large white structure.

We were mostly templed out by the end of only 3 wats. I would not have been able to see all 397 more.

We said goodbye to our guide and went out to get some lunch, stopping through the Wat adjacent to our hotel, Wat Lam Chang. Its chedi was in much need of repair.


This one was off the tourist track, so I felt it was safe for my little traveling good luck buddy, Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, to come out and have some fun of his own.

It was about this time that I hit a wall. I thought a little cup of joe would pick me up,

But it didn't. I made it through watching Drew eat a very raw omelet for lunch (i was still full from adventure eating) before I drug myself back to the hotel for a 4 hour nap!

By the time we roused, it was dinner time, so we found some pad Thai before rounding out the day with even more shopping! It was time for Sunday walking street. Every Sunday, independant merchants set up a HUGE street market. If I had any room whatsoever in my backpack and wasn't planning on hoofing it around SE Asia for the next 3weeks, I would have all my Christmas shopping done. There were some really neat items for sale. As it turned out, we only bought a $5 necklace and a $10 pig figurine for our pigs-from-our-travels collection.


We were both very tired of shopping by the end of the night and well deserving of some tasty street waffles.


Chiang Mai day 2 complete.


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