OK, it has been a few days since I posted. Maybe because I could refer to the time as dazes instead of days.
Chiang Mai is both a place to stay really busy, and a place to chill and read books. Either way it is a very comfortable and hospitable city. The people are so friendly one begins to wonder if it is all phony. I mean how many times can you get greeted with a smile and a peaceful hand gesture before you start to think it is a plot to make you give up your western vibe and just ooze into this culture with a simplistic smile on your face. I mean take a look at the guy in this picture. We all know him from home, wherever home may be, but his time in Chiang Mai has changed him.
I seriously doubt this is what Ray Croc had in mind!
As I have explained to you intrepid readers, I came here for dental work. I found a world class dentist (UCLA trained) with very modern equipment. He has finished the first phase of the work, but now I have to wait 3 months for my mouth to heel. This was not in my plans. It means I have to come back to CM in November. Which is just fine. The second phase will be followed by a third in February. I should get some frequent flyer miles out of this as well as a new mouth. All this compliments of my wonderful wife. As a friend of mine told me, I married well.
So no more time in the dentist chair. What to do? There are a half dozen excellent used paper back bookstores in town, but heck, I can read anywhere. So I decided to start playing tourist. After all, I am a tourist. I hate to call myself one, but that is what I is. So be one.
One of the “tours” a person can take here, one of many, is to go see the handicraft factories. They are just outside of CM proper. Maybe someday I will find a way to go into the hills and really see the indigenous making crap for us tourists to buy. But for now I went on a tour where they have brought in closer to town factories that make everything from Teak furniture, to leather coats, to lacquer knick knacks, umbrellas and my favorite, the silk farm.
I have become enamored with silk. I always liked it as a fabric, and here it is cheaper than polyester in Pittsburgh. I learned a thing or two about it. Did you know one cocoon gives 500 meters of silk thread? I played around with the silk as it came out of the cocoon, and I was surprised at how strong it is. Here are few shots of the worms and their product.
I had seen a few ads for the gem factory. This place is huge. They have workers making jewelry from jade, gold and silver. How huge is it? The showroom floor was half the size of a US Football field, no kidding. It had some extremely expensive items. I looked at a string of pearls for Mary Ann, and almost gagged at the price tag. They were cultured fresh water pearls, not as nice as the natural pearls from the Arabian Gulf, so of course I passed. As an aside here, tourism is really slow right now. So I had my own sales person who followed me around and laughed at my reaction to the prices. But it was an excellent experience that started at the front door with this reception committee.
I then moved onto the umbrella factory. Hand crafted and hand painted umbrellas are a common thing here. I live in the desert, and have no need for an umbrella of any size, but it was an interesting place to see.
Now, to the coolest trip I took this week. The Tiger Kingdom. Located 10 Km north of CM, this attraction has about 25 tigers from kittens to full grown guys. They are as tame as a tiger can be I guess. I mean they let dumb tourists like me pet them and play with the kittens. I do not know if they are drugged, some people here claim they are. Tiger Kingdom claims because they are raised in captivity, they are not afraid of humans. That, and they feed them well. All I know is it was fun. I made a connection with the big guy, his name was Meatball. There was one called Sticky Rice and another called Spicy Soup. Full grown they eat 4 kilos of chickens every day. They have room to roam ( a bit anyway) and ponds to swim in. In the wild they catch fish. I do not think any of these guys were ever wild, they breed their stock. The handlers treat them well from what I saw and develop a relationship with them. I wanted to take one home, they would not let me.
Now what? next week I am taking a five day cooking class. I’ll learn how to make everything from sauces to fish ball soup. Maybe I’ll find out which fish have balls!
Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.