Bye Bye, Chiang Mai

January 9, 2009 - 9:15 am No Comments

Our last full day in Chiang Mai consisted of an elephant show (funny), an elephant ride trough the jungle (bumpy), an ox cart ride (very bumpy), and bamboo rafting (called “lafting” by Peter) at Maetaman Elephant Camp. Laughs all around when, while on our elephant ride, the animal in front of us dropped about 50 pounds of shit into the river and I said, in perfect Thai, “arroy ma,” meaning “very delicious.”

After each activity, the only way out was through a cluster of souvenir stands, all selling the same crap as each other and what we saw at the Night Market the evening before. Like I saw in Peru, I think all the “authentic,” hand-made souvenirs sold by street vendors are mass-produced in a factory somewhere and then sprinkled all around town. Someone is making a killing.

Elephant Rider

Elephant Painting

Elephant Bum

Doug & Jeff on an Elephant

Elephant Pisses

Doug & Jeff on the Bamboo Raft

We also went to a monkey show and stopped at the unimpressive palace belonging to Thailand’s last princess.

Monkey Doing Push-ups

Monkey in a Cage

Our last activity of the day was a stop at the traditional village of the Padong people, also known as the “long-necks.” The women in this tribe have a growing number of metal rings placed around their necks as they get older, elongating them and making them more “beautiful.” I was pretty excited about this stop, hoping to get some National Geographic-like pictures. Instead, the whole experience was depressing and awkward.

Padong Girl

Padong Woman

Padong Children

As we followed the main path through the village, long-neck women sat in front of souvenir stands, each one selling the same crap. None were smiling, all looked depressed. They chatted and giggled amongst each other, but when a tourist came near, they would stop talking, turn towards the street, and do something “traditional,” like fidget with a loom, play a strange musical instrument, or hold their baby close and look all poor and hungry. Since we paid a fee before entering the village, Peter encouraged us to take all the pictures we wanted, but it didn’t feel right. On the one hand, these people were on display like zoo animals, and on the other, their existence was not at all authentic. I got some shots, but I have mixed feelings about them.

Padong Woman

Padong Girl

Padong Girls

Padong Girl

Rice Paddies of Baan Tong Luang

Padong Man

Padong Woman & Baby


Between destinations, Peter got into the habit of making unplanned stops at places where he surely received kickbacks: a jade factory, a celadon ceramics factory, a carpet manufacturer. After suggesting additional stops at a lacquerware factory and a silk manufacturer, we got tired of his shenanigans and politely declined.

Before leaving Peter, we had a quick snack with him at noodle place on the corner. I had the most wonderful dessert, called something like “tap tin krop.” Coconut milk with red jelly things and noodly things in it, topped with crushed ice. Very delicious and refreshing.

Last night, we went to our favorite hangout (Riverside Bar) to see our favorite band (The Bugs). They played U2 for me and, knowing it was our last night in Chiang Mai, posed for some pictures with us.

The Riverside

Us & The Bug

We enjoyed Chiang Mai, finding it to be a little more genuine than Bangkok. You have the same kinds of people trying to take advantage of the tourists (tuk-tuk drivers, tour leaders, street vendors), but there are fewer of them and they are less aggressive.

The most stress-relieving news of the moment is that the rest of the flights for our trip are booked. Took a bit of back and forth with the airlines, airports, and Internet fare searching, but it’s done. Tomorrow, we’re off to Luang Prabang (LOO-ONG-PRAH-BANG), a small, highly recommended town in Laos (rhymes with HOUSE). We’ll be there a couple of days before heading off to Siem Reap (pronounced SEE-EM-REE-UP by the Thais but SIM-REEP by the Cambodians, I would later learn), location of the enormous temple and photographer’s paradise known as Angkor Wat.

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