Day 3: 21 Jan. 2011
I woke up around 2am because I had to pee, and thank you jet lag, I didn’t fall back asleep. Around 05:00 I took out my earplugs, and the snoring from either Pat or Ae through the wall was earth-shaking. Poor Matt! No earplugs… I’m surprised he slept at all. Our alarm woke him shortly after, and we got up and had hot ginger drink before driving up the road a little way, where a food stalls were set up across from a Thai tourist destination: the view of sunrise over the northern mountains.
The gathering was quite sweet: a number of travelers, mostly from the south, plus local food vendors and a few pair of novice monks, offering prayer chants in exchange for a donation. Matt gave one pair a donation, and they asked him if he wanted a prayer, which Pat translated and told them no. When I laughed and said I didn’t see why not, he got quite upset… That it wasn’t our religion and if we didn’t know the culture properly we shouldn’t. To a degree, I can sympathize, but i also mentioned that I’m not a Christian either, if I turned down every well-intentioned prayer said on my behalf by christian priests and believers, I’d ruffle a lot of feathers. Besides, he didn’t ask. No reason we might NOT have been Buddhists, simply awkward with some aspects or new to it. Anyway.
We crossed the road and followed a path to watch the sunset. Many others were there with us, and we took pictures and posed with various people. One group was schoolteachers from the south, all of whom spoke passable English, so it was nice to speak with someone else for awhile.
We headed back to the hotel, where it was time for breakfast. By this point I was in dire need of coffee and grumpy. All the other guests were lined up to spoon rice-chicken soup from a large pot, but Pat insisted that we have our own private pot at a table. It arrived, along with some sweet toast, but no coffee! Finally the coffee came, and I drank 2 cups with some relief
We checked out, and it was time to go. Matt and I had a chat and decided that in order to cut the day a little shorter we’d skip some plans along the way, so the first thing we cut out was a tour of “the king’s project,” a huge organic farming project to try to teach the tribal people a different way of farming rather than opium poppies. Interesting, but we were tired and wearying of Pat’s lecturing tone.
Instead, we headed directly for the border with Myanmar, which was quite interesting. There were many soldier checkpoints, and all in all it was an interesting drive through a beautiful and rustic landscape. At the border itself was a souvenir market, a soldier camp, bunkers and razor wire. Across no man’s land we could see 2 Myanmar soldier camps as well.
In the market I went to watch an old woman weave scarves, and a younger woman grabbed me and led me to another loom, where she showed me how to do it. I did a few passes, and Matt and Pat arrived. Again, Pat seemed irritated about what I was doing. I’m not sure why. Control issues? I certainly wasn’t “taking advantage” of anyone, since I’d only gone to watch, and they also weren’t. Obviously, she wanted to sell me a scarf after, which of course I bought, but she quoted the same price Pat had earlier mentioned to expect, 100 baht, so I can’t think of anything other than perhaps he’d intended us to buy from someone else particularly, and that was no longer likely.
Next we drove to another village, where the people all wore colorful sarongs and also lived in slightly different stilt houses. I can’t remember what tribe it was, but other than the clothing, I would think it was the Akha, although perhaps I’m confusing some memories from the day before. Maybe the colorful sarongs were on the Karen people yesterday. I’m writing this a few days later, and I’m not entirely sure.
It was a strange visit. There was a school, but I could see that the children were working, so I requested that we not go in. Then 2 small boys started following us around with baskets full of bracelets to sell. We walked downhill along a dirt road where an old woman was braiding bracelets. Pat asked if we could see inside her house, a stilt house, and she didn’t mind, so we went in. We took off our shoes at the bottom of a rough ladder, and after greeting her on her terrace, we ducked inside. It was dark and cool, and the floor bowed slightly beneath our feet. There were 2 sleeping areas on each side of the house, which was quite small and open, and a cooking area in the middle. Utensils and other tools hung neatly from storage along the walls and ceiling.
Afterwards, Matt bought a large amount of bracelets from her, and also from one of the little boys, and we went back to the truck. There was a woman there, and Pat asked her something about a basket that apparently she makes. She put her other goods down with another woman, and ran off down the path, presumably to get it. Matt’s theory about Pat is that he’s a bit ADD, because before she could return, he decided we should go.
Next stop was a normal farmer’s market, a Hmong community. We had a look at the vegetables and other products, and bought some drinking spoons from a woman at the end.
On the way back towards Chiang Mai, we stopped for jujube fruits, which are like apples, but crunchier and juicier, and more uniform in size and color, bright pale green. Yum. Next to the jujube stand was a field growing very long squash. I thought they were beans, and the looked like snakes. At another spot we stopped at a place that makes bamboo sticky rice. Unfortunately, the proprietess explained that today was the workers’ day of f, so we couldn’t see it. Basically, you fill a bamboo pole with sticky rice and coconut milk, block the open end with coconut fibers, and leave it overnight. In the morning, you grill it over an open pit. Cool. Then peel back the bamboo stalk and break off sticky rice with your fingers to eat. Since she didn’t have any today, we found others for sale at another roadside stand, with a super friendly old man who thought it was hilarious to watch us eat them. 🙂
Nearer to Chiang Mai, we decided to stop to go on an elephant ride, at a place where all the mahouts own their own elephants. We paid to ride the elephant then the oxcart, and yes it was touristic, but it was also nice. It took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. When we got back, we learned that Pat had arranged something cool. He’d arranged with one of the mahouts that we could ride another elephant without a seat over to the area where the twin baby elephants and their mother were kept. Getting on was fun, riding was fun, and playing with the babies was fun. One of them liked to twine it’s trunk around my arm. It was very cool that Pat had been able to arrange that for us!
We were pretty tired after, and went first for lunch, where we had a noodle soup with pork, then to a hot springs park. They had a swimming pool, so Matt and I swam for awhile while Pat got a massage. I think Ae napped in the trunk the whole time.
That done, we arranged for them to drop us off at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, our accommodations with the chef for the next 5 days, which was total culture shock. Inside a gated community, past an equestrian center then a tennis court, we came to a huge white mansion next to a sprawling and beautiful open-air cooking school. We were met at the driveway by Jennifer, who turned out to be Sompon’s (the chef) wonderfully gracious Chinese wife. Sompon had students busy with the master class, but also popped out to greet us. Jennifer led us into the sumptuous house, upstairs to our room, and asked if we wanted to eat our “gourmet meal” (part of the stay/study package) this evening. Still shocked, we said sure and took showers. Shortly after, there was a knock on the door and Pon came in, to give us the info we would need, collect payments, and introduce himself, while taking us downstairs for dinner.
Pon is one of the main staffers here, so far as I can tell. He’s here in the mornings to help us with anything. He’s around helping everyone during the lessons as well, and even leads some lessons. He drives us into town in the evenings, picks us up whenever we’ve arranged later, and sets up anything we ask about. and he’s really really funny.
For dinner, he led us downstairs to a beautiful dining room, where Sompon served us first a pair of gorgeous appetizer’s: pineapples and oranges with a crunchy sweet gooey paste on top and crispy garlic and shallots on that, another similar with pepper leaves, which I adored. Then a tray with chicken, I think, made into meatballs (kind of), skewered on lemongrass and grilled. Then a dark red curry with beef, a spicy salad, and something else I think. Then dessert was sticky rice with mango. Good thing I was hungry, but I was still full!
I’m pretty sure I had bad sunstroke, because Matt said I was barely coherent by the time I passed out in bed.
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