Chiang Mai...
Rubbing Buddha's belly.
A monk at Doi Sathep.
Eating at Just Khao Soi.
November 9, 2006

We got in late last night. Very late. I think I was still sleeping as I got off the plane.

Today it was all about getting acquainted with a new city. Sometimes this is a bit of a daunting task. It can be frustrating not having a clue of
where you are going or what you want to do. At least I didn’t have to worry about the latter as my sister was well aware of what she wanted to
do. Our day was going to consist of a lot of Chiang Mai wats (i.e. temples).

I have to say that the wats still continue to impress me. And so do the large Buddhas. We visited several wats that were in town today and I had
fun doing things I probably shouldn’t have been: attempting to tickle Buddha’s feet, rubbing another Buddha’s belly and then reclining with
another Buddha. They were just so inviting…what can I say? The fact that nobody else was around was what really made these things tempting
to me.

In addition to the temples, there are also monks abound. I am almost becoming immune to the saffron robes. Monks look normal to me know. At
some of these temples there are also times for ‘Monk Chats’ where they will answer questions about their faith and their practices. One of the
temples (Chedi Luang) had a monk in a very monk-like meditation position in the front of the temple looking out at the people who are praying.
The only peculiar thing was that he was in a glass casing. I went up close.
Did a monk lock himself in there? Is he concentrating hard enough so
that he is not blinking right now? I think he is looking at me.
My sister assured me that he wasn't looking at me. She told me he was dead and
enbalmed. I was not having it. In my mind, he was just a master at concentration. She pointed out all of the pictures around the temple of this
same monk in the exact same position. Could he be
that good? No. He couldn't be. He was, in fact, dead.

Michelle and I hopped in the back of a truck with four other people to head up a mountain to Doi Suthep where there is a big temple complex. I
was still really tired from the night before and I fell asleep on this ride. Michelle told me I did the ‘head bob’ thing the entire time – she thought
my neck was going to break off. How embarrassing. I hate when I do that. It used to happen all the time when I would fall asleep during class in
college. This brought back those memories. Why can’t I just doze off like a normal person???

The temple up here could almost blind you when the sun reflects on all of the gold. There are monks there to throw some holy water on you. And
it is necessary to sit on your knees when you enter the smaller temples as you are never supposed to be higher than a Buddha image or a monk.
We got little white strings tied to our wrist for good luck. I was feeling good. Being given ‘good luck’ by a monk has to be a good thing, right?

For dinner we went to a restaurant that wasn’t only recommended by every guidebook; it was also recommended by my friend who just
recently visited Thailand in June with his now-wife. It was called ‘Just Khao Soy’ and only served a dish native to this city – khao soy. We were
learning by listening to the people at the table next to us (in the form of wheezing coughs) to go with the mild option. It is a form of curry soup
with noodles and fried noodles. Then little dishes are given to spice it up the way you want. There was a chili paste (Watch out! I learned that a
little goes a long way!), sugar (to cut the spice), fish sauce (similar to soy sauce), bananas (for something sweet to eat afterwards), amongst many
other things. And did I mention that a bib is worn for this meal as it is known to splatter? Very different, very fun and very good!

We ended the night at the night market where my sister was on a quest for a Buddha figurine. This was about as funny as it gets to me. We are
two sisters who grew up with more Buddhas than we can count in our home. We are two sisters that were more than happy to rid ourselves of
these Buddhas when we had to sell our house and the things in it. And now she was looking for a Buddha. Asia will do that to a person. It was the
first time that I ever detected some of my dad in my sister (as he was the one who couldn’t get enough of Buddhas - for reasons unknown to us).
And now it has rubbed off onto my sister. Awesome.

November 12, 2006

I figured that it only makes sense to get a Thai massage in every city I visit while in Thailand. It’s practically impossible not to as the prices are
just so darn cheap.

Our day started at the Lotus Day Spa. This wasn’t as nice as my little haven that we went to in Bangkok…but it would do. And then it was time
to let the Thai massage begin. Holy smokes – this was much rougher than last time…it almost hurt at times. What am I saying? It
did hurt at
times! Certain moments I felt like she was trying to stretch me out so that I would walk out being 5’5” tall. This would have been okay if it
produced those results…but I walked out still being 5’2” so I don’t know if the tugging and pulling was completely worth it. And then she was
stretching my fingers out to crack my knuckles. As I recall, I had a bad ‘cracking my knuckles’ habit as a kid that everybody warned me about to
try to scare me to stop (‘You’re going to get arthritis’, etc.). It took quite some time break this habit…and now I was paying somebody to do this
to me? So weird how that happens. There were a few times that I let out little yelps here and there. My sister was right next to me and I didn’t
hear a peep out of her. Was she this much more tolerant of pain than I was?

In the end, I felt really good. It was a bit like those workouts that you dislike while you are doing them but you know you’ll feel better at the
end? That’s how this $9 Thai massage was. And it made me feel better to find out after we left that Michelle had told her masseuse not to use
too much pressure. She was laughing about the pain inflicted on me. Very nice sister, huh?

When we were wandering the streets, we looked at different shops (at one of these I fell victim to a kick-a*s silver ring and earrings). But it was
something else that really caught my eye – the dental clinic. It was clean and the price was right. I went in to get my pearly whites just a bit
more pearly. After all, it had been almost seven months since they have received some intensive TLC.  

After relaxing a bit at our hotel and taking advantage of the nice gardens, we headed out to dinner. But the main thing on the agenda for tonight
was Chiang Mai’s Sunday Market. This really did put the other night markets to shame. Mostly we both did a lot of ‘looking’. But there was one
thing that made me stop dead in my tracks. It was a ceramic vase that was burgundy on top and a slate-color on the bottom. In the middle was a
dark brown glaze. I am not doing it any justice by my description, I know. But it was just my style. There was one that was a bit larger that I was
leaning more towards. There were also two others that were slightly different shapes and a little bit smaller. I was just thinking about getting
one…until my sister had to open her mouth. I know she is still regretting this. She said “If I didn’t have to carry them back, I would tell you to
get all three”.
Really? Hmmm…. Now I was looking at these as a set instead of just looking at the one. My sister was wondering why she had
opened her mouth. Now I could only see leaving this stall with all three. My sister reluctantly agreed. But the important part is that she agreed.
And now I have even more items for my future home. Oy…
Back to Thailand.