Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Thailand
Today is a very special day, our wake up call is at 5.00 am, but we went to bed very early. We will be driven to a residential area; where the purpose is to give alms to the monks. Our guide will set up small chairs for us ( that is the ones who decided to get up at 5 in the morning ). We all were given bowl of fresh sticky rice. All of sudden hundreds of monks dressed in red with their large bowls walk barefoot towards us. We had to wash our hand before, need to take our shoes and hat off and we give them a small portion of sticky rice. They are not allowed to make eye contact with us. The young monks wear the red garment over one shoulder only, the older one have both shoulders covered and the leaders have their entire upper body covered. It was a very moving sight! The object is by giving, you achieve Nirvana much sooner. That sounds really good to me! Then we walked to their morning market. ( very similar to our farmers market but with a twist). All greens are set on a table cloth on the street, they sell ducks , snakes, birds, chicken all alive, Mekong fish in the open air, with bugs flying everywhere. That is how people in Laos shop for most of their food. There are a few corner markets, but they are intent on preserving their old traditions. It’s something to be admired! In Luang Prabang, you see very few cars, everyone gets around in a scooter or a Tuk Tuk, ( a three wheel motorized vehicle). There is nothing American like McDonalds or 7eleven. You definitely feel like you’re traveling to a foreign land. From the hotel to the streets, the Lao people are soft spoken, kind and eager to please, I am thrilled to have sampled this country. I found this town, our hotel and their people quite enchanting! We go back to the hotel to get ready for our Lao Airline flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our guide prepares all the transfers for us for a smooth departure. I really enjoyed Yae’s ( our guide) company. He shared his life story with me, all of 27 years. I can say it’s an extraordinary life, one where his parents gave up everything for his education ( he became an attorney, which he realized did not pay that well in a communist country) and his travails to finally be a international guide for Worldspree, and now giving back to his family. For us Americans, we would not understand how becoming a international guide might be so difficult for someone living in a 3rd world country. Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, I was struck by how how much of it is westernized; large freeways, lots of cars, lots of American large stores. We were immediately driven to to the most sacred Wat temple up a windy jungle type of a road at 3500 above sea level. It was built in the 14th century and considered the holiest of the Lord Buddha. Great views of the city, reminded me of being at Yamashiro up in Hollywood! The Buddhas and the pagoda were encrusted in gold. Inside the temple there were many large painting depicting the jungle life of a Buddha. After this, I think I have seen enough temples for this trip! We then are driven to our hotel called the Siripanna villa resort. It’s an oasis in the middle of a dilapidated area. It has a beautiful pool and a very large Indonesian style lobby. After one hour, we had to leave for a Northern Thai dinner and hill tribe dance show. It was sweet show, but most of us couldn’t wait to sleep since it was way past our bedtime and we had gotten up so early, So far I feel like I’ve been gone so long and it’s only 8 days. These itineraries are jammed packed.