Ahhh...relaxed and kicking back in Chiangmai

Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
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25
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Trip End Apr 25, 2005


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Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy New Year!

We hope that everyone enjoyed their Christmas Holiday.

I started this travelpod entry prior to the great tsunami. It quickly put a damper on our mood and gave us pause to think of how very lucky we are. I can't imagine the devastation that we have been watching on CNN. As for Chiangmai, life is normal here and the only possible evidence is an influx of people, but we are not sure if this is normal for New Years.

By the way, CNN shows different news depending on the continent. For example they had a good African version, and now we have been watching their weak Asia version, so I am not sure that we are seeing more or less of the details than you are getting. This also goes for the BBC, which we love to watch and now wish we could get at home. The news reporting from BBC is very eye opening! Unfortunately we have not had access to that in Asia either.

Regarding world politics, we get a chance to look at ourselves (the US) from the worlds perspective, and believe me it opens your eyes. We are becoming more and more aware that our government is isolating us from the rest of the world. Most news regarding the US is delivered in a negative light, for right or wrong, that has got to where on our reputation in the world. I guess we will see how it all pans out over the next years. Not only does the EU appear to be becoming more powerful economically, but the Asian countries are also working on putting together their own alliance. The world is developing at a break necked pace so we'll see where that leaves us in the end. The world is barking at our heels.

We received our box of travel books for East Asia from our lovely son, John. In it was the best gift ever, pictures of our new grandson Ty! He is so cute! We can't wait to meet him.

A side note and speaking of the word lovely; We have learned on this trip that the English language isn't really English as we know it depending on your geographic perspective. A few of the many observations are; In the UK everything is "lovely", everyone makes fun of how we use a long "a" sound for banana and tomato, and when you speak to a Scot you don't understand a word that they said, but it must be really funny because they are smiling and laughing the whole time (a lot like Don). Another important lessen is that we are not the center of the universe and that our way isn't the only and correct way. Oh, and Californians have an accent. Wow, amazing isn't it?

Chiangmai is a lot like hanging out in Santa Cruz 40 years ago, minus the beach and the hippies. Lots of little bars, cafes, and shops line the streets. Lots of art shops, garment factories, furniture and antique shops. There is no shortage of a wide variety of foods, massage options, and nice places to stay. Tourists from all over the world seem to choose to make this a holiday destination. And there is no mystery about it, it is clean, cheap and there is plenty to do here.

Every tourist town tries to figure out how to keep visitors there for just a few more days. They have figured out how to do just that here. We could stay busy for a full three weeks doing day trips and day or evening classes. I took 2 days of Thai cooking instruction, and one evening in a drawing workshop. Don spent a day carving stone, and we both spent an evening learning to carve veggies. If we spent all of our time in classes though, we wouldn't have time for massages, foot massages, or facial. Remember, I told you that I was hoping our next entry would be boring? Are you bored yet?

There are people from all over the world here and we have even seen and talked to a few Americans. By the way, we are not Americans, because so is everyone from North or South America. We are from the "States" or so I was told by a Canadian.

Thailand is a Buddhist country. We have decided that we like the Buddhist vibes the best. The people are very gentle and generally happy and helpful. They are incredibly hard workers and work long hours with a smile. It is rather funny when the tuk tuk drivers give you a price that is too high and you call them on it, they laugh too, then say OK to your price. I was told by someone when I commented that they worked so hard that you must work hard to have a happy life. What a perspective.

A tuk tuk is a three wheeled motorcycle that is covered but not enclosed, and they are the most popular way to get around for the tourists. You can go anywhere in the city for about a dollar. The Thai's all move around the city in these small pickups that are covered and have benches in the back and a platform hanging off the rear bumper. I swear they can carry at least twenty people.

The economy seems very healthy here as indicated by lots of new cars and nice homes. They are putting in subdivisions that are very similar to the US. Two story, 2000 sq ft homes all decked out with the latest modern amenities. Of course there are people living at both ends of the spectrum. Debt is really the only way that developing countries can pull away from third world status. It is really obvious when you are seeing it first hand. Even peoples attitudes seem to be improved when they can see their lives changing for the better.

What we really are learning to love about some of the Buddhists is that they believe that every living thing has a spirit, and that even includes rocks. Also everything in nature is art, or art and beauty can be seen in everything natural. It is such a respectful concept. You see people meditating by trees, in front of rocks, and seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. That doesn't mean they still don't have their temples or Wat, but they seem to kneel down wherever it strikes them.

In every country that we have been, religion is such a huge part of daily life and there are signs of worship everywhere. Katmandu and Thailand being the most obvious. Most of the sites besides the scenery are based on historical religious sites. Here the temples are incredibly elaborate with tons of gold and mirrors and are on every block. They are really quite beautiful in a Las Vegas sort of way. You could say that Don and I are almost "templed out" by now and are starting to be more selective, you know, it has to be more than 500 years old, have a giant Buddha, a laying down Buddha, or something like that.

We took a flight to the Sukhothai Historical Park to see ruins of the ancient capital of Thailand built in the 13th to the 15th century. It is set in a beautiful fertile valley south of Changmai. We rented bicycles and it was relaxing to ride around their 5 sq meter park like grounds amongst the wats and temples with Buddha looking down around every corner.

We are hooked on Rotees. They are a very thin tortilla type pancake that they fill with banana, fold up and grill, then cover with icing and chocolate syrup. Yummy. Well so much for loosing weight. We are starting to really like Thai food too, but one chili per dish is the maximum. Don says they really know how to bar-b-que here!

We are pretty rested up and ready for some more adventure and some quality beach time. We think we want some soft adventure though. Don tells me we are on the downhill slide. The problem is that the really neat stuff to see is not so easy to get to around here. We'll see how soft our adventure is in Laos and Cambodia. Then back to Thailand to the Islands of Ko Chang, Ko Samui, and Ko Tao, then on to Singapor.

Thanks to everyone for their concern for our safety. We are sorry for worrying everyone! We are being very careful.

Love to all of you and happy new year,

Don and Jo
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