An April 1998 trip
to Chiang Mai by onequest
Quote: My mother and I visited Thailand on a culinary tour with Tommy Tang. We stayed at 4 and 5 star hotels, learned the finer points of Thai cooking, and shopped at the local markets. Here, I will present our first stop - Chiang Mai.
Next, we journeyed to a working elephant training camp, to learn how these beasts of burden are herded, domesticated, and put to work in the forest. Please visit my second journal to learn more about this experience.
Finally, we went to the night market, where we picked up many trinkets and treasures. You will learn more about this in my third journal entry.
If you travel to places that Thai Airlines travels, take the plane. The airfare is a bargain and you will save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent viewing rice fields and termite mounds.
Hotel | "Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel"
Our luggage was whisked to our rooms, while we were being formally checked in. Within 20 minutes, we were in our large, air-conditioned room. The entire resort could rate 4 stars on the American scale.
While at the hotel, we enjoyed a 1 1/2 hour, in-room Thai massage for under $20 per person. If you don’t mind being climbed on and contorted, this form of massage is rejuvenating.
The hotel is located in the Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Complex, the largest and most complete Shopping arcade in Thailand''s northern region. Since my mother and I are shopping fanatics, we visited the mall before dinner. To get to the mall from the hotel, we walked down a long hallway along the beautifully landscaped gardens. The indoor mall is air-conditioned and very clean. Imagine an American mall, then change the small central shop carts to full sized, open stores, and you would see a Thai shopping mall. Don’t wait until you get to Bangkok for your shopping! The prices were better in Chiang Mai. Two-piece batik outfits went for $6. Underwear and bras were $1 each, and they were practically giving the shoes away. The prices at the mall were similar to the night market, but bargaining at the mall is frowned upon, whereas at the night market, it was expected.
The hotel has 2 Thai restaurants, a coffee shop, bar, nightclub, and karaoke lounge. There is also a fitness and aerobic center, sauna, gym, tennis courts, game room, and large swimming pool.
Throughout our stay, the hotel offered daily entertainment in the form of traditional Thai dancers. These graceful women were dressed in traditional costumes and entranced the audience in the lobby. While we saw many different performances, the dancers at this hotel were the most graceful and professional.
When I visit Chiang Mai again, I will stay at this hotel. Why mess with perfection?
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 1, 2001
Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew
21 HUAY KAEW ROAD
Chiang Mai, Thailand 50200
Attraction | "Wat Doi Suthep and the hill tribes"
Of all the Thai temples, for me, Wat Doi Suthep seemed the most spiritual and authentic. Maybe it was the altitude, but I felt that I was walking through the threshold to heaven.
At the temple, we sat in front of a large Buddha, and had our fortunes told by shaking a container full of Joss sticks (I Ching) until one fell out. We then asked our guide to read it for us. Fortune telling is an important part of Eastern religions and should be respected. I am happy to say that my somewhat negative prediction did not come true.
Wat Doi Suthep can be called a golden Pagoda. It is one of the most photographed temples in Thailand. For me, this temple was far more beautiful than the Palace in Bangkok, because it was less ornate and in a much more beautiful area.
Outside of the temple, we visited an outside market. There is a great jade factory there, so don’t miss it. The prices may seem to be higher, but the quality of the stones is also better than what you normally find in the states.
After leaving the temple, we boarded a traditional pick-up truck style bus and headed up a dirt road to a hill tribe village. These buses are literally small pick up trucks with benches on the sides, and the only air conditioning is natural, hot air. Boy, I wish the truck had better shock absorbers!
Along the way to the town, we drove through small streams and saw quite a few small forest fires. By the time that we arrived, we were covered in dust, hot, and miserable. Fortunately, someone thought ahead, and we had ice cold drinks waiting for us.
The tribes people were dressed in traditional clothing, and living in traditional homes. These people were very open with their hospitality and one of the families invited us into their home. The small home was built out of wood and had a dirt floor. All of their possessions hung on the walls. A large fire pit used for cooking graced the center of the room. After spending my entire life in the comfort of the United States, it was a shock to see that people still lived this way.
Pigs joyfully ran through the streets and the children played throughout the town. The women set up a group of tables and sold their handcrafted items. This tribe was noted for their embroidery and cloth work. While I felt like an invader to this tribe’s privacy, I am glad that I had the experience.
Hill tribes and temples – that is what makes up Chiang Mai.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Doi Suthep Temple)
Chiang Mai, Thailand 50300
We started our adventure by climbing up a platform, so that we could easily mount the elephant. A capable handler was aboard the elephant’s head, and kept control of the beast at all times. The ride took us through the light bamboo jungle. Most of the time, the animal walked through the soft mud of a small creek.
Our guide explained to us that by walking in the cool creek waters, the elephant was staying cool and not taxing its joints. Along the way, it continually pulled at the bright green bamboo leaves with its enormous trunk. About ½ hour into our journey, we stopped at a banana vendor to give our ride a treat. It lifted its trunk and grabbed the bananas from us very gently.
When we finished our ride, we tipped the handler, and boarded an oxcard for a ride back to the training grounds. The oxcart ride was uneventful, but much more comfortable than walking back in the sweltering heat and humidity.
We attended the elephant training camp show, where animals of all ages showed us how they lifted and pulled large teak logs, the way it is still done in parts of Southeast Asia. Elephants are generally very bright. Full-grown elephants are said to have the IQ of an 8 year old child. These animals and their trainers also become very attached to one another. At the better elephant camps, each trainer stays with an individual elephant throughout its working life. It is said that when the trainers die, the elephants also die of sadness.
After the show, the elephants headed off for their baths in the river. They seemed to enjoy this activity even more than eating the bananas! During the rides and the show, it was obvious that the elephant was serving the trainer. However, during the bath, the roles were reversed, and the trainer was serving the elephant, by scrubbing its back and head, washing it thoroughly.
For the end of our adventure, we took a simple bamboo raft through the creek, to our bus. I would have enjoyed it more if the ride was a bit shorter and if it wasn’t so hot and humid that day.
If you are unable to make it to the Mae Ta Marn elephant camp, I recommend that you still get to know these interesting creatures during your trip to Thailand. If you choose to ride an elephant, be sure that the path is along soft dirt or silt, because walking on cement hurts their legs and feet.
The vendors at the bazaar were mostly young women. They generally spoke some English, and were not pushy. They seemed to enjoy bargaining as much as we did. We ended up with our arms loaded with our treasures. I purchased a large wood and wire-stringed floor guitar from a Hill Tribesman for under $6. The two piece cotton batik outfits were about $6 after some bargaining, and beautiful wood barrettes were $1 each.
One word of warning. One of our group went to the market on the next night. Her purse was slashed by a pickpocket. I recommend that rather than carrying a purse, use one of the bags that go around your neck and under your clothes. That way, you won’t be a ‘mark.’
Around midnight, we decided to go back to our hotel. We hired a tuk-tuk and were back to our hotel within 10 minutes. If you are willing to risk life and limb, try the tuk-tuk. Otherwise, I recommend the truck-style taxis. The taxis take a bit longer, but you’ll probably arrive to your destination in one piece.
Finally, with a full stomach and a full suitcase, we went to sleep and had shopping dreams. If you are in Chiang Mai, DON’T MISS THE NIGHT MARKET!