Chiang Mai, Thailand

In spite of the gyrations of global financial markets, the ongoing protests in Thailand and the more localized transportation issues described earlier, I arrived in Chaing Mai only stirred, not shaken. At the bus terminal, Sarah, Kate and I met another pair of Australians who said they were staying at a place called Julie Guest House. Figuring that was as good a place to start as any, Kate began tenacious negotiations with a cab driver, eventually settling on a price of 70 Baht for the ride. Although Juile’s was pretty busy, they managed to find three beds for us. The beds were either lumpy, sagging or painfully rigid, but the atmosphere was great and the prices were low, so we settled in.

After several days sequestered below the waterline on a slow boat, we were itching to stretch our legs and get a bit of exercise. So, after checking in to the guest house, we booked a two day trekking tour that also featured some rafting and a brief (albiet kitschy) ride atop an elephant. During the trek, we met a trio of Dutch guys who were great fun and dubbed me “topper” because of my enthusiasm for brisk hiking. It was a good-natured piss taking, so I enjoyed it and played it up by running up some hills with one of the Dutch fellows who shared my affinity for exercise and who, as an avid cyclist, was in good shape.

After a few days in the jungle, we returned to Chiang Mai, where I signed up for a cooking class at the fabulous Asia Scenic cooking school. I’ve cooked Thai food many times, but it was rarely as delicious as the food I’ve eaten in Thai restaurants. No more! I have uncovered the secrets and will now be able to whip up the world’s greatest pad thai, coconut curry, fried rice and coconut sticky rice with mango. The only problem with the cooking class was that after eating all of my creations (perhaps a little less culinary zeal is in order), I could hardly move. I reclined on the floor for about an hour to let the food settle before heading out to brave the afternoon sun. The entire experience was superb and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Although I couldn’t bear to eat another bite, I was cajoled into accompanying the trio from Holland to dinner. I enjoyed their company on their final night in Chiang Mai and delighted in the splendid views from the Palaad Tawanron restaurant, nestled into the hills above Chiang Mai.

During my last couple of days in Chiang Mai, I enjoyed a traditional Thai massage (more like professional wrestling than the kind of massage I’ve had in Canada) and the chance to explore more of Chiang Mai, including its many temples. And now, it’s off to enjoy the beaches in Phuket for a few days, where I’ll reunite with a friend I met at Peter’s wedding last autumn.