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Chiang Mai
Old 04-22-2005, 11:50 AM   #1
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Chiang Mai

Spouse and I are leaving Tuesday (26 April) for a couple weeks.

We're working through Nancy Chandler's map and of course my wife has a shopping list. Just about every horizontal surface of the house is supporting a tchotchke but since she's taken over the dusting I can't complain!

Aside from shopping-- any other suggestions on what to see or where to eat?
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-22-2005, 01:56 PM   #2
 
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Re: Chiang Mai

I just finished a month tramping around Thailand and southern Burma/Myanmar. *In retrospect, if I knew an Early Retirement would be offered by my employer, I wouldn't have wasted all the annual leave and cashed out instead. *However, as someone wiser than I counseled, "if you hadn't taken the time off and seen the other side, would you have taken the early retirement option?" *

But I digress...

The crafts in Chiang Mai are outstanding and very reasonably priced. *But you've already zeroed in on that. *Nancy Chandler's map will lead you to all the must sees, including the night market and a zillion temples. *There's a sizeable industry centered around tours which include a visit to an upcountry native village, river float, and elephant ride. *It all seemed a little bit cheezy to us so we opted against it, though almost everyone says that the surrounding countryside is spectacular. *It's hot there, but you know that. *I don't do heat well, and adopted a daily "siesta" (or at least air-conditioned guest house room) mid-day break, with all activities occuring either morning or evening.

I can't think of any "must-sees" off the top of my head. *It's a large city, but without the skyscrapers and concrete and pollution of most east asian cities. *The food in Thailand is excellent, everywhere, so I have no great tips. *It's the only third world country where I feel comfortable eating from street stalls/carts. *

$.40 beer, $1.50 meal, a chance to soak in all the sounds and smells and life, what's not to like? *(I'm envious)
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-23-2005, 10:56 AM   #3
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Re: Chiang Mai

Quote:
Just about every horizontal surface of the house is supporting a tchotchke but since she's taken over the dusting I can't complain!
Once upon a time I was advised that dusting would become one of my duties. Shortly thereafter I was outside on the rear deck using a gas blower to clear out some leaves. A thought involving the blower and the whole house fan to remove dust from hard to reach places inside the house occurred to me.

Worked well and solved a number of problems as it turned out.
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-23-2005, 12:01 PM   #4
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Re: Chiang Mai

Quote:
Worked well and solved a number of problems as it turned out.
I bet the #1 problem it solved is that you weren't tasked with dusting duty any more...
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-23-2005, 02:52 PM   #5
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Re: Chiang Mai

You are very, very astute my friend
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-23-2005, 04:23 PM   #6
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Re: Chiang Mai

That chili was really good he said, astutely.

JG
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-26-2005, 09:14 PM   #7
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Re: Chiang Mai

Quote:
There's a sizeable industry centered around tours which include a visit to an upcountry native village, river float, and elephant ride. It all seemed a little bit cheezy to us so we opted against it, though almost everyone says that the surrounding countryside is spectacular. I)
\
Nords,
We went on that day- tour out of Chiang Mai about 15 years ago, saw the village (some of our group peeled off for some opium smoking so be aware) and the natives with the beetle nut red lips (look great from a distance but disgusting close up), but we still talk about the elephant ride. I don't know -- it wasn't commercial at the time and riding the elephant (an hour in, an hour out), with the little pickaxe thing to get him to go right and left etc was really fun. Their hair up on top of the head is like wire bristles, sticking into your leg, so try to wear something tough or stuff a magazine down your pants leg!

To get us up there (I think) and various other places that day, we rented an english speaking driver all day for $30 -- probably those prices are long gone, but we liked that bit of indulgence -- rental car would have cost the same amount, and the driver told us lots of useful stuff.

Beware the guys trying to sell you gems up there -- they'll seem ridiculously cheap and if you are as clueless as we were, you may end up buying glass or imperfectly cut and therefor damaged gems (like we did).


Have fun.
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-27-2005, 01:57 AM   #8
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Re: Chiang Mai

Being a bit of a Thailand fan I say: enjoy the sounds/smells/food - sit at a street cafe and watch people - interact a bit with the locals - take TIME to relax and observe. The Thais do not rush quite like we do - especially outside Bangkok, we could learn a lot there. Cheers!
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-27-2005, 01:38 PM   #9
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Re: Chiang Mai

Nords:

Were are you staying when you get there?

Ian
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 04-27-2005, 02:07 PM   #10
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Re: Chiang Mai

Hi Ben,

Are you living in Thailand full time?
Would you mind sharing what part of Thailand you are living in?

MJ
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 05-02-2005, 01:22 AM   #11
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Re: Chiang Mai

I'm browsing a couple threads (sipping bandwidth through a Chiang Mai straw) while spouse checks her e-mail.* This Internet cafe is a nice deal at $1.50/hour but it's also eating into our massage time!

Dory, I'm glad I missed the board conversion.* I'm sure it's still dragging you through a knothole but it looks great.* Thanks for preserving the history, and this must be a labor of love...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShokWaveRider
Nords: Were are you staying when you get there?* Ian
We're at the Central Duangtawan Hotel in "downtown" Chiang Mai.* (It's Thailand's second-largest city but that's more like going from Honolulu to Waialua.)* It's about $40/night at the group rate (spouse is working a five-day conference) which Lance & Ben will confirm is horribly overpriced to us gullible farangs.* But all the conferees can huddle together, breakfast & fruit baskets are included, and we don't have to walk more than a half-mile in any direction for just about anything.* Thai hotels tend to spend 90% of their construction funds on the lobby (like the Air Force builds their golf courses) and the rooms are, uh, drab.* But when we're in the room we're not admiring the decor or the amenities.

Chiang Mai seems a lot slower, quieter, calmer, and better than Bangkok.* Street vendors are also much less aggressive and some people seem happy to practice their English on us instead of trying to take us to "sexy places, sah!"* But 7-11, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and even (*choke*) Starbucks have taken over.* Resistance was futile.

Luckily you can still find khao soi dinner & mango sticky rice desserts-- total cost about $1.50.*

The local temple tour is good but if you've seen one temple...* The gem factory looks like it was air-dropped from Bangkok and it reminds me way too much of real work.* The village silk factory is even scarier.* Prime Minister Thaksin's anti-drug campaign killed over 2500 dealers last year (both the number and their actual occupations are still the subject of much controversy) so if there's any recreational pharmaceuticals around here I haven't smelled or seen them.* 45-minute foot massages are plentiful at 100 baht (~40 B/$) and I got the martial-arts special.* Exotic food of all kinds is everywhere and all lunches/dinners have been outdoor affairs for under 100B/person.* (Stick with bottled water or unopened alcoholic beverages.)* Pirated media & software are still plentiful & cheap.* I was able to find boxing gloves for our dojang's kickboxing class (at half of Hawaii prices) but computer hardware is no longer a good deal.* I'm also assured by numerous street vendors that they provide many fine wrist watches, jewelry, & leather wallets.* Spouse is about one more gimme away from buying 50 sq ft of wood-carved panels for our house's few remaining vacant walls.* It's not "if" she spends her paycheck, only "when" and how difficult it is to arrange shipping...

Jet lag sucks. I do not recommend the eight-hour flight to Narita with a six-hour layover followed by a seven-hour flight to an overnight Bangkok stop and (finally) a one-hour connection to Chiang Mai.

One of the conference attendees insists that he looked out his airplane window at night on the Vietnam-Laos border to witness an artillery duel. He's in a position to recognize one (although he usually experienced them from below instead of in the air) but it doesn't seem to have been deemed worthy of reporting in the English-language newspapers. South Thailand is still experiencing civil unrest (the PM does not appear to play well with the Muslim voting demographic) and it is not advisable to drive the "superhighway" between Bangkok & Chiang Mai. But I think we're ready to start Thai language classes and when we're empty-nesters we'll try an extended visit.

OK, spouse says we gotta go enhance our knowledge of local exotic massage techniques.* I may check back before the 10th but otherwise "sawadee"...
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 05-02-2005, 07:31 AM   #12
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Re: Chiang Mai

Nords,

There is a nice market by "Tapae" Gate, one of the gates to the old city. Sometimes there is also a street market opposite Tapae gate. You may want to visit Soi Dutep (spelling?) supposedly one of the better temples in Thailand.

BKK is hot as H***; hope CM is a little cooler 8)

Lance
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Chiang Mai trip report
Old 05-09-2005, 12:03 PM   #13
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Chiang Mai trip report

Well, we're back. (My jet-lagged circadian rhythm is still somewhere on the wrong side of the dateline.) Have I mentioned lately that jet lag really sucks?

Chiang Mai is a much smaller city than Bangkok, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But you can feel that you've seen it all within two weeks and after that Chiang Mai is probably better as a launch pad for day trips to surrounding towns. It seems like a great place to rent an apartment for a few months and to try to blend in with the local community while taking immersion language classes (hands-on cooking classes!) or doing volunteer work. Tourism is Thailand's top industry (it's #2 or #3 in Hawaii). Your new neighbors would love to practice their English while showing you how they live. Every Thai we met was very happy to explain the country and their culture because they feel sorry for us materialistic Americans.

This week's exchange rate was about 40 baht/$. The average unskilled Thai laborer earns about 200 baht/day. Although the streets may be strewn with garbage, during our walks we didn't find a single coin (in Hawaii we pick up as much as 15 cents/day).

Here's some recommendations:
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple (30 baht by itself or part of a full day's 400-baht shopping tour).
Shopping the Night Bazaar, Chiang Inn Plaza, & Chiang Mai Pavilion.
Kalare & Anusarn Market food courts. Complete meals are 20-100 baht.
Morning market around Thapae Inter Bazaar (good fruit & fish/meat). Bananas & mandarin oranges are 15-20 baht/kilo.
Click & Drink Internet café near Central Duangtawan Hotel (1 baht/min).
Panthip Plaza's computer hardware & cell phone stores.
Khum Khantoke restaurant. Open-air pavilion with banquet-style dining for 200 (tables seat 6-8). Thai dancers & musicians present one-hour show of northern-style dances & music. Evening includes parking-lot fireworks and fire-balloon launches. 250 baht/person.
If you must, Burger King's 7-baht ice cream cones.
We were told that Starbucks sells a Thai version of something called a frappacino. Apparently it's hypercaffeinated & yummy.
Expensive Western-style hotels include Central Duangtawan, Lotus, Orchid, & Royal Princess. Duangtawan was 2000 baht/night. Terhorsts & Akaishas know better apartments, or you could start at one of these and hunt for cheaper places.
Good massage parlors are 50-100 baht for 30 minutes. They're on every block so find one you like and then build a relationship with the staff.
Taxis are expensive (150 baht for a 10-minute trip) but air-conditioned. Try the baht buses for cheaper (but open-air) transportation. Prices vary with distance or you could rent one for a personalized tour.

The good thing about tours is that they're guided. You can't learn all the interesting things about a temple without a guide because there's very little documentation and few (if any) signs. The guide will tell you how that temple's history fits into culture, and they'll talk about the lifestyles of the monks or how Thai people make the temples part of the community. They'll tell the stories of the tapestries or explain how people donate bells to the temple. You can watch people do their rites (offerings to monks or ringing the bells) while the guide explains their meaning. You'll never figure that out on your own.

The not-so-good thing about the tours is that they make their money by taking you to businesses that pay kickbacks for customers. The temple tour usually takes you to a buffet lunch (~200 baht, they choose the restaurant) and a "shopping trip". This begins at the local gem factory, where you seem to be very politely confined for 45 minutes or a 30,000 baht purchase (whichever comes first). Any of the sales staff in any Thai gem factory would eat Donald Trump & apprentices for lunch. One clue that you're a hot prospect is when they offer you refreshments right on top of the jewelry display counter (while you're discussing prices). If they refill your beverage without asking then you're just not bargaining hard enough. Serious negotiators probably have to walk away at least once to bring the price down, but good guidebooks will explain the details of the complicated process of Thai bargaining. (You relate the purchase to your family, and you impress & entertain the sellers with your patience and your presentation skills. It's not the same as negotiating in South America or Europe or the Middle East.)

Despite the relentless sales pressure, the shopping tour is a good opportunity to watch the sweatshops (especially if you can show your kids the working conditions). Crafting jewelry is tedious, eye-straining, cramped, hot work. I enjoyed watching the silk-weaving process—from silkworms to finished bolts all in the same room—but again the workers do everything by hand for $5/day. (It would be a big surprise to these people that Jacquard looms have been controlled by punchcards for over two centuries.) The best way to handle the shopping tours is to read up on the things you might want to buy. Learn about the differences in style & quality and what prices to expect. Then make a list and stick to it. If you show your list to the sales staff, they'll stop wasting your (their) time and give you a good price. If you're not buying then watch the workers until the bus is leaving.

The restaurant dancers were great. Lots of locals go there and it was packed. The music is live (not recorded) and the dancers mix with the audience. (One monkey dancer was always followed by a troop of admiring kids and all the dancers posed for photos.) It was all the fun (and good food) of a Hawaii luau for about one-tenth the price.

I'd never seen a fire balloon launching. The "balloon" is a thin bamboo hoop about three feet across supporting a four-foot rice-paper bag. It's all very light and airtight. A small fuel-soaked punk is tied to the hoop under the bag and lit to heat the bag's air. When its hot air pulls it up, you let it go! (I'd hate to live downwind of this restaurant.) The balloons easily attained 1000 feet and several miles before we lost track. It was a calm night and presumably they quietly burn out and drop to the ground without fireball incidents. ("Hello, State Farm? I'd like to file a claim on my burning roof!")

Hey, Dory & BMJ, thanks again for all the board work. I'm sure glad I was in Thailand while it happened!

Now if you'll excuse me all, I have a lot of reading to do before I flush out a backlog of new posts...
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Re: Chiang Mai
Old 06-18-2005, 08:50 AM   #14
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Re: Chiang Mai

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/19/tr...html?th&emc=th

Apparently even Chiang Mai is sucumbing to tourist dollars:

Chiang Mai, a Hippie Hideaway, Goes Upscale
By MATT GROSS

AFTER two rounds of sunset cocktails at a quiet bar outside Chiang Mai, my friends and I were eager to explore the placid rural vista we'd been gazing upon all evening: Below us was a rice paddy that led down to a sprawling pond, beyond which lay a stand of tall red-flowering trees through which we could see the twinkling lights of traditional northern Thai houses. But as we got up and made for the little wooden walkway that led across the water, a waitress deftly blocked us. It might be better if we came back tomorrow, she suggested. We asked why.

After conferring with a colleague, the waitress returned with a simple answer: "Snakes."

We decided it might be better to wait for daylight.

Had this been a bar deep in the mountains of northern Thailand, we might not have been so unnerved, but this was no jungle watering hole. We were at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi, a $100 million resort just 15 minutes from the center of Chiang Mai, a city of 265,000 that is Thailand's second largest after Bangkok. At the Dhara Devi's front gate, we had boarded electric golf carts and been whisked through a 60-acre fantasy of a northern Thai, or Lanna, royal city - complete with a down-to-the-scrollwork re-creation of Myanmar's Mandalay Palace (it houses the spa) - to the Champagne Bar, where we were the only patrons on this low-season Tuesday. At a hotel where the cheapest of the 144 guest rooms and villas goes for $295 (a special opening rate through September), we had not expected snakes.

But perhaps we should have, for if the Dhara Devi is intended to be a microcosm of northern Thailand, then it should surely share the same virtues and faults - proximity to the natural world, dependence on urban artifice - of its model, the city and province of Chiang Mai. Founded in 1296 as the seat of the Lanna empire, which stretched into Thailand from southern China through Burma and Laos, Chiang Mai has for the last few decades been a hippie hideaway, a place where those who couldn't take the hustle-and-bustle of Bangkok or the sex-soaked southern beach scene came to chill out, study Buddhism in the local temples, or wats, and head into the surrounding wilderness in search of elephant camps, hill tribes and a more "authentic" Thai experience.

Cut..brevity....Article ends talking about Chiang Rai......

As Chiang Mai grows into its modern identity, intrepid tour operators and hoteliers are already looking for the next untouched mountain paradise. The Four Seasons has found it 125 miles to the north, in Chiang Rai, where early next year the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is expected to open on the border with Myanmar and Laos, a region more famous for opium- and arms-smuggling than for tourist resorts.

"Chiang Rai still has a certain charm and innocence that Chiang Mai doesn't have," says Jason Friedman, the camp's general manager. "It's a quiet, provincial capital. Very, very culturally intact."

Lots more to the article, but you get the gist.
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