Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chiang Mai: Day 2

Our second day in Chiang Mai was another remarkable day of meandering. We woke at our guesthouse called Elliebum (a recommendation from my sister) and filled our bellies with another Blue Diamond english breakfast. Once you find the breakfast club, it's tough to start your day any other way.

This Must Be the Place
Right around the corner from Elliebum is the central temple in Chiang Mai. At all hours of the day we would see couples, families, and other groups of devout Buddhists walking to the temple with armfuls of offerings. As we stepped through the gates we could hear a blend of noises; monks chanting and children laughing from inside the walls, and chainsaws buzzing and horns honking from outside the walls. Then as soon as we stepped into to the actual temple, the noise stopped and there was serene silence. The temple area was such a catholic (mind the lowercase "c") epicenter. The night before, at sundown, a carnival literally popped up out of nowhere. No joke, all of a sudden the temple grounds filled with families, vendors, games, and a ferris wheel and thousands ate and celebrated in community. Supposedly this happens every night of the week. 
Hydration Station
Anyways, after breakfast and our temple visit, we decided to get another dose of our magic mint-leaf limeade before mopeding out of town. I wish I knew the secret ingredient.

An Elephant's Bum
With helmets and sunglasses on, we took off for the Mae Rim Valley. The drive had been highly recommended and amounts to a 150km loop around rural northern Thailand. En route we saw a butterfly farm, insect zoo, waterfall park, Four Seasons Hotel, and elephant sanctuary. What a mix. We gained a significant amount of altitude and found ourselves looking down at the clouds.

Divided Sky the Wind Blows High
The landscape was dioramic. Infinite sets of layered hills with faint clouds blowing between them rolled to the horizon. For most of our journey we were running from a rainstorm that chased us out of Chiang Mai. On one long straightway through a rural village, we were rained on and drenched. No choice but to keep on driving.

A Walk in the Clouds (nod to Keanu)

We encountered a bridge with no clear destination. To the right of the bridge there was a tow cable with a huge basket attached to it that gained about 100 more feet of altitude than the other side of the bridge. Rickety is an understatement. We kept our helmets on. We encountered mushrooms growing on buffalo dung on the side of the road. If only we weren't operating heavy machinery... kidding. We're feeling experimental enough as is. Then the sun set. No time to stop for photos (this is from the bike while rounding a hairpin turn) we gotta make it home before dark. 

Helter Skelter
As we rolled back into Chiang Mai, Flor wanted to stop to load up on some Hello Kitty gear. Rock on. Y'all know how much I love clutter-mania. 

Street Food
Lastly, street food before bed. Tomorrow is a windy bus trip to the Laos border. From there we hop on a slow boat on the Mekong and spend two days floating to Luang Prabang. Life is good.