Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quintessentially Thai

Since Chiang Mai is a cultural center of Thailand, we have not had any difficulty finding interesting activities.

1. Traditional: Thai massage

We met a Thai woman at a local cafe who swears by the older Thai massage ladies who work at a nearby temple. Thai massage is all over Chiang Mai, and it's cheap, but the quality varies widely. Going to a temple and getting Thai massage from the massage schools there is the best way to find an authentic, high-quality massage. Dana and I met up with our Thai friend, who took us to the temple for a 2-hour massage in the morning. Amazing.

2. Not-so-traditional: White water rafting on the Ping River

A local adventure outfitter picked us up from our guesthouse, and drove us 80km away to a section of the Ping River with class III and IV rapids. Amazing. It reminded me of rafting on the McKenzie River in Oregon, except on the Ping River we saw elephants, jungle foliage, and local farmers. Absolutely beautiful (and thrilling!)

3. Traditional: Muay Thai

Dana and I ran into a Polish expat at a local cafe who makes a living as a boxer, but he also trains in Muay Thai. He told us about a local gym that has afternoon training sessions that we could attend. For about $7, Dana and I had a 2-hour long Muay Thai lesson with our own instructors. We were surrounded by Thai fighters and other expats training for competition or for fun. Some of the boxers at our gym fight professionally. The gym owner runs another business as well: cockfighting. During our lessons, roosters were constantly crowing. When I took a water break, I saw one of the instructors grab a bird, forcing its mouth open, and pouring food down its throat. Doesn't get much more real than that. The Muay Thai lesson was incredible though - it was really fun and challenging. Afterward we were instructed to do agility drills like jumping over large tires for "five thousand minutes". I'm still not really sure if the agility instructor was joking or if he got his English mixed up, but it sure felt like five thousand minutes.

From Karen - Chiang Mai

Never been so sweaty in my entire life.

4. Not-so-traditional: Quiz night at the local British pub

Near our guesthouse, Dana and I kept seeing signs for a Thursday night quiz competition. We walked in and were able to join a team of 4 other young travelers - a Canadian, an American, a Brit, and a Scot. Although most of the other teams were comprised of 60-something expats, we came in a decent 4th place despite a fair amount of questions referring to things that happened in the 1960s and 70s, well before any of us were born. It was really fun although I think Dana and I kind of scared our other teammates with our random knowledge. Apparently the word "quorum" and the capital of North Korea (Pyongyang) are not common knowlege for people in their early 20s.

From Karen - Chiang Mai

5. Traditional: Being blessed by a Buddhist monk at Doi Suthep

From Karen - Chiang Mai

Definitely a highlight of the trip so far.

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