Chiang Mai, also spelled Chiengmai, largest city in northern Thailand and the third largest city in the nation after metropolitan Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. It is located on the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River, near the centre of a fertile intermontane basin at an elevation of 1,100 feet (335 m). It serves as the religious, economic, cultural, educational, and transportation centre for both northern Thailand and part of neighbouring Myanmar (Burma). Once the capital of an independent kingdom, the city also has strong cultural ties with Laos.

Khantoke Dinner Show

The very first ever Khantoke Dinner Show was created at the Old Chiangmai center in 1970. It was started in order to showcase traditional Northern Thailand, Lanna, culture. Many of the dances were created in the last 150 years, the most recent in 1957 but they all have their origins in traditional dance that is very much older.

In Bangkok, you are assaulted by a phenomenon that presents itself in all developing countries, the self-appointed tout. A person that gains enumeration by directing you to places you may or may not have attended to visit preferably by means of one of the innumerable Tuk-Tuks. These are the infamous three-wheeled taxis of Bangkok. While riding a bike you tend to dodge traffic, in a car you move along with the traffic, in a Tuk-Tuk you are immersed in traffic and the noise, the heat radiating from the various motors and the fumes clothe you like second-hand smoke.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Bangkok offers a number of day trips out of the city. Since this was my first trip to Thailand I decided to follow the normal tourist route so my first excursion was to the Thai Cultural Center. On this trip I experienced something that is quite common in Asia but considered an extravagance in Europe, the private tour. I was accompanied by an English speaking guide and my own driver. While this took a little getting used to it allowed me the opportunity to modify my tour to suit my needs. If I wished to extend my time at a particular location or had seen enough of the jewelry or handicrafts and wished to be off then it was easy to do. Another thing to remember on taking these organized tours you will see jewelry and handicrafts whether you want to or not. One wonders if they think all westerners cover themselves in jewelry or manage a gold horde instead of a bank account.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project based in Thailand, with locations in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, and Pattaya.

The elephant is not made for riding, its spine does not have rounded discs or plates along its length, rather these bones have a protruding shape that extends out from the spine. These protrusions cannot bear heavy loads and later in the animal’s life, these discs begin to degenerate and deform.

Thai Akha Cooking School

Akha TribeThe “Akha” people immigrated and became citizens of Thailand in the early 1900s through China, Laos, and Myanmar. There are now 80,000 Akha people living in small villages in the mountains of Thailand. Akha people have their own traditions, culture, and beliefs, different from the rest of Thailand, as many hill tribes do.

Thai Akha Kitchen is run by Akha people who were born and raised in Thailand.

We met the class at the Bumrung Buri Market where we discussed the ingredients that we would be using. We had signed up for a morning class where we will make two appetizers and deserts, three Akha dishes, one each curry dish, paste, soup and stir fry for a total of 10+1 dishes! I’ve attended cooking classes in the past and preparation and pacing are key and our class passed both tests in flying colors. If we only had kitchen helpers at home.

We all made more food than we could eat and had a scrumptious dinner at the end of our class. We were each given a beautifully printed cookbook to top off our wonderful experience.

When I hear people who complain or object to people in other countries, my first question is always “when were you last there?”. Almost always, their answer is “I’ve never been there”. It is easy to develop prejudices from afar, but it is difficult to do when you have met these people and have looked them in the eye.

Aldous Huxley

Chiang Mai Old Town

The market is located at Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi Province, about 105 km from Bangkok. According to history around 1866 King Rama IV ordered that a 32 km long canal be dug at Damnoen Saduak. This canal would connect the Mae Klong River with the Tacheen River. Today it is a prime destination for day tours out of Bangkok and like any self-respecting tourist it was on my must-see list.While it does get crowded I found it well worth the visit for the color and atmosphere.

I arrived early in the morning and took a longtail boat along the canal before reaching the site of the floating market. All along the canal there are houses, from shacks to some that were quite nice. I understand that some homes are owned by city dwellers. It seems hard to see where the property boundaries were demarcated. The sellers were still setting up shop so I was able to get some good pictures. Later I got off the boat and walked along the market stalls lining the canal and had a little to eat watching the world go by. I was approached by a group of kids practicing their English for school. While their English was very simplistic they seemed to very much enjoy their studies. Luckily there seems to be a surplus of English speaking tourists for them to practice on. I wonder what the French or more problematic the Latin students do.