UPDATE: My friends Noah and David from FindTheBest have requested I add a comment feature to my blog. I think I enabled it properly but with limited internet and a tablet I am not convinced it works. Try it out and email me if there are issues. As Noah so eloquently put it, I am giving the people what they want.
This morning I woke up before the boys and spent some time blogging, thinking, and walking a bit. I was up for a couple hours before them and it was really nice to have the morning to myself. They woke up around eight and we got the day started leisurely. It was nice to be able to relax and not feel rushed to leave at a specific time. We decided we would rent motorcycles and ride up to Doi Suthep.
We walked to get breakfast at around ten and ate and talked for a little before going to rent the bikes. I got oatmeal with mango, dragonfruit, pineapple, grapes, and apples. They also put a little bit of extra milk and some cinnamon on top. Food is a great thing.
We went to rent bikes at around eleven and decided to rent two bikes and share. I felt overly confident in my ability to rent my own bike but let’s just say its a good thing I did not. Avi and I took the two seater while Noam took the individual bike. After being on the bike with Avi for one side street it was game over. There was no way I was going to drive ten miles up a mountain on that thing with him. He drove into a street pole after 30 seconds and I was scared shitless. So, he suggested I take it for a spin around the side streets to see if I could better handle the balance and acceleration. I got on and quickly sped away to take it for a test run. Everything was going well until I crashed it into a pole (not the same pole as Avi) and fell over miserably. I turned the bike to head back and find the boys but the front of the bike was very heavy and thus I lost control, crashed, and fell with the bike on top of me. Shout out to Noah, if you’re reading this, who told me to rent bikes and drive around Chiang Mai. My leg was bleeding, my other is bruised, and my elbows are scraped up. Mostly my ego hurts but I think I can live with that. In pure Avi fashion, he had his first aid kit handy and I got cleaned up and ready to go.
We decided that Noam would drive the two person bike and Avi would ride solo. I felt very safe with Noam driving. I told the boys that I trust Noam with my safety and Avi with my health. Combined it works out very well. I rode behind Noam as we drove up the mountain to see Wat Doi Suthep and Bhubing Palace. The way up was very steep and windy and gorgeous. The amount of blind turns alone was enough to make me nervous but paired with driving on the back of a motorcycle that I had just crashed really set me back. I took a deep breath, held on tight, and we were off. Noam said my gripped decreased as time went on but riding in the open air between speeding cars is still scary to me no matter who is driving.
We stopped first at the Wat. We walked around and took pictures but there wasn’t much else to do there. We stopped in some of the shops to look around and Avi was very close to buying a sword. Noam bought some long shorts and I gawked at anything and everything with elephants.
We walked back to our bikes and went further up the mountain to the kings palace. It is where they stay in the summer months, between January and March. The palace was stunning. I am so glad we went. In Thai culture it is important to dress modestly when visiting these sites. I carry around a long tshirt dress with me just in case we ever stop somewhere like this. It is pictured below. We hqd a golf cart drive us around the palace which is about three miles all around. We got to see everything quickly and our driver was awesome. He took lots of pictures of us and they all turned out great. You can see we are fighting for the middle in some of them. The consensus is that Noam looks best in the middle but I won’t tell him because that would be admitting defeat. Noam and Avi started calling me “Lowra” while at the palace and making fun of me as I read the guide pamphlet out loud. Not sure where the nickname came from but it has stuck around, not something I love. They also are currently making quips, while back in Chiang Mai, asking me to repeat the part about the princess’s cottage. They think they are funny – and unfortunately, they are right.
We descended the mountain on the motorbikes and headed back into town. On our way down the already beautiful mountain we saw about 100 young buddhist monks hiking up the mountain. It appeared to be a pilgrimage of sorts and it was absolutely stunning. Imagine a long road covered in overgrown deep green trees, overlooking a large metropolitan city, and 100 children with shaved heads dressed in bright orange robes ascending toward a national monument. The symbolism was unreal. I am in love with Chiang Mai and I think I could spend weeks here just walking around, sitting in coffee shops, and talking with travelers. I am enchanted by this place in every way, shape, and form.
Once at our hotel we started looking into places to stay in Pai. We decided we would wake up tomorrow and take a bus north to Pai. Avi does all of the booking because he has some specifications about cleanliness. I don’t want to stay in a dump but I also hate researching and deciding between places. I just sign my portion of the check and I more than trust Avi to hook it up with legitimate places to sleep.
When we got back to town I ordered a red tilapia from a restaurant down the street. They grill the fishes whole on a barbeque outside and a wandering traveler recommended we try it. It did not dissapoint. The food here has been incredible. Avi likes to constantly remind me that I am American except he doesn’t quite phrase it in that way. He says, “you are definitely not Persian.” A true statement which I am happy to accept (although I am learning to count to ten in farsi… Yek, Do, something, Char…). When eating the fish I suppose it is true that I ate it like an American. I eat the meat mostly, not the skin, and I pick around a lot – plus I’m scared of the bones. Avi went to town on my scraps of the tilapia all the while reminding me that I am not Middle Eastern. Either way I am glad we both got to eat before heading out to Friday night services.
We thought it would be nice to go to chabad in Chiang Mai for dinner. There is something I love about being anywhere in the world and being able to find a community to daven kabbalat shabbat with. Judaism captivates me in that way and I don’t think I would trade that feeling for anything. I would not consider myself to be particularly religious but, I love knowing that a little piece of home is just down the street no matter where I go. I will write more about chabad, the night bazaar, and our excursion with some Manchester folk later. For now, stay classy and insert other cliche sign off here.