Monday, May 3, 2010
I can't believe this is the first post I've actually written about my trip! Really it's because mostly what I've been doing since I landed is shop for work, which wouldn't have made a very fascinating post. But by way of consolation, here are some photos from Chiang Mai's Flower Market and parasol and fan artisans over at nearby Bo Sang village.
I've had a good day, actually. I arrived on the night train from Bangkok, which would be a comfortable journey in a proper bed (not just a reclining seat), only the tropical obsession with aircon results in a cooling system that attempts to out-arctic Lapland in January. It wouldn't be so bad, except there is no thermostat; cool air is simply pumped into the carriage regardless of the ambient temperature. So although when I boarded at 7pm the temperature was thoroughy pleasant, by midnight there was a distinct chill, and by 9 the next morning it had reached a degree of refridgeration that made an ice bucket look cosy. On top of that, the lights in the carriage are not extinguished, but left blazing in all their fluorescent glory throughout the night, and a curtain suspended by three or four hooks does little to shut out the light. All the same, I did manage to get some rest at least. Though I'm bracing myself for the same on the return journey (the upper berths are slightly cheaper, but the lower berths always sell out first).
I found a guest house (the same one as I stayed in last time I was in Chiang Mai - they have a desk at the train station). After checking in etc. I got some tom yum chicken soup at a roadside eatery, then wandered towards the river. The streets on the way were lined with motorbike showrooms, motorbike repair shops, hardware stores and plywood furniture warehouses. At one of these last I was very tempted to buy for my nephew Teddy a miniature desk printed with the Thai and Roman alphabets, and matching toddler-size chair with two rabbits cheerfully exclaiming "We have funny!".
I dawdled about the flower market for a while taking pictures - it always makes me so happy to be surrounded by mountains of colourful orchids, roses and marigolds! The air is perfumed with jasmine, and is cooled as it moves over the beds of crushed ice that the garlands are laid out on. These, with the sculpted lotus flowers wrapped in leaves are to be offered at the city's many many Buddhist temples, shrines and miscellaneous sacred spots.
From the flower market I took a songtaew - which is basically a pick-up truck with two benches and a roof bolted on - out to Bo Sang village to see the traditional craft of parasol making. It all feels a bit staged, but it's enjoyable to watch the process of making saa (mulberry) paper, the handle and spokes being cut from bamboo, and the frames assembled, covered, painted and lacquered.
And then I took another songtaew back into town, where I cruised the garment district (coincidentally right behind the flower market) and bought a bundle of cute fabrics for super cheap! A good day indeed.