Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas Break, Part II

Drinking some tea after getting my $6 massage!
A memorial set up for the Princess, in Chiang Mai's main square.
Inside a wat, looking at the Buddha.

I flew back to Korea on Dec. 31st, arriving on the 1st at around 5:00 pm. I made it back to my apartment, spent less than 24 hours there, and then went back to the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok. I got to Bangkok at about 1:00 am, spent the night in the airport hotel, and then flew to Chiang Mai the next day. This was my 2nd visit to SE Asia. About 10 years ago, I went on a trip with Linfield to SE Asia and absolutely loved it. I was curious to see if SE Asia was as different and interesting as I remembered it being and it is! Chiang Mai is a city with a bunch of backpackers and a really cool vibe. A couple hours after arriving at my hotel, I was getting a Thai massage and getting ready to go out for Mexican food! The massage was an hour long and cost about $6! It’s amazing how much easier it is to travel in Thailand than it is in Korea. There’s just a lot more English and international food. I’m not a huge meat eater and there are very few vegetarian options in Korea, but there are a ton in Thailand. After dinner, I wandered around Chiang Mai with Heather and Chandler, two SIS teachers, and we found the Night Market. If you need anything knock off, Thailand is a great country to visit! You can get backpacks, shoes, clothes, electronics, anything you want with the label you want at a fraction of the actual price! Thai silk is also a big thing and I got some nice things there.

The next day, I went to get a facial ($15, as opposed to $60 or $70 in the US) and then went to the Blue Diamond restaurant for lunch. This is an amazing restaurant with a 20 page menu and a ton of vegetarian and organic options. They even have 2 full pages of avocado dishes, which made my day! Avocado is crazy expensive in Korea, so I don’t really buy it here.

After lunch, Heather and I went on the Lonely Planet walking tour of Chiang Mai. We got to see some wats (Buddhist temples), monks, a museum on the history of Chiang Mai, and some Mormon missionaries! After the walking tour, we went for a swim in the hotel pool and then out to another great dinner before hitting the night market one last time.

It was an interesting time to be in Thailand because the Princess (the King’s sister) died the day we got there. Thais love their royal family (hence the fact that it’s illegal to have the movie, The King and I in Thailand…they think it’s unfavorable to that king) and the government had proclaimed 15 days of official mourning for her, including asking Thais to wear black. I have to admit that I didn’t see a whole lot of black, but there were pictures of the Princess all over the place. Also, the King turns 80 this year, so there were a ton of pictures and banners and flags and whatnot for him. The Thais really love him. Apparently he’s devoted quite a bit of time to traveling around visiting the poor and whatnot. Another thing I saw a bunch of people wearing were pink or yellow (his favorite colors) polo shirts with the King’s logo on them. Also, for some reason the rabbit is his symbol (I don’t know why), so there were lots of shirts with fluffy bunnies on them!

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