Saturday, June 23, 2007

The 700 Year Old City, Chiang Mai

June 15-19, 2007

From the east side of Thailand, we're taking you to the northen Thailand - to the city of elephants and malaria, Chiang Mai. (oh.. the malaria part was a joke..don't take the pills just yet)

Wikipedia described Chiang Mai as the largest and most culturally significant city in northen Thailand. Chiang Mai's historic importance is derived from its important strategic location on an ancient trade route. The city served as an important centre for handcrafted goods, umbrellas, jewelry, and woodcarving.

My favorite area at all time is still Ping River, especially at night when the the weather cooled down and we could feel the breeze from the river. Our ritual was to start the evening with a cup of cafeine at a coffee shop by the river (picture#3).
We'd hang out until the dust settled. Then moved on to the next door, "Riverside" legendary pub and restaurant, for a good meal and live jazz music. A couple doors down the street is also my favorite restaurant known as The Gallery. The food didn't get my attention as much as its interior design. The owner did an impeccible job on preserving its original wooden structure, illustrating a fusion of traditional Chinese style in stucco with molded motifs and Lanna style, Northern Thai Architecture. A picture I took while dinning there didn't do it justic so I didn't post it here. I suggest you make a visit to the restaurant and you'll understand why I jabbered about the place.

After the dinner, we crossed a street to check out a furniture store (that its achitecture made my jaw drop once again). We browsed through the showroom and agreed that its furniture reminded us of an upscale furniture store in Chicago. later, to find out on its website that their export market is in the US including that store and its subsidiary. I can pay only one-fifth of its price tag to get the same kind of
furniture with the same quality. Well... I am in heaven.

To cross off our must-do list, the next day we paid a visit to Bann Tawai, handicraft village. There were a few stores that stunned me with its originality. if you know me well, you'd know that I have a thing for furniture, particularly minimalist influence. I'd get carried away if I found one of the kind piece. And I don't care if my wallet'll be empty for the next few weeks. LOL. Below is what I bought from the store;

The next thing down the list was to check out Maesa Elephant Camp&Nursery. So we hired a personal guide to get us there. He drove north-west of Chiang Mai, through the picturesque Mae Sa Valley, about 30 mins to get to the Camp. A half-day program included elephant bathing, skill demonstrating such as playing football and painting, elephant riding, and visiting its habitat.

The tamed elephants like to play with human. The size of their bodies may freak people out, but the reflection of their eyes are nothing more than innocent and curious act, which made me want to pat them.

We finished the trip by going to pay respect to Buddha relic at Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. (picture#1and2) To reach the temple which is located at the apex of Doi Suthep, we needed to climb up a naga staircase of 309 steps. it wasn't bad after all. When we came back down, we had a driver drove us to NimmanHemin Street, the new hip area in Chiang Mai (picture#4). If you happen to be in that neigborhood, it'd be worthwhile to check out Yesterday The Village Hotel.

Need further information? Please click on the link below;

My Sacred Hideaway, Samet Island

June 11, 2007 - Our first and official grand trip

Samet Island was actually my first priority on my must-go list. I have special bond to the Island. It'd take up the whole page if I was going to explain why and how. To keep it short, Samet Island had been a big part of my life growing up. There was times I was going through a difficult time. I packed up my stuff and came to the island alone. A few days later, I was revived. As simple as that, it helped me get through one of those days a number of times.

After a week-long (non-stop) celebration of Mr.J and B's arrival, which involved booze, shopping, sightseeing, and booze(and more booze), we decided to leave the crazy city for a serene place like Samet Island. Three boys and I hopped in a bus the following day. One of them was Tim, and the two other were Mr. J and B who came all the way from the US to make their dreams come true.

Two hours and forty minutes later, we arrived in Rayong. There we met up with K.Brian, our good friend who also used to live in Chicago. He offered to show us around and took us to the island. As we got closer to it, I could feel my excitement glowing. I looked at it up close. It'd been 8 years I'd been away and my love hasn't aged a bit. The dirt road was still there. The sand was still white. And the clarity of ocean...still took my breath away. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Samet is my sacred hideaway. For someone, the island may not live up to their expectation. For me, it's everything I've asked for. Even this time, it did its magic on me again. My 'homesick' vanished. (if you know what I was referring to...)

Samet is a well-known island in Rayong. The city's located on the Gulf of Thailand, about 190 km from Bangkok. Getting there is easy. We took an air-conditioned bus at the Ekkamai bus station, which leaves every hour. The bus arrived at a ferry pier in Rayong. From there, we took a half an hour ride ferry to the island.