Thailand and Laos – day 14 (Chiang Mai, Friday)January 20, 2017 / bythornberry / Categories : Feeds
Isn’t high speed internet a wonderful thing? Once again, my sympathies go out to my friends who live in country areas of Australia where it isn’t as fast or as reliable as it should be. After being in Laos I am really enjoying how fast it is for me to upload photos and write blog posts here in Chiang Mai.
So, my daily routine. I get up somewhere around 6.00am, a couple of hours before the rest of the family, sit on the lounge cushions on the deck, and check emails etc. I try to keep up with the sewing blogs that I read, scroll through instagram, then upload the previous day’s photos and start writing. Hopefully I get it all finished before around 8.00am, when I wake up the rest of the family and encourage everyone to get ready for breakfast! And breakfast is delicious – especially that coffee.
Apparently coffee culture has become a huge thing in Chiang Mai. There is a whole website dedicated to reviews of local cafes. Baristas and coffee art abounds. I was pretty happy with the black coffee that the machine in the guesthouse made, using local beans.
We’d decided to spend the day wandering the Old City. As it was, we didn’t make it out the door until 11.00am. Remember, this is meant to be the slow, relaxing part of the holiday! It was significantly cooler here this visit than last time, when we visited in July and it was oppressively hot. Although the afternoon sun is still quite warm, and it’s over 30 degrees, last visit we could barely walk a block before collapsing from the heat. This time around we probably walked further in one afternoon than we’d walked in the entire previous trip.
As always, there are plenty of interesting sights to see as you walk along. It’s just a matter of keeping an eye out, looking down laneways, across the roadway, and often simply just looking upwards!
We actually started our walk with a destination in mind. Last visit the girls’ had bought these delightful crocheted dolls. They wanted to get some more outfits for their dolls, and fortunately the little shop was still there! It was creative heaven choosing the tops, skirts/shorts, accessories etc. I tasked the girls with making a doll for me as well (I didn’t buy one last time and regretted it) so they chose a doll and outfitted her in a way that they though reflected me. They did rather well!
The shop owner was a delightful man who giggled every time the girls bought yet another item over to the counter. He also encouraged them to take a few postcards of the dolls. We’re intending to do our own photoshoot with our dolls in an Australian setting and emailing him the photos once we’re home! The shop is called Bantaktor. Their Facebook page says: Bantaktor is an OTOP Group from Ampur Chiang Kum, Payao, a province in northern Thailand. We do handmade dolls from crochet and knitting works.
One Tambon One Product (OTOP) is a local entrepreneurship stimulus program designed by Thailand‘s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his 2001-2006 Thai Rak Thai government. The program aimed to support the locally made and marketed products of each Thai tambon (subdistrict). Drawing its inspiration from Japan‘s successful One Village One Product (OVOP) program, the OTOP program encourages village communities to improve the local products’ quality and marketing, selecting one superior product from each tambon to receive formal branding as its “starred OTOP product”. It provides both a local and national stage to the promote these products. OTOP products include a large array of local products, including traditional handicrafts, cotton and silk garments, pottery, fashion accessories, household items and food. After a military junta overthrew Thaksin’s government in 2006 following an election cancelled for irregularities, the OTOP program was cancelled. However, it was soon revived and rebranded.
Kittiphun Khongsawatkiat stated that the One Tambon, One Product Movement” is a manner in self-help effort of a rural community to participate in a creation of product and service that the rural household can be adequately in life. The excess of production can be accumulated in terms of saving to finance investment an important determinant for sustainable economic growth with feasible debt service. 
Not far from there was this exquisite temple, Wat Phan Tao. I remembered it well from our previous visit. It’s a beautiful temple made from teak, and was formerly a palace. The floor is tiled, and it’s a particularly cool and peaceful place to sit. It’s quite a different architectural style to many of the other wats.
As with all temples, visitors must dress in a manner that is deemed to be respectful. Knees and shoulders should be covered, which is why Clare is wearing a sarong over her shorts and Stella has a cardigan. The gentleman below had sarongs that could be loaned out to tourists who hadn’t come prepared (we had).
Wat Phan Tao is right beside another famous wat, Wat Chedi Luang. We’ll have to visit it on our next excursion into town, because by this stage we were on a mission to find our lunch location. So it was onwards through the streets!
We noticed that lots of the wats have tourist information – including audio tours – available via QR codes that can be scanned with your mobile phone. Chiang Mai is definitely moving with the times! In fact, we noticed that considerable change had taken place in the two and a half years since our last visit. This town is developing extremely quickly, yet retains considerable charm.
We stepped off a dusty back laneway into the cool refreshing courtyard of The Faces, another restaurant recommendation from Louis. The atmostphere was delightful. Lush and leafy, filled with clay sculptures, and the food was delicious.
And unsurprisingly, on our wander back toward our guesthouse we stopped off at Lila Massage for each of us to enjoy a neck, shoulder and back massage. Well, Stella opted for a foot massage. We had visited Lila Massage last time we were here. At that stage they had around four outlets in the old city. Now there are six. From their website:
The Lila Thai Massage was established by Naowarat Thanasrisutharat, former Director of Chiang Mai Woman’ Prison (2011-2008), to help support the lives of newly released inmates in society. She has dedicated the greater part of her 40 year career understanding and bridging the gap between a non accepting public, and the problems released inmates encounter adapting to a new community. Prior to their release, these carefully screened inmates go through an extensive training program which allows them to make a living and contribute to society.
Unfortunately these detainees often encounter discrimination from employers who refuse to hire these skilled therapists. Sadly, due to lack of employment opportunities some return to a cycle of crime, and find themselves back in prison. The Lila Thai Massage was established to help eliminate this pattern of crime and lack of apportunity.
The Chiang Mai Women’s Prison ang the Institute of Skill Development have designed a 180 hour massage training course for these inmates, which are endorsed and meet the requirements of the Chiang Mai Public Health Department. Thus, we guarantee you will receive a fully trained professional massage therapist. It is our cherished hope that you will see these former inmates in a positive light, and your kind patronage will allow them to proudly start a new life and support themselves and their families.
After our massages (which cost around A$40 total for a one hour massage for the whole family) we visited Wat Phra Singh. This is the main temple within the old city and is a Royal Temple. Construction began in 1345, and it has fallen into disrepair then been rebuilt and renovated a number of times throughout its history. It’s stunning. You have to see the main large Buddha figure in real life to really appreciate its presence. This complex houses around 700 monks – it’s a significant building.
There are a number of these fibreglass statues of monks who have been significant in the history of the temple. They are uncannily lifelike – take a look at the photo below! I swear he winked at me!
The large gold chedi is said to contain relics of the Buddha, and has been recently gilded. The reflections off the gold were almost blinding.
We were too tired to go out again for dinner, so Dan and Louis managed to rustle up a few things in the kitchen and to drink some of the local spirits. I had an early night!
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