Thursday, 10 December 2015

Chang Mai for the Lantern Festival and Lei Peng 21-24 Nov 2015

So we're off to Chang Mai to see the famous Lantern festival.  After the previous night of trying to find ANYTHING in festival week, good ole Airbnb came thru, thank God.  
I don't know how the youth travel, party and have energy for the next day.  After shaking up the town til the wee hours, she has leapt out of bed again with a smile on her face.  No idea how she functions with only a few moments of sleep.  Her purse was stolen so this is the first time I've heard of anyone being affected by theft.  I never expect it by others but I also try not to give them the opportunity, or maybe I just travel with crappy old lady stuff no one would want to swipe.  I never feel unsafe on the roads except for the scorching sun from 10 am on, and the narrow rickety streets with millions of rows of motor bike and car, oh ya and they drive on the other side of the road.  Most don't wear helmets because they know where the police hang out.  What kind of logic is that.  Anyway, I'm forever checking the wrong direction for traffic while crossing the street.  So really, I guess I'm terrified all the time. Saw a boy standing in an open truck holding up a mattress.  Safe.   Daughter saw a man talking on his cell phone while riding his motorbike but it was ok; the cell phone was duct taped to his head!

She arranged for a taxi to take us south of the city to our new digs and we were dropped off with no idea where the hotel was.  We wandered up and down the busy street with now 4000 pounds of maple syrup, but to no avail.  Stopped and asked locals who spoke NO English, and they were stumped.  Turned around again and someone pointed further.  Finally, we stopped at a hotel to see if anyone could help us with wifi, a guest secretly gave us the password, and we found out we were actually at the Baan Thai which used to be called Mojo.  Apparently the booking company used an old account so not only did we have a bad time finding the place that no longer existed, we couldn't check in even though Airbnb had our money but Baan T was maybe not going to get paid.  Finally, I used all the authority befitting my stature, wisdom and age and demanded our room and said we would figure it out after.  OMG, it worked.  Go figure.  

It was in this city that we had plans to see things.  The lovely front desk lady directed us to the 1/2 day Elephant sanctuary but when we went to pay, the new girl had no idea so we delay it.  I want to sign up for a Thai Massage so she gave me directions to the school which is just around the corner and across from a 7/11 of which there are many.  "I couldn't miss it".  Oh how many times have I heard that?!  I wandered a long way in the wrong direction and turned around, wandered in the high heat for hours, stopping constantly but never finding it, but I did find a few 7/11s though.   

I now know why they use parasols; they don't want to tan.  They apparently want to look white like us and there stores are full of products to help that happen.  Funny, our stores are full of products to make us look tanned like them.  

So, we swam and prepared for the Best Thai Cookery school out in the country.  The first stop is at the busy market to learn about foreign foods we normally look at quizzically back home.  At the school, we learned how to make mango sticky rice, Pad Thai, Cashew Chicken, Stir fry, soups,...OMG it was good and we each got to set things on fire, which was very nerve racking.  Shot more video.  
We finally booked the Baby Elephant Sanctuary for the next early morning.  The clerk told us we could carry the baby elephants around and me being the idealist, loved the idea.  You do not carry around a 5 year old 250 pound baby elephant who is taller than you in your arms while trying to swaddle it. I'm just stoopid!!!!  I truly believe SHE believed what she told me.  Still working on booking the Thai massage and a Couchsurfing house party.  Did you know that Chang Mai, which is huge, has only 2 million people but Bangkok, which is the armpit of Thailand, and is tiny, has 14 million sardines.  
So we got up long before dawn to wait for transport to the elephants. Now, I realize that this next story will make me sound like a cold heartless bitch but here goes.  Elephants bore the hell out of me.  I had unrealistic expectations of holding tiny suckling babies but was shocked to see how big babies can grow.  There were three for our group of about 6.  One was huge and the other big and both were well trained.  They did pride themselves on having a safe, loving environment but when we followed protocol to greet them, we were rewarded with a well programmed response.  They were there to perform and entertain us.  Feeding was amusing.  Once they knew you had bananas, you could not slow down.  They were like vacuums.  The baby was absolutely filthy so I took picture with it but really didn't want to pet it.  I guess I think I'm better than them.  I dunno.  The final ewww was heading to the pond.  There are two ponds; the first is for them only and they poop balls bigger than grapefruit.  Then they are led to the communal larger pond to be washed down and wet.  The young trainers are thrilled to have all the nubile bathing suit clad girls so they start a splashing session.  I can't imagine any activity I want to do less than having my face and hair constantly splashed with elephant poop water.  I know, when did I become soooo old?! Anyway, maybe it was just the hot sun again that was making me crusty.  Back to the next hotel that was gorgeous....on paper.  Sigh.  Just another average hotel that calls itself a B&B.  
That night, we went towards the city center to watch Lei Ping but we were going away from the festivities into the fantastic parade and I knew it so I was even more miserable.  I went home alone to watch an English chick flick; you have no idea how rare that is, and passed the night waiting for my night owl to return from seeing her friends.  Dang this girl has friends everywhere.  

So here is what I have learned.  
#1  My trip should always be longer than one week in a third world country for me to acclimatize.  The first week is for adjusting and by the second week, all the complaining goes away because I simply give up and go with the flow.  
#2 Never stay longer than a week in a 3rd world country.  Sure your blogs will be full of whining and rants but you will forget them faster and move on to remembering the good times faster.  

At Pai, we saw temples and the 
monk showed us every statue in 
the place so we took tons of pics.

This was the change room
to try on my yoga pants.

Parties happened long after my sleep.  

Thai Cooking school

Baby and me.

Lantern Festival

Lei Pings throngs

The really sweet Tuktuk driver who wanted to be sure we arrived.

Daughter praying and expressing gratitutde but the place never burned down.

The poor mans Lantern festival

Setting our food on fire.  

The Baan Thai.

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