Temptress Of The North

Already at my fourth different guest house since arriving in Chiang Mai! Told before now of the first night’s debacle. Although the staff at the next seemed fairly aloof, I liked the space quite a bit; and ended up serving out the three-day maximum term. After which, decided on a lark to stop by Chada House to see if the dorm renovation had been completed. Was shocked and elated that it had been (though didn’t notice anything different about it).

After checking in, went out gallivanting; only to be upon my return informed that any future gallivantings would be required to be performed with shoes – else I would no longer be welcomed there. I mean, I love the people (only a few guests in the dorm my one night there, but were mucho interesting) and the place and all. But a man’s gotta maintain certain limits.

So now here I am at the fourth location. So far, I like it. The dog here is called “Milo”; so every time I see it, I call out, “Milo Minderbinder!” I feel like there must be a more famous “Milo” than Milo Minderbinder…but damned if I can think of one.

But you shan’t believe what they’ve got here:

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Hoe-dad in the guest house, y’all! Shouldn’t be surprised, actually. I recall Ginger John had once told a story about his hoe-dad exploits while visiting India. The locals were laughing their asses off at him when he went to use one; but he learned them good what he’s all about with hoe-dad in hand. They were singing the skinny white dude’s praises after that! (Er, but the point of the story is that the hoe-dad is, I think, pretty well-known and -loved here in Asia.)

On the temples front, have been concentrating on visiting ones outside the moat, and it’s been going spankingly well. The first one I came to, on Friday, was totally bizarre. I don’t at all understand what in the Hell they’re doing here with all this string; but, shit, I think I like it.

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Next up was Wat Buppharam, and this…say, do you wanna know a secret? Tell you a goddam secret, if you’re curious to know. Wat Buppharam, whose name I’ve only just learned, was the very genesis of it all. This humble little temple here — which I noticed on my first visit, whilst walking from the train station to the guest house – is what really piqued my interest. It somehow seemed so much more authentic than Bangkok’s mega-palaces; and I thought to give this temple thing a try.

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There it is! There be the culprit. See, previously having only visited temples inside the moat, I’d not ‘til now actually called in at the one on whose shoulders it all rests…and it turns out to be on the very short list of my favourite temples. Not so much for this structure, however. While great, it’s the modern structure on the same grounds (this small one is 600 years old, or something) which knocks the socks off.

Every time one looks at it, from whichever angle, is to be stupefied and amazed. This thing rocks its world, inside and out, upstairs and down.

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Want some friendly temple advice?

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Friday afternoon, had an awkward moment while juggling in the park. The proprietress of the first guest house, who happened to be there lazing, saw me and called out, “Hey! Don’t you remember me? Durian??”

I hadn’t even seen her, let alone remembered. But now she knew that I was still in town, though no longer staying in her establishment. I dunno, maybe guest-house-owners don’t give a shit about stuff like that. Hopefully not, as she’s rather a nice human person; and I never wanted to hurt their feelings any.

Oh, Chanthaburi may be the all-time weirdest place in Thailand; but it doesn’t stop Chiang Mai pulling its own weight, too.

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Saturday, attempted to break on through to Doi Suthep, a very popular temple up on the mountain. Apparently the exact location was chosen by an elephant. You’re supposed to get a sawngthaew out at the moat, for 100 Baht for the round-trip.

So I went there waiting, the first to show for this particular trip. The drivers don’t depart until ten people are confirmed. It’s the reason I chose Saturday morning; assuming the wait would only be ten or fifteen minutes. But after one hour’s time, not only were there not ten people confirmed, there were not even two people. The driver was doing his best to try to drum up business, too; but for some reason in vain.

Sunday, tried it again; and there were three people waiting when I arrived  — same driver. He offered to take the four of us for 120 Baht, if we’d permit him to fill the truck up on the way back down. We were cool with that, so off we zoomed.

It was myself, a German couple, and New Yorker who’d been traveling with them for a few weeks. He certainly lived up to the New York mile-a-minute-talking stereotype. Super-nice and interesting guy, though. He studied Thai for a month before coming to Asia, and has been practicing away since his arrival. He’s off to Laos soon, and took a particular shine to my suggestion to stop in Nong Khiaw, and get the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

As far as the temple went: yeah, great space, in an awesome setting. There’s a big deal made of the 309 steps (I think it is) to get up to the Temple grounds from the street.

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I thought it seemed like a lot fewer than 309 steps, however. Here’re the Temple Rules. That last one cracks me up. What? They’ve had issues with people getting down and rolling around in the dirt?

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Huhn – maybe that’s why the ground around the various structures is all tiled over: visitors just would not keep clean (or what).

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In the kind of landing-area between the top of the steps and the inner grounds stands a jakfruit tree. Never seen so many jakfruit on a single tree before now!

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These ringing bells lend a nice touch to the look-see at the valley below.

Well, what can one say? The structures and murals kick ass!

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This mural, though, is more than a little frightening.

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And if you don’t like the colour “gold”, Suthep is probably not your kind of a place.

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You don’t believe how close I came, as per the sign on the left’s instructions, to penning in “Keyser Soze” here. What, ultimately, stopped me from doing? Why, fear of being deported and missing out the remainder of the Thai Durian season, of course! No, really.

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Longest Naga in the World? Probably not, I guess. But it’s gotta be in the running.

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True to his word, the driver filled the truck up on the way back down. There were even two dudes hanging off the back all the way into town.

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And if you’ve ever wondered who’s got the best steak inside the moat? Now you know.

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There’re a couple of mind-wreckingly gorgeous temples located across the northern moat to each other. Kuan Ka Ma stuns with its audacious burgundy/gold colour scheme.

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Still haven’t learnt what these lion-type creatures guarding many of the temples in the Nagas’ steads are called. But this one takes the cake, I guess, with its turquoise bunghole.

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Not very many murals; but they make ‘em count. You know you’re in good hands when you get to see a mural of a monk dreaming about a elephant.

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If anybody’s got a translation of the text, I’d love to know it. But possibly even more interesting is not only has the little boy shat all over the seat without bothering to clean up after hisself…but, is that a piece he’s got tucked into the front of his trousers? Looks as though he’s been down this road before!

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Wat Mok Lee…

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…then, is…how could a series of  buildings be this beautiful, I wonder? But they are!

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Funny thing is that neither of these two were even in my itinerary for that day — but they blew away the one that had been: Wat Ched Yod, highly recommended by the guidebook. Oh, the latter was nice, and all; but nothing like these two. Plus, it was way out on the so-called “superhighway”, and so took a butt-long time to get to-and-back-from again, much of which was spent battling the friggin’ traffic-pollution.

But what about this?

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Is, as he appears to be, dude pointing up the direction to the toilet? If so, he’s breaking the fourth wall, isn’t he? Pretty cool, I should think!

Also at Ched Yod, some novices taking a keen interest in the repair of that-there weed-whacker.

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The Durian, meanwhile, is pretty damned good here. Not quite up to the standard of that available in Bangkok and Chanthaburi – but also a bit more inexpensively attained. Don’t think Durian is actually grown up here in the north, but rather brought in from the central area. They bring it in in quantity, however.

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A freakin’ pyramid of Durian! (If they-all were to finish it, I mean.) I suppose if it were finished, it’d be so powerful that if it fell into the wrong hands; it’d spell the end of the human project.

Still, I want to build one! This is some real Lord Of The Rings shit, man! Even the conception, the very idea of a Durian Pyramid has taken root in my being. Maybe I need to be killed dead by a Durian barrage before I finish the Pyramid off with me own two hands, and claim myself as its Master…

What is grown here, by the way, are Lychees. And let me be one to tell you: they are completely out…of…control! I think I’d even say that they maybe top Hawaii The Big Island’s. Maybe.

Down by the park, there’s a whole lineup of vendors selling exclusively Lychees, in different grades (ranging from about AAA on up to about AAAAAA – I don’t suppose these are officially designated). The higher-quality fruits are outside of my budgetary capabilities; but the samples I’ve tried have kicked my arse and taken my name. It’s okay, though, ’cause even the ostensibly run-o’-the-mill quality Lychees are pretty frickin’ rapturous.

The Mangoes here are a little more difficult to find at perfect ripeness than in Bangkok. But when one can do, they’re super-cheap, and so incredible as to almost cause one to forget all about the Durian and the Lychee. Almost.

The Mangosteens, though, don’t seem quite ripe; so have held off on those. I know I ought to try some pineapples, which’re super-abundant here (as they were in Chanthaburi); but when push comes to shove, can’t bring myself to forsake, even for a single day, the Durian/Mango/Lychee bonanza.

But lookit these enormous jakfruits! They put the prize-winning Chanthaburi jakfruits to shame.

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Kinda blows one’s mind, don’t it, that those puny little stalks could keep the fruits on the tree (all from the same tree, I wonder?) long enough for the latter to become so giganticised.

The evening takraw matches in the park are still in effect, even though rainy season is too. I haven’t been when it’s been raining during a match. I guess when it does, they just call it a night; or wait it out in nearby pagoda. At any rate, the play is as entrancing as it had been in January.

Also in the park: who knew dragonflies would be so beautiful in black-and-white?

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All of which is to say: god dammit!, I love Chiang Mai so very much. Except… Except for the fucking traffic. It’s almost sapping my will to even live, even. How can the city’s residents stand for their wonderful town having been ripped asunder by the two-, three-, and four-wheeled menace? Why don’t they just have a uprising, and destroy the fucking things once and for all?

Don’t know. But awesome as this town is, I don’t think I could ever live here.

Ah, well; when the city’s about done you in, there’s still music to cure what ails ya. I’ve listened to this song about twenny thousand million times (I’ll bet); yet it still gives me chills whensoever I spin it up.

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