Northern Departure

Returned to Chiang Mai on Monday, after a most relaxing and enjoyable week-plus in Chiang Rai. As I’d slept most of the way, I had not realised, on the north-bound trip, how beautiful is the ride between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai!

Received, however, a big jolt of culture-shock leaving the laid-back and (in comparison) quiet environs of Chiang Rai to arrive back in the City Of Traffic Doom. Man, it’s just the eternal struggle in Chiang Mai: the temples so wonderful, the culture so fun, the fruit so delicious and affordable…and the traffic so life-destroyingly ævil.

Ah, well; last days in Chiang Rai I visited a few temples in town which I’d yet to get to. This one, actually fairly near my guest house, seems to do a fine job of mixing the beautiful architecture of the northern-style temples with the glitz and glimmer of the Bangkok-area mega-domes.

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The interior is pretty neat; most notably for a fun series portraying the important animals posed in front of the stupa.

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A nearby park was sporting these cool…um, banners, would you call them?

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And Wat Ched Yod, down near the bus station, had another of these humongous Buddhas that always cause the heart to skip a beat or three.

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Exterior not too shabby, either!

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Saturday evening, visited the Saturday Walking Street. Same concept as the Sunday Walking Street, but in a different part of town. Saturday’s incarnation seems to have a greater variety of vendors, and a much more extensive food alley.

Some nice-/interesting-looking plants for sale along the Street.

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This one particular vendor, though, was rockin’ some pretty odd labels for its delicacies.

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This last one, “Chili burn”: it may be somewhat difficult to see from the photo, but it looks like apple strudel or something of the sort. At any rate, something not like what one would think might be labeled “Chili burn”.

Meanwhile, the dreaded pork makes an appearance!

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Pretty good three-piece trad. outfit getting busy down near the western extreme.

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Elsewhere ‘round town: don’t pretend you don’t want some!

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…but I don’t get why they didn’t spell it out backwards, a la ambulances?

Anyhow, it’s kind of difficult to know from this angle; but this guy…

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…is the spitting image of Vijay Singh! I had to do a double-triple-quadruple-take when crossing in front of him at the light.

Also some very nice cloud formations in Chiang Rai. For some reason, though, I’m not as obsessed with photographing clouds as I’d been a few years ago.

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Now then, Durian may be the King Of Fruits, and Mangosteen the Queen; but the mighty Lychee seems to hold a very special place in Thais’ hearts as well. I told before of having shared some with the street-vendor-lady in Kanchanaburi, thereby earning her most gratitudinous thanks.

Up here in the north of Thailand,  very noticeably so in Chiang Rai, it’s like to impossible to walk down the street carrying oneself a bag of lychees without many a different local commenting upon the fact. Every time somebody does make a passing comment (it’s usually just something along the lines of, “Hey! Lychee!”), I stop and offer to share. The offer’s only accepted maybe about a third of the time; but is always well received.

So now we know: you want Thais to laugh at you right to your face, walk around barefoot; you want them to love you, walk around toting Lychees. (Although, as I say, they’re more consistently delectable here in Chiang Mai than in Chiang Rai.)

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Back in Chiang Mai, I beat a hasty path to the park to get my takraw fix. The action was particularly good my first night back.

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This one cat was getting some incredible air on his bicycle-kick spikes. So much so, that he’d flip completely around, and land on all fours. Check out the pooping-in-his-pants look on the face of the dude trying to figure out how he’s going to play that ball…

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This mofo’s acrobatics were so out-of-control, I decided to take some footage. And wouldn’t you know, just as soon as I so decided, the well: it ran dry. Here’re a couple of failed kicks.

And here’s a very good rally, featuring lots of impressive digging action. (Well, I don’t know for a certainty whether the volleyball terminology is in point of fact carried over to takraw; but for our purposes, it may, please Buddha, suffice.)

In Durianic news, purchased my first-ever “gargantua”:

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Have always wanted to try one of these mega-Durian; but had never seen a ripe one…’til now. Actually, it weighted in only at four kilos; so, I guess not truly gargantuan, but pretty damned big all right. Given an “overripe” discount (note the beautiful seam running down the side) to 40 Baht per kilo, the price was nice, too. Turned out, one of the chambers’ fruit was totally rotten. But the rest were quite delicious; and just holding one of the huge pods in one’s hand is a thrill unto itself.

Have since returned twice to this same vendor for some equally-scintillating deals on not-quite-as-large (though still larger-than-normal) fruits. They’re getting’ more delish as the week rolls on. Ahck! Have finally located the best Durian vendor in Chiang Mai – only to be giving myself the old heave-ho; back to Bangkok, and then points south.

Uh, yes: I’m fat again.

And, uh, yes: about to get fatter still. The ever-intrepid Lindsay and Rob over at the Year Of The Durian blog have hipped me to this fortnight of full-on Durian craziness down Penang way. Am thinking to bug out of Thailand before my visa expires in order to get in on the madness.

Wanna hear something messed up? (I mean, who wouldn’t want to?) Avos seem to be coming seriously into season. Seen ’em popping up at several different vendors’ both here and all up in Chiang Rai. Why would Mother Nature play such a cruel and unusual stunt on us mortals, bringing the (more less) only two fat-inducing fruits concurrently into season? Fuck’s sake, Why?, I ask you!

Oh, speaking of foods that’ll make you fat, in Chiang Rai I seen something most curious indeed. Viz., novices drinking colas! This is a far cry from the abstemious fare I would have expected for the young ascetic-to-be. Definitely not the picture I had in mind listening to the novices in Luang Prabang telling me about their daily lives.

The last few days have seen me continuing my outside-the-moat temple explorations. Visited three of the very, very nicest on the way to and back-from the depot to get my ticket to Bangkok. The clerk’s English was shockingly accomplished. Like as in, probably better than mine own! Received some great news, too, with the schedule: the train departs at 5:30 in the PM. I had assumed it would be, as is the Bangkok –> Chiang Mai schedule, 10:00.

Anyways, these temples (Chang Kong, Loi Kroh, and Pantong) were so wonderful.  A fourth one, visited before the other three, and not really clustered with them at all, continues with this weird string effect going on at some of these east-of-the-moat joints.

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Me, personally? I’m neither for nor against the string. Just think it’s odd, is all. What I am for – and in spades – is these temples’ extraordinarily exquisite beauty. Even by Chiang Mai standards, I mean to say.

Okay, this is probably more pix than is necessary to get the point across. But I’m pretty happy with the way this batch turned out; so, what the Hell, let’s overdo it a little…

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These final two are from a coupla different temples, inside the moat, FYI.

Also love the obviously worn-and-weary mien of some of the five-hundred-plus-years-ancient buildings on the grounds.

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Of course, we must note the esteemed place given to the Almighty, the Eternal Redeemer:

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Okay, time for a open letter to all human persons of this or any world: if you place on public display an image of a chicken, know that I shall scent it out, I shall track it down, I shall determine its exact whereabouts, and I shall photograph and share it to all other human persons via the World Wide Web [emphasis added].

Finally, what’s a great temple without great murals?

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Need more? You know where to go.

Been blessed with some very fine “rain luck” this week – happening to be near a large public sheltered area each time the afternoon pours-down began their descents. This one storm, it was of a much greater intensity than I’d been anticipating…

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My plan had been to just throw on the old poncho once the rain began – but it was a lucky thing this covered food-court/boxing-ring area was right there; as the poncho should have been no match for this particular deluge!

Right, if anybody, anywhere, knows what this sign’s all about (there are quite a few all lined up down this one block here), please do not hesitate to edify!

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