Tuesday, October 18, 2005

October 22: Chiang Mai

(1) After an early morning breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, we were back on the trail before the jungle weather became to warm. Of course, others had been up and going long before we could even rub the sleep from our eyes - rice is the obvious staple in these parts, and clearing the fields takes considerable time and effort. The woman on the left was actually one of our hosts from the village.

(2) Thailand is often called the "Land of Smiles." Needless to say, they have much to smile about these days. Even the hill-tribe people are raking in the tourist dollars simply by existing. After leaving their village, our morning hike lasted a couple of hours, passing by thick brush and countless creepy crawlies. Amazingly, a stray dog that had followed us from the elephant camp the day before was still tagging along into the afternoon. At the end of the trail, we grabbed a ride in the back of a pickup truck down to the river, leaving the dog behind. I'm sure he enjoyed his new village.

(3) Like the elephant ride, bamboo rafting was sort of an unnecessery add-on to the end of the trek. I appreciate that the creators of the program were just trying to give travelers their money's worth, but I would have been just as content to simply hike around with our guide in these beautiful mountains. It's not that I didn't enjoy the bamboo rafting (it was quite pleasant, actually), but I had to laugh at the framed phtotographs waiting for us at the end of the ride, sort of like we had just stepped off the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags. Thailand takes tourism to the Nth degree, but that's just capitalism, baby!

(4) After arriving in Chiang Mai, I checked back into Eagle House #2, and then walked over to the tailor to pick up my order. A couple of days earlier, I was measured for two suits, two shirts, and two ties - all custom. These kind of shops are a dime a dozen in Thailand, but the key is to avoid places that advertise similar deals for $99 and 24 hours. That's just not a safe purchase. I ended up paying $225, and it took three days. The suits I chose were navy and brown, thinking that I could sort of mix and match the jackets and trousers to make four outfits. The shirts I ordered were made specially for cuff links because I figured I could always buy normal shirts at the mall. The ties came off the rack. In the end, I was more than satisfied with my purchase, comforted by the fact that this shop was packed with customers while all the others in the area appeared to be empty. I'm confident that the material and design are good quality, but only stitching and time will tell.

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