Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai (means ‘new city’) was founded in 1296 and is now the largest city in Northern Thailand. I was not aware of this fact and was surprised by its size. The city has outgrown its old walls and development now sprawls in all directions surrounding the square historic district, and surpassing the boundaries of the Ping and Chao Phraya rivers. 

The city attracts hordes of artisans and collectors who come for the vibrant weekend street markets overflowing with brightly patterned hippie pants, handbags, scarves, linen dresses, hand woven pillow cases and blankets, tapestries, journals, soaps, candles, lamps, carved wooden frogs that make a croaking sound when you rub their ridged back with a smooth stick. I love markets. And loose hippie pants. I do not love crowds. The Saturday and Sunday night Bazars are madness. Every tourist in the city shows up to be siphoned down a closed off street, slowing pushing against the person in front and passively fighting to keep the person behind you out of your ass. In an effort to fight off an approaching anxiety attack I broke rank and crossed to the other side of the street in an attempt to swim upstream, against the flow of bodies.  

Stretching my neck up and gasping for fresh oxygen I enjoyed a brief moment of relief until I found myself facing a wall of people, engulfed in a pool of sticky stranger flesh, pushing me backwards. I was losing ground. I took a gulp of humid air, stuck out my elbows and began to push through, ducking armpits, sidestepping children- bobbing and weaving until I found another opening in the middle where I could cross back over to my original side, sliding back in with the herd, defeated. I didn’t buy anything that night but was not entirely deterred from shopping. My materialistic heart fell in love over and over again, stumbling and drooling its way along the rows of colorful tables and stalls, stopping and back peddling every few steps until Michael grabbed my hand and pulled me along. (I will commend the men on their saintly patience while Nancy and I touched and fondled everything within reach.) Miraculously I abstained from adding another pair of flowey pants to my collection, and bought instead a one of a kind, hand stitched coat made from a collage of woven fabrics from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos—a wearable work of art.

dicks in Bhutan, assholes in Thailand
Chiang Mai is also famous for its many ornate Thai temples—there are more than 300 of them. Compared to the imposing fortress-monasteries of Bhutan, the temples here seem almost cartoonish. The decorations are exaggeratedly whimsical; ornate roof tips curl up towards the sky, mosaics of jewel colored mirrors glitter in the refracted sunlight, snarling dragons protect temple doors with their sharp fangs, red assholes and suckling babies at their nipples. Lawn ornaments abound and wax monks sit eternally in meditation. The graphic depictions of hell scenes are absolutely terrifying. I tossed a coin into one of the metal bowls just to be safe.

The city is a cluster of juxtaposition; hooker bars around the corner from temples; nature art, graffiti; spirituality, scandal; young, old; urban, jungle. So many colors, flowers, beautiful faces. Cats and street food are winning. Eating and massage were our main prioritys and we were ridiculously successful with both. We took a few trips outside the city to see (more) temples, caves, huge wood carving/furniture market (where I played make believe interior decorator, picking out various pieces I would take home to my fantasy house). We rode in the back of Songtaews, red pickup truck taxis with a covered bed and benches where you ride. We ate lunch in a secret garden where we met HoneyBee, queen of the ladyboys. Mr. Miyagi's reincarnation lives in a cave and wears tiger print.  And I took far too many pictures. So I'll let them tell the rest of the story. 

urban jungle
lady in red

flip back and forth between these two


taking off or putting on?

just a quick photo shoot with our fashionable friends...

late night with Mrs. Paday.