After three days, two nights in the jungle we returned to Awana Guest House in Chiang Mai for the second time. They greeted us like family! By this point we have been traveling for two months and I think we’re starting to settle into more of a routine. I am big on routine because without it I feel that we too easily stray from our goals. I will write more that later!
Following a quick bite to eat, it was off to the dentist. When you are traveling for a year it is different from just going somewhere for a short vacation.We must take into account all of the not-so-exciting things which need to be done as well: haircuts, dentist visits, laundry, school work, grocery shopping, etc. Of course, some of these are a bit more of an adventure when you’re trying to accomplish them in an unfamiliar place!
I had read that the quality of dentists was excellent in Thailand (Chiang Mai) and that they are very reasonably priced, so we thought it was best to get a cleaning done while we were here.
The boys were a bit apprehensive, but then again they are when we’re going to the dentist at home as well! Caleb’s biggest fear was that the dentist would find a cavity and suddenly pull out a big needle to work on it! I assured him that we were only getting a cleaning this visit (and prayed that the dentist didn’t find anything major!).
Caleb went in first (I thought this was best since he gets the most nervous!) and sat in the chair. I went in with him to help keep him calm and to check and see what the dentist was doing. The room was spotlessly clean and was quite similar to what we would experience at home. The dentist did the cleaning himself, while his assistant just handed him tools as he needed them.
Fortunately none of us seemed to have any cavities and within a couple of hours we were on our way again. One dentist visit accomplished!
To get a better sense of Chiang Mai, we decided to take a bicycle tour south of the city. We rented bikes and cycled (with a guide) around the southern part of Chiang Mai. We took side streets, so the biking was great – not much traffic to worry about and the scenery was beautiful in spots. We traveled through many small villages and it really felt like we were miles from the city.
We stopped to visit a 100-year-old temple that had been moved by the villagers due to flooding.
We also visited a rehabilitation facility that used to be the location of a Leper colony. A few of the original patients with leprosy still called the place home and they created crafts to sell at the local store. Some of their cards and artwork is shipped around the world. We purchased a collection of their Christmas cards.
We learned about cremation at the village crematorium.
Near the end of our ride we saw the ruins of some of the ancient temples from the original Lanna Kingdom.
It was a great way to learn more about Chiang Mai and its people.
We sat at a picnic table with a young novice monk named Boi who was 19 years old and was about to decide whether to continue as a full monk or not.
We asked Boi about Buddha and his daily routine. He told us how he had to wake up every day at 5:00 a.m. to collect alms and pray and study. He also explained how monks cannot eat past noon and they can only eat the food that is collected as alms (offerings by the common people in return for a spiritual blessing).
Boi came from a very poor village and being a novice monk provided him the opportunity to study English and teaching. He wore a bright orange robe (apparently the colour orange repels mosquitos) and his hair was shaved very closely so it was both easy to care for and to signify that monks were not be concerned about personal appearance.
We thanked Boi for speaking with us and educating us about his culture. He in turn thanked us for the chance to practice his English. He shook our hands, with the exception of Barb, as monks are not allowed to touch women.
You can’t visit Thailand without having a massage! There are massage parlours every 20 meters, on every street imaginable – kind of like Tim Horton’s back home. Connor was particularly excited because he loves massage. They begin by scrubbing your feet in lime water. Then you are led to a pallet where they twist and bend your body in unnatural positions. Barb, Caleb, and Connor had Back, Neck, and Head massages and Clay had the traditional Thai massage. The experience was not what Caleb was expecting. He thought it would be gentle and soothing but he felt like a piece of pretzel dough being pounded. Connor, on the other hand, actually fell asleep at points because he found it so relaxing. They also had an à la carte menu of services so you could choose what kind of massage you wanted.
Another neat experience that the boys tried was the Fish Spa. You put your feet in a tank full of little fish and they come up and suck the dead skin off of your feet. It was a good thing no one else was there when we went because the boys couldn’t stop giggling! They thought it felt so funny to have the feet nibbling at your toes!