Tag Archives: Chiang Rai

Songkran 2015

So now that we’re a few days past Songkran, I figured it was time to put pen to paper (euphamistically speaking of course) about our first New Year holiday in Thailand. The first thing worth noting is that the Thai’s celebrate several New Years Holidays during the year (World, Thai, Chinese and often individual tribes have a new year celebration of their own).

I’ll dispense with the not so fun part about Songkran: over the course of the 7-day holiday there were 364 deaths, 3,559 injuries, 3,373 accidents with 39% of the accidents attributed to drunk driving. With a little over 80% of the accidents involving motorbikes, it’s not terribly difficult to understand why there are so many (unfortunate) deaths. I sure appreciated being in a smaller town though, I’m sure Chiang Rai had it’s share of accidents but we didn’t see any ourselves. It was fairly clear as the week progressed that alcohol consumption and it’s prevalence in and around motor vehicles was on the rise, so we made it a point not to be on the road much more than was necessary.

One thing that I really appreciate about the Thai culture is that many businesses were closed for several days, the last few days of the 7 day holiday period, the whole town seemed to be shut down … we couldn’t even get a massage. Often, the businesses that were open, the employees were stationed outside their shops armed with water guns, buckets, or trash cans full of water waiting for willling, and sometimes unwilling, participants to pass by. We saw trucks with 8 – 10 people (from age 6 – 60) packed in the back, and if they weren’t all armed with super soakers, there was sure to be a 50 gallon drum of water (ice cold often) in the back. And there was no safe haven, we live on the outskirts of town and figured the “action” would all be in town …. NOPE …. the locals that run the small ma & pa shops, or live along the road, all had their buckets at the ready. They often had cones out in the road and would walk out into the lane to get our attention and slow us down ….. just to have buckets of water poured over our heads. It was all very good spirited though, I never felt like anyone was being “aggressive” about wetting us. However, we actually made it a point not to go out one day after a few days of getting absolutely drenched on the road no matter what path we took to or around town. We were able to “wave off” a few dryness saboteurs one afternoon but so many of the businesses were closed it wasn’t worth the effort.

Can you imagine what the news headlines would read after a holiday like this in the States? “Dozens dead as gun shots ensue from giant water fight in Los Angeles” … OR … “Over 7-day period, cops kill 10 citizens carrying life-like water guns because they “feared” for their dryness” … OR … “OC woman sues child 8, for making her spray-on-tan run”. But here’s the thing, the water tossing and wetting is a symbolic blessing. I suppose that in a country where 95% of the population is buddhist, the symbolism of the whole event is not lost on very many. Even the people that were trying to avoid getting wet, but did, were good spirited about it. But I will say, I targeted dry, unsuspecting foreigners as often as possible. Talk about a return to childhood, I don’t think I took a break at all one afternoon I was having so much fun.

For anyone that is thinking about visiting Thailand, Songkran is definitely one of those holidays that is unique to this region of the planet and would be worth the time. If your time is limited and you want to do a lot of other “tourist” related activities while here, it would be smart to allocate some time before or after the Songkran holiday for those activities.

The main street, standing room only.

Our 1st Smokey Season

When we decided to move to Thailand we’d already done plenty of homework so we I can’t say that we are surprised by the smokey season but experiencing it, puts it in a different perspective. We’re only a couple weeks into it and it is getting noticeably worse as the weeks progress. From what we are seeing on various Facebook groups, it appears to be worse in Chiang Mai than it currently is in Chiang Rai, however I wouldn’t be outside doing any cardiovascular activity in either city at the moment. It reminds me a little of the smog alerts we would get in Los Angeles County in the late 70’s, albeit a little more serious. Apparently this time is also used to burn a lot of household trash, including plastics resulting in fine particulates and dust that can be quite harmful to people with sensitivities.  It’s sure made for some pretty sunsets but that is no trade-off. We’ll definitely use the burning season as an opportunity to travel next year.

If you or someone you know is considering traveling to Northern Thailand, I would avoid March altogether.

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The Black House – Bandaam Museum

This museum is definitely an addition to the “Must See” list in Northern Thailand. The museum, which I wouldn’t consider to be a black house, is a collection of artwork by the deceased Thawan Duchanee. Admission is free, yep FREE. There are a number of smaller structures in addition to the main building that resembles a large temple. As one would expect, Buddhist artwork, statues and influences are present all over the property, however there is also a certain darkness  reflected in much of the artwork and displays. We will be returning at night to see the change in ambiance after the sun sets. A ton of great pictures of this museum can be found with a quick search on Google.

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The Black House - Baan Daam

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The Black House - Baan Daam 19.991990, 99.860616

Wildlife

Here’s a few pictures of some of the wildlife we’ve encountered thus far. (Note: the image files are fairly large and may take a minute to load)

 

 

 

The Clock Tower

The clock tower is a popular landmark and ‘must see’ in Chiang Rai. Built in 2008 in Honor of The King, the clock tower lights up and plays music every evening at 1900, 2000 and 2100 hrs. Our favorite restaurant for Khao Soi also sets up a little stand on the southwest corner of the Clock Tower just before show time every night. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the light show and music of this popular site.

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Clock Tower

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Clock Tower 19.907166, 99.830956

Doi In Cee

This is a must see for anyone visiting Chiang Rai, the drive up is a bit precarious but the views from the mountaintop are gorgeous. We can even see it lit up at night from our balcony.

A video of our ride up the mountain on the motorbike.

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Doi In Cee

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Doi In Cee 19.906090, 99.737440

 

Wat Tham Phra – Buddha Images Cave

We just happened upon this Temple while out on a motorbike ride. This temple was built into the side of a limestone mountain and included a number of different access points. While the main temple  appears to be fairly active, we ventured up a steep set of narrow stairs into a cave further up the hillside. Once inside, it didn’t take long to notice that the ground was covered in bat dung, but it was too irresistible to not venture the rest of the way up. There was a large, sitting Buddha statue inside but we weren’t about to use a flash and possibly disturb all of the bats that were overhead. There was some natural light inside and I bet at the right time of day, the Buddha statue would be illuminated just right. It’s worth noting for anyone interested in seeing this temple, the stairs are very steep and the climb requires some physical agility.

In the main temple, there was a single monk sitting by himself and I couldn’t help but wonder what he may reflect on all day if anything at all, I envied the solitude in many ways. The large Buddha carved into the limestone was one of my favorites so far.

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Buddha Images Cave

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Buddha Images Cave 19.917504, 99.788929