Friday, 13 May 2011

Homeward bound

My last night in Chiang Mai was truly special. Dinner at Aum with loads of my new found friends and then on to Griffin Bar which was another beach shack in the heart of the old town.

For all those of you who are wondering why I have cut short my 3 month planned trip; nothing bad has happened, I just feel I am ready to go home. I have had such an amazing time, I know I will return to Chiang Mai in the future.

I have no job to go back to so I am sure I will travel elsewhere for new experiences.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Vienping Children's Home

Met a guy at the orphanage today; John from Australia. He fosters children from Vienping, he is a very special person as he takes on seriously ill children and has had a few of them die which is very sad. He told me the background to some of the kids; Bobbo's mother was a 14 year old mentally handicapped girl who was raped. Bobbo's brain damage is thought to be a result of the trauma of her birth. Archie is another adorable child, today he clung too me for dear life. The superintendent 'Knee' who runs the home has been making changes since her arrival a few years ago. Before her there were no plants or curtains, the place was apparently very austere and bleak. Volunteers were only allowed to stay for 1 month and not allowed to return. Everyone I talk to says how much nicer the place is now.

I took in a Koala bear that Louisa gave me today, it sings Waltzing Matilda and the children were enthralled with the noise. They have a TV and DVD in the baby room so they have constant background entertainment but the children are so small I don't think they really benefit from it yet.

If anyone would like to send stuff to Vienping - they need clothes, toys, books, sheets, plastic plates, baby spoons etc you can do so to this address:

Doungmanee Wonghaan (this is the superintendent's name)
Viengping Children's Home
63 / 3 Moo 4, Tambon Don Kaew, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180

Tel: 053-121161, 053-121163
Fax: 053-121162

It would be a lovely thing to do and they really need things.

This afternoon I went cycling with Joy we visited another Wat which is connected to the Chiang Mai University. They offer meditation retreats on Thursday afternoons which go through to Friday lunchtime. They provide free food and accommodation and all they ask is that you make a donation to the monks.

These white folly's contain the remains of princes and deities from King Rama II to Rama V.

We then cycled on through the old city to the Chiang Mai China Town district. It was a heaving mass and extremely hot. We very quickly started to wilt and had to leave by the back entrance. We found an old Chinese Temple which dated back to when the Chinese traders came to Thailand via the River Ping and was now used by their descendants! It was full of incense and very different to all the Wat Temples we are seeing around town.

Heading back to Thae Pae gate (the hub of things!) we ate (again) at Aum and I went and paid my deposit at Awana House. I move in there on 22nd June for two weeks. They have a pool and the rooms even have TV!! It will be luxury!!

At breakfast a few days ago I found out why 5 tourists had died recently in Chiang Mai, it seems the guest house they were staying in used a deadly bed bug deterrent! Glad it wasn't the seaweed as had been rumoured!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Aum Restaurant

Why isn't there an Aum Restaurant in Cyprus?? It really is the best food in Chiang Mai! Tonight we tried the Fresh Spring Rolls which are raw vegetables and nuts very thinly sliced wrapped in a rice pancake and dipped into a delicious tangy sauce. This was followed by Fried and Soft Noodle Soup with all the usual ingredients; lemongrass, Thai ginger, galangal, chili etc etc.

I am reunited with my Lonely Planet guide book. Woke Christophe up to retrieve it from his room! Detective work led Suzie and I to his door after Aum told us they had given it to 'my friend' the night I left it behind. Having seen Christophe's room I have decided to move to Awana House on 22nd May when my time at Chaba is up. Awana is right next to Thae Pae Gate so I will be a block away from Aum!!! and Starbucks and Black Cannon Coffee and all the other easily recognisable meeting places.

Had a really great night with Courtney, Emily and Suzie. We sat and chatted totally oblivious to the fact that the staff at Aum wanted to go home!

I am sitting in my room now listening to the rain pounding outside, it's turned cooler as well! There is no need for the a/c or fan tonight.

Tomorrow morning I am off to Vienping to visit the babies and then in the afternoon Joy and I plan to cycle to a local craft market. Each day is a new experience!

Body Work

Last night I went for a 2 hour oil massage - was a bit strange as some guy wanted to sit in the room and watch but once I explained I wanted him to leave he did! Weird....

Its been raining since yesterday morning with only a few hours in between of respite! I brought a rather nifty mac from the market yesterday which I now take everywhere with me.

This morning Joy and I went to Sinativa Spa, its the oldest spa in Chiang Mai which was really amazing.

We were picked up from Chaba in an a/c mini bus and driven to the door of the spa where a young Thai boy held an umbrella for us to walk grandly into the incense filled haven. We started in a herbal steam room which was like an outside toilet with a rice cooker under our seat filled with herbs and vegetables, sounds grim but was really lovely! After 15 minutes we staggered out to find tea and sliced banana waiting for us. Then up to the treatment room where we were slathered in chocolate, yogurt, banana and coffee smelling body scrub. This was left on for a while then after showering we lay back down for an oil head massage. The a cellulite cream was applied and our bodies were slapped HARD all over!!! Then we had a 4 hand oil massage all over before a full facial with amazingly smelling creams.

They then left the room so that we could sleep (and snore!!) I woke myself up snoring and Joy said she did too. After another shower we dressed and sat downstairs eating home made biscuits and banana with more tea. We were both quiet and jelly like!

They then drove us home so we could collapse:-)

It was a special deal that usually costs about 145 euro but we got it for 67 each!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Coffee and Cake

Joy and I cycled through a part of Chiang Mai that I hadn't been to before. We found cute little coffee shops hidden down lanes. Even the rain didn't deter us! Its been raining on and off for most of the day; I brought a heavy duty rain coat, trouble is the temperature is still really high so when I wear it I feel like I am in a sauna. I rounded off the day with a 2 hr oil massage and then dinner at the Beach Shack where I met Stephane, we had a good old chat and then wandered back home.... in the rain!

Joy heads home to California next Monday - I know we will all miss her!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Vienping Children's Home

Had just done my first morning at Vienping. I will be working from 9am to 11.30am each morning. They are desperate for volunteers to look after the under one year olds. I was joined today by Suzanne who is Hawaiian from Seattle. The children want attention and I very quickly had a boy and two small girls falling asleep on me. There is one girl; Bobbo who is very sweet. She has brain damage and is very thin but very bubbly and happy. She slept on me most of the morning. At 11am they go for their feed and we then clean the play room which has a large box of plastic balls and lots of toys. I changed a few nappies - though only wet ones! The nappies here consist of two strips of material, one that I guess is the equivalent of a liner and the other which is like an old fashioned material nappy, though they are all just made out of strips of cloth.

I enjoyed the morning, it wasn't depressing at all! The children are all on a database for adoption but the chances of them finding homes I think is quite slim. There are a total of 270 children at the school. They seem to need many things - clothes, baby formula, toys, books money - anything and everything. We are not allowed to take pictures of the children.

Cycling 35Km!!

Our group was Courtney (thank you for organising!!) Karen, Chip (our guide) and Florence and Christina from Germany. We had our first stop for some coconut water in little plastic bags (above) and Chip picked up Tomato Apples and Pineapple for our next stop.

If I had known it was going to be 35km I might have been a bit more apprehensive, but it was all very flat and the bikes were excellent. We visited a Thai cremation site and saw where the bodies are burned. The Thai government has banned the use of wood for these pyres so now old car and bike tyres are used, I can't imagine what the smell of the rubber and flesh burning must be like!

We also visited the ancient site of the city that pre-dated Chiang Mai. It was built in the 1200's and was abandoned after floods. Chiang Mai was chosen as a better site and built about 15 years later.

We cycled through wonderful small southern villages where the locals all came out to wave us on. Lots of palm, banana and teak trees. We also cycled through a retirement community which had been founded by some Scottish Catholics in the 1900s. Each old person had their own small house with front and back garden and the community only had one entrance and exit so was very secluded. Thias retiring here have to convert to Catholicism but as our guide told us the Buddhist community don't provide anything like this which is a shame for the old people.

It rained briefly but as if on cue we arrived at a stop for home made Banana cake and more fruit! 

It was an amazing day! I am exhausted but in a really good way.

Looking at the cremation site.

This is where the bodies are burned.

The debris left after the burning. You can see bones and all sorts in this!

The ancient city remains.

You can't see very well in this picture but it is the Burmese god Singha which is also the log for Singha beer - the 2nd largest brewery in Thailand.

Thanks also to Stephane, Courtney and Alison for my gifts today! I am going to need to send another parcel back home pretty soon:-)