My time in Chiang Mai started off on a bit of a downer as my suitcase did not arrive on the flight with me. It’s funny because at the sleepy little Luang Prabang airport that I departed from there were only two planes there at departure time but Lao Airlines managed to put my bag on the wrong one. 50/50 chance I guess. Thankfully the staff in Chiang Mai was very helpful and I had the bag delivered to me the very next day.
The guesthouse I stayed at, Vanilla Place, is really quite outstanding. I read glowing reviews of it online and and they are spot on. The owners, Mr. Kem and his wife Kat, and all the staff make you feel right at home. They are kind, friendly and were happy to help out with any request big or small. After about four days I moved to a little larger room which was supposed to cost about 20% more but Mr. Kem said no, I am family now, the rate will be the same. Awesome.
I wanted to check out the Thai massage in Chiang Mai as it seems to be the birthplace and major training center for it. I asked Mr. Kem if there was a good Thai massage place close by and he sent me to Nina’s two doors down. Like the folks at the guesthouse, Nina makes you feel right at home. The treatment starts with you soaking your feet in a beautiful wooden bowl filled with warm water and slices of lime which, after soaking for a couple of minutes, are used to scrub your feet. The massage there was very good indeed, so much better than in Bangkok where they sometimes pressed so hard I think their fingerprints may be forever embedded on my bones as a fossil record of my pain.
By a stroke of good fortune one of the largest festivals of the year in Chiang Mai, Loi Kratong, was on while I was there. A krantong is a pretty little raft mainly made of banana leaf and flowers. At nighttime you light the candle on top, make a wish and launch it in the river. If it floats down OK you are in for good luck. Another fun part of the festival is launching what are hot air balloons, more or less. You light a little burner at the bottom and wait until you think it is inflated just right to fly well, make a wish and let it go into the night sky. It’s a little tricky but lucky for more I had some local help and my launch went very well. There were a few mini Hindenburg disasters let me tell you. Overall there must be tens of thousands of these balloons launched and I never tired of watching them lighting up the sky. Speaking of fire there are so many amateur fireworks going off all around you’d think you were in a war zone. It’s very loud! The grand finale of the festival is a large, lavish parade that pretty much the whole city comes out to watch. The water festival in the spring, Songkran, is supposed to be even more fun than Loi Krantong, with water fights breaking out left, right and center.
When traveling through Thailand, I was often asked by Thais if I had been to Chiang Mai and could tell they hoped the answer was yes as they are proud of the Thai cultural capitol. It is the home of training centers for Thai cooking, massage, language and meditation to name a few. I am interested in all these areas and hopefully can return to study up.
From Chiang Mai I caught the bus to Bangkok. I spent a few days, secured my Indian visa, and flew to Kolkata (AKA Calcutta) to begin the next chapter of the adventure. Bye, bye Thailand….sniff,sniff.