So much has happened since my last post in the islands...let me backtrack a bit to catch you up to speed. I arrived back in Bangkok on Sunday with a day to myself before meeting up with my Contiki group that night. So I spent the day playing tourist in the buzzing city, with my awesome tuk-tuk driver as my guide. For a mere 2$, he took me around all day to different sites. Of course, there was a catch: I had to go to his "brothers" tailor shop. I had heard about these scams before even stepping foot in Thailand, but this deal still seemed to good to pass up. So off we went, tuk-tuking around the city. Later that evening, I finally met the group that I will be traveling with for the next 25 days! On our first night together in Bangkok, it only seemed appropriate to break the ice by going to an infamous Bangkok Ping Pong Show (and no...I'm not talking about the table tennis game). Let's just say that it was one of the most horrifying, intriguing (HOW do they do that?!), and just plain gross demonstration of female skills (is that the right word?) that I have ever witnessed.
The next morning, we set off early to catch a boat to drift along the Chao Phraya river, allowing us to see great views of Bangkok and the Wat Arun temple. That night, it was time to take another night train to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. However, one of the girls on the tour was missing - an 18 year old American freshman named Cathleen, who clearly wasn't ready for the insanity of Bangkok. My roommate Franciska and I were the last ones to see her that night, and after that, nobody heard from her again...
Chao Phraya river, Bangkok
Taunting the tiger at the Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai
Later, it was time for our Thai cooking class. We began by visiting the Chiang Mai market, where our guide explained to us the different Thai ingredients used in their cuisine. We picked up the ingredients we would need, and headed to the kitchen! I learnt how to make some very popular - but surprisingly simple - thai dishes: tom yum soup, pad thai, panang curry, cashew chicken and sweet sticky rice with mango. And guess what....I didn't burn a thing!!!! (I was pretty proud of myself considering that I'm a complete klutz in the kitchen)
Our guide picking out ingredients and the market, Chiang Mai
Thai cooking class
I did it!! Sweet mango sticky rice, cashew chicken, pad thai and panang curry. Delicious!
After the class, we headed to the Chiang Mai night market to do some shopping, and topped it off with a dozen towers of Chang beer at an outdoor pub.
The next day, we visited the stunning Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, an ancient buddhist temple perched 1,676 meters above the city of Chiang Mai. As the legend behind the origin of this sacred site goes, a 14th-century monk from Sukhothai had a vision one day: he saw a fire in the distance, and when he followed it, he is said to have found a relic from Buddha. He took this relic to his king, but it failed to reproduce its magical powers and the king lost interest. However, King Keu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom, fascinated by this monks story, invited him north to Chiang Mai and offered to enshrine the relic. The building was completed and preparations were made to house the relic. When the time came, the relic broke in half, leading the king to make a new plan. At the northern gate of the city, now known as Chang Puak (white elephant gate), he placed half of the relic on the back of a sacred white elephant and sent it off into the wilderness. The elephant headed due west, climbed slowly up the slopes of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted a last call and then suddenly dropped dead. On that same spot, the temple was built in 1383. True or not, the beauty of the temple is captivating, and it is one of the most revered religious sites in all of Thailand.
Climbing up the 300 steps to the Doi Suthep temple
A young monk at the Doi Suthep temple, Chiang Mai
Receiving a blessing from a monk-in-training - Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep