The Last of Thailand Reports
by William Bossen Photography
Chiang Mai, The Rose of the North……..
Northern Thailand is mountainous, green, lush, and bordered by Burma, Laos and Cambodia. Our train ride left us in Chiang Mai, the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is one of three Thai cities contending to host the World Expo 2020.It has also recently positioned itself to become a Creative City and is considering applying for Creative City Status with UNESCO.
Chiang Mai formally became part of Siam in 1774, after the Thai King Taksin helped drive out the Burmese. Chiang Mai then slowly grew in cultural, trading and economic importance to its current status as the unofficial capital of northern Thailand, second in importance only to Bangkok. Chiang Mia is known as the Rose of the North and is located in the broad fertile basin of the Ping River.
We arrived during the Thai New Year, Songrkan which involves huge amounts of water and people partying in the streets for five days straight. Why water? Water is part of the ritual that people participate in as part of the New Year blessings and Buddhist merit-making, especially the splashing, hosing, throwing, and drenching of water. Water runs deep in the Thai New Year traditions, both as a symbol of cleansing and as a symbol of renewal. Unfortunately, these days Thais tend to recognize the throwing of large amounts of water on anyone, regardless if they want to participate or not, as the epitome of the Songkran festivities. However, I am told, in the past it was the more delicate water splashing that represented the once gentle nature of Songkran and the Thai New Year. These days, Songkran is far from gentle; it feels more like a war zone. Do not even think about going out unless you are prepared to get buckets of water thrown into the side of your head, chest, and legs, and dumped down your back. Likewise, you will be targeted by high powered water pistols from children and adults alike. One day is fun, but five days can become extremely irritating, even for the most fun loving and adventurous soul.
Fortunately, Will and I only had to endure two extreme days in the throngs of Songkran. After our immediate arrival by train we headed for the hills, or rather mountains. Once again we found ourselves extreme scooter riding, this time from Chiang Mai to Pai, 135km on a very scenic route through the mountains with 762 hair pin bends through national parks, and small towns and villages. We made the perfect mid day stop at a secluded hot springs before completing our drive to Pai. Our last two hours took a turn for the worse when we ran into a major thunder and lightning storm that left us practically blind and frozen. Luckily, we pushed on with the utmost care. Soaked to the bone and shivering we cruised into Pai, pulled over at the first place we could see, and lucked out with a beautiful huge room on the second floor of a lodge with floor to ceiling windows, warm water, and a view of the Pai River. The following day the sun was shining and we went hiking in a red canyon, soaked in yet another hot springs, and spent the last part of the day hiking to a waterfall. Pai is a place we both felt we could easily spend more time. In the evening we found a café with live music and delicious food. The lighting and thunder started again, but we were dry and safe and it felt as though the heavens were performing a magical dance for us.
Alas, the following day we had to return to Chiang Mai. Will had to fly home to Seattle, poor guy was in transit for 34 hours! He made it home in the nick of time for a big photo shoot for T-Mobile. I remain here. I am taking various classes in the healing arts, to contribute to my repertoire as a Holistic Practitioner, Teacher, Healer, Lifestylist….. I have a full schedule between now and the time I fly to Japan to visit family. In five days I will be, in Tokyo…..more to come.