We started the day by driving about an hour out of town to a small river to do some rafting. We all had the impression that we would be doing some Western rafting, but we shocked to find that our guide meant something very different. Basically five 10 foot bamboo logs were tied together to make the raft. We jumped on two to a raft and each raft had it’s own pole man. We floated down the river for about 45 minutes and went through a few little rapids. It was quite peaceful and made me think of river life a hundred or thousand years ago. I don’t think it has changed much.
After the rafts, we walked up to find a half dozen elephants in a clearing with saddles and drivers waiting for us. We climbed up to a loading platform and got on in pairs. It was amazing and a little scary to be on the back of such a massive beast. The were very relaxed and mostly wanted to eat and wander. Lots of excitement when one of the elephants decided to rub up against a tree. Two of our group had to hold on to keep from being thrown off.
After washing off the elephant stink, we headed up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep overlooking Chiang Mai in order to be there in time to hear the monks chanting at sunset. There are 306 stairs leading to the top. After a healthy stair climbing competition, which the NZ boys won at 51 seconds, we took a breather before walking around the temple.
It’s been really nice to see monks everywhere we go. They’re easy to spot in their saffron robes and really look stunning in contrast to their surrounding. We have learned that there are 282 rules that the monks follow. Everything from not killing to not lying to not touching women and no alcohol. While alcohol is said to be the strictest, as you can kill or lie to protect or defend yourself or others, touching women is the most talked about here. Monks go to great lengths to avoid women in public and it’s been interesting to see them move around and avoid contact.
Back at the temples, we had a wonderful local guide who took us in to see a young monk. We kneeled before him, men in the front and women in the back, and he blessed us with holy water and put cotton bracelets on us. Afterwards, we men tied the bracelets on the women in our group and headed over to listen to the monks chanting. It was absolutely amazing and truly wonderful to experience.
Afterwards, we headed down into Chiang Mai for the night markets. We grabbed dinner at a food court type area (terrible) and walked around the markets. I didn’t care too much for the night markets as it was mostly trinkets, watches and totally geared for Western tourists. Lots of crap and almost nothing made locally. I did however find a lovely unfinished wooden buddha statue that I thought long and hard about before realizing that transporting it home would be difficult.
Tomorrow we head to Lao.