Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Woke up this morning to venture 15 kms. outside of the city to Wat Doi Suthep, one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. Although the specific founding of the temple remains a mystery, many claim that its origins date back to 1383 when the first stupa was built. I hopped in the back of a pickup truck and cruised to the top of the mountain where the temple is located... An amazing ride and beautiful temple!

Monday, June 29, 2009

By Day, By Night- Chiang Mai Sunday Market

These were my favorite pieces...

Take a guess!

Dinner time.

W.B.N (wat by night)

Kingdom of Smiles

Initial Observations, Mo Chit Northern Bus Station, Bangkok, Thailand.

Hour 1:
Style-- Legs! Lots of them. 80s jeans, different than 70s-influenced Tamil wear. Spunky haircuts and mini skirts.

Patriotism-- 1984 "honey coated Orwelian" feeling. It's 8:00 a.m and suddenly the hustle bustle of the bus station stops abruptly. Everybody becomes silent as the sound of the harmonious Thai anthem echoes from the television. Those who were walking stop.. those who were seated stand. For the next couple of minutes, I'm in awe as I watch these obedient patriots celebrate the Kingdom of Smiles.

Hour 2:
Mozzies!--The mosquitoes are bad...somehow I forgot that I was coming to southeast Asia, where mosquitoes are in fact bad. Did I bring enough repellent?

Sa wah dee cap!-- The Thai word for "welcome." Spoken everywhere, by everyone, all the time. It comes out in full nasal force and I indulge in every tone.

On another note...
Empty, dark skies parted to reveal a scattering of neon lights- Bangkok's personal galaxy. It's 5:30 a.m. and the plane lands safely outside the space-age looking airport. Instantly, I feel summoned far away from my Indian past. The airport's modern glow illuminates the streets nearby and the flight attendants welcome us to Thailand.
Fast forward: Speeding along the Bangkok race track with an ancient "No English, Miss" taxi driver. I'm wide-eyed and observant. I didn't expect my new surroundings to look quite so...new. I sit in anticipation, waiting for the old and dilapidated to spring up at least as often as the posh and modern (as is the case in India), but it doesn't. New buildings show off against a backdrop of even more modern infrastructure. The streets are swept clean and are lined by orderly trash cans.
Bus ride: 10 hours on the VIP bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I'm too exhausted to enjoy the bizarre/comedic Thai reality show that's blaring over the speakers. I doze in and out and am awakened by fitful bursts of laughter- the audience is on cue. Men with faces caked in makeup strut around on camera, entertaining Thai audiences from here to the Phuket with their (dare I say typical?) Asian slapstick talent show routine. I glance away from the TV screen and peak out the window. Flashes of Bali green have replaced the city landscape and I'm enamored by the rice fields, street vendors and smell of coconut.
Chiang Mai: The city is clean, orderly, and comfortable. I duck into alleyways in search for the chaos and confusion that I've come to associate with everyday life (thanks, India)- it's nowhere to be found! The Thai are friendly and welcoming...it takes no time at all to reason why this land has been nicknamed the Kingdom of Smiles. I stroll around, shedding behind me pieces of my outer shell- constructed over a period of six months to defend myself against the Indian elements. I don't need to be so tough around here.
Sunday afternoon and evening- Chiang Mai market. Every Sunday, the side roads of Chiang Mai become dotted with vendors. Every nook and cranny is decorated with Hmong and Lahu inspired crafts- two ethnic groups native to Burma, China and Thailand. Jade jewelry, hand-crafted wooden bowls, and "fisherman pants" in every color imaginable.
Past the crafts, clothes, and art I find an even more delectable treasure trove. A haven of scents and smells enough to make anyone familiar with Asian culinary flavors squirm with delight. Soups, stews, spring rolls, and the infamous pad thai can be found in food stalls alongside even fresher and brighter snacks. Bright pink dragon fruit and coconut blazed, grilled banana..the options are endless.

So far, so good folks. A new exploration has begun...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

picture this.

Several of these beginning pics are from my recent trip to Kodaikanal, an American hill station in the northwest part of Tamil Nadu. Myself, along with my trusted partner in crime, Callum Linton, ventured to the region for some rest, relaxation, and a goosie ride.

The hills of Kodaikanal! Beautiful town with fresh, cool temperatures. Kodaikanal is the only American hill station in India.

This was taken along the way from the Kodai Rd. trainstation to the town of Kodaikanal. Took about 3 hours in a rickety, public bus but the views were worth the ride.

Holy cow! Good morning bovines.

Out the front windshield of the bus!

Hike to Dolphins Peak in Vattakanal.

Cal and I at the tip of Dolphin's Peak! A hike mastered in flip-flops but was better suited for boots...we made it.

These lovebirds were resting at the edge of the cliff. Daredevils.


King C of the jungle.

Too bad the camera couldn't pick up the colors that existed in real life. Bright orange soda bottles contrasting with green and blue mountains in the background. Gorgeous :)

I couldn't help myself from asking the taxi driver to pull over when I spotted this roadside "market." These two women were selling delicious looking avocados, carrots and tomatoes..all against the backdrop of the mountains.

The ladies who sold it all.

It doesn't get much fresher than this folks.

Hanging tomato plants.

Yum! Had to buy a bundle of these- look how perfectly orange!

Roadside cotton candy anyone? How about some corn?

Vendors outside Silver Cascades waterfall.

A self-photographed picture of Callum and I at the Tibetan Brothers Restaurant. This photo was a necessity as we dined here on a daily basis. The momos were scrumptious and the lemon tea soothing..

The picturesque Coakers Walk. I set out at 8am this day to catch the mountains and valley before they became covered in fog.

Gorgeous view of the valley!

Sipping cardamom tea outside our guest house- amazing fog in the distance. (Fog, not smoke! What a relief..)

Coakers Walk in the evening.

Me in my element- fresh, cool air!

Goosie!!! Bring us to shore..
Eager to try our own on the horror scene-infused Disney Land paddle boats, Callum and I kicked and paddled our way across Kodaikanal Lake. Along the way, we made up stories about our trusted boat mascot, the pink swan, aka-Goosie.

"Kodaikanal Homestay" - Complete with two private cottages, a man named Raj, and a few too many dogs.

Speedo, one of Raj's nine slobbery German Shepherds...standing in front of our cottage.

somewhere different...
Elsewhere in India, one can find a pair of legs...

Mr. Ramesh selling salwar kameez and "ali baba" trousers.

Looking at art in a small shop in Mahabalipuram.

Stone carvings galore- mostly Shiva and Ganesh statues.

Mas arte.

Beautiful silk sold at the Pondy Bazaar market in Chennai.

Pondy Bazaar- a busy outdoor market near T. Nagar, Chennai

P. Bazaar