Monday, April 19, 2010
You Wanted Temples, We Got Temples
On Friday we woke up fully prepared to get wet again. All the literature and couchsurfing information indicated that Songkran lasted five days in Chiang Mai. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the streets were clear of pickup trucks with barrels, buckets and water guns. It was safe to go outside again.
Chiang Mai is a pretty decent-sized city. The internets tell me that the city proper has upwards of 150,000 residents and the greater metropolitan area is over one million. All of Samoa has less than 200,000 people. It was easy to walk the city inside the moat, which made it feel very small. However, it definitely had all the amenities you expect in a real city, including the Mac-approved service and sales shop.
We made a stop at a couple of wats. According to my Lonely Planet, a wat is a temple complex. In this complex you may see a chedi (large, bell-shaped tower also known as a stupa), or a praang (towering phallic spire), and the wihaan (the main sanctuary for the temple's Buddha sculpture).
In addition to the wats it wasn't uncommon for us to turn a street corner to discover a random crumbling ancient chedi/praang or a brand-new golden one. We used two of them as landmarks when returning to our guest house.
I had a hard time taking pictures at and visiting the wats because these are not historic relics, these are active religious sites. I am not very good at taking pictures of people living their everyday lives without their permission. Especially when I am obviously a tourist. I don't think I would have a problem taking pictures at a church in the States. I feel like I would blend in. But there was something about taking pictures as a farang in Thailand.
Also, after some visits, I started to feel like a wat is a wat is wat. Lots of tiles and glass, check. Large, golden Buddha, check.
On Monday Cale took a cooking class and I took a walk around the city and then did a bit of relaxing. Cale can cook pad thai for me now and all is right with the world.
We stayed in Chiang Mai until Tuesday morning when we caught a bus to Chiang Rai.
Posted by Cale