Pai

So there is a little town called Pai about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai. Its sort of known as a backpacker party town. But there are also a lot of interesting things to see and do in that area. I’d heard a lot about it, and was happy when a chance came to go check it out with some friends.

Luckily I was able to just tag along again while other people organized everything. Big thank you to my Chiang Mai friends for being cool like that.

Anyways, we rented a car for 3 days and decided to make a weekend of it.

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Car Selfie.

The drive was quite pretty and interesting. I had heard that some people just drive their scooter or motorbike there but we found that there was a lot of dusty, dirty, construction areas, and it was hard to imagine a motorbike being a good idea.

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Along the way there were a few little lookout points like this.

None of us really knew what we were going to do once we got to Pai so on the way we looked up some of the sites. One of the attractions mentioned repeatedly was something called the “Land Crack.” Basically there was this farmer who’s land randomly developed a large crack due to some strange soil erosion. So he decides to turn it into a tourist attraction. Anyways, this Land Crack was on the way to Pai so we decided to check it out.

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The Land Crack.

The crack itself was a little underwhelming. But what made this experience cool was they provide some food and snacks that they grow and make there on the property. These included fresh papaya, banana chips, passion fruit, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and this juice and jam they make out of a plant called a roselle plant, which I had never heard of.

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This is the passion fruit, but you can also see the roselle juice and the sweet potatoes here.
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Roselle flower. It is a type of hibiscus.

Overall it was a nice and relaxing time. The farmer and his staff were very friendly. They also don’t actually charge anything for the snacks or to see the Land Crack. They just ask for you to make a donation of whatever you feel it was worth.

While we were in the area of the Land Crack we checked out a little waterfall.

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There were lots of people there already. But it was a nice little waterfall.

Off to Pai.

We stayed in these cute little bungalow things.

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Our accommodations for the night.
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From the inside.

So since there were 6 of us and only 3 beds we all got to double up, but everyone kept their hands to themselves as far as I know, so it all worked out fine.

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Obligatory group selfie.

We had a fun and long night out in the town.

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One of the cool pictures from that night.
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The next morning.

The next day we decided to check out the Pai canyon.

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The Pai Canyon. There are these long narrow walk ways with steep drop offs on either side. No one from our group wanted to get too close.
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Group Photo Op.

Then on the way home we checked out some hot springs. I didn’t get hardly any pictures of the hot springs. Basically you can walk up to the hottest ones that is, according to a nearby sign, about 80 degrees celsius. And apparently you can boil eggs in them. They have these long sticks with baskets on the end that you can use and you can also buy eggs somewhere.

Anyways, the hottest springs then flow down over this wide area and the water cools down. Then it gathers in these little pool areas that you can swim in. As you get farther away from the top the temperature gradually gets lower. The ones we swam in were about 32 degrees celsius if I remember right.

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One of the hottest springs.

Also on the way to the hot spring we randomly saw some elephants on the side of the road.

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So, overall it was a really fun trip. I had an amazing time with some amazing people. And if you are ever in Chiang Mai, be sure to checkout Pai.

Happy Elephant Home

Me and some new friends saw the elephants the other day and it was amazing.
You have to be a bit careful which places you go to visit the elephants. Some places are abusive to the animals, but other places, like the one we went to, helps to rescue animals that have been abused, and treat the animals very well.
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The place was called the Happy Elephant Home. This place had a baby elephant which was really fun. Not many of them do, and one of the workers told me that it was very lucky for us to come when they have a baby.
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Cute baby elephant.

When we arrived, they gave us bags and a bunch of green little bananas. Then we all just went out into the field and fed the elephants all our bananas. When you run out of bananas they will come up to you and like pester you for some food and when they figure out you don’t have any they will like leave to pester someone else.

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They were trained so that when you say a certain phrase the would open up like this.
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Mini banana for scale. Also for feeding them.
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Most of the time they would just grab the banana with their trunk like this.
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Then toss it into their mouth.

 

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Random picture.
The reason it was so lucky to have a baby elephant is because apparently good bulls for breeding are rare or something. The stud fee for a bull elephant can be up to $100,000 if successful and even $30,000 if it fails.
Side note, all the elephants we saw that day were female. With this type of elephant females actually grow tusks, however they are much smaller than the tusks on a male.
The baby was still many hundreds of pounds and it liked to play. Basically that means it likes to charge up behind you if you aren’t looking an like knock you over. It actually tackled one of the other visitors, a girl a little younger than me. It almost trampled her which was a little scary for a few moments. But she was ok.
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Baby elephant again.
After that, we went down to the river and got into the water with the elephants. They would like lay down in the water and put their whole body, head included, under the water with just their nose out so they could breath which was kind of funny. We would basically just go up and splash with water. But you still have to be quite careful you don’t get caught in between them and stuff. But it was really fun.
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View of the river.
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Elephants go in first.
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Then the rest of us.
It was just really really cool to interact with these animals they all seemed very gentle and friendly. Plus it was just incredible to be so close to something so big and powerful, yet so gentle. It was just great. And I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to going except I met someone who scheduled it all and I just had to show up with some cash so that was cool. There were 4 of us that went and we all had a great time.
And as a bonus, here is my favorite picture from all my time here in Thailand.
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Kaosoi Maesai in Chiang Mai

This is apparently one of the most well know/famous places to get Khao Soi. Its called Kaosoi Maesai. (There are multiple spellings for Khao Soi.)

If you don’t remember what Khao Soi is, it is like egg noodles in a coconut based curry. And one of the signature features is that it is topped with crunchy egg noodles. Its very good.

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What the place looks like.
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What the Khao Soi looks like.

It was very good, and actually quite different from the other place I go to.

New Apartment

Here are a few pictures of my new apartment. It is 8,000 baht per month ($221). It is not as good as my other place and is a little more expensive but it was the only place I could find in my “as cheap as possible” price range.

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That window faces south so the sun shines in it like all day.
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Pretty shower curtain.

I don’t really like this place. There is like no chair. Its weird. But hey, I like having an excuse to not stay in my room very often. Plus it was cheap so I am not complaining, just assessing.

Pork Burgers

So beef is actually quite expensive here. But these Thai people serve a lot of pork.

I finally found a burger place near where I live so I had to check it out.

Its called Echo Burger and the pork burger was like 40 baht (about $1.10) cheaper than the beef burger so I went with that.

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Their signature burger is a double patty burger with bacon, tomato, and a fried egg. Very tasty. But the pork does make it taste a little different. Still very good, but different.

Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

So in Chiang Mai, there is this temple at the top of the nearby mountain (more like a hill compared to what I am used to). You can see it lit up at night. The full name of the temple is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. But that is a mouthful.

Shortly after renting my scooter I decided to drive up there.

It was a really fun and pretty drive. Lots of smooth switch backs and the roads were actually quite good.

On the way I found a good lookout point:

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Panoramic photo overlooking Chiang Mai.

You kind of go up behind the actual temple and there is a parking area and a little market. And you see this:

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It just a big freaking staircase up to temple.

Fortunately for just like 10 baht (about 30 cents) you can get in this nifty 45-ish degree angled wonkavader that will take you up to the temple and then back down when you are finished.

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Rules for the temple.

Remember that when visiting a temple you should keep your legs and shoulders covered. I had heard this before so I was prepared and wore jeans.

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Up in the temple area there was another good lookout point over the city.
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Obligatory selfie.
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Lots of Buddhas and shrines.
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Lots of big bells. Like seriously there were bells everywhere. There were a half or dozen or so rows of them just like this one.

Not sure what all the bells are for or what ringing them is supposed to mean. I thought I read somewhere that it is for protection or something. But I rang them and it was kind of fun.

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Cool colors on this building.
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More bells.
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Another angle of some other building. And look, another bell.
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So many beeeeeellllls.
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An area with Buddhas and other figures.
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These are actually roof tiles. They were retiling one of the rooftops of a nearby building. You are asked to make a donation and then you can take a tile and write something on the underside and that tile would be used in the new roof.
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Steps up to the area with the Golden Chedi.
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I saw people getting these candles and flowers before taking off their shoes and heading up to the area with the Golden Chedi, so I did too.

Now before I go on, I have to say that I am pretty sure and have every reason to believe that foreigners are all welcome to participate in Buddhist rituals in Thailand. So while I was here at the temple I respectfully tried to do what I saw others doing and thought a lot about the possible meaning behind it. The whole experience was very interesting to me, and if my own intentions and feelings were any indication, it felt meaningful and beautiful in a way to participate.

So I took off my shoes and headed up the steps with my candle and flower.

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The Golden Chedi. Quite beautiful.
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The Golden Chedi was in the middle of this square and lining the square were all these Buddha figures on 2 of the sides.
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The other two sides of the square had these little areas where there was a monk on an elevated area and people would go in there to pray. I felt ok taking pictures because a sign near the entrance to this room suggested it was ok.
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As you can see, people would take their flower and grab a little card thingy with a prayer thing printed on it. Then they would walk around the Golden Chedi 3 times.

After wandering around and figuring out what people were doing, I grabbed a card and walked around the Golden Chedi 3 times while trying to pronounce the words on the card in my head. The words were basically impossible to pronounce, but I tried. Some text at the top of the card read “Read this while walking around theGolden Chedi 3 times to show respect” or something like that. I have a hard time remembering the exact words.

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As you can see, this is what the candles were for.

The people would take the candle and use another candle to light it. Then they would hold the bottom of the candle under the flame to melt the bottom then stick it to the metal there.

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This is where the flowers went. And that board is where people would stick coins using wax from a candle.

Another thing to add is that donating money seemed to be a big part of the rituals, when you take a candle and flower you donate money, when people would pray with the monks they would donate money, there were little stacks of coins in random places where people put them as a donation. It was very interesting.

Like I said, the whole thing was interesting and beautiful. It was a peaceful experience. While I was trying to understand and participate, I thought a lot about what these people must be feeling.

I think there are feelings that are universal when it comes to religious practices. Feelings of hope for the future, of protection against evil. Longing for peace, and good fortune for themselves and for their loved ones.

I can’t speak for the people I saw there at Suthep temple that day, but I thought I saw those things in their actions and on their faces. On the way that the rituals seemed to be routine in that moment for some people and deeply important at that time for others.

I think this is another way that humanity is all connected. This way we deal with the unknown. The way many of us are drawn towards a faith in something greater than ourselves. The way we take comfort in rituals of one form or another.

Needless to say, even though Suthep is a very popular tourist attraction, I had a wonderful and even spiritual time there.