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Cooling It In Chiang Mai

Like Dalat, Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is another place I didn't get to before that everybody said was not to be missed. It turned out that Sunthorn's company owns the hotel we are staying in, so at dinner the night before last, he phoned ahead and told them to treat us right. They sent a car and driver to pick us up at the airport and upgraded our room. Nice to know people in high places.


It was the Queen's birthday yesterday, and her photo was everywhere on billboards with lots of celebrations going on. We only had time to tour the Royal Palace complex in Bangkok yesterday before flying to Chiang Mai. We took the water taxi (really a water bus) from our hotel to the Royal Palace, which was really a breath of fresh air in the hottest place we have been yet. Bangkok, at over 10 million, is pretty hard to grasp. Kind of a cross between Los Angeles and New York City. The Royal Palace complex is an exquisite piece of architecture, but we left Bangkok feeling we weren't missing much else.


Chiang Mai is approaching 1 million (officially 150,000) but seems like much smaller city. It is refreshingly quieter, cleaner, cooler and has far less traffic than Bangkok. Today we took a tour that included an elephant training center, an elephant ride of about a kilometer to a fake village, a picnic on a bamboo raft on a jungle river and a visit to several ethnic villages where we once again loaded up on local crafts. Some of it was hokey, but it was fun. Where else can you watch an elephant paint a pretty good picture? There are only about 1,000 elephants left in Thailand, and tourist spots like these may be their last hope. It rained most of they day and cooled off quite nicely.


At the recommendation of the Kaiser travel desk, we have been taking malaria pills since entering Cambodia, but we haven't seen any mosquitoes. It's ironic that mosquitoes are unbearable at our home in Richmond, but don't seem to have found us at all in Southeast Asia.


I have to give up this computer, so more later...