Monday, April 6, 2009

Touring Chiang Mai (The Usual Way)

Today, we decided to rent a vehicle to bring us around Chiang Mai, the capital of the Chiang Mai Province, and visit the usual tourist spots. (Yes, haven’t you noticed? We’ve already crept out from our “adventure traveling” style.) We met with Mr. Tee yesterday, through Pat of Same Same Guesthouse, and he was kind enough to give us pointers on where we should rather go and what places we can forego.
Although Mr. Tee’s transport is a mere pick-up truck converted into a, sort of, jeepney, it was still a treat having him as our driver. Not only does he speak good English, but he understands how thrifty we all are for this trip. He keeps on recommending us to where the best deals are, and usually get freebies from his friends and then gives them to us. Hehehe!

Anyway, the first stop for the day, according to Mr. Tee, should be the farthest, the Doi Pui Villages of the Hmong Tribe. Yippeee!!! I quickly changed my lens to 50mm and told Os to prepare the reflector we brought. This is it! My first on-the-field use of my 50mm with the Hmong tribe and I simply can’t wait.

From the parking lot, we had to trek for several minutes to get to the Hmong Tribe. The trek wasn’t strenuous as the paths were lined up with vendors selling souvenir items. As usual, we stopped, looked and rummaged through the stuff in front of us, making Mr. Tee come back for us for several times, probably thinking we were lost.
_Finally, we arrived at the Hmong Tribe and we were greeted by children all dressed-up in their traditional Hmong costumes. We were a bit worried, though, that these children will ask us for tips after taking their photos, but Mr. Tee said, we’re not required to give any. However, when we photographed a group of children, or should we say, when we had an impromptu pictorial with a group of children, it took us roughly 30 minutes to get all the angles we wanted. We really did plan to give them a tip as we enjoyed taking their photos. I’d like to believe they enjoyed having us take their photos as well as they keep taking turns in holding the reflector for us. But, Mr. Tee beat us into paying them. We tried to pay Mr. Tee back, but he won’t accept it anymore. He must have pitied us, probably thinking that we’re really, really poor with all the bargaining he witnessed from us. Hehehe! Or, he’s simply a very kind man, which we witnessed later on by the number of foreigners who greeted him out on the streets of Chiang Mai. He does have a lot of foreigner friends.

Our next stop was the Bhubhing Palace. This is the royal winter residence of the Royal Family. (Ha?! May winter sa Thailand???? Hehehe!) It also serves as a guesthouse for state visitors from abroad, which became a disadvantage when we were there. The guesthouse was closed from the public, but the rest of the palace grounds were open. The estate has a flower garden, a rose garden, a fern garden, a butterfly, a bird sanctuary and a water reservoir. For some, these may all be such great sites, but really, we’re not too interested with these. I, personally, felt that the 50-baht entrance fee we paid was a waste. There’s nothing much to see and we had to walk through the entire estate under the scorching heat of the sun. (As usual, we opted to walk than renting a cart for 300-baht that can only accommodate 4 people! Mahal!)

Next, we went to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple with 309 steps to get to the pagodas. There’s a tram, though, but we climbed the entire 309 steps, pausing most of the time to pose. Now, that takes away the strain from the leg muscles.

There’s a 30-baht entrance fee at the temple, but if you ask me, we could have easily gotten away. Pero wag naman sana tayong dishonest kay Lord, diba? Or in this case, kay Buddha. Bad yun!

We spent quite a few minutes walking through the temples and pagodas, taking photos and taking time out to rest. It was hot and humid, so a mere step requires too much of an effort.

Sure, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is such an interesting temple and it is a must for tourist and travelers to see. But we’ve seen one too many temples last year, it was tiring to see so many temples and pagodas in one lifetime. Hehehe!

After touring the entire place, we asked Mr. Tee if we could pass by a Catholic Church. It was Palm Sunday and since we’ve already seen a lot of Buddhist temples, it’s high time we visit our own church.

He brought us to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was closed though. But Mr. Tee, being the over-attentive tourist guide / driver that he is, looked for the caretaker and asked if they could have the church opened so we can go inside. Bibo talaga si Mr. Tee! Not only was the church doors opened for us, but the parish priest also came out to greet us.

Our tour ended here. We asked Mr. Tee to bring us back to the Cha Da’s Guesthouse. Years ago, we would have toured other places as long as there’s still daylight. Today, we finished the entire tour by 3pm and we’re all so beat already. We spent the rest of the afternoon in our rooms either resting or sleeping. Matatanda na kasi!!!

More photos at my Multiply site:
Hmong -
Bhubhing Palace -
Wat Phrathet Doi Suthep -