Some time since the last blog.. a lot has happened in the interim. The most important is that we have completed and passed our TEFL course (yippee) and done so well. Rachel scored 95% on the final grammar and phonology test and I scored 93.5% putting us 2nd and 3rd in the line up. We taught seven 1 hour classes and I came out with the top score with a perfect 1, (I think) the only grade 1 in the class. We are both really proud of our performance as we didn't just want to pass but pass well. I even got a little watery eyed at the presentation...tart.
For me the biggest problem lay in sweating in those hot fan-only classrooms. Poor children got regularly covered in great waves of the stuff and if I flicked my head it was like a short grey haired version of the old Timoteh hair ads. I say grey but actually not anymore. The course tutor suggested that I might do better in the job market if I dyed it a bit. So I am now strawberry blond! Not really. I have just done some subtle toning so the grey has largely gone
Chiang Mai is a vibrant place to live with lots going on. There are endless bars, restaurants, bazaars and temples. Its a great place to live and the area we are in has a great village feel to it even though it is part of the city. our street is full of food stalls that smell delicious but we are suspicious of the lovely looking sausages that are more than likely large intestines! We are beginning to fit in and be known by the locals. We have been to the local waterfall (pretty tame as its the hottest/driest time of year - everyday is 100+) and the picturesque reservoir where Rachel attempted to ride the moped - she managed well for the first 4 inches but the following 14 were a little too tense so she gave up at 18 inches and is happy to remain a pillion passenger.
The Thai are a lovely people en masse and always seem happy, calm and accepting. I can think of few places where a hairy biker, a man in a gold lamah (?) suit and a ladyboy would be chatting with a market stall holder without anyone taking a blind bit of notice. There's a lovely ladyboy that slices your salami for you in the local supermarket and another in the food court of the shopping mall that serves you your beer. all of this is taken in everybody's stride and that's why we love it here.
Since we have been here in Chiang Mai we haven't done a lot because of the course but we have managed to fit in a ladyboy show, Cabaret. video is on the gallery.
This is a little confusing down below because some look stunning and others look, well, like men with lippy on. Its a great show, very camp and glitzy and like any good girly bar the hostesses are trying to ply you with booze and even to tempt you into buying them drinks. all a little surreal.
And then was Songkran. The most amazing festival ever! it is the Thai new year and is represented by attending the temples to gain merit and to wash the faces of the Buddha images and pouring a small cup of water of the elders shoulder as a cleansing for the coming of a new year. But it is the hottest time of the year so this has developed into a full blown water fight. Trucks with people piled into the back along with 50 gallon drums full of water and buckets to throw it with, will be delivering drive by soakings to anyone on a bike, in a sontaew or just walking along. There is no escape for 5 days. We had a warm up day with friends at a guest house near the city so we had a constant supply of water and could sit and drink beer and eat intestine and watch it going on. We spent 8 hours soaked through and could not believe the fun had with just water.
The next day we walked down to the city and were soaked through before we even reached the main road. My cheap hawaiin shirt (bought from Tesco) was losing its bright pink colour all over my shorts and my flip flops were squelching. Chris's seemed to just shrink at an alarming rate. But Chris was armed with a CPS 5000 water pistol that you pumped up and it fired a great jet of water at passing bikes, cars and trucks. The biggest problem for us was the groups of people, kids, parents, grandparents, on the pavements with hoses and more buckets of water. You could not get past without getting a bucket full in the face or down
your back but it was a welcome relieve from the heat. And some people even used the fact we were wet through to not even bother heading to the bathroom for a pee! Again the pictures on the gallery explain it better. As we got closer to the city walls there were stages with bands playing, DJs doing there stuff, more people aiming hoses at you as you danced and as you hit the moat you had to keep you eyes and mouth shut. The moat was being emptied by people running out of cleanish water to throw at you and it was pretty smelly and dirty. We thought we would avoid this by heading down a little side street and looking for a bar and somewhere to pee. and we ended up in someone's house drinking beer and still throwing water at locals. The house belonged to a fabulously gay Swedish man and his thai boyfriend who cooked us fish and made us papaya salad. we spent a couple of hours there and then headed home after a second day being completed soaked for another 8 hours.
As much fun as it was the thought of doing it all over again and possibly getting trench foot was a bit too much so we hired a bike, a proper bike not a scooter, and did the 4 hour drive along the lovely windy mountain roads, north to Chiang Rai. We found a great little hotel on the banks of a river estuary and spent a couple of days getting hosed down in a different place! it didn't matter that you were doing 90k on the bike with back packs on, they still threw water. But we got to see The White Temple and the Black House which made the journey worthwhile.
The White Temple is exactly that, it is a fabulously ornate temple completely white and covered in mosaic mirror tiles. As you enter there are swamps of hands and body parts and faces being stretched and eaten alive. This is symbolising hell.
You cross a bridge into the temple which unfortunately you are not allowed to photograph, as the walls are painted with the most fantastical murals of heaven and hell but they incorporate all the latest technology of mobile phones and computers and even film characters including all the superheroes. It is really impressive. As you walk round you come out to a huge elaborately decorated golden building which, believe it or not, are the most amazingly spectacular toilets I have ever seen. We both, of course, had to go and use them and it was free. Chris even took the camera in to get pictures in side. so I can now boast that I have had a crap on a golden toilet!!
The Black House is one mans overblown artistic whimsy. It's a collection of the most flamboyantly styled Thai barns that are filled with collections of art from around Asia and huge pieces of furniture made from single pieces of teak decorated with the skulls of water buffalo.
The pictures hopefully show some of the magnificence of it. My favourite piece was an inflated puff fish hanging from the ceiling with a light bulb in it!