Friday, July 29, 2005

Only 7:23 and I feel like it could be 2:00 a.m. But it's getting better. Spending most of today outside really helped.

I got to Chiang Mai at 7:30 this morning, checked into the hotel, had a shower and started to feel human again. I resisted the urge to jump into the very inviting bed and opted instead for a quick walk around the hotel's neighborhood. It's a commercial strip with many little shops, including an abundance of Internet cafes with access at a reasonable 10 Baht per 30 minutes. (A Baht is worth about 2.5 cents US. You do the math.) The Chiang Mai Public Library is also just down the street. I haven't gone in yet but I'm sure I will before I leave town on Tuesday.

It took me a while, blame it on the travel stupor I was in, but eventually I began to notice the religious symbols all over the place. Every other block, if not more often, I saw little spirit houses. The usually had a statue of a god in a house or gazebo-like structure. Most often the gods looked like Hindu deities, rather than Buddhist. Later I found out that the Buddhism in this part of the country is liberally sprinkled with Hindu influence. That explains all the Krishna and Ganesha images I saw. Many of the spirit houses had incense burning, which is a common thing to do first thing in the morning. There were often garlands of flowers laid over the statue or the house and there were many other creatures arrayed around the god to keep him company. Many, many elephants were in evidence.

The spirit house's ornateness varied a great deal from place to place. The one in front of the Internet cafe where I sit now is one of the more detailed ones. It has all the elements I described above and the house where the deity lives is quite large. Down the street is a much smaller rendition. But no matter the size they are all kept in tip-top condition and are well cared for.

My hotel has a rather large spirit house in the courtyard. I can see it from my room. I expect that I'll have bunch of photos of these. I'll try to upload a photo at some point but that will depend on finding somewhere with a USB port that I can use. We'll see what I can do.

Most of the rest of the day was taken up with a nap, which I forced myself to cut short and go back outside. And a visit to the brother of a friend of a friend who has lived here for 8 years but used to live in Michigan. His name is David and he and his parter, Meaw, own a shop that sells clothing and also offers traditional Thai massage. I must have looked so wiped out that David said should get a massage. So I did. It was wonderful. It was quite different from the massages I've had at home. This was much more physical, combining many elements of accupressure. The person who did my massage spent a lot of time finding the pressure points in my legs. The result was an incredibly relaxing 90 minutes. The time flew by but by the time she was done I felt much refreshed and relaxed. After all those hours in a plane, I'm sure my neck, shoulders, and legs were all knotted up. Now, all I need is to find that yoga studio. That's for tomorrow's itinerary.

Some things that surprised me:

1. They drive on the left hand side of the road here. I didn't know that. Which means that I need to spend a lot of time watching as I cross the road.

2. Taxis here are red trucks with canopies on the back. And you negotiate the price before you leave. It's a flat rate. Rides generally run 20 -50 Baht.

More later.

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