Today I spent most of the day visiting some of the wats (i.e. Buddhist temples) that dot the landscape of this city. They're fascinating places. All of them are working temples, in that they have monks who stay there, tend the grounds, and teach. Several of them are hundreds of years old and have been restored in recent years. Walking up to the main building on the temple grounds, you always see an assortment of shoes lined up outside. No one is allowed inside with shoes on. And it is considered very insulting to sit with your feet pointed at the Buddha statue inside of the pagoda. Most people sit on their feet, although some sit sort of side-saddle, with their legs off to the side. Many people are there to pray, although today most of the people that I saw were tourists, like me. All of us clicking our cameras. I didn't get a chance to talk to any monks, most of them were walking around on the periphery of the grounds. I suppose they were tending to chores or studying in their rooms.

As I was walking to my first destination, I pulled out my map to try to figure out why the road was turning when it wasn't on the map. That was a signal for a tuk-tuk driver to stop and try to persuade me to let him drive me. They're very persistent, these taxi drivers. Anyway, he said he'd take me to 5 temples, including one in the old city for 350 Baht. I told him I wasn't interested in going to the old city. He said, ok, 250. I said 200. He smiled and shook his head. Nooo, had to have 250 Baht. I said I was a poor American and could only afford 200. At that he laughed and said ok, 200. So for the next couple of hours, I had a tour guide, more or less. I could have walked it, but I'm glad I hired this guy. He would take me to the wat, drop me off, and wait for as long as I wanted explore. There must be an oversupply of tuk-tuks at the moment. Otherwise, it's hard to see how he didn't lose money on the deal. In the end, I gave him 250 Baht. He deserved it and saved me a lot of work. Two things about these wats: They don't usually have the names in Romanized script on the outside and you can walk by them without realizing that they're there. I've done that more than once. And since I simply am unable to decipher Thai script, I probably would have missed some of the places I wanted to go.

Last night after I got back from the night bazaar, I had a drink in the hotel bar. There was a party of about 8 at another table in the bar. They evidently had been drinking for awhile. There was a 3 piece band playing and when the lead singer took a short break, one of the guys from the table jumped up and got on to the podium. I think he was Chinese. Anyway, he got the piano and bass players to start-up and he started singing, kareoke-style. It was a hoot. Picture a Chinese guy in a striped polo shirt and blue shorts bobbing up and down while singing "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams, accompanied by a Thai bass and piano player. A true multicultural moment.

Another Thai moment: While I was at the night bazaar last night, I ducked into a public restroom. On my way in, I glanced into one of the stalls and saw dirty footprints on the toilet seat. Traditional Thai bathrooms only have places to squat, no real toilets such as we know. Apparently some of the hill people still do the squating thing, even on ceramic toilets.

And here's a Dykhuis tale: My first night here, when I was so brain-dead from lack of sleep, I couldn't find the light switches for the lights over the luggage rack and the desk. I looked on every wall. I found the bathroom lights. Because I really needed to go to sleep, I decided it was Thai thing and that they never liked to turn the lights off. So when in Chiang Mai, do as the Thai. Needless to say the lights did not keep me awake. But I even had a dream about that damn light switch. So in the morning, I went over the walls yet again. Then it hit me. The lights were controlled on the panel next to the bed, which also had controls for the television and radio. Duh. In fact the porter could have told me about that when he delivered me to the room. Anyway, now I can sleep in the dark as God intended us to.


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