Thailand - a big MEOW in Chiang Mai
It took 2 hours by bus to reach Chiang Mai from Lampang. The bus terminal is out of town, but there are lots of songthaews that can bring you to town for 20 Baht. I got of in the middle of a market and than started to look for a place to stay. My plan was to go to the Kavil 2 as I have heard a lot of people raving about this place, but it was fully booked.
In Chiang Mai with its 175´000 inhabitants and more than 300 hotels, guesthouses or hostels it was not too difficult to find a nice hostel. My third hostel was Libra Guesthouse and they finally had a room for 2 nights. I quickly left my backpack there and walked around the area, visited the night market, passed by the red light district (I will never get used to the old whiteys you can see with much too young girls or boys.....). Even here in Chiang Mai this is quite a common sight. I finally found a nicer area with a great bar to sit down for a beer. The next morning I decided to rent a scooter. I was so sick of fighting for the prices with the tuk-tuk drivers and I wanted to see a bit of the surroundings of Chiang Mai and visit the Tiger Kingdom. The scooter even turned out to be cheaper than a tuk-tuk to the Tiger Kingdom. Well done. And it was really relaxing on the scooter and I saw a lot. Finally I arrived in Maerin and I was very curious of visiting the big cats in the Tiger Kingdom. I decided to stay in a cage with an adult tiger - well, it was a beautiful lady. It was really impressive - these cats are simply beautiful and big! But in total, it was too touristy for me. Anyway, sometimes you cannot escape the crowds if you want to see something special. And sometimes remote things are the ones that are special. But I loved the time I spent with the cats. They all looked a bit stoned - but hey, they are sleeping during the day. How do you look like when someone is waking you up in the middle of the night. If I were a tiger, I would be rather sleeping than playing around with some stupid whiteys. And I also would not eat everything that is walking around the cage - most if these "two-legged guys" do not look very yummy..... ;-)
Afterwards I took my scooter and drove further in the search of 2 waterfalls: the Tad Mork Waterfall (a bit more remote) and the Maesa Waterfall, which is close to the road and has a nice walkway along the river. The waterfall itself has like 10 levels. Of course, I wanted to see all the levels and was walking around and chilling at the water for quite a while. It was very relaxing! I did not want to drive back the same way I have come from. So I tried to find the road which would take me back on a loop. But I failed. It is impossible to read the road signs (if there are any) and I gave up and followed the road back to the Tiger Kingdom and to Chiang Mai. It was a perfect day on the scooter. I am not a biker at home, so, for me, it was a special feeling to drive around. I decieded to stay 1 night longer in Chiang Mai, booked my room for the extra night and went to the night market again. A day on the scooter makes you very hungry. Now I had another day to look around the city and plan my next destinations. And I met a lot of interesting people in the guesthouse: a german girl who was heading to Pai for some meditation with monks, a dutch guy who "just" spent 7 weeks of his life in Chiang Mai, a slowene guy whos was travelling the way I do, a canadian travelling with his friend through northern Thailand, another german guy he was heading to the Mekong and the chec girl I had already met in Sukhothai. That made up for some good talks and great evenings. The next day I booked a Cooking Class, hired a bicycle and drove around town. I ended up at the bus terminal to get the ticket for the bus to Mae Hong Son for the following night. I finished the day with visiting the former femal prison and had an amazing foot massage at Lila Thai Massage. There, prisoners give you the massages. And it was perfect!
The next morning I had to get up early: I had to pack my bag, leave everything at the guesthouse and headed to my cooking class. To put it shortly: it was simply amazing. We were only 6 want-to-be-cooks: an american couple, a german girl, a canadian guy and me. And we had a fantastic teacher. After a warm welcome we could choose out 6 dishes we wanted to cook (and eat!). Then, we all went to the market and learned all about the ingredients, spices, fruits and veggies. Afterwards we went to the home of our teacher which was about 20 minutes out of town int the middle of some rice fields. Everything was already prepared for us - each cook had his/her own working space and stove. And than it was hard work ;-) - but good fun! After we had finished everything we sat down on the terrasse overlooking the rice fields and had our 6 course menu. We had a lot of time to talk and passed it really good. Manthanee, our teacher was simply lovely and a really good cook and teacher. If you want to know more about Methanee and her cooking school go to http://thai-secret-cooking-school.blogspot.com or find her in Facebook. I paid 100 Baht more for this class than in other schools - but it was worth it. Manthanee even knows germand or french in case you do not get the word in english.
At 6 pm I was back at my guesthouse, grabbed my back and hurried up to the bus terminal. Again the tuk-tuk drivers wanted to rip me of. But I finally found a pick up. The girl driving was very nice and just in time I arrived at the bus terminal. She even gave me the adress of a friend living in Pai whom I should visit. Ahead of me was a long night on the bus to Mae Hong Son: 9 hours!