We went to Thailand several times while we were living in Hong Kong (1994-2000). Know that 'ko' is Thai for 'island'.
The Golden Triangle
We haven't always liked Thailand. Although Phuket has some nice beaches and hotels, we always found the people there to be cold and insincere, and we assumed that this was typical of Thailand as a whole. And no one would argue with the fact that Bangkok has a terrible traffic problem as well as a lousy climate.
So we were pleased to find the people of northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, to be precise) to be quite friendly. Chiang Mai, the 'rose of the north' is at an altitude of 1000 meters or so, so it's a little cooler than Bangkok. We were expecting it to be in the mountains but actually it is in a wide, green valley - you'd have to drive for 20 minutes or so to get into the mountains. Chiang Mai usually gets a bad press in the guide books but we thought it was OK. Why did we go there if we weren't expecting much? Shopping, of course! Chiang Mai has a large number of huge shopping outlets selling antiques, jewellery, chinaware and other crafts, and Catherine did what she could to boost the local economy.
We were very sick for most of week in Thailand - at first we thought it might be because of the spicy food but three weeks later, as I type this, we are still not fully recovered despite a course of antibiotics so it must have been something worse than just spices. At least being sick gave us an excuse to call various nurses to our room - what could be sexier than a young Thai nurse in freshly ironed white uniform??
We chose not to visit Chiang Rai, north of Chiang Mai and at the center of the emerald triangle (Thailand, Laos, Burma) although it might have been interesting for opium is still cultivated in abundance in that region. After Chiang Mai we stayed in Bangkok for a few days (this was a working visit for Catherine, believe it or not, as she was sent here as an examiner for the French Baccalaureate) and then went down to the seaside resort of Hua Hin, a three hour drive south-west of Bangkok. Hua Hin has been the resort of choice for the Thai royal family since about 1900.
A famous feature of Chiang Mai is the night bazaar. Not bad.
Some shops in the bazaar specialise in creating amazingly photo-realistic drawing from photographs. We had one made, but not this one (below right).
Chaing Mai is known for elephants. We visited a 'training camp' and saw this family getting its daily bath in the river (below left). I suspect the tourist business is as important now as the logging business, as far as elephants are concerned. Here elephants demonstrate how they can handle logs - they managed to pile six logs onto the ramp for us (below right)
Catherine has read the word 'catleya' many times since it is a pseudonym used by Marcel Proust to represent 'love'. Take a look at the catleya orchid and decide for yourself whether Marcel made a good choice.
This enormous atlas moth was attracted to the orchid on Catherine's dress.
Overlooking Chiang Mai is a famous temple which is reached by cable car or by this long flight of 'dragon steps'.
Inside the temple.
Outside the temple! Back in the town center are a few more temples. This one (below right) dates from the 16th century.
Inside the temple are some murals depicting life or myths from that era. The first few from the 16th century shrine in Chiang Mai...
... and the others below are from the Grand Palace, Bangkok.
The monk below was reading in the temple. All Thai males are expected to serve a monks for at least a few months - many do it when they are boys.