Sunday, March 09, 2008

Passing the Time

Day 165
Chiang Mai

It’s our last day in Chiang Mai. We intended to get out before breakfast to see a few temples we’ve missed. Unfortunately, it was raining so we returned to the breakfast buffet routine we’ve been following for the last few mornings. By the time we sipped our last drops of tea, the sun was out and we were on our way.
The first stop was Wat Phra Singh, a very highly regarded temple in Chiang Mai. Upon arrival, we skirted around the back and did our best to avoid the lurking tuk-tuk drivers. Typically, there is more than one building at a temple so we worked our way from back to front. The wat has been in existence since 1345 and contains the Lion Buddha (Phra Singh), the most revered Buddha figure in the city. I particularly enjoyed the wonderfully restored Vihara (temple) Laai Kham. It was a very good example of the Lanna style architecture with its red gild lacquer technique. The murals inside the temple were in various stages of restoration and were fascinating. I really felt like I had gone back in time when I stepped through the entryway.
We made a quick loop back to the hotel room and then set off again to find a shopping mall. We needed some supplies for Laos and we didn’t want to spend the afternoon watching the BBC channel. I’ve come to enjoy watching the daily life of Thai people as much as exploring their historical buildings. The mall was a perfect place to go people watching.
After consulting our trusty map, we spotted a large shopping complex behind the hospital. Little did we know that Starbucks was just the tip of the American retail iceberg. Pizza Hut, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, GNC Nutrition Center, and much more were all housed in the multi-story building. It was actually a perfect place to be on a hot afternoon. We did our shopping quickly and then wandered around. We noticed a movie theatre and decided to give it a look. We found out that the movies were in English with Thai subtitles. There was no urgent need to be anywhere special so we bought a couple of tickets, purchased our sodas and popcorn, and found our assigned seats. Yes, that’s right, assigned seats. Also interesting was the national anthem played before the movie started. We all stood and paid our respects to the king.
It was great to have a little break from the world outside. I find this particularly ironic since one of my goals for this trip was seek out different cultures. I guess it must be human nature to need a break from whatever you’re doing at the time. I can see why there are so many foreign nationals here – you have all of the western conveniences of home immersed in an exciting eastern culture.
Oh, I forgot to mention the movie. It was called Atonement and it was fantastic.

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