Chiang Mai

The past four days I have been in Chiang Mai, which is up in the northern part of the country, and is Thailand’s second largest city. 

Most of the time I’ve actually been touring outside the city, because the area is home to the “hill tribes”, which are several different ethnic groups that moved to Thailand as refugees after being persecuted in Burma.  The most interesting tribe is the Padong tribe, which is famous because the women wear brass rings around their necks.  This gives them the appearance of having really long necks, but actually the rings weigh push their shoulders instead of extending their necks.  Nevertheless, the rings have caused them to be called the “Long Necks”, and they compete– along with with the “Big Ears”, whose women wear huge silver spacers in their ears– for the title of Most-Unfortunately-Nicknamed-Tribe.  There are actually dozens of hill tribes in the area, and all wear distinctive clothes and to earn money they make crafts and pose for pictures, since their former livelihood of growing opium has become illegal.  The Hmong tribe hasn’t strayed too far from their old livelihood, and now maks fabric out of hemp, for which they proudly displayed the marijuana plants growing around their village.

Besides the hill tribes, I also visited the local palace of the king (or rather the grounds and gardens, since you can’t go in the buildings), a huge temple on the side of the mountain, took a cooking class and visited a local market.  Last night I went to a Muay Thai boxing match, which was intense.  While in Bangkok I had gone to an after school program that trained kids in Muay Thai to keep them off the streets, but this was just a little bit more advanced.

This afternoon I’m flying to Laos, and since they don’t even have ATM machines there I don’t know how the internet access will be.  So, to tide you over, here are some of photos of my adventures in and around Chiang Mai…