A day at the Great Market

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Today Nik and I went to Talat Wororot, the “Great Market” (kàat lûang in Thai) and its sister market, Talat Lamyai.  According to Lonely Planet, this is “the oldest and most famous market in Chiang Mai.”  Nik and I have been here once before just a couple days after we arrived in the city.  Last time I was in awe of everything I saw.  Huge bags of spices, tons of cheap clothes, stall after stall of 2nd hand beauty products, haphazard bolts of low quality fabric, bins of smelly dry fish, hundreds of jasmine necklaces, a wall of fishing nets obscuring the wall of fishing hooks, pile after pile of plastic laundry hampers, bags of jelly candy, a table full of machetes.

Talat Wororot

Talat Wororot, the "Great Market"

thai sign

I'm not sure what it says, but I love the graphic.

seamstress at market

On the 4th floor in the far back corner we found 5-10 seamstresses working away on very cool old sewing machines.

This time, I was in full search mode.  I have learned to look past the cheap stuff that I don’t care about in order to find the gems.  I found a lot, and bought a little.  I have to pace myself!!!  And I have to remember that I have to get it all home somehow….and based on the current state of the airlines charging for checked baggage frenzy, I will probably send a big package home.  So now that you’re curious, here are my gems:

Cotton fabric

In a pile of 35baht/meter bolts of fabric, I found these fabulous 4!!! That's $1/meter. So I paid less than $10 for 10m. I love Thailand!!! These are all very thin and fine cottons. I bought 4m of the 1st one and 2m of the rest. I'm thinking bedding, but I might have to go back for more :)

Floral Silk

I found this one in the same 35baht/meter pile. I think it's silk. All I have to do is finish the edges and it will be a great scarf.

City Tray

I couldn't believe this one!! It was in the middle of these gross plastic dishes, and then bam, here's this abstract city scene with a great palette. It is a plastic tray, about 8"x8". They also have a larger version that's 12"x8" or so...I might have to go back! Oh, and this cost me 45baht ($1.30).


Believe it or not, our main goal for going to the market was to pick up fresh produce. As you can tell, we succeeded!! In the photo we have (starting at the top left going CW) mango, bael fruit tea, long green beans, chinese broccoli, tomatoes, longan, garlic, bananas, and custard apples.

Nik’s Blog: Getting Some Produce at Warowot Market

A very long drive to Pai

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Our motorbike journey began around 10:30am Wednesday morning with a full tank of gas, 1 change of clothes each, our cameras and a bottle of water.  We were headed to Pai, a small tourist town in northern Thailand.

Nik had done some research and knew that the trip would be about 130km if we took the basic route.  He also noticed that there was a “shortcut” that could shave off a few kilometers.  Since he was driving, I was in the navigation seat, and I was informed about the shortcut as we were driving down highway 107 past the a road that he thought might be it.  I consulted the map, and the road we were passing could indeed take us to Pai.  I would call it more of an “alternate route” rather than a “shortcut”, but that’s just semantics.

We decide to turn off, and about 30 minutes later, I start to question where we were.  All the signs were in Thai characters, and there wasn’t a single highway number to be found.  Some of the tourist landmarks looked like they could be what I saw on the map, but I wasn’t certain.  I ask Nik to stop so I could show him where I think we are, and he says, “That’s not the shortcut I was talking about. The shortcut I was talking about is way up here.”  He points to a little bitty road that basically cuts the corner off the main road that is a good 30km north of the “shortcut” I took us to.

Rather than backtrack, we go forward, and all of the navigation is left to me.  Translation: If we screw up, it’s my fault!!  We finally see signs confirming that we are on the road I thought, now we are just looking for the next turn near a town called Mae Khao which should take us into Khun Khan National Park.  Well, we never see Mae Khao, but we do see Khun Khan NP, so we turn right.  Then we run into this sign.

Well, nothing on that sign corresponds with anything on my map, so we opt for the bigger road, which is left.  The National Park is beautiful.  We find a couple good spots to stop and take in the view.  At several points we were driving along the ridge line and all we could see was mountains to our left and to our right.  Absolutely stunning!!

A few times along the way, the road turned from basic asphalt to pavers.  We both thought this was interesting and couldn’t imagine lugging all of those heavy stone pavers up the mountains.  Then I decided that they were used for traction, because it does rain a lot and they were always on steeply sloped areas.

As we neared the exit to the Khun Khan National Park, the road quality started to deteriorate.  There were heavily potholed areas every once in a while.  Then the basic asphalt road transitioned to solid packed dirt.  We thought it was kind-of cool that we had to drive along a short dirt section.  It qualified us to be true adventurers!  Then the dirt road started to erode.  Then the eroded dirt road turned into muddy eroded dirt road. Then the muddy eroded dirt road turned into muddy eroded dirt road on a steep hill.  We still thought it was cool.  We fishtailed a few times without falling, and Nik was officially my hero.

After an hour of constant bobbing and weaving, it wasn’t cool anymore.  Nik’s entire body had to be exhausted. (I was tired too, but all I was doing was holding on)  I still wasn’t certain we were where I thought we were, and as far as I could tell, we weren’t passing any of the towns I thought we should be.  In fact, we weren’t passing ANY towns.

Finally after another hour, we passed through a small village and decided we should stop and ask someone.  We spoke to a kind Thai man about our age that didn’t read or speak English, so he couldn’t tell us where we were on our map.  Nik asked if we were going in the direction of Pai, and he nodded yes.  Then we asked him what town we were in.  He told us, but we couldn’t find it on our map.  So we started pronouncing the cities we thought we might be in, and he kept shaking his head and pointing behind him, over the mountains, not in the direction we had come from or where we were going.  Then finally, we noticed a small blue line on our map that was west of the road we thought we were on.  We tried one more time, and said “Khun Mae Tala?”, and his face lit up and he started pointing down at the ground!!  We finally knew were we were.  We were on a rural mountain road that stretched between Pang Ma-o and Wat Chan.  We weren’t exactly sure where or how we had missed our turn.  It must have been at that crazy sign.

At 3:00pm (5 hours into our 4 hour journey), we were only half-way to Pai.  By our estimation we still had 2/3 of the dirt road journey ahead of us until we reached Wat Chan.  We couldn’t turn back, so we went on.  More bobbing and weaving.

To add to the excitement, it started to rain.  We found shelter just off the road to rest and let the storm pass.  We knew that more rain was making the road worse, so we just prayed that we didn’t get stuck in the middle of no where.  The sky cleared, and we were on our way again.  By 5:00 we still weren’t to Wat Chan, and we were starting to run out of gas.  By 6:30pm we still weren’t there, and that’s when we happened upon this little village.

We found a makeshift gas station and filled up.  Nik asked the villager how far to Wat Chan?  10km.  Thank goodness!!!  If he is right, driving at 10km/hr, we should be able to make it to paved roads in about an hour.  We should be driving on paved roads just before the sunset turns to pitch black darkness!

Our friendly villager was right. 10km later, we arrived at Wat Chan right as the last bit of daylight went away. And this darkness was the darkest dark of night you’ve ever seen.  No street lights.  No houses with lights on in the distance.  No moon.  Just mountain roads with the occasional motorbike or car.  While Nik focused on avoiding potholes and making the curves and shifting gears as we went up and down the mountains,  I was cowspotting.  This was necessary because cows would randomly be sleeping in the middle of the road.

We finally arrived in Pai around 10:00pm, 10 1/2 hours after we left.  The drive was amazing.  We saw some of the most incredible views and the most terrible roads.  We never panicked.  We never lost our tempers.  We gave each other a huge hug when it was done, happy to be alive and not on the motorbike!

Thursday we spent the day wandering around Pai by foot.  Friday morning, we hit the road again at 10:30am, but we took the basic route this time.  We drove through several rain storms, and had to stop 8 or 10 times along the way to let the heavier rain pass.  We were happy to be on paved roads, and got an amazing satisfaction out of driving in the rain.  There was nothing between us and nature.  It was like being a little kid jumping in puddles.  Too bad we didn’t have our rain boots on!!!

Nik’s blog: Epic journey to Pai

This is the first time that Nik and I have truly told the same story in our blogs, and it’s pretty interesting to see how we explain the exact same events.  His also has more photos of Pai because my camera batery died early on.

Lazy Saturday

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Today was a very typical day for Nik and I.  We woke up around 9, drank coffee and ate yogurt with muesli for breakfast. Then we both sat down at our computers.  After a couple hours browsing and reading the news, we opened the window shades…and oh my goodness it was actually a nice day!!!  The sun was shining and the clouds were perfect little cotton-balls and the sky was an amazing blue.  And you know how much I love blue skies!!

We couldn’t justify staying inside with weather like this, so we packed up and headed to Pun-Pun, a restaurant within Wat Suan Dak that Nik’s friend Eh introduced us to last week.  We had lunch in the garden as we watched the monks walk past to their various classes, and ants crawl along the brick planter collecting food.  Our meals were delicious and we both had refreshing glasses of iced tea.  Mine was ginger and Nik’s was lemon-grass.  I have also developed a habit of eating the ice here with my straw!  The straw fits perfectly into the little cubes so it is like a little game.

We had great plans of visiting another temple today, but as we finished lunch it started pouring rain.  We found cover at a nearby temple to waited it out.  20 minutes later we were on our way to the fruit market to pick up bananas, mangoes and dragon-fruit for breakfast tomorrow.  Then since it was still wet and gloomy, we came back to the apartment for some more internet browsing, a game of gin rummy, more browsing, a game of internet Settlers of Catan, guitar playing and blog posting.

I know that we will both look back fondly on days like these.  We do exactly what we want at our own pace, and love every minute of it.  I hope you guys have a great weekend!!

Oh, and Nik found these iPod sleeves made by Fabrix the other day on Gizmodo.  They look just like the one I made for Nik’s iPod Touch last September.  I think they stole my idea!  But at least it’s a good one.

made by jamie

made by fabrix

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