|Our flight was just over an hour, and we landed in Chiang Mai around 4:30pm. We spent a few minutes locating all twenty-two pieces of our luggage (1 duffle bag + 1 action-packer each). Then we spent the next thirty-minutes answering questions of the customs agents concerning the content of our action-packers, as well as popping two of them open to display the various games and toys. We ended up paying about $40 duty tax.
Then we happily rolled our luggage carts outside into the bright, warm sunshine. Our eyes feasted on several shades of green dotted with colorful flowers as our friends at Partners Ministries helped us to load trucks with all of our luggage.
We drove through the town and immediately observed that traveling is much different than in America! The steering wheel is on the left side of the vehicle. Also, the traffic lanes on the three-to-four lane streets are more of a suggestion than a rule. In America, we use the left-most lane for the slower traffic. In Thailand, all lanes are used, and there IS no slower traffic. Motorcycles, trucks, song-tows (red taxis), and tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorcycles with a bench seat for passengers) all zig-zag between the lanes and pass each other on either side. It looks chaotic, but it seems to flow very well here.
A short drive brought us to the Montri Hotel. It is a simple five-story building in the heart of town with a nice lobby, a restaurant, an internet cafe, and very friendly staff. We spent a few minutes unloading our gear into their lobby, and then getting it into our rooms. The rooms are very clean, the beds are comfortable, and our view from the fifth floor was terrific!. We could see all over the town.
No one was tired, and we all wanted to see the town. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Art Cafe just accross the street (which serves both Thai and American-style food), and were introduced to fresh fruit shakes. Yummm!
Then we visited the nearby currency exchange or ATM, and ventured off on a walking tour with Terry and Jocelyn in the lead. The streets were bustling with constant traffic and crowds of people, and we soon discovered why. After only a few blocks of walking we discovered the famous Chiang Mai Night Market. It consists of several blocks of a variety of street vendors jammed together on both sides of the street. At about the center of all of the vendors is a huge two-level building full of more vendors, and directly across the street from this is building full of food-court vendors and a large court-yard of live entertainment. It was all slightly overwhelming, but very exciting. We knew that it would be impossible to take it all in within one evening, so we wandered through for about two hours or so just to look. Everyone saw shops that they wanted to come back to, and we enjoyed some authentic Thai dancing in the courtyard. Then we were all becoming tired, and the walk back to the hotel seemed like a long distance. Terry came to our rescue by hailing a string of tuk-tuks (3-wheeled motorcycles with a covered bench-seat for passengers), and surprising us with a quick and enjoyable ride back to the hotel for a good night's rest.