Posts/August, 2008/

Walking Inside the Moat

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Friday and Saturday (today), J. and I spent some time wandering around central Chiang Mai. This area covers about 1.5 square kilometers and is surrounded by the remains of an old brick wall and a now decorative moat.

Central Chiang Mai from above.

Most of the central streets are old and narrow, keeping the bulk of the traffic to the one-way streets along the moat. All streets on the outer side of the moat go one way clockwise. Those on the interior edge go one way counterclockwise. There are a few connecting roads on each edge. Generally, the roads keep traffic moving smoothly. But there’s always constant activity as vehicles try to get across lanes to cross the moat, or blast through dedicated turning lanes to create a makeshift fast lane. Often the left side of the road has parked or idling vehicles, reducing the drivable area to an obstacle course about the width of 1.5 lanes. Soot spewing taxi trucks are always swerving to the curb to pick up passengers. People on motorbikes are trying to dark across all lanes to one of the moat entrances. As a driver, I feel a bit like I’m swimming among a school of fish.

Saturday, we parked the bike and got some lunch at an open air khao sawy restaurant. It was raining while we ate. After soup, I popped my umbrella and we started walking from wat to wat. Our first stop was an unassuming temple called Chang Taem. It was getting repaired.

The first stop and I already needed a rest. Giants get tired easily.

Further down the road was Ched Lin. The buildings in front were nothing special, but there was a weird looking pathway in the back that beckoned us. We approached and saw a covered bamboo walkway across an old, plant-choked lake. On the other side were monks’ quarters, an open air room with desks and chairs, and a very friendly calico cat. I had forgotten my sack of cat food, but it loved being petted.

I felt like I was in Myst. I wasn’t expecting this in the middle of town.

The lake and neighboring buildings. Many of the surrounding buildings were on stilts over the lake. To the left are more monk’s quarters built into the lake on a pier.

Enormous lilly pads. The one in front was almost a yard across.

Ched Lin’s lake made for a peaceful atmosphere. I could have spent all day there, but it was raining and a monk had come over looking for conversation.

Onward to more temples!

Headless Buddhas resting on the base of the chedi at Muen Toom.

A small, restored Japanese truck. I think J.K. would go nuts over some of the small trucks sputtering around this town.

Wat Chedi Luang, likely the biggest chedi in town. Though it’s old and only partly restored, it must have been pretty spectacular in its day. Lots of Koreans were wandering around this area. I think they came by bus.

Dragons and elephants adorn Chedi Luang.

These roofers must dream in orange.

I think this would be a good name for a Thai gangsta rap group.

There was a school next to the wat. Some students were getting ping pong lessons.

Here little Auto Boy takes a nap in his taxi.

Something a little sinister about this soggy stuffed rabbit.

A squirrel eating young palm fronds.

By mid-afternoon, we had been drizzled on for most of our walk and were feeling beat. As we headed back to the scooter, the neighborhood was more active than before. Schools were letting out: kids in uniforms poured into the streets, snack vendors sprung up along the exits to school, cars and taxi trucks jammed the streets waiting for their little passengers. It made for some lively people watching.

A lonely kid waiting with a plastic sack full of sausages.

Crosswalk.

Another crosswalk.

The street outside the school where we parked.

Today, J. and I woke around 10, made some coffee and yogurt/fruit/muesli, and drove back to center. This time we stayed more on the northern side of the inner moat, avoiding the tourist ghettos to the east. It was drizzling again.

Firework shaped fountains in the moat.

The wonderful, sagging brick wall on the northeastern edge of the moat. This is called Sri Phum Corner. I don’t know why. The bricks look like sedimentary rock layers.

Wat Pa Pao, near Sri Phum Corner.

Sometimes in life, a person has such an exceptionally delicious lunch that even putting adjective in italics doesn’t do justice to how profoundly insanely amazing it was. Today was such a time in life. J. and I went to a restaurant on Inthawarorot Road that specialized in boiled chicken served over rice. The place was doing brisk business, always a good sign. The chicken and rice served on their own are quite bland. But this is Thailand, so that won’t do. Alongside is a sauce of unknown but sorcery-grade ingredients. These mystery flavors pump insane amounts of intense deliciousness into any chicken they touch. The sauce explodes with tastes of soy and sugar, smoke and salt, citrus. It feels like you are eating the essence of every Thai meal ever prepared since time began. Only he with an open palate can accept this flavor, can become one with it.

The meal.

A weak soup came with our dishes. J. and I ordered two sets of chicken satay with peanut sauce and two Thai iced teas. She had the milky version (the female version), I had the lemon version. The satay came with a plate of sliced onions, peppers, and cucumber in a sweet vinegar sauce.

It was a great lunch for 100bht ($3.12), or any price. Refueled, we re-walked.

Public napping.

J. looking at the women’s prison.

The basketball court in the prison.

Wandering down one of the few unpaved alleys in the area, we came upon this small old lady walking home with her cane.

Deteriorated fence.

Abandoned apartment/shopping complex. In the back is a man sleeping in a hammock with laundry drying around him. Either he’s squatting or the unfortunate owner of the failed property.

J. and I in the mirrored wall of Wat Muang Khom Thong.

After lunch, it started raining again. We ducked into Wat Muang Kohm Thong and waited for a bit while watching some puppies suckling. It was time to head home.

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