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Chiang Mai

Let’s see… a lot has happened since our last blog entry.

We had dinner at Lord Jim’s on our last night in Bangkok, where the only thing more impressive than the food was the awesome bill. Ouch!

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After a very pleasant one hour flight to Chiang Mai, we decided that the Diamond Riverside Hotel was just a bit too totally gross seedy for us – especially after the Bangkok Shangri La. (I’m not sure if it was the clogged sinks, the duct-taped fixtures or or the coffee-colored swimming pool that pushed us over the edged.) We moved a block away into the Pornping Towers. This hotel is perfect. The room rate is good, the pool is nice and the air conditioner works. Perhaps the best thing about the hotel is its location – just a few blocks from the endless shops where Kelly is determined to single-handedly jump-start the Thai economy, and even closer to numerous internet cafes. Yippee! (Connection speeds are good, and the cost is just over a penny a minute.)

The weather in Chiang Mai has been cool compared to the 97 degree days in Bangkok. Smog is no less of a problem though, as hill tribes and farmers in neighboring countries burn their rice fields. We’ve both been burning through the eye drops.

We’ve been spending most of our time with Chris and Ben, who have been the best hosts we could possibly ask for. Ben does our negotiating in the shops and orders all of our food, and Chris happily takes the wheel of our rented Nissan Sunny and drives down the “wrong side of the road”. (We are extremely grateful for this!) We have been to a beautiful, fragrant orchid farm, ridden on the back of an elephant and eaten more delicious food than you could shake a Thai stick at.

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Visiting the elephants was definitely one of the coolest things so far. Chris and Ben are a close friends of Richard Lair, (aka Professor Elephant) the man responsible for creating this large camp, which serves as a refuge for numerous elephants whose logging skills are no longer needed. Instead on lifting logs, these elephants now lift paint brushes and produce one-of-a-kind works for sale to visitors. Dr. Lair was kind enough to reserve the painting you see above for us. (The artist appears on the cover of When Elephants Paint, which makes this extra-special.)

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Residents of Chiang Mai are preparing for this weekend’s Flower Festival. There are lots of tourists coming to town for what is shaping up to be a field-day for photographers. (Hmmm… wonder if thedude will take any pictures.)

On Sunday, we’re driving north to Pai to pay a surprise visit to a friend from the Bay Area who has opened a restaurant there called Happy Yim. We’re booked in a hillside resort there that looks pretty nice. None of us has ever been there before, so we’re all looking forward to the trip. We could all use a rest!

More soon!

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