Chiang Mai - Wednesday, June 23
We boarded our train in Bangkok at 7:30 PM and then it RAINED all the way to Chiang Mai! That's 14 hours of rain over a distance of 450 miles, so this enormously welcome event was much more than a localized sprinkle. (It has been so very hot and dry for so long that many major reservoirs are down to dangerously low levels, and throughout the North farmers are prohibited from planting their rice until at least mid-July, with even that date dependent on rainfall accumulations between now and then.)
After checking into the Galare Guest House we went to Heuan Phen, perhaps my favorite restaurant anywhere, for a scrumptious lunch of Northern Thai food. I am very happy to report that everyone in this group is an adventurous eater so they will all be enjoying a broad range of Thailand's regional cuisines.
We followed lunch with a visit to Wat Suan Dok and a two-hour talk with a wonderful monk named พระมาหาบุญช่วย (Phramaha Boonchuay), who is the vice-chancellor of the Buddhist University in Chiang Mai and one of Thailand's most progressive and most socially active monks.
At the same time we met a fine young woman named Samsuda Khem-nguad. Sam is 16 and attends the International School in Chiang Mai where she lives with her parents. She told us about the program she has launched called Strong Will Seed, and invited us to help her sell cards to raise lunch money for underprivileged children in rural Thai schools.
In the evening we dined at the Night Bazaar where we then spent several hours shopping for souvenirs.
On Thursday, our last day in Chiang Mai, we will lunch with journalist/historian Andrew Forbes for a discussion of Thai history and politics, and on Friday, on our way to the village, we will spend the morning with Richard Lair at the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang.