Today was our "city" day.
Chiang Mai translates to New City, yet the city is 714 years old -- more than 3 times older than the city of Bangkok. Northern Thailand previously belonged to the Lanna people, and Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna. The word Lanna roughly translates to "many rice fields" although we haven't seen very many. Southern Thailand was literally filled with rice fields; there were virtually none near Bangkok; and only a few near Chiang Mai. Maybe the "many rice fields" are farther north. The original inner city of Chiang Mai is square and had walls on all 4 sides. We are sick to death of temples and have no intentions of visiting the old inner city to see the old temple. There is more than enough to see in the newer part of the New City to keep us occupied and peak our interests.
Today we used the same pick-up taxi that took us to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp and Tiger Kingdom. He is a very nice man....doesn't speak English, but we manage to communicate okay. And he hasn't tried to gouge us on taxi prices like some of the others. Zach has started a new exercise regime. Every time we enter a pick-up taxi he does 5 pull-ups with his feet on the opposite bench. Most times he does 10 pull-ups each trip and sometimes more. BeBe cannot manage even one pull-up, but then girls are not known for having upper body strength. During the course of today Zach did about 80 pull-ups.
Our first stop was a leather shop that manufactures just about anything you might think of in any number of different kinds of leathers. We looked at handbags and belts made from leather of rays, elephants, goats, cows, water buffalo, crocodile, kangaroo and other animals that I forget at the moment. The elephant leather was especially soft. Elephants are not killed for leather in Thailand; this leather is made from elephants that have died from old age or accidents. BeBe loves elephants and wanted a small elephant handbag for her birthday. This cost more than we had intended to spend for her 9th birthday next month, but it is a unique item so we gave in and bought it for her. It should last her for years if she takes care of it. Or maybe her mom might want to borrow it.
The next stop was a silk factory. This was a smaller version of the silk factory that we had visited several months ago in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Zach and BeBe saw the entire silk process:
1. silk moths lay eggs on paper and die
2. worms hatch about a week later
3. worms change from green to light brown and then stop eating
4. worms build cocoons; then they hatch and that part of the process begins anew. At this silk farm the cocoons are made in a shallow basket.
5. after the hatched moths emerge, the cocoons are harvested and soaked in hot water
(in Cambodia the cocoons were brought to a boil and simmered, often in dyed water)
6. silk strands are drawn up from about 50 cocoons at once as they soak in the hot water, which twist together to form silk thread
7. the thread is rolled onto spindles or spools
8. many threads are stretched taught on a frame to form the warp of fabric
9. the warp is mounted on a weaving loom and more thread is rolled in a shuttle
10. the shuttle is used on the loom and is woven as the weft through the warp threads to create silk fabric
I was glad they got to see many different colors and patterns of silk being woven on the looms. Now they know how labor intensive hand-woven silk is and why it is so expensive for good quality fabric.
Next was an umbrella factory. Every component was manufactured on site. Couldn't believe they even made their own paper for the paper umbrellas. This was not something any of us were particularly interested in, but it was different and something to do. Zach found a gift for his maternal grandmother and a small gift for his father -- neither gift was an umbrella. Other items were also manufactured here.
It was time for lunch and we tried to ask the taxi driver if he could take us somewhere for the kids to eat hamburgers. He repeated it and seemed to understand. But he took us to a restaurant that served us a set 7-course meal. For lunch!! We don't normally eat that large of a meal during the middle of the day. But everything was great and even BeBe enjoyed her big lunch. There were some tiny chicken pieces wrapped in palm leaves and cooked over charcoal that were very good. Too spicy for BeBe, but the rest of us enjoyed these immensely.
Then it was back to the hotel for a leisurely dip again in the small pink swimming pool. Then back to Miguel's Mexican restaurant for another meal for Texans homesick for a taste of our normal regional fare.