Sharon and I originally planned to visit Chiang Mai in 2004 – but then the SARS breakout happened. The “vision” of Chiang Mai is a sleepy mountainside village that was the capital of a separate kingdom from Thailand until only about 80 years ago with a karmic feel and access to outdoor activities…reality is that it is a city of 1 million people and the old city is 80% tourist stops/shopping. The accommodations here worked out fine – would have preferred private bathroom especially once wrist broken. I booked an all-day mountain bike trip in advance which went by the primary temple (Wat Doi Suthep) and some waterfalls on the way down a 5,000 ft mountain. For my other day, it was open and I was looking at a zipline roller coaster or kayaking.
Long story but here is the condensed version. Three rides available after they drive you to top of mountain – I ended up on interme4diate as beginner had a lot of very inexperienced people and was on heavily traveled roads (and I hate roads) while advanced had 2,000 feet of climbing which was a non-starter with my current fitness level. My group of 8 was still inexperienced and I decided to be safe and ride at the back so I wouldn’t get caught up in a crash with them. The trail was easy single-track or fireroad down a 10% grade – think rough areas of C&O canal going 20-25 mph. I didn’t leave enough distance when we rounded a corner and had a steep drop – everyone including the guide crashed and with loose dirt I couldn’t stop so I jumped and nearly executed perfect barrel roll. Nearly is the key term. Knew I broke it immediately. In the hierarchy of various joint injuries (ankle, knee, shoulder, wrist), much less painful. Fortunately, my inexperienced riding group included a paramedic and 2 nurses – even though he was probably more beat up than me, he and the nurses used shin guards as a splint and a ladies scarf as a sling and secured me really good. Then walked up hill 4 miles to the car. Slow ride down mountain in heavy traffic and to hospital. Hospital was great and in 3 hours and $350 was in a cast with before and after x-rays and low level pain killer. That night was very painful and went back next day for some real pain killers and after that was OK. Only issue was in the various transactions (some had to be cash) I lost my ATM card so that increased the degree of difficulty for the rest of the trip. ATM machines in Thailand suck – lost 3 total there now.
My longer than expected accommodations
Around Chiang Mai
Although I extended my trip 2 days in Chiang Mai, much of the extra time was lost in reorganizing/recovery and I was moving much slower. Did lots of walking the in old city and a tour to the mountain temple I missed, as well as a hike up one of the waterfalls.
Outside of Chiang Mai – Long Neck Village
I also did took a tuk-tuk out to a village to see an indigenous tribe – the Karen Long Neck Women. Not something I would have done except for the broken wrist. I didn’t research and when I got there – it was not a real village but like an exhibit with real people living there. Selling various tourist crap. Mixed feelings whether helping them with the admission fee and buying stuff or hurting them by being part of the demand that keeps them there like that. When I got back – googled and a lot of people with same thoughts….short answer is that they aren’t even from Thailand, but refugees from Burma. They are feel to go back, but really can’t leave and stay in Thailand as they have no skills to survive there. It was unclear how the children were treated – whether they were allowed to get an education and integrate to society or if they were just going to be the next generation of exhibits. The young girls with rings on their necks did not appear to be tight – more like decoration. Eye opening.