Our first day in Chiang Rai consisted of surprise adventures with our homestay hosts, and the next day where we were able to jump in and get muddy in a rice field in Thailand (before hiking to a waterfall and visiting a hot spring!). For good measure, we ended that second day with a trip to the Saturday market for some munchies.
Ethan considered the purpose of the giant cages full of crickets.
Fried crickets for dinner, anyone?
I decided to pass on the crickets, and instead had some mushrooms. Thailand has such an enormous variety of mushrooms! In the US I know of perhaps 2 or 3 varieties that I can buy in a regular grocery story. Here, the shapes and colors abound and I often I mistake mushrooms for meat, noodles, etc!
Sometimes I have to wonder about the shirt designs. I have bought shirts for my children that make absolutely no sense.
However, I love this shirt—do you get it?
The next morning we went on the hunt for our church. We had talked to the missionaries in advance and they gave us general driving instructions to find the church building. Alas, after 30 minutes of driving around we still could not locate them, so I called them up. Instead of the English-speaking missionary we talked to before, a Thai guy answered and told me to call a cab. “How can I call a cab? I don’t have an address for the church! We’re on motorbikes!” I was so annoyed and frustrated.
But I wasn’t willing to give up. We kept circling and circling the same streets. Surely the church must be hidden here, somewhere! Finally, about 1 hour later (yes, literally), I realized I had dialed the wrong number on that previous call to the missionaries. I called someone who had no idea what “the church” was, and that’s why he told me to take a cab. Hahahaa!
We called again, reached the missionaries, and found the church very easily once we realized we were on the wrong side of the highway.
After church we were treated to lunch and crepe cake. Have you ever seen such a thing? Layer after layer of crepes (with a thin layer of whip cream in between), topped with a berry syrup. Delicious!
Back at our awesome homestay the girls busied themselves doing crafts with the gals who own the business. The girls made beaded headbands, in which they had to sew on the beads.
This meant that I had to sew Maiya’s together while she “designed” it (which eventually meant that I just suggested any bead in any order, and she concurred). It can be worn as a bracelet…
In the evening the street front came alive, as the whole block shut down for the Sunday market directly in front of our homestay. The homestay gals decked our kids out with clothes from their store, creating walking advertisements for the duration of the evening.
A walk around the market revealed some interesting dishes. I’m still not sure exactly what this is. Pumpkin, I think?
Later in the week we went to the infamous White Temple (post coming soon) and Wana Farm, which is an animal and ostrich farm. When I found out I could ride an Ostrich (only 150 Baht~$5 USD), I was very excited. My husband said, “Are you kidding me? I have no desire to ride an ostrich. Are you serious? You’ve always wanted to ride an ostrich?!”
I responded, “I haven’t always wanted to ride one! I never thought it was possible! But now that I do…of course I want to ride one!”
However, I found a blog post online where another couple said they both got ostrich blood on their pants from riding here (meaning the ostriches get hurt), so I immediately changed my mind. I guess birds aren’t made for riding, are they?
Nevertheless…we went to the farm and watched some other guys make a fool out of themselves on the back of an ostrich!
We instead opted for tame horse rides for our girls ($100 baht~$3 USD).
Ethan at first had no interest, but then became jealous and jumped up for the last leg of the simple 15 minute ride around the property.
The farm also has carriage rides, sheep that you can pet, a restaurant, tent camping, etc. It’s a good way to kill some time in Chiang Rai.
On the way to the farm, Jared managed to get stung on the lip by a passing bee, while driving the motorbike. Just last month he had been stung on his ear while driving the motorbike, and it took days for the slight swelling to go down. This time, however, his lip started swelling immediately at the farm, and within 3 hours he looked like this:
Ouch. We got him some antihistamines and crème from a pharmacy (which didn’t do much)…but he looked like this for a few days. Fortunately, it was never serious and he never had trouble breathing, etc. We learned that bee stings get progressively worse each time you are stung (if you’re allergic), so this is a big warning sign to us that next time could be worse!
Jared didn’t leave the house much after this, which meant I had plenty of time to catch up some business work, and the kids had plenty of time to play in the homestay storefront and do some more crafts! Thank goodness for built in entertainment!
The girls painted rice paper umbrellas (which Ethan modeled):
They also enjoyed making some dream catchers. Not a Thai thing…a Native American specialty
While Jared was homebound, I went to the mall with our homestay friends and enjoyed a hands-free experience (since my kids clung to them for the evening)!
Our friends suggested a meal swap evening, where I would cook them an “American” meal, and they would cook me a Thai meal for dinner.
American meal? What in the world would I cook? I certainly don’t cook “normal” American food (meat, cheese, etc) in any way, shape, or form!
We stopped by the market to get some ingredients.
Which did not include fish, by the way…
I opted to “cook” up some Tex-Mex, and made three different types of fresh salsas (mango salsa, cabbage pico de gallo, and guacamole). It was a hit (and oh-so-refreshing to have chips and dip again)!!
Another evening our hosts took us to the Chiang Rai Food Festival, which had food (of course) and a parade. The funny thing was that the parade, by American standards, could have been classified as a drag show. It mimicked Rio de Janeiro’s Mardis Gras, I’m guessing, in style and flavor. Ella learned what lady boys were for the first time, and had a fun time trying to spot the few women in the crowd of cross-dressing men! Of course, my camera battery died and since Jared was not with me, I didn’t have my backup (he covers those details). No proof of the crazy costumes and music!
After the parade we went to watch the clock tower in the center of a busy intersection, where they do a nightly 7-minute light show at 7, 8 and 9pm. It was kind of fun to watch, because it has changing colors and moving scenes inside of the clock. It is quite an ornate, towering golden clock for a traffic roundabout!
Overall, we could not have had a better time in Chiang Rai than we did by staying at Chezmoi Handicraft and Homestay. What a pleasant surprise—considering we figured it would just be a hostel-type setup that we would simply tolerate for a week!
We arrived with no plans, but were whisked away on adventures, our children were thoroughly entertained and treated like royalty, and we felt like we gained lifelong friends!
Chiang Rai couldn’t have been a better experience!
(well, maybe we could have done without the bee sting…)