Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Another bulletin from Planet Luxury: Breakfast at the hotel is amazing - anything you might conceivably desire is either already on display, probably primped in the shape of a heart or a fan, or else will be created for you on the spot by a team of chefs wielding pans and griddles. Refills of coffee arrive like unexpected purchases at an auction, you only have to raise an eyebrow. The roof-top pool gardens, where my day was spent basking in 32 degree sunshine, are a blossom-filled paradise, but by evening I'm glutted with indolence and ready for the next step in this adventure - the beautiful and culturally fascinating area of Chiang Mai.
The flight takes an hour, and by midnight I'm unpacked in my new temporary home, a lovely tranquil room with views to the Doi Suthep mountains, foothills of the Himalayas extending all the way to Burma.
Stephen designed both house and garden, and sitting here in sunshine surrounded by banana and mango trees I completely understand why he says he'd never go back to live in the UK.
In fact I'd probably sit here all day, listening to the minah birds and watching the fish in the lily ponds, but Mam and Steve are keen to show me more of the local environment. First trip is to Wat Suthep, the temple on the mountain.
Mythology has it that the site, established in 1383, was chosen by a white elephant sent wandering with a sacred relic. Immensely popular with locals and visitors alike, the temple is crammed with statues & gilded chedi. It's approached by 306 steps which are crammed with stalls selling souvenirs and snacks, including delicious fresh mandarin orange juice.

Bhubing Palace, further up the mountain road, was established for the Queen in 1961 and is famed for magnificent gardens so extensive you have to take a golf-cart to get around them. Here be beds of scented old-English roses, vivid scarlet avenues of poinsettias, forest fern gardens, and a resevoir garden for royal parties, with palace apartments scattered around like a private regal Centerparcs. White orchids are everywhere, apparently symbiotic, clambering up india rubber trees and looping around burmese bamboos.

On next to the top of the mountain to see the Hmong village of Ban Doi Pui. The traditional income here was from heroin so the village has become a tourist market, their opium poppy terraces now gardens. These hill-tribes are the oldest indigenous peoples of the area, still speaking their own language and retaining their animist religions which are integrated with buddhism in Thailand - as is Hinduism. Ganesh, the elephant god, remover of obstacles and lord of new beginnings, even has a shrine in the most sacred part of Wat Suthep. Steve tells me more about the amazing tolerance of this culture over supper of Dam fish and Singha beer at a lakeside restaurant.
I'll end this busy posting with a Buddah image in pleasantly reposed Tuesday position, which seems appropriate for today.

No comments: