Vol. IX No. 16 - Tuesday
April 20 - April 26, 2010



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Parade of Buddha images for Songkran

Songkran revellers fill the city streets

Around the North and North East on a Honda Dream

 

Parade of Buddha images for Songkran

Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant opens
the Songkran festivities with a bang on the gong at Tha Pae Gate.

Important Buddha images of Chiang Mai were carried in a procession to celebrate the Songkran festival on April 13. It was great event that excited the interest of Thai and foreign visitors as the carriage carrying the Buddha images moved through the city center.

One of the highlights of the Songkran festival, the parade of Buddha images started at Nawarat Bridge and moved through to the city center to end at Wat Phra Sing Woramahaviharn, the home of the main image in the parade, the Phra Buddha Sihing image, one of Chiang Mai city’s oldest Buddhist images. With beautifully decorated offerings, tung flags, dancing troupes, and the Buddha images, the parade attracted much interest along the way.

Organized by temples in Chiang Mai, the water pouring ceremony to the passing Buddha images is held every year and is an auspicious ceremony, with both Thai and foreign participants, to pay respects to the most revered Buddha images on Thailand’s traditional New Year day so as to bring luck, prosperity and happiness for Chiang Mai residents and visitors.

Phra Maha Wisanu Jaruthammo, the abbot of Wat Ched Rin on Phra Pokklao road in Tambon Phra Sing, presided over the opening ceremony of Pa We Nee Phi Mai Muang, or the Northern Thai New Year at Wat Ched Rin on April 10.

The biggest sand Chedi was built at Wat Ched Rin for the Songkran festival.
Made from sand, rocks, stones and soil brought in from river banks and ponds
by members of the community, the sand chedi was constructed in the grounds of Wat Ched Rin and is decorated with colorful flags.

 

Songkran revellers fill the city streets


Around the North and North East on a Honda Dream

By Delboy

I am 69 years of age and have just completed a fantastic journey at very little cost, all done on my 125cc Honda Dream motorcycle.

What an appropriate name for a motorcycle “Honda Dream”. I travelled 2,772 kilometres on my motorcycle and it never missed a beat. Not even a puncture. This says a lot for the Honda Service Team behind the big S. Panich store on the Chiang Mai - Mae Rim Road who gave the bike a great service before I left Chiang Mai. They suggested a new front tyre and discovered a large staple embedded in the rear tyre and put in a new inner tube for me. The bike is only two and a half years old and runs like new.

My intention was to get away from the smog in Chiang Mai. My first stop was Uttaradit, a journey of 220 kilometres, there was no smog there but even on a clear day I could not find the hotel! I asked a group of young people if they could help me and a young couple jumped onto their motorcycle and told me to follow them and they led me to my hotel.

The staff at the Seeharaj Hotel was great; it was 800 baht a night which included a buffet breakfast. The Hotel has a beautiful swimming pool and even has ballroom dancing classes every night> For safe keeping I put 6,000 Baht in between the pages of the room service menu as I didn’t want to carry all that money while walking around the City. 

There is a small town near Uttaradit called Nampii with a small steel works; only two men making steel swords, knives and souvenirs. The steel they produce has a blue tint to it and the swords made at Nampii were used by all the great Kings of Thailand.

They have unearthed Nampii swords that have been buried for more than 400 years and there is no rust on them. There is also a small folk museum, as usual I got lost looking for the place but I came across a council office where I made enquiries and a young man named Tom volunteered to lead me on his motorbike while I followed him to the steel works and museum. 

After leaving Uttaradit I did a 400 kilometre ride to Loei where I mistook the local private hospital for a hotel! But I must say it did resemble a first class hotel, it wasn’t until I entered the reception area to discover a lot of nurses that the penny dropped, and I quickly did a U turn out of the place.

I found a small hotel called the “King Hotel”. It was when I went to pay for my room I discovered I had left the 6,000 Baht back in the room service menu at the Seeharaj Hotel in Uttaradit. I phoned them but my Thai is not too good and they didn’t understand what I was saying. Luckily I have a good Thai friend in Chiang Mai who phoned the hotel for me. They found my money and after I gave them my bank details they deposited the money into my account the same day. How lucky was I?

The next day Loei was full of smoke, ash was falling from the sky and it looked like snow on my motorbike, so I quickly left and proceeded the 147 kilometres to Udon Thani where I had lunch at a great pub called “The Irish Clock”. After lunch I went on to Nong Khai a beautiful small city on the banks of the Mekong River.

I stopped at the Khong River Hotel which was 500 baht a night, no breakfast included although it did have a hot water jug in the room and two sachets of coffee supplied every day along with the usual water. The room had a balcony overlooking the river and the staff were great, there were plenty of good eateries in Nong Khai, two in particular stood out, they were Brendan’s and Beer Belly Billies, I can recommend the Pies at Brendan’s and the Apple Pie at Beer Belly Billies ! 

After staying a few days I went back to Udon staying at “Top Mansion” A spotlessly clean guesthouse for 370 baht a night. But if you are staying there ear plugs are essential because of the nearby bars and disco, but it was fun anyway.

I relaxed there a few days and then went to Kalasin, staying at another guest house called AP Garden. I rented a bungalow there for 500 baht a night. Kalasin is a nice city, quite small and the Dinosaur Museum is a must see place to visit. I found a nice coffee shop just outside the AP Garden guest house serving homemade cakes and, of course, coffee. The guest house owners had a disabled dog, I think its back legs must have been run over by a car, it was a beautiful dog with a nice nature, so friendly, it moved about by dragging its back legs behind it; if you visit AP Garden Guest House please pat the dog. The guest house is next to a manmade lake where you can see people exercising in the evening.

From Kalasin I went through Maha Sarakham and Roi Et Provinces to Khon Khaen, I stayed at the Khon Khaen Hotel for 650 baht a night including breakfast. It was what I would call a cosy place to stay; I was only going to stay for one night but stayed for four.

There is a temple in Khon Khaen with a nine story Chedi, its called Wat Mahathat and if you go on a Saturday, Sunday or during a school holiday you can be given a tour by youngsters from a nearby school, their English is very good, but please give them a tip if you go, they are worth the money. Also the museum in Khon Khaen is worth a look.

The Khon Khaen Hotel has a room called “The Harem”; it comes alive at night with a live band and cabaret show twice a night, at 12 midnight and 2am. It has very comfortable seating and you can pay an attractive girl 200 baht an hour to sit and drink with you, no hanky panky though! 

From Khon Khaen I went to Phitsanulok, a lovely city. I stayed at “The Princess Green” Hotel for 490 baht a night including a cooked breakfast. It was a very small hotel with great staff.

At Phitsanulok there is a famous temple with the nickname Wat Yai, it houses what they say is the second most beautiful Buddha image in Thailand, that after the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

It was the birth place of King Naresuan, who also used a Nampii steel sword in his fights against the Burmese.

If you visit Phitsanulok you shouldn’t miss the Sgt.Maj. Thawee Folk Museum and Iron foundry. The museum has a 50 baht entry fee for both Thai and Farang and the Iron Foundry is free. I met the Sgt Major at the Museum, both are gems of places to see, the foundry makes Buddha images and as you go in there is a poster on the right explaining the procedures in making the images that is a must to see before entering the factory. 

At 6 p.m. every evening by the riverside there are aerobic classes, Judo and various forms of sport and exercises taking place, it was great, I finished off the evening with a 100 baht foot massage and a trip to a beautiful coffee shop called “ Coffee and More”. I will definitely go back to this city. 

Then it was back to Chiang Mai stopping of at the Seeharaj Hotel in Uttaradit to reward the room service lady who found my 6,000 Baht and the Manager who put my money back into my account and yes the smog was still in Chiang Mai but I at least missed a month of it.

As you have read I was helped quite a bit on my travels by some of the nicest people you could meet, I thank them all.

As a footnote I spent 1,870 Baht on fuel, it varied in price from 36 to 40 baht a litre. The average kilometres per litre was 56 and the 2,000 k service I got at Khon Khaen was going to take 20 minutes, when I asked for a special service as I had a long way to go they gave me a 30 minute service !

I hope you enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed doing my trip. I can recommend it to anyone.



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