09 February 2011 | thailand
michael and jackie
The drive from Lampang to Chiang Mai is not a long one. The road snakes out of the hills near the elephant camp and drops down to the plains that surround Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city, The approach from the South is through unprepossessing industrial estates and suburbs. Finally we turned off the superhighway and headed East for Boursin and a guest house called the Secret Garden. The road to Boursin is obviously popular with tour buses as there are many large outlets for silverware, brassware and ceramics with large but mostly empty car parks. Boursin is about a mile and a half out of the centre of Chiang Mai and is a centre for umbrella making. Brightly coloured, often gaudy umbrellas decorate the lines of shops devoted to the product. Finding the secret garden proved a mite difficult. The final turning should have been marked by a yellow traffic light. Unfortunately it had been demolished by a truck. Using Sue's phone we called the hotel and were told to follow a red lambretta. Sure enough a classic red lambretta driven by the owner, Peter, piloted us in. The Secret Garden is as the name implied an oasis of tranquility. Peter and his wife, Pai, closed their marionette factory and opened a guest house on the site. Bungalows are placed around ponds and water features, and works of art and sculpture are dotted around everywhere. Peter personally meets all his guests at the airport or station if he can and his wife cooks. The combination of personal interest and beautiful setting is hard to beat.
On the Sunday evening we took a local bus into town to visit the night bazaar. The bus costs 15 baht, ie 30p and is basically a truck with two benches down the side and a low roof. You press a bell when you want to get off. With lots of smiles from the other passengers we managed to spot our destination. The night bazaar sells pretty well everything. Loads of restaurants and food stalls, clothing, DVDs of any movie you care to mention,including new releases, of dubious provenance. We paused for a cocktail at a fancy hotel which turned out to be full of American military. We later found out they were engaged in a wargame with the Thai army. What this involved we didn't find out. But they seemed a bit bizarre in combat fatigues and boots, armed only with attache cases and cocktails.