Saturday, 13 September 2008

Chiang Mai - a nice contrast with Samui

We had a really enjoyable weekend in this lovely city, with Lucy and Jonny. It was the first time that Olwen and I had visited the north and we appreciated the cooler weather and the very different, laid-back aspect of Thailand that we hadn't experienced before. I must say that stall holders and trinket sellers like the lady above seemed less 'pushy' than on Samui and went away smiling if their wares were politely refused. Mai pen rai (roughly: 'it doesn't matter') being the most frequent response. It was also a very pleasant change to be in a city that had some history, with ancient temples, architecture and a moat around the walled city to match.

Lucy's mission was to order additional bar furniture for Baan Bophut, but also to meet her rocking horse supplier for whom she acts as a sales agent in horse-mad Dubai and the Arabian Gulf. Both objectives fulfilled, we had time to spare for the Night Market.

I was particularly intrigued by the small colony of 'artists' located in the basement level of the covered portion of the market.

They all seem wholly occupied in scaling-up and copying photographs, usually in charcoal, to an astounding degree of realism that is almost indistinguishable from a high resolution photograph. I didn't see anyone creating original images. Such is the level of precision that many visitors (and residents for all I know) ask that their photos be copied, usually of their kids, confident that the resulting likeness will be an identical replica.

So, are these very talented guys artists or highly skilled technicians? I've had the discussion with both Olwen and Lucy and we hold differing opinions, so I'd appreciate your thoughts. But I go along with sculptor Henry Moore who said "Art is the expression of imagination, not the duplication of reality."

We rounded out the visit with various purchases including northern delicacies, such as Moo grob - crispy pork rinds which, as you can see in the image below, were much appreciated by some of our staff. There is no direct flight between Samui and Chiang Mai, but Bangkok Airways have a scheduled flight going the other way, so thankfully, we were able to avoid any of the protest hassles in Bangkok that on the day of our departure, had already closed Phuket airport.

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