In the northeast United States, fall has taken hold as leaves swirl around me on a morning walk or run. I’ve had to resort to long sleeves and even a fleece and a jacket a few times, but thankfully, it’s a warm fall and the temperatures still bounce between warmer days and cooler nights, inviting a few last occasions for open windows.
But winter is imminent. I don’t like the cold. Rather, I hate to BE cold so winter is not my favorite season. Being wrapped in a blanket inside is just too stifling for me. I want to move unencumbered by jackets and hats and gloves, feeling the sun on bare arms and legs.
So where should you go to escape the snow and the ice? Maybe you have the time or the logistic flexibility to live or work somewhere warmer in the winter. Why not try Chiang Mai, Thailand? It’s cooler than Bangkok but still bustling with energy and people. And much less expensive than heading to the southern states of the U.S. Of course, there is the small matter of airfare, but there are regular deals to Asia and once there, the living is cheap.
A few winters ago I was able to spend some time there. I had the happy accident of arriving in time for the annual Flower Festival. I wandered through the fairground atmosphere, in awe of the brilliant decorated floats glowing with lights. Families and tourists made their way through stalls of flowers and food, eating grilled ears of corn and other treats, laughing and enjoying the warm night.
The next day there was “Sunday walking street,” another excuse for everyone to take to the street, closed to traffic for the evening, for more eating, drinking, and shopping.
If you are an animal lover (how can you not be?), visit the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for elephants rescued from working lives, usually in the logging industry. In the park, the elephants are free to live with other elephants while tourists visit them for a fee, a way to cover the expenses for their care. Their stories are heart breaking and amazing – there was an elephant blinded by a cruel owner but she now had an elephant friend to lead her around the park; another elephant had suffered a broken back, hip, and leg but had healed enough so she could live out her life not threatened by more of the beatings and work that had left her disabled. And there were happier stories – the elephants who were having babies, babies born into a better life protected by the herd.
If you love Thai food as much as me, experiment with a cooking class! I took a full day organic cooking class at the Thai Farm Cooking School, learning how to make several dishes, including the hot red curry that I love so much.
And of course, there are the temples. One of the most famous is Wat Phra That, high on a hill overlooking the Chiang Mai valley. It is a destination for people seeking courses in meditation and is a spectacular golden treasure.
I had time to visit multiple temples scattered throughout the city. At one temple, I met and then enjoyed lunch with a monk, a retired professor from the U.S. who had practiced Buddhism for 40 years and was spending his winter in Chiang Mai.
To complete the week, take a trek in the hill country. A couple I met in my cooking class invited me to join them and their private guide and we were able to go for a hike in Dom Inthanon National Park. We stopped at the market that morning to buy fried chicken and fruit for our lunch and we spent the day walking through fields and forests, stopping at a small hill tribe village to meet some locals.
So much to do and see and only a short inexpensive flight from Bangkok! For more information on Thailand, see http://www.wanderlynn.com/thailand.html.
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