Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thai Bronze Rain Drums

The History of The Bronze Rain Drum

The earliest bronze rain drums discovered were found in Vinh Phuc Province, Vietnam, and have been accurately dated as being circa. 1,500B.C., it is however widely acknowledged that in fact they originated from Yunnan Province, China up to 1,000 years earlier!.

Following their arrival in Vietnam, the bronze rain drums then started to be seen throughout Southeast Asia including Laos, Burma, Malaysia,Thailand and extensively throughout Indonesia in all these countries they can still be found in use today.

The drums are believed to contain an array of Lucky Spirits ,that range from fertility, through death (they were often placed in the burial mounds along with the corpse) to providing luck that will ensure that a good harvest prevails each year.

The reason that frogs are depicted on many of them is because the Thunder God is afraid of frogs because the frogs subdue the God !.

Others believe that the frogs also represent rain: "during April the frogs croak loudly, and people feel happy !". There is certainly an eerie sound created when they are struck by the heavy monsoon rains of Southeast Asia.

The drums go under several different names, in Thailand they are known as Thai Bronze Rain Drums, in Vietnam as Dong Son Rain Drums (after the area they were first discovered in), In Laos they are called Laos Style Rain Drums.

The best examples of modern day reproduction bronze rain drums are made by use of a cast with the same lost wax technique as the ancients employed, allowing sculpturing & perfection down to the smallest detail.

Each piece you see here is made individually by our Thai master artisans. The craftsmanship involved creates slight variations in color, finish, size, and shape - a quality we consider to be an added touch of uniqueness.

The remarkable detail of our bronze rain drums is due to meticulous and labor-intensive care by Thai craftsmen to produce these unique sculptures of exquisite detail and timeless durability.

Buffing, polishing, and patinising give each piece its final green-grey verdigris or bronze lustre.

They are now supplied all around the world, and are typically used as either garden features, or as a base for a glass topped table within the home, utilising the frog embellishments that are an integral part of the Bronze Rain Drum construction.


We offer three different sizes details as follows:

Item No 233

Description: Thai Bronze Rain Drum

Price:US $899.00 + FREE Delivery

This stunning reproduction Thai bronze rain drum is made of cast Bronze, by the centuries old method of "lost wax" technique, and has intricate details carved all aroound both the body & top. The top also contains 4x raised frog shapes, just perfect to add a glass table top to, or just use the rain drum as a garden feature.

The drum measures approximately 50cm dia. wide x 65cm high (20" dia. wide x 26" high), and weighs 33kgs(75lbs).

This item is shipped by FedEx, deliveries worldwide within 7-10 days.


Item No 234

Description: Thai Bronze Rain Drum

Price:US $999.00 + FREE Delivery

This stunning reproduction Thai bronze rain drum is made of cast Bronze, by the centuries old method of "lost wax" technique, and has intricate details carved all aroound both the body & top. The top also contains 4x raised frog shapes, just perfect to add a glass table top to, or just use the rain drum as a garden feature.

The drum measures approximately 55cm dia. wide x 50cm high (22" dia. wide x 20" high), and weighs 33kgs(75lbs).

This item is shipped by FedEx, deliveries worldwide within 7-10 days.


Item No 235

Description: Thai Bronze Rain Drum

Price:US $1,099.00 + FREE Delivery

This stunning reproduction Thai bronze rain drum is made of cast Bronze, by the centuries old method of "lost wax" technique, and has intricate details carved all aroound both the body & top. The top also contains 4x raised frog shapes, just perfect to add a glass table top to, or just use the rain drum as a garden feature.

The drum measures approximately 60cm dia. wide x 45cm high (24" dia. wide x 18.5" high), and weighs 37kgs(84lbs).

This item is shipped by FedEx, deliveries worldwide within 7-10 days.

For Further Information & Enquiries:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Theravada Buddhism in Thailand

Theravada "terra-vah-dah", which means "Doctrine of the Elders" is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka which is the collection of primary Pali language texts which form the doctrinal foundation of Theravada Buddhism,which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings.

For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of Southeast Asia who's countries include Thailand ,Myanmar,Cambodia and Laos.

Today, Theravada Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide, of which at least 60% of the worldwide total are Thai Nationals. In recent decades this culture has begun to take root heavily within the West.

Many Buddhisms - But Only One Dhamma-Vinaya !
The Buddha — the "Awakened One" — called the religion he founded Dhamma-Vinaya — "the doctrine and discipline".

To provide a social structure supportive of the practice of Dhamma-Vinaya or Dhamma for short, and to preserve these teachings for posterity, the Buddha established the order of bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns) — the Sangha — which continues to this day to pass his teachings on to subsequent generations of laypeople and monastics,alike.

As the Dhamma continued its spread across India after the Buddha's passing, differing interpretations of the original teachings arose, which led to schisms within the Sangha and the emergence of as many as eighteen distinct sects of Buddhism.

One of these schools eventually gave rise to a reform movement that called itself Mahayana - "the "Greater Vehicle" and that referred to the other schools disparagingly as Hinayana - "the "Lesser Vehicle".

What we call Theravada today is the sole survivor of those early non-Mahayana schools. To avoid the pejorative tone implied by the terms Hinayana and Mahayana, it is common today to use more neutral language to distinguish between these two main branches of Buddhism.

Because Theravada historically dominated southern Asia, it is sometimes called "Southern" Buddhism, while Mahayana, which migrated northwards from India into China, Tibet, Japan, and Korea, is known as "Northern" Buddhism.

Pali: The Language of Theravada Buddhism
The language of the Theravada canonical texts is Pali - "text", which is based on a dialect of Middle Indo-Aryan that was probably spoken in central India during the Buddha's time.

Ven. Ananda, the Buddha's cousin and close personal attendant, committed the Buddha's sermons (suttas) to memory and thus became a living repository of these teachings.

Shortly after the Buddha's death in 480BCE, five hundred of the most senior monks — including Ananda — convened to recite and verify all the sermons they had heard during the Buddha's forty-five year teaching career.

Most of these sermons therefore begin with the disclaimer, "Evam me sutam" — "Thus have I heard".

After the Buddha's death the teachings continued to be passed down orally within the monastic community, in keeping with an Indian oral tradition that long predated the Buddha.

By the year 250BCE the Sangha had systematically arranged and compiled these teachings into three divisions: the Vinaya Pitaka (the "basket of discipline" — the texts concerning the rules and customs of the Sangha), the Sutta Pitaka (the "basket of discourses" — the sermons and utterances by the Buddha and his close disciples), and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (the "basket of special/higher doctrine" — a detailed psycho-philosophical analysis of the Dhamma).

Together these three are known as the Tipitaka - the "three baskets".

In the third century BCE Sri Lankan monks began compiling a series of exhaustive commentaries to the Tipitaka; these were subsequently collated and translated into Pali beginning in the fifth century CE.

The Tipitaka plus the post-canonical texts (commentaries, chronicles, etc.) together constitute the complete body of classical Theravada literature.

Pali was originally a spoken language with no alphabet of its own. It wasn't until about 100BCE that the Tipitaka was first fixed in writing, by Sri Lankan scribe-monks,who wrote the Pali phonetically in a form of early Brahmi script.

Since then the Tipitaka has been transliterated into many different scripts (Devanagari, Thai, Burmese, Roman, Cyrillic, to name a few). Although English translations of the most popular Tipitaka texts abound, many students of Theravada find that learning the Pali language — even just a little bit here and there — greatly deepens their understanding and appreciation of the Buddha's teachings.

No one can prove that the Tipitaka contains any of the words actually uttered by the historical Buddha. Practicing Buddhists have never found this problematic. Unlike the scriptures of many of the world's great religions, the Tipitaka is not regarded as gospel, as an unassailable statement of divine truth, revealed by a prophet, to be accepted purely on faith.

Instead, its teachings are meant to be assessed firsthand, to be put into practice in one's life so that one can find out for oneself if they do, in fact, yield the promised results.

It is the truth towards which the words in the Tipitaka point that ultimately matters, not the words themselves.

Although scholars will continue to debate the authorship of passages from the Tipitaka for years to come (and thus miss the point of these teachings entirely), the Tipitaka will quietly continue to serve — as it has for centuries — as an indispensable guide for millions of followers in their quest for Awakening.

Modern scholarship suggests that Pali was probably never spoken by the Buddha himself. In the centuries after the Buddha's death, as Buddhism spread across India into regions of different dialects, Buddhist monks increasingly depended on a common tongue for their Dhamma discussions and recitations of memorized texts.It was out of this necessity that the language we now know as Pali emerged.

A Brief Summary of the Buddha's Teachings - "The Four Noble Truths"

Shortly after his "Awakening", the Buddha delivered his first sermon, in which he laid out the essential framework upon which all his later teachings were based.

This framework consists of the Four Noble Truths, four fundamental principles of nature (Dhamma) that emerged from the Buddha's radically honest and penetrating assessment of the human condition.

He taught these truths not as metaphysical theories or as articles of faith, but as categories by which we should frame our direct experience in a way that conduces to Awakening:

1. Dukkha: suffering, unsatisfactoriness, discontent, stress;

2. The cause of dukkha: the cause of this dissatisfaction iscraving (tanha) for sensuality, for states of becoming, and states of no becoming;

3. The cessation of dukkha: the relinquishment of that craving;

4. The path of practice leading to the cessation of dukkha: the Noble Eightfold Path of right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Because of our ignorance (avijja) of these Noble Truths, because of our inexperience in framing the world in their terms, we remain bound to samsara, the wearisome cycle of birth, ageing, illness, death, and rebirth.

Craving propels this process onward, from one moment to the next and over the course of countless lifetimes, in accordance with karma, the universal law of cause and effect.

According to this immutable law, every action that one performs in the present moment — whether by body, speech, or mind itself — eventually bears fruit according to its skillfulness: act in unskillful and harmful ways and unhappiness is bound to follow; act skillfully and happiness will ultimately ensue.

As long as one remains ignorant of this principle, one is doomed to an aimless existence: happy one moment, in despair the next; enjoying one lifetime in heaven, the next in hell.

The Buddha discovered that gaining release from samsara requires assigning to each of the Noble Truths a specific task: the first Noble Truth is to be comprehended; the second, abandoned; the third, realized; the fourth, developed.

The full realization of the third Noble Truth paves the way for Awakening: the end of ignorance, craving, suffering, and karma itself; the direct penetration to the transcendent freedom and supreme happiness that stands as the final goal of all the Buddha's teachings; the Unconditioned, the Deathless, Unbinding — Nirvana.

The Eightfold Path and the Practice of Dhamma
Because the roots of ignorance are so intimately entwined with the fabric of the psyche, the unawakened mind is capable of deceiving itself with breathtaking ingenuity.

The solution therefore requires more than simply being kind, loving, and mindful in the present moment. The practitioner must equip him- or herself with the expertise to use a range of tools to outwit, outlast, and eventually uproot the mind's unskillful tendencies.

For example, the practice of generosity (dana) erodes the heart's habitual tendencies towards craving and teaches valuable lessons about the motivations behind, and the results of, skillful action.

The practice of virtue (sila) guards one against straying wildly off-course and into harm's way.

The cultivation of goodwill (metta) helps to undermine anger's seductive grasp.

The ten recollections offer ways to alleviate doubt, bear physical pain with composure, maintain a healthy sense of self-respect, overcome laziness and complacency, and restrain oneself from unbridled lust.

And there are many more skills to learn !.

The good qualities that emerge and mature from these practices not only smooth the way for the journey to Nirvana; over time they have the effect of transforming the practitioner into a more generous, loving, compassionate, peaceful, and clear-headed member of society.

The individual's sincere pursuit of Awakening is thus a priceless and timely gift to a world in desperate need of help.

Discernment (panna):
The Eightfold Path is best understood as a collection of personal qualities to be developed, rather than as a sequence of steps along a linear path.

The development of right view and right resolve (the factors classically identified with wisdom and discernment) facilitates the development of right speech, action, and livelihood (the factors identified with virtue).

As virtue develops so do the factors identified with concentration (right effort, mindfulness, and concentration). Likewise, as concentration matures, discernment evolves to a still deeper level.

And so the process unfolds: development of one factor fosters development of the next, lifting the practitioner in an upward spiral of spiritual maturity that eventually culminates in Awakening.

The long journey to Awakening begins in earnest with the first tentative stirrings of right view — the discernment by which one recognizes the validity of the four Noble Truths and the principle of karma. One begins to see that one's future well-being is neither predestined by fate, nor left to the whims of a divine being or random chance.

The responsibility for one's happiness rests squarely on one's own shoulders. Seeing this, one's spiritual aims become suddenly clear: to relinquish the habitual unskillful tendencies of the mind in favor of skillful ones.

As this right resolve grows stronger, so does the heartfelt desire to live a morally upright life, to choose one's actions with care.

At this point many followers make the inward commitment to take the Buddha's teachings to heart, to become "Buddhist" through the act of taking refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha (both the historical Buddha and one's own innate potential for Awakening), the Dhamma (both the Buddha's teachings and the ultimate Truth towards which they point), and the Sangha (both the unbroken monastic lineage that has preserved the teachings since the Buddha's day, and all those who have achieved at least some degree of Awakening).

With one's feet thus planted on solid ground, and with the help of an admirable friend or teacher (kalyanamitta) to guide the way, one is now well-equipped to proceed down the Path, following in the footsteps left by the Buddha himself.

Virtue (sila):

The right view and right resolve continue to mature through the development of the path factors associated with sila, or virtue — namely, right speech, right action, and right livelihood.

These are condensed into a very practical form in the five precepts, the basic code of ethical conduct to which every practicing Buddhist subscribes: refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and using intoxicants.

Even the monks' complex code of 227 rules and the nun's 311 ultimately have these five basic precepts at their core.

Concentration (samadhi):
Having gained a foothold in the purification of one's outward behavior through the practice of sila, the essential groundwork has been laid for delving into the most subtle and transformative aspect of the path: meditation and the development of samadhi, or concentration.

This is spelled out in detail in the final three path factors: right effort, by which one learns how to favor skillful qualities of mind over unskillful ones; right mindfulness, by which one learns to keep one's attention continually grounded in the present moment of experience; and right concentration, by which one learns to immerse the mind so thoroughly and unwaveringly in its meditation object that it enters jhana, a series of progressively deeper states of mental and physical tranquillity.

Right mindfulness and right concentration are developed in tandem through satipatthana ("frames of reference" or "foundations of mindfulness"), a systematic approach to meditation practice that embraces a wide range of skills and techniques.

Of these practices, mindfulness of the body (especially mindfulness of breathing) is particularly effective at bringing into balance the twin qualities of tranquillity (samatha) and insight (vipassana), or clear-seeing. Through persistent practice, the meditator becomes more adept at bringing the combined powers of samatha-vipassana to bear in an exploration of the fundamental nature of mind and body.

As the meditator masters the ability to frame his immediate experience in terms of anicca (inconstancy), dukkha, and anatta (not-self), even the subtlest manifestations of these three characteristics of experience are brought into exquisitely sharp focus. At the same time, the root cause of dukkha — craving — is relentlessly exposed to the light of awareness.

Eventually craving is left with no place to hide, the entire karmic process that fabricates dukkha unravels, the eightfold path reaches its noble climax, and the meditator gains, at long last, his or her first unmistakable glimpse of the Unconditioned — Nirvana.


This first enlightenment experience, known as stream-entry (sotapatti), is the first of four progressive stages of Awakening, each of which entails the irreversible shedding or weakening of several fetters (samyojana), the manifestations of ignorance that bind a person to the cycle of birth and death.

Stream-entry marks an unprecedented and radical turning point both in the practitioner's current life and in the entirety of his or her long journey in samsara.

For it is at this point that any lingering doubts about the truth of the Buddha's teachings disappear; it is at this point that any belief in the purifying efficacy of rites and rituals evaporates; and it is at this point that the long-cherished notion of an abiding personal "self" falls away.

The stream-enterer is said to be assured of no more than seven future rebirths (all of them favorable) before eventually attaining full Awakening.

But full Awakening is still a long way off. As the practitioner presses on with renewed diligence, he or she passes through two more significant landmarks: once-returning (sakadagati), which is accompanied by the weakening of the fetters of sensual desire and ill-will, and non-returning (agati), in which these two fetters are uprooted altogether.

The final stage of Awakening — arahatta — occurs when even the most refined and subtle levels of craving and conceit are irrevocably extinguished.

At this point the practitioner — now an arahant, or "worthy one" — arrives at the end-point of the Buddha's teaching. With ignorance, suffering, stress, and rebirth having all come to their end, the arahant at last can utter the victory cry first proclaimed by the Buddha upon his Awakening:

"Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done! There is nothing further for the sake of this world".

The arahant lives out the remainder of his or her life inwardly enjoying the bliss of Nirvana, secure at last from the possibility of any future rebirth. When the arahant's aeons-long trail of past karma eventually unwinds to its end, the arahant dies and he or she enters into parinirvana — total Unbinding. Although language utterly fails at describing this extraordinary event, the Buddha likened it to what happens when a fire finally burns up all its fuel.

"The serious pursuit of happiness" Buddhism is sometimes naively criticized as a "negative" or "pessimistic" religion and philosophy.

Surely life is not all misery and disappointment: it offers many kinds of happiness and sublime joy. Why then this dreary Buddhist obsession with unsatisfactoriness and suffering?.

The Buddha based his teachings on a frank assessment of our plight as humans: there is unsatisfactoriness and suffering in the world. No one can argue this fact.

Dukkha lurks behind even the highest forms of worldly pleasure and joy, for, sooner or later, as surely as night follows day, that happiness must come to an end.

Were the Buddha's teachings to stop there, we might indeed regard them as pessimistic and life as utterly hopeless. But, like a doctor who prescribes a remedy for an illness, the Buddha offers both a hope (the third Noble Truth) and a cure (the fourth).

The Buddha's teachings thus give cause for unparalleled optimism and joy. The teachings offer as their reward the noblest, truest kind of happiness, and give profound value and meaning to an otherwise grim existence.

One modern teacher summed it up well: "Buddhism is the serious pursuit of happiness".

Theravada Buddhism Comes West:

Until the late 19th century, the teachings of Theravada were little known outside of southern Asia, where they had flourished for some two and one-half millennia.

In the past century, however, the West has begun to take notice of Theravada's unique spiritual legacy in its teachings of Awakening.

In recent decades this interest has swelled, with the monastic Sangha from various schools within Theravada establishing dozens of monasteries across Europe and North America.

Increasing numbers of lay meditation centers, founded and operated independently of the monastic Sangha, strain to meet the demands of lay men and women — Buddhist and otherwise — seeking to learn selected aspects of the Buddha's teachings.

The turn of the 21st century presents both opportunities and dangers for Theravada in the West: Will the Buddha's teachings be patiently studied and put into practice, and allowed to establish deep roots in Western soil, for the benefit of many generations to come?.

Will the current popular Western climate of "openness" and cross-fertilization between spiritual traditions lead to the emergence of a strong new form of Buddhist practice unique to the modern era, or will it simply lead to confusion and the dilution of these priceless teachings? These are open questions; only time will tell.

Spiritual teachings of every description inundate the media and the marketplace today. Many of today's popular spiritual teachings borrow liberally from the Buddha, though only rarely do they place the Buddha's words in their true context.

Earnest seekers of truth are therefore often faced with the unsavory task of wading through fragmentary teachings of dubious accuracy. How are we to make sense of it all?

Fortunately the Buddha left us with some simple guidelines to help us navigate through this bewildering flood.

Whenever you find yourself questioning the authenticity of a particular teaching, heed well the Buddha's advice to his stepmother:

The teachings that promote - the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to passion, not to dispassion; to being fettered, not to being unfettered; to accumulating, not to shedding; to self-aggrandizement, not to modesty; to discontent, not to contentment; to entanglement, not to seclusion; to laziness, not to aroused persistence; to being burdensome, not to being unburdensome': You may definitely hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

As for the teachings that promote - the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome': You may definitely hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'

The truest test of these teachings, of course, is whether they yield the promised results in the crucible of your own heart. The Buddha presents the challenge; the rest is up to you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The History & Culture of Thai Massage

What is traditional Thai massage ?
The traditional Thai system, to the present day,is a holistic massage therapy that focuses on the body as a whole.
By recognizing the irreplaceable links of all the systems of the body, it aims to cure ailments by bringing all these various elements back into harmony with each other.

By removing blockages in the energy meridians, it promotes an increase in the energy levels of the patient. This soothing massage therapy also helps to settle the mind and remove stress from the body and mind of the patient.

The soft physical pressure and stretching techniques bring about pain relief, relieve muscular tension, and increase the flexibility of the muscles and limbs.

It also helps in harmonizing imbalances in the nervous system. Traditional Thai massage also improves blood and lymph circulation.

The holistic approach used ensures that the patient enters a state of deep relaxation and refreshes the spirit.

Where did it originate from ?
Traditional Thai massage has a very long history of well over 2,500 years.

It originated as a distillation of Indian Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese healing arts into a yoga-based method based on lines, points and remedies.

Traditional Thai massage systems of Ayurvedic medicine owes much of its early systemisation, preservation, and subsequent propagation to ascetic Buddhists and their monastic institution.

Throughout the ages, the practitioners of this medicine were Therevada Buddhist monks, practicing their healing at the monasteries.

How did it arrive in Thailand ?
As Thailand is located along the historical "Silk Road" trade route between India and China and as Buddhism spread out from India, through Thailand & into China this healing medicine spread along with it.
It found its way to Southeast-Asia where, for centuries, it was practiced by monks as one element of indigenous Thai medicine.

Thai people, believing illness results from an imbalance in the body, mind and spirit would then seek healing at their local temples.

How has it evolved over time?
The evolution of Thai massage is shrouded in the mystery of time caused by the destruction of written records during the Burmese invasion of the Siamese capital of Ayutthaya in 1767.

However,the influences of yoga, ayurvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine is obvious, as the movements are based on the Asanas of yoga, and the attention to pressure points is similar to the Nadis of Ayurveda and the Meridians of Chinese medicine.

Buddhist monks and nuns would later integrate any beneficial medical system to the one brought from India.

The influences from China, India and other surrounding countries has played an important role in enriching the existing time-honored Thai massage system.

As a result of modernization and western influences, traditional Thai massage which earlier was practiced in Buddhist temples by monks and nuns is no longer limited to the temples and its vicinities.

What are the benefits of it?
Traditional Thai massage is beneficial for both young & old, active or inactive, healthy or not so healthy.
Traditional Thai massage has been used for countless generations to treat degenerative conditions and promote wellness.

However, each person will respond in terms of their own experience and present state of health.The benefits of traditional Thai massage include pain relief, reduced anxiety, depression, reduced blood pressure and heart rate.

Other benefits of traditional Thai massage include blocking pain signals to the brain (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system to stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep but these benefits have not been supported by extensive clinical studies.

Traditional Thai massage builds upon the body's natural desire for complete health and a sense of ease and well-being.


A typical massage session lasts for about two hours. The massage is administered on mat or firm mattress kept on the floor.
The patient changes into his or her pajamas and lies down on this mat. The practitioner will then follow a pre-determined sequence of massage steps that involve the use of hands, elbows and feet.

The massage follows the flow of the energy meridians on the patients body. A number of techniques such as soft pressure, pulling fingers and toes, walking on the patients back and gentle stretching are used to free the blockages in these meridians.

Oil is normally not applied during the therapy session. At the end of the massage session, both the receiver and the therapist feel relaxed and energized.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chiang Mai - Shoppers Paradise or What !

Chiang Mai is a shopping paradise for most travelers because of its unlimited choice of handicrafts and artisan crafted goods sold at very reasonable prices.

Shopping venues are scattered around the city both at day and night; the incredible range of products for sale is vast and many visitors to Chiang Mai,Thailand include an extra empty bag to their shopping list in order to haul the reward home.

Each of a number of Famous Markets has gained acknowledgment and nationwide popularity as the best overall place for buying quality hand-made products at very cheap prices.

As Chiang Mai is now a well established tourist destination, Finding Hotelsand getting around the city are not something that you need to worry about.

Chiang Mai is recognized as one of the handicrafts centers of Asia because it has a very large system of street markets and local markets that are all very easily accessible. The markets trace down many blocks along bustling streets that sometimes seem to have go on forever.

The only personal consideration in how much market you will be able to cover may often depend on how far you want to go before your feet tire out. The products are available in a vast variety of materials including a wide range of wood work, silk products, silver art and jewelry, clothing, ceramics, interior decor, antiques, Buddhist art, lacquer work, and the list goes on.

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the most well known night market in the whole of Thailand, taking up about 10 square blocks centered on Chang Klan road in central Chiang Mai. It is easy to spend a whole night just strolling past hundreds of street-side stalls and indoor arcades.

The Night Bazaar is a great place to shop for exotic and beautiful handcrafted goods created by local artisans and skilled crafts-persons from the surrounding villages. The quality is generally high and some very good values can by found, especially if you are skilled at negotiating a good deal.

One of the most relaxing (if shopping can ever be described as that !) ways to spend a few hours is the Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street Market which can be a very nice alternative to the more hectic Night Bazaar and prices are aimed more at the local residents so prices are generally low; so much so that often there is no room to negotiate a bargain. The Walking Street Market is open only on Sundays and is a definite must see because the atmosphere is very relaxed, the market street is quite beautiful and this is an superb place to mingle with the wonderful Thai people and to find fantastic bargains.

The entire Walking Street is about 1 kilometer long and runs the entire length of Ratchadamneurn Road beginning at Thapae Gate and ending at Wat Prasing. Apart from a wide range of hand-made products on offer, one can also enjoy many Thai food stalls, street performances of a traditional nature.

The more serious shoppers can go directly to the villages and factories that manufacture handicrafts and other products and offer for wholesale at San Kamphaeng. Borsang Village , just before San Kamphaeng, also has many shops offering a range of handicrafts and is renowned for its unique Borsang umbrellas.

Baan Tawai Handicraft Village just south of Chiang Mai is home to a wide range of wood carving, wood decor, and other handicrafts.

Chiang Mai is also popular for the different ethnic arts that you can find many hill tribe shops across the city. One recommended Hill Tribes shop is the Hill Tribe Products Promotion Center on Suthep Road next to Wat Suan Dok Temple.

It was established by His Majesty the King to promote the products created by 6 different tribes in Chiang Mai including Akha, Karen, Yao, Hmong, Lisu, and Lahu. This is aimed at generating income to replace a reliance on opium cultivation in the past. Shop here for unique ethnic goods and help the hill tribe people.

Those who are interested in modern shops of the much more commercial variety, there are two big shopping centers: Kad Suan Kaew Plaza and Central Airport Plaza. The latter is relatively new and less than 5 minutes from the Chiang Mai International Airport. Panthip Plaza on the same road as Night Bazaar is ideal for technically minded people who are looking for computers and electronic gadgets with many discounts and a wide range of technical product available at good prices.

Chiang Mai offers more than shopping locations. It is a welcoming and beautiful city with rich history steeped in Thai Lanna culture. Hundreds of temples and historical sites are found everywhere across the city and it is very easy to head out of the city to some spectacular natural areas.

When not shopping, a visitor can enjoy waterfalls, elephant shows, and trekking tours. Some may be attracted by the more adventurous activities such as white water rafting, bungee jumping and paintball battle. Whatever you could ask for in a trip, Chiang Mai can offer, plus a whole lot more !.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Swidden Agriculture around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is currently in the midst of its seasonal grip of airborne pollution from widespread fires & car omissions.

This pollution creates rampant respiratory illness throughout Thailand's north as seasonal burning combined with hotter weather and an earlier-than-usual summer is bringing suffering to large numbers of both residents & visitors alike.

The majority of the problem originates within the farming populations of Northern Thailand, Myanmar, Laos & Cambodia.

Each year from February until the end of March the farmers clear large areas of land & forests by burning , they do this as a part of the “swidden” agriculture(slash & burn) which is still traditionally heavily practiced within these areas as preparation for new crops or just for creating new grazing areas for their livestock.

Another source of the problem are the many smaller forest fires set by the villagers clearing areas for the cultivation of wild mushrooms deep within the forests.

The third part of the problem is the large number of older cars & trucks on the roads all around the north of Thailand they are adding to the problem rather than being the main cause by the high omissions of pollutants they exhale !.

Add to that a city (Chiang Mai), that is surrounded by mountains, has virtually no winds or rain this time of year, and you have a perfect recipe for old fashioned SMOG !.

Chiang Mai residents, especially the elderly, children and people with respiratory problems, are currently being advised to avoid outdoor activities as the city's air pollution is starting to reach dangerous levels.

The problem is created by the dust particles that are omitted from the burning fires.

It's NOT the large pieces of black ash that fall from the sky, it’s the dust particles smaller than 10 microns( PM-10) that are measured & do the damage.

They can easily enter sensitive internal breathing organs and cause respiratory ailments.

The recognized worldwide measurement of this pollution is “microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m)”.

Chiang Mai is currently ranging between 95 - 110(ug/cu m),the Thai Pollution Control Department has set the ’safe level’ to be anything less than a PM-10 of 120.

By comparison in the U.K., the United States and the European Union as a whole it is considered a serious pollution ‘episode’ if the PM-10 level exceeds 50.

By way of a guide to the readings of other major countries around the world, the W.H.O.(World Health Organisation) provided the following annualized average readings :
Sweden - 13
France - 15
United Kingdom - 19
Germany - 22
Malaysia - 24
United States - 25
Thailand - 76
China - 87
Indonesia - 102
Chiang Mai - 49.85 annualised
Chiang Mai – averaged throughout March 2007 161.7

To give you an idea of EXACTLY how bad it can get in Chiang Mai, on 14th March 2007 the PM-10 levels reached 303.9 - catastrophically high by any standards !.

In response to the problems, the environmental office has opened a call centre to update local air quality reports for residents and concerned agencies.

Tambon-level emergency response units have also been set up to crack down on burning activities, which could worsen Chiang Mai's air pollution.

Despite Chiang Mai's pollution in theory being within 'acceptable' health-standard limits, hundreds of Chiang Mai residents are going to hospital for treatment as they are suffering from the pollution-laden smog.

The only way that Chiang Mai residents have been able to escape this problem is to physically move to other provinces further south until the airborne threat disappears.

The only way to disperse this air pollution is by either rain or wind, IF by the end of March it has not rained, the Thai military takes over & releases cloud forming chemicals from planes that then bring welcome rain & relief to all beneath it !!.

If You Want To Escape The Pace of Bangkok !

For centuries, the tranquil Thai city of Chiang Mai has been a haven for people seeking refuge or quiet contemplation.
From the Buddhist monks who congregate here and chat with tourists outside the many temples, to the hill tribes who have fled troubled spots such as Tibet and Burma, it has always been happy to extend a welcome.

For modern travellers, who invariably come via the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or the tourist “invaded” beaches of the south, it also provides a refreshing change of pace.

It's climate is cooler than that of the southern capital, and the pace of life within the old city walls much slower.

As you walk past countless outdoor market stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, smiling locals stop to “wai” – the Buddhist greeting, putting the palms together with fingers touching the tip of the nose, and bowing the head slightly.

If there is a better place for finding yourself than Chiang Mai among such beauty and serenity, it probably has yet to be discovered !!.

Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy Chiang Mai's many tourist attractions. For the energetic, the most popular activities are elephant rides and treks to visit the hill tribes.

Treks can be organised for anything from one day to four or five, and small groups of wide-eyed, and inevitably poorly prepared, tourists are led on wondrous trips through dense rainforest, up steep slopes, across rushing rivers to meet hill tribe communities.

While the tribes have long embraced tourism as a way of making money – and there is no shortage of souvenir shops along the way – they have thankfully recognised that their historic way of life is what attracts the visitors.

These treks provide an opportunity to meet the Karen Hill Tribe “Longnecks”, where the women's necks are adorned with heavy-looking, and ultimately physically deforming, neck rings – designed to resemble the neck of the dragons revered by their culture.

Nights are spent in bamboo huts on wooden stilts, falling asleep in mosquito nets with the sounds of the rainforest just outside.At the Maesa Elephant Camp, as well as providing rides for tourists, the elephants paint and play football.

Although this can seem demeaning for these grand beasts, they are well cared for and their role in Chiang Mai's thriving tourism industry ensures their survival now they have been replaced by machinery in the area's agricultural industry.

The Thais are masters of relaxation, so the less adventurous can choose from countless massages and other treatments that are available all over the city. Whatever you need to strike a counterbalance with the navel-gazing, you will find it in Chiang Mai.

Home to the controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the city also has more than 300 temples, some of them among the most revered and beautiful in the Buddhist world.

If you are looking for a new you, Chiang Mai could be just the place to start your journey.

Who knows where it might lead ??.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St Valentines Day - In Chiang Mai, Thailand

When we Westerners think of St Valentine's Day, we automatically think of red roses, candies in heart- shaped boxes, mushy Valentine cards, and winged cherubs flying about shooting starry-eyed lovers with arrows !!.

Even though St Valentine’s Day is not officially recognised in Thailand, as the steady stream of foreigners settling within the Kingdom gains momentum each year.

The popularity of the traditional “day for lovers” has opened many Thai entrepreneurs eyes to the opportunity to make some extra money.

The hills and valley’s around Chiang Mai have long been home to the production of a large proportion of the roses grown in Thailand.

This area of Northern Thailand offers the cooler months required to get the rose plants to flower freely.

Many of the growers in this area now focus their crops on being ready for what has become a highly lucrative trade in recent years.

A bundle of 10 red roses is priced at 300 baht today for Valentine’s Day compared to 100 baht on an ordinary day !.

With the current global economic slump, the vendors are all having to work much harder this year not only to attract the customers, but to also get them to loosen their purse-strings, many are creating excellent displays using red hearts, ribbons & even strawberries !!.

They are also designing very imaginative floral creations incorporating food & drink.

Several shop keepers commented that the demand for single roses has been much stronger this year, as people have chosen to tighten their belts & save money rather than buying the more expensive rose bouquets.

The product that struck me as a perfect “alternative” gift for St Valentine’s Day was beautiful, fresh & succulent strawberries, picked & sold the same day, in a lovely gift-wrap presentation with a lovely red bow attached.

This I am sure appealed to many visiting tourists to the Chiang Mai area, but as we "residents" are spoilt because they grow here ALL YEAR ROUND, its probably not the best idea to give to a loved one !!.

The final item that was doing a roaring trade today (despite its extremely high price) was gold, the current price is 30% higher than Valentines Day 2008 !!.

There is a small "Chinatown" area in Chiang Mai and this is the very best place in the city to buy any form of gold whether it be fine jewelry, necklaces, rings or even gold bars, the Chinese owned shops are far more open to "negotiation" than their Thai counterparts.

Anyway, whatever you do decide to do today, have a great day

Travel to Thailand

Interested in Travel to Thailand ?.

Travel to Thailand could not be easier, Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is a major hub within Asia, so you will find a huge choice of airlines flying here.

If, like me you like to do everything on the internet, then booking flights could not be simpler, most of the modern dynamic airlines now all operate paperless tickets (etickets), you merely print off all the booking details, and check in directly at the terminal with them.

It really could not be simpler; the days of eagerly checking the post everyday to see if your tickets had arrived are long gone!.

If you are looking for cheap flights & the very best deals, then it’s likely that you will need to do a “stopover”.

If you choose just a single stop, then typically this will add just a couple of hours to your overall flight time, which for many people is beneficial as it gives you a chance to stretch your legs after a few hours flying which is a welcome relief.

You might decide you want to fly to Thailand direct, most major airlines offer this service albeit at quite a hefty premium these days.

Typically you will pay 30%-40% more for a direct flight in economy than you will in the corresponding class with a single stop.

If you are flying from Europe to Bangkok you can find some really great deals that include a stopover in the Middle East from carriers such as, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, Oman Airways and Emirates.

The airports in the Middle East are amongst the most modern & luxurious anywhere in the world, so it’s no ill store to have to spend an hour or two there.

Personally, I would always recommend a night flight, as it allows you to get a few hours “natural” sleep and also gives your body clock a chance to adjust more gently than the day flights.

If your flight originates from the U.S.A then currently you have to accept at least a single stopover enroute, as the distances are much greater than from Europe, so it’s just a case of finding the very best combination of flights that meet your budget & maximum journey time requirements.

If you are wanting to fly to Bangkok from other countries within Asia, you will have the greatest choice of direct flights possible, at the lowest costs, as Bangkok is one of the most popular Asian hubs for all the major airlines.

Amongst the most popular and best value are Air Asia, Qantas, JAL, Singapore Airlines + several of the largest Chinese carriers such as China Airlines & China Southern Airlines.

Whichever booking route you take, make sure you shop around on the internet for the very best deals, ALL the airlines are desperate to fill seats, so a bit of extra time spent at this stage will bring financial reward.

If you have any interesting or unusual stories about travelling to or from Bangkok Airport, please send them to me.

Exert from my website all about Chiang Mai,Thailand.

Bye for Now


Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome to Visit Chiang Mai Online

Hi Everyone

Welcome to Visit Chiang Mai Online which is also the website I host up here in the North of Thailand.

On my website I provide in-depth information regarding the wonderful city of Chiang Mai, linked to my online shop Chiang Mai Arts & Crafts and I would really appreciate if you have time to visit our site at and if you like what you see, please subscribe to our blog feed and link to our website.

Many Thanks