Monday, 30 June 2014

buddhas and ladyboys

After our cook school endeavours, we were in need of a little culture and rambling around. We hopped in a taxi bound for the edge of town and the ruins of the ancient city Wiang Khum Kham, and spent the morning being driven around the little excavation sites by a wrinkled driver and a tiny horse and carriage.  

The surrounding forest was a wall of insect sounds and bird calls, and the dense air was fragrant as ever. 

There are around 10 cleared sites and about 40 more thought to be lying undiscovered still. They're though to be from the 13th century, before the King at the time moved the capital to the less flood-prone Chiang Mai.   

We barely saw another soul, apart from an old man shooting a fish in the river with an air gun, and some drummers practicing in an empty open air restaurant.  

Just as Machu Picchu did, it made me wish for a good movie set amongst the ancient civilisation who settled there. 

 Story time. 

In the evening we headed out to Kantoke Palace in search of the traditional ceremony, kantoke, presented to honoured guests in past times and involving food and lavish entertainment. It proved a little empty, and we were beginning to get creeped out by the ratio of staff to guests and the gauntlet they formed around the door. "Wait" someone said, "What if we're dinner..." 

But the food and cocktails showed up and so did the beautiful dancing and swordsmanship displays.

We decided to seek new delights and returned to the night market square for a slightly more bawdy experience... 

Lady boys!
These performers were just about the most fabulous, sexy and gorgeous women I've ever seen! The show was free if you bought drinks, and turned out to be one of our favourite things.  

I'd been a bit worried it would be seedy or sad, but it was utterly exuberant and joyful. The attitude towards sexuality in Thailand in general seemed so much more relaxed and open than in Japan: to see such a brazen display of glamour and sexiness was kind of refreshing after months of kawaii and, to some extent, infantilisation of women. I love being surprised by the endless ways of expressing gender and identity across the world. 

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