Chiang Mai is a growing city. The outskirts are beautiful and the city is pretty hip. I actually preferred Chiang Mai to Bangkok. They have stopped flights from Chang Rai to Chiang Mai, god knows why, so you have to make the drive. It takes about 3 hours. Here we are waiting for the next our car, obviously everyone is very into their books.
The first stop on our drive is the White Wat. It was built by a Thai celebrity/singer/actor/artist. He made it big and decided to build a Wat for the town. The store carries his art work. I gather the town feels honored by it and it is actually a very cool Wat but the whole thing sort of made me wonder what if Neil Diamond had built a temple in Brooklyn.
The toilet situation at all the tourist places depend on if you are Western or not. We were in some really seedy toilets that were in the back of restaurants in remote villages. The toilets are literally holes in the floor. The charge to pee is generally 3 baht which is about 1 cent. This is the toilet at the White Wat.
En route to Chiang Mai we stopped at Condoms and Cabbages for lunch. There was a serious population problem happening in among the hill tribes. This guy started a program to teach the local men, and women, about birth control. He gave out condoms. Through these restaurants he generated the money to give away the condoms for free. He reduced the birth rate tremendously. Bravo to him! What a great non-profit idea. On another note, the food was really good.
We finally got to our hotel which had to be the most over the top hotel I have ever been to. The Mandarin Oriental in Chiang Mai is not complete yet but almost there. I highly recommend staying there. The service is beyond and the facilities are magnificent. We had our own pool and 2 huge 2 floor homes. One for us and one for the kids. Quite extraordinary.