Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leaving Thailand on the Slow(est) Boat (in the world!)

Have you ever thought to yourself: What on god's green earth possessed me to do such a thing? By the second day of the Slow Boat ride down the Mekong River. That's exactly what I was thinking. Don't know what a slow boat is? Basically it's a boat used primarily for cargo. Think Teeny Tiny Tug Boat and you're probably close. For some reason, back in the day when tourism was developing in S.E.Asia some genius said "I wonder how many foreigners we could trick into riding on one of these things" and from then on Thai and Laos slow boat drivers have been making a fortune.
The crew and driver were actually very nice (on the first day) and I have no hard feelings towards them, I will, however, being holding a lifelong grudge against the person who designed the most uncomfortable (not to mention unstable) bench on the face of the planet.
Other than the ass-numbingly slow ride down the Mekong, this was actually a fairly enjoyable trip.
This is a Slow Boat

This is what it looks like on the inside

Now, this was the first day. Look at all that SPACE! My, oh, my did we have it good. This was the second day: Imagine being tired, frustrated, cranky and above all riding on a bench that is about to break with a sore ass. And that was my day from 10 am to 6 pm. 
As negative as this post may sound there was, of course, some good to be found in it all.

In conclusion, boats are usually fun, unless you are tired and cranky. Then, hopefully, there is some beautiful scenery to keep you complacent. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Loi Krathong (The Festival of Lanterns)

I made it back from Pai just in time to catch the famous Loi Krathong.

The festival occurs on the full moon in November (same day as the full moon party which happens down in the south). Everyone is supposed to have a lantern. The lanterns are made of this thin paper material and are attached to a small ring of wood (bamboo I think) and when lit, it creates this little hot air balloon/lantern that floats up. Each lantern is supposed to represent a wish that the person who releases the lantern makes to the Buddha. 

  After the Monks give their blessing they give an announcement telling everyone to light their lanterns, make a wish and then everyone standing in this large field lets their lanterns go. It looks a little something like this:

Or if you're in the middle of the field (which I was not) it would look something like this:

It was absolutely beautiful. The lanterns continued to go up into the air well into the night. Some were caught in trees and some just fell, but the majority floated away. Thousands of wishes ascending into the night sky.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I took a bus to Pai and instead of taking in my surroundings on my first day here, I fell asleep for 13 hours. Go me! But no worries, I rented a scooter on the second morning and set out for an adventure. Sort of. First off I had to teach myself to ride a scooter. On my first attempt down the street I ran into a street vendor. And it wasn't "ran into" as in "oh hey, ol' chum! How are things?" It was more like, "HOLY COW! Move out of the way! Batten down your hatches! Hold on to your sticks of meat!" and then thump. Don't worry no damage to anything but my ego. And of course I wore my helmet. Safety first, kids.

After half an hour of riding around I finally mastered the art of the turn and then it was off to the water falls! I saw two in a day and that was good. Too many people and not enough water fall.

Overall Pai is gorgeous. I made a few wrong turns and ended up in the old part of the city and the farming area. I almost hit a cow as well. He/She seemed completely unaware of my existence and just carried on crossing the road. But, back to the point, gorgeous countryside.

It's a charming place and I wish I had more time but I'll be back in Chiang Mai tomorrow and then onward to Laos!

Welcome to the Jungle

Watch it bring you to your Sha-na-na-na-na Knees Knees!
After three days and two nights I made it out of the jungle alive (barely).

Day 1: You know where you are? You're in the Jungle, baby.

After visiting the Elephant Nature Park I was a bit weary about riding elephants. But I will admit it was a little fun.

View from atop the elephant
And then we trekked. For 4 hours. Through the jungle.
Jungle (see above)
Since we were hiking through the unpredictable, wild terrain, our guide, "V", made us some sweet bamboo walking sticks with his machete.

V with his machete
And we trekked for hours uphill through the jungle: past the annoying mosquitoes, beyond the enormous spider and the poisonous centipede we finally made it to the top.
To the top!
There we were rewarded with breathtaking views and aching muscles.
I wish my camera could capture the color but this is as close as I came

Hmong Village hut

Day 2: Are we there yet?
Bridge crossing to get to the waterfall
The second day started out fairly simple. Walk to the waterfall: check! Swim at the waterfall: check!

Next, more uphill. Woot. Only 3 hours this time.  
View from the top

Dairy followed us all day the second day. From the Hmong village to the second village.

Did the damn thing. 

And then we made it to the bamboo huts.

And then there was this gorgeous sunset.
Final Day: The School and The End
In the second village we stayed in, we were shown the school. The schools, V explained, have students of all ages and from what we were able to see it seemed to be from the youngest, the little boy above, at about five or six up to maybe thirteen or fourteen years old all being taught by one person.

It was so nice, especially in the context of what I set out to do, to see that there is education for these children even in the most remote locations. In fact, as V was explaining, the Thai government recently declared that all villages must provide education for twelve grades.

The conclusion of our excursion was a brief trip down the rapids and then a quick ride on a bamboo raft. Obviously being surrounded by water meant no camera so no pictures.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thai Cooking

Thai cuisine is amazing! Phad Thai is by far one of my favorite dishes of all time and lucky for me, Chiang Mai is known for its cooking courses. For 700 baht ($23) I learned how to cook 4 different dishes; Chiang Mai Noodles (red curry), coconut chicken soup, spring rolls and Phad Thai.
Making curry

Chiang Mai Noodles (most delicious)

Look Ma! I'm makin' Phad Thai!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doi Suthep the Wat on a Hill

I've noticed that much of my time in Thailand has been devoted to looking at Temples but they are just so darn gorgeous. The photos really don't do them justice. All of the historical, architectural and religious importance of each of these temples is fascinating. The final Wat I'll write about (for a bit at least) is Doi Suthep or Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is located on a hill overlooking Chiang Mail. So not only did I get to see a very important temple, but I also had an opportunity to see the city from a birds-eye view. 

Yep, I sure did walk up all those steps. I might have been a bit out of breath at the top but it was also 85 degrees out so... whatever.

So many people were paying their respects and praying.

And this was the scene from Doi Suthep. That down there is the city of Chiang Mai. 

And these were just plain pretty. 

Lantern Festival and the Sunday Walking Market

To my pleasant surprise, a few days after arriving in Chiang Mai, it was brought to my attention that there was a festival. We stumbled upon it while walking through the streets of Chaing Mai and although we couldn't understand what was happening exactly, we knew it was something exciting.

We had stumbled across the Lantern Festival.

Earlier in the day there was a ... I want to use the word parade but it was more of a celebration in the square. They didn't march down a street they simply danced or played music in front of the temple. 

Each group had a different outfit. 

I loved the long fingers of these outfits.

I couldn't help taking a picture of this little girl. Amidst all the celebration she seemed so put out. Like dressing up for this occasion was the last thing she wanted to do. 

And this poor little guy, too. What you don't see is his friend hitting him (playfully) with a mallet. 

The Sunday Market was littered with Lanterns.

The affect was gorgeous, but hazardous. Especially for the taller Pharang. 

Obviously I was excited about the lanterns. And then this guy had to ruin my sweet picture. Thanks random squatter for photo-bombing.