Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chiang Mai and Chiang Kong Thailand- Sept. 30th-Oct. 7th- Oh my Buddha!!!

Sept. 30th: When we arrived in Chiang Mai our hostel in Bangkok set us up at the Plaza Inn. I have slept in many hostels some clean some not so much but this place was pretty bad. Nothing looked clean there were dead bugs everywhere and the shower was barely a shower. Thank Buddha that we were only staying here for one night.

We got in around 3 and we were starving so Eden, Scott, and I decided to roam around and get some food and see the city. We wandered and saw a sign for beef noodle soup for 30 baht (their currency) which is so cheap when you convert it into $. So we all ordered the beef noodle soup and a Thai iced tea. This is where my obsession with Thai ice teas started on this trip. Once we were finished with lunch we walked over to Wat Chedilliang Varavharn (Wat=temple) and when you enter they have a section where you can chat with a monk. We sat down with the monk and asked numerous questions such as what is the difference in the coloring of their robes and we found out that bright orange robed monks are city monks and the burned orange robed monks are forest monks. We asked what he could eat and drink, where he learned English, can he visit his family and after all the questions we asked him we then asked him if there was anything he wanted to learn from us. The monk wanted to know more about Abraham Lincoln I kid you not this is what he was curious about. So we told him the history of Abraham Lincoln and that's all he wanted to know more about and we said thank you and continued walking around the city.

We walked down this one street where not much was going on. I noticed a sign that said pad thai with banana something and was curious to see what it was all about. Scott wanted to continue to wander up the street and Eden said ok when we get to the end we can turn around and head back to that place. Scott was not listening and when we got to the end of the street he wanted to keep walking and I said "wait what about the place with the pad thai with the banana something?" he didn't know that we wanted to eat there and thought it was just a bar with drinks. So we walked back to the Yellow bird cafe and we were welcomed by a woman named Santia. The restaurant was also Santia's house and the front porch was where she served her customers. You took your shoes off and sat on the cushions on the floor under umbrellas with light. There was random art work everywhere and when you looked outside her porch there was a rock arch with beautiful vines hanging down.

Santia cooks everything on her own and her ingredients are so fresh. I ordered the pad thai and what was banana was the banana flower. Scott had a yellow curry and Eden had a spicy green curry dish. She also made us fresh drinks with lemon grass. I have to admit I have consumed a lot of pad thai in my life and this was the most delicious plate of pad thai I have ever eaten. Santia came to sit with us and we talked about her family, the cat that she is taking care of who just gave birth to kittens and about a mysterious egg she found outside her house and doesn't know what it will become. We then told her that we were going on a 3 day trek and she told us to come visit her when we return.

Oct. 1st: We were picked up at 9:30am to leave for our 3 day trek. Inside the tuk tuk we were going on a trek with 2 girls from Spain, 2 men from England named Sam and Mark, 2 men from France and a couple from Amsterdam. They took us to a market to get some food and water for the trek. I couldn't help but notice a small coffee cart and ordered myself a Thai iced tea. We all got back in the tuk tuk and they took us to the Elephant camp.

When we got to the elephant camp there were 3 of us in our group. So Eden and I sat in the little seat they placed on top of the elephant while Scott sat right on the elephants neck where its dirty ears kept slapping his legs. The elephant then went around in a circle and going down steep hills on an elephant was a little scary. They then brought the elephant to a bucket of water where the elephant started to drink and then squirt water all over us. I was officially covered in dirt, water and elephant snot. Hott right? I know! We got off the elephant and they took us to eat lunch, which was fried rice and fruit, before we needed to do some hiking.

We hiked for about 3 hours I believe and then they took us to a waterfall to cool off. I was excited to finally test out my waterproof camera in the water. Now remember I just had my camera stolen in Bangkok and this was my new camera. I took it out of my bag and got Scott's attention and attempted to toss my camera at him. For those of you who know me you know I throw like a girl unless I have a lacrosse stick to assist me. The camera may be waterproof but the thing does not float. It sunk all the way to the bottom and no one could see it or find it. Eden and Scott looked at me like they wanted to smack me. Luckily one of the trekking tour guides reached down all the way to the bottom and found it. Again note to self camera is waterproof but does not float got it!

We then proceeded on our trek to where we would be sleeping for the night. When we finally reached the small village in where we would be staying we noticed that there was no shower and we would be sleeping in an old used flat cushion on the floor with a small dirty pillow covered by a mosquito net. Lets also make note that the room we were sleeping in smelled horrible but we were told that we are surrounded by rice fields and it was the smell of the rice. We all then sat around the table and ate curry or vegetables and tofu.

One of the French guys had an iphone and he left it on the table to go to the bathroom. Our guides went into the main hut to eat and these 2 sketchy characters came up to try to sell us handmade trumpets. One of the guys was standing in the dark in the background and wouldn't really show face. The Spanish girls were trying to make friends with him and asked him to take a picture with them. I ended up taking the picture since it was only me and the 2 Spanish girls at the table. When the French guy came back he noticed that his phone was missing and we all started to help him look for it. I just had my camera stolen so I understood how he felt. I had a feeling it was one of the men that came up here so I took the Spanish girls camera and showed him the picture of the sketchy quiet guy.

We then called our guide up, his name is Neo, and I sat down and asked him to please help this guy find his phone and to just ask the men if they took it to just return it. We were all searching like crazy and asking the men to please just return it but no one was really helping. I could see that Neo is an honest man and he felt horrible that this happened but he said unless he saw it himself there was nothing he could really do. The man who we knew took it was acting shocked and was telling the French man to search him but who knows where he could have stashed the thing. A little time flew by and Mark, one of the English men, found the phone underneath the stairs. The French guy apologized for accusing the Thai men because we didn't want anymore trouble. However here are the facts: 1. The French guy never went near the stairs, 2. When he got his phone back he noticed that someone was trying to call one of his contacts who he had not spoken to in 3 years and 3. The man who managed the village came over and asked him to show him how to use the phone. So the man did take his phone but had no idea how to use it. I was just happy that the French guy had his phone back.

Oct. 2nd: In the morning we had to say goodbye to the 2 Spanish girls and 2 French men since they only signed up for the 2 day trek. So it was just  the 7 of us Mark and Sam, Vince and Sarah, Scott, Eden and me. On this day we just trekked to the next village we would be sleeping and visited one waterfall. We had lunch at a place where they tied beetles to sugar cane which they used for fighting and betting against. When we reached the village we would be sleeping at we just sat and relaxed around the table waiting for our curry with eggplant. The food was amazing on this trek all home made with fresh vegetables. Neo, our guide, is a hilarious character. He is a short skinny Thai man with long hair that he wears in a pony tail and he loves to sing lady ga ga. Once the sun set Neo lit some candles and we played I guess you could say trivia games or puzzle games. Basically Neo would take these sticks and make something out of them and then say take away 2 of the sticks to make something else. These games totally challenged our minds. At the end of the night Neo and I ended up singing a duet of Britney Spears and Backstreet boys.

Oct. 3rd: Today was our last day of the trek. We trekked a bit and then got picked up by a tuk tuk to have lunch where we had lunch on the first day. We were then taken to the river to go on a bamboo raft. Eden and I shared a raft with 2 girls either from Japan or Korea. While we were wondering down the river there was an old Thai man in an orange life jacket who yelled out "Where are you from?" and I said "America" he had this facial expression like huh? and he repeats "America!" and then he goes "beautiful" and then hops on a raft with a bunch of other Thai men and it looked like they were coming after us. I turned around and the men tipped over the raft and they all fell into the water. Oh well.

We then got dropped off back into the city of Chiang Mai where we decided to leave the Plaza Inn and find a nicer hostel. We followed Mark and Sam to Julie's hostel but unfortunately they did not have any vacancy so we chose JJ's next door. We then decided to meet up for dinner but I wanted to check out the Sunday market. Eden and I were hungry so we shared a small pad thai we bought from a street vendor and then walked to the Sunday market. The first thing we see is a man with freshly made coconut ice cream.... yah we ate that too. We then walked around to see the market and it was full of food, jewelry, handmade goods, clothing, woven scarfs and other handmade crafts. We then rushed back to meet up with Scott, Mark and Sam for dinner. Funny thing happened we ended up going to the pad thai street vendor again and each had our own plates of pad thai. We then met up with Vince and Sarah at John's bar and then we all headed out to a reggae bar. When we got to the reggae bar the band was really good. Mark was dancing like a ridiculous fool and Sam spilled an entire drink all over my feet and legs. Eden, Scott and I all started to dance and we just enjoyed the music and atmosphere. We had to say goodbye to Vince and Sarah and I ended up playing dice with 3 guys from Amsterdam. I then headed out to meet up with Eden, Scott, Mark and Sam and found them eating kebabs on the street. We walked home and went to bed.

Oct. 4th: Eden and I wanted to use this day to get some errands done. We had breakfast at a place called Juicy for you and then headed to an internet cafe to take care of bills and hotels for the full moon party. Scott decided to rent a motorcycle for the day and went riding around Chiang Mai. The night before we had left a note on Santia's door letting her know we were back. We decided to see if she was open today and when we got to her place she literally wrote a note for us on her door in chalk letting us know when she would be back. Eden and I decided to get massages and then we would meet up with Scott later to have dinner at the Yellow Bird Cafe. We had another amazing meal at Santia's and asked her if we could take a cooking class with her instead of an organized cooking class tour. She said yes and she wanted to take us to the night market around midnight. We went to Johns bar for a little bit and then Eden and I left the boys to meet up with Santia to go to the night market.

We hopped on the back of Santia's scooter and she drove us to the market. Now here is the experience of a lifetime this night market was unreal and I know for a fact that not many non-Thai people get to see this or experience this. The market is huge and people are selling everything from fruit to fish to meat and everything is fresh and really really cheap. I really appreciate Santia for allowing us to experience this.

Oct. 5th: We had an early breakfast with Mark and Sam since they were leaving today. We then headed to Santia's around 10am to start cooking. This day consisted of 12 hours of cooking, eating, and paper work (taking a break and drinking a beer). We cooked fried morning glory, papaya salad, ginger chicken with cashews, mango salad, we made green curry paste from scratch and made green curry chicken and then we finished the meal with pumpkin and coconut milk. When I come home I will cook for all of you! During the day we had this guy named David from Australia and Hector from Spain stop by to eat and sample our food. Later that night Scott was invited to sample our green curry. Eden's was super super spicy where mine was more mild and we finished our meal with some more pumpkin with coconut milk. I don't think I ever eaten soo much in my life but it was the most amazing day and great experience and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have met Santia.

Oct. 6th: Today is the day we leave for Chiang Kong. We decided to take a side trip and go to Laos. So here is what we need to do: take a minivan to Chiang Kong, stay there for the night, get picked up to get dropped off to the slow boat, get a visa for Laos, then take a 2 day slowboat making one stop in Laos, stay there for the night and get back on the slow boat to Luang Probang.

We shared the van with a drunk guy from Finland, a sketchy Swiss, a sweet Spanish guy who decided it would be a great idea to save one of his dreads in the back of his head, a dutch couple and 2 people from England.

When we arrived in Chiang Kong we found a Mexican restaurant where they make home made wheat bread. This was the most amazing whole wheat bread I have ever tasted and we wanted to make sure we woke up early to grab food from here before we got on the slow boat. The Thai man explained to us the story of the restaurant and how they make the bread from scratch such a sweet old man.

Here in Chiang Kong we have met Steve and Liz from England and we have now formed a little family and will be traveling around Laos together.

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