A Travellerspoint blog

The Long and Winding Road

Pai, Bangkok

Hey everyone!!!

We've had such a fabulous few days in a tiny town in northern Thailand, Pai.

We took a van there on Monday from Chiang Mai, on what must be the most winding road in the world! It's 150Km of just curves - there isn't one part of the road that's straight! There are apparently 762 curves between Chaing Mai and Pai.

Pai is absolutely beautiful. We stayed at a little place just over a bamboo bridge from the town, and had our own little hut with a terrace that overlooked the valley and the mountains in the distance (and where we watched the amazing meteor shower on Tuesday night!) Pai is full of hippies and is a really relaxed, lovely place. We went shopping at the night market (I think I have a disease - I can't stop shopping!) and on Tuesday we took a cab a few km outside of town to a waterfall where we went swimming and sliding down the waterfall. Then we got facials (well, Becky and I did, Karl went for a walk) and went back to our terrace to lie in the hammocks and laze away the hottest part of the day. Even though it's in the mountains, Pai was really hot - about 36 degrees both days we were there (over 100 for my American friends), so the only thing we could really do in the afternoon was lie in our hammocks.

On Wednesday we sadly left Pai, and all felt a bit sick on the winding road back to Chiang Mai. We spent the day drinking juices and wandering around Chiang Mai, did a bit MORE shopping, and generally chilled out.

Last night we took a sleeper train to Bangkok. It wasn't a bad night, despite the squat toilets (still can't get used to those) I've had a fabulous birthday in Bangkok - after picking up my Ghana visa, we headed to our favourite mall, the MBK centre (notice that MBK also stands for Meg, Becky and Karl!) and got subway for lunch (for a nice dose of western food) and then Becky and I went to watch NEW MOON! Great movie, but before the movie started we all had to stand and watch this weird montage of pictures of the king...they are so obsessed with their king here! And you have to stand...disrespecting the king is a criminal offense! After that we shopped some more, got starbucks, and then got frozen yogurt. All in all, a great birthday!

Tonight we're on another overnight train south, but unfortunately this one doesn't have sleeper cars, so it'll be another night spent sitting up. In the morning we're taking a ferry to the island of Ko Tao, where we'll stay until the end of the month, chilling on the beach, getting our scuba certification, and working on our tans!

Here are the rest of my pics from Northern Thailand. I can't believe I have less than two weeks here in Asia! Craziness!!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2344548&id=13604534&l=2ce0ead8ae

xx

Posted by meggiep 06:11 Comments (0)

Top Chef Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Sawatdee-ka!

We've had a busy few days heading north in Thailand. In Ayuthaya, we took a sunset trip in a longboat on the river around Ayuthaya, organized by the lovely Tony who runs the guesthouse we stayed at. We stopped at some temple ruins and two other Buddhist temples. One of the temples also randomly had some Hindu God statues and a taoist building...we're not really sure why! They were very beautiful temples - one had a massive 2 story gold buddha statue, while another had a jade buddha.

On Friday it was so hot (37 degrees, or over 100 for you Americans, and that's without humidity!) that all we did was lie in hammocks in the hostel, drink pineapple shakes, and get Thai massages. I know, hard life! We caught our overnight train, but unfortunately sleeper class was sold out so we had to sit in chairs all night. It wasn't that bad...it got pretty cold with the AC on though, and none of us slept much. We also somehow got attacked by mosquitoes and are now covered in horrible welts! Not fun! We got to Chiang Mai yesterday and were exhausted all day, but we did manage to visit the main temple here, Wat Prae Singh, and of course drink lots of smoothies and fruit shakes.

Today we got up nice and early for an all day Thai cooking class! It was an absolutely fantastic day. We got to pick which dishes we wanted to make in each category - curry, stir-fry, soup, salad, and dessert! We started off with Pad Thai, followed by Tom Yum soup (sweet and sour soup), spring rolls, red curry paste and curry noodles, and for desert, mango coconut sticky rice! It was such a lovely day - after we made each dish, we sat down and ate it! A whole day ofr eating and cooking...I was in heaven! We also got to go on a market tour and each received a recipe book with everything we made, so I'll be treating everyone to Thai feasts when I get back!!

Tonight we visited the massive night market here. It rambles down so many streets it was easy to get lost. When we first arrived, we were able to witness first hand the legendary Thai patriotism - the market streets were crowded with people selling and buying, and all of a sudden over the loud speaker the national anthem came on, and the entire market stopped moving and went completely silent!! They're serious about their anthem (and their king!)

Tomorrow we're taking a bus to Pai, a tiny town in the hills about 150 Km north of here. Because the roads are so
winding and poorly paved, that 150Km will take us over 4 hours! It'll be a nice, relaxing few days there, before we head back here to Chiang Mai!

Here are my pics of Thailand so far:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2344548&id=13604534&l=2ce0ead8ae

xx

Posted by meggiep 05:54 Comments (0)

BAM! Welcome to Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand

Sawatdee-ka! (hello in Thai)

Well, I've made it to Bangkok. Finally on Tuesday I woke up feeling alright, and by Tuesday night I was eating normally again. Yay!! The Luang Prabang airport is absolutely adorable - it's one room, the metal detector you walk through to get into it is their 'security department', and there are 2 stores - a souvenir store that guarentees that your happiness is their priority, and a place called Smile Burger - so Lao!!

I arrived in Bangkok and made my way to the hostel, an absolutely gorgeous place that isn't in the main tourist neighbourhood of Bangkok (Khao San Road) which I liked - I don't like being in a neighbourhood with more westerners than Thai people! I met up with my friends Karl and Becky, who I met in Langkawi, and we spent the night relaxing on the rooftop.

Yesterday was jam packed and very productive. We got out early to make our way to the Ghana consulate - so hard to find that the lovely people at my hostel drew us a map! We did find it though, and I'm relieved to say that my Ghana visa will be ready Friday. Then we headed to the main shopping area, MBK, on the skytrain. It's a giant mall that sells everything, including a lot of fake designer goods! I bought a cute dress and had Subway for lunch (yum!) and then we headed to the IT complex where I bought a laptop! I've been thinking about buying a very small one for awhile, and this one was so cheap and awesome I had to buy it. No more internet cafes for me! We caused quite a ruckus though - when walking to the IT building, a random street dog made friends with us and followed us all the way there. We couldn't get rid of him, even when we went in the building! Finally a security guard had to take him away as we ran through the stalls inside the building, looking like theives!

Last night we had a chilled out dinner since we were so tired. Bangkok is just like you'd imagine, but crazier, dirtier, busier, and smellier. At night, the sidewalks fill with stalls selling just about any food you can imagine, most of them not looking too appetizing.

Today we took a 3rd class train to Ayuthaya, Thailand's ancient capital, about an hour and a half north of Bangkok. We got to the train station and were told that we had 4 minutes to buy tickets before our train was set to leave, so we had to run on to the train and frantically find seats! 3rd class isn't so bad - it's a bit cramped and hot, and the wide open windows don't do much to cool you down. But it was a short trip, and it's nice to be in a small place now and out of the craziness that is Bangkok.

We're spending a night here and then tomorow night catching the night train to Chiang Mai!

xx
meg

Posted by meggiep 22:58 Comments (2)

The amazing elephants (that made me sick)

Luang Prabang, Laos and Bangkok, Thailand

Sabaidee!

Sadly, today is my last day here in Laos. I love it here SO much. I've been trying to soak up the lovely laid back feeling here since I know Thailand will be very different!

On Wednesday I headed a little bit north of town to the elephant sanctuary for a 2 day 'Mahout' course. A Mahout (rhymes with loot) is an elephant trainer - they ride on the neck of the elephant, not in a seat on it's back, and can tell it where to go just using words. On the way up I met my fellow mahouts-in-training, who just happened to be former McGillians! It was pretty cool...one of the girls and I have a TON of friends in common and knew each other from a distance - I got on the bus and she said "you're Meg Pickersgill from McGill", which was creepy until I recognized her!

We arrived at the lovely lodge and settled into our cabins (I had one all to myself - Score!) and changed into our Mahout suits - cotton shirts and shorts that we wore while with the elephants so we wouldn't get our own clothes wet and dirty. Then we went down to meet the elephants. They have 9 adults and one baby, and they all live on the mainland in the jungle. The first time we rode them, we sat in the standard elephant seats, with a mahout telling the elephant where to go. After a walk around the jungle, we learned the commands (all in Lao of course) and got to try out being the driver! It was pretty easy, although often the elephants just wouldn't listen to us, because they'd found something more interesting to do (ie something to eat!) It was really fun sitting right on the elephant, being so close to it. We took a break for lunch and then climbed back onto the elephants and rode them to the river, where they go twice a day to drink and have a bath. Our elephants loved being in the water - as soon as we got in they all started splashing around and playing! My elephant was especially talented at using her trunk to spray water at me! She did this over and over until I was completely soaked. It was hilarious though! They would all sink down in the water, to make sure we all got as wet as possible!

After saying goodnight to our elephants, we headed back to the lodge and had dinner. That's when things got ugly - Wednesday night I woke up and was horribly, violently sick, sicker than I've ever been in my life. I spent most of the night lying on the bathroom floor, and wasn't any better in the morning, so sadly I had to miss the second day, which would have involved more elephant riding and bathing. Instead I lay in bed at the lodge until it was time to leave. I finally arrived back at my hostel after what felt like the bumpiest road ever, and spent all of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday lying in bed, terribly sick. It was so bad I couldn't even keep down water, and I was getting worried about becoming really dehydrated - especially since if you get sick in Laos, you have to go to Thailand! I guess I jinxed myself in my last post...anyway, today I woke up determined to be better. I ate toast, which was extremely exciting, since I'd eaten nothing since dinner Wednesday night, and while I don't feel great yet, I'm definitely much better. Luckily there are some really nice people at the hostel here who were making sure I was ok each day, and one of the girls who works here even gave me some oral rehydration solution - aka miracle drink! I'm not sure what caused it, but since I ate all the same food as everyone else at the lodge and no one else got sick, I think it may have been from my elephant splashing me with water - the river was pretty dirty, and freshwater can carry all kinds of nasty things.

I was so sick though, that I decided to skip over Cambodia and head straight to Bangkok, since Cambodia is like Laos and has no adequate health care, and Bangkok has the best in the region. I luckily won't need to go to a doctor, but I just wanted to make sure that if I had to, I'd be in the right place. So tomorrow I fly to Bangkok, where I'm meeting Karl and Becky, my Liverpool friends who I met in Langkawi. We're going to head north starting Wednesday and spend awhile exploring Northern Thailand, before we head south to the beach, hopefully in time for my birthday!

Monday morning, we all got up at 5am to go to the alms giving ceremony, a very important Buddhist ritual, where the monks from each temple walk in a long line down the street, and people from the community (and tourists) give them offerings of rice. It's the only way the temples get food, and it was such a peaceful and beautiful thing to be part of. I was going to go to a school afterward to read and play with some kids, but I accidentally took a nap instead...I guess I needed it, seeing how little I've eaten in the past few days! All I did all day aside from that is get another Lao massage, and go see the sunset from the temples on the hill in town. A perfect, relaxed Lao day!

I'm already planning another trip that will take me back this way, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, so I know I'll see Cambodia soon, and of course I'll have to come back to Laos. Anyone wanting to come to South East Asia must go to Laos - it makes you so happy and mellow just to be here! You can't even pronounce sabaidee properly unless you're smiling!

Anyway, here are my remaining Lao pictures!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2342559&id=13604534&l=f14bdbc541

xx
meg

Posted by meggiep 01:41 Comments (0)

Lovely Laos

Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Laos

Sabaidee!

I've spent the past few days in the most lovely, chilled out country - Laos! I arrived on Saturday in Vientiane, which is probably the most laid back capital in the world! They don't really hassle you much in Laos...tuk-tuk drivers will say 'sabaidee, you need tuk-tuk?' and when you say no, they jus smile, and sometimes say that you're beautiful! Vientiane is very laid back. I spent a few days there just checking out some of the wats (Buddhist temples) and visiting the market...I'm definitely going to buy a lot of things here..it's all so cheap and beautiful! There was a big Buddhist festival going on called That Luang, which is held every year at the national temple, Pha That Luang. There were people everywhere, bringing flowers to the temple, giving donations to the many monks there, and strangely, buying electronics at the many stalls that were set up all around the grounds! I also saw a parade of monks circling the main temple. It was so cool!

Yesterday I took a 9 hour bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, a town in northern Laos that is well known by tourists but still pretty isolated - it's smack in the centre of the Indochina region, and so small that if I need a hospital, it's best to go to Thailand! (Don't worry mum, I won't need a hospital, and if I do, Thailand is not that far). It's a lovely laid back town and the main part of it is all a UNESCO world heritage site. Today I spent the day drinking mango shakes, wandering around the temples, and getting a Lao massage - a wonderful style of massage that involves a lot of pressure, and de-stresses everything from your toes to the top of your head! An hour long massage is only $5...so I've decided I'll have to get one every day that I'm here! There's great food here as well, and a fantastic, massive night market selling all kinds of crafts.

Tomorrow I'm headed to an elephant sanctuary for 2 days, where I'll be paired with my own elephant and get to go hiking with it (without an elephant seat!) swimming with it, and feed it! I'm very excited...I wonder how hard it would be to sneak an elephant home...and then after that I'm back in Luang Prabang for another 4 relaxing days...I'll be sad to leave Laos!

Here are some of my Laos pictures so far...I'm sure there will be MANY more taken at the elephant sanctuary!!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2342559&id=13604534&l=f14bdbc541

xx
meg

Posted by meggiep 00:08 Comments (0)

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