A Travellerspoint blog

A night of tea and terror

Whereupon our heroine does the dumbest thing so far

sunny

The bus ride to Pai is well known for people throwing up. The road there goes over the mountain pass, and has 762 switchback curves, which the minivan drivers take way faster than a reasonable person should. Having heard about this early on, I went and bought some Dramamine before our departure, and slept through most of the ride. No one in our minibus got sick, thankfully, but I absolutely see how someone could.

After we arrived in Pai I threw my bags on and just walked to my hostel, a 15 minute walk or so out of town. The place is gorgeous, and has a Moroccan theme. It's owned by a nice guy, and when I arrived he and his girlfriend were giving cooking lessons to a couple of girls who were already staying there, so I joined in and got a free cooking lesson (check that off the to-do list!). We learned to make Pad Thai, Green Curry, and chicken with cashew nuts. So basically everything you would learn to make in a cooking class. We all ate dinner together at a big table outside, and it was wonderful! Way beyond what I expected to encounter when I arrived.

9572C26F-8..B52B2DADCBE.jpg

The next day (after sleeping on the best mattress I've encountered so far, OMG), I woke up to discover we were having french toast with fresh fruits. Best. Hostel. Ever. After breakfast I decided to just go into town and wander around for the day, as I've heard Pai is super cute (and super small). The town has long been attracting the hippie style of human, and you could really see it in the vibe of the town. I met my new best friend at a local restaurant, which was just a countertop outside.

270_72DFB8BB-7..B3082485919.jpg

I strolled around town, looking in all the shops for the mystical dress I've convinced myself i saw once but haven't been able to find since. I bought a cute tank top for 2 dollars, mentally checking off the tank top in my bag I would be swapping for this one. I stumbled upon a giant Fred Flintstone for seemingly no reason.

30C70EC9-1..20335160479.jpg

Towards the later part of the day I found my way to a little Chai shop that I had heard was good, and ordered a chai with vanilla. It was amazing and spicy and smooth and I'm sure Laura would have loved it. I read a book on my phone because my silly self had forgotten my book back at the hostel. A nice woman came around to inform me that tonight would be an open mic night with music and poetry and such, and asked if I wanted to share something. I politely said no, but then paused to actually think about if I had anything to share. Not right now, but maybe some day? I actually think that would be kind of fun.

77BC2F85-4..107A2B2C5AE.jpg

I figured I would just stick around, so I ordered the closest thing to dinner (banana bread), and another chai, this time with hazelnut, and settled in. The place wound up jam packed with dreadlocks, hippie pants, free spirits, and random bells on belts and tied into hair. An old woman got up and ranted about people who have the cell phone sickness. Lots of wonderful people played music. An old man got up and talked about how he had cured himself of every disease, including cancer, and how the directions were in the simple 17 page booklet up for sale in the corner of the cafe.

Okay, we need to take a second here. I've heard the most ridiculous bullshit about cancer while traveling. This guy said he cured his own cancer without ANY medicine. Because I'm sure the oncologists in Pai, Thailand are doing thorough check-ups on him? One of the girls I met claimed that complete fasting, including not drinking water, is a cure for cancer, because "your body is no longer distracted dealing with the foods you put in it and trying to digest things, so your cells and immune system can focus completely on the cancer." Except for the part where you die three days later from dehydration? Fascinating. Okay, moving on.

A woman got up and recited a 200 year old poem that her grandmother used to recite for money on the streets, and it was fascinating and wonderful. A random guy from Jerusalem sat down at my table while he waited for his turn to perform, and we chatted and had a lovely time, and then he performed and was absolutely the best musician of the night. Another old guy got up and started talking, just telling his life story. At first I was expecting more crazy miracle cures, but it turned out to be pretty good. He talked a lot about different experiences in his life, and about the importance of speaking your truth. The three guiding principles of his life are truth, respect, and sharing, and by the time he was done talking he certainly had me convinced.

Riding the high of a fun day wandering this small town, I headed off to walk back to the hostel around 10 pm. It was dark, but I felt super safe here and it was only a 15 minute walk or so and I figured I would be fine.

This is where I was mistaken.

But it's not what you think.

The first part of the walk home was just fine. I turned the corner to head down the road that leads to my hostel - the ONLY road that leds to my hostel - and I made it about 50 feet down this road when I encountered a dog in the middle of the road ahead of me, barking furiously and heading towards me. Let's be real, everyone reading this knows that I love dogs, and if it had been daytime this encounter may have been very different, and I might have been more bold about approaching this dog. But at night, when a dog is barking at you, you never know. Thanking myself silently for getting those rabies shots, I decided to retreat to a different intersection and let the dog pass by closer to town. Standing on the side of the road in the middle of the night by yourself in a small town makes you feel like a super creep, but after 5 agonizing minutes of this I decided the dog had moved on and headed back down the road.

This was fine for another 4 minutes. Little motorbikes passed me every once in awhile, helping illuminate the road and convincing me that everything would be fine. I reached a bridge and was crossing it when THREE dogs came bursting out of a yard, barking and running right at me. I hopped up on the railing of the bridge and prayed that they were just being defensive and not actually wanting to attack me. They had no interest in letting me move on, however (think it through, dogs, come on), and just stood around barking at me and blocking my way. A few seconds later a woman came by on a motorbike and asked if I was okay. I gestured to the dogs that were still barking and growling at me, and she made me walk next to her motorbike as she went past them so I could get by. The adventure didn't stop there, however, as once I gained a little space from them, she stayed to call the owner outside. As I continued down the road these dogs took turns sprinting after me and barking. How f*(&ing terrifying. I basically yelped my way down the road, each time the stupid owner heard me he half-heartedly yelled at the dogs and they stopped, only to start again 2 seconds later. Eventually they stopped and my blood was pumping and I convinced myself that I was almost back and it would be fine and later I would laugh about this.

I made it to the small road I had to turn down to reach my hostel, only to have yet another dog come running out, barking up a storm at me. This dog, however, was illuminated and I could see her little tail wagging furiously. Okay, just defensive, but not aggressive. I talked gently to her, and she walked next to me barking the whole way, wagging her tail, and I just crossed my fingers that I gauged this one correctly. I made it to the last road-like area, 40 yards from my destination, when suddenly 3 more god damn dogs came running out of the dark construction site, barking and RUNNING right at me. There was nothing to do at this point. I powerwalked my way to the hostel (I didn't want to run in case dogs are like mountain lions and will give chase if you start running, a fact some part of my child brain remembered learning once when I was convinced that I needed to know how to handle any large mammal encounter just in case... "after all, cougars attack people in California all the time, in the middle of town!"[says 8 year old me]), refusing to turn around and see my impending doom coming at me. For some reason the dogs respected the boundary line of the open-air hostel (they could have followed me right in no problem), and they let me go. I stood in the lobby area dazed for a minute, watching them wander around outside staring at me. Dear. God.

I thought this sleepy little town was perfectly safe. It was okay to be wrong, but to be betrayed by my best friends hurts in a special way. Et tu, Rufus?

Posted by NinjaLlama 08:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged deep_thoughts adventure_time Comments (0)

Can I get a wat wat?

Faith, art, coffee and cats

sunny 89 °F

The next morning, our little crew went to breakfast... at a Burmese restaurant? It wasn't my choice but it came highly recommended from someone who knew someone and I was so hungry by the time we decided I didn't even care anymore. The food was pretty good, but I chose not to get actual Burmese food since I can only eat neutral things for my first meal of the day or my body hates me. After writing this I'm not sure why I even shared this with you because it's super uninteresting, but I've already typed it, and every time I try to backspace on this keyboard I hit the off button instead so I'm just not going to risk it and you forever have to know this boring breakfast story. Sorry.

After breakfast, we were going to go explore Wat Suan Dok (the flower garden temple). One of the girls wanted to do a silent meditation retreat here for a few days and wanted to ask for more information (ironic given that she hadn't stopped talking since I met her). A note about wats in Chiang Mai -- there are a gajillion of them. No, seriously, that's a rough approximation. Wandering around the city I saw at least 6 of them, each unique and gorgeous and amazing. I have no idea how you would decide which ones to visit, and I doubt you could ever see them all. I just pulled up google maps and there are at least 20 of them within walking distance of where I'm staying. Anyway, this particular wat was gorgeous, with a big golden chedi surrounded by many smaller white chedi(s?). There were lots of sad little kitties wandering around meowing but not wanting you to get near them. My friend completely forgot to ask about the meditation, and we wandered off to an arty part of town to explore.

IMG_20170611_222904.jpgIMG_20170611_222058.jpg

We stopped at a cute little art gallery/coffee shop/store/coworking space and wandered around. Such a fun concept, and I've seen many similar things in Northern Thailand. I love the idea and need to hunt for the same style of place in Seattle when I get back! We wandered all over the neighborhood after this, stopping at a store where everything outside (and much of the inside) was pink.

We also stopped at a cafe with delicious, world-award-winning coffee. I got the signature "Satan Latte," which I chose to assume was pronounced "Suh-tahn" instead of... well, you know. It was as delicious as promised, for sure. After not having much caffeine in the last month or so, I was BUZZING for the rest of the day, so of course it seemed like a good time to go to the cat cafe, brilliantly called Catmosphere.

Catmosphere is exactly what you think. A cute little cafe with a bunch of cats wandering around. I think this one has 22 cats, of which I saw probably 15. I was a little disappointed that they weren't very affectionate or curious about visitors, but they were still super cute and I got some fun pictures. It was fun to watch them run around and play even if I didn't get my snuggle quota. The strings on my skirt were a good cat-attractor, so I snuck in some ear scratches that way.

Snapchat-266810946.jpgSnapchat-2058269501.jpgSnapchat-1931207829.jpgSnapchat-1017953776.jpgSnapchat-273621564.jpgSnapchat-1900769236.jpg

I met back up with my friends for dinner, and then we hit the night market. Oh man, it was HUGE, and crowded, and completely exhausting. I got some beautiful earrings for a dollar, and a silk kimono robe for a couple bucks (cheaper than the 20 Amazon wanted...). I looked everywhere for a black and white long dress that I've suddenly decided that I must have, to no avail. On the way back we saw a traditional dance for free - the costume was gorgeous, her movements were beautiful, and I mentally checked that off my list of things to do. It was all a fun experience, but by the time we got back to the hostel we collapsed into bed at the wee hour of 9 PM.

6176672928_IMG_1052.jpg6176672928_IMG_1059.jpg6176672928_IMG_1062.jpg6176672928_IMG_1065.jpg

The next day I chose to take the day to myself, and found a shop that sells healthy wraps full of veggies where I parked myself for awhile to write (this takes longer than you realize! I'm fighting a losing battle here). I wandered around a little after that just looking around, and stopped at a store called Mango Mania that only sells food and drinks where mangos are the main ingredient. I met back up with one of my friends and we got some street food noodle and dumpling soup for a dollar. It was perfection, which we then topped off with some ice cream from a little stand. You pick out your ingredients, and then they make the ice cream right in front of you on a little frozen surface from milk and your chosen ingredients. I got strawberries and brownies, topped with caramel sauce and chocolate chips (they were out of nuts). It. Was. Awesome. We wandered around while we ate our ice cream, and on the way home randomly walked down a small street and two tiny kittens ran out on the road to play with us. 15 minutes later, that detour was over, along with some forced selfies with tiny kittens.

Snapchat-397724930.jpgSnapchat-1456628431.jpgSnapchat-1415887257.jpg

The next day I had to say goodbye to one of my friends, and I also had to move to a different hostel because mine was full. So I packed up my life, lugged my bags down the street, and checked into a new place. I started chatting with another girl in my room, and invited her along with us to go visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep that night, which is a Wat up on the hill with a beautiful view of the city of Chiang Mai. We set off in the early evening in a redcab (basically a songthaew, they just call them red cabs there I guess). We went up a swervy curvy road, the smell of exhaust filling the back of the truck. When we finally arrived I was at least 30% exhaust and considering my career options in the ozone depletion industry.

6176677248_IMG_1073.jpg

The wat itself was gorgeous and golden, once you walked up the 309 steps to reach it. In one area there were monks chanting in their orange robes, and everyone was quiet and peaceful. The rain came down a little bit, and the wind made the chimes that were everywhere stir. It was lovely, and then we discovered that the girl I had invited along turned out to be a wonderful photographer, and she gave us instructions to capture some nice shots of each of us. At last, photos that aren't selfies! We watched the sun go down on the city and the lights come on. Chiang Mai is really so much bigger than any of us realized, but it certainly doesn't feel like it.

IMG_1857.jpgIMG_1858.jpgIMG_1855.jpg

After we got back to our hostel, my new friend and I got some food. I finally ordered Khao Soi, which I knew I should try but hadn't found the right place yet. It was amazing, and my friend who had just ordered some fries because she "wasn't hungry" wound up finishing the rest of my meal when I hit my capacity. It was off to Pai the next day for me!

Posted by NinjaLlama 05:56 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Oh Mai Chiang Mai

Now I know how the bunny runs

sunny 87 °F

Okay okay okay I know it's been several days and I have to play catch up again. Chiang Mai has been a whirlwind of activities, and I've very genuinely been doing things from the time I wake up to the time I get to bed. I decided to take today off from activities for this reason, because I was starting to feel pretty overwhelmed by so much activity. Interestingly, just a few days ago I found a random article posted on a travel page I follow that describes your travel style by personality type. It was actually very very accurate for me (ignore the grammar and format issues):

"You're a slow and inquisitive traveler.
You aren't one for whirlwind vacations or sight-seeing trips, you want to travel slowly, meaningfully and inquisitively. You seek to learn what life is like in each new place you visit and to arrive at a profound understanding of how cultural and geographical context affects the human experience across the globe. For you, travel isn't just a source of pleasure but a source of education. Unless you take the time to educate yourself thoroughly and meaningfully your trip simply hasn't served it's purpose.
Your travel mantra: 'Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.' - Miriam Beard"

See? Very accurate.

So, my arrival in Chiang Mai was a little stressful, but mostly just because I've grown weary of the process of actually moving from one place to another. You just get settled somewhere and it's time to move again, which I suppose is the entire point of this journey, but it's emotionally exhausting in addition to the natural physical part. As I mentioned, the airport was confusing for me (I have to wait for my bag to go through a little window and have someone say it's ok? How am I supposed to know that??). I was in the middle seat on the airplane, which objectively is fine, but the window seat girl was the last to arrive, and the girl in the aisle seat was on her phone and couldn't figure out how to unbuckle her seat belt.. She refused to get off the f^&*ing phone, wouldn't look at anyone who could help her, and just kept trying the same two movements without success for what felt like a glacial age, so finally I just reached right into this woman's lap and undid her seatbelt. She did not say thank you and still did not get off the phone, but at least she got out of the way so we could let our seat mate into her spot.

The flight itself was fine. There was an announcement after the safety procedure to honor the late king. I continue to be impressed how sincerely the Thai people honor his memory during this year of mourning. I wonder what it's like to have an entire country love you so deeply. It's rude to ask people about it, so I've only asked questions if someone local brings it up, but people seem so very genuine in their love for him and heartbroken at his passing. Amazing.

I made it to my hostel just fine as everything was pretty straightforward at the Chiang Mai airport. There weren't many people there, and two of the girls in my room wouldn't even talk to me, so I went to get some dinner by myself. I figured I would just wander until I found a 7-eleven or a restaurant that looked good, and I only made it to the end of the alley before this happened. A cute little diner playing Jason Mraz and attached to a B&B appeared out of nowhere, so I went in and had some fried fish with mango salsa and a white russian to try and forget that I was feeling homesick and lonely. I immediately spilled 1/3 of the drink in my lap, but no one noticed and the other 2/3 still got the job done, so I went back to the hostel and right to bed.
270_Snapchat-1995837715.jpg270_Snapchat-624168019.jpg

The next day I struck up a conversation with the only other girl in my dorm, and it turns out she's the sweetest person in the world. She's half Thai and half German, and is traveling by herself as well. She's been on the road only for a week, and was feeling those first week blues where you're lonely and you don't know what you're doing yet and you miss your family and boyfriend and friends. We chatted for awhile and I gave her a big pep talk and offered to hang out with her and I think we both felt much better after. We agreed to move to a different hostel together the next day. She already had plans for the day, so I went off to wander by myself around town.

My first stop was a super cute little cafe called The Hideout, which truly is hidden away down a random side street and tucked in between big trees. They immediately forgot I ordered a sandwich, and felt horrible when I reminded them that I existed. This is at least the third time on this trip that someone at a restaurant has forgotten my existence, and I'm starting to wonder if I'm slowly disappearing like Bing Bong in the Memory Dump. Anyway, at least it got me a discount on my food.
270_Snapchat-1965281468.jpg

I spent the next two hours wandering around town trying to find a cute shop I read about that sells fair-trade and hand-made items. I'm pretty sure it does not actually exist. I did, however, find half a dozen other lovely little shops, and went a tiny bit crazy on the souvenirs for the first time this trip. Luckily they were all small things that were very cheap, so I'm only out 20 dollars, but I bought at least 6 pairs of earrings because I'm a monster and also because every shop was run by an adorable woman who makes everything herself and I just loved supporting them. So shoot me.
Snapchat-1673568206.jpg

I also picked up some cute postcards, and found a coffee shop where I could sit and people watch and write post cards that may never arrive but at least I tried.

I forgot to tell you that it rained that morning, and the streets flooded like crazy. I was very happy I had my waterproof shoes on this day...Fortunately the detours I took to avoid the worst spots had some interesting things to see that otherwise I would have missed.
Snapchat-1335076207.jpg270_Snapchat-614898894.jpg270_Snapchat-151085180.jpgSnapchat-1649882967.jpgSnapchat-659827158.jpg

One shop I went to had the cutest little tiny dog who would sprint like mad around the store, come attack me with kisses, and then go back to sprinting again. I spent half my time in the store just petting this puppy, and the owner lady did not seem amused in the SLIGHTEST. Not even a smile. I don't think she deserves such a happy furball...
Snapchat-706905784.jpg

The next day we set off to move to a new hostel, and randomly met a girl on the way out the door who had just arrived and was looking for friends. We agreed to all go get brunch together at my new favorite cafe. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know each other. I learned yet another amazing German expression: Ich glaube ich spinne, which means Now I know how the bunny runs. Basically it means "I get the message" or "I understand." I love these expressions! There's another one that means "I think I'm going nuts," but the literal translation is "I believe I spider." WHAT

After brunch we decided to go find somewhere nice to lay in the sunshine. Apparently the fancy hotels here will let you use their pool for a fee, so we found a pretty rooftop pool for only a couple of dollars, and spent the afternoon lounging around and hanging out in the cool water when the heat got to be too much. I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING. Don't worry, I put on like 12 layers of sunscreen, y'all.

After the pool time we wandered to a little cafe one of the girls had heard about, and got possibly the best thai food I've had so far, for the least amount of money I've paid so far. I really love Thailand. The people love to smile, the food is delicious, there is so much art and creativity everywhere. I feel really hopeful to see how Cambodia grows in this way as the country rebuilds. I'm excited to see their future. For me right now, Thailand has been a beautiful breath of fresh air as a solo traveler. It still has ups and downs, but on the whole I am a lot more comfortable and feel safer and more welcome.
Snapchat-981519665.jpgSnapchat-1758254075.jpg270_Snapchat-1953880530.jpg

After dinner we were trying to figure out what sort of tour we might do the next day. And by we I mean the one girl was, while the Thai/German girl and I got very distracted by this cute doggy at the tour shop. We are a lot alike, her and I.
Snapchat-1464576245.jpg

After reaching no conclusions, we sat outside a really good coffee shop that was sadly closed for the day and just sort of people watched while the rain sprinkled down. At one point a random lady came up and asked for the time. I told her, and then she asked if we could keep an eye out for a boy on a bicycle with a guitar. If we saw him, we were to tell him that lessons were canceled, but that there would be music at Thapae East. She suggested that we should go there as well, which I took as a sign. We headed back to get cleaned up, and then met at Thapae East, which turned out to go by a different name now (super helpful, Thailand!), and had a little jazz band inside a cozy space just jamming out together. We hung out there for a little while, and then headed off to find another jazz bar in the area. We couldn't find this place (this is getting to be a common occurrence), but did stumble upon a rooftop blues bar in the middle of a night market instead. It. Was. Amazing. A rag-tag group of goofy thai men jamming out to the blues? Yes, please! And let me tell you, these guys were great! We stayed until the show was over, and then got an awesome photo with the lead dude, the namesake of the bar itself. He's been at this awhile, and smiled more than anyone I've seen anywhere on my travels so far. Glorious.
Snapchat-2073072614.jpg270_Snapchat-1723563914.jpgIMG_20170610_174823.jpgIMG_20170612_150812.jpg

You'll never guess where we got breakfast the next day. Go on, guess. Yes, we went to the same cafe yet again. I got French toast the size of my head and I regret nothing. After breakfast we prepared ourselves for the trip to the Elephant Sanctuary that day. We loaded up into the back of a truck, picked up a few other travelers, and we were off!
270_Snapchat-989540638.jpg

Within my first 5 minutes at the sanctuary I had elephant slobber all over my hands. The first thing you do at the elephant sanctuary is grab a bucket of bananas and feed the very eager elephants! If you put your arm up in the air and say "BON!" They will lift their trunk up and you can stick the bananas right onto their squishy tongues. Or, if you take too long, they will use their trunks to just steal the bananas right out of your hands. I watched one elephant sneak over to the master pile of bananas and take a whole bushel for himself. Good on ya, elephant, good on ya.
IMG_20170611_230511.jpg

After feeding the elephants you go put on some traditional (read: too big for you and not very attractive) clothing, that you will unfortunately wear all day to keep the mud and dirt and elephant saliva off of your clothes. Then you go meet the elephants with a bag and pockets full of bananas. This sanctuary had two adult elephants and two young elephants, and I spent most of my time with the little guys, because having a fully grown asian elephant lumbering quickly at you (because of the bananas) is STRESSFUL. They were so sweet and adorable and smart. I watched someone lose half their bananas because an elephant snuck up behind them and took them right out of the bag with its trunk when they weren't paying attention. They barely stopped to take a breath when eating these bananas, and it kind of reminded me of a dog when you have popcorn...or anything edible, really.

Next you "go for a walk" with the elephants, by which I mean you wander down a dirt path and then a stream while the elephants do whatever they want, realistically (this can include but is not limited to: knocking down an entire tree for 3 leaves at the top, throwing dirt everywhere, and searching your bag/pockets for rogue bananas). We stopped for a second to try and shoot mangos out of a tree with a slingshot, which is ridiculous and not possibly going to work unless you're the Huck Finn of Thailand or maybe Bear Grylls, but you do get some cool pictures. I can't show you them, however, because the only one I have is on a flash drive that I can't access because I don't have a computer and neither does my hostel. Maybe later.
IMG_20170611_231240.jpg (This looks cool but you put your hand on their butt so they know you are there since they can't see you and also because they could smush you if they wanted to go that direction and didn't know you were there)

After a couple of less interesting activities (going into a pond that is equal parts mud and poop and smearing it all over yourself and the elephants, then going into a slightly cleaner pond to "wash off"), we got to make our own noodle soup and have that for dinner. It was delicious! Unexpected cooking lesson, which was pretty cool. Then we loaded up and headed back to our hostel for the barbecue. Oh yea, our hostel had a barbecue that night, and there were a TON of people at it. I met some new people and we chatted about all sorts of things. I met two blonde sisters from Canada traveling together. Their entire family has the same tattoo, which is fascinating and awesome, and their mom started it. I also met a red headed guy from Denmark who called himself the BGG (Big giant ginger). And I met a girl who has "lived all over the world," and whose favorite topic was herself. The people you meet traveling are all very fascinating. I'd say with about 30% of them I'd love to just pop a nice binky right in their mouth mid sentence and hope that it distracts them from speaking for awhile. I'm not sure if this is the wisdom they wanted me to gain when they gave me this fellowship, but I do feel like it's useful for my understanding of the world.
IMG_20170611_230840.jpg

Posted by NinjaLlama 01:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Bangkok

sunny 88 °F

After checking in, my sole focus in life was a shower and food. I decided to be ridiculous and go to an Italian restaurant run by a French chef while in the middle of Thailand, in order to buy an entire pizza just for myself. Before I left I encountered two girls from California who had just graduated HIGH SCHOOL and were traveling together through Thailand. Unfortunately they were struggling quite a bit. They thought they had paid 60 dollars to see the floating markets (they had spent $6), they hated Bangkok, and they didn't realize that "literally everything costs money, the airbnb, food, taxis." They were changing their plans to take a flight to Chiang Mai instead of the train because they were scared of the train, and were leaving a day earlier than planned. Y'all... for like three hours I felt like the adultiest adult and savviest traveler on the planet. Now, I know I shouldn't gauge my success in life based on two 18 year olds whose parents pay for everything and can't braid their own hair (true story), but I reveled in the feeling like a dog rolls around in crap - wholeheartedly and with boundless enthusiasm. I offered them hard-earned tips to avoid some of the issues they've already encountered, and promised myself to help them when I got back from dinner if they hadn't figured things out.
IMG_1693.jpg

I finished reading my third book of the trip - Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. Some parts were hilarious, but mostly I didn't actually relate to her... at all. She spent a year half-assedly selling designer baby clothes to bored rich people and it paid the bills? I appreciated her raw honesty, but I'm concerned if millions of girls relate so strongly to her life path. Anyway, that's a whole different discussion, but there was one line in the book that I wrote down because I liked it a lot and it felt relevant to my life right now in several ways.

"If I had known how much I would miss these sensations I might have experienced them differently, recognized their shabby glamour, respected the ticking clock that defined this entire experience."

----------------------

The next day I decided to spend an entire day inside shopping malls. Three shopping malls, to be accurate. My hostel was just a few blocks away from three giant shopping structures, and I've never spent so much time inside a mall, and also that seems like an interesting cultural experience to have. I still need to find that movie where the kids get caught inside the shopping mall and the security guard robots shoot lasers at them and they have to use the things they find in the mall to survive...I was hoping my day would be a little less interesting. Well, okay, interesting in a different way.

The first mall felt very artsy and had a very open-style design concept. I had no idea what was a store and what was the mall and/or where the hell you would actually purchase something you found on this random table by the escalator. Lots of beautiful and adorable things here, and many showcases of local up and coming artists and their work, which was awesome.

Things you can do in this mall:
-Buy a drone from the drone store/section
-Purchase a bicycle
-Sign up for a do it yourself project and do it that day! (I didn't realllllly need a photo on a piece of wood, or I would have signed up. How would I carry that? That's a worst case packing scenario)
-Smell all the soaps/teas/lotions, which I did. I choose to believe that this had nothing to do with the headache that has been plaguing me for the last three days)
-Go to a store where everything is elephants
-Go to the aquarium (not joking)
-Go to a wax museum
-Buy soap in the shape of vegetables

IMG_1683.jpgIMG_1684.jpgIMG_1689.jpgIMG_1690.jpgIMG_1694.jpg

The next mall I went to was the fancy people's mall. The list of stores was uncannily similar to the list of places I can never afford to shop. You can buy a Rolls Royce in this mall. You can also buy a diamond snake necklace (just like the little black dress, it goes with everything!). The bookstore here has sections for English, Thai, and Chinese books. I saw a man in the Gucci store wearing a bedazzled black tshirt that said "Gangsta Dog." There is also an enormous movie theater at the top, where I went to see Wonder Woman. A nice young man had to help me understand the fancy ticket machines in Thai, and I was a terrible tourist and bought a drink from Starbucks because of said headache. The movie itself was A.MAZE.ING. Eight year old me would have lost her F^&*ing mind over this movie. Let's be honest, twenty...six... year old me did too. It was beautifully done and totally worth all 7 dollars I paid to see it in a movie theater with a chandelier. I was feeling a little bit bitter because some stupid boys sat next to me and talked through the whole damn movie, giggling like tweenagers, but then on the way out I noticed that the Starbucks person had left me a happy little surprise under the sleeve of the coffee cup to make me love Thai people again.

IMG_1687.jpgIMG_1692.jpgIMG_1691.jpg

One interesting thing happened in the movie theater that I'll want to talk about again a number of times while I'm in Thailand. Halfway through the previews at the beginning of the movie a little video came on and everyone stood up and bowed their heads as pictures were shown and song was sung about the king. For those who don't know, the previous king passed away just late last year, and this is a subject of much sadness for the Thai people. The new king has caused some controversy, and you have to be careful what you say even as a visitor. I'm not too worried because I don't have anything negative to say. The Thai people seem to genuinely love their old king (and he did seem to be a loving and kind person), and the concept is just something that I find intriguing to understand. The closest thing we have to royalty in the states is maybe... celebrities? I really don't think it compares. Anyway, more on this later.

My headache got the best of me when the movie got out, and my only focus was to get home. Navigating my way back through the labyrinth of malls took some trial and error. I'm disappointed I never got to chec out the "pillow puzzle exhibit," and I did kind of want to see the aquarium, but maybe another day.

-----------------------

The next day I woke up starving. I mean truly, epically hangry. The hostel has "free breakfast," which just means toast and jam and some snacks you probably shouldn't eat for breakfast or ever. There were a few places of potential, so I got dressed and headed out to wander around. Right after leaving the hostel this guy was walking super close to me and making me a little uncomfortable. I think he could tell, so he introduced himself and struck up a conversation. He was actually very nice and I saw him a couple more times around the neighborhood (he lives there), and we said hello each time. He wants to move to Las Vegas for school, and I warned him about the heat and then realized he's probably totally fine with the heat. He suggested a random food place to me, and I smiled and thanked him for his suggestion, and then proceeded to immediately ignore it.

I wound up at the restaurant for the Jim Thompson museum. It was expensive by Thai standards, and pretty fancy, but I just wanted to eat a meal in air conditioned peace and know for sure that I wouldn't get sick since the headache was still very present and I was worried about what was coming. I got some delicious food and took my time eating it. There was an older solo woman sitting at the table nearest mine, and we started chatting a little. She is originally from Thailand but has been living in the states her whole life. Her husband is currently hiking from the northern tip of Scotland all the way through England, and while he's doing that she's hanging out in Bangkok for a couple of months. They are both retired empty nesters and have started to travel since their kids don't really need their help right now. Very interesting and awesome, though she was a bit tricky to talk to (we just had a different cadence so it felt odd).

After food satisfied my inner monster, I went for the tour of the grounds. I saw a super cute turtle while I waited for my tour to start, and read the little background pamphlet they give you.

IMG_1695.jpg

Jim Thompson was an architect from the US, born in 1906, who fell in love with Thailand when he was there as a military officer. He wound up returning there to live, and helped revive the hand-woven silk industry. He also constructed his house by combining traditional teak buildings, and obeying customs and religious rituals used during construction in Thailand - this house is what you tour when you visit. Of course it is very beautiful and peaceful and fun to visit, but the little tidbits were what really made this interesting for me. For example:

-Little boys and girls chamber pots were in the shape of animals - a cat for the boys (I think they take the head off like a cookie jar, pee, and then put the head back on until it needs to be emptied) and a frog for the girls. Adorable and disgusting.
-There was an item that looked kind of like a dollhouse, but you would catch little mice and put them inside and they could run around. Little kids would use this...mouse house?...mice maze?... as a game, and see which mouse would find their way out the fastest.
-The areas where different buildings were joined at the doorway had steps going up and down either side, and otherwise it was a pretty big step (so they didn't join right at the floor level but rather like a foot up. The tour guide said there were a couple of reasons for this. One, because the Thai people believe ghosts can only travel on a level plane, so if there was a ghost in one room it wouldnt be able to travel into the others this way. For some reason this just gave me the visual of a ghost ramming up against the doorway and then falling over into the next room instead, and then just getting more and more frustrated and this is how you get poltergeists. One of the other reasons for the stairs, fairly similar to my last thought, was that if a small baby was in the house and exploring, the stairs would help them not fall quite as far if they rolled/crawled through a doorway.
-On the wall in his old bedroom there is a fortune. It's in Thai, so of course I couldn't read it, but the tour guide told us that it foretells something terrible happening to Jim Thompson when he is 61 and that he should be careful. On March 26, 1967, at the age of 61, Jim Thompson disappeared while on a visit to the Cameron highlands in Malaysia. No one has any idea what happened to him and there have been zero clues to explain his disappearance. As I write this right now there is a place right across the street that can give you your fortune, and I'm thinking this is a terrible terrible idea.

IMG_1697.jpgIMG_1696.jpgSnapchat-836701535.jpgSnapchat-1451471256.jpg
Snapchat-497884927.jpg

After the tour you can go visit a little shop where you can buy hand-made silk items from across the river. Everything was incredibly beautiful, and I spent far too long trying to decide if I needed a 50 dollar scarf. Do I get one for myself? Someone else? If so, who? Can I pack 4 scarves in my bag right now? Can I carry 4 scarves for the next 6-7 months? Eventually I managed to leave the store with nothing in my hands, but that was one of the trickier moments of resistance so far. Sorry guys, you're really not getting much in the way of gifts from this trip. After that I wandered upstairs where they were having an art showcase called People, Money, Ghosts. It was meant to explore how the travel and migration of populations and industries, ideas and spiritual beliefs, aesthetics and technologies, and artists themselves are continually remaking our world and how this is manifested in contemporary art. It was...interesting. In one room there are a bunch of wooden sculptures on the floor on a pile of red dirt, and there is a video screen showing a guy pouring white paint on himself in several different forested locations?

Thinking maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this type of art, my next stop was the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center, a free art museum with a very spirally design, which reminded me of the Guggenheim. There are lots of works on display here done by students, everything from sculptures to interior design sketches. One of the student items was a sculpture piece -- it was designed to be a little kids toy but for adults, and was made to be moved around and played with. Despite this, the museum put a giant DO NOT TOUCH sign right next to the instructions on how to play with it.

IMG_1701.jpgIMG_1703.jpgIMG_1698.jpg Snapchat-2147117892.jpgSnapchat-704173448.jpgSnapchat-1942491308.jpg

There are cute little shops on some of the floors, and I rewarded myself for not buying $200 worth of silk scarves by instead buying myself a super cute little whale ring for 5 dollars.

IMG_1681.jpg

There was an entire floor of the museum dedicated to the late king, and the art pieces were freaking amazing. This one was made out of ribbon folded up and stuck in on its side.

IMG_1700.jpg

This one I thought was absolutely stunning (his necklace is a picture of the king). It's watercolor! I desperately want a copy of this or something, but they didn't even have postcards or anything of the pieces :(

IMG_1699.jpg

Here are some of my other favorite pieces from the museum.

IMG_1680.jpgIMG_1679.jpgIMG_1678.jpgIMG_1702.jpgIMG_1704.jpg

Bangkok seems to have art just about everywhere and in every format. Some of it is just wildly outside the realm of things I understand, some of it is elegant and beautiful, and all of it is uniquely and wonderfully Thai.

IMG_1688.jpgIMG_1686.jpgSnapchat-1751381478.jpg

I stopped by the bathroom before leaving here, largely because one of the first rules you learn is to use a clean bathroom any time you see one. They had a fun little machine for buying toilet paper, but 4 steps away they also had free toilet paper, so I'm guessing that's meant more for the future or people who are picky about toilet paper? They also had an interesting sign on the door of the bathroom stall that I'm still trying to understand. I understand checking your belongings and not throwing trash in the toilet, but I'm very curious who is stepping on the toilet seats (why? For what purpose?) and who would go to the (very open and echoey) art museum bathroom for "inappropriate behavior."
IMG_1682.jpg

Anyway, after my time here I visited the last of the three malls, which was a clusterf^&* of chaos and tiny little shops jammed with people. I was over it in about 5 minutes, so I just got some bug spray from the pharmacy, and stopped in at 7-eleven to pick up some items for dinner and breakfast (total cost about 3 dollars) before heading back to the hostel again.

I would have stayed in Bangkok for a few more days, but the hostel dorm was booked for the next night, so I decided to head to Chiang Mai early. Flights only cost about 10 dollars more than the train and took 10 less hours, so I opted to fly at least on the way there. I had a headache again and falling asleep took forever, but I finally drifted off around midnight. Then, at the glorious hour of 4 AM, some random girl who had been gone all day showed up at the dorm and proceeded to go through her full normal nightly routine before bed. Her bag, which I surmise is made entirely of plastic bags and zippers, also fell over approximately 16 times, and she dropped half a dozen dumbbells. She basically woke me up 67 times, and my sleep was over. When I finally got up at 6 AM after staring at the ceiling for awhile, the other girls in the room were getting up as well, so while we weren't overtly loud on purpose, none of us attempted to be quiet for sleeping beauty. I saw her getting up and dressed by 8, so I'm glad we managed to get the same amount of sleep. Fortunately that was my first experience with someone that obnoxious.

The hotel next door helped me get a taxi to the airport, and the staff made sure I knew to insist that he use the meter. About 3 seconds after we pulled away, the driver tried to convince me to not use the meter, so I just kept saying the word meter and pretending I didn't understand anything else he said. My flight was leaving from the older, crummier airport, and I'm glad I got there early because it was super confusing. I did manage to find a post office and mail off the letters I wrote weeks ago. Next stop Chiang Mai!

Full disclosure: I actually have more things to write about, I'm just tired of writing so I'm ending this post here. Kthxbye.

Posted by NinjaLlama 18:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Sweaty, smelly, solo

On my way to Bangkok

sunny 92 °F

In the last 27 hours I have been in/on a songthaew, a ferry, a shuttle bus, a night train, and a taxi.

It was sad to leave the hotel, but time to move on from the island life and explore the rest of Thailand. I wanted to head to Bangkok for a few days to see how I like it, and then go from there. My day went like this:

Check out of hotel.
Wait 2.5 hours for scheduled songthaew to ferry pier.
Go to pier (6 minutes)
Wait at pier for 1 hour.
Ferry ride from Koh Tao to Chumporn (wish I was making that up) - 1.5 hours.
Shuttle bus from ferry to train station (30 minutes)
--> meet nice German guy on the bus who has been living in North Carolina for several years. Think all is well until he starts telling me I should move there (???). Ugh.
Wait for train (4.5 hours)
--> eat dinner with 9 strangers
Night train to Bangkok. (9ish hours)
--> not quite what I expected, as I had a 2nd class sleeper car with AC. Didn't sleep much, had irrational fear that a stranger was going to reach through the curtain for my bed for some reason.
--> The first two things I saw after I got off the train:
1) my friend from Michigan from several days ago, who had apparently been on the same train (yay!)
2) an enormous cockroach in the food court (not yay!)
IMG_1570.jpg
Wait 1.5 hours for hostel to open
Figure out how to take metered taxi from train station to hostel (100 years)
--> Immediately out the door I had like 5 people following me around trying to give me a ride. A taxi man offered me a ride for 200 baht. I laughed and said noooo. A tuktuk offered a ride for 150. I walked away and they kept following me. I tried to use Grab (an app) to schedule a metered taxi pick-up and the driver canceled the request. Somehow this cost me 15 cents. Eventually I asked a security guard if all the taxis in a certain queue were required to use meters and he said yes. He couldn't figure out where I needed to go, nor could the taxi driver...but then the very first guy came over and helped explain (guess he wasn't such a dick after all??).
Ride from Train to hostel (5 minutes)
--> Cost 45 baht. Mmmhmm. This is why I wanted a meter.
Leave bag at hostel desk and wait for check-in time, catch up on a gajillion blogs (7 hours).

I did it! You are now caught up! Please don't let me ever get a full week behind again. I'm going to go check in now...my only objective today is to take the longest shower ever and find some dinner. The rest can wait until tomorrow. Whew!

Posted by NinjaLlama 00:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 34) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 7 »