A Travellerspoint blog

Happy dogs wanted

Okay so first thing first. I found a local vet in the area who was willing to go look for the dog to help him. I had no idea where to find scissors or the dog, and I knew I was leaving the next day. I offered to pay for any further vet care the dog might need if/when they find him.

I spent my last day in Vientiane wandering around half-heartedly, worrying about that pup. I went into a shop that sells handmade items made by local women in a fair trade situation, and got a couple gifts for folks. I also have to admit that I completely splurged for the first time here and bought myself the most gorgeous green woven silk scarf (it matches my eyes!). Again, that’s coming out of the Jen savings and not the fellowship budget, for anyone concerned.

I walked along the waterfront in the sweaty heat, and stared at Thailand across the Mekong River. I thought it was fun to stand in one country and stare at another, but no one else in town seemed to share my enthusiasm, and I was the only person down there. The insane heat may have also played a role.

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I stumbled on a statue of King Anouvong on the waterfront. King Anouvong led the Laotian Rebellion in the 1800s and was the last king of the former Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. I sat and read the entire Wikipedia article about Laos one night, and I still struggle to keep it straight. The history here seems a bit different from other areas, and I’m still trying to learn.

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I found a cute little pond where some locals were having a picnic, and then walked right by the American embassy on accident. Holy crap y’all, the American embassy looks like a FORTRESS. There were security guards everywhere (super friendly), and I had a moment of concern that I was walking somewhere I shouldn’t, but no one said a word. Good to know they were there if needed...

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As I meandered my way back to the hostel (taking random streets in case I saw the dog), I bumped into another tourist site I hadn’t been looking for. It’s called That Dam (Black Stupa). ‘That’ in Laotian refers to an inverted bell shape/unopened lotus flower structure that usually contains relics of the Buddha. The legend is that a seven-headed water serpent (naga) lived here to protect the stupa, which was once covered in pure gold. The gold was pillaged during the Laotian war, so now the stupa looks black. It was pretty neat looking, and sat in a cute little roundabout with couples sitting on benches nearby. A teeny tiny puppy also ran out to say hi to me while I was taking a photo. A hundred years and several puppy snuggles later I moved on.

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On my walk back to the hostel I saw some graffiti that said “ATS” in all caps, which google tells me could mean about 12 different things here. The part I loved, though, was that someone came through later and added “go” to the front, so instead now it just says “goATS”, which I say in a very specific and excited way in my head and it ends with an exclamation point. I also passed a shop that sells exactly two things: chandeliers and fans. Laos is quirky but I love it. I also love whatever dog is responsible for this:

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When I got back to the hostel I met a German girl who had just arrived, and we chatted for a little while. She seemed really sweet until we got past the initial pleasantries. After that she informed me that all Americans are fat (she knows this because she went to one city for one day in the states, one time), and that Americans and Russians are the only travelers who are rude. I had flashbacks in my head of those drunk German dudes who disrupted an entire boat full of people on our national park tour, but I said nothing. I suggested that maybe it’s just common for some young people to be rude as travelers because they haven’t learned better yet, and she countered by telling me that Americans are taught that we are the best country on earth so we think everyone should cater to us. Now, don’t get me wrong here - I’m not going to defend every American traveler. There ARE some obnoxious people out there, but I’ve met obnoxious people from everywhere. It’s more about you as an individual, right? Anyway, I resisted the urge to say “Um...Nazis? Hello??”, and just patiently countered her until she went away. Oye.

The next day I flew to Luang Prabang, and got picked up and taken to the AirBnb where I was going to stay for a week. The place itself was a tiny bit of a splurge, but I had my own room with a glorious bed, and there were three doggos that lived there: Chunk, Phelps, and Reggie, each more adorable than the last (that’s a lie, they were all equally adorable). The owners were SO nice, and there was a couple from England staying there who were super nice, and a guy from Florida who was a total tool bag. It felt like one big strange family, and I was happy.

Posted by NinjaLlama 19:35 Archived in Laos Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Goodbye Thailand, hello Laos

92 °F

Eventuallly the rain slowed down, and I went upstairs to check out that art show. It was awesome, and the upstairs space was lovely. I don't understand why this coffee shop wasn't jam packed with people studying and meeting and chatting. I miss the coffee shop lifestyle. Here are a couple of my favorites:

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On the walk back to my hostel I passed by some little old Thai men, and one of them said "Be careful!" I paused, unsure what he was talking about, and then he pointed at the rainy sky and explained "I don't want you to get cold!" Oh Thailand, you have a piece of my heart.

The next morning I got up bright and early to be ready for my shuttle to the airport. Basically a woman showed up in her pajamas, gestured for me to follow her, and walked me down the street to McDonalds, where a random white van pulled up and told me to get in. So, kind of like a kidnapping except I had a receipt. I was subjected to the most terrible music the entire way there (think someone playing the highest note on a cheap keyboard and someone else singing super high pitched over the top of it). At one point I saw the driver casually put his seatbelt on...so I put mine on as well. The driver dropped us off at the arrivals gate, suggesting to me that this was a bit of a non-legit shuttle bus system (yes, this was the first moment I realized this) since it didn't take us to the actual departures area.

Regardless, I found my way upstairs to the departures area, and immediately went to the post office. I had a couple of items that I wanted to ship home to ease up some space in my bag, including a couple of things I brought with me and a couple of things I had purchased along the way that I didn't want to lug around for the next 6 months. The woman working at the post office was so nice, and helped me purchase a box and get it sealed up and labeled properly, and even weighed it for me first and checked the price to make sure I had enough money. I had exactly 823 baht left, and was trying to get it used up before I left without having to take anything else out of the ATM, otherwise known (pretty much only by me) as the backpacker olympics. I finally managed to get a package, an envelope, and several postcards shipped off for 720 baht, leaving me with 103 baht left to my name (about 3 dollars). Perfect. The package will take 2 months to arrive in Portland, but that doesn't really bother me since I won't even be back by then. Yay.

I made my way through check-in, passport control, and security, and found my gate. I parked it at the front of the gate area and just read my book until it was time to go. The flight to Laos was only an hour and 15 minutes, which was good since I was sitting at the very back of the plane by the toilet. I was the first person on the plane, so I had some good time to ponder a couple of things that confuse me about flying.

1) Why do we lose our f&%*ing minds about getting on the plane where we each have an assigned seat? People get in line early, push to be in front of each other, and then RACE to the plane. Why? You have a seat. It's assigned. They won't let anyone else sit in it. The plane won't take off with you standing in the aisle trying to get there. The only thing I can think of here (which is my reason for acting a little bit like this) is that some people occupy an entire luggage compartment with all their "carry ons," so you have to put your bag far away from your seat, which is then a pain when we get to question 2.

2) Why do we lose our f&%*ing minds about getting off the plane, when no one can move until they open the door, approximately 7 years after the plane lands? If you have a flight to catch you better have told the flight attendants and everyone around you. Otherwise, you're just going to shove your way out into the aisles so you can get your heavy bag and stand awkwardly in the aisle until everyone else moves. Or, if you're particularly insane, you do the half-stand awkward neck lean thing from the window seats. Literally all you have done is stand up so you're even more uncomfortable. Again, the plane isn't going to shut the door and lock you in if you don't make it off in time.

3) Who are these mental people who don't use the toilet before we board? You'd rather cram yourself into a cigar box and pee while everyone can hear you? And how small is your bladder that you can't make it through an hour long flight? I know there are plenty of reasonable exceptions here and those aren't what I'm talking about... but I genuinely don't understand people who seem to prefer using a tiny airplane bathroom. Personally I loathe the idea of using the toilet in the air. What if you hit turbulence??? Wouldn't this be the equivalent of being in a port a potty when it falls over? Disgusting. I myself go into total camel mode on the airplane. I make sure to use the bathroom right before boarding, and then go into a meditative state on the flight so my digestive system goes on pause until I can get off that plane. I consider this the only reasonable explanation for the rush to get off the plane. Yes, I'm the only reasonable, sane person there is.

When we landed in Vientiane, I had my paperwork and my exact change for the visa all ready to go. I was utterly alone in this preparedness. The visa on arrival line was chaos of people who had no idea what was going on or how much their visa would be or where to get cash etc. etc. etc. I met a very nice older couple from South Africa in line, and they were so proud of me for traveling by myself for so long, and told me to come visit South Africa some day and to be safe and we wished each other well and went on our way. Yay nice people :)

When I finally made it through passport control and security I found my taxi driver waiting in the teeny tiny arrivals area, drenched in sweat and not speaking a word of English. He didn't understand when I asked where the ATM was, so I had to stand there scanning the area until I found the only ATM tucked away in a corner. To clarify, I don't exchange money anywhere (you lose so much doing this!). Thus far I've been successful with taking out money from ATMS in local currency, and then using it all up perfectly before I leave a country. I knew the cost of the taxi ahead of time, but I had no money to give him. I took about a million kip, got some change from a counter nearby, and we were on our way.

I've never taken out a million of something before. The exchange rate here is crazy! About 8,000ish kip equals one US dollar. Kip is also really interesting because all the bills look kind of the same and are in the same color palette, and they have so many different denomination bills! All of these bills are different denominations. You have to be really careful when you're paying somewhere so you don't give the wrong bill and you get the right change. Thai baht was a lot more beautiful, but this is all part of the interesting things to discover as you travel!

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I made it to my hostel, which is gorgeous and lovely, and has full thickness mattresses. I met a girl in my dorm from Ireland, and we became friends and headed off to dinner at a Lao restaurant together. I knew I had been eating too many toasties the last week or so, and desperately needed some vegetables, so I ordered a giant plate of veggies and rice, and ate until I couldn't eat anything else.

The next morning the Irish girl and I decided to go spend the day exploring together. We walked to Patuxai Arch in the psychotic heat, and it was gorgeous! This is a war monument built between 1957 and 1968 and is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It looks a lot like the Arc de Triomphe, but is Laotian in design, decorated with mythical creatures from their culture. The word Patuxai essentially means "Victory Gate." The monument was built using American funds and cement actually intended to build a new airport, which is why it has the nickname of the "vertical runway." Ha! A feisty bit of defiance from Laos. I have a lot more to learn about the history of Laos, but I'm very curious about its independence from France.

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You can climb up to the top for only 3,000 kip (about 36 cents) - what a deal! 7 flights of stairs later and we had a stunning view of this part of the city. Neat!

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After this we walked, drenched in sweat, down to the riverside, where we found some lunch at a little cafe. I got a focaccia bread sandwich, which was delicious. The french influence remains strong here in the coffee and bread, which is a win for everyone in my book.

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After lunch we got picked up and taken out for the afternoon to the Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre for Women (https://www.travelfish.org/sight_profile/laos/vientiane_and_surrounds/vientiane/vientiane/3344). Founded by a Vientiane native (#win), this organization provides training for disadvantaged women (especially rural women) to learn traditional Lao craftwork (dying, weaving), and other skills so that they can make a good living and maintain the traditional handicraft skills. You take a tour of the facilities, and then you get to dye your own hand-woven silk scarf!!! You pick out your pattern and they show you how to fold and tie the scarf up, and then they teach you about the different dye colors. All of their items are hand-dyed with all-natural dyes, and we learned all about the different fruits and plants and organic items that are used for different colors. You dye the scarf yourself (with some help from the expert), and then you rinse it out and hang it to dry in the sun! After you're done you can wander around the shop where they sell other items, and they will iron and fold your scarf for you. You can also learn to weave, but that takes a lot longer and you certainly can't weave an entire scarf in a day. Our visit here was WONDERFUL and I can't believe more people don't do it. I had to hunt for hours to find this as an option in the area, so now my mission is to convince other people to go as well.

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After we got back from this exciting adventure, we wanted to go down and wander the night market. On the way there we saw a dog walking around on the street with his mouth taped shut. I was VERY concerned to see this, and he seemed to be very gentle and not aggressive at all, but certainly looked a little rough and likely dehydrated. The Irish girl could not seem to be bothered in the slightest, and informed me at this moment that she had seen him last night the same way (but hadn't done anything), and didn't even like dogs anyway. She said maybe he had rabies or something and really wanted to just keep going. The blossoming threads of friendship between us immediately severed. I can not and will not be friends with anyone who thinks this is acceptable. He disappeared down an alley and I promised myself to immediately research animal rescues in the area when we got back to somewhere with wifi (my phone doesn't have data service here so far...). I got in touch with the ONLY animal rescue I could find, and they told me there are no animal welfare laws in Laos, and they are the only rescue in the area. It sounds like it's basically just one girl running the whole thing herself, and she's out of town, so she suggested that if I feel safe doing so and I see him again, that maybe I can cut the tape off. So now that's my entire mission for the rest of my time here in Vientiane. Aren't you glad I got those rabies shots now? I messaged a friend who is a vet to get her take on the situation, and have marked on a map where I saw him so I can return and look around for him. I know there are a lot of explanations for why someone might have done this, but I don't find any of them particularly justifiable. I will be careful, I promise.

Anyway, you're caught up now! Yay I did it. I head to Luang Prabang tomorrow for the foreseeable future, so more to come!

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Posted by NinjaLlama 19:20 Archived in Laos Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

The master navigator

Convincing other people I know what I'm doing

all seasons in one day 92 °F

I landed in Bangkok and felt like I knew what I was doing. I heard a rumor that there was a new shuttle bus that cost only 3-4 dollars and drops you off at a famous street not that far from my hostel, so I wandered the taxi area until I found their desk. I booked a ticket, and the guy next to me was staring at his phone and looking super lost. I offered to help him look something up and he explained that he was trying to decide how to get to his hostel. I looked at the location and told him he should take this shuttle, and then take a taxi from there, since he wouldn't be able to get there for less in just a taxi, especially once you pay the highway tolls. He responded "I take it this isn't your first time here?" Ha! Maybe I'm not so bad at this travel thing after all. Like that time I went to NYC thinking I would be overwhelmed, only to discover I had a knack for the city and the subways, and strangers were asking me for directions by my second day there, as if I was the only friendly looking local they could find.

Once the bus dropped us off, I threw my bags on and started the 15 minute walk to my hostel, going down Khao San Road, this area that was a market in the past, and has slowly turned into a crazy tourist trap. I was offered a taxi or tuktuk ride about 47 times, and I just smiled and said I knew where I was going. I didn't know where I was going. But I still found my way there, and checked into my hostel. The hostel itself is super cute, and has a slide! You can slide from the dorm floor down to the lobby. Nice.

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I knew I needed some food, so I headed out to find a 7-eleven for a juice while I looked for food. It was dark and I was solo, and I didn't even think twice about wandering around checking out menus and looking at street food carts. Who even am I? A little old man sitting on the street smiled and laughed at me when I went by, sucking on my juice box like a child. I struck out on the restaurant front, not really finding what I wanted but knowing that I desperately needed vegetables in my life after too many toasties from 7-eleven. I headed back towards the hostel, and finally found a place with good reviews and a good looking menu, and just went right in. It wasn't until I was all the way to my table that I realized I was terribly underdressed. This place was FANCY. A live band was playing, including a violin and a triangle, and a woman dressed in a fancy gown sang famous American songs such as "My Heart Will Go On." My waiter was wearing what I can only assume was a navy sailor uniform? I ordered a slushy and some chicken and veggies in my hiking pants and sandals and called it good. Oops.

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The next day I spent the entire morning trying to plan my next country, and my last two days in Thailand. I knew I wanted to go to a special location for a special gift purchase, and also knew the best way to get there would be to take the Skytrain, an above-ground light rail, essentially. I booked a taxi to the station, and went in armed with all my random coins. I managed to get a ticket (people who make youtube videos showing you how a transit system works are wonderful humans), and find my way to the right train. I took the train 10 stops, left from Exit 5, and after 10 minutes of walking found my destination. Some creative problem solving and a few hours later, I had purchased just the perfect thing (to be determined, technically, but I think it'll be good). I took the train back to the original station, and went in search of a thing or two that I needed. I'm not going to lie to you. I bought a pair of jeans. I couldn't take it any more! Jeans are the perfect thing, and are so comfortable. A good pair of fitted jeans is for my comfort what a thunder jacket is to a nervous dog. It makes me feel like a superhero, without worries. I know I'm going to sweat my brains out. I know it. You don't have to tell me. I don't care. Plus, I've realized that all of the countries I'm going to are so conservative that most people just suffer through by wearing full long pants, and I'm tired of appearing an obvious tourist and worrying that I'm offending people with my shorts that end just at my knees. I wore my jeans today and felt amazing, and it was 92 degrees ("feels like" 105, according to the internet). Plus, don't be mad, but I've lost 10 pounds since I started traveling. I said don't be mad. I feel great! Walking everywhere does wonders.

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This morning I spent several hours booking flights and accommodation for the next week. It's time to go to Laos! I can't even believe it. I could spend another month in Thailand easily. I'm a little worried that Laos will feel more like Cambodia did. I booked a super well rated hostel in Vientiane, and only plan to spend three days there. Then I will fly to Luang Prabang (instead of taking the 10 hour bumpy, slightly dangerous bus ride), where I will spend my first 5 nights staying at a guest house run by Americans who have three dogs and a kitty cat. As of right now, I'm planning to spend most of my time in Laos in this one city. I realized that although I've been traveling slowly compared to other travelers, I really haven't stayed longer than a week anywhere, and I'm craving a chance to slow down even more and really dig into a place and make it feel like home for awhile. We'll see! It feels good to know what my next week looks like, so I might try to start planning a little further ahead than a day or two, which stresses me out. One of the girls I met in Thailand might come travel with me for a little while in Vietnam too! Such a relief, to imagine not being solo for a bit.

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Anyway, my next stop was the Rattanakosin exhibition hall, where I got my tour for free because I had my student card with me! Nice. This history museum is about the old city of Bangkok and its establishment. I wanted to learn a little bit of history rather than just bounce around from main site to main site (also I didn't want to spend money on attractions), and this was perfect. Here are some of the neat things I learned:
-There were slaves in Thailand?! They were officially declared free in 1939. The museum said that America was the first country in the world to declare slavery illegal? Is that true????
-Thailand has Boy Scouts! Adorable
-The country was originally called Siam, and the name was changed to Thailand in 1939. That explains why all the shops and stores are called Siam something here.
-Banknotes were first created in Thailand in 1969.
-The Emerald Buddha has different "outfits" for each season, and there is a celebration each time the outfit is changed. Love it!
-There is a thing called Khon dance -- a traditional dance that combines many different art forms, but my understanding is that you can use it to communicate different concepts non-verbally. We watched dance moves that mean to convey love, anger, happiness, etc.
-The king who just passed last year was the first king to marry a commoner. Aww, I really like him and I understand why everyone is sad that he passed away. It was the first time someone openly talked all about him (at the museum), and I soaked up every word, very curious to learn more about him.

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After my time here I got a muffin and some coffee and hung out in the coffee shop area next to a sunny window because air conditioning is insane and I was freezing. And I just... sat there. I didn't have anything to plan at that moment. I didn't have a book with me. I didn't have a bill to pay or a note to write myself or some other thing to worry about. I realized that this, more than anything else, is the beauty of what this opportunity affords me. Just enough time and space and distance to have moments where I genuinely don't have to worry about my to do list for a hot second.

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After I stayed here for an unknown amount of time, I wandered over to my other destination for the day - a tiny, locally-owned book store. It was so cute!! I picked out some super cheap postcards, and a short story written by a Thai author that was recommended by the shop keeper. It has a thai, English, and french version, so I can read the English version, and then maybe study the french and thai written languages a little bit, which I'm keen to do. Then I wandered over to a cute little coffee shop a few doors down, where I spent the last few hours writing those postcards and this blog while sipping on some tea. There's currently a proper monsoon outside, so I'm going to be here for the immediate future. Luck has it that there is an art gallery upstairs, and the current exhibition is called "Animals." You know no one can keep me away from that.

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I did it! I'm caught up! Tomorrow I will fly to Laos and proceed to get behind on all my blogs again, but I'll keep trying my best. It takes about 2 hours to write about what I've done in a given day if it was full of activities, so you can see why I struggle. I know I'll be happy to read them later, and I know I have a couple folks who are reading every single one, so that will help keep me motivated. Thanks for the gentle texts when I fall behind, guys! See you in Laos :)

Posted by NinjaLlama 07:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

The worst place in Thailand to go solo

overcast 86 °F

Yesterday I went to a 3D museum.

Alone.

This was a terrible idea.

Let me rewind. First, I woke up, determined to do as little/much as possible that day. I was going to catch up all the blogs, plan all my travels, fix whatever is going on with my camera, catch up on my overflowing email inbox, find the cure for malaria (that reminds me I need to take a malaria pill), and maybe sneak in a trip to a museum.

What I ACTUALLY did was watch netflix all morning, stumble to 7--eleven for a toastie and some juice, and wander over to the 3D museum for what turned out to be one of the more frustrating and creativity-inducing days of my solo adventures so far.

The 3D museum is basically a huge museum with creatively painted murals that look 3-dimensional. The fun part is that you get to take photos of yourself in these giant paintings so it looks like you're being eaten by a crocodile or trapped in a bottle. The not fun part is BEING ALONE FOR THIS. Turns out, many of these paintings require that a camera be at a certain angle for the 3D effect to actually look impressive, and there definitely aren't any podiums or stands for you to set your camera on for this purpose.

So, what followed was two hours of Jen getting really really creative, and also pretty frustrated. I tried using the timer setting on my camera, which worked pretty well, except that I had to chose only those sites where you could get a decent shot from the floor (and my camera isn't taking photos in focus very well, an issue that I haven't actually tried that hard to fix but keep complaining about). I used my purse as a stand. I dragged small chairs around the museum to set my camera on. I connected my phone to my camera so I could take pictures remotely and have just the right positioning for the shot. I dodged and patiently waited for the throngs of other tourists with zero sense of personal space who appeared in waves to photobomb all my shots and/or stare at my process without ever once offering to actually take a picture for me. I balanced my camera precariously on railings and shelves that I could find.

In the end, I did get some pretty cool photos (I'll put them at the end), but I mourn the awesome shots I COULD have gotten if I hadn't been alone. Like... I could have flown on a magic carpet! Or run away from a T-Rex! It turns out that there are some things that really are best with a partner, no matter how much you like your alone time.

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After I left the museum, I realized that I had used all of my self-determination to not lose my shit at people. I wandered around hoping to see a place where I could get some food, but didn't have the energy to maneuver anything complex. In the end, I grabbed some cup of noodles from 7-eleven, and some dried fruit, and took my sad dinner back to the hostel. I got the flavor "Moo Manao," without knowing what t was...but it didn't have a chili pepper on the container so I assumed it couldn't be too spicy. Turns out Moo Manao means spicy pork. Oops. I ate it anyway.

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I'm heading off to the airport soon to head back to Bangkok for a few days before moving on to Laos. My hostel has a slide inside, so I'm hoping that will bring some joy to my pity party!

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Posted by NinjaLlama 06:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Waterfall with caution

Okay I'm going to be honest, I have two other blogs written and ready to go, but I didn't want to post them before this one because then things would be out of order. Hang on kids, stories coming your way!

The next day I had recovered from my night of terror and booked a day tour to go see the sights around Pai. A minivan came to pick me up, and then we went and picked up three other women, and it turned out to just be us for the day. (There were supposed to be several other people as well, but they gave them the wrong address so we couldn't find them??? So we just left without them???)

One of the girls was also a solo traveler, and she's from Ohio. The other two ladies were from the Philippines/kind of from New Zealand, and they were awesome and chatty. We all got along swimmingly and knew the day would be fun.

Our first stop was the Chinese Village. The girl from Ohio had heard there was a good viewpoint, so her and I decided to trek up the (incredibly) steep hill to try and find it. We only had 30 minutes at this stop, so we were hustling. We didn't end up making it all the way, but still had a good view, so we took some photos and speed walked our way back down to the van. We told the other girls (who had decided to stay behind to drink some tea) about the viewpoint, and one of them said "Let's just ask our driver to drive up there." Oh. Yeah. That's a good point. A few minutes later we were driving up the hill and made it to the actual viewpoint, which was gorgeous. We took some photos, looked out over the valley, and drank some green tea in adorable tiny cups. A kitten caught a lizard and was playing with it, so I got distracted for a few minutes by that.

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After the Chinese village, we headed up to Mor-Pang Waterfall. It was a really pretty waterfall with several cascades, and a little cairn at the top of one of the cascades. It was very peaceful and we were the only ones there. We took some photos and had some quiet moments, and then headed back on our way.

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I love love love English translations on signs. Waterfall with caution, guys.

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Our next pit stop was the natural hot spring. I kind of knew we were going here and I kind of didn't...so I had grabbed a swimsuit at the last second but not a towel, and when we arrived it became very obvious they did not have towels. I didn't want to spend the entire day soaking wet, so I just waded in and soaked my legs for a bit and chatted with the girls, and then went to lay down and read my book while they kept soaking. After watching the other girls sit in their wet clothes for the rest of the day, I regret nothing. Regardless, the hot springs were really pretty and seemed to be rather popular, despite the harrowing road we had to traverse to get there.

[it appears I did not upload a photo of the hot springs. Sorry. If you head to the flickr page you can see it]

Before we hopped back in the van, we had our lunch here, where I saw a huge creepy spider, and the cutest tiny puppy ever. I took about 34 thousand photos of the puppy, so be happy that I'm only forcing you to look at one of them.

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Next up was the giant white Buddha. I mean, this thing is huge! Unfortunately it was under construction, so we walked up a gajillion stairs to see some scaffolding. It was kinda interesting to see the process they were working on, though, and they're clearly doing some renovations on the entire site that will be stunning when it's finished. We also got some great views of Pai, and I saw a hairy caterpillar.

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After we left here, we drove for a million years to reach the bamboo bridge. Based on my reading, this was constructed to allow monks to cross the rice fields of the area without causing any damage to the local people's crops. It was pretty impressive and a little intimidating to walk on, but it seemed quite sturdy once you got the hang of it. There was a hole at the very very end that I almost fell in, but otherwise no problems. I made a donation to get some fish food, and fed some of the biggest, fattest fish ever. They were so cute. All in all it was another peaceful and beautiful place, and I left a small donation for maintenance and a blessing. I'll take all the blessings I can get, and it's amazing that it's free to visit this site!

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We zipped down the road to the next destination: "The Land Split"! It's a super literal name, but actually a pretty interesting sight. There was an earthquake in 2008 that essentially wrenched a crack in the earth, and the ground separated. You hike up the middle of it and then climb to the top to see it. When you come back down a cute little couple serves you juice and snacks for free, and you donate whatever you want. We drank some Roselle Juice, which supposedly can cure... everything? I'm curious if this was the solution that guy from the cafe was referencing, although then his book would just be one page and it would say "Roselle Juice." Oh, sorry, Roselle juice is juice made from a species of hibiscus flower, and is essentially an infusion. Not going to lie, it was absolutely delicious. I just hoped that the "bowel launch" held off until we got home...

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Also I made friends with a super cute doggo here who was definitely covered in fleas but who was soooo sweet and who reacted like she had never been touched before and almost fell asleep while I was scratching her ears. Seriously, LOOK AT THIS FACE.

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After we left the Land Split, we headed to Pai Canyon. In the parking lot our driver pointed out "shy plants," growing on the sidewalk, which are the sensitive plants we grew when I was a kid that shrivel up when you touch them! I spent way too long playing with them. Pai Canyon is like nothing I've ever seen. It's these super skinny ridges that you can go explore in all directions...I don't even know how to describe it. There's one area you can climb down and then up very carefully to get a pretty neat shot, and I definitely just went for it in my $15 target sandals (what? I didn't know we'd be hiking!), so I got a super cool picture except that my camera refused to take it in focus, which is neat.

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We were supposed to watch the sunset from up here, but the sun was hiding, so we moved on to the Memorial Bridge as our last stop instead. In World War II, the Japanese had an army base in Thailand, and forced villagers from Chiang Mai to construct the road from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, while villagers from Mae Hong Son were forced to construct the road from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai. These roads met near Pai along the river, where a bridge was constructed by elephants. The elephants dragged trees 30 inches wide from the jungle for the bridge! When World War II ended, the Japanese soldiers left town and burned the bridge, leaving the villagers without a bridge and having to construct boats to cross the river. The villagers all came together and decided to rebuild the bridge. Unfortunately, in 1973 a flood destroyed the bridge, so Pai asked Chiang Mai for an old steel bridge instead, which took a year to transport and put in place. Now this bridge serves as a memorial bridge as a reminder of the history of the region. Whew! That's the most detail I've given you about anything today (sorry). To be fair, if you're reading this blog you have access to the internet and can google things for yourself if I've left things out. Okay, moving on!

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I forgot to tell you that there is a guy who dresses up as Jack Sparrow and hangs out at the bridge to take pictures with tourists. IDK why. I have no idea. And I snuck a picture because I'm a bad person but also because I didn't have any more money because I spent it on Roselle Juice and fish food and blessings.

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I said my goodbyes to the girls from my tour and went back to my hostel. I didn't want to risk a trek into town and getting caught coming home in the dark again, so I wandered over to the only restaurant still open nearby, which turned out to be amazing. It was called A Taste of Joy, and it was the cutest dang restaurant/coffee shop/art creation space. There was a teeny tiny kitty and two big adorable dogs sleeping, and I got a raspberry shake and some pulled pork and it was amazinggggg and then I went back to my hostel and passed out for the night.

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The next day a man came to pick me up with essentially a shopping cart-like cage welded haphazardly to a motorbike and dropped me off at the minibus that would take me back to Chiang Mai. At one point in the journey back I was pretty sure I saw the driver take some Dramamine, so I spent the next two hours fighting my own sleepiness in the delusion that I had to make sure our driver didn't fall asleep and crash. I don't know guys, my anxiety is trying to find different outlets now that I'm getting the hang of this travel thing, I guess.

Here's a picture of fish because I don't know how to end this blog and I'm getting impatient. Byeeeeeeee!
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Posted by NinjaLlama 06:17 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

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