Thailand

Day 25 – February 21, 2016

I woke up, got ready for the day, and went to the airport with plenty of time before check-in. I was so ready to be in Thailand that waiting one hour felt like five hours. I checked in with no problem and went through immigration. I ate an overpriced lunch at a cafe. There were teenagers there from an international school in Malaysia. I could hear their entire conversation and all I could think about was how glad I am that I only teach elementary students. My flight was also delayed an hour, but I had a nice conversation with a guy from Canada that I had actually met on the bus to Inle Lake. That is how small the tourist population in Myanmar is! I don’t actually know the guys’ name because I referred to him as Canada and he called me South Dakota. We were both very dismayed when we saw the plane to Chiangmai was a small propeller plane. Once again I want to ask the airlines, “Why do these planes still exist!?!” Soon enough I was in Thailand! Menn, my Thai friend, picked me up at the airport and drove me to one of the famous temples in Chiangmai, Wat Suan Dok. It was a beautiful temple but the awesome part was being able to see a friend from when I lived in Lawrence Hall at SCSU. It had been a couple years since I had seen Menn and I told him that he looked older. I almost felt a motherly feeling. Like seeing a younger brother growing up into a grown man. My weird feelings aside, the time I spent with him was short because he had to go back home and study for his TOEFL that he was taking on Sunday.

Menn took me to my hostel and then said goodbye for now. I situated myself in my little capsule. I ventured out to find bookstores that sold used books I had read about and then went out to the Sunday Walking Market. This market is huge! Every Sunday locals come out to sell their clothing, jewelry, crafts, food, etc. The streets were crawling with people, but that wasn’t stopping me from wanting to see everything. I walked around for hours and bought a lot of things. I actually had to go back to my hostel to get more money because I had spotted an awesome purse and didn’t have enough money. The phrase, “shop ’til you drop” fit me perfectly. I was on a night market high after dealing with high prices in Myanmar for two weeks. I finished the evening off with some night market food: chocolate covered banana, spring rolls, and mango sticky rice. If my first day in Chiangmai was any indication of how my time in Thailand was going to go then I was going to love it.

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Day 26 – February 22, 2016

I woke up early so I could go out and see a lot of temples before the sun was high in the sky, but that plan failed epically. I started talking to these two ladies from Indonesia and then I started talking to a chick from the US. Nearly an hour later I was getting ready and walking out the door. I ate at a local Thai breakfast shop that Menn had recommended to me. It was delicious.

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Then I started my temple tour. There are Wats everywhere in Chiangmai. It is kind of amazing if you could go ten blocks without seeing a single temple. I saw a few temples before I stopped for coffee. The breakfast shop coffee just wasn’t cutting it and I couldn’t pass up a real latte. I enjoyed my latte at a cute coffee shop and then continued walking around and seeing temples. I think I saw 10-12 temples throughout the day, but the more famous ones that I saw in the morning were Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. All of the wats were beautiful and each had their own details that were specific to that temple.

I saw a few more temples and then had lunch at a shop called La Mango. I was in love! I love mangoes and they are only in season during a certain time of year in Taiwan. I was going to eat as many mangoes as I could before I left Thailand.

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Originally, I had planned on going to the museums in the afternoon, but I was feeling tired from being out in the sun so much. I looked at the Three Kings Monument and did a little shopping before I went back to my hostel for an afternoon nap.

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The nap was just what I needed. When I woke up I felt re-energized and decided to finish off my temple tour by going and seeing two more on my list: Wat Chaimongkol and Wat Bupparam. They were both close to the Night Bazaar, so I headed there afterwards.

The Night Bazaar is the night market that happens every night of the week. I was buying a lot of clothes because they were so cheap and I wanted smaller shirts that would fit me more nicely since I lost weight. I ate some Pad Thai in the food court and it was delicious. I did a bit more shopping and then got a foot massage. It was the perfect ending to a good day of temple chasing. Back at my hostel, I had a chat with a Belgium guy. He was very talkative and I could barely get a word in but it was fun having a chat with him.

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Day 27 – February 23, 2016

I got up early and got ready for the day. I was supposed to meet Menn at 9:30am. I tried to find the coffee shop that I had gone to the other day and discovered that it was closed, so I found a different breakfast shop to eat in. I had a very Western breakfast, but I did not care because I was in a hurry. Then I realized that I had left my camera back at my hostel so I made my way back and got it. By the time I got back to my hostel I had small blisters on my feet from the new shoes I was wearing. How disappointing! I changed my shoes and then met up with Menn. He drove me to his university and showed me where the red trucks were that could take me up the mountain to see Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. For 80B (2.20USD) I was whisked up the curvy mountain road with 10 other people in this red truck. I was glad when we reached the top because I was starting to feel a little queasy. The temple was beautiful, and I had a little over an hour to see everything at the top. The city view was super hazy so I couldn’t see sh*t. Oh well! If it wasn’t for all the Chinese tourists I would have stayed inside the temple area a little longer, but I couldn’t take all the pushy people. I walked around the shops and then went back to the truck. I had a cute, little chat with three women from Japan. They were making a joke about how Japan was so clean and I told them how much I really want to go and see Japan. The truck took us back down the mountain and I was very glad to get out of the vehicle for I wasn’t feeling good again.

I called Menn, using his aunt’s phone he gave me, and we took a quick tour around his university. It was really cool to see a little bit of his life since he knew what my schooling experience in Minnesota was like, but I didn’t know what his schooling experience in Thailand was like. Then we went to lunch. Menn took me to a noodle shop that specializes in making blue noodles. They are dyed that color from a special Thai flower. At first, I was a little apprehensive, but once I tasted the noodles I instantly liked them. The shop also has a blue drink that turns purple when you mix-in the lime. The eating wasn’t finished there! Next, Menn took me to a popular ice cream shop in town called iBerry. It was delicious and the shop was very artsy. We had a good chat and caught up on a lot of things. We joked that I found my invincible boyfriend there. I knew he had been hiding somewhere! Sadly, Menn had to go home and study more. He dropped me off at a museum with promises to have dinner later that week.

I spent the next hour in the Chiang Mai City Art and Cultural Center. It was an alright museum. It gave me a good idea of the Chiang Mai history and then near the end there was some really cool art. I had other things on my mind so I was getting really distracted. I left and walked to OASIS Spa. Menn told me that it is a really nice spa in town. Of course, really nice means really expensive. I am glad they didn’t have any openings because I almost spent 40USD on a basic facial. I left and walked a few blocks before a saw a smaller massage shop. I decided to check it out. I ended up getting a back, shoulder, and neck oil massage and a facial for 1,000B (28USD). Now that is a deal! Yeah, the place wasn’t super fancy, but I was relaxed and that was the most important part for me. I didn’t feel like doing anything else so I had dinner (yummy Tom Yum) and started mentally preparing myself for the zip-lining I was going to be doing the next day.

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Day 28 – February 24, 2016

I dragged myself out of bed after a horrible night of sleep and got ready for the day. The breakfast place I went to had a light breakfast so I ended up ordering French fries. I had no idea when we would be eating lunch so I wanted a heavy breakfast. (I’m glad I did because we didn’t end up eating until 1:30pm.) The bus picked me up and I had a lovely nap while we drove up the mountain. At the base camp for Flight of a Gibbon you have to sign the release form and get strapped up in your harness. We met our two guides: Thorn and James. They were great and Thorn ended up being a total goof ball. We zipped, climbed, hiked, and flew until 1:00pm. I hadn’t even noticed how long we had been doing it until I noticed that I was getting a little hungry. I had a great group throughout the zip-lining course. All of them were from Europe. One couple was on their honeymoon and they were super cute. One couple was from Wales and they had been together for 10 years. They were hilarious! The other couple was from England. They were around my age so I got along with them really well. I heard so many: bloody, bleedin’, ‘for fucks sake’ during the day and I was loving it. We finished our zip lining and went back to the base camp to see the pictures that had been taken of us throughout the day. Some of them were funny but most of them were terrible because the harness was pushing my boobs and bum in awkward positions that I never wanted to remember, so I didn’t buy any pictures. I had a great time zip-lining and I wasn’t scared at all! We had a delicious lunch. I would say it was a very toned down version of Thai food because it was not as spicy as it could be. After lunch we were taken to the Maekampong Waterfall. It was very cool and peaceful in that area. When we all got back to the bus we were a sweaty bunch and I think most of us slept on the drive back to Chiangmai.

I was so tired, but I needed to finish buying presents and I was still on a mission to find a place that does reflexology. I stopped at an ice cream shop that I had really wanted to eat at. Basically, I was going to spend the whole night eating because I was leaving Chiangmai city center for the village area outside of Chiangmai the next morning. I had a delicious Mango Ice Cream concoction and Matcha Latte. Feeling quite full I walked a bit before I noticed a massage shop that did reflexology foot massages. How lucky! I got an hour long appointment for 250B (around 8USD). I walked all the way to the other side of the gate to find Chang Puak Market only to discover that it was just a food market. I walked back, a little annoyed, but found vendors on the street that were selling what I needed. On the way back to my hostel I stopped for some Banana and Nutella Rotti and Spicy Pork Noodles.

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All of them were delicious and I was feeling like a food baby was growing in my belly. I made one last purchase of Mango Sticky Rice which I was going to have to wait to eat because I was so full. Back at my hostel I had to finish the daunting task of packing my bags. I had picked up a significant amount of presents and clothing while in Chiangmai (those damn cheap markets!) and some how I needed to become a packing master to get it all in my bag. I miraculously managed it with a little extra room to spare.

Day 29 – February 25, 2016

I woke up a little later than usual. Got ready and checked out. I had time to spare before I was getting picked up and taken to the village Saraphi (Sarapee) outside of Chiangmai. Every morning, there are racks of clothing located by the Chiangmai Gate. From what I understood it was second-hand clothing, which I was totally cool with. I picked up a couple things and then continued to breakfast. I got to eat at the bagel place I had been to early that week. I had an avocado and bacon bagel. It was delicious! It was a nice hearty breakfast and a good last meal before leaving city center.

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I waited back at my hostel to get picked up. They found me and drove me out to the village area where I would be staying at CYDA (Children and Youth Development Association). It is a non-profit organization that houses kids who come from poor areas and helps them succeed in school. There are only a few kids that can stay there at a time, but it is an awesome foundation. All the people were really nice and the boys that live there greeted me after they got back from school. I had heard about their guesthouse, that helps proceeds go to the organization, from a friend, Alexis, who used to work for HESS. He started up their website for the guesthouse and I immediately told him I wanted to stay there when I was in Chiangmai. It is a simple place that is outside of the village. Very quiet and peaceful. Exactly what I needed before I went back to Taiwan. By the time I got settled into CYDA I was already tired. I had been having restless nights of sleep, so I didn’t really attempt to do anything all afternoon. I blogged, read, and watched Netflix. I was taking full advantage of the winding down opportunity. The organization chairman, Mr. Sorn, wanted to meet me, but I had already made plans with Menn for that evening. Later, I walked to the village to meet up with Menn. He took me to the mall nearby and I was in shopping heaven. I bought some stuff at H&M, Adidas, and Converse. I couldn’t resist buying new pants, leggings, and a sports bra that fit me. Menn and I ate at a Japanese restaurant that he goes to often. I had good Japanese curry. We didn’t have time to go to the ice cream shop, but that was probably a good thing. I had been eating so much the last couple of days. I needed to take a break from food.

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ALWAYS Fierce!

Sadly, Menn had to take me back and go home to finish more homework. I was so sad to leave him. I was so lucky that I got to see him three times. Just being able to see him again was so great. I feel like we didn’t get enough time to talk about everything, but that is okay. I will still appreciate the fact that I got to see him. Back at CYDA I talked with Mr. Sorn on the phone and he suggested a few things for me to do while I was in the area. I made plans to see him the following afternoon after I got back from a visit to Wiang Kum Kam. Maybe I would be driving a motorbike the next day. Yikes!

Day 30 – February 26, 2016

I woke up to a chilly morning. I was surprised because it had been so hot the entire time I was in Thailand. I had breakfast and Kho Noi showed me a bicycle I could use to tour around Wiang Kum Kam. I am so glad they didn’t suggest I use a motorcycle. I didn’t feel brave enough to drive one. I ended up really enjoying the bicycle and did well over 15KM on it. The temples for WKK are scattered around a few villages. I used Maps.Me on my phone to help me tour around and there were a lot of brown signs pointing me in the direction of different temples. All of the temples were very old. A few of them were just brick remnants and outlines of what used to be a temple. There were some temples that had been taken care of so they were in very good condition. It was still cloudy and cool outside so I was bicycling around with ease. I finished seeing all the temples in the area and noticed a palace on my map that was nearby. I hadn’t realized that I would be driving on the highway to get there, but I made it there just fine. Kuan Imm Palace was more like a Chinese influenced temple area. There was a dragon and tiger head that you could walk through with the story of Buddha. I had been in one before in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I couldn’t remember which head I was supposed to go through first (it is very important to go in a certain one and out the other). I guessed and went through the dragon head first.

Once I finished up at the palace I realized how hungry I was. I had said I would meet Mr. Sorn, CYDA’s chairperson, in the afternoon so I started to bicycle back. On the way back I stopped at a cafe called MAD coffee and had a slice of red velvet cake in celebration of my mother’s 49th birthday. I did a bit of shopping before officially making the last stretch to CYDA. When I got off the bike I noticed how tired my legs were. I was ready for a nap, but just then Mr. Sorn showed up and wanted to take me to lunch. We had to bicycle (ughhhh!) to a place nearby and I had delicious pork noodle soup. Mr. Sorn was very knowledgable about the area and had done some traveling in Myanmar, so we were chatting a lot about our times there. He was very easy to talk to but never once cracked a smile. Interesting guy. Much to my joy we went back to the organization and I spent the afternoon writing and watching Netflix. I think Mr. S was expecting me to want to do all of these things, but I was more than okay just hanging out. I needed to do a lot of vegging out before I went back to Taiwan and back to reality. Later on, I ate some Pad Thai and then faced the terrible task of packing my bags. I had purchased so much that they were all stuffed to the brim. I was pretty sad that I would have to leave the next day. I wanted to so badly keep traveling, but that would have to wait for another time.

Day 31 – February 27, 2016

It was my last day in Saraphi and Thailand. My plan was to bicycle around in the morning and then later on I was supposed to do something with Mr. Sorn, then off to the airport for my flight. In the morning I bicycled around the countryside and then had coffee at a coffee shop. I was enjoying my nice ride along the hundreds of year old trees in the village.

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When I got back to CYDA I was completely caught off guard by Mr. Sorn’s plans. He wanted to take me to some cafe out in the national park and then take me to the airport. I practically had to negotiate with him because I so desperately needed a shower and to quickly finishing packing my bags. (Imagine if I hadn’t packed the night before!) I quickly showered, my bags were shoved into the back of the Ranger, and we were off to some cafe. I kind of felt like I was being kidnapped because I had no idea where we were going. Mr. Sorn picked up his wife and his wife’s friend and drove us to the national park to a cute cafe connected to a resort hotel. The cafe was fifteen minutes away from where I had zip-lined earlier that week. We had coffee and sweets and then a nice conversation. Mr. Sorn talked to me about the hardships of running a non-profit in Thailand. He told me that the government used to sponsorship a large part of the non-profit, and they were able to reach a lot of kids, but then programming funds got cut, so they can only sponsor and host a few students each year. I knew what he meant, for I too had been an intern at a non-profit in Minnesota and witnessed first hand how everything needed to be carefully budgeted so that they could stretch every dollar. I wished I could have signed up for sponsorship right there and then, but I knew I didn’t have the funds that Mr. Sorn was looking for. Eventually, it got late and we drove back to Chiangmai.

They dropped me off at the airport and I handed Mr. Sorn about $100USD in Bot. It was almost all the money I had left from my trip and I wanted to donate it to CYDA. We said our goodbyes and I made my way into the airport. The Chiangmai airport is so small that they don’t really want a lot of people going into the airport early. Since I was almost three hours early I had to wait to check-in. Thankfully, a friend from SCSU called me and we spent a few hours catching up and swapping stories while I waited. I got through security and I noticed that the airport had Dairy Queen. I could not pass it up! I bought myself a ham sandwich for dinner and then some DQ ice cream. It was delicious!

 

My flight was fine, but I landed in Taiwan at 3-ish am. I had almost 3 hours to wait before I could take the shuttle bus to the HSR. I passed the time by eating and video chatting with some friends. I even attempted to nap at some point, but I was too excited to be back in Taiwan to get myself to just rest. After a few trains I was back in Fengyuan. Kristen picked me up at the train station and drove me home.

 

WOW! I can’t believe I got to travel for an entire month. It was a GREAT trip! There were some ups and downs, but each and every experience joined together made a great adventure. I learned so much about what I was grateful for. You never really think about what a trip is going to teach you when you initially book your flights and make tentative travel plans. And maybe that is the best part? You book your flight and go from there. I really appreciate the opportunity to see my friends again and re-connect, and to also have the ability to experience three different countries and cultures. Now, where will I go next?