Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Road to Bangkok

I don’t love Bangkok.  I am glad I went and I had fun, but I much prefer Chiang Mai!  We had a week off and the volunteers were flying out of Bangkok to Cambodia for a few days.  Tanner was going to get there sometime during that time.  The volunteers and I headed down there for a day packed with the things we thought we’d like best.  We left the school after teaching Friday.  We bought a ticket for a van down to Bangkok.  It was $10 for the 6 hour ride.  The van had 16 seats.  When we got on (with our luggage for a week of traveling) there were already 7 people on there.  With all our luggage it was pretty cramped and we were glad there were 2 empty seats.  Our joy was short lived.  At the next stop we picked up 2 more people and a dog! Yes.  A dog.  I don’t care for dogs and may have said “Tell me that dog is not getting on.”  He did.   We were on our way (we thought).  We ended up making another stop.  We were confused seeing as all the seats were taken and the aisles were filled with our luggage. I don’t speak Thai, so I don’t know what was said, but after about 10 minutes of speaking another girl got on the van.  “HOW?” you may be asking.  Well the soldier passenger volunteered to sit in the aisle on a plastic stool so the new girl could ride in his seat. 

Before it got crowded


I don’t know who make the plastic stool (stools actually—it was one staked on the other) but they did a terrible job!  The luggage got stacked 4 suitcases high behind him in the aisle.  He was right next to me and there were two guys on his other side.  There were more shoulders than there was space for so we took turns sitting normally and leaning forwards.  Any time the van slowed down the stools would make cracking sounds like they were breaking and the soldier would have to brace himself and stand up a little.   After 2 hours of that we stopped for a bathroom break and decided to leave the plastic seats and make a ‘bed’ out of the luggage.  It was bad, but not AS bad as it had been.  The next 4 hours passed as I dozed a little, listened to music, and listened to “The Book Thief” on my phone.  A little past midnight we were dropped off on the side of the road in a big, new city.  We caught a taxi to our hotel.  I had desperately hoped that Tanner would be in Thailand by then so I had booked a separate room from the shared rood the girls got in the hostel.   He was still in the states so I had a lovely private room to myself.  




We didn’t spend much time there as we arrived around 1 am and were set to head out early the next morning.  The next morning just after 6am our private van arrived at the hostel.  We went to the floating market, Rose Garden, Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and the Reclining Buddha.  More on those adventures to come!  



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elephants

The second day in Chiang Mai We went on an elephant excursion.  We rode in a van for about an hour out to an elephant camp.  They had about 15 elephants there.  










They gave us denim clothes to wear then proceeded to let us feed the elephants, ride them and swim with them.  






To get up in the elephants’ back  you would stand by their front right leg.  They’d lift their leg and you would step in the leg, grab his ear, and hoist yourself onto his back as he lifted his leg a little more. Then once on his back we were able to tell him to turn left, right, go forward, reverse, and stop.  I thought I wouldn’t be too scared getting on its back, but it was quite terrifying!  It had a really hard time getting up on his back from his foot… It took me two laborious tries.  Once I got up there I realized how high it was.  I slipped slightly when I turned left and that gave me quite a fright! 




















After that we ate lunch then got to ride them for an hour and play in the water with them.  Lunch was divine!  It was a yellow curry, sweat and sour tofu, and spring rolls.  [I feel like here at the school they feed us the same dozen dishes that all have the same flavor.  They switch the veggies and occasionally the meat (we eat a LOT of pork), but it feels like the same thing every day].  It was really nice to eat something that tasted different!  A really good different.  As I type this my mouth is watering!  





After we ate they had us go upstairs and onto a roof-like patio.  We got on the elephants from there.  I was quite happy that I didn’t have to climb up his leg again!  Each elephant had a trainer/worker to lead the elephant.  We rode for quite a while.  We went through the jungly landscape then up and down the river.  At the end of the river there was a pond where the elephants would lay down and we got to swim with them.  We splashed them, washed them, and had a grand time!  Once again I felt a bit sad for the elephants, but I could tell they were well taken care of.  




















After that they took us back to the main area and we showered and got changed.  We hung out a little while we got pictures from them of the riding and swimming.  There was a baby elephant up front who we hung out with while we waited.  He was a fancy little guy!  We played the harmonica, picked up a hat off the ground and put it on the trainer’s head, and gave baby elephant kisses!  To give a kiss he would suck air in his trunk and suction to people’s cheeks.  I really like elephants!  They are such fun animals!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Church, a Waterfall and a Massage


      Sunday the volunteers went zip lining.  I decided to pass this time around and headed to church instead.  Our hostel was close to the church so I walked there.  It was so nice to go in such a big building! 

They had the hymn books written out so you could sing in "Thai".  I thought that was neat, but I know I was NOT saying things right.




       After church I headed back to the hostel and caught up in my journal and ate some snacks.  The volunteers got back around 3:00.  At 4:00 the hostel owner came by and said that she and a friend were going to a waterfall and temple.  If we wanted to go then we could ride in the back of the truck.  We jumped at the chance and headed on an afternoon adventure.  



      We parked and waked about 10 minutes up to the waterfall.  It was beautiful, green, and lush.  A few of the girls climbed higher up, but I was content to sit a little lower and enjoy the sound and the scenery.  












      Turns out that the temple was wayyyyyyyyy up at the top of the mountain and the truck wouldn’t be able to take all of us up there.  We could rent a van to take us up there, but we decided that seeing the waterfall was enough for us.  We finished the day and the vacation with some delicious food and massages. 







      The next morning we headed back to the school.  Such a great vacation!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tiger Kingdom


There is a place called Tiger kingdom in Chang Mai.



They have a great deal of tigers and you can hang out with them.  You pay and go in the cages with them and pet them and take pictures.  I decided to see the smallest tigers and the biggest tigers.  





Baby tigers: 









                                                                              Biggest tigers:










They have workers there to help and they sedate a lot of them.  It honestly made me feel really sad for the tigers.  Yet at the same time is was a really cool experience being so close to the tigers and getting to touch them and lay on them.  We saw some wrestling, playing in the water, and pouncing on each other in one of the enclosures and they seemed really happy so that made me feel a little better.  I chose to go in and see and touch the smallest and biggest tigers.  Those creatures are beautiful!  It was unreal, thrilling, and a little scary being so close to them.  One of the little baby tigers was wrestling with one of the workers.  The tiger was jumping and nibbling on the worker.  The worker got up and left.  The tiger was still being feisty and playful.  When the worker left the baby tiger jumped and nipped the next closest person which just so happened to be Stevie.  It didn’t break her skin, but certainly caught her off guard.  We all had a good laugh about that.  Not many people get to say that they’re been bit by a tiger.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chiang Mai

On the days we had off due to Buddhist Lent the girls and I went up to Chang Mai.  I love it up there!!!  We left Friday after school and took a [miserable] night bus.  We were there Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and came home Tuesday.  


At the bus station waiting to leave.  

Our bus got in around 6am and since we needed to kill some time before checking into our hostel
 we ate at McDonalds.  I love that Ronald is so culturally aware!

The hostel where we stayed was quite an authentic experience.  It was a wood house build on stilts.  The owner and her daughter lived down stairs.  There were 4 rooms upstairs that she rents out.  We were in 2 of those rooms with 1 other girl.  We slept in mats on the floor, under mosquito nets.  








The shared bathrooms were outside.  The owner was really nice.  She even took us up to a waterfall one afternoon (more on that later).  

A foreigner I met recommended a restaurant called Salsa Kitchen.  We went one of the nights.  It. was. amazing!  I miss mexican food more than almost anything else!  The amazing thing is that it's not just 'Thai good', it's American good.  I would eat there at home.  (When I went back to Chiang Mai with Tanner we ate there twice).  The chicken quesadillas and chicken enchiladas are especially tasty. 



Speaking of food, we also got mexican food at Loco Elvis.  It was pretty good, but nothing compared to Salsa Kitchen.








We stumbled upon an evening market our first night there.  I saw lots of squid and fish (which I did NOT eat) and mango with sticky rice (which I gobbled down and loved).





You may be noticing a pattern which I have recognized.  I love food.  I've discovered that that's a big thing for me--especially mexican food.  I may have shed a few tears yesterday thinking about bean and cheese burritos from Mangoes and El Charro.  I day dream about the next time I can go to Chiang Mai and what I'll eat while I'm there!

I also got to play with tigers and ride elephants on my trip.  Details soon!