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From Sensory Overload to Satisfaction

After only two nights in Bangkok, we decided to GTFO and head to Chiang Mai. I think the problem was that while we situated ourselves on Rambuttri Road, which is really just a quieter, less alcohol soaked version of Khao San Road, we were still in the heart of the tourist district. Everything was go-go-go 24/7 and I’m getting too old for that shit. I honestly despised most of the people I saw, couldn’t enjoy the late night markets, and really didn’t want to sit and drink until I was as stupid as half the morons roaming the streets. (Although maybe I would have had a better time)

Offerings outside of the palace with the emerald buddha

I’m sure it would be different if I was in a party mood, or if I saw a different part of the city. And I’m open to experiencing it differently. But any subsequent visits will NOT be anywhere near Khao San Road.

We were able, however, to make it to the Grand Palace to walk around for an afternoon and see the temple and old palace grounds. It was beautiful and fantastic seeing all the intricate detail on the pagodas and in the temple and watching the Thai people praying and giving offerings of incense and flowers and lighting candles for Buddha.

So we booked our sleeper train to Chiang Mai. 4 girls were heading out, while Theo and Melisa stayed behind to meet up with friends and wait for Visa’s to get sorted.

Sarah from my bunk in the sleeper train

The sleeper train was a lot of fun. I’m not sure if we were as loud as the guys just down the hall, but there were times when we were having some serious girl talk and giggling ‘till we cried. The morning was beautiful, chugging through the countryside and seeing all the beautiful landscape.

Chiang Mai has been fantastic. Everyone that I’m with loves the city and barely wants to leave. We were able to fit in a lot while we have been here. The first night was Sunday, so we were able to visit the Sunday Walking Market in the old city. But not before we spent the entire morning walking around the city trying to figure out where we wanted to stay. Knowing nothing about Chiang Mai and trying to stay as far away as possible from another Khao San situation, we decided to stay outside the old city. While this was a mistake and we ended up moving the next day inside the old city, it was nice to see a few different neighbourhoods around the city.

The Sunday Market was beautiful, people lining the street down both sides and the middle selling unique artisan crafts alongside stalls of people selling the regular tourist goods of harem pants, Thai fisherman pants and silk scarves. The market itself, however, doesn’t seem to be a tourist trap, but a place that locals come, kind of like a flea market mixed with the One of  a Kind show. Shopping without spending money and with a bunch of girls who are going crazy buying souvenirs and gifts for home is exhausting. Luckily, Theo made it down and Louie, a Scottish / English guy we met on Khao San and adopted were also there and I was able to escape with them for some beers.

That night we found an awesome bar called “Inter Bar” on Tae Phe Rd. that did a lot of rock covers, were we spent the night singing along to Nirvana and AC/DC until stumbling home to our guest house.

Monday was kind of a slow start, but we went to the Tiger Kingdom and petted and cuddled with tigers. It was pretty terrifying, but fantastic. I was initially/ concerned about going because of the controversy about whether the cats are drugged in order to remain so lucid with people and not to attack them. Now I’m not sure what I think, while there is the possibility that the tigers are trained from birth not to attack or bite and how to follow orders, the fact that they were sleeping almost the entire time that people were in the cages made me second guess. The nature of a tiger is to hunt and attack, but if nurtured properly can anything truly be tame and ignore their instinct?

Yesterday, we organized an overnight trip to Pai, in Northern Thailand because most of the group wanted to get up into the mountains and swim in the hot springs. After about four hours of winding roads and mountain views, we arrive fully nauseated and ready to eat and figure out the next couple days. Since we’re only here for one night, we wanted to fit in as much as possible. So after dinner, we went to the hot springs for a swim at sunset. While I have pictures of everyone hanging from the vines, I’ve been warned not to post them on the internet because not one person actually looks good in the pictures. Considering that I couldn’t see anything until the flash went off on my camera, I think I did a pretty good job though!

Now Melisa and I are heading back to Chiang Mai tonight to catch an overnight VIP bus into Laos. While it’s super sad that we’re going to be leaving the group, it’ll be good for us to be able to get things done without trying to herd everyone else along or agree on a plan with 7 people. Also, considering that she’s going to be traveling alone for the next 3 months, and I’ll be on my own for the next year, we’ll need to ease our way out of the comfort of being surrounded by other people who will plan, navigate and keep us company.

Longtail boats and jet-lag

As I wrote this, I was sitting in Bangkok, in the Sawasdee House on Raambuttri Road near Khao San on my ninth day in Thailand, as of posting, I’m leaving the Pagoda Inn in Chiang Mai. Internet was scarce on the Island we were on, cell phone reception was almost non-existent and the internet café they had was just as bad, if not worse, than dial-up. I have a backlog of things to write about, but am going to work in chronological order for the most part and will hopefully catch up some day.

The Journey into the Future

After one delayed flight where I thought I wouldn’t make it to Bangkok, and not having any of Sasha’s flight information and panicking about whether or not she was delayed enough to miss her flight (luckily, she was only delayed two hours as well, not enough to miss her connecting flight), she finally found me waiting to get through customs. After some much needed coffee in the airport, internet time and shipping some things to the school, we were on our way to Koh Samui.

Once we landed on Koh Samui amid the throngs of people ready to party on Haad Rin for the New Year, we boarded a ferry, then a longtail boat that would take us away from the madness to a secluded resort getaway at The Sanctuary in Haad Tien.

Longtail Boat

Since we had only met one girl who seemed to be remotely headed our way, we shared a relatively quiet boat ride with her. Throwing our carefully packed, 12 kilo bags onto the boat we all looked at each other as if to say, “we’re getting on this thing?!” The boats themselves aren’t that out of the ordinary, despite the fact that they are rather long. However, the car engine of a motor, and the almost 6 foot long propeller attached to about a 3 foot handlebar quite different from the pull start motors attached to speedboats at home. With some nifty maneuvering out of the harbour, our driver takes his place standing in front of the motor, sunglasses in place and waterproof rucksack slung over his shoulder. Slicing through the waves, with the boat bouncing up and down, all three girls would randomly scream in surprise as the boat landed with a thud after a particularly large wave, showering us with blasts of warm salt water.

Sasha had a hysterical grin on her face, from ear to ear, that perfectly portrayed what each of us felt.At one point, Natalie looks back at Sasha and says, “I can’t tell if you’re really happy or terrified!”

I think it was a little bit of both.

Haad Tien Beach

Arriving at The Sanctuary was, to say the least, a relief. However, because of the time of year and the parties planned for the next few days, finding a room was difficult. Unfortunately, because of the popularity of this particular resort and the likelihood that people extend their stay, booking a room in advance was impossible. If it had not been for the fact Melissa asked around everyday, we could have been sleeping on the floor for the first night. So she was able to reserve us a lovely bungalow that could be easily shared with Theo when he arrives later that night.

Despite that, we end up homeless the next night (long story). Neither me nor Sasha are upset by it, instead we both look forward to sleeping on a balcony, in our own hammocks, with a view of the jungle after a night of partying. I woke up with the sun, draping my scarf over my eyes, and put earplugs in to drown out the music that would continue for the next 3 days for the New Year parties. We eventually got our own bungalow, which they finished building and painting the day we moved in, so we were the very first people who had slept on the bed, used the shower and toilet and scattered their belongings across the floor. We were quite spoiled.

New Years Week

New Years was a lot of fun, and not because it was something that I hyped it up to be like I usually do at home, but because it exceeded my expectations and then some. The nature of the resort that we stayed on has many different bars, and in order to keep the money flowing to each bar, the party would move every night and sometimes every few hours. At midnight we had champagne, hugs and kisses, and lit a paper lantern as a group and sent our wishes for the new year into the sky before seriously starting a party that, for some, lasted well beyond the first sunrise of 2012.

I was thoroughly exhausted, but appreciated the zen of the yoga resort to regroup and relax. Especially since I had a couple injuries due to falling while climbing a tree root up a jungle bath back from the bar on New Years Eve: scraped shin and cut hand, no big deal.