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Tag Archives: night markets

The “I’ll be back” feeling

Something weird happened to me while I was traveling around Laos and Vietnam with Melisa, and even when I was in Chiang Mai with everyone else. I wasn’t concerned about buying a bunch of mementos, of taking a million pictures or fitting in as much as humanly possible. I had this crazy feeling that I would be back and that I would be able to do my shopping at another time that it made more sense to keep my load light for the time being. The only thing I bought from each place, was a postcard or two to send home to loved ones.

I fell in love with Laos. Looking at photos of Melisa’s return to build a school outside of Luang Prabang made me realize just how much we both fell in love with it. There are so many parts of it that are seriously untouched, hill tribes living with the bare minimum to survive, electricity being a relatively new concept, and the pace of life being so quiet that the entire country shuts down almost as soon as the sun sets. I love the pace of life here in Thailand, but the pace in Laos is turned down about 5 notches. But I don’t know if I could live there for that very reason. I’m a city girl, through and through, and I need streetlights and late nights. But I will be back. Maybe even for the chance to ride down the river on an inner tube and the view of the mountains in Vang Vieng.

I hated Vietnam at the time, but know that if I go back when everything is actually open and the country is its vibrant self I might feel differently. I hated Bangkok, but what I’ve realized is that I really hated the drunken, partying foreigners on Khao San. I might also feel differently seeing other parts of the city, although I think that once I’ve experienced the small town life here, it’s doubtful that I would fall in love with it.

The other thing I realized while at the Luang Prabang night market was that the trinkets sold at the markets are the same all over the place, and finding something specific to that culture takes a little more searching and knowing about the culture instead of just searching for something that “looks cool;” those can be found anywhere.

Setting up for the daily Luang Prabang night market

That reason alone made me not want to buy anything until I was sure that it accurately reflected the culture and wasn’t some cheap little trinket that was mass produced in China or some sweat shop. If I wanted stuff like that, I could head down to Chinatown and buy them by the armload.

It was another reason that I loved the Chiang Mai Sunday market, those were all local artisans selling their own handmade goods. It was like the Thai version of a one-of-a-kind show, but on the street, and with lots of amazing food. If I end up working anywhere near Chiang Mai, I can guarantee that I will be there every Sunday evening doing a weekly splurge.

While here in Ban Phe, on Monday and Thursday they have night markets and on those nights it’s routine to go and wander and buy market dinner. The first real local market that I’ve come across, it’s aimed not at tourists, but for the locals in Ban Phe to stock up on vegetables, snacks and used (or sometimes new) clothes.

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.