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Guess what....it's pretty!

sunny 34 °C

Written on May 24...
I just arrived in Pai a couple of hours ago (stayed in Chang Mai a day longer to get Aliya checked for her stomach problems, which by the way -note for her parents- she's ok). In any case, she knows that I'll come back to town right away if the situation change.

So, Pai is the exact equivalent of Chang Mai, but in much smaller scale. It's a lot more relaxed (Chang Mai is not exactly a stressed out city, but still!) and prettier (in a valley, surrounded by mountains). I'm interested in 2 tours, 1 elephant riding/washing/hanging out with, and the other is a 2 day rafting trip to the next town on my list of places to visit (so conveniently moving me along). I just need to check out prices, cringe a lot, think it over and decide to do it (or not, but I probably will).

Being slightly over half of my trip so far, and after just leaving my travel buddy for the past 4-5 weeks, I feel it's time for a bit of retrospection:

I wanted to start with "Things I'm happy to have done", but really the list would include almost everything I've done so far, so why bother, just read back the previous entries if you want to know, and I'll do the same!

Things I regret the most:
1. Not staying an additional day in Vang Vieng to tube down the river a second time (sooo muucchh fun!!!)
2. Not doing the home-stay that was pushed upon me
3. Not hooking up with guys/meeting a man! (hehehe, life IS tough, I KNOW!!)

Ok, the list is on the ligth side, but that home-stay one is quite a burning disappointment, and it doesn't want to go away for some reason - annoying!!!

Written on May 25...
Alright, drastic change of plans. I've tried and loved Thai kick boxing and will sign up for at least 7 days (maybe 10) - which is essentially the rest of my time here, after which point, I will need to rush back to Bangkok and hop on my plane to India.
The Thai kickboxing all started after I had just found out that the rafting was 1800B (it's 55B to get to the next town by bus!) and would not happen until a big enough group gathered and/or might not at all if the weather kept on being so nice and the river levels kept on dropping... hmmm Furthermore, the elephant trekking is 600B/1person, but normally with 2 people on an elephant, so they would have charged me 900 for the 2 hour ride "alone".... As I was walking, and deep in my "heavy cringing" phase, this hot guy stopped by and gave me a flyer for the Thai kickboxing school that opened a few months ago here in town. We talked a little and I said I would tell my cousin (Aliya), as she was interested in this, and I was leaving shortly (according to my original plan). Anyway, the course is 2000B for 7 days, 4 hours per day (2 in the am and 2 in the pm).
I went to see the school last night, and the clases are very samll (3 then, we were 2 students this morning) and there are 2 teachers (brothers), one of them being an ex "something something" champion. Their names: A and Bee. Thinking they simply made that to be easier for falangs, I asked "what is your real name, the name your mama calls you?" he said since they were kids, they were A and Bee (I'm not sure of the spelling of A, but Bee's name is on the T-shirts and all material) hehehe, talk about parents keeping it simple!!! hehehe

Side note:
In the North of Thailand, they call foreigners "Falangs" as well (just like Laos), while the south calls us "Farangs" and Cambodia calls us "Barangs"... same same but different! hehehe

Other side note:
It's funny to notice that everyone here is chubby. In Thai south, some are skinny some are chubby, in Cambodia everyone, and all animals are skinny (except for pigs and rats - I remember noticing when I saw my first rat "wow, it's fat!!") and in Laos, the poor are skinny and the richer are chubbier (the Laos official we met in Ban Na Hin was by far the chubbiest I saw!)

Well, aside from that I just got an e-mail from Aliya and she's coming over here, and might do the kick boxing after all! Furthermore, with her here, we might actually go on the elephant! (I strangely can live with 600B, but the extra 300 turns me off)
On my side, I just loved the experience this morning. The price is right (albeit a bit steep for my budget, but this town here is pretty cheap to live in, so I should be fine) and more importantly, my body REALLY needed it. I had a little debate with myself yesterday, where my head was "but we want to see the next town!! and elephant trekking/bathing sounds sooo fun" and my body was "I NEED THIS, look at me, notice how we feel! not good! fat! out of shape! getting worst!" (glimpse of Mistrale's weird mind/body conversations hehehe). So anyway,, oh gotta go, the electricity has been cutting on and off doe a while now and the computer's UPS is starting to die as well!

Posted by Mistrale 02:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Random notes

That you might find interesting..or not...but I do.

sunny 34 °C

Written on April 24....

I write this blog as much for the pleasure of sharing my trip with you, as for the fact that I plan to print all the entries when I get back home and keep this as a souvenir of this trip (I tried but can't be bothered to write a "journal"). SO anyway, the following are random info and bits of things that I want to write down somewhere.

At Nosey Parker's elephant trekking, we were lucky to meet with a very knowledgeable (and more importantly, decent english-speaking, Thai guy). He said his name was Monkey, but somehow, I doubt!
He talked to us about the life of elephants. Doing these tourist tours, they work approx 4 hours/day, and by work, we mean "walk around". This is much easier than the alternative: working in the jungle deforesting, a tough physical job, done all day long without proper breaks, until death. When they get too hot, the elephants get grumpy and must take a "bath break", where they submerge themselves in a little creek on the property. Our elephant was a bit grumpy during our ride (she would stop by trees and scratch herself for a while, or go straight into a leafy tree and help herself to some leaves and small branches), so she got to go in the water after. Unfortunatly, Aliya had loaded my memory card (we found out just as our elephant was going in the water), so there aren't any pics of the event. In any case, it looked fun and relaxing for the animal.
They eat pineapple trees (you may remember a pic of it in a previous entry) and other random green stuff.

Thailand's main poduction is of Palm oil and rubber. The elephant ride went through a rubber tree forest. The bark of these trees is stripped (a little, but over time, it adds up to a lot) and the sap is collected in hollowed coconut shells (kinda like traditional maple water collected in buckets). This water is then shipped to production plants where it is processed and becomes our "good old rubber". One can apparently tell the difference between rubber from trees vs from petrol... Because the weather is so hot, the trees are normally poked around 2-3am and the sap collected around sunrise. Each tree can only produce sap for a few years. After that, it's been too damaged from the bark being stripped and is cut down to leave room for a new small tree.

Palm tree plantations (not to be confused with coconut trees) can be seen throughout the south of Thailand (and maybe the North, I don't know, haven't been yet). The oil produced by these trees is mainly used for cooking (no wonder the Thais are not exactly a "slim" people - compared to other asian peoples - all that frying (almost everything is stir-fried here) in palm oil (one of the oils with the highest levels of saturated fats!). Apparently the leaves are also sometimes (other than when used for traditional/low budget roofs) to be mixed with marijuana (which is highly illegal here!) and people smoke it "but not me" he said! hehehe

Things that Thai people laugh at/with me for:
When they teach me a new word or expression,
The next Thai person when I try to use the word or expression! hehehe
When we eat food that soo hot we hurt, sweat heavily and/or almost cry!
When we try something (mainly food) that farangs normally don't try (i.e. they have a sort of ice cone where they shread ice and douse it with sweet sirup -I haven't seen this in touristy areas, but it's fairly common when we wanter off in local markets - It's quite good! too)
I can't think of anything else right now, but the list should be a lot longer! hehehe

Something else that's funny and sometimes difficult to notice (but sometimes very obvious) : Thai people say yes when they don't really know what you're talking about (kinda their version of our "smile and nod" I guess... hehehe something I do a lot of here!) A very obvious example, in Krabi, our hotel had safety boxes on a wall in the main lobby (accessible to anyone walking by), but with a double lock and 2 distinct keys (hotel kept 1, we kept the other -both were needed to open the box), similar to a safety box at the bank (or what I've seen in movies of it). It seemed safe and sturdy, but I asked the lady if people were breaking into them sometimes/often. She was adamant " yes, yes, yes", I rephrased: do people steal from here? Her: big smile, wide eyes "yes yes yes yes" hehehe, 1 more attempt: pointing at the main outside door, enacting (not very well I'll admit) someone walking in and trying to beak the lock, she never stopped saying yes, yes! hehehe! she had no idea what I was asking her! hehehe

Of course, now that I take the time to write down the random stuff I've been wanting to write down, it doesn't come to me anymore! arrgghh! Well, I'lls imply edit this later.

On a different note, we bought our ticket to Cambodia yesterday, leaving tomorrow. It seems like it's going to be a crazy journey. The bus ride to the border is apparently quite easy and comfy (2-3 hours), however, the roads on the other side are apparently worst than anything we've ever seen (or can imagine) - and the trip can take several several hours. I'm planning ahead and will be wearing a sports bra tomorrow ! hehehe
Based on reccs from Lonely Plant and other people, we wanted to get a ride to the border only and take it from there (aka cab it -it's much less expensive here than in Canada, much much much), but the price was the same for a full trip as for a "border trip", so we bought a ticket for the whole thing and will decide there if we prefer to take a taxi...it's nice to have options.
Once again, it seems that what I call the "cattle run" is cheaper than doing it ourselves. A local "government" bus is approx 250B to a town 6k of the border, then we're on our own, but when we factor in the cost to get to the bus terminal, then to the border and after ont he Cambodia side, a 300B "all included" trip is just so much cheaper!!!! I hate that it's easier and cheaper to go on chartered "tourist' cattle run" groups than on our own, but such is life here I guess...
I'll let you know how it goes!!!

Posted by Mistrale 22:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Pathetic day!!!


sunny 34 °C

Written on April 23rd....

Arrgghhh! Here WAS the plan:
Check out of our hotel on Ko San road, go get our Cambodia visa (at the Embassy which was supposed to be near Lumpini park, a big park, in another part of town where travellers stay), stay in that area for a night or two - while we get our visa & bus tickets to Cambodia, then head off to the said country.
I stayed in this part of town on my first visit to BKK and really liked Lumpini park. I think I mentioned it in a very early entry; it's where people do aerobics at night throughout the park (music blasting and instructors everywhere - quite a sight - Aliya was quite curious about it). That area of town is also where they have "ping pong shows", in which very skilled women throw ping pongs across the room (clue: not with their arms, feet or head) hehehe, it would have been entertaining for sure! Finally, this part of town also has a big Muay Thai kickboxing stadium - going to a match in the 3rd class "cheap section" - with the hard core "into it" Thai people- is apparently quite fun.

Actual turn out of events:
Check out as planned.
Get dropped off by a taxi (91B ride) at the location of the Embassy.
To find out it's moved completely across town (not where we came from, another across - it's a big town!)
Take another taxi (83B ride, the guy drives off with my 100B bill - nice tip I guess!) to the new location of the Embassy. Happily find out it's near the Laos Embassy (where we plan on going after Cambodia -and we were only going ot get the visa in Phom Phen - so this is good).
Get both visas (only took 3 hours and 3000B - ouch on the $$)
Decide to go back to the Lumpini area for the night anyway.
Pay 141B taxi ride to get there.
Can't find the hotel we were planning on staying at, walk for over 3K ( with out full backpack - mine weights 34kilos - in the blasting heat, sun, pollution, noise of the city) to a YWCA, only to find out it's 1000B/night!!!!! NO WAY !!!! We haven't paid more than 400B/night so far!!
We are now in the middle of big town, only fancy hotels around, no travel agency in sight (to buy our bus ticket to Cambodia), so we decide to come back to the Ko San road area, for simplicity and budget value and just cause we're plain fed up.
It's now about 2:30 in the afternoon. We stop 4 taxis in a row and none will go 'on meter", they all want a flat rate (because of traffic they say). On the 4th, we negociate 150B to Ko San.
So we get back here, 150B later and almost 1 hour in the taxi. The guys is very nice at least and is able to carry somewhat of a conversation, so it's nice. He quotes us 1600B to drive to the Cambodia border!! hehehe, we imagine telling people we cabbed it from BKK to the border hehehe
We decide to check out a few places around (guest houses are one after the other around here), check out 5 places (still with our backpacks on, my shoulders are numb by that point, hehehe!) No place compares in quality/price to the place we stayed at for the past couple of nights, so we decide to go back there. The Thai ladies smile and laugh at us a little (we get laughed at a lot around here, but I actually enjoy it, I sometimes play it up a little - might as well!) and give us the key back to our original room! hehehe!!!
That's the day so far.
We still need to get to a travel agency and get our bus tickets.
To sum up, we blew a crazy $$ on taxi rides, did a big circle around town, and are back to square one (except: +2 visas and -..."I'm scared to add up" Bhats!)
P.S. Rectification: we are now in the year 2550, not 2551.

Posted by Mistrale 03:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Pics of the last week or so...

oh yeah, and : Back in Bangkok!

sunny 34 °C

Written on April 22...

Well, Aliya and I have been back in Bangkok for a couple of days now, and are planning to stay a couple more to get our Cambodia visa. We could get it from a travel agency and/or at the border, but there are horror stories with both these options, so we decided to get it directly from the Embassy.
I quite enjoy Bangkok this second time around, and we are planning to visit quite a few places (as soon as I get off this computer, so I'm hurrying!)

Pics time:
Let's start with Songkran. These pics barely represent the pure chaos and great humour that reigned on that day, but it may give you an idea at least.



It's too bad that the extent of our "being painted and soaked" isn't clear on these pics....

This last one was taken on the bus, where, as mentioned in a previous entry, we were sitting right by the back door (which never closed). Throughout the 3.5h ride, the bus driver kept on stopping to let Songkran'ers on to douse us. We also got it from people aiming at the door as the bus was passing by...Ahhh fun times!

Songkran is officially THE BEST way to celebrate New Year!!!

However, I fully realize that it wouldn't exactly work in our weather (throwing water in Qc in January isn't eactly the idea of a lifetime, and you only need to step outside in Van to be drenched...not as much fun! hehehe)

We finally arrived at Khao Sok. here is a pic of our questhouse.
Not too shabby indeed! hehehe

Posted by Mistrale 23:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)


It's nice!


Written on April 17....

I'm starting to understand the people who read Lonely Plant and go to any place NOT mentioned in there. We've been in Krabi for a bit over a day and are having a great time (there's apparently not much here, coording to LP..they're technically right, but it's part of what makes it nice : less farangs (derogatory word used for tourists by Thais) and more Thais. On that note, yesterday night, walking back from the night market (they all look pretty much the same, but are so fun to go to!, cheap food, new things to try, yay!), so anyway, we were walking back, eating fruit, when we crossed a couple and their approx 2 yrs old daughter. She pointed at me and said "farangs!!!...heeellllo!!" I started laughing and the parents looked embarassed but not much could be done. I mean, the only way she knew that word is if her parents use it! hehehe I think it's like Qc people calling english "blokes" or the Mexicans calling the Americans "gringos"...I think... hehehe, she was so cute and so candid! gotta love kids for that!

Our hotel (yes yes, hotel, not hostel or guesthouse!) had a TV!!! with Satellite!!!!! yay! It's good (and bad) to watch some TV. Indeed, we learned about the horrible killing at Virginia tech...soo horrible, but have also lost a lot of precious time in front of it instead of exploring the surroundings... oh well, we managed to go to a temple called Tiger Temple (it has a Thai name of course but I can't remember it). It's a VERY COOL place with tons of monkeys, a few temples, with, most notably, a big Buddha at the top of the mountain. 1237 steps up to be exact. It's quite the hike!!! What they failed ot mentioned is that some sections (many in fact) are soo steep the steps are actually double the height of a normal step, making it even harder. I took some good pics that I'll download soon. It took us approx 40 minutes to get up, all while sweating super heavily! hehehe All and all, it was very worth it, and our first encounter with monkeys (they're SOOOOOOO cute!!!!)

Well, I think I'll go cure my cold in front of the TV(the first so far on this trip. It's not very bad, but keeps me up at night, so I'm pretty tired!). On top of it, we booked a long day tomorrow of sea kayaking (through caves!!) and elephant trekking! YAY!!!

Posted by Mistrale 06:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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