All About An Admiral (Almost All)

Today was another sleepy day. After a huge breakfast that included papayas, bananas, corn flakes, toast, and omelettes, we got suggestions about things to do in Jaipur from the Admiral.

His name is Madvhendra Singh, but “Admiral” is so much easier to pronounce than “Madvhendra.” In the book in our rooms, you can read about things from the rules of bocce to when your guests have to leave to the Admiral’s family’s story. His son, Bhriguraj Singh, is the Senior Vice President of HSBC bank in Mumbai while his daughter, Dr. Piyusha Singh, is a Programme Director at Excelsior College in Albany, New York. You can also see evidence of the Admiral’s successful career as the house is dotted with paintings of him in uniform and more, including plaqueaw given to him from countries including the US (there are a lot of these), South Africa, Australia, India, and New Zealand.

After getting information, we did schoolwork and read and listened to the power shut off. At one we rose as if from a slumber and went swimming in the Pool With the Bumpy Bottom That Scrapes Your Feet. Once dry and sufficiently sunburned, we walked down to an ice cream parlor and then two malls. We bought an outrageous amount of chips, snack mix, and cookies at the supermarket below the second mall and rode a tuk-tuk the short way home. Another example of our wimpiness in riding tuk-tuks was when we rode one from Four Seasons, the restaurant at which we had a delicious supper. This one was called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even had seats to match the flying car. The driver has never seen the movie. I have but I don’t remember it. Ciao!

When in Jaipur: an Introduction to the Devi Niketan Hotel

Right now I am sitting in a room on the second floor of an old building with wall paintings and marble floors. It is called the Devi Niketan Hotel and it is run by Madhvendra Singh, an admiral that was in the Indian Navy a while ago. All along the walls by the stairs, there are certificates and plaques that are commemorated to him, and they are from a lot of different places like Vietnam, Australia, and the United States.

As you probably don’t know, we got off of the nice train last night and found an man waiting for us to take us to our hotel. We got into a car with him and got driven to the Devi Niketan Hotel, which, luckily, is right by the train station. Once there we had a refreshing glass of pepsi and went right up to our rooms, which are right next to each other and each open up onto a patio. Most of us slept well, and by later that day, those select few (me included) were well rested. The breakfast served there is somewhat like what you would expect from an American Hotel-eggs, cornflakes, and toast-so it was a little bit bland, but we all got through it and decided to see the admiral about things to do in Jaipur.

After he advised us a bit, we went back up to our rooms for about two hours before heading down to the heavily clorinated pool. It hurt my eyes. Then we went on a walk down the road to an ice cream shoppe and a couple of malls. That was boring, except for the ice cream, that is.

When we finally went for supper, we were all pretty tired and went to the bank before heading down the road some more to a restaurant called Four Seasons, which had very good food. On the way back, we took a tuk-tuk called the Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

At Last…!

We got to sleep in! (Sort of) We were allowed to wake up as late as 7:30 so we could have breakfast an hour later. Shiron’s mother made an Indian breakfast for us: putis and a potato curry. You’re supposed to scoop the potatoes into the puti (which is like a tortilla that is very thin and circular) and stick it in your mouth, using your right hand of course. (In case you’re wondering, Shiron is the owner of N Home Stay.)

After eating, we finished packing and learned more about the power outage: it was nation-wide and had happened at about one in the morning. I heard our AC go off and wondered what had happened. I didn’t learn until Mom woke us up that the power had gone. Thankfully, though, Agra got some of its power back so we could stay cool. Shiron had a battery that powered the lights but, sadly, not the AC.

Shakil’s friend, Jeetu, drove us to two monuments on the outskirts of Agra. It was surprising how much water there was in the roads after just one night and a couple of hours of precipitation. In some places it was about a foot deep. The road was not designed very well as parts of it were washed out and the middle of the road was far higher than the edges.

I was kind of surprised that it took about an hour to get to the first monument and then forty-five minutes to get to the next. From there, it took about an hour to get back to N Home Stay. On the way back, Ethan thought he saw Shiron in a tuk-tuk. Mom didn’t believe him but Ethan turned out to be correct! Shiron’s car had broken down because of the water.

When we said good-bye, Shiron’s mother gave Ethan and me a bag of masala-flavored Tangles, which are like pieces of cereal. We enjoyed these on the train about an hour ago along with some cookies and crackers we bought at the train station and Vientiane. (Yes, those are very old cookies.) We finally started moving again and we’ll be to Jaipur in a while. Ciao!

The Monsoon found us Today

Yep, that’s right, it found us, and most of us were NOT happy campers today when we visited three different monuments in the hills around Agra. It wasn’t helpful either that we all wore our sandals. Anyway, back to the topic: The rain found us yesterday afternoon, but it only started to bother us this morning when we could hear it because our air conditioning stopped making noise due to a nationwide power outage that cut off all power. When we left the N Home Stay, it was still raining and there was so much water that, in some places, the streets were under about one foot of water.  Some people that were on bicycles had a hard time going through that, but some kids enjoyed the water on the edge of the road where it was deeper and they could take a small bath.

When in New Delhi and When in Agra

Okay, so, last time I posted, I was in Bangkok the night before we took the plane to New Delhi. Since then, we have done a lot of things, and I will do my best to catch everyone up on the details.

When we woke up on the morning of the flight, we all took showers and went in the shuttle to the airport. At the airport, we got our tickets, went through security and passport control to get to our gate by the United Lounge.

When we finally got to New Delhi, I had watched a movie and taken a nap. In the airport, we sat around and drank coffee (mochas for all!) for about two hours before heading to a taxi to get to the train station. The station was very crowded and loud, and since our train hadn’t arrived yet, we had to stand around by someone’s underwear for about an hour!!! The underwear was on the railing of a balcony, and we think that it was out to dry.

On the train, however, we had reserved some seats so we got to have our own private sections, one for the girls and one for the boys. The train was called an express, but it stopped about ten times before finally reaching Agra. At the train station, we found a taxi driver that was supposed to pick us up and we drove to the N Home Stay.

The N Home Stay is a four story building with about three rooms on each floor, minus the bottom floor, where the landlords sleep. To Eryn’s sadness, there is no pool, but on the bright side, we sweat so much that it is like being in a pool all to yourself!

Today we went to the Taj Mahal, the Agra Red Fort, the garden across from the Taj, and the miniature Taj. I am going to focus on the Taj Mahal because it was my favorite.

The Taj Mahal is an old building that was built by an emperor for his third wife after she died. It took twenty years to build, and the emporer himself was buried alongside his beloved (third) wife in the marble building along the river. It has multiple gates, and today we had people who wanted to be our guides everywhere, following us for a while. However, as soon as we started walking up the steps, they disappeared. Hmmmmm, strange.

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We woke up this morning at 5:40 to get to the Taj Mahal by six. (Shakil took us.) After two hours there, Shakil returned us to N Home Stay where we showered, rested, and had a breakfast of toast, eggs, and, for Ethan and me, Cadbury chocolate shots and strawberry gummies. We tried to get Olympic coverage on the TV but for some reason we couldn’t get power.

The mini-Taj was next on our list. It was built for the king by the king but he never finished it. It is waaaaay smaller than the Taj Mahal across the river, but it is, to me, more interesting. It had narrow passageways, peepholes, and paintings. The stone outside the main part was burning hot, but Mom and I (for some reason) chose not to use the shoe-covers and just went barefoot. Agh!

Our next stop was a garden. To get to it, Shakil had to take the car through poor parts of Agra. The people in some of those parts live in mud huts and we saw women carrying ten bricks on their head in a construction site. In New Delhi, we saw a woman in her bright pink sari sweeping and picking up trash on the side of the road.

The garden was right on the river and is, according to the sign, the best place for viewing the Taj Mahal in moonlight. It wasn’t nighttime but it got dark fast. The clouds rolled in and the rain came down and we ran back to the car as fast as we could… except Shakil wasn’t there. So we waited a couple of minutes, called him, and eventually got back in the car. He had gone looking for us.

The marble shop was interesting. We bought a table for our living room that has to be shipped to Seattle (!) because that’s the nearest port. The owner gave Ethan a chess set as a gift. It is a wooden box with the marble board on top. Inside are the little pieces, which are also made from marble. We learned that the marble for the Taj Mahal is the strongest in the world. It has to be cut with river sand and water because the marble is crystalline. The sand contains crystals, too. The owner tested our knowledge of semi-precious stones when he had us name seven or eight that were in the “flowers” at the Taj. These stones included mother-of-pearl, jasper, tiger-eye, and turqouise.

The red fort, officially known as the Agra Fort, is almost boring without a guide. It is red and it’s on the river, but I think we still needed a guide. We did learn, however, that the giant cup in the courtyard was for bathing. I thought it was for coffee. It was raining slightly so the walkways were either slippery or slightly submerged. It was fun though, and it would have been more fun if we had been allowed to go up to the top of the walls and walk around, getting an archer’s view.

Ciao!

Entering India

We arrived in Agra last night at eight after five hours on the plane and about four hours on the train and too many hours awake. While on the ramp out to our plane, I picked up an Olympic magazine, which kept me company along with A Thousand Words on our flight. Once we landed and went through customs and immigrations, we got some cash, water bottles, and mochas. The mochas were delicious, and so was the Oreo brownie Ethan got. My peach and banana cake was bland and dry.

We got into a rickety taxi at Post 36 and rode to the train station. It took forever and gave us some more near-death experiences. Once at the station, we waited until 4:30 to go down to the train. The doors finally opened and we piled on. We were seperated because, if you will recall, we got these tickets last week because of our visa problem. Mom and I had seats 17 and 18 in AC-1 and Dad and Ethan had seats farther down but still in the same car. In case you’re wondering, AC does stand for air-conditioning.

After several delays, we arrived in Agra. A man named Shakil picked us up, and he joked how he was Shaquille O’Neal. Shakil drove us to a place for supper where we had naan, rice, lady fingers (okra), and two main dishes. He then took us to N Home Stay and we finally went to bed. Ciao!

Last time on the BTS……..

In case you hadn’t read from everybody else’s posts, the BTS is an elevated skytrain that goes across Bangkok. There are three cars on a train, and each train car has four sliding doors on each side.

The ads on the sides of the train are very interesting. My favorite is the train with Swenson’s ads all over the side, but that’s just me. There is also one with a Canon ad on the side.

And that is all that I have to say about the BTS.

This is my last post from Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter. So Bye.

One Last Time

At a Swensen’s in Thailand… hopefully. We may actually get to go to India tomorrow! Swensen’s was pretty much all we did today except for swimming twice. The first time we were at Viva Gardens and Ethan and I swam by ourselves. Well, there were two little boys in the pool too, but they stayed in the shallow end. Ethan and I are such tall people that we could only be in the deep end (1.2 meters). Well, only in the deep end until we raced. We had one really long race at the end: three half-laps with different strokes (the crawl, backstroke, and breaststroke), touching each of the fountains on the spout, and all sorts of crazy things. Ethan eventually won and I was very disappointed.

At Swensen’s we all had chocolate ice cream (of course) and after that Mom and I looked at clothes in the Tesco Lotus (Swensen’s is in the building) while Dad and Ethan lurked. Once done there, we returnd to Viva Gardens one last time, picked up our luggage, and rode in a green taxi (green!) to BS Residence. After Ethan and I did our schoolwork for the day, we went swimming with Dad as Mom ordered supper from The Pizza Company. (Guess what we got?) It was a very successful day! Ciao!

Terminal 21- Almost an Airport

Terminal 21 is an awesome mall. We went to it today and finally figured out how it works: each floor is a different international city. The lowest floor (parking and dry-cleaning) was Bangkok… kind of. It had no theme but it was Bangkok. Above that is the food floor which was Caribbean themed. We even saw a sign on a palm tree for Half Moon Bay in Antigua and Barbuda. We’ve been there!

Above that was Rome which was a mix of clothes and accessories. Paris was the floor that connected to the skytrain station. That was handy during the sudden rainstorm. Tokyo, an escalator ride up from Paris, was full of fancy dresses that I lovelovelove. London was a short escalator ride away and it had one of those red double-decker buses. That floor was home to casual clothes. Istanbul connected to Paris by way of one looooong escalator. That escalator skips floors one and two and stops at the floor of knicks, knacks, trinkets, and baubles including giant stuffed animal poodles, video games, and postage stamps from Israel.

The fourth floor- San Francisco- was awesome. There was the Golden Gate Bridge above it, and when you looked at it from the fifth floor you could see the little toy cars on it. The San Francisco floor had Swensen’s (of course!) and even a trolley car. The fifth floor was also San Francisco: the coastal (food court) part of San Francisco. There was a Chinatown part, too, except there was Thai food in it. The sixth floor was Hollywood and there was a movie theater and gym there. Nothing particularly interesting.

It was the best mall I’ve ever been to, and we even heard One Direction! Ciao!

Heated Toilet Seats? By Toshiba?

Yeah, well, even if you are wondering about that, they are really out there. YesterdaOy I experienced one of them in the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok while we were waiting to go to the visa place.

Before that, we had gone to a park right down the street and had some magnum bars after I tried out some very weird exercise equipment. One of them was an excercise twister with handles up above. It was so weird that I gave up on the twister thing and just hung from the circles above.

Okay. By now you probably want to know about the toilet seats that I encountered in the mall. It was kind of weird, there was a toilet seat with what looked like a remote to the right side. On the remote, you could choose lots of settings, like how warm the water was, or how warm the seat was. You could also move the nozzle for the bidet back and forth. And that part even had a drying feature.

Television in Lao PDR

Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a Marxist-Leninist communist country. So it was with some amusement that we observed the entertainment provided in the airport. As we were leaving via the Vientiane International Airport, we sat in the departures area and watched parts of an episode of “Criminal Minds” on the Fox channel. It was in black-and-white, so possibly pirated from Thailand.

But still, watching Fox in a government installation in a communist country has a certain richness to it.

Eating in Thailand – Part 2

More familiar foods with a new twist:

Tumeric –I am used to seeing ground turmeric in a spice bottle, not fresh in the produce section of a grocery store.  It looks like orange gingerroot and I think it is peeled and grated or finely chopped before adding to foods.

Curries –We tried all types of curries and my favorite is still green curry. The vegetables added to the curries were a bit different, such as several types of eggplant.

Fresh and fried spring rolls – We love vegetable spring rolls so we ate this food many times during our stay in Thailand.  We made our own fresh spring rolls while at the elephant camp and the fresh basil added a great flavor.

Pickled garlic cloves – This was served as a condiment at a Thai meal we attended, just as dill or sweet pickles are sometimes served at a meal in the US. They were surprisingly mild in garlic flavor and the mixture of vinegar and garlic tastes was enjoyable.  Pickled garlic, finely sliced, is often sprinkled on the top noodles with a sweet sauce and is frequently added to scrambled eggs in Thailand.

Soda in plastic bag with a straw – Several times in Bangkok we saw individuals purchase soda from a street vendor or at a snack shop in a mall. Instead of filling a cup the vendor filled a pint or quart size plastic bag with soda and inserted a straw into the top.  The bag had handles so that it was easy to carry.

Heinz chili sauce – At first glance, this looks like a typical glass Heinz ketchup bottle that has orange ketchup instead of red.  The bottles we saw were printed mostly in Thai but the words “Heinz” and “chili sauce” were in English. It tastes like a milder version of Tabasco and has a similar color.

Waffles – At Doi Suthep (temple in the mountains in Chang Mai) we tried waffles from one of the local street vendors.  Eryn and Ethan had a chocolate waffle sandwich and I ate a banana on a stick surrounded by a waffle.  Both types were tasty.  Waffles seem to be a pretty popular snack since we saw quite a few waffle vendors in elevated train stations and on streets in Bangkok.

Magnum ice cream bars – Yes we’ve had ice cream bars before, but none quite this good!! This brand is super creamy and lots of great Belgian chocolate flavor. A wonderful treat on a hot afternoon in Thailand.

Back in Bangkok

A wise man once said that you can only see a city in the dark. Flying into Bangkok at 11 last night, I agreed: the city lights stretched out for miles to the horizon. Wee cars moved “slowly” on the roads below and a plane’s lights blinked behind us. It seemed like coming home. We’ve now landed on the Suvarnabhumi tarmac three times and Bangkok is kind of becoming a home base. We’ll be back, too, on our way to Australia.

The display on my watch said 0:16 as we walked into the Viva Garden building, which seems to be one of the coolest buildings ever. Later in the morning, we walked into the Indian Visa Application Centre and handed over our passports. We then made our way back to the Viva building for breakfast. After recharging our batteries some more, we went to the Tesco Lotus for Swensen’s and things like shampoo and a new shirt for Mom. Dad needed to get seats for our flight to New Delhi and asked Customer Service where the Thai Airlines place was as a man here had told him that the airline had a location in Tesco. The person at the booth sent him to the men’s clothing section for his Tie Airline visit.

Ethan and I spent about an hour in the awesome pool and then we went to supper at Look-in, a nearby restaurantthat serves Thai and Italian food. Ethan was dubbed “Young Boy Sir” by our waiter. Ciao!

A Very Vivid, Venomous, and Victorious post of Vientiane

On our vivacious visit to Vientiane, I noticed that what stood out to me was the Americanization and the people of Laos.

Americanization: Laos was established as a French colony, but today, there aren’t many things that are French anymore. There several bakeries (both French AND Scandinavian,) but for the most part, the whole of Vientiane was very western. There were many cafés, and we went to some of them and they had a lot of American dishes that we have at home; pancakes, waffles, and French (haha) toast. Also, instead of the signs being in French of even Lao, they are almost all in English. A tuk-tuk driver sitting at a corner knows English, and everyone else does, and that is why I think that it has a lot of American Culture.

People:  The Lao People are very much like the Thai people; they smile a lot and they are very kind to tourists. There, however, there aren’t students coming up to you and asking to take their picture with you to practice their English, but still, a lot of people say ‘hello’ and stuff like that just to practice. The kids seem to stay to themselves more than the ones in Thailand, yet they still find ways to amuse themselves. An example of that was on the promenade by the big statue; there was a little boy with a beer box, putting it on his head and hopping around in it. He also had a broken umbrella that he used as a toy going upwind with it trailing out behind him. You can see him with his beer box on his head in one of our pictures. However, when he picked up the umbrella, his box flew away in the wind. Too bad for him.

I hope that that was a very vivid and vibrant description of Vientiane.

By the way, do you like my vocabulary?

Eating in Thailand – Part 1

Familiar foods with a new twist:

Fresh fruit – Many tropical fruits that we enjoyed eating fresh: mango, papaya, pineapple, watermelon, banana, coconut, kiwi, and pomello. Most of bananas are small (about 3 or 4 inches long) and we saw several varieties in the store.

Fruit shakes – These consist of ice, fruit (pieces and/or juice,) and sometimes a bit of milk whizzed together. Flavors we’ve tried: coconut, mango, banana, orange, lemon, watermelon and pineapple. Plus combinations of these fruits –mixture of lemon and pineapple is especially good. We quickly learned that a fruit shake does not include ice cream, but it still very refreshing on a hot day.

Fried bananas – We tried two different versions of this.  The first was crisp-fried banana pieces on skewer with sweet syrup for dipping. And the other variation was banana slices dipped in batter and then deep fried with no sauce.

Coconut ice cream with fresh coconut curls served in a coconut – This tasted and looked great!

Fresh coconut as an ingredient in green curry soup – It took us a while to figure out what the crisp, white, crinkled French-fry was in our curry soup. Our “aha” moment happened in the produce section of a grocery store where we could buy a package of them.

Papaya salad – Typical ingredients included grated papaya with carrots, nuts, and spicy dressing.

Mango or banana pancakes with orange or chocolate syrup – This turned out to be one of our favorite breakfasts in Chiang Mai.  Nature’s Way Restaurant topped the pancakes with a variety of colorful fresh fruit pieces and even created face designs with fruit for Ethan and Ethan. We are definitely going to make these types of pancakes when we get home.

Dried pomello, pineapple, apricots, strawberries, jackfruit, and kiwi – Women from the hill tribes in northern Thailand sell all types of dried fruit  at tourist markets along the roadside.

Eggs – Most grocery stores and street markets sell brown eggs instead of white and the shells are not washed well. A couple of street markets even sold pink eggs, much to Eryn’s delight!

Mushrooms – The Thai people love mushrooms and we saw and ate so many new varieties.  One common type is large and frilly (looks like brown lettuce) and in Bangkok we often ate mushrooms with long skinny stems and very small caps.

A Vientiane Visit

 

Today we leave Vientiane, Laos, and fly to Bangkok for the third time. There were many things that stood out about Vientiane, but the main ones for me were traffic, money, and animals:

 

Traffic: Laos’s capital’s drivers seem to take life slowly. There seems to be no “fast lane” here. There are also plenty of one-way streets which can make life stressful as you try to find a way to go south on a street that allows only north-bound vehicles. These vehicles include jumbos, motorbikes, tour vans, and VW bugs. Jumbos are the Laotian version of tuk-tuks… kind of. They are, as their name suggests, bigger with the seats in a U-shape instead of two benches opposite each other. There are mini-jumbos, which are technically the same size as tuk-tuks but, because of the shape of the bench, can hold more people. They are also the loudest and ricketiest “vehicles.” They buzz and whine and putt-putt their way through the streets, and our mini-jumbo this morning stopped running more than once while we were stopped.

 

Full-sized jumbos are a whole different story. They have three seats in the front, too, with the one in the middle being the driver’s and the other two for passengers. The seats have all sorts of different patterns on them, and the outside can be all different colors. My favorite so far has been a purple jumbo with seats that are purple with a pink stripe down them. We didn’t get to ride in it, but maybe we will on the way to the airport. That would be awesome! We probably won’t, though, because the most common jumbo color is white with red, yellow, blue, and green accents.

 

There aren’t very many songtows, but the ones we’ve seen have been, for the most part, stuffed. Just today we saw two songtows go by Swensen’s that were full of novices in their bright orange robes (that’s why we noticed them). Vehicles the same size as or larger than a Ford Escape seem humongous unless they’re a cement truck. The motorbikes are still here and dominating. At every stop in traffic, these little beasts move up to the very front of the line of traffic. The bicyclers could do this, but it seems like the only people on bikes on busy streets are tourists, who, for the most part, aren’t brave enough to get up to the very front.

 

Money: The official exchange rate is ₭8,024 per US$1 as of July 24, 2012. It fluctuates a lot; on July 20 it was 7,100 kip per US dollar. This makes prices like 72,000 kip seem low: that’s only US$9. The coins were deemed so worthless that they no longer mean anything. The bills are in denominations of 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; and 50,000, which is worth about US$6. There may be a 100,000 kip bill, but we haven’t seen one. Even then, though, it would only be US$12.5 (approx.).

 

The face on most of these notes is the face of President Kaysone Phomvihane, who was Lao PDR’s first leader.

 

Animals: The most common type of animal in Laos is probably humans, but dogs and ants are close seconds. Actually, ants most definitely outnumber people. The guide yesterday told Dad that a popular Laotian dish is fish and ants. The ants add acid, which is sour, and the people like that. Personally, I find that disgusting, but maybe I’d like it… if I felt like trying it. There are ants everywhere– on the sidewalk, in the fried rice yesterday, along the trail, inside Swensen’s, in my pants… (Yes, I did have ants in my pants.)

 

We are of the opinion that dogs in Laos (or, at least, Vientiane) are cuter than the dogs in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. There are four that live right around Vayakorn House: the short, furry one with floppy ears and a nasty bite, the tan short-haired dog of some kind, a black dog, and the cutest black and white dog with a heap of fur and a tail that looked like a fountain of black fur. The last one followed us home from Joma Café this morning because it smelled the chocolate chip cookies and banana cake Mom was carrying. It stopped at a sign post, we turned the corner, and I’m guessing it tried to decide what attitude the other three dogs would have towards it since it was an intruder. The little furry one looks like it belongs in Great Britain for some reason, but it can hold its own just as well as the tan and black dogs.

 

Pigs are here but we only saw a few yesterday in a truck heading towards Vientiane. There were four or five on the roof of the car and more below. They were all alive and smelly.

 

There are many cows here, too. Not in town so much (although we did see some along the Mekong on our first day) as the countryside. We saw dozens yesterday as we drove to and from the waterfall. Our songtow had a musical horn that was used to get the cows out of the way, although we usually just drove around them. Cows are very stupid, and we discovered just how stupid they are when we looked back and saw a calf running along the road with a van right behind it. It could have just turned to the right and been safe, but it chose to turn to the left just as another van was coming. It was hit.

 

It got up, though, and went back to running in its own little world.

 

I hope it lived.

 

Ciao!

 

We’re Now Officially Trekkers!

Meaning we went on one “trek.”

Vin, Lindsay, Kristen, and our guides were our companions today on our trek from Vientiane to the waterfall and back to Vientiane.

We started off at 8:13 instead of eight o’clock because we had issues with the laundry. In the songtow, we took some more turns on all the one-way streets ’til we finally got to the guesthouse at which Lindsay and Kristen, two Canadian friends, were staying. Some more turns found us picking up another lady: “This is Vin,” our guide said. “She is from Vietnam.” She opened her mouth and out came English words with an Australian accent. She later explained, “My parents [who are Vietnamese] moved back to Vietnam when I was young. I stayed with my grandparents in Australia.”

We picked up two guides in a village, and from there we walked down to a river. We got into two long boats and went upstream for about forty minutes. The scenery was not overly exciting, but it was interesting that Ethan had to keep dumping water out of the boat as we motored along. Once he let the can into the water, but the driver got it for Ethan. It was on a string, so it would’t have gone any where, but it was rather annoying when it was splashing us.

The hike lasted about two hours, although Ethan said, “That wasn’t a hike this morning. That was a walk.” To keep ourselves occupied, we sweated. We also crossed several streams and finally came to a stop at some large rocks in a creek. After resting for five minutes, we finished crossing the water and walked for another hour or so before arriving at the end of the road and the sign announcing the waterfall. After the appropriate amount of pictures was taken, we continued on with Ethan, Kristen, and I leading the way. We didn’t actually know where we were going, so we leaders had to wait at the fork for the guide to catch up and take us where we wanted to go.

The lunch was not very good. It was vegetables and pineapple on a skewer with barbecue sauce (which I am not very fond of), fried rice (the ants added flavor), and bread (smeared with barbecue sauce). The only thing I had nothing against was my banana. Even my water bottle deserted me, rolling down the rock and into the dark depths below.

Vin, Lindsay, Ethan, and Dad were the only ones courageous enough to swim. Vin actually did swim, but Lindsay didn’t really need that towel she brought. Ethan and Dad went underneath the waterfall and, I think, swam the longest. After they all dried off, we went back to the road. Ethan and I were in the process of getting in the songtow when we were told we were going to visit another waterfall, which was more impressive. The first waterfall was in the form of stairsteps. This one was just a drop. Lindsay and Kristen also discovered little pieces of flora that looked like hands. Dad was holding one, attached it to his nose, and pretended like he was being attacked by it. Okay, it doesn’t sound like it was funny, but Ethan, Mom, Lindsay, and I were dying. You had to be there.

On our way to supper tonight, I heard One Direction playing. I reacted (I’ll never tell how), and Dad asked if I was being directional. Ethan said, “No, she just heard One Direction.” Don’t worry; he eventually got it. Ciao!

A Laundry List without the Laundry

We had to get up early this morning so we could go on a 2 hour trek through the jungle to get to a waterfall. But before we could do that, my mother had to take some laundry to the laundry place right down the street from our guesthouse. She took about twenty minutes, and by that time, the driver to take us to our trekking place was there in his blue pick-up truck. My mother finally came out of the laundry place, carrying all three bags of laundry back to us, and she then told me to carry them up to my room where we could leave the until we came back that evening.

After taking a fourty minute boat ride and a two hour hike, we finally arrived at the waterfall with the rest of our group. There were two girls from Canada, a girl from Vietnam (and an Australia accent), and the four of us, Ethan, Eryn, Jerry, and Susan.
We, the only vegetarians, had our own lunch on a rock a little bit below the big rock where everyone else was and had to sit out in the rain. When we finished eating, the Vietnamese girl went immediately to change into her swimsuit and had done a couple of laps (back and forth from land to the waterfall) before the darker-haired girl from Canada joined her. My dad got in and I quickly joined him.

When I first felt the water, I thought it would be really cold and that I would be shivering underwater, but when I got up to my shoulders as I swam from rock to rock, I noticed that it didn’t seem that cold. I swam to where my dad was standing on a rock about twenty yards away from the bottom of watefall and we both swam underneath a rock shelf that protruded from the waterfall. After that, we decided to go downstream a little ways, and just floated downstream to the place where you got out, and we did that, before heading up, back to the truck.

Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle, I want to ride my Bicycle

In case you don’t know that song, it is a song (called Bicycle) that Queen played. The also played ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’

Anyway, today we went to the Scandinavian Bakery for breakfast, they had lots of pastries, including some that look like glow-sticks. We all ordered some version of the Continental Breakfast. I don’t know how it got that name, considering there are either Danish Buns of Croissants to go with it, and that I have never had anything like that before, so I don’t know where in the world the ‘continental’ part came in, so don’t ask me. While we were eating on the balcony, we were really annoyed by the fact that there was a really loud bird that seemed intent on driving us crazy with its incessant squawking.

After that, we went to the ‘Place of the Squawking Bird’ (a nickname for a bike shop that I just made up) and saw that to rent their bikes, you paid 20,000 Kip and had to return it a 6:00 pm. My mother said to wait, so we went down the street to a tour place, where we learned about a tour service into the national park nearby.

We decided on going back home, getting our swimsuits, and heading to yet another bike shop (this one only 10,000 kip) to get bikes to go to the water park on the other side of town. We didn’t find it. Well, we found the bike rental place, where we rented four bikes, but we didn’t find the water park. Too bad.

The Laos “Laundry List”*

At Ethan’s persistence, we went for a bicycle ride today after a delicious breakfast at the Scandinavian Bakery. We were trying to find the water park, but we either passed it or it was torn down. Because of this, Dad decided that we should ride to the Promenade. The wind was blowing in our faces, making it difficult to move as we biked along the Mekong.

At noon we returned our bikes and retreated to the shade and AC of our rooms. We read for a bit and then Mom and Ethan went out to buy Magnums and cookies. After the ice cream was enjoyed, we went outside again and looked at a couple of Lao shops. When an appetite had been sufficiently developed, we went down the street and had supper at the Taj Mahal. The garlic naan was the best part of the whole meal; it was amazing. Mom and Dad’s lassis were also very good.

We were going to take pictures of the sunset on the Promenade (which is on the Mekong River), but it got cloudy right as we arrived. We persisted, though, and found a Sunday night market and a group workout. At the market, I got a T-shirt and Ethan got a necklace with a stone made from aluminum from a bomb or an airplane. The plane and bomb fell near/in a village and the people took the aluminum and made things like spoons, bracelets, and necklace charms out of it. (At least, that’s the story they give.) Another interesting part was hearing Every Day I’m Shufflin’ play.

*Dad says that sometimes we just write down what we did and that is called a laundry list.

Ciao!

Another Lovely (and hot) day in Laos

Today was a very hot day and we spent much of it looking at four of the most visited tourist sites (or sights) by a tuk-tuk, which here, is more commonly known by the name Jumbo.

A Jumbo is pretty big, and it is a lot more comfortable than a tuk-tuk: tuk-tuks, have one row facing forward, while Jumbos have bench seats in what looks like the back of a small pick-up truck.

Sights at Sites: We went to four sites: the Ho Phra Keo Museum, the Sisaket Museum, the Phra That Laung Museum, and the Patuxai Arch. The ones that I will focus on are the Ho Phra Keo Museum and the Pha That Laung Museum.

The Ho Phra Keo Museum was a temple that held the Emerald Buddha after taking it from Chiang Mai, but then Siamese (Thai) people came and took it back to Siam (Thailand) and now the Buddha resides in Wat Phra Keo, Bangkok. The temple, however, due to the Siamese forces razing Vientiane thrice, has had to be rebuilt three times, the last being in the 1920’s.

The Pha That Laung Museum is the Great Stupa, the symbol of the Lao people and the most important monument in Laos. It has been moved and reconstructed (faultily) and then reconstructed correctly in the 1930’s.

Today Was a _ _ _ Day

Hot. That’s what today was; I don’t need to ask you to describe it for me. It is a dry heat here in Vientiane, which is probably a good thing since it’s preparing us for India. Even then, it’s hotter in India than here, which is not a good sign for us. Today was as follows:

Cool- in the 70s: This morning we got up at a more respectable time- 7:00- and had breakfast at 8 o’clock at Cafe d’Croissant. We had the Viking Breakfasts, which consisted of five small slices of fruit (three of watermelon and two of pineapple), three pieces of toast, butter, jam, and shredded cheese. It also came with hot coffee or tea, but Ethan and I opted for the mochas. Dad accepted his water as it was, but Mom was brave enough to order the black coffee that came with the meal. Ethan and Dad ordered baguettes instead of the toast, but the former received the toast (against his wishes, of course!). There was also a dog who hung around us the whole meal, most likely waiting for a handout (which he did not receive).

Warmer- in the upper 70s: A short jumbo (like a tuk-tuk, only bigger) ride away were two wats and a golden stupa. The wats were both museums and were across the street from each other. The first one- Haw Phra Kaew- used to hold the emerald Buddha, but when the Siams invaded, they stole it. It’s currently in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. The second one, Wat Si Saket, contains at least 10,000 Buddha figures. It is the oldest temple in Vientiane at the ancient age of 194 years. The current version was built in 1818 by King Anouvong. It was built in the Siamese style of Buddhist temple, which could have been what saved it from destruction in 1827 when Siam invaded Vientiane. The invaders used the wat as their headquarters and named it after Wat Saket, which is in Bangkok. The French restored the temple in 1924. We only had fifteen minutes at the golden stupa, named That Dam, which is the pretty much the symbol of Laos.

Hot (seemingly)- lower 80s: Our jumbo driver then took us to Patuxay, which literally translates (from French) to “Gate of Triumph.” The money for it was given to the Laos by the American government to build an airport during the Vietnam War. The Laotians figured that they knew a better way to spend it: build a monument in their capital city honoring the Laotian soldiers who had died in WWII and fighting for independence from France. The arch is refered to as the “vertical runway.” The Chinese also “helped” with this monument by donating a musical fountain, which is covered in grime. However, it is spectacular to look at when it is running. The arch has multiple levels: there is the ground underneath it, the level up one set of stairs where you can look down into the shade below, up the next set of stairs to where little windows with Buddha carvings let the light come in, a level with shops, a level that is supposedly a museum but also contains shops, the “top” with the sun beating down on you, another little shop slightly above the center of the “top,” and the true top, which can only hold about ten people once you go up a set of steep and twisty stairs. While we were coming down, we heard someone doing a cover for One Direction and they were awful.

Even hotter- mid-80s: After our ride, we went to The Pizza Company and Swensen’s for lunch. It’s awesome having a Swensen’s- the first foreign chain-restaurant in Laos- a two minutes’ walk away from where we’re staying.

Hottest (we’re guessing)- upper-80s, lower-90s: We stayed inside and read on our Kindles. I actually got Ethan to read Heidi!

Cooler- lower-80s: Our supper at the Lao Kitchen was delicious. The two most important parts for me were these: I got to drink a Mirinda for the first time in my life and that cat scared me. I had an orange Mirinda in a bottle. Ethan thought it tasted like Fanta, but I think it tastes more like Thomas Kemper, which is, in my opinion, the best orange soda ever. (Except Mirinda may now edge it out to win gold.) That cat was the feline who kept walking back and forth in front of the Lao Kitchen. It seemed to have nothing better to do than pace and, as Dad and I saw, jump at the occasional bug. Mom said that it looked like a Jersey cow because it was white with brown splotches. I said that it seemed like it was a guard cat, but Dad said that it couldn’t seem to guard its tail, which was little more than a three-inch stub. It crawled under the table, I pulled my feet back, we touched each other, I squealed, and that cat ran away.

Colder: It’s getting that way all the time! Ciao!

Over Here!

We’re in Laos! That’s because our Thai visas expire today and we had to go somewhere else. We’ll return later to give our passports to the Indian Visa Application Centre in Bangkok… hopefully. We’re not so sure they’ll let us back in after such a short time away. But I’m crossing my fingers.

After breakfast at our hotel in Bangkok, we went to the airport, mailed some postcards, and waited in the Thai/Star Alliance lounge until we had to flaunt our boarding passes at Gate D1. Our plane to Vientiane, Laos, was tiny (comparatively) and was in the air for about one hour. We landed in Vientiane, applied for and received our visas, and met the man from Vayakorn Guest House. Dad got 1,000,000 Lao kip (about US$125) at the ATM and we piled into the van with our four suitcases, four backpacks, four people, and one hat.

Vayakorn Guest House is nice enough, but my main issue with it is that, because the floor is wood, you have to take off your shoes before continuing upstairs to your room. This can be very uncomfortable when you have multiple pairs of shoes and you’re packing up to leave, forgetting the pair of shoes you left waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

We went out around four o’clock for water and shampoo and to look at the Mekong River and Thailand, which is about 1/4 mile away from where I sit typing this. (The Thai-Lao border is, like the one between Washington and Oregon, down the middle of the river for most of the way.) There, people were setting up their booths for the Friday night market. We finally found a little store (NOT a 7-Eleven. In fact, we haven’t seen a single one!) and bought our shampoo and 12 liters of water (eight 1.5 liter bottles). We also saw the Mirinda soda bottles. I wanted to get some of that and a chocolate truffle Magnum bar, but we needed to get back in an air-conditioned place. However, we need to come back soon as Ethan is dying to get his hands on Mirinda (for those of you who don’t know, Mirinda is the name of my best friend).

We returned to my parents’ room to look at the kip bills. Lao money is so worthless that the government quit making coins. The largest bill is K$50,000, or about US$6. In the lobby of Vayakorn, there is a framed two-dollar bill, which was surprising on so many levels.

For supper, we went to Makphet, which is a restaurant that gives poor people jobs. Our food was pretty bland, but our kips went towards a good cause (see it here at http://www.tree-alliance.org/our-restaurants/makphet.asp?mm=or&sm=mp). We returned home, ate some more strawberry creme Oreos, and typed this up. It’s getting “late.” Ciao!

When in Vientiane (Laos)

Are you starting to see my series of posts called ‘When in {insert city name}’ yet? If you have or haven’t, it is true, there is a method to my (increasing) madness. At any rate, there is new news; we have finally figured out what to do while the Indian Embassy people get us our visas; we will go to Laos. We figured that out last night, and now are in Laos, in our new guesthouse.

Laos:
Laos is a country wedged in between Thailand and Vietnam, with Cambodia at the bottom. Its capitol is Vientiane and that is where we are staying for the next four days. It is very much like Thailand, except for the food, which is (in my opinion) better. Also, their currency is a Kip, and $1 US is worth about 8,000 Kip.

How we got to Laos is something along these lines:

We woke up around 8:00 and got ready to go to the airport so we could catch our flight after going through passport control and security before leaving the country and 11:45. Today was different from yesterday, we actually got our tickets and checked our bags. That was a major improvement. Then we wandered around the big airport in search of the post office, which Eryn insisted was on the 4th floor, but as it turns out, it was on the 6th floor (like the signs said)…..

Once we got that done, we went out and to security on the 5th floor, and my mother insisted (unknowingly) that we should go through the full-body scanner. That was interesting. Then we went on to go to passport control, at passport control, they did nothing very interesting, and we moved on to the 4th floor again (this time on the other side of security) and found our gate, D1. There was a Star Alliance Lounge right down the hall, so we sat in there, eating pastries and drinking hot chocolate, until it was time for our flight.

The flight was supposed to take an hour, but I think it took less than that, but that may be just me. When we got to Laos, we went through immigration and stuff like that, grabbed our baggage, got money (kip) at the ATM, and hopped on a taxi to get to the Vayakorn Guesthouse.

A Summary of Today

Quote

“Keep a sense of humor about annoyances like

getting lost or being hungry.”

 

“In my family [the Highams], we have a saying

that it isn’t an adventure unless we’re lost, hungry,

and someone has to go to the bathroom.”

 

-John Higham, author of 360 Degrees 

                     Longitude

Today Was a(n) [insert adjective] Day

You can comment on what sort of day you think it was after you read this. This is in chronological order according to the times on my stupid (you’ll see why) watch:

2:33: I wake up, look at my watch, think Thank goodness there’s still an hour, and go back to sleep.

3:25: Alarm doesn’t go off.

4:08: We wake up to Mom knocking on our door. I tell Ethan to get his butt in the shower, and I answer the door. We think she had been standing and knocking for quite a while.

4:10: Ethan finishes his shower- if you can call a nozzle sticking out of a wall and spraying the toilet a shower.

4:33: We’re all dressed, showered, packed, and out the door in the airport shuttle.

4:44: Our arrival at the airport is too early; we have to wait until five o’clock rolls around.

4:59: We’re checking in and the lady looks at our tickets from Bangkok to New Delhi.

5:00: She asks if we have our Indian visas.

5:01: We don’t.

5:06: She pulls up a list of countries whose citizens don’t need visas beforehand: Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, Mexico, Vietnam… the US is not on there.

5:07: We head to the benches to regroup and an exclamation is heard: “I want to go home.”

5:38: A family sits down across from us, happily eating their Hilton breakfast and displaying their Swiss passports.

5:52: They finally leave.

6:37: We go to the United Airlines counter and reschedule our flight to India for Friday.

6:39: The benches are a wonderful find.

7:32: Our bags (except for Dad’s backpack) are left with the people at LEFT BAGGAGE.

7:33: We find another bench.

7:46: Ethan and I go up to the (frigid) observation deck. That airport has the AC on waay too high.

7:49: We head to the FamilyMart and look at all the sickly-sweet looking foods.

7:51: We return to our parents.

9:31: The female half of us changes the new flight to Saturday, July 28.

9:35: Mom goes looking for unguarded electrical outlets for her phone.

9:41: She returns with no luck.

9:47: We look for breakfast.

9:58: Chocolate waffles!!!

10:03: We buy our tickets for the airport train, which goes in to town.

10:07: Oreos are bought just to get some smaller bills/coins.

10:09: We begin to wait for the train.

10:23: It finally comes.

10:52: We quickly exit the station and walk to the tube.

11:09: We’re spit out of the train into the rain.

11:10: We start walking the wrong way.

11:22: We stop and ask where we are.

12:01: Finally! The stairs up to the GLAS HAUS loom in front of us.

12:07: We enter the Indian Visa Application Centre.

12:09: We’re back in the hallway to fill out the remaining three forms- Mom’s, Ethan’s, and mine- on the iPad.

13:12: We’re now officially in the Centre.

14:29: After being forced to pretend that my signature at age nine is still the same three years later, we leave with the promise to return with our passports next week.

14:57: The underground’s doors close too soon and I am left behind.

14:59: A Thai lady tells me that she’ll make sure I get to the right place (the next stop). That was nice, but I would have been perfectly fine on my own.

15:01: The next train comes.

15:03: I get off and Ethan tells me that Mom’s looking for me. Thankfully she didn’t go back (although we could’ve easily called her. We had four bars… underground!).

15:07: We’re back on our way to the airport.

16:32: Supper is served at Twin Time, a restaurant in the airport that serves tiny portions. My chicken satay and Thai iced tea were AMAZING.

17:49: Ethan invites me to come to the bookstore with him so he can show me the Justin Bieber book. Of course, he didn’t tell me this beforehand.

18:13: 31 Flavors! (Ethan counted- there were 30 flavors in 32 tubs. FYI, 31 Flavors is Baskin Robbins)

18:17: I try a spoonful of green tea ice cream. Be warned! (Unless you like greasy ice cream that tastes like moldy [and looks] like moldy vanilla.) Dad, Ethan, and I each get one scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale and one scoop of World Class Chocolate. Mom had one scoop of the former and one scoop of mint chip.

18:31: Dad buys water at the 7-Eleven.

18:37: We retrieve our luggage.

19:29: We arrive at Mariya Boutique Residence, and I grab a banana.

20:46: Mom chokes on her malaria pill as I read her this post.

21:13: I bid you… Ciao!

Visas are NOT credit cards

That is what everyone should know if they are traveling to another county. Today we woke up waaaaay too early ( but still layer than we were supposed to) to go to the airport. Here is what happened with visas today: say (just for an example of what happened today) India. So, we had read on a website that India doesn’t need a visa for American citizens, but at the check-in desk, we heard differently……… Apparently you have to have a tourist (or other type of) visa to get into India if you are an American. Since we didn’t have one, we missed our flight to New Delhi, where we had multiple reservations, one of which was a driver that picked us up at the airport to take us to our place. Since we weren’t there, he had to stand there all morning, holding a sign that said “Jerry Reeder” on it. Too bad.

Since we had nothing left to do at the airport, we went out to try and find the Indian embassy in Bangkok. We found it eventually, but not after taking several wrong turns through the torrential rain. When we got there, we hadn’t even filled out most of our forms and we needed them to finish our work on the 15th floor of the Glass Haus. But since my mom’s phone had died, and it could give us the Internet we needed to fillnout the forms on the iPad via bluetooth. So, because of that, Eryn stood by one of the four elevators and used the outlet in the wall to charge my mother’s phone while the rest of us read off details from our passports. After about an hour, we were finally done and we went in to the waiting area and filled out some more forms before finally getting called up and getting our applications approved.

At least we can now go to India.

M.D. Madness

M.D. House was our home in Chiang Mai for three weeks. It had its good sides and bad sides. It had two pools, except it seemed like one was always dirty. There were also tadpoles in one and nasty chemicals in the other. They were both green except for when a ton of chlorine was dumped in. However, they were always a nice temperature and there was a place to jump off into the smaller of the two pools. The bigger pool got deep at one end and had a waterfall.

The breakfasts could have been better. We bought fruit to go with them after the first day, and the only two dishes we ever chose were French toast and toast and eggs. The orange juice was prepackaged in little plastic cups before it was poured into our glasses, but the coffee was good (if you like your coffee without cream, sugar, and scaldig hot. There was a creamer and sugar but it took too long to adjust the flavor to suit your personal taste). The rooms were spacious and we were never lacking in toilet paper, but the sheets were never cleaned. We could’ve gotten clean towels more often but sometimes we were home when the cleaning lady came by.

There are also annoying neighbors, but those come and go and we can only blame them for their problems, including yelling nasty things about Harry Styles and One Direction as a whole.

The people on the staff were amazing. They would always smile at us as we walked by and, after the first day, knew which two keys to give us as we walked by the front desk. This hostel was worth the money we paid (not very much) and it was in a great location, so, if a pool and clean sheets aren’t your top priority in a place to stay, I would recommend this place.

The Day of the Doi

Today was another- and our last- day in Thailand. After waking up at an hour too early to write about, we went up to Doi Suthep and watched the fog roll in and out. Ethan and I also bought some bananas deep-fried in batter. These were delicious, although it was hard to tell how delicious they actually were because we wolfed them down so fast while they were still burning hot.

We had our typical breakfast at Nature’s Way: one mango pancake each for Mom, Dad, and Ethan, a banana pancake for me, a pineapple shake for Dad and one for Ethan as well, a pineapple-banana shake for Mom, and a watermelon shake for me. We were almost persuaded to buy a flower chain from the little old lady who was selling them on that street as it smelled so good, but we didn’t. I’m not really sure why.

Back at M.D. House, we finished packing and crammed our four suitcases, four backpacks, four people, and one hat into the van of Mr. Sombat. I decided that a van that big- it holds ten people plus the driver- would be a good way to carry my friends and me around town. Not that I actually have nine friends who would want to do that, but it was a pretty cool van.

We went up to Doi Kham which has a huge white and gold statue of Buddha. We were told that we didn’t have to take off our shoes to go inside the wat, which seemed crazy. But, being obedient little children, we did as the monk suggested and went inside, pausing to look at the Poster of Horrors on the wall. It said something in Thai, but the pictures made it obvious: the little blue people were the victims of the big yellow people’s abuse. The little blue people were being sawed in half, pressed to death, burned, hanged, poisoned, forced to work and climb cacti naked, and other horrible things.

The monk was, thankfully, right and we didn’t end up looking like the stupid tourists. There was a Thai couple who seemed very Buddhist. They had their shoes on.

Once outside on the balcony, we could see all of Chiang Mai. (All of it, that is, except for the part that was blocked by the hill to the northeast.) We could see, just below us, the gardens we went to a while back, where we first saw Doi Kham from afar.

Mr. Sambot took us back to the airport and we had Dairy Queen there. That was a mistake because we found chocolate Magnum bars in ToGo, a little store by the waiting area. Not that we were starving. My Blizzard was excellent, and the sandwich with mysterious contents on the plane was pretty good too. I don’t think it was so good, though, that the flight attendant needed to wake us up for it. We went back to sleep, though, and soon enough we were in Bangkok. Ciao!

Rain, Rain, go away, come again some other Day.

Preferably when we aren’t there looking areopen air temples up on the hills surrounding our faithful city of Chiang Mai. The rain is good in Thailand, so it bearable.

If I was the rain, I would probably do the same thing that the rain did today, though, but still, why did it have to be on the one day that we went up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Doi Kom.

With rain up on Doi Kom, there are a lot of dogs just sitting underneath cars, but it was still so hot that there were then two good reasons to sit under a car; shade and shelter from the rain. After that, we got on a plane and went off to Bangkok to spend the night at a hotel before getting up early tomorrow morning to catch our flight into New Delhi.

Fun ‘n Games

Today was our last day in Chiang Mai, here is what we did:

 

Today we went out early to try to find Good Morning Chiang Mai again. We found it, and we ate breakfast there. After that, we walked to the park at the far corner of the inner city of Chiang Mai (remember it)? At the park, my father gave me 20 baht and I got us two mats so we would have something to sit on besides benches. My dad and I shared a mat and I took a nap, because we had had to get up early to get to Good Morning Chiang Mai. After I took a nap, I took my dad’s phone and did a couple of games of sudoku (perfectly) before moving over to Eryn’s mat and playing Train with her. Train is a word game where you have to say a word starting with the letter that your opponent’s word ended in, and the game always has to start with the word “train”. We did a couple (two) of rounds, the first one was one where it had to relate to Thailand, but that got to be too hard so we just skipped that rule, and Eryn won, I got second, and my mother got third. We played a second game that had to be animals, that was pretty hard as well, but we kept to the rules that time and I lost, my mother came in second, and Eryn won (again). After that, I returned the mats to their owners and off we went, away from the park, never to see it again.

And that is what happened in our last full day in Chiang Mai.

Good Morning Chiang Mai Cafe

We finally found it! We were in a totally wrong part of town when we looked for it last time, but Dad went to its website and we rode a tuk-tuk to Good Morning Chiang Mai Cafe. Well, not directly to it. We rode it to a wat and then walked around the corner to the “eclectic” cafe. The menu was pretty good and I got a tall stack of pineapple pancakes. They were called “Fruit Pancakes” but the only fruit besides pineapple was the watermelon that came with it. Dad had the fruit waffles and the yellow chicken curry, Ethan had the whole-wheat pancakes, Mom had the French toast, and each of us had a mocha, which was just a latte with a pseudonym.

We spent the time eating and looking at the three books in the cabinet by the beanbag I sat in. There were two modern hotel picture books and a book called An Idiot Abroad about a British guy sent by his two friends to go see the seven wonders of the ancient world. Dad does not have a very high opinion of it.

We visited the park in the corner of the old city, and there Ethan and I played hearts and sudoku on our parents’ phones. I also got frustrated with some stupid cannibalistic ants. Our steed home was yet another tuk-tuk, which we rode in only after Dad and the driver haggled over the price.

I’ve decided to let you in on a little secret: we’re going to Boutique della Pasta for supper. Ciao!

Boredom Buster

I do not know anyone named Buster, but today was filled with boredom. After going to a wat early this morning, we went to breakfast at- yet again- Nature’s Way. I had a latte with chocolate syrup and a banana pancake smothered with chocolate syrup. After that very healthful breakfast, we returned to M.D. House and sat around for the next three hours doing nothing. Okay, we read. But that was it.

Ethan and I were going to go down to the computer room, but our parents had other plans: we needed to go to UPS to mail a package and to the market to buy fruit. On our way to UPS, we stopped at the Thai airlines building and Mom, Ethan, and I got to relax in the air-conditioned room while Dad took care of our flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

Once on our way again, we took a left turn and walked down the outer edge of the square part of Chiang Mai to find UPS. Well, we took a wrong turn. We finally discovered this and had to walk back and beyond, going almost to the corner. After buying a box and paying for the shipping, we lost an extremely large amount of money for two reasons: one, we were shipping finished school books home and, two, I sent away my foreign currency that I don’t need on this trip such as colones, pesos, and pounds.

We went back out into the scorching sun and walked around the corner of the city and all the way to the market, where Mom bought mango and pineapple. Ethan and I both got shakes: he got a pineapple shake and I got a mango-banana shake. Never again. Ever!

Once we got home, we did our schoolwork and went on the computers in the computer room. After a short visit there, we retreated to our parents’ room and looked at places to stay in Greece. Don’t worry! I won’t be a spoiler and tell you where we’re going! My dad can do that for me on the itinerary page. Ethan and Mom also finished their game of War. She won.

Supper was, for the third time, at Aum. We have plenty of memories there: playing the guitar (and fighting over it), Dad eating the spoonful of what looked like avocado but was really wasabi [horseradish] that came with our avocado maki (sushi with vegetables instead of meat. Aum is a strictly vegetarian restaurant), playing with the Barbie and trying to make her hair look less greasy, trying to figure out what the yak-like animal under “N” on the alphabet-board was, and discussing what a hard time the people are having at work without Dad. Would you like me to explain the alphabet-board? Well, we dubbed it the Periodic Table of the Elephants. It shows the Thai alphabet and our alphabet, and for each letter is a picture. For example, under the letter B is a bird with a ball and a boyfriend bird. It is named for the elephant under “E” because Ethan asked if it was the Periodic Table of the Elements. I responded, “No. It’s the Periodic Table of the Elephants.” Some of the other ones were not so obvious, but we decided that, yes, it is a xow underneath “X” with 1.5 bottoms.

We got Magnums at the 7-Eleven after discovering that the lady who did our laundry couldn’t find one of my socks. We didn’t get Magnums because of that, mind you, but because we hadn’t had ice cream all day (!) and desperately needed to. I find it amusing how at home a pack of gum costs about $1 and here it costs about $33.33 cents. Ethan wanted to spend his pocket change on things beside just ice cream but we had a record of 1:40 to beat on our way back. Guess what? We didn’t. But we did finish the easiest e-crossword puzzle on the website that I found with 30%. We got all the words/letters right (it tells you), but I kept guessing on the letters which lost us the 70%. With my parents’ help, though, I finally finished it. I absolutely hate to say this, but… I could have never done it without you. Ciao!

Smoothies!

Today, in the afternoon, we went to the fruit market. There was more than fruit, though, there were fish, clothing and vegetebles. Eryn and I crossed the street and found that there were fruit smoothies as well. For only 20 Thai Baht, I could get a pineapple smoothie which I did. For 40 Thai Baht, Eryn got a banana and mango smoothie. They were really good, and they were so good that Eryn and I were still drinking them half an hour later.

The fish there varied a lot, there were fish dead, fish alive, and fish fried. We didn’t get any, but we saw a lot. And they smelled a lot too.

Buatong Bash by Boon

Buatong Waterfall was our destination today, and after an hour on the road, we finally made it.

Buatong is named after one of the king of Lanna’s daughters. He and his wife were killed and only his daughters Buakaew and Buatong escaped with their lives. Alas, they had no water in the jungle, so they prayed to one of their goddesses for help. The spring came out of the ground and the girls were saved.

The water contains calcium carbonate which has turned leaves, roots, and other things there into smooth rock. Well, not completely smooth. If you’re climbing up or down the waterfall, you’ll notice that the places where the flow is weak are the slippery parts. (Those parts are also green, brown, or black.) There are three levels, and at the bottom of the third one are two shallow pools (one is made for you to jump into. The other is probably too shallow). The top level is by far the longest. From the spring, there is a deep little stream that turns into the falls. After centuries of flow, there are turns around trees that are perfect little chairs.

The second and third falls are much the same, and for the best part you can, like Ethan and I did, climb all the way up to the top in the falls instead of on the trail. If you want to walk 150 meters, you can see the crystal-clear spring. Besides the waterfall, there is a bathroom (Europeans/Americans be warned: these are not Western toilets) and two places to buy necessary food staples such as fried chicken, papaya salad, and ice cream.

We drove back to Chiang Mai in Mr. Boon’s car. He has been of the utmost help to us and we thanked him greatly. Ciao!

Mista Boon

Today we got up early (again) to go on a ride with Mr. Boon to the Boatong Waterfall. Once there, we changed into our swimsuits and took off down the steps to one of the lower levels in the warm-ish water. But, since you don’t know what in the world I am talking about, I will describe the waterfall:

The waterfall is made up of four levels, level 1, level 2, level 3, and one that I made up…….Kind of. The top level (1) is the one that you first see when you drive up to park, it is made of limestone and it is surprisingly not slippery. The next level down (2) is about 80 meters down the hill and you take steps to go down to it. There, there are some ankle-deep pools that you can wade in and you can climb the waterfall up to the first level or go down to the third. On the third level down, there is a tall and steep face of the waterfall, but it is still easy to go down, and there are some more ankle-deep pools below it. The level that I made up was the one at the very bottom and it had some deep-ish pools that you could jump into if you decided you wanted to go down some more rocks (or steps, the steps go all the way down).

What we did was skip level 1 because there were a lot of people there, but we stopped at level 2. While at level 2, we climbed up a little and then went down the other side, then waded in the litlle pools before Eryn and I went down the waterfall to level 3 (our parents took the stairs). At level three, I climbed the face a couple of times, and in between, some college age girls wanted their picture with me for some reason. Then we went down to the level that I made up and saw a family jumping in of the edge of a ledge and into a deeper part. I decided to do that and it was a bit colder than in the shallower area. Then Eryn joined me and we both jumped in half a dozen+ times into the water. We (being my father, Eryn, and I) decided that it would be fun to go up, actually, Eryn and I decided, but my dad just followed us. We climbed up steep limestone walls and through shallow pools before reaching the top, where Eryn scraped her toes and started to bleed.

When we arrived at the top, we found my mother sitting there with all of our stuff and we put on our flip-flops and walked up some more stairs to the spring of the stream that created the waterfall. The spring was crystal clear and there were little fish in it. There were also buckets attached to bamboo poles that you could dip into the water and pour on each others heads. We tried out the dippers, and as it turns out, a quart sized amount of water can seem really heavy at the end of a piece of grass.

When we got back to the parking lot area, we saw that a lot more people had come, so we decided to grab ice cream and leave.

Bonjour

Recording Life

Today Ethan and I finally beat our parents to the breakfast table. We were down at 7:43 am with the intent to pleasantly surprise them (“them” in this case being Mom). After some cajoling, our twosome became four at around 8:19. At church we visited the English Sabbath school and listened to the service and sermon,which was all about what women shoulwe wear according to the Bible, Ellen White, and the speaker herself.

Potluck was the high point, what with one of the boys turning two, and there were noodles, spring rolls, and chocolate cake. Three people from our Sabbath school talked with us about our trip, and we discussed their travels as well. One man had been to India, Australia, Burma, Thailand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Laos, Pakistan, Great Britain, Italy… the list goes on.

Once home, we read: I on my Kindle and Ethan 360 Degrees Longitude. We finally went down to the pool and disrupted the sunbathers’ orderly afternoon. We timed ourselves and I can hold my breath for a pathetic 31 seconds and Ethan a mere 24. I can also do an underwater handstand for only eleven seconds. Once dry, we were dismissed to run to the 7-Eleven for four Magnum bars. It took us 6:44 minutes total, and we were out with the melting and cracking for an astoundingly long time of 2:19. We enjoyed that chocolate as well as our panna cotta at Boutique della Pasta after our potato and olive pizzas. Ciao!

Jump, Splash, Scream

That is what happened when Eryn and I jumped into the little pool from the jacuzzi above when it was surrounded by college-aged girls who screamed and had to redo their makeup. It was very entertaining…….

We swam for only 20 minutes, but in that time, we scared away some girls, had races, and timed the time we could stay underwater. I noticed that one of the girls was reading Catching Fire and had an iPhone 4 or 4s. I think she put away her book as soon as we started jumping, but weirdly, she took out her iPhone and started doing something on it. Maybe texting her boyfriend, if she has one.

For the races, we put our legs into the lotus position and then proceeded to see who could go from one end of the pool to the other and back (while staying in the lotus position) the fastest. I won the race, but when we continued on to a breath holding contest, I only got 23 seconds while she got 29. Too bad.

The last time that we had swam in that pool, we had noticed that there had been a lot of water bugs and tadpoles due to unchlorinated water. This time, however, when we swam we saw almost no tadpoles, and the one that we saw was very much dead. It was very good to know that we wouldn’t have to be worried at swallowing a live tadpole, but then again, we had to be worried about swallowing a dead tadpole…….Yuk.

Good Morning Chiang Mai

Today we woke up early at about 7:00 am to get out the door at 7:30 am to get to a restraunt called Good Morning Chiang Mai, which is a little bit south of the M.D. House. We walked for a while, then when we, according to TripAdvisor, were supposed to be there, we weren’t….

So we walked a little ways down the street, still couldn’t find it, and then just decided to go to a cafe with internet that was right next to us. When we got done with the food (which wasn’t very good) we watched the original Hawaii Five-O on the screen in the cafe before heading back to the M.D. House, but not before looking for the Good Morning Chiang Mai which we never found. And that was how we got to be annoyed at how TripAdvisor is always wrong on its maps.

The Search for the Perfect Cafe Take 2

Mom found the perfect place for breakfast this morning: Good Morning Chiang Mai.

 

Except… it wasn’t there. After spending a trillion hours looking for it, we finally settled on some cheap coffee shop playing So You Think You Can Dance. Their waffle maker wasn’t working, the pancakes were bland, and the fried rice was too onion-y. Ethan said that his mocha was good!

We returned home and did nothing except dip in the pool (we didn’t swim or dunk because it smelled strongly of lethal chemicals) until four. We got up and left for the Central Airport Plaza, where we found Ethan some lightweight shoes, got some chocolate ice cream at Swensen’s (Sticky Chewy Chocolate Fantasy for Mom and me, Chocolate Crunch for Dad, and an waffle bowl of some sort for Ethan), and had pad Thai noodles for supper. Ethan also got a pineapple shake afterward (we all tried some- so good!) and we all rode home in a little songtow. Ciao!

Conversational Monk

Yes, we went to another temple today. Actully, we just went up to Doi Suthep to see the veiw and just hang around in the outer courtyard. After an interesting ride made up of 2 different songtows, we finally got up to the top on empty stomachs, which is probably the right thing, considering that we skipped breakfast in the morning, we walked up the great multitude of stairs to get to the outer courtyard that had a bunch of bells and large gongs (about 6 feet in diameter for one of the larger ones).

After walking around a little ways, we were looking at the veiw that wasn’t that much of a veiw, and a monk approached us, and with his somewhat limited English, began to tell us that he had come from an island in the south and showed us a map (in English!) of the island on which he lived. He also asked how old Eryn and I were and we replied in turn. It was a very interesting conversation because some of us thought that he was trying to get us to buy a tour boat service around the island that he lived on, but who knows??
Still, though, it was an interesting conversation.

Sunshiny Days

Our father decided that we should get up at the awful time of 6:40 am to be able to leave our hostel at 7:30 for Doi Suthep, the wat up on the hill. After climbing 618 steps and watching Ethan slowly eat a cup of hot corn (and discovering that the waffle man doesn’t get to his shop before 9:30 am), we climbed back in our songtow and headed down the hill.

Once we returned to Chiang Mai and had breakfast yet again at Nature’s Way, we did homework, ate Magnum bars, and played Temple Run until about 3 o’clock. That was when we left for Mom and Dad’s foot massages (Ethan decided not to at the last minute) and my manicure (purple and gold!). Ethan sat on the couch for the whole hour and enjoyed the sticky rice candies. Each massage cost US$5 for one hour, and my manicure cost US$5 as well.

We returned to our rooms, took our doxy, and left at around approximately 6:44 pm for supper, which we had at Ourhouse, the restaurant  associated with the Ourhouse 3 guest house. The little girl of one of the servers, who was wearing a pink dress with Minnie Mouse on the front and Mickey Mouse on the back, was trying to be helpful. She achieved this by taking Ethan’s empty Fanta bottle and napkin off our table, which was only a few inches shorter than her.

It had been roasting hot all day, and as we left the restaurant, the rain started to fall. We had heard the thunder, seen the lightning, and felt the sudden chill, but we didn’t know when it was going to rain. We left in the nick of time. Ciao!

Open Casket Burial at Sea

Yes, I know that we aren’t at sea, but there was a water burial today, and it was my hair……….So sad. Since Eryn and my mother were gone at a cooking class most of the day, my father took it into his hands to cut my hair. Since we didn’t have scissors and  I didn’t want a buzz cut, he used his hair trimmer to cut my hair, and he cut it very short. When he was done, there was so much hair that we couldn’t just wash it down the drain in the shower, we had to give it the finest burial that we could have in a bathroom. Not that many choices there, are there? Sadly, we didn’t have a goldfish to go with it. When I finally looked at myself in the mirror, I saw how short he had cut it and swore to myself that I would wear a hat for the next month.

As it turns out, I didn’t, we went to one of those ever present 7-11s and got me some hair gel. Then we got ice cream. It was very good and we relished every last bite of it.

For dinner we went to Boutique della Pasta and we had a Caprese, two Bruschettas, pine nut and raisin ravioli, ravioli with greens, and ravioli with ricotta with walnut. Last, (but definately not the least) we had a dessert of chocolate Panna Cotta. It was very good.

“Our Food is Guaranteed to Make You Look Pregnant”

That’s what the wall at the Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre says. (Not that I would know. I never saw the sign in person. I just saw it on the camera.) The Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre is where Mom and I went today for seven-and-a-half hours, from nine o’clock to four-thirty.

We were picked up at approximately 9:01 this morning. We were the first of nine in our songtow and were followed by three British guys and a group of four with a couple from Malaysia and a couple from China. After a few minutes at the Centre eating sugared dried bananas, we got back in our songtow and rode to the market on the other side of the river. After our “guide,” Aum, showed us how to make coconut cream, which chilies are spiciest, and more, we had ten minutes to look around as she bought our groceries. I bought a pink Thai cupcake for five baht. Mom and I ate some of it (I didn’t like it very much) and saved the rest for Ethan and Dad.

Our ten minutes were up and we joined the rest of our group at the table with our baskets. We each got to carry some groceries out to the songtow. Upon our return to the Centre, we split into groups according to what noodle/rice we were making (the rice and noodles were pre-made). I was making the thick Thai rice noodles, so I joined a group with Tae and some others. (Tae is kind of important, but I’ll tell why in a few lines.) We cooked our egg, chicken, noodles, and herbs and ate the delicious dish. After we made that, we made and deep-fried our spring rolls (but we couldn’t have the peanut dipping sauce too spicy because we have a kid in our group [me]) and went to work on our green curry paste. This we added to our green curry, which included chilies (with the seeds taken out), chicken, eggplants (mini, of course), and some herbs.

Do you want to hear about Tae now? She’s from Wales and left her job for two-and-a-half months with her boyfriend Richard (who was also at the Centre). The reason she’s important is because she and I cooked the exact same things except for the dessert.

Before we could eat that, though, we had to make our stir-fried dish. I had chosen sweet and sour (my favorite!). That made, we joined the others in the air-conditioned room and savored the curry and stir-fry. The curry was amazing (mostly because there were hardly any spices in it), but the sweet and sour was kind of tasteless. We only had four pieces of pineapple to put in the stir-fry, but all four were very, very, very good.

We had an hour-long rest from eating, and then we made our desserts. Only three of us had chosen to make the fried banana with vanilla ice cream (the ice cream was pre-made). The other options were black rice pudding and sticky rice with mango. I tried my mom’s sticky rice with mango and found the rice’s sauce too salty for my taste. My banana and ice cream, on the other hand, was to die for. So was my panna cotta at supper tonight at Botique della Pasta. Ethan and I had it last time we were there, so we knew just what dessert to get. Ciao!

Hot and Dangerous

That would be the sun. Today it was more than that: it was a skin-burning, egg-frying, ice cream-melting, sweat-inducing, kid-blinding, plant-withering ball of fiery fire. How do we know? We spent two hours in the light of the very same star you just read about. Where were we? We were at the Ratchapruek Royal Gardens, about 10K southwest of M.D. House.

It was apparently funded by government agencies and large companies like Toyota and AirAsia. Some of the buildings were more interesting than others, like the Groundwater building. Ethan took the time to pump all six water pumps in the front as we watched in the blessed shade. After that, we walked a bit farther to a little pond with a pagoda. Ethan and I were supposed to go to the pagoda and smile for the camera. I’m not really sure if we did that. All we really did was scare the hundreds of little fishies and make the water boil. On our way back to the main walkway, we saw a boot in a different pond. I’m still of the opinion that there is a body attached to it.

After drifting through the orchid section, we found the playground. It is hardly worth mentioning, but I will say this: there was a whale slide.

After [too] much more drifting, we found ourselves at the entrance buying deliciously cold water in .6 liter bottles. Those finished, we walked up to the monument for the king and looked at the walls, which show of his love for his subjects.

Our alotted time over, we climbed back in our song tao and rode off into the sunset. 🙂 Ciao!

All Flora and no Fauna

Today we went to the Ratchaphreuk Royal Gardens and walked around for a ways, there was an orchid farm in it and it had a maze-like collection of paths that connected the sides and the back. As far as I could see, there were very few orchids, but there were lots of plants. When I heard from my mother that Eryn was in the back, I went there immediately and tried sneaking up on her but the fountain was motion activated so she knew that I was there before I even knew where she was. Then Eryn and I hung out in the back and interested ourselves with looking at the sign that said “Do not Inhale” and it was in front of a flower. I didn’t inhale. We sat back there until our parents came to the back an finished looking at the orchids.

There was also a couple of small ponds that had so many fish in them. There was a pagoda out on the biggest pond and fish stayed right underneath it so when they came out you could almost reach down and grab one, there were so many. I would have, but they are fast fish, instead, I got myself wet. Eryn also humored herself by taking off her flip flop and waving it right over the fish so the all ran in different directions. In one of the smaller ones, there was a pipe going through it and on that pipe there were a lot of snails the size of my fist. There was also a boot floating upside down and Eryn seriously wondered whether it was connected to a person, I said ‘no’.

The Royals

  • Bhumibol Adulyadej- His Majesty’s full name is Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatbophit” (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช มหิตลาธิเบศรรามาธิบดี จักรีนฤบดินทร สยามินทราธิราช บรมนาถบพิตร). He is called Rama the Ninth  as he is the ninth in his line, and his job is called “Ruler of the Country.”
    There are three books about His Majesty: The King Never Smiles, The Devil’s Discus, and The Revolutionary King. All three are written in English; The Devil’s Discus is written in Thai as well. All three are also banned in Thailand, as well as The King and I.  However, in 1985, the king and queen went to see The King and I on Broadway.
    He was born in 1927 Cambridge, Massachusetts, and  is the only American king. (He has dual-citizenship.)
    If you come to Thailand, do not dare to write His Majesty’s name in red ink. Writing someone’s name in red means that they are dead or that you wish them to be dead.
    HM is also an excellent saxophone player and has played with some of the world’s best jazz musicians. 
  •  Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya- Rajakanya is the oldest child of the king of Thailand. She has a younger brother and two sisters who are even younger than him. She has two daughters and had an autistic son, who died at 21 in a tsunami in 2004.
    She was born on April 5, 1951, in Switzerland. When she was sixteen, she and her father competed in the fourth SEA Games and won gold medals in sailing. Her parents nicknamed her La Poupée, which means “doll.” Eventually, it was shortened to Pée.
    The princess was born with the titles of “Her Royal Highness” and “Chao Fa,” but these she relinquished because she married an American commoner. She still holds the style of Tunkramom Ying, meaning “Daughter to the Queen Regent.”
    Her father is sadly getting older and will soon no longer reign. There is hot debate about who will follow him: will it be the princess, who everyone likes because she helps the Thai people, or will it be the prince, who would continue the tradition by becoming Rama X and who would get angry if his sister got the title but who the people think doesn’t deserve it? Ponder deeply.

    Ciao!

     

Water and Mist make you WET!

Today we went on a drive with Mr. Dew, a coworker of Mr. Boon and went to a waterfall, at the waterfall, it was all misty because there was so much water coming down, which meant that it was a little bit hard to take a picture because the mist kept coming and getting on your lens……How wet. At the waterfall, there were several different lookout places going up the hill to the waterfall’s top. Eryn and I went up the path to get to the top of the waterfall, but as it turns out, (after we had walked through lots of mud and gone uphill a lot) there wasn’t much of a view because there were so many trees and the rangers had blocked off the “slippery route” that went to the edge of the waterfall. Still, though, I got a couple of good pictures. Also, in the lower parking lot, there were several ice cream stands and Eryn and I got chocolate while my mother had the [last] magnum chocolate bar. Sadly, though, when Eryn and I were almost done with our chocolate cones, we saw (to our disappointment) that the bottom was filled with strawberry jelly, not chocolate. Still, though, it was okay.

What Wat??

Today was not a busy day, and we sat around and had naps for a big chunk of the day. In the morning, we had gone to Nature’s Way (again) and we sat around and had the same things as last time; mango and banana pancakes. An hour after we finished breakfast, we headed down the road for two Wats. One of the Wats was really big and had an old temple with elephant statues on the side of it and the other had a large temple building inside and was pretty big…..In the afternoon, Eryn and I swam in the deeper of the two pools and had a lot of fun, less fun, perhaps, when Eryn accidentally  made a big scratch on my back. For supper we went to back to the place where we had met the Oregonian family and didn’t see them but dined anyway.

Market Day

Today was hot. Okay, compared to, say, what we’ll experience in India, it was not hot. But to our inexperienced selves, it was very hot. And we decided to walk (walk??? in summer in Thailand??? who does that???) to Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. Once we were done at Wat Phra Singh, much to our relief, Ethan got us a tuk-tuk and we rode home.

Once at home, we lounged around for a bit after getting more Magnum bars and sandwich cookies (including blueberry ice cream Oreos) from the 7-Eleven. We finally went swimming in the wonderfully cool pool. Once we got tired of that, we dried off, organized (i.e., deleted) more pictures, retrieved our clothes from the laundromat, and went in search of supper.

We didn’t find it at first. We were going to try Botique della Pasta again, but we passed it at 6:05, and it opens at 6:30. What a bummer. So we decided to try street food at the Sunday night market. All we ate in the “food court” section was a fried banana with a sugary sauce. It was good, but not very filling.

We looked around the market, and it didn’t seem that different from the Jatujak market, which was in Bangkok. Well, there was more variety in Bangkok. The Sunday night market in Chiang Mai is just a street that goes from wall to wall. It is lined with people selling their trinkets, baubles, and food and is filled with tourists, Thais, and musicians trying to earn a few baht. We bought two lamps (one for Ethan, one for me) and tried out our bargaining skills. We ended up with both lamps- originally 160 baht each, but we got a “discount” so it was 150 apiece- at 280 baht total (about US$3.70). After we walked up and down the street several times and looked at several restaurants, we decided on Aroon Rai, where we’ve gone before. (Mr. Boon recommended it.)

The food was good, as usual, and afterward we went to “Bird’s” (you want the real name? Fine. It was Bud’s.) With almost no chocolate left, we had limited choices. Well, there were only ten flavors in the first place, and only a few of those had chocolate (we can “only” eat ice cream with chocolate!). Mom had one scoop of rocky road, Ethan had one scoop each of rocky road and cookies and cream, Dad had one scoop each of rocky road and mocha almond, and I had a scoop of peanut butter (there was chocolate in that. Just a very small amount). It was very, very, very good (and it was cold, too. That made it even better!). Ciao!

To the Zoo!!!

Today we went to the zoo in the early afternoon and stayed for about two hours. It was fun to feed the giraffes pieces of banana straight from your/my hand. We were going to go to the so-called “snow dome” but it turned out to be just an opportunity to get your picture taken in 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit next to a styrofoam snow man……Not exactly the best thing to do, even if it was only eighteen dollars for the four of us. Anyway, we also saw an elephant that had its tusks curled together so that it couldn’t skewer people in the passing buses that sometimes stopped there. The zoo also seemed so proud of the fact that it had some pandas, and it even had a gift shop that had some panda-dung notepads. We saw a couple of different varieties of big cats, including tigers, white tigers, lions, leapords, and panthers, and for the leapord, for twenty baht, I fed it a piece of beef on a stick.

The Search for the Perfect Café

This morning, other than breakfast and updating the pictures on this site, we did… nothing!!! We were going to go to church, but the English service started at 9 am. This we discovered at 11. Eventually, we left with a certain destination in mind. To get there we had to ride in a songtow, which is a red “bus” that works like a taxi but has multiple stops with each load, as different people want to go different places. These are usually red with green padding on the benches and walls of the truck, but there are also yellow songtow. We call these “yellow red buses.” The lining of our songtow was pink.

Chiang Mai Zoo is what the sign says. But it is more than that. It is also a place to buy ice cream, land of the [lame] Snow Dome (-7 degrees Celsius, but it’s only really a photo oppurtunity), and the place to feed big cats (leopards, jaguars, pumas) and hand-feed giraffes. AND it is the only location of the Loo Café (I misread “Zoo” on the cursive sign).

After a very refreshing swim with Louisa (remember her? She’s the one who likes One Direction.), my family members chose the Free Bird Café for supper. It was being renovated. So we walked some more and found a [really good] Indian restaurant. The garlic naan is to die for!!!

Now I’m sitting next to Mom as she gets a foot massage. She says, “It’s wonderful… I could do this every [week].” Hmm. For US$5, I bet you could (and would) do it too! Ciao!

R&R

After an extremely good breakfast at Nature’s Way consisting of mango pancakes, banana pancakes, dragon fruit, Thai iced tea, and shakes, we did pretty much nothing the rest of the day. Well, nothing other than school and sorting pictures and reading. At around 2 pm, we finally got ourselves moving: Ethan and I went swimming for half an hour. I also got frustrated with some tiny ants for not caring about when we submerged the others (we didn’t let any die, though!). Then we decided we needed Magnum ice cream bars like we had yesterday. So Ethan and I got to go by ourselves (!) to the 7-Eleven a couple yards down the street. We got three chocolate truffle bars and one chocolate ice cream cone, which was for Ethan.

For supper we went to a suggested restaurant: Aum. It had a very small downstairs and a fair-sized loft. We ate in the loft, where you could recline on chairs and play with the toys in the toy basket, including…. BARBIE!!! 🙂 Well, all we really did with her was do her greasy hair. Who knew synthetic hair could be greasy???

Our meal was good. We had deep-fried soybean leaves in tempura, red curry, spring rolls, green beans in a spicy sauce, brown rice, sweet and sour vegetables, and deep-fried tofu. To drink, I had a frothy pineapple lassi, which seemed the same as a pineapple smoothie. Apparently it’s made with yogurt, but I detected no difference. Ethan had apple Fanta, which he said tasted like Listerine mouthwash. Dad had a pineapple-lemon shake, and Mom had a banana-orange smoothie. For dessert, Dad and I went to the 7-Eleven and bought four types of cookies for 40 baht (about US$1.34): double-chocolate Cream-Os (Oreo wannabes), vanilla-chocolate Cream-Os, and strawberry and blueberry cookies, both by Dewberry. So far, the blueberry cookies have been the worst. Ciao!

Chiang Mai has Delicious Ice Cream

Today we went nowhere. How fun…….Actually, it was fun, because we got to do what we wanted to do and nothing was scheduled so we just sat around in the air conditioning reading books and sorting pictures on the computer. The highlight of my day (and probably Eryn’s too) was swimming in the pool. The water was a little cold and we had to dunk a couple of times before we were warmed up enough to swim around. We had a couple of races and breath holding contests before we “discovered” a new stroke and I call it the squid stroke. It is where you are going back-first underwater and you just kick, and you don’t use your arms. Also, when I came back from using the bathroom, Eryn was giving a lecture to some ants that were walking across the filter in search of food; she was blocking one off to prove that they didn’t care about one another and all they cared about was getting food back to their home. As it turns out, she was right, and when she barricaded an ant off from the rest and it was stuck, no other ant came out to help it. When we got out of the pool, we read a little bit before going across the street to an ever-present 7-11 and bought ice cream for us all. It was really good. I got a chocolate cone, and the rest of my family had a Chocolate Truffle Magnum Bar. When we got back, my dad was editing pictures from the wax museum, and some of the pictures were of Eryn with “Justin Beiber.” Oolala……not.

Splish Splash goes the Elephant

Today we went to an elephant training camp and rode elephants for some of the day, here are some of the things that we did,

Getting There, A pickup truck picked us up at our place and we got to ride up to the mountain tops with my family, a couple from Canada, some french people, and two young women from England. It was a very bumpy ride once we had gotten off of the paved road and it was mostly dirt. Sometimes, though, there were strips of concrete that you could drive on that were very narrow. When we finally got there, we saw a bunch of elephants and their trainers working on some projects. We had to follow all of the elephants up a mountain trail and across the same stream three times to get up to the base camp where there were some tables and bathrooms.

Training, Before we started anything, they gave us clothes to change into so that we did not get any of our clothes that we had on sopping wet. The clothes were just an itchy shirt and some itchy pants, it was all very itchy. When we were all changed, we started our training. We had to learn about the elephants and their basic commands, it was very interesting, and I do not really remember anything except for that saying “by” makes the elephants go forward. We also learned how to get onto our elephants that we were going to ride.

Riding in a Loop, When we started out, we rode two to an elephant and rode in a small loop that lasted about 30 minutes. My dad and I were at the front of the line of elephants and the guy that was leading tossed back a bunch of bananas that we could feed to our elephant that we were riding. Our elephant was a mother of a 6 month old calf, and the calf stayed up with us the whole ride, and the guide gave it some pieces of sugar cane. While we were riding around in the loop through some marshy grasslands, it started to rain and we were glad when we finally got back to the “camp” to eat lunch.

Lunch, When we got back from the short ride of about 30 minutes, we found lunch prepared for us at one of the tables under a roof. Lunch consisted of noodles wrapped in banana leaves and spring rolls that you got to make yourself. That was all pretty good and we all ate a good amount, when we got done, we started out on another elephant ride up to a waterfall.

The Waterfall, When we finished lunch and the other group had come back, we got back onto our elephants and started up the hill to the waterfall, which formed a pool that stayed in place because bags of soil made a small wall. At the waterfall, there was a young elephant that was trained to spray people with water from its trunk and we all got wet from that. Also, you could pose with an elephant or get “kissed” by one and then you would have an interesting picture. You could also scrub the elephant with brushes that were up there or you could splash other people with water from buckets. On the way back to the camp, we rode on a different path that went uphill a lot but still down hill a lot. When we got to camp, we changed out of our wet clothes and back into our dry ones so that we did not smell like elephant on the ride back down the mountain.

Going back DOWN, The ride back down was a bit more slippery because it had rained and the road was all slick, but we did not crash, which was very good. Once we got back onto paved roads, our driver took us to a place that sold ice cream and we all got some. When we finally got back to our home at the M.D. House, we started on “real” work…….

Evening Fun, In the late afternoon and evening, Eryn and I swam in the other pool and found a pair of sunglasses and tried to jump in and come up with the sunglasses still in place. When we finished, we went upstairs like obedient little children and started our schoolwork. For supper, we went to a place that Mr. Boon had recommended us to go to and right on the table next to us, there was a family from Portland……WOW!!! My mother chatted with them for a little while before Eryn my dad and I joined her and we talked a little about our trip and the fact that they are away from home for 6 weeks. Their family consisted of a 6 year old girl named Sadi, a 13 year old girl named Summer, a dad named Jim, and a mom named Brook. On our way back home to the M.D. House, we stopped and an ice cream shop and got some more ice cream to take back to the M.D. The ice cream was really good and I think that we all enjoyed it. Anyway…..When we got back, Eryn and I finished up on homework and read a little bit out of our books.

Dumbo

The Disney elephant certainly had big ears, and, compared to the size of his body, they were humongous. But he probably grew into them. Our elephants today at Ran Tong Elephant Training had huge ears. True, they were all full-grown, but, true, they weren’t blue animations.

After a long drive up a road that makes our gravel road at home seem like a newly-paved freeway, we arrived at the camp. Since we were the first group to arrive, the elephants and the cook and all the mahouts were there to meet us. We walked for about five minutes, giving us time to think about what we were about to do and who we were with.

First there were the two college-aged British girls. One especially (Lizzie, I think) was outgoing and laughing. The other girl was quiet around the other eight of us until the ride home. Maybe it was because the oldest two in the group- my parents- were in the cab of the pick-up, but maybe not. Then there was the Canadian couple. They spoke both French and English fluently, which is good because they’re going to university in Ottawa and I overheard them say that the university classes are taught mainly in French. She is a med school student who will graduate in 2014 (there was a sign on her backpack). The French couple was probably relieved to find more French-speakers on the trek, but they could speak English just fine.

We finally arrived at the Ran Tong camp. The Canadian couple, Ethan, our guide, and I were the first to arrive (everyone else was behind the mom and baby elephants). We were given our mahout clothes and told to change. Because Ethan and I are so small, we had red shirts and everyone else had pink striped shirts. The rope on the shorts went around me twice and dragged a couple inches on the ground.

We sat at the picnic table under the first shelter and listened to our guide explain the instructions for an elephant. “Sie” is left, “qua” is right, “how” is stop, “toi” is back, and “bie” is forward. We then practiced on the one male elephant they had and then boarded our own. Everyone had to ride with someone else except the two Canadians. Luckies.

Ethan and I were the drivers on our elephants, and Dad was Ethan’s passenger and Mom was mine. Our elephant was always begging for bananas (which we had). We were at the end and Dad and Ethan were one of the two elephants at the front. The four elephants in the back were so slow because we all got stuck behind the biggest elephant.

After a short ride, we went to the second shelter for lunch: pineapple, noodles, and make-your-own spring rolls. The second group had arrived by then and went on the elephants for the short ½ hour introductory ride. By the time we finished lunch, a third group (that was thankfully only hiking, not riding) had arrived and the second group had started their lunch. We got on the elephants for a second time, this time going to a waterfall. Mom and I rode a 22-year-old elephant named Mesvah (or something close to that).  Once at the waterfall, two elephants were left behind as the others went to go bring the second group. We were supposed to wash them, but Mom, Dad, and I weren’t too keen on the getting wet part. We did go in the water for the pictures, though. There were certainly a lot of those. We also got sprayed by the elephant, which is why one side of me was soaked and the other side was hardly wet. (I was facing away from the elephant so I wouldn’t get water in my eyes.)

After the elephants finally returned with their human loads, we got on- this time I was with Dad- and rode back to camp on the path that went up and down the side of the hill instead of along the stream. My passenger was groaning the whole time, and it was uncomfortable too.

As he put it, “It’s like riding a piece of plywood with a three-inch bump in the middle.” That’s because he rode on the actual back, not at the neck like I did. It started raining once we were about half way through, and, combined with the waterfall water, we were soaked by the time we returned to the camp. We changed into our own clothes and walked to the truck. There we saw the cook. She had slipped in the mud from the rain and her whole back was covered in mud. And her shirt was white.

The rain had also done wonders to the road. Well, not really. It seemed the same as before just with slightly deeper puddles. I was on the end of the bench that was at the edge of the bed, so I could “almost” fall out (but only if I tried). My parents were smart enough to grab a ride in the air-conditioned cab. As we drove down the road that consisted of two one-foot-wide lines of concrete (washed away in places by the torrential rains), we peered behind us at the slick road that was really only red mud. Oh, yes, and the concrete!

We stopped at a little roadside store for drinks, but only Lizzie bought a drink (a can of Coca-Cola). However, all of us bought either a Magnum chocolate cone or ice cream bar- “made with real Belgian chocolate!” They were so good. There a can of seaweed Pringles was bought, and those of us in the bed of the truck shared the chips on the way to Chiang Mai. They just tasted like regular Pringles instead of some “special” flavor.

We dropped of the two Brits first, and then came the M.D. House. We were the only ones who got out, but it was good to be home, sweet home, at last. Ciao!

Tigers!!!!!

Today, we went on a tour with Mr. Boon and got to see a couple of things, here is the list: we went to Wat Umong, Doi Suthep, the Orchid Farm, and the Tiger place.

Mr. Boon picked us up at our place and took us to the following things, waiting for us at each place:

Wat Umong: Wat Umong is a temple up on the hills surrounding Chiang Mai, it has a tunnel system that runs underneath some bricks, where there are bowls and multiple statues of Buddha. It also has a lake where you can buy food and feed it to the pigeons or the fish, sounds kind of anti-temple, doesn’t it? Then we went to Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep: Doi Suthep is a temple on another hill that is built on the place where a white elephant died. The legend tells it that a king ordered that wherever the elephant died, a temple had to be built, and so, there was a temple, and there was a hermit there named Suthep, so someone named the temple Doi Suthep, after that hermit. It took about 100 steps of vendors and 200 of steep stairs (300 total) to get to the top of the hill where the temple is situated (there was also a tram, but we didn’t use that). Once on the top, you can either go up a little bit further to the inner part of the temple or walk around the outer bit, we chose the former. Inside the top part, there is a golden dome that people walk around saying prayers. There are a couple of Buddhas with five heads, and a green-colored stone that was made into a Buddha. There was also a little stone wall that was covered in coins. There were two buildings on opposite sides of the inner courts that both had a bunch of Buddhas and some elephant tusks. After we saw all of that, we went down to the outer courts and explored a little bit there. There are two big drums laying on their sides in carts, also, there are a lot of different bells. Then there is a statue in commemeration to the white elephant that “founded” the temple. Then we began our grueling descent back down the mountainside. When we got down about three quarters of the way, we came across a man selling waffles, so we bought a few. There were waffle sandwiches with chocolate inside, and a banana fried that was wrapped in waffle. My dad ordered some corn across the way. Then we went to the Orchid Farm.

Orchid Farm: At the orchid farm, the first part of it is a butterfly enclosure with lots of different types of butterfly. After that, we went out of the other door of the enclosure and entered the “real” orchid farm. In that part, there were lots of different colors of orchids, red, purple, blue, orange, pink, and a lot more that I don’t care to list. In the gift shop, there were some necklaces that were made out of real butterflies and orchids, they had been dipped in some sort of glaze and then rimmed with gold. Then we went to the Tiger place.

The Tiger place: At the tiger place, there were 3 different kinds of tigers that we got to see and touch, large (full grown), small (“teenagers”), and smallest (cubs.) Eryn and I were only allowed to see the small and smallest ones, too bad. I liked the small ones the best (maybe they just reminded me of me when I fight my sister, but who knows???) because the were more fun to be around since the littlest ones who didn’t do much at all. Later, when we were having snacks of ice cream and pineapple juice, we saw a man playing with the full grown tigers, making them chase some pieces of dried grass. Eventually, one of them got it and sat there, in the little pond, chewing on it while the rest of them chased a “flying” coconut. Then we went back to our place.

Our place: When we got back to our place, Eryn and I swam in the pool before going inside and working on schoolwork. Boring…….Yawn. Anyway, when we got done sorting some of our pictures and doing most of our schoolwork, we all went to the Italian place right down the road from the M.D. House (our place.) For supper, we had pasta and ice cream. YUM!!

Tomorrow: Tomorrow, we are going to an elephant place by a bumpy pick up truck ride. We have to get up at around 6:30 AM to be downstairs and waiting to be picked up somewhere in between 8:00 and 8:30, and somewhere in there, we have to squeeze in breakfast. Now that is going to be soooo much fun.

Happy Fourth!

Today was spent with our friend Mr. Boon, who had driven us home from the train station on Monday and was familiar (in detail) with Chiang Mai. We had him drive us around to various places, and he was also a very valuable source of information about a lot of things, ranging from King Rama IX to Thai schools to street food.

The places we went to today were as follows:

  1. Wat Umong- the tunnel temple. We were slightly dissapointed, I think, because on Trip Advisor it said that there were plenty of temples, it was interesting, etc. There was a fish pond, too, and apparently it is a good investment to buy fish and pigeon feed and sell it to visitors at the wat. There were two Thai ladies there who had dozens of pigeons around them.
    We were also growled and fauxtacked by the stray mutts there. There must be at least twenty of those creatures there.
  2. Doi Suthep- There are 309 stairs to get to the wat at the top. That, OR you can take the tram. Obviously we walked. On our way down we stopped at the waffle shop, and Ethan and I got waffle-and-chocolate sandwiches and Mom got a wafflized banana. (A banana wrapped in waffle.)
  3. Orchid and butterfly farm- One of the most beautiful places in the world. First we went in the butterfly section, where Mom, Ethan, and I got some amazing pictures. Drifting on into the orchid part, we found the best and most colorful blooms placed at the ends of the long aisles, but there were some pretty ones in the actual aisles, too. The most interesting part? The orchids aren’t in pots; they’re just hung from a hook once they get to a certain size/age.
  4. Tiger Kingdom- I’ll admit it now: I was scared going into it. I was thinking, They’ll bite. Of course they’ll bite. I’ve seen Animal Planet enough. They stress that, despite what it seems, animals like tigers are still wild animals and can still act viciously.
    Which they (kind of) did. Just not to me, or anyone, for that matter. Just to their playmates.
    We couldn’t go in and see the newborns in the nursery because it was off-limits to visitors, and Ethan and I couldn’t get in the cage with the big cats because we’re under 15 and less that 160 centimeters tall. But Mom and Dad survived.
    We did get to cuddle with the 3-4-month-olds and laugh at the 5-7-month-olds’ antics. That wasn’t even the best part- we got to see three (and, sometimes, all four) of the big tigers play after we had our ice cream and pineapple drinks. They destroyed all the toys that got in their reach, though.
  5. M.D. House- Where we swam. It only rained for about three minutes total today.
  6. Boutique della Pasta- An Italian restaurant for supper. We all shared the appetizers: caprese and bruschetta. I had pumpkin-carrot ravioli, my dad had cheese ravioli, Ethan had an orange sauce with his pasta, and my mom had a pesto sauce with hers. We all had dessert. Ethan and I had a sort of chocolate pudding (Panna Cotta), Mom had tiramisu, and Dad had, I think, a scoop of chocolate ice cream. That was when we heard the fireworks, reminding us to celebrate our country’s independence from Britain.
    We asked the lady who worked there what the fireworks were for, and she said some sort of festival. Mr. Boon had explained that tonight all those who wanted went the 15K up the hill to Doi Suthep. It was a traditional Buddhist Chiang Mai celebration of sorts.
    Still, I’m sticking with it: some Americans set those fireworks off knowing today was the fourth of July.

 Ciao!

When in Chiang Mai

So, we arrived in Chiang Mai last Sunday and have found our place of residence; the B.D. House in the inner city.

Our accommodations are situated right inside the moat that surrounds the old city. It is a fairly large place with two pools, but it has only a small breakfast menu. We are in the second building, on floor 3, and we are one of the few people on our floor.

Let me fill you in on what happened since I left you in Bangkok:

  • We got to the train station around 4:30 PM on Sunday after we had gone to 3 different malls in the center of town. On the train ride, we had first class seats (did I say seats, I meant bunks) that were in adjoining compartments. On the train ride, we had supper, which was good, and breakfast was pretty sparse, the only part that most of us ate was the toast with butter. It was a bumpy night, but most of us slept all right, but still, we were all tired in the morning.
    When we got to Chiang Mai, we went to our place by a taxi man (who had a long Thai name, so he called himself “Mr. Boon” and said that Daniel was his brother) and went to the park at the corner of the old town after a time where we just sat on a couch for a while. Then we tried to go to an Italian resturaunt, but found out that it was closed, so we went to a place a little ways down the street from our place that served good food, and both Eryn and my mother commented on how great the iced tea was.

Today:

  • Today, when we went down to breakfast, Eryn, my mother, and I all got “french toast” which was little more than glorified toast.Then we went to the Airport Plaza Mall and went around the food court, eating coconut ice cream and fried bananas. When we came “home” Eryn and I swam, and met a 13-year-old girl from Brazil named Louisa. When we got out of the pool, we went upstairs and got our schoolwork done, before going out to supper in a tuk-tuk. It took us about an hour to get there, because our driver didn’t know where in the world (Chiang Mai, that is) our resturaunt. The food there was o.k. But it wasn’t my style. It was a curry soup that you got to put your own condements on, such as cabbages, challots, fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, lime, pepper paste, and banana slices. As it turns out, when we got a tuk-tuk to go back, it only took us about 5 minutes to get back.

Tomorrow, we are going to go on a ride with Mr. Boon and go to tourist places. Then, on Thursday, we are going to the elephant farm. And that is as far as we have planned ahead.

Our 2 days in Chiang Mai have been very nice and interesting ones, and we hope to have many more.

Taking M.D. House by Storm!

We finally arrived at M.D. House around 9:30 yesterday morning. There we spent about five hours sleeping, rehydrating, reading, and eating (Jelly Bellies, of course!). We soon decided that we had done nothing for long enough, and we set out to find the Buak Haad City Park, which is about as far away from M.D. House as you can get while staying in the old city (it was the original Chiang Mai. Funny thing: Chiang Mai means “new city.”).

The old city (built in 1296 by King Mengrai) is almost a perfect square. It is surrounded by a moat and walls that were built to protect it from Burma, which was a constant threat to the Thais who lived there. Chiang Mai was Chiang Rai’s successor as capital of the Lanna Kingdom. It was also another replacement- the replacement of the old city called Wiang Nopburi, which was once a bustling city on the same land as Chiang Mai is today. The walls are ever-shrinking because of erosion and people.

The park itself was full of teenaged Thai couples just out of school (It seems like Thai kids go to school every day of the year, even now, in July, and on Saturdays and Sundays.) and male pigeons trying to get a girl. Ethan took the oppurtunity to ride the swings that were chairs (they had backs), and the rest of us just sat and soaked up the shade. Ah, what a life! And then our stomachs growled.

We had had next to nothing to eat the whole day, just some water, juice, hot chocolate, and two slices of bread for breakfast on the train. Oh, and a handful of Jelly Bellies. Can’t get much better than that!

So we returned to our hostel and found the perfect place for supper: Boutique della Pasta. Yes, it is Italian. Well, we never tried it. After we finally found it on the alley we had passed ten minutes earlier, we discovered it was closed. But we kept going, knowing there were more Thai restaurants nearby. We finally found it, a place with a name that we can’t remember, where we found young coconut curry, spring rolls, mango curry, glass noodles, banana curry, and the best iced tea I have ever had. (I don’t usually have iced tea.) It seemed like it was sweetened with honey, but it just had condensed milk and sugar in it. It was mostly ice in the cup, yes, but ohsogood.

After the bill had been paid, we returned home and swam in the less green of the two pools. The waterfall had sadly been turned off, and the water seemed almost frigid, but we got numb and got used to it.

This morning we ate a meager breakfast and planned our two weeks here. Our plan for today had originally included the Dok Mai Garden, but it got shortened to just the Central Airport Plaza. Now that’s a plaza. (Haha. It’s a mall.) We only did the first floor and the below-ground floor. There’s a Northern Village section of each floor with handicraft items from some of the villages here in northern Thailand. On the food court floor (below-ground), there was a HUGE Thai food section, and we enjoyed two sticks from Banana Grill and coconut ice cream in a coconut. The sticks had three flattened slices of banana that were grilled and dipped in a delicious sauce. The coconut ice cream was just coconut ice cream, except for it was topped with nuts and it was in a coconut with real coconut shavings in it. Yum!

While swimming after all that hard shopping, we met a Brazilian girl named Louisa. She’s (obviously) staying at our hostel, speaks a good English (especially as a second language), and is thirteen. She likes One Direction too! And pink! And she helped me attack Ethan. She tickled his feet as I flipped him over in the pool.

Supper was at the suggestion of our renters, the Hernandezes: Just Khao Soi. When we finally got there after a few wrong turns in our tuk-tuk, it teaches you how to eat northern Thailand’s dish that binds “oil-splattered mechanics” and “polished secretaries” together. It’s very interesting- you have a bowl of soup with noodles in it and seven food items you can use to fine-tune the soup to your taste. The options were coconut milk (for texture), sugar (for sweetness) , cabbage, shallot (for “tanginess”), peppers (for spiciness), lime (called lemon here), and fish sauce. The vegetarian soup came with soy sauce instead of fish sauce (for saltiness). It was very, very good. Now I’m writing from the Computer Room here at our hostel. It’s getting late. Ciao!

Teeter-Totter Train

Last night was, quite literally, a bumpy night.

When we got on the train to Chiang Mai, we were expecting- well, I don’t know what we were expecting. I don’t even know what I was expecting. However, I have one-word descriptions on several different points:

Funny- The lady selling the Lays and Pringles was going up and down the hall saying, “Sheeps, sheeps.” (She meant “chips,” but she had a very strong accent.)

Overwhelming- At least, this is how I see the man who took our meal orders and served us. He was also our alarm clock, and as soon as we unlocked our doors this morning he was there with breakfast.

Gross- Most of breakfast. We all drank the juice and had the two slices of toast, but I think I was the only one who ate beyond that. I had a few bites of the slimy fried egg and the piece of carrot.

Tasty- Supper could be described this way. We ordered ours without the duck and pork and were, I think, pleasantly surprised. For the main course three of us had the sweet-and-sour chicken and vegetables (which consisted mainly of baby corn and onion). Ethan had the chicken with macadamia nuts. His curry was red, unlike ours, which was whitish with chicken and onions. We all had the same soup, and three small slices of pineapple were our desserts.

Umm…- Okay, this isn’t exactly an adequate description of the fruit plate we bought, but it’s accurate. There were apples, huge grapes, and three or four other types of fruit that I can’t rightly name.

Loud- That would be the train.

Bumpy- Also the train.

Ciao!

Certainly Saying “So Long” to the City

As the miles of rails pass by, we get to think about what we did in Bangkok, especially what we did today: we hit three malls in the time frame of less than six hours. Obviously we didn’t hit every stall and shop, but we went to the important things: Cream and Fudge Factory (for the best ice cream since Friday) and Madame Tussauds wax museum. My experiences?

I got to cuddle up to Justin Bieber, have a friendly conversation with George Clooney, be Oprah Winfrey’s guest, take charge of the Oval Office as President and First Lady Obama looked on, moonwalk with Michael Jackson, backup dance for Madonna, get a hole-in-one with a jealous Tiger Woods watching, play Wii tennis with Serena Williams looking on in total awe, win four Oscars– dream come true, play paparazzi to an Asian celebrity nicknamed “Pancake,” be Bruce Lee’s replacement figure, yearn for One Direction figures (and be duly disappointed), pose with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the red carpet, show Picasso how to make a perfect painting (an eyebrow with an eye!), be taught by Beethoven, and take pictures of many, many more, including Princess Di, Buddha, Gandhi, King Rama IX and his wife, Beyonce, Nicole Kidman, and Will Smith.

Once we had fully appreciated the wonders of waxmanship, we found our way to the sky trains station and headed to Chong Nonsi. There we switched to the BRT and rode for seven stops down to Wat Pariwat. After one last look at the Star Estates @ Rama III building that was our home for a week and the temple that was our view for a week, we grabbed our luggage and hopped in a red taxi. It’s funny- we’ve been in Bangkok for about eight days and had had only one taxi ride. The taxi was green and yellow. The most common color is pink. And, nooo, of course we couldn’t ride in a pink one! If we had gotten to the curb with all our luggage a mere minute earlier, the pink taxi would’ve been ours. Instead, it was pulling away with a single tourist in the back. Sigh.
Ciao!

On a brighter note, we made it safely to the train station, got our postage stamps (for the postcards) and Trident gum from the 7-Eleven across the street, read our social studies books (Beware, Princess Elizabeth and Horrible Histories: The USA), and boarded our train. An hour later, we’ll still technically in Bangkok. It’ll take us thirteen more hours by rail to get to Chiang Mai, when it would have taken a mere hour-and-a-half by air. Ciao!