23 May 2009

Relaxing Saturday

While we were in the Bangkok Airways Lounge in Chiang Mai, I saw the advertisement to the left. It was for an exhibit being held at Thailand Creative & Design Center Gallery about the street food culture here. I knew we had to go!

So after sleeping in a bit, chatting with my brother on the phone, we got cleaned up and got lunch down the street from one of the vendors down the street. We then walked for a bit, hit up an internet cafe to use their printer, then headed to the Sukhumvit area to go see the exhibit. The gallery was housed in one of the large shopping complexes so after doing some window shopping we headed to the top floor, where there also happened to be a movie theater! Score! We bought ourselves tickets for Angels & Demons and then headed into the exhibit until the movie showing.

The exhibit was great, well thought out and very informative. And the movie was great too, they really did a good job translating the book to the screen. Nice to have that little since of home being far away. We did some shopping at the gallery's store (awesome awesome stuff!) Then it was off to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar since we got rained out last time and there was so much we didn't get to see.

The night bazaar was awesome, much more relaxed and clean than any of the other markets here. And while the vendors do try to sell, you don't feel like you are getting hollered out walking through the aisles. We got some great deals too, love it!

Then it was time for us to head home (as it was already like 10:30!) We grabbed dinner from our favorite Khao Kha Moo stall then made our way back to the condo. It was a great day!

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Ayutthya & Lop Buri

As most of you know I had a few goals for my Thailand trip:
1. Eat awesome food & as much fruit as I could get my hands on
2. Try durian
3. Visit a floating market
4. Shop at some of the bazaars and markets
5. Ride an elephant
6. See some temples
7. Visit the monkey temple

We had done everything on my list except going to the monkey temple, so while we were in Chiang Mai Suksri arranged a day trip to Ayutthya and Lop Buri so I could check it off my list. Suksri's friend, PT, came with us and even orchestrated a free ride for Charlton and I.

We rode the train up to Ayutthya first, the capital of Thailand before Bangkok. It was absolutely gorgeous there. We saw quite a few temples there and enjoyed the feel of the city a lot more than Chiang Mai (although Charlton was irked at all the admission fees). We grabbed some lunch at a place near the train station and then headed onto Lop Buri.

When we got to Lop Buri, we got bike rickshaws to drive us around the city so we could see the city. We headed to the museum, where PT and Suksri negiotiated our free admission after we threw a stink about having to pay to go in. The museum was very nice and we learned a lot about the area. After that we headed to the monkey temple. We were blocks away and we began to see monkeys on the street and up on the power lines. When we got to the temple it was CHAOS! There were monkeys everywhere! When Charlton went a few years ago it was free, and now they wanted to charge for us to go in, so we decided to view the monkeys from the lawn outside the temple. And that was enough for us! The monkeys got in a huge fight over some food and one jumped on another tourist. Can we say RABIES?! We all thought we made a wise choice not to go in. As soon as we got to the rickshaw it started to rain (can we say perfect timing?!) We then hopped back on the train to make our way back to Bangkok.

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Three Days in Chiang Mai

Day 1 - March of the Temples

Arrive in Chiang Mai after early morning flight from Bangkok. Get situated as soon a possible at our guest house, White House. Confirm that our guest house costs only $10.50 per night. Later discover the level of cleanliness that $10.50 gets you.

After, meander around the city strolling to temple to temple. There are so many temples so close together that it's difficult to keep track of them all. By the time 2 or 3pm we were both pretty tired from the hot Thailand sun. We both went back to our room to take a nice nap.

We then headed off to the night bazaar to look at an endless amount of handicrafts, counterfeit goods, and other junk. Going through the night bazaar is like going through a gauntlet. There are countless "hey hey mister, check this out", "you need this" etc...

After dealing with all that we made our way back to our room to get ready for...

Day 2 - Being a Tourist in a Tourist Trap

We both woke up this morning knowing we had an enjoyable task ahead of us. We had booked a prepackaged day tour with the following itinerary:

- Visit butterfly & orchid farm

Nice seeing all the orchids. We didn't see a single butterfly however. It must not be the season.

- Go trekking through the jungle and see hill tribes including the long neck and big ear hill tribes.

Interesting seeing the long neck tribe members. Although, every tribe we visited seemed a little bit of a show. In fact, one of the tribes we visited, one of their members was putting on their "outfit" right when we pulled up.

- Take a slow ride down the river.

Just like Huck Finn.

- Go whitewater rafting.

Kristen and I were both a bit nervous for this as we have never done it before and in fact, didn't even realize it was on the docket until we got there and was told we were going rafting. It was very fun however, and pretty exciting.

- Visit a waterfall.

Been there done that. Still had fun. It was great way to cool off after a hot day.

- Ride an elephant.

This was at the top of Kristen's to do list and I don't think it disappointed. We ended up riding on a mother elephant. Meanwhile, her baby was walking next to us the whole way. It ended up being interesting watching the baby. He was fairly young, and quite clumsy, so there were a few times that the mother had to run over to pick the baby up and get him moving again. It's a bit touristy but the elephants aren't treated too differently than horses at a race track. So in a way that's just the way it is and another box to check off the list.

To finish the day we got dinner with one of our future MBA classmates who is volunteering out in Chiang Mai. It was good to see a familiar face halfway across the world. So all in all a pretty fun day.

Day 3 - To the Top of the Mountain and a Return to (Somewhat) Normalcy

This post is getting long and just like day three in Chiang Mai it has to be wrapped up. The day was spent negotiating for a ride up to see the Doi Suthep Temple. We ended up sharing a truck with two Argentinians and a Columbia who were all very nice. Doi Suthep was beautiful and a great way to cap off the Chiang Mai trip.

After, we came back down and got some more Khao Soi (tasty noodles) and did some shopping. We then walked back to our hotel and made our way back to Bangkok.

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Last We Left Off...

Last time we wrote down anything of significance was the day before we left for Chiang Mai. It's now Saturday and time to do a recap of events.

On Monday we met with my cousin Komm, to go see the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Po. However, before we left we went to get lunch. Our lunch was at a "Khao Mon Gai" restaurant. Khao Mon Gai or Boiled Greasy Chicken. The food was delicious but that was to be expected since the restaurant had been around for many years and was featured in an article in one of Bangkok's newspapers, "The Nation". So basically what the chicken boiled down to was that the meal was very delicious.

Next, Komm was nice enough to drive us to the Grand Palace. When we go there, we were greeted with a series of three surprises:

- You have to be dressed very conservatively. Shorts not allowed, nor bare shoulders. This meant that I had to rent purple pants and Kristen had to borrow a big silk sarong. However, it was about 95 degrees outside. So more clothes, less fun.

- Admission is 350 baht for foreigners. This is amazingly expensive. Much more than the daily earnings of a Thai person. Every time I come back to Thailand, every temple charges more admission fees at a higher rate. It's actually a bit frustrating being nickel and dimed at every little temple you set your foot in.

- The Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple are beautiful as always. In addition the high admission fee seems to keep the Temple in a better condition than it had been.

Afterward, we went to Wat Po, which has the reclining Buddha as well as a traditional Thai massage. My Mom, Kristen and I all got massages. It was a one hour massage for $10 per person. A great deal for a fantastic massage. In a way it made up for the 50 baht admission fee to the temple.

We then went home relaxed after a long day with much site seeing. It was a touristy day but a fun day.

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