Chiang Mai – Bangkok – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 23

112615

We slept in a bit and left at 11AM. We grabbed a tuktuk and went straight to the airport. The line to check in luggage was long but luckily we found the 3 small kiosks and checked in skipping that line only to headed upstairs for security check line which apparently was 3 separate lines that combine into one which took forever. We got through and then made it our gate with plenty of time to spare. This time we flew Airasia and it was about an hour and 10 minute flight but took longer to get the bus shuttle out and then the line up for taxi cabs – NOTE: goto Gate 8 and grab a taxi there! metered taxi is cheaper than the stalls you see up front right out of the arrivals. They were going to charge us 800baht plus we would have to wait 30-hour for a cab to get to our hostel. We lined up at gate 8 and the cab ride wasn’t too bad considering it was rush hour and the hostel was in the downtown core so 40-45 minutes away.

NOTE: if you take the highway, there are tolls you pay immediately (70baht then 50 baht) then on top of the actual metered fee is 50baht for the driver so our final ride was 420baht. We ended up getting to the hostel by 430PM. We are staying at  D Hostel103 Bunsiri Rd, San Chao Pho Sua, Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand. We got upgraded sort of to a 6 person dorm as they didn’t have a 4 person mixed dorm available. We asked about volleyball and alas there was nothing! I guess the moment when Adam and myself peppered on the beach in Koh Samui counted as our playing volleyball in Thailand. D Hostel has concrete interiors and very clean. It is however hot in there though. No elevator and we are on the top floor – 404. Because it’s a mixed dorm style, the rooms are clean and have 3 sets of bunkbeds and nothing more (besides a little ledge, reading lamp and a little cubby to store your phone at night with an outlet. Outside your door are lockers where you can lock up your things. Each floor either has a men’s or women’s bathroom and the second floor has laundry. There is a common room where breakfast is served and there is a movie room. Unfortunately Andrew was leaving for his 5AM flight and was leaving around 1130PM to catch a cab to the train station and take the train from there to the airport.

Our friend Emily (who joined us for Hanoi/Ha Long Bay earlier) had mentioned this one place we had to goto for phad thai in town called Thip Samai313-315 ถนนมหาไชย แขวงสำราญราษฎร์, กรุงเทพมหานคร 10200 – iMaha Chai Road – It is always busy and has a line outside so you know that it is good. They are known for their phad thai omelet – 90baht and they make it so quickly. The kitchen is open concept and on the sidewalk so you can watch them throw egg into a wok and make a thin layer then throw the phad thai into the egg and fold it then plate it. We grabbed ours to go. The orange juice here seems fake but the fresh stuff is made with their oranges which are more like clementines so the colour is like Hi-C. We walked a bit to find somewhere to eat as the restaurant was overflowing. We sat down to eat at King Rama III Memorial – Phra Nakhon, จังหวัด กรุงเทพมหานคร – While we sat down and ate our delicious meal, they were setting up christmas lights everywhere and all of a sudden they turned on and it looked spectacular.

We walked Soi Damnoen Klang Tai past the Democracy Monument and somehow ended up on a street similar nearby Khao San Road that was quieter but we were on the lookout for massage places. We ended up choosing Smooth Massage 1145 Soi Ram Buttri – 250baht – 1 hour thai massage. It was heavenly. I have a high threshold for pain and the man that worked on me just went full out. I know he was complimenting me on looking all sporty before we went in but then I think I surprised him by how flexible I am. He found all the knots and a thai massage felt more so like visiting a chiropractor than an actually massage which I like much better. At one point, he was even stepping on me and he even found the really tight knots at the base of my neck and tried to get them for me. He even cracked my neck for me. At one point I was lucid but could’ve fallen asleep even with the pain that felt so good.

We walked over to the famous Khao San Road – Tons of bars and restaurants and food and clothing vendors – Very touristy. I bought a Adidas tank top for 150baht and a McDonalds cone for 9baht. We walked home from there and Andrew went wandering for a bit before coming back for a quick shower and out he went to catch a cab to the train station then train to the airport.

Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 22

112515

It’s one of the biggest days of the year here in Chiang Mai – Loy Krathong!

A little history – Yee Peng (local name) is part of the festival of lights in Northern Thailand to show respect to Buddha. It’s date usually coincides with Loi Krathong which all of Thailand celebrates using floating lights on water. In Northern Thailand Yi Peng, which is celebrated alongside Loi Krathong, is different in that lights are placed into sky lanterns which float up into the air. Loi Krathong still happens in Chiang Mai but the actual Loi Krathong floating lanterns on water event happens the day/night after Yi Peng. as the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar corresponds to the second month in the traditional calendar of the old northern Lanna kingdom. The festival features beautifully illuminated lanterns, which are either carried, displayed in houses and temples, and even launched into the night sky. Krathong which are an offering – traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money – are floated down the rivers. The Khom Loy, also known as Khom Fai, is a cylinder of paper about one meter high, braced with wire circles. Suspended from the bottom of the cylinder is a tray containing cotton soaked in kerosene. Fireworks and firecrackers are also often attached to the tray. These catch fire and explode after the balloon is launched. Once the cotton is lit it takes about a minute for the air inside the cylinder to heat up enough to lift the balloon into the air. It is believed that launching one of these balloons can send a person’s bad luck and misfortune away into the air, especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out. Often people will say a short prayer before launching the balloon. Sometimes they will also place their address in the balloon, or write it on the outside. Anyone who later finds the balloon can then claim money from the sender. In this way the good fortune is shared.

We witness the pre-2 day festivities with loy krathong floating lanterns yesterday but it wasn’t massive. Near the US Consulate on the Ping River is where majority of it happens.

Sing Prasert GymBamrunburi – for a muay thai class – 400baht for 2 hour session. Taught by Kru Yoi who has over 30+ years experience and is 66 years old. We showed up and immediately he made us skip rope for 10 minutes. A couple from France joined us – Marion and Stan but only Stan took part. From there, he wrapped our hands and then did some quick stretches with us then broke it all down for us on the moves. You need to be relaxed and loose and unlike boxing, keep your hands high and up. My shoulders were to stiff and I kept trying to use then for all my jabs when it should be hips as your power source. No bouncing in boxing or volleyball. Left punch, right punch, upper cut, elbows, high knee, push – long kick, twist with elbow attack. It was a very intense 2 hours and he does this twice a day.

We came back to shower and figure out the rest of the day. I had to go back to the mall for my VAT refund for my camera but Andrew didn’t want to come but Adam & Amy wanted cheap eats there. We decided to meet back at the hostel for 5PM and figure out from there the evening plans. Adam, Amy and myself walked to the mall and the sun was more intense than yesterday and also it was noon-1PM. We got there and immediately went down to the northern village food court. I grabbed a khao soi – 45 baht and a lemon lime tea – 35baht. The Khao soi was hot and hits the back of your throat but it was so good. I went back to Photobug and got my forms for the VAT refund within 10 minutes then back home in a tuktuk as Adam and Amy got hit by food coma and wanted to nap. By this time, it was about 230-3PM? So they took a nap and I went exploring on my own through little streets. I went east towards a cafe called Clay Studio Coffee in the garden that I read about before which is literally a cafe in a garden with statues and broken statues covering the premises. I grabbed a thai ice latte – 65 baht – tasty but really only there for the atmosphere. From there, I continued my wandering down random streets which would eventually lead me to the east wall and continue to the south wall that would bring me back to the hostel. There are already floats in the water and the people are prepping for the nights festivities.

The parade started at 7PM and the paper lanterns weren’t suppose to be launched until around 9PM but of course people launch them anytime they want. They send some into the sky during the day as well and attached sparklers or firecrackers to them. We opted for smaller roads and made our way east to the night bazaar. Coming to the east wall, we saw the start of the parade but it hadn’t started just yet. Amy was getting “hangry” so she pushed towards finding food and not stick around for the parade. We continued east past the gate to the river and night bazaar and came to stalls that were all facing inward against the street as there is still active traffic but there weren’t really any stalls for food there so we went into the Anusan night market where there were established restaurants but considering we have been eating at the local food market stalls where food is 30-60baht seeing lowest of 120baht for the same food we ate for half the price detoured us. We ended up eating at Roadside something and I ate the chicken pad thai for 60baht – it was ok but the cheaper ones I’ve had were much better and service was much faster. We finished our meals and followed the crowd towards the river. We walked up Charon Prathet Rd and followed the people and sounds. Little stages and stalls were set up for beauty pageants, food and games with people making and selling the floating lanterns. It was very congested as motorbikes, cars, and people took over the street simultaneously trying to go north. One crossroad that was packed was Charon Prathet Rd and Loi Kroh Rd. We continued straight and all of a sudden passing that street we looked up to see a sky full of lanterns gracefully floating away – so surreal.

We eventually made it to the epicentre of Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang where massive amounts of lanterns were being lit and released but so much light pollution to get a true effect. Mae Jo University is apparently the BIG BIG place to release but that one you need to purchase a ticket in advanced and I think it is sold at $100USD for that experience. We watched and wanted to purchase lanterns ourselves. The best deal is 3 lanterns for 100baht. Don’t buy for 50 or 100baht! If you buy further from the site, much cheaper. We went looking for lanterns and the ones within that vicinity were selling for 100baht each and illegally as police were present stopping hawkers. We walked further down back to Loi Kroh Rd where we found a guy selling them on the side of the alley where we bargained and got 4 for 40baht each. We walked east through an alley. There were food stalls and even a spot for carnie games set up. We made it to the bridge where some were releasing it but it wasn’t anything special. Underneath the bridge, people had gotten down and were releasing their floating lanterns. We crossed that bridge and went back north (tons of cheap food stalls and floating lanterns on sale here) on Chiang Mai – Lamphun Rd toward Thanon Charon Mueang and we situated ourselves at the beginning of the bridge. I was the first to go and pretty much you open it up and either holding the top end open and lighting the cotton/wax circle you flip it over and wait for the air to inflate it and is ready for take-off. The lanterns send off bad luck and you can make wishes on them as they float into the sky. It was so cool to actually release one myself and watching them float away is amazing. The next to do it was Adam then Andrew then Amy. But be warned, wait for it to truly fill up with air or they will come back down or float away really slowly and beware of falling wax!

We watched for a bit there before making our way across the Thanon Charon Mueang bridge towards Tha Phae Gate. So many police cars trying to get through which cleared a path for us to follow but man I felt bad for the motorbikes stuck in the swarm of people. Also note, don’t try to release your lantern too close to trees or wires are they will get stuck and may catch on fire. I at some point grabbed a red horse beer (not cold so not enjoyable) from a really busy 7-11 and then also grabbed a banana rotee – 25baht. We decided that it would be a better option to walk home especially in all this traffic so we continued south on Mun Mueang Rd which is the east wall and walked down the south wall back to our hostel. Definitely an experience I would recommend people to do.

Koh Samui – Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 19

112215

Flying Bangkok Airways to Chiang Mai this morning. We woke up and had our final breakfast at the villa before they transported us back to the airport. It was an experience to be in Koh Samui but I don’t think I’ll come back. It’s #1 income is tourism and it’s so touristy that they just bring you in, you take a tour and then you’re done and on to the next. Sandalwood is beautiful and all but the fact that it is on top of a giant hill and the only way down is to either get shuttled down or taxi, it limited us to exploring on our own timeline. They offer free shuttles to either Lamai or Chaweng areas starting at 11AM and last returning at 5PM or you pay 400baht. I would recommend if anyone were to come here is to stay at maybe a nice luxurious villa that is beachside and close to the Central Festival mall because it’s close to everything including food and the night market experience and of course the beach.

We said our goodbyes to Sew and Mr. Chai (our driver) and got through check in at the kiosk no problem at the airport but it was a long walk outside to get to our gate. It looks like a outdoor mall in the airport before getting to the security portion then it’s just fans going off. Once again, Bangkok Airways offers free beverages and light snacks as you wait to board. 2 hours to fly to Chiang Mai from Koh Samui.

Landed and got a taxi from the airport for 10 minutes (160baht) to our hostel Green Tulip Hostel (Mueang Chiang Mai District). We didn’t know they only accept cash so we all had to go exchange more USD/CAD. We had to walk about 10 minutes to Siam TV – second floor and exchange there. But before we left the hostel, we booked a cooking class so we had to pay for that as well. The cooking class was 800 baht. And we divided up the cost of the hostel and paid 3300 baht for both cooking class and hostel. After putting aside cash for the elephant tour, I was running low of baht and money to convert. I packed roughly $900USD for the entire trip but didn’t expect all these tours to pop up (as we prepaid & booked ahead for a few).

The hostel is owned by a Singaporean man but Stella and her family have been running it since day 1. Stella is intense but in a good way. Very nice, aggressive and informative. She wants to make sure you are having a good time and getting the best deals. Since arriving in Thailand, you can notice the culture shift – Koh Samui – more skin showing, tattoos. Chiang Mai – the hipster look and those earlobe hole earrings. The way they dress feels kind of like home.

We got 2 rooms – 1 with a double bed and 1 with 2 single beds which were adjoining rooms so we asked them to unlock those doors. The group took a nap before our cooking class as I explored the hostel. When you enter the main entrance, it is an open cafe style area with computers, pamphlets and whatnot available. You enter the back area to the rooms – no elevator but only 4 floors with its multi-colour walls and doors. We were in 202 & 203. There is a rooftop but the view isn’t so great which I guess is a good thing for privacy sake. I stayed up there for a while to attempt one last dry out session for my camera. I came back in to test it out and the smallest glimpse of life but nothing more, nothing less. Devastating. Shooting with my phone does nothing in comparison to my DLSR.

We got picked up in a Thai tuktuk which looks safer than a cambodian one. We booked Siam Rice – cooking class (800 baht for evening session) with May/Melody? as our teacher. We were joined by a mother-daughter duo from Ohio – Jenny & Allie (celebrating her 25th this week) and 3 from San Francisco who were here for a wedding and one who just recently moved here – Collin. We got driven to a food market to get familiar with ingredients then driven off to Siam Rice kitchen for us to cook. We got to choose what dishes we were making – soup, noodles, curry dish and either a thai dessert or a starry vegetable. I chose hot and sour soup, pad siew, jungle curry and pumpkin in coconut milk.

We all had our own little stations with the ingredients that we needed to prep. Once completed, we moved over to our own individual stove tops and May would walk each of us through our dishes as we would cooked them in the woks simultaneously squirting coconut milk in for the dishes that required it. All the food we made was so delicious. After completing and devouring our food, we had the tuktuk drop us all off at the Sunday night walking market (Rachadamnoen Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District) that spans a few blocks and goes in a cross shape. It’s more established and more difficult to bargain here. So crowded but tons of things to purchase and eat if you’re looking. 

Siem Reap – Cambodia – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 14

111715

Temples today. The hotel provided us with a take away breakfast which was amazing and full of protein (2 hard boiled eggs, toast, bananas, watermelon, dragon fruit). We found that the overnight attendants here in Asia end up setting up a tent or hammock so they can also sleep and be awaken if needed. 445AM pickup by Mr Dany and first stop was to purchase a 1 day pass for $20USD which also has your photo on it. We slightly beat the tourist buses in and then drove through and walked into Angkor Wat and positioned ourselves with majority on the left side by the pond so we can get the reflection as the sun started to rise. Even at 5AM, the air was thick and humidity was already picking up. The sunrise was pretty nice and we explored Angkor Wat until about 7-730AM? then met up with Mr Dany and he took us on our way to the next temple – Banteay Kdei. This was my favourite that we went through as it wasn’t too big but very intricate and beautiful patterns and designs etched into the stone walls. Phimeanakas has one main building that can’t be climbed but has a giant land which takes you to another section that has a huge catwalk to get to the main building that you can climb to the top. Ta Phrom has the overgrown trees that have taken over the temples which is quite beautiful but not for long when there are huge Korean and Chinese tour groups going through. Tomb raider was filmed in this area with Angelina Jolie. We ended up exiting from the other end and instead of just going back through, we decided to walk around the side which ended up being a long long journey in the heat to get to Mr Dany. NOTE- walk back through to get back to the front.

We all suffered a little bit of heat exhaustion and walking around temples at 11-noon is so difficult. Angkor Flower for lunch because of the aircon. I had the fried noodle with seafood and a Cambodian tea with milk. And finally Angkor Thom because we were all suffering from heat exhaustion, we were to walk over to the area near Angkor Thom to meet Mr Dany but there are  few temples in the surrounding area. Bayon was a beauty to be seen although we didn’t actually go into it as we were so exhausted. I really wish we had the energy to explore it. Those faces everywhere make it so picturesque and in my opinion is a much more photogenic place to explore than Angkor Wat. I really wish we had visited Bayon instead of Phimeanakas and Angkor Thom. It is outside Bayon that we saw this group of Korean tourists taking a group photo with a very stoic look by also with peace signs. This started an epidemic with my group for photos.

We all took a dip in the pool then Adam and Amy decided to nap and Andrew and myself found ourselves at Nice Cool for drinks – You just can’t beat a nice atmosphere with $.75USD giant drinks. Ice coffee with milk to go and of course the green tea with milk. We came back and Andrew joined them in a nap for 30 minutes before we had to get ready to leave for dinner. We chose Damnak Lounge Fine DiningRoad 6, Kruos Village at the Lotus Blanc Resort, It was a 4 course menu $25USD + tax.

Adam chose the degustation menu ($35 – 3 course) and we chose the Khmer tasting menu ($25 – 4 course). I got the Noam Makak to start – Makak fruit, dried smoked fish dried shrimps and roasted coconut with fish sauce. Followed by the Sailor Machu Teer – duck with lemongrass and marker leaf soup. For my main course, I got the Sach Ko Ang Dot Kul Slockkrey – grilled beef with lemon grass skewers with tomato, onion and garlic kalian. Then dessert was chek chhoeng – assorted fruits and banana glazed in palm sugar – similar to banana fosters. All very tasty and a little salty compared to all the meals we’ve had here.We got the Lotus Resort tuktuk to drive us home but he literally drove to the night market and we had to ask him to let us off so he didn’t go all the way in. NOTE: Tuktuks don’t know addresses but general areas so if you want to goto a specific area, they need a number of the place so they can call and confirm a location. $2USD for the ride home.