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Published: January 26th 2006
Sunset on Koh Maak
After watching this sunset, we got totally lost finding our way home (quite a feat on such a small island)
It's been a little over three weeks since Glenn and I stumbled out of Don Muang Airport at midnight, into the smoggy streets of Bangkok, and a lot has happened since then! But don't worry, I'm not going to try to give a full account of all our travels! Instead, I'll just pick out some of the highlights.
First week (Bangkok): Glenn and I used the time til Joel arrived mainly just to relax and explore Bangkok. Or, more honestly, to explore some of Bangkok's shopping centres. =P We ate a lot of very good and very cheap food, moved hostels a number of times to get an idea of Bangkok's different 'backpacker' neighbourhoods, saw a couple of movies (standing with everyone else for the Thai national anthem, played amongst the trailers for upcoming films), adapted fairly successfully to the Asian 'squat' style toilets, enjoyed a couple of Bangkok's cheesiest nightspots (such as 'Radio City', where the Thai Elvis belts out tune after tune every night), even went ten pin bowling!... In short, we were quite lazy indeed and by the time Joel arrived, we were ready for some adventure. =)
Second week (Chiang Mai): We barely gave Joel
time to suck in a breath of Bangkok's fabled smog (so bad that a lot of people wear surgical face masks to protect their lungs), before we caught the train north to Chiang Mai. It took 12 hours and I sat behind an American girl who seemed incapable of conducting a conversation without saying 'like' every three or four words - very annoying.
Chiang Mai was well worth it though! After getting our bearings and exploring the town a bit, we caved into the ubiquitous travel agents selling hill treks, and signed up for a two-day trek into the hills north of Chiang Mai. The trek included a night spent in one of the hill tribe villages and also took in an elephant ride, (my elephant took full advantage of my obvious inexperience by stopping to eat every few steps - by the time our mahout took over again, a small stretch of Chiang Mai forest lay decimated in our wake!), and the fun experience of poling a bamboo raft down mild river rapids for an hour or so, (while trying to teach 'Waltzing Matilda' to the two American girls on our raft).
However, thanks to some family
Note surgical face mask accessory
friends of Glenn, we were also taken in by two very generous brothers - Papa and Eh-Gui - who showed us another side to Chiang Mai and the surrounding area. We spent a day with their family in the north-east town of Wiang Pa Pao, dropped in on a friend's Lahu tribe wedding-feast (carefully timing our arrival so as to miss the ceremony - which we were assured was quite boring - but be there in time for the first course of the lavish feast!), bathed at the local hot springs after a sweaty game of soccer with their neighbours, visited beautiful waterfalls and Thailand's highest mountain peak, ate on a floating restaurant boat (the owner rows out to you to serve your order), learnt a little more Thai, and just had a lot of fun in general. Joel has written up a more detailed entry for this week, so those of you who are really keen can read more at Charming Chiang Mai
Third week (Koh Chang): After staying in Chiang Mai longer than we'd intended, due to the brothers' hospitality, we caught an overnight train, taxi, bus, song-kraew (a covered pick-up taxi) and then a ferry to finally
Waterfall on Doi Inthanon
(Thailand's highest mountain)
reach Koh Chang island, after a full day and night of travel. Our days in Koh Chang were a lazy mix of swimming on perfect beaches and trying to capture the glorious sunsets on photo (as you can see, I didn't have much success there), eating fresh seafood, riding motorbikes around the hilly roads while dodging song-kraews, swimming at waterfalls, and playing a bit of 'classic catches' on the beach (much to the annoyance of the other, generally elderly, tourists).
Towards the end of this week, Glenn had to return home to Perth, to attend a friend's wedding. It had been a lot of fun travelling with Glenn (aka the Chang-Shark), and Joel and I both missed his company as we caught the ferry on to Koh Maak (an even smaller island south-east of Koh Chang). The pace on this island was even more laidback (comatose might be a more accurate way of putting it) and after a few days of watching beautiful sunsets, getting lost on the winding inland trails, kayaking to nearby islands in the archipelago, and eating the best seafood I've ever tasted, we made our way back to Bangkok fully refreshed. Again, for a fuller
Beach near Bang Bao (Koh Chang)
Joel bargained long and hard for this 'authentic Thai' sombrero =P
treatment, see Joel's entry at An Island Paradise
And that's where we are right now. Tonight I will fly to Mumbai, and Joel will fly to London, (to meet up with some friends for another holiday before his studies in Vienna start!). My contacts from EFICOR (Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief) finally contacted me with details as to where I will be working, so after a few days in Mumbai (mainly to find a place to get my final rabies jab), I will get my first taste of India's famous rail system, as I make my way inland to the tiny town of Paratwada, (pretty much in the centre of India).
I leave Thailand even more enthusiastic about the prospect of coming back to study here in four months' time. I'm loving the incredibly friendly and genuine people (I'd say Thailand fully deserves its tourist title as the 'land of a thousand smiles'), the delicious and cheap food, the varied mix of beautiful beaches and lush rainforest,and the fact that I can actually afford to do things here, (as opposed to Europe, where the 'walk-everywhere-and-eat-supermarket-food-all-the-time' routine does start to wear thin after a while). =)
La dolce vita
Our bungalow in Bang Bao - we each paid $5 a night to stay here!
for today Vish, and Happy Australia Day to those of you from down under for tomorrow!
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