Home again, home again, jiggety jig

CURRENT LOCATION: Bangkok, Thailand

Sam:

We woke up back in Bangkok still fat and happy from our enormous ribs and sliders dinner from the night before. Another culinary treat awaited us. We had an in room fridge, so the night before we had gone to the supermarket and bought cereal and milk. We delighted in starting our day with frosties instead of eggs!

Back in Bangkok for our third long stay (actually our 6th time there), we were at a bit of a loss for what to do. We decided to tackle a nagging task first - changing our Myanmar Kyat to baht. We had 160,000 kyat ($160USD) leftover, which we intended to change to baht upon arrival to the airport in Bangkok. SURPRISE! It's illegal to change kyat outside of Myanmar!! So no legitimate currency exchange was interested... So we had to find a less-than-legitimate money changer. Naturally, we headed straight to Khao San Rd.

The other issue with the kyat is that if we can't change it in Thailand, neither can anyone else, so no one really wants it. After a mammoth public transport journey, including two sky trains and a ferry, we got off close to Khao San Rd. it wasn't long before we stumbled on a sign saying, "We buy anything". Sounds promising? If not a little creepy. We told a guy what we had, who spoke to a woman, who woke up another guy. He offered us 3000 baht, which is about $90 USD (that day's exchange rate had it listed at 4600 baht). We negotiated a bit, and got him up to 3200 baht, but he fairly pointed out that to change the money is a pain for him - he either has to find someone who wants to buy it (unlikely, since no one really goes there), or go to the border (5 or so hours drive away) to exchange it. He was nice enough, but we decided to continue on in search of a better deal.

The next "We buy everything" guy offered us 300 baht. We laughed in his face and left. The guy after that was from Myanmar, and was very keen, but had to speak to his wife on the phone, and she said no. After a few more failed attempts at black market currency exchange, we headed back to the first guy, bummed to have lost $70USD, but glad to be rid of our stupid kyat. We celebrated with a couple of beers, then grabbed some dinner and headed home.

The next day was very exciting for me, because I got a hair cut!!! Six months worth of split ends and three months worth of grey regrowth the was dealt to in the LONGEST hair cut of my life. It took three hours from walking in to walking out. Phew. Poor Zev spent the three hours quietly dying on the sofa, after I told him I'd be an hour and a half, tops. Is the hair cut amazing?  No. But it'll do, and I no longer have a two inch skunk stripe, so we're all winners here. Except Zev. But he's a trooper.

We spent the afternoon at the movies, seeing Poltergeist. It was pretty good, had some good scares, and was pretty funny. Warning though: contains creepy clowns. Plus we got to see the King's anthem again, so that was cool. Everyone has to stand while you watch a terrible video and they sing a song, and the video ends with a weird montage of photos of the king with his dogs, all of whom are inexplicably wearing clothes. Then it says, "Happy New Year 2014!", so it could use some updating...

Our last proper day in Bangkok started with a trip to an area we haven't been to before: Siam. It was actually pretty cool with some neat little shops that I imagine would appeal greatly to people with A) room in their bags, and B) money in their banks. We passed through, making our way to The Human Body Museum.

Hidden in the dentistry department at the university, we eventually found it on the 9th floor of an unmarked building. The museum contains plastinated human bodies and body parts, just like the Body Works exhibit that travels the world, but on a smaller and slightly less professional scale. I've seen the Body Works exhibit, but Zev hasn't, so it was awesome. Getting to see organs and body systems was super cool, especially for a biologist!

Our next stop was the Natural History Museum, similarly hidden away in another part of the university. When we finally found that one, we had to turn on the lights ourselves to check out the exhibits (the women in the gem museum in Naypyitaw would be horrified). As we wandered around checking out skeletons and taxidermies, it started to POUR with rain outside. Luckily our raincoats were back in the hotel room. 

We jumped in a cab back to the sky train station, then headed to a board game cafe that Zev read about, where we planned to spend the afternoon playing board games and drinking tea. Naturally, when we got there, it was closed. Home we went. Eventually, Zev went out and got us dinner, and we ate pizza in bed and watched a movie.

Which brings us to today. We started our day by packing a final time, with me abandoning all the clothing that has been threatening to dissolve for the last few weeks. We distributed the remaining items more evenly to make sure our bags were underweight, ditched them in reception and headed out.

We started at BKK bagels, where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of... Bagels. Obviously. Then we hit the mall to pick up a couple of goodies for three delightful little girls we know (don't get them excited though). With more hours to kill and nothing to do, we went to our fall back of going to the movies. This time we checked out Ant Man, which was about as good as it sounds. He's a man who can shrink to the size of an ant, and has an ant army.

Finally, we went back to the hotel, collected our bags, and two trains later we were checking in for our flight home.

As I write this, we're sitting in a swanky lounge, full of free food, waiting for our flight to Melbourne, a 6.5 hour layover (ugh), and then our flight home. We're feeling a lot of things. But I think we'll save that for our next, and final (for this adventure) blog post, which will be a bit of a wrap up once we're home, and have had some time to digest...

Lots of love,

S & Z

xxx

(Original post date: 28th July 2015)

The slow boat to Laos

CURRENT LOCATION: Luang Prabang, Laos

Sam:

At 5.50pm, I looked at my watch and thought, we should head down to the bus station soon. Of course, as I was thinking this, the heavens opened. Every time I thought it couldn't rain any harder, it did. We retrieved our bags and dug out our raincoats and pack covers. Then, we made a break for it. We dashed down the street, and arrived soaking wet. We dropped our bags in the van, ran to get some provisions for the journey, and climbed in the van. We were very excited to hear there were only 7 of us in the 12 seater van - usually there are around 15 people in a 12 seater van. And so began our three day trip to Laos.

We got to chatting with the other people in the van as we wound back through the mountains towards Chiang Mai. Remember how smug I was about the windy road on the way to Pai? Well that wore off pretty quickly. The next 3 hours were some of the longest of my life. The driver was actually doing a great job, but the road was wet, and as we wound through the mountains, no amount of anti-nausea medication was helping. I ended up spending about 2 of the hours clutching a plastic bag, unable to open my mouth for fear I would put the bag to good use. I kept thinking, "We have to stop for a break soon, surely.". Eventually, I was right. We pulled into a gas station to fill up, and the driver told us we'd be stopping for 10 minutes. I took the opportunity to lie on the concrete and recover. 

10 minutes later, we climbed back into the van. As it turns out, we had picked up 5 more folks at the gas station. They had come from Chiang Mai, and were joining us on our journey to Laos. By this stage, it was 9pm. We were due to arrive at our next destination of Chiang Khong, the town closest to the Thai border with Laos, at around midnight. The next few hours were more cramped, but less windy, so I was pretty pleased. I tried to get some sleep, but it was difficult in a crowded van on bumpy roads.

Each town we drove through, I thought excitedly must be Chiang Khong. Midnight came and went. As did 12.30am. At around 1am, we finally pulled up outside a guesthouse. A woman led us to a room, and in we went. The room was huge, with a fan and a bathroom, but honestly, I was too tired to care. We both basically passed out, knowing we were due to be on the road again at 8.30am.

At 7.15am, a knock on our door told us it was time to get up. We got dressed and headed out to find breakfast. The owner explained she would drive us to breakfast, on the way to the border. The 12 of us, plus all our luggage, piled into her ute. About 1km down the road, we piled back out, and went into another guest house for breakfast. Everyone visibly blanched when we were brought scrambled eggs on toast. Still, we choked them down. Just.

Soon enough, we were told that our taxi had arrived. Again, we all squeezed in. It was like a clown car. We had two more people now, so there were 14 of us, plus everyone's bags, shoved in the back of the shared taxi. We headed off, and puttered along the few kms to the border.

Out we climbed. Here, we cleared Thai customs, paid for a bus ticket, and jumped on the bus to the Laos border. At the Laos border, we did some quick money exchanging (Thai baht to Laos Kipp), filled out our forms, and got our visas. We very excitedly picked up our passports with a shiny new one page visa, and a new stamp. Yippee!

We had to hang around a while at the border to wait for our bus to the boat. There were about 50 of us, and it was a really interesting bunch of people - but we'll get to that later. Eventually the guide explained the programme for the next couple of days, we booked some accommodation for that night in Pakbeng, and we all jumped on the bus to the dock. While on the bus, they collected our passports to issue us tickets. Once at the other end, we waited to collect them back, then headed down to climb on board the boat.

There weren't many seats left on the boat when we got on, but we weren't worried, since we had seat numbers. This is probably a good time to mention that the seats were simple old van seats placed in the boat: not tied or strapped down, just placed into neat rows. Except it quickly became clear that our seat numbers didn't exist. The boat captain told us to sit wherever there were seats, so we grabbed two of the last remaining seats. From then, it devolved into a free for all. People were scrambling for seats, and they brought more on from outside. Eventually, there were about 5 people left without seats, so they were given cushions and buckets, and made themselves comfortable on the stairs.

 Boat, Laos, Thailand

About 45 minutes later than scheduled, at 11.45am, we started cruising. It was then that we got a chance to really check out the people who would be our boat mates for the next two days. There were now about 70 of us on the boat, plus about 20 locals. We could have played some serious traveller cliche bingo on this boat. Among my favourite idiots: anyone wearing a singlet with a local beer on it; white people with dreadlocks; people with friendship brackets, necklaces and rings clearly bought from local markets hanging off any available body part; girls with hair wraps or braids; anyone wearing hippie clothing, especially with elephant prints on them; the guy travelling with his guitar; the guy travelling with his skateboard; and, top of the list, the guy wearing skinny jeans, a button up shirt, a dense, scraggly hipster beard, and to top it off, literally, a beanie, while it was 35°c. After about 15 minutes of cruising, a fair majority of the people on the boat decided it was time to hit the beer/rum/weed (especially one guy with a tattoo of a cross on one achilles, a Jesus fish in the other, and a tattoo of a crucifix on his arm - feels a bit like having your cake and eating it too? Hedonistic fun with the the promise of salvation!!). As the boat trip went on, the people watching got even more interesting. Most of the people on the boat would have been under 25, and there was some serious 'trying to be cool' going on. It made me realise a few things, but mainly, 1) I would have thought this was a lot more fun when I was 20, and 2) I was a dick when I was 20.

Zev and I settled in with our iPods and books, sat back and watched the scenery. The Laos countryside was stunning. Lots of lush green trees and hills, and cute little villages as we puttered down the river. At 6pm, we arrived in Pakbeng. Which was lucky, because one guy threw up his last 2 litres of beer immediately after getting off the boat, so I think the trip would have taken a serious downhill turn had we gone on much longer. For the record, he was Australian...

 Boat, Laos, Thailand

We climbed off the boat, collected our bags, and jumped in yet another shared taxi to the hostel. I wasn't overly excited when we were all crammed in, and old drunky puker climbed in. I hoped he could last the ride to the hostel without another cheeky spew. Luckily we all made it unscathed, climbed out and check in. To the crappiest place we have stayed to date. The walls were basically made of paper, it was dirty (although not the sheets or anything), and the bathroom sucked. That said, I was so tired and desperate for a shower that I really couldn't have cared less. We headed down to the restaurant for dinner (where we were asked if we wanted any weed with our meal), where I enjoyed a delicious bacon pizza (clearly their menu was skewed to the stoner market). We hit the sack pretty early, still tired from the night before, and knowing we were off early again in the morning.

Another 7.15am knock woke us, so we headed down for breakfast and restocked our snacks. We opted to walk down to the wharf to avoid another shared taxi squeeze. Much to our delight, we were greeted by a bigger boat, which was only about 3/4 full when we arrived. We dropped our bags at the back of the boat and snagged a couple of seats. Slowly the rest of the travellers trickled on board, some looking a little worse for wear. Finally we puttered off at about 10am.

The second day was a much more sedate affair, perhaps down to some hangovers, although as the afternoon wore on, a few brave souls hit the sauce again. The atmosphere was still good though, with people playing cards and listening to music, sleeping and chatting to their neighbours.

 Boat, Laos, Thailand

The scenery was still stunning, and at about 4.30pm we pulled up to the dock, about 10kms from Luang Prabang. We grabbed, you guessed it, yet another shared taxi into the city. I can't say I was too sorry to say goodbye to any of the folks from the boat. Luang Prabang city looked beautiful, but we were keen to get to the hotel and relax. From the city we managed to convince a friendly tuk tuk driver to take us the extra 1km to our hotel - for a fee, of course!

 Boat, Laos, Thailand

We checked in, had long, enjoyable showers, grabbed some dinner at the hotel restaurant and went to bed, hoping to catch up on the sleep lost over the last few nights. We were very excited to check out what Laos has to offer!

Lots of love,
S & Z
xxx

(Original post date: 21st June 2015)

Pai-way to the DANGER ZONE!!

CURRENT LOCATION: Luang Prabang, Laos

Zev:

Our first morning in Pai was a rather lazy one. We had a decent sleep in and ventured out in search of some brunch. Having just listened to a podcast on the etymological history of the word "brunch" on our bus trip from Chiang Mai, this seemed fitting. The streets of Pai were also just waking up. It appears that all the rumours of this place being super chilled out and laid back were true. Pai seems to stagger to life at around 10.30-­11.00am, which suited us just fine.

We managed to find a spot that sold more than eggs -­ at this stage of our trip, this is our only requirement for fear of entering an egg-­induced coma and/or homicidal rage. While we enjoyed a brunch of not­-eggs, we discussed our plans for the day. The major attractions that bring people to Pai are very much not localised nor are they near the township. The various waterfalls, temples, caves, and adventures are anywhere from 1-45km out of town. Bicycles were available to hire, and we had done this many times before, but the landscape around Pai is extremely hilly and the 35°C plus temperatures are not ideal for cycling. This left us rather stranded and as we have found ourselves many times on this trip, at the mercy of over priced tours and hired drivers. There was, however, a way to avoid all this... 

Motor scooters. I have an innate fear of motorcycles and let's face it, scooters are basically motorcycles. This fear is stemmed from growing up in the house of two doctors, where motorbikes were associated with absolute danger and untimely death. So, needless to say, I was apprehensive. However, we were halfway around the world, in a beautiful sleepy highland village and there was so much to experience. This, along with Sam's efforts to calm my nerves, prompted me to be bold and very much go out of my comfort zone. It was settled. After brunch we would get our stuff together and hire scooters! 

So much of travelling in the third world, without a set­-in-­stone plan, takes you out of your comfort zone: the language barrier, customs and traditions, new bizarre foods, unknown cities, placing trust in strangers, being away from friends and family, not knowing where you will be and what you'll be doing in a more than a few days time, and a lot more. This was, for me, a new level of nervous. Sam rides a scooter (named Donna) around Auckland, so she was confident and this definitely helped to assure me it was safe. But I was still anxious. We walked along the main road until we found a shop that was renting 110cc scooters for 100 Baht (approx $5NZ) per day! A bargain. As we approached and inquired, the man asked us if we had ridden scooters before. Sam responded that she drives them regularly, but that I had never been on one. The guy immediately went quiet, at which point part of me hoped he would say that they didn't hire scooters to first time riders and I would avoid the whole scenario. No such luck. "OK. Go see the woman and pay.", he exclaimed. Now it was getting real. The woman at the desk also asked us about our riding history, and she seemed a little more concerned by my inexperience, but hired us out two scooters all the same. I think she was more worried about the fate of the scooters than of me, because she quickly pointed out that if we crashed them, we'd have to pay. Granted, these scooters were obviously the "noobie" scooters that had been dropped many a time. But, in a strange way this was comforting. We picked out a couple helmets from the basket and were given the keys to our scooters. They gave us a map of the area, told us that we'd need to fill the gas tanks as they get returned empty, and marked all the top sites for us. Sam gave me the crash course in how a scooter works and we were off. 


The beginning of the journey was perhaps the most daunting. The town's main street was filled with food stalls, pedestrians, stray dogs, locals on motorcycles, parked motorbikes, and generally all of the things you would identify as a hazard on the NZ practical driver's license test. This was all compounded by the fact that this was my first time on a motorised scooter. I declared that we should just go for it and I'll follow Sam. If I want to stop, I'll toot my horn. My mind was all over the place, but I think the last thing Sam said before we took off was, "If you go too slow you'll wobble and crash, but you'll figure it out." Gulp. I put my right indicator on, and we hit the accelerator. Strangely, this seems easy. Straight forward. Almost identical to riding a bike. Until... how the hell do I turn the indicator off?! As we drove for about 5 minutes through town, I went from left indicator to right indicator, back and forth, like a spaz. When we arrived at the gas station, we pulled up to the pump where we were greeted by gas station attendant who did everything for us! Nice! This is pretty standard in SE Asia. Sam made sure I was all good, and taught me the pro trick of pushing the indicator button straight in to turn off the blinkers, and we were off again to our first attraction. The giant white Buddha. 

 Pai, Thailand


As we cruised along the virtually deserted roads of Pai, I started to enjoy myself. Fear was no longer my primary emotion and the wind in my face, and the sensation of leaning into a corner and accelerating out of it was awesome! The 5kms flew by and before I knew it we were at the temple that housed the giant white Buddha. This was very much an appropriately named attraction. It was an impressive sight, even having been visiting Buddha shrines for the past few months. The Buddha was actually relatively giant and its position at the top of a large hill made for a spectacular view of the Pai valley. The heat of the day became apparent as we climbed the stairs to the top and we no longer had the breeze from atop our scooters. I think I was enjoying myself!? Who'd have thought? 

 Pai, Thailand


After some quality views and Buddha time, we stopped for a cold drink and hit the road again. We rode for another 20 minutes or so, through a small village in search of a waterfall. Failing to find the turn off for the waterfall we stopped for some food at the Piranha Farm. We had some huge portions of cheap, tasty Thai food while watching some fishing patrons catch a medium sized fish. I couldn't see if it was a piranha or not, but still exciting. After refuelling our bellies we went in search of some other waterfalls. 

 Terribly lined up timer shot!

Terribly lined up timer shot!


These were much clearer and well signposted. We parked our scooters in the shade and walked about 3 minutes to our first set of waterfalls. These falls reminded us a lot of the Waitakere ranges back home. Apparently you could slide down the smoothed rock faces like a water slide, but no one was doing it so we opted out as it didn't seem particularly safe. We had a bit of refreshing soak in the cool water before we sought out the next waterfall where we had read we could swim and even jump off of rocks into a pool! We didn't hold our breath though given our strikeout on the water sliding at waterfall number one. 

 Pai, Thailand
 Pai, Thailand


The second falls were a short ride away from the first. There was well­-worn path that lead to the river. We crossed a dodgy bridge and we could hear it before we could see it. This waterfall was already inhabited by a large group of tourists. As it turned out they were all together in a big group tour. I'm not sure if it was just coincidence or if the tour company has some sort of filter/vetting system, but all the guys were super muscled, tattooed and confident. The girls were flirty, not fond of clothing and seemed to be into muscled, tattooed guys. They had occupied the main swimming hole and were demonstrating first hand that you could jump off a rock into said rock pool. As they repeatedly climbed the rock, did backflips into the pool and generally showed off their pecs and biceps, the girls all watched and we hung back. They took a number of super fun group photos and it felt a bit like a party, but we weren't invited. Luckily there were two other girls who arrived at the same time as we did and they seemed equally left out. We made friends with them and as soon as the tour group/frat party had vacated we swooped in to have a swim. Sam and I mimicked the guys and climbed up the rock to jump in. The climb up was only about 3m high, but it was slippery. I definitely was not as graceful as the Jean Claude Van Damme lookalikes, but I climbed and jumped in all the same. Sam did it too to the delight of our new German friends as well as some Japanese women who were watching us! Much to our dismay, as we exited the water, we were overcome by itchiness! There must've been something in the water that was giving us a reaction! It was awful! Almost simultaneously, the Germans also started scratching! What the hell?! We were having so much fun and now it was horrible. Luckily once we dried ourselves and got changed it eased, for the most part. 

 Pai, Thailand
 Pai, Thailand


Our final stop for the day was the Massive Land Split. This was also aptly named. The land split just appeared on the farmers land a number of years ago. He woke up one morning and where there used to be a field, there was now a huge crack, about 5m across and 10m deep. To his surprise it appeared seemingly at random. There was no earthquake. There was no storm. Totally weird! Needless to say, it wreaked havoc on his farm and he was no longer able to work the land. In the years since, the land has cracked another couple of times too. He set up a stall where makes his own roselle juice (and wine) and gives it to all the tourists who come to see the giant land split. Roselle fruit was new to me, but it tasted a lot like cranberry juice. It's technically free but he asks that you donate a small amount to come visit. Usually this is only the equivalent of $1USD per person and you can have as much juice as you like. We enjoyed it so much we gave him $5. He was so grateful that he immediately brought us some peanuts and free home made wine. We respectfully had the tiniest of glasses as to not offend him, but explained that we had to drive our scooters all the way back into town. After finishing our juice (and wine) we did just that. 

 Pai, Thailand

It was a 25 minute ride back to our accommodation. Once home I remained smug and proud of my scootering efforts and made sure to let Sam know this. We had a delicious dinner and wandered the walking street of Pai, where there were loads of food stalls, vendors and of course, tourists. We patted the stray dogs and retired early after our epic day out. We had a such a good time, and I was feeling increasingly confident, so we decided that we would hire the scooters again the next day and venture a little further afield. 

In the spirit of Pai, we slept in again on our second day. We found a nice cafe to get some bagels for breakfast before we head out for Lon Cave. Lon Cave is situated 45km out of Pai and was recommended as a really cool experience. I was feeling confident from the great day of scootering the day before and weather was perfect, so it seemed like we hit jackpot. We began our journey out of town and very quickly we discovered that the rumours of the hills were true. We climbed and climbed, weaving thought the winding beautifully paved road. It was amazing! This road was genuinely awesome. It would be a perfect road to drive and it was made all the more exhilarating by the fact that we were on scooters! I had to pinch myself a few times as I didn't quite believe what I was doing! 

We got to the top of the massive hill about 25-­30km into the ride and our enthusiasm came to an abrupt stop. We pulled over at a viewpoint and rest stop. "How's your petrol?" I asked Sam. "Not good..." She replied.

 Pai, Thailand


We were both on the E and we were only just over halfway! Luckily, an Australian couple arrived and a few minutes after we did. They were returning to Pai from Lon Cave. They assured us that the journey from the rest stop to the cave was almost exclusively downhill, and there were a few places to buy petrol out by the cave. They also raved about their experience at the cave. Armed with our new info, we made the decision to carry on. This meant that on my second day of riding I got a lesson in advanced economy scooter riding. Let's just say there was a lot of coasting down hill, slow hill climbs and willing the little orange scooter to make it up the hills while I only accelerated a 1/4 of a turn... About 40 anxious minutes later we arrived in a small village. A couple minutes later we spotted a refuelling station. It was not a petrol station. It wasn't even a store. It was, well, the best the description for it would be a petrol vending machine. We topped up and carried on to the cave! 

We arrived at the parking lot for the cave about 1 hour and 40 minutes after leaving Pai! Not a bad ride for my second day. Plus, there was the added excitement of not knowing if we'd make it or not! But lo, we were here. We paid our entry fee for the cave. You are required to hire a guide who shows you through and carries an old school gas lantern. We grabbed a couple cool drinks to recharge after our epic journey, but the guide was eager to get going, so off we set and followed her along the trail. We were about 200m away from the parking lot when it starts to rain. Now, when it rains in SE Asia, there's none of this drizzling nonsense. It started pouring down. We took shelter for a little bit while the worst of it passed then scurried to the enhance of the cave. Even this was impressive. It was much larger than we had expected and there were hundreds of bats and swiftlet birds flying around the chasm. There was a river that ran through the cave and a group of raft guides waiting patiently in the shelter of the cave. While our guide got the gas lantern going, one of the raft dudes prepared our bamboo raft, which as far as I could tell was a bunch of bits of bamboo tied together with grass. Sweet!

 Pai, Thailand


We set off into the cave and it immediately became apparent that it was freaking awesome! There were loads of interesting stalagmite and mineral formations! You could hear all the bats clicking and squeaking. The main cave system was huge. The ceiling of the cave must've been 25-­30m high. As we ventured further into the cave, the raft bottomed out under the weight of the fatty white people...or maybe the water level was just extra low. Yeah, let's go with that. We abandoned the raft and started making our way through the cave system along a marked path, our guide leading the way, massive lantern in hand. She showed us all the gimmicky natural formations that vaguely resembled Buddha, a monkey, an elephant, a crocodile etc. We made our way from chasms to tight corridors, up stairs and along raised walkways. It was genuinely impressive and certainly enjoyable. After about a little over an hour of exploring the cave and its wonders it was time to return to the parking lot. Our guide instructed us that we could pay 100 baht to get a ride back on the raft or we could just walk back via the trail. She made it rather clear that it was 1km, we would get wet because it was raining, and her tone indicated that we should just pony up and pay the damn money to raft back. Being stubborn adventurers we said that we would just walk! No problem! We don't mind getting wet! 

 Pai, Thailand


As it turned out, she had to lead us back, so we were not just responsible for our levels of saturation, but hers as well. She was getting soaked. Sam and I looked at each other as if to say, "Well, aren't we a pair of assholes..." In an act of chivalry, Sam offered her rain jacket to our guide. Sam had to physically wrap her in it before she would agree to take it, but she eventually caved and accepted it. It was only about a 10 minute walk back, but we got to cross some excellent bamboo bridges on the way. We thanked our guide for an awesome adventure and then were faced with the decision of what to do. Should we just drive back in the pouring rain or wait to see it passes? We decided that as much as it will suck to ride back in the rain, it would be way worse to ride back in the rain and in the dark. So now, on day 2 of scooter riding, I was getting my second lesson: how to ride a scooter in torrential rain! 

 Pai, Thailand
 Pai, Thailand


Luckily a short ways into the ride the rain eased and eventually it stopped. The road was still slippery, so needless to say we took it easy. The same could not be said for a particular tourist who overtook us as great speeds. We were reunited with him as he was pulling himself out of a ditch on the tightest of uphill bends. He was largely unscathed, but could figure out how to get his scooter started again. Strangely, it was ultimately my advice to roll it to the flat and give it some gas he pushed the starter. It worked! Who's the noobie rider now? Not I. It was at this point I felt like I had graduated the first grade of scooter riding school! The rest of our ride home was dry and actually enjoyable, and not as eventful as our new tourist acquaintance's. 

On our last day in Pai, we hired the scooters again. We made our way to Pai Canyon, a short ride out of town. They market it as "Thailand's answer to the Grand Canyon", which Sam (who has actually been to the Grand Canyon) pointed out was basically shooting themselves in the foot. However, it was pretty spectacular and we spent a good hour and half exploring the canyon and being brave by walking out near the edge and doing some bouldering to venture to the best viewpoints around the canyon. It was really enjoyable. After the canyon we cruised to a nearby elephant stable we had passed a couple days before. Upon arriving, we both regretted stopping to see these poor, stressed elephants and felt even better about our choice of elephant nature park in Chiang Mai a few days prior. These elephants were kept in a small pen, only slightly bigger than them for the day. They were chained in. One of the elephants continuously rocked back and forth. We had learned from our previous elephant encounter that this was most likely a stress behaviour, as a result of being in captivity/overworked. We fed the elephants and then left as they were prepping them to take out a group of tourists to ride them. It's impossible to know for sure, but after seeing elephants that appeared happy at the elephant nature park in Chiang Mai, these ones seemed depressed. If you find yourself in SE Asia, please make sure you do some research before embarking on any animal tourism adventures! 

 Pai, Thailand
 Pai, Thailand


We decided to ride around town for a while as a means to keep cool and kill some time before our bus to Laos that evening. We stopped at a cafe for a cool drink and then did a big loop that brought us back into town to say goodbye to our faithful scooters. In anticipation of our epic 3 day journey to Laos, we invested in couple of novels. Actual paper novels. From a bookstore. We hunkered down at our guesthouse to start our novels, relax and kill the last few hours before our journey to a new country! Sam will be blogging about that journey. 

 Pai, Thailand
 Pai, Thailand
 Pai, Thailand


Final statement: it's been an amazing experience coming to SE Asia, and in so many ways it has changed me. I've talked a bit about this in my previous blogs, especially in Cambodia. But, facing my fear, leaving my comfort zone and then ending up having such an amazing time is a great learning experience. I've found that nearly every time we have been faced with an adventure that forces us to fight the urge to say "I'd rather not, it'd be easier to just not..." we've have enjoyed it. I will definitely be taking this attitude on with me as I go through life! There is a fine line between being straight reckless and taking smart, calculated risks. But the majority of the time, I have been truly rewarded for leaving my comfort zone! 

Lots of love,
Z & S
xxx

(Original post date: 21st June 2015)

The peaceful North

CURRENT LOCATION: Pai, Thailand

Sam:

Chiang Mai had a LOT to live up to. Virtually every person we spoke to listed it among their favourite places in South East Asia. We heard rumours of cool weather, an atmospheric old city, amazing food, and friendly locals. No pressure Chiang Mai! It was off to a good start with an easy songthaew (the local shared taxi - basically a covered pickup truck) ride to our accommodation, and a nice big room with air conditioning to welcome us. After a shower to scrub the bus ride off us, we headed out for dinner.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine from a summer camp I worked at in USA in 2009 happened to be in Chiang Mai at the same time as us. Louise (from Manchester, holidaying in South East Asia for a couple of months) was staying right around the corner from us (exactly 750m away, according to the map). We spent the evening catching up at a great southern BBQ place. It was really cool to see her again after such a long time - she was definitely one of my favourite people from camp, and it was awesome to be catching up in such a fun place. Sadly we have since parted ways again (she's continued on to Laos), but we're hoping we might cross paths again before we all leave.

The next morning, both Zev and I were feeling a little jaded. We both had a pretty crappy sleep, and were generally feeling a little run down. In an attempt to pep ourselves up, we forced ourselves out of our room, and went for a wander through the old city.

 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is the former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna, which has now been assimilated into the Chiang Mai region, with Chiang Mai remaining the capital. We were staying in the old city, which was surrounded by walls, and remains surrounded by a moat. The walls were torn down by the Japanese during their occupation in WWII, sections were rebuilt in the 70s to match photographs of how they looked before they were torn down. The old city is stunning, filled with cute sidewalk cafes, street vendors, independent clothing shops, and a temple on every block. We started by just wandering aimlessly, to see what we stumbled upon - something we usually really enjoy doing - but it wasn't long before the heat got to us. We parked ourselves in a cafe with a cold drink and consulted the map.

 Street art, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We noticed we weren't far from The Museum of Insects and Natural Wonders, so we decided to check it out. From the get go, alarm bells were ringing. The whole entryway was filled with weird wooden carvings and crystals, and more fake plants than I've seen outside a gypsy wedding. Nonetheless, we paid our entry fee, and the lady moved aside a broom stick blocking off the entry to let us in.

And then the crazy really started. Yes, there were insects displayed in the typical pin-through-the-body fashion in display cases on the wall. Stunning butterflies and creepy as hell beetles, they had it all covered. But in between all those things was the weird shit. Lots of new age quotes - on their own, not so terrible. Respect the earth etc - not a bad message. And then I found the paintings. The paintings of naked women. Hugging giant Mosquitos. Once the shock wore off, I had to fight the urge to buy one. I continued upstairs to see what else the museum had to offer.

 Street art, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The second floor showed off some more interesting mosquito based paintings, but no naked ladies this time, which was a let down. Once I reached the third floor, I had a little more context. The lady downstairs was an entomologist, and her husband is the 'world famous' (??) Mosquito Man. This 'doctor' (no mention of what he was a doctor of - perhaps he just changed his name to doctor?) studied mosquitos, and had basically started the museum as a place to display all his pro-mosquito propaganda. There was even another branch of the museum with even more stuff in it (no word as to whether the stuff was more insects on display, or more paintings of mosquito porn). It turns out that he'd contracted malaria as a child, and obviously he'd survived, which gave him respect for the mosquito. God knows why, but there you have it. Perhaps his malarial fever was left unchecked for too long? I really gave up on the place when I stood in front of a board saying that anti-malarials were bad for you and people shouldn't be taking them.  They suggested that mosquitos were nature's way of transmitting immunity, providing vaccination, and that by taking anti-malarials, you were preventing nature from helping you. I restrained myself from beating the woman with her own broomstick on the way out.

I'm sure you all know how Zev and I feel about a good museum (although I won't pretend the air conditioning doesn't play its part in the attraction), so we headed to the Art and Culture Museum next. This was a great little museum with loads of displays on Lanna culture, and the history of Chiang Mai. After a quick break for a bite to eat (Pad Thai anyone?), we headed to the associated Folklife Museum, which displayed traditional arts and crafts from the area.

 Museum selfie!

Museum selfie!

That evening, we decided to head to a game of pick up ultimate frisbee. For those of you who remember reading about Lisi, our friend who we met up with in Cambodia, she had been to Chiang Mai prior to seeing us, and had played some tournaments from one of the guys who runs Chiang Mai ultimate. She put us in touch with him, so when we arrived in Chiang Mai, we sent him a message (on Facebook, not like, Godfather-style sent him a message. No horse heads.). Ekk is a lovely guy, who promptly responded with details of all the frisbee going on while we were in town, and his list of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.

We walked about half an hour from our guest house to the Chiang Mai University fields. For those of you unfamiliar with pick up, you just turnip with a light shirt and a dark shirt, split into two teams, and play. It's good fun, and a great way to meet people. We spent a couple of hours playing, until it got too dark to see the disc, and then headed across the road for dinner. In another 'small world' episode, we met another traveller called Megan at pick up, am american currently living in Switzerland. She was in Chiang Mai for a short break after attending a conference in Bangkok. It turned out that she went to college in the U.S. with a friend of ours, and knows two of our friends from playing frisbee in Washington DC. Crazy. Anyway, it was nice to have a run around after so many months of no frisbee, and the Chiang Mai ultimate gang were incredibly welcoming and friendly.

Our long, active, sun-filled day left us pretty wrung out, so we had a late start and a bit of a lazy day the following day. After a breakfast so late it could really only be described as lunch (which made me feel better about having waffles with ice cream and caramel sauce - hey, it's not like I had it for breakfast!), we headed to the shared taxi stand to head up the mountain to Doi Suthep, the temple on the hill with amazing views over Chiang Mai. The shared taxis hold 10 people, and cost 50 baht (~2.50NZD) each if they're full. We were the first to arrive, so we sat and waited for other people to turn up. After about half an hour, we had 7 people. This is where the negotiations begin. Who knows how long it will take to find three more people. But the taxi driver doesn't want to go without the three extra fares. So he begins... "80 baht each and we'll go now" and so forth. It's kind of hard to collectively bargain with a bunch of strangers - all it takes is one person to cave, and everyone else basically has to go along with it. We eventually ended up paying 70 baht each (~3.50NZD). Acceptable.

 Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

What followed was some of the worst driving I've ever experienced. Steve, you know I love you, but being in a car with this guy was worse than driving out to Piha with you. Songthaews don't have a door at the back, so every time we flew around a blind corner on the wrong side of the road, I wasn't sure whether I should fear a head on collision, or falling out of the back of the taxi more. The ride nearly converted me to Buddhism, until I remembered that Buddhists can't eat bacon. No thanks.

 Chiang Mai, Thailand

We crawled out of the taxi at the top, and after a moment to decide whether I was going to throw up or not, we began the climb. 305-odd steps to the top. Which, it turns out, isn't actually that many. We paid our entry fee and headed in. The temple itself was very pretty, but super busy. Far more of a highlight was the incredible view back out over Chiang Mai. We spent about an hour wandering around soaking in the atmosphere (and I found a kitten, which ended up going to sleep in my lap, so obviously I couldn't wake it), and then made our way back to the taxi stand.

 What do you mean I can't keep him??

What do you mean I can't keep him??

chiang_mai

The girl we met at frisbee, Megan, said that she had paid for a return fare at the bottom, and didn't recommend it. She said they give you 2 hours up there, which is way too long. Instead, she told us to get a one way fare, then just grab another taxi when you're ready to leave. This sounded like great advice, so we followed it. Sadly it was not great advice. All the taxis heading back down were full of people who had paid for return fares. So there we were, stuck waiting for another taxi to fill up. Again, after about half an hour, there were only four of us. In the end, we agreed to pay 100 baht each (~$5NZD), and the other Italian guys agreed to pay the balance. 

That night, we went to a really cute local vegetarian restaurant. The whole place was about the size of our bedroom at home, and there was one woman working there, taking orders, making drinks, cleaning up, cooking, serving food, settling bills - she was amazing. The place was full the whole time we were there (admittedly not hard - it only seated about 8 people), and she still managed to find time to have a chat to us about how crap Thai cheese is. We enjoyed a delicious pumpkin curry, and the biggest vege burger I've ever seen in my life.

On day three, we decided to tackle all the temples that the old city had to offer, but in a more organised fashion than on the first day. We downloaded a free walking tour, and spent the day following the map. The tour was suggested to take about 3 hours, but short of jogging it, and not actually going into the temples,  I have no idea how you'd do it that quickly. It took us 6.5 hours, and we were wiped out at the end of it. We had, however, seen 1 monument, 1 school, 2 gates/walls, 2 houses, and a whopping 12 wats and temples. Not a bad day's work! We even managed to enjoy some icy drinks, some delicious food at a restaurant that was home to a cute dog and a big fluffy grey bunny (which I now know does not like to be picked up), and some yummy home made ice creams.

 Desperately trying to cool off under a sprinkler

Desperately trying to cool off under a sprinkler

 Chiang Mai, Thailand
 Chiang Mai, Thailand
 Chiang Mai, Thailand
 Chiang Mai, Thailand
 Chiang Mai, Thailand
 I might be checking out another sprinkler...

I might be checking out another sprinkler...

 Street art, Chiang Mai, Thailand
 Chiang Mai, Thailand

The next day was definitely the highlight of Chiang Mai. As most of you will know, we're pretty cautious about animal based tourism. There's an attraction in Chiang Mai called Tiger Kingdom, where you can hand feed tiger cubs and pat fully grown tigers. Despite this being about the most amazing thing I can think of, we avoided this place like the plague. There is no way you can pat a fully grown tiger if there's nothing shady going on. They're either drugged, declawed, detoothed, beaten... Or all of the above. We really wanted to see some elephants in Chiang Mai, but we wanted to be certain we were going somewhere that was doing it right.

Elephant tourism is big business in Thailand generally, but especially in Chiang Mai. There must have been at least 30 different places offering elephant treks, elephant bathing, elephant shows, elephant training courses... The list goes on. Eventually we settled on Elephant Nature Park. The big draw card for us? You can't ride the elephants, there's no show, and all of the elephants are rescued.

At 8.20am, the van collected us to drive us the 1 hour to the park. During this time we were shown a video explaining the rules of the park (hosted by none other than Lou from Neighbours!): basically, leave the elephants alone, you're there as a guest, they aren't there for your entertainment. Fair enough. We arrived, dropped off our bags, and were told to sunscreen and bug spray up, then go and wash our hands prior to feeding the elephants. The first thing I was surprised by was how big the place was. Huge. And home to over 40 elephants, not to mention 400 dogs and 200 cats (largely rescued following the tsunami in 2004), and a fair chunk of water buffalo. The other surprise was how busy it was. I was pleasantly surprised to find there were only 9 of us in our van. When we turned up at the park though, there were about 10 vans. Luckily, they staggered the day well, so it didn't feel overly crowded most of the time.

 Chiang Mai, Thailand

So our day began with feeding some elephants fruit. It was great fun watching the wolf down giant chunks of watermelon, their trunks searching for the next piece before they'd finished their last. Our guide told us about each of the elephants, their names, ages and back stories. Some had been used in trekking, but had to be retired after back, knee or hip problems. Some had been used in illegal logging, and were blind from being mistreated (apparently a slingshot to the eye is a good way to motivate an uncooperative elephant...). Some had stepped on land mines and had severe leg deformities. It was heartbreaking, but amazing to see these majestic creatures recovering, and basically spending their days hanging out with their buddies. Most of them would never be able to be released into the wild, as they had either lost their natural behaviours, or were never wild to begin with.

 Chiang Mai, Thailand

After feeding time was over, we wandered through the paddocks and met some more of the elephants. Basically, the elephants have free roam of the park, and various staff members and volunteers follow them around to make sure they're okay, and that the park guests are safe. We met and patted several residents, including one elephant sporting a big rose earring. At first I was taken aback, but our guide explained that she had previously been tethered by her ear, so she had a hole there, and her mahout (basically her personal keeper) kept trying to find things to put in the hole so it didn't get caught and tear. Eventually he figured out that she seemed to like it when he put flowers in there, so he made her an earring. Also worth mentioning, this was the oldest elephant at the park at the impressive age of 80 years old!

After a delicious and enormous lunch, we headed down to the river that runs through the property. One family of elephants were going for a swim, including a young male elephant. It was really special watching them splash and play in the water. It sounds cliched, but you could tell they were really happy. Eventually all but one of the elephants got out of the water, and the one that was let started slapping the water with her trunk. The guide explained that she was an older elephant that loves that water, and basically that was her way of saying, "But I don't wanna get out of the bath!!! Come back guys!!". Eventually she gave in and followed her friends.

 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Next we went to visit another family of elephants, which included one 'mother' elephant, an teenage female, and a young male. While the mother wasn't actually their mother, she had more or less adopted the younger elephants, and was apparently doing a great job of looking after them. The mother and the teenage girl live in the park, but the young male was found in the jungle, caught in a snare trap. He was only staying in the park while his leg healed, and the would be returned to the jungle.

After a pit stop to see another baby male and his young female friend playing in a paddock, we had to take a quick break to shelter from the 10 minute thunder and lightning storm that passed through. Then, we headed down to the river to 'wash' the elephants. At other places,this would mean riding the elephants bareback, then having them lie in the water while  you scrub them down. Instead, here, the elephants stand in the river with a basket of fruit in front of them. They eat the fruit, and pay no attention to anything else going on around them. Meanwhile you have a great time throwing buckets of water over them while they ignore you!

 Chiang Mai, Thailand
 Chiang Mai, Thailand

After a quick afternoon snack of iced tea and biscuits, we had another session of elephant feeding before hopping in the van to head back. It was such an amazing day that both Zev and I were asleep within minutes of the van setting off, and didn't wake up until we were back in Chiang Mai!

We quickly changed, and headed out for another evening of frisbee (with a little pit stop for a coke and a snickers bar to give us some energy). We played another great game, this time heading to a local student market for dinner and a little perusing of stalls. Some highlights included snail masks (face masks made with some kind of snail-based concoction to lighten your skin), and basically every tee shirt there, which featured a crazy animal print (usually a cat, owl, or wolf) with a seemingly random word printed on top. We bid farewell to our new frisbee friends and headed back to our guesthouse.

We hadn't made any plans for our last day in Chiang Mai, so we headed to a district which Ekk had told us had lots of cool cafes and shops. We didn't really manage to find any of them, but we did find a shop that sold film for my camera - yay! We also managed to find a spot to grab a cold drink while we decided on our plans for the rest of the day. We settled on another trip to the movies, this time to see the long awaited (for Zev at least) Jurassic World. For the record, it was great! After making ourselves sick on movie nachos and caramel popcorn, we walked it off at the night market. Filled with more stuff than anyone could ever possibly want or need, it was bustling.

This morning we headed to the bus station to come to Pai. We were a little nervous, having read about the horrendous road between Chiang Mai and Pai. Apparently involving 746 turns, it was rumoured to be so bad that it was recommended you take motion sickness tablets and a plastic bag. The logo of our guesthouse in Pai is a stick figure throwing up (a reference to the road, not booze - Pai is a pretty quiet little town). We did end up taking motion sickness tablets, but I have to say, the road reminded me so much of New Zealand roads that I don't think we would have needed them! Far worse was the lack of space in the crowded mini van... Three cramped and windy hours later, we arrived in Pai.

Lots of love,

S & Z

xxx

(Original post date: 15th June 2015)

Oh hey, temples!

CURRENT LOCATION: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Sam:

Our bus ride to Sukhothai was long but painless - something we've become accustomed to over the last four months. Sadly we were disorganised and didn't bring any snacks, so we arrived to Sukhothai in the early evening absolutely starving. We arrived at our guesthouse and were greeted by an elderly man with very few teeth, smiling brightly, and repeating, "My daughter, my daughter". From this, we took that the owner was his daughter. Soon, another lady turned up, who also spoke no English. Luckily, she handed us a pre-written note from the owner, explaining that they had gone out for the evening, but we could leave our key deposit with his father, and the maid would show us to our room. With that sorted, we were lead upstairs, and shown to our quarters. The maid opened the door, and we were hit with a wall of heat - it must have been 40°c in there. The room had obviously been shut up all day with the air-conditioning off. It's lucky we arrived when we did, or I'm pretty sure it would have exploded.

We threw our bags down and turned the air conditioning as low as it would go - 15.5°c. It made no difference unless you were sitting directly under it. I decided that a cold shower would fix that problem. I was very excited to find that our bathroom had two shower heads - one attached to the water heater, and one cold one. I turned on the cold one and jumped in. Within seconds, I leapt back out, scalded. After 10 minutes of trying everything I could think of (turning off the hot water heater, turning it on but making sure it was set to cold, turning off the water heater from outside the bathroom), I gave up and accepted my hot shower. We later found out that the water tank for the shower is on the roof, so it heats up all day, just like us... The only bonus was that you were so hot when you got out of the shower, the room felt cooler.

Hunger was beginning to win over heat, so we wandered along to the night market to get some dinner. We snacked our way through the stalls, with Zev trying the local Sukhothai noodle dish (local noodles in broth with pork crackling), and me polishing off my meal with a watermelon slushie served out of a tiny watermelon!

We started out reasonably early the next morning, heading for Sukhothai Old City. The Old City is the former capital of the Sukhothai region, and the ruins have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We crossed the road from our guesthouse to wait for the local bus to take us the 12km to the old city for 30 baht each (~$1.50NZD). As we were waiting, a man pulled up in what could very loosely be called a tuk-tuk. It was basically a motorbike at the back, with a flatbed stuck on the front with bench seats and an awning. He offered to drive us to the park for 60 baht, leaving immediately, so on we hopped! We puttered along, me nearly losing my hat once, and Zev actually losing his and having to retrieve it from the middle of the highway. About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to the gates of the park. 

From there we hired bikes to get around inside the park. It was stinking hot (40°+), and this allowed us to get around quickly while enjoying a nice breeze. We grabbed our tickets for the main, central section of the park and headed in. We stopped at the first stall we saw to stock up on some nice cold water, given the heat. The friendly stall owners asked us if we could write the word 'Water' on their sign in English, and we happily obliged - spelt it right and everything! 

 Sukhothai, Thailand

From there, we headed to the largest temple, Wat Mahathat. The main stupa is shaped like a lotus, and is flanked on either side with a 9m high Buddha. While the ruins in Ayutthaya were stunning, the ruins in Sukhothai were far better preserved, making it easier to imagine how they would have looked. And it was so incredibly quiet and peaceful. We probably saw half a dozen other people all day. We spent another couple of hours cycling between the various ruins, before stopping for lunch.

 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand

While lunch itself was rather plain (more fried rice anyone?), afterwards, I found a shop selling sunglasses for 50 baht ($2.50NZD) - I left mine in a minivan in Kota Kinabalu. In addition to making my eyes very happy, this shop was home to the tiniest kitten I've ever seen. It would have been maybe 4 weeks old, and the shopkeeper explained it had been abandoned (meanwhile I was wondering if its mother had wandered in to the wrong restaurant...), and kept trying to convince us to take it home. I was on board with that, but Zev stood firm in the 'No adopting kittens during this trip' rule.

 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand

To escape the afternoon heat, we spent a little time wandering around the nearby museum, learning the difference between a vertical and horizontal kiln. We're hoping that comes up in a pub quiz at some point.

From there we checked out one final temple, outside the temple complex, which contained a Buddha's footprint. Zev was very disappointed that it wasn't a 'real' footprint. He recovered quickly though.

 Sukhothai, Thailand

We returned our bikes and jumped on the bus back to town. The bus was incredibly cool, as is most South East Asian transport. It was basically a big wooden truck painted bright red and turquoise, and looked like something out of the 50s. We spent an enjoyable 20 minutes riding back to the guesthouse.

 Sukhothai, Thailand

After a repeat of the previous day's shower and air conditioning trauma, we headed out for pizza. We arrived at a backpackers/pizza restaurant where we were informed that they had just installed a new pizza oven and were testing it that night, so we could only have bacon pizza. What a terrible shame. We can say with confidence the the pizza oven is working.

 Sukhothai, Thailand

Day two of the temples had us on the bus out and back at the bike rental shop by mid-morning. We decided to head a little further afield, to the temples to the east and north of the main temple complex. If we thought it was quiet the day before, it was dead today. We basically had the whole day to ourselves, if you excluded staff. We started out with the eastern temples, had a break for lunch, then headed north. The temples outside the main complex were less well preserved, but we had an enjoyable day cycling around and exploring. We arrived back to return the bikes by mid-afternoon, pooped from the heat.

 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand
 Sukhothai, Thailand

Again, we bussed back to the guesthouse, wrestled with the hot water and hotter air, and snarfed a well earned dinner.

The next morning we jumped on yet another bus, bound for the cooler weather (we hoped) of Chiang Mai!

Lots of love,
S & Z
xxx

(Original post date: 11th June 2015)