Monday, July 31, 2017

July 31, 2017. Chiang Rai back to more modern Chiang Mai

LOCATION:  Chiang Mai, Thailand in northern part of Thailand

WEATHER:  I need a word auto-filler for Hot and Humid


We had a leisurely breakfast at our hotel.  The breakfast here isn't anything special - usually one Western dish and one Eastern dish. Today they put out yogurt.  George tried one container.  It was corn flavored with kidney beans in it!  Weirdest taste ever~~  

Then, we took a tuk tuk to our favorite train station.  The big mud puddle has dried up and it is now just dirt.

Lots of activities with busses, tuk tuks, mini-busses, and trucks giong in and out.  George waited in the "waiting room" for our bus...
The bus ride was about 3.5 hours.  We didn't stop this time, as there was a toilet on board.    

Once in Chiang Mai, we took a tuk tuk pick-up to our hotel.  It is right at the train station, which we selected because we have a fairly early train ride tomorrow back to Bangkok.


We got settled in and waited until 5:00, when beer can be sold, then took a tuk tuk pick-up to a craft beer bar we had heard about it.  Here is George riding along...
And here are views from the rear.  This guy is a delivery person...

And this lady is driving a kind of food truck...

The driver had a hard time finding our destination, so we ended up getting off and walking a bit.  We had overpriced, but good, craft beers and a Thai version of chips and salsa.  Then, back to our hotel.  I told the tuk tuk driver that we wanted to go to the "choo choo" station, and he understood.  Funny.


We ate dinner in a little place next to our hotel.  I don't know what I ordered, but I didn't care for it.  It was shrimp and veg in a sauce that tasted like crab juice and vinegar.  Oh well.  Something new.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017. A trip to the Golden Triangle of opium fame

LOCATION:  Chiang Rai, Thailand in northern part of the country

WEATHER:  You guessed it --- hot and humid


Today's destination was the Golden Triangle.  It is about 50 miles north of Chiang Rai.  We had tried to find a tour to join to go there, but all of them included activities that we didn't want - like visiting the White Temple, which we already did, or a stop at some caves, which we aren't interested in.  And, they were $50US for the day.  (Really not bad for an 8-hour trip for 2 people).  So, we decided to figure out how to get there on our own.  

We went to the bus station  and found that they have mini-buses that go there.  So we hopped on one for the 90-minute drive (less than $2 each).  That is more our style and budget!  
On our way, we passed by lots of rice paddies.  There were many farmers in the flooded fields, planting baby rice plants by hand.        
We even saw a water buffalo in the fields.        
We got off the bus at the Golden Triangle.  It is really just a place where Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Laos all come together on the MeKong River.  That is Laos on the other side at this point....        
Since there is not much there for tourists, they have built a Buddha statue and of course there are lot of souvenir shops.  
 After taking some photos, we found a place for lunch.  This place was really untouristy.  Nothing in English at all.  Again, we just pointed to a rice dish on the menu and were rewarded with a tasty platter with chicken, veg, rice and LOTS of hot peppers.  Ours was the one in the upper left corner....        
We paired it with a Leo Beer, as a nod toward my Uncle Leo.        
This area is known for its opium trafficking during the Vietnam War.  Thailand and Laos have stopped production but Myanmar is still at it.  We had planned to visit the Opium Museum that apparently shows the horrors of opium and showcases the opium history of this  area.  However, we took the wrong bus and missed the museum.  
We hopped on a pick-up tuk tuk with a family coming into a nearby town with bags and bags of produce.  We watched as the long boats loaded up passengers and cargo on their way to Myanmar and Laos, just across the river.         
It was market day in this town.  Someone was selling these roosters.          
From there, we caught a mini-bus to take us back to Chiang Rai.  Unfortunately the A/C wasn't working well in this one, so we travelled about 90 minutes in an oven. :-(.  The police pulled us over at a police checkpoint and a policeman boarded our van.  I guess he was looking for drugs or illegals from Myanmar or Laos.  He really quizzed a guy in the back.  (Also joked with George who must look squeaky clean).  
Back home, we took a dip in our swimming pool to cool off.  When we first got here a few days ago, the pool was greenish and had a scum on it.  They cleaned it up for us so we enjoyed our swim.  This is the view of the pool from the balcony of our bungalow....
We went back downtown for dinner, ending up in all places, at a pizza restaurant.  It was quite good, and a nice change of pace.          
We sat outside and watched the traffic go by on the only really busy street in town.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 29 continued

After the Black House Museum, we were so hot that we decided to cave in and catch a taxi back to town.  However, since everyone else had come by packaged tour, there weren't any around.  So, we had to walk that blistering hot mile back to the main road to flag down a bus.  Finally it came.  The bus must have come from out in the country as I sat next to a very dark-skinned peasant who chewed on beetle nut leaves as a narcotic against the heat.  (The fan in the bus was not working)   We decided to rest in the only air-conditioned building in this city - our hotel, so we took a tuk tuk pickup back here.

After recuperating, we caught another tuk tuk back to town to go to the famous Saturday Night Walking Market.  This one is even bigger than the nighly Night Bazaar.  It is in a different section of the town.  The number of vendors is incredible.  First we walked through the food section.  Most was food we could not recognize.

There were several vendors selling a Thai version of sushi.  I cannot imagine eating sushi that has been sitting out in the 110 degree weather for hours:-(
The fried insects were there for sale.  Before...

And then after being fried...

Lots of things on skewers...
After the food section, we walked through the clothing section, tourist section, kitchenware section, etc.  It just goes on and on.  Tired, we found a little restaurant for dinner.  We had some spring rolls and fried CROCCODILE - a first for us.
 Back to the room to watch TV.  We have 2 English-speaking channels, one from Russia and one from Germany.

July 29, 2017. Black, white and hot Chiang Rai

LOCATION:  Chiang Rai, Thailand in far northern Thailand

WEATHER:  Hot - 93 F with a 110 heat index.  


What a day!  Most tourists come here as a day trip from the more civilized Chiang Mai and take a packaged tour of the sites here.  But no, we wanted to save money, so we are on the DIY plan.  We took the regular bus up here and now are visiting the sites on our own.  We are doing the local bus and tuk tuks instead of taxis or tours.  

Let the adventure begin!>>>>>  

We went back to the bus terminal (aka the big mud puddle) and caught a local bus to the White Temple, Chiang Rai's most famous site.

This temple is rather new and is blindingly bright.

All the buildings in the temple complex are white, with the exception of the toilet which is golden, supposedly because the architect felt that the toilet was where the mot important functions take place~

After visitng the temple, we waited at the bus stop to flag down a bus returning to the city, about 10 miles away.

Back in town, we stopped at a sidewalk restaurant next to the bus station for lunch.  The menu was all in Thai, so we just pointed.  It was pretty good...  
Then, we took another bus, just like the first decrepit one, to the Black House Museum.  After the bus dropped us off, we had to walk about a mile to the museum in the blistering sun..  I thought I would faint.  The museum is a collection of about 50 buildings that this eccentric artist created in the mid 1900s.  

The artist apparently was fascinated by dead animals as there were skulls all over, and croccodile skins.  

This was the artist's bedroom...

And the meditation room...
See next post for more photos of today.

Friday, July 28, 2017

July 28, 2017. From Chiang Mai to the boonies of Chiang Rai

LOCATION:  Chiang Rai, Thailand

WEATHER:  You guessed it!  Hot and humid!


We caught a tuk-tuk to the bus station in Chiang Mai. Riding the tuk-tuks is an adventure.  You have to hold on for dear life to prevent falling out! 

The bus station was crowded with buses scheduled to go everywhere. We saw the bus to Phuket - 24 hours!  When our bus arrived, the driver motioned us to stand in another line rather than board the bus. We were confused. Then, we realized that they were reissuing tickets for a different bus and were giving everyone a $1 equivalent refund.  Later we figured it out....the new bus didn't have an toilet so it cost less.  Sure hope the bus for the people going to Phuket has a toilet!  I was a bit worried about not having a toilet as my tummy was rumbling, possibly from the fried silk worms I ate yesterday?  Our ticket for the 3.5 hour trip was reduced to about $4.
It was an express bus, meaning it didn't stop too often.  We had one major stop for a toilet and snack stop.  The route took us over a mountain that is part of a national park.  Lots of banana tree plants and bamboo.  Then, through farmland - rice paddies, mango trees,  and strangely sweet corn...  
The landscape was dotted with temples and random statues of Buddha.  
Chiang Rai is much smaller and less westernized than Chiang Mai. The bus depot is a big mud puddle with really ancient looking buses parked everywhere. A bunch of taxi drivers greeted our bus, and ours took us in his pick-up tuk-tuk to our hotel.  
Our hotel is actually a small bungalow.  Really cute.    
We took a taxi back into town, about one mile, and had the driver drop us off at the ClockTower which is famous here.  At night, it lights up.  It is a bit gaudy.  
Then, we walked around in search of a restaurant or bar.  And walked.  And walked. And walked.  Unlike Chiang Mai, there are hardly any. The sweat was just rolling off me. I had to continually wipe my brow as I couldn't see through the sweat in my eyes.  I was getting quite cranky, as I tend to do when I'm hot, tired, thirsty and lost.  Finally we found the dowtownish area and a restaurant.  We had a drink, then wandered through the night market. It was packed.  Perhaps that is why there aren't any restaurants - everyone just goes here.  They sell everything here....clothes, tourist things, hardware, kitchenware, etc.  There are lots of food vendors.  We tried a stick of satay - meat on skewers grilled with a tasty sauce.  I had minced chicken; George had chicken stomach (chewy).    
Then, we found a sort of beer garden in the center of the night market.  Absolutely packed.  It is surrounded by about 100 food stalls.  People select their dinner, then sit at a communal table.    
Chiang Rai is famous for its "hot pot" dish.  Most people were having that, so George wanted to try it. I was too hot to even imagine eating a steaming bowl of anything.  You select the type of hot pot you want - fish or shellfish, or pork or chicken.  Also you select your level of spiciness.  The waitress brings you a flower-pot type bowl of burning coals.  You put a bowl of steaming broth over the coals and cook it at your table - adding your veg, fish or whatever, raw egg,  and spices. The pot increased the temperature at our table from about 100F to 110F!  George said it was very good. And only $2 for more than he could eat. While we sat there, there was music on the stage, including these typical Thai dancers.    
Tuk-tuk back to the hotel with blessed air conditioning.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 27, 2017. Exploring the jungle around Chiang Mai

LOCATION:  Chiang Mai, Thailand WEATHER:  Hot and humid, of course  

What a crazy day full of fun stuff!


Mr. Boy, our taxi driver, picked us up at our hotel promptly at 8:00 AM.  We put ourselves in his hands and let him plan the day.


First, he took us to one of the elephant camps in the jungle in the mountains.  These elephants were formerly used by the Long-Necked Tribe (more on that later) and now are just a tourist attraction.  First, we took a (very bumpy) ride on one....

Then, we watched a show where trained elephants did a bunch of amazing things like play soccer, shoot darts, and paint...

The paintings were remarkably good. We were in an audience among hundreds of Chinese tourists.  They oohed and aahed a lot.  At the end, the trainers brought the elephants up close.  Two of them decided to give me a group hug.  It was a bit scary!
Then we went to a monkey school.  It was a bit depressing. Our animal rights daughter would not have been pleased.  The monkeys did a bunch of tricks including some with numbers and posing with the audience....

Then on to an orchid showplace.  The orchids are really pretty.  

This place also has a butterfly cage where beautiful butterflies, some huge, fly all around you.

The orchid/butterfly house place has a restaurant.  Tourists were chowing down on the lunch buffet.  We just weren't hungry, which I think disappointed Mr Boy, as he didn't get his kickback for bringing us here.    Then, on to a tiger show.  Again, we said 'no thank you" to this place as admission was expensive and we weren't thrilled about being in cages with tigers to get our photos taken. Mr. Boy was disaapointed again.   From there, we went to a hilltop village of the Long-Necked People.  They aren't sure where these tribes came from but they believe they sought refuge here from Burma.  At age 5, the girls put a ring around their necks and continue adding a ring on each birthday.  They make their living by selling tourist  things in their very poor village.

They do weaving and embroidery.

From there, Mr Boy drove us up another mountain that overlooks the city.  It is the site of one of the most famous temples.  We had our choice of a cable car or climbing 1500 steps to the actual temple.  We splurged (10 cents) on the cable car.  While there, I noticed a sign saying that you could "chat" with a monk.  So, we went in.  It was very interesting.  We just sat around a table asking this young monk anything we could think of..  We learned a lot, including how different the rules are from country to country.  For example, in Tibet, monks can touch women.  In other countries, they cannot.  In Japan  (I think), they can even marry.  

We had told Mr Boy that we wanted to try some fried insects.  We had read that the fried silk worms and bamboo worms are espeically tasty.  So, he found a place for us to buy some.

The vendor was selling crickers, grasshoppers, silk worms and bamboo worms.  They were all good. We bought two packages for the bus ride tomorrow.

  After a very full day, Mr. Boy dropped us off at our hotel.  We took a refreshing dip in the swimming pool, then George went in search of one of the famous Thai massages.  These massage parlors are everywhere.  He came back with some intteresting tales and some sore muscles.  The first place quoted him a price, then said he could pay just a little more for a bath with a "nice boy".  He realized he was in the wrong place!  The next one was had a buxom Thai woman who really worked his muscles.  An hour massage for $10 including a generous tip.    We headed out for dinner.  As we were passing a bar, a guy from Vancouver invited us in for a drink.  It was very strange.  The bartender is a transgender woman, dressed in a lacy outfit with a deep male voice.  We see quite a bit of this.

For dinner, we shared one of Thailand's best known dishes, a type of sour soup and a platter of stir-fried morning glories.  Good and cheap.