Monday, January 24, 2011

Easy Rider

Hello Hello
So... Matt and me have been spending our days and nights relaxing in the river bank bungalows of Pai Village, Chiang Mai. This is certainly a little hippy hub of the world, veggie yummys and rasta bars on every corner. They have a night market every evening which is full of such tasties as deep fried fresh potatoes crisps, banana nutella waffles, BBQ'd sweet corn, and even Pai's very own Sushi chef who slings his rolls road side.  So here we are fattening up so we can starve again for the two days of bus journeys to Loa. We've been trying to leave for three days now but this sleepy little village apparently has a strong grasp on us, we find ourselves full of excuses every day of why tomorrow will be a better day to travel.

Besides the lounging days and the camp fire nights Pai is surrounded by beautiful rolling mountains that are brimming with forests and rivers. We heard that about 7 km down the road were some very nice hot springs, so Matt and me rented a Motor scooter for the day (100 baht = $3.30) and scooted our selves out to them. The swimming was lovely, one pool after another which allows you to pick your temperature, Matt and me hung out about 5 pools apart.  Other than the swimming though there is something very special that goes on at the source. The Thai's, being wonderful people, have come up with the rather silly but truly delicious thought to use the springs to boil eggs in. Where the water bubbles out from beneath the earth the pools are lined with people who all have a long bamboo poll with a bag of eggs tied on the end, all cooking away in the water. Of course we had to try this ourselves and after a 1/2 hour wait we had the best boiled eggs that have ever crossed my lips. Perhaps it was the anticipation? An idea I will certainly bring back to California springs soon.

Riding though the warm mountain air on our little scooter has been so liberating. Singing born to wild at the top of our lungs, hair blowing in the wind. You know... Easy Rider minus the chopped Harley and replace it with 120???80 cc scooter that is sea foam green with rainbow speed stripes. Great fun. Besides the hot springs we've visited a few waterfalls... very nice, but for those of you who have kept up with our blog 'after Plitviska in croatia i don't think i'll ever look at a water fall the same way.' We haven't really done any swimming due to our knowledge of the lack of sewer systems around these parts; though you do see other tourists, usually quite drunk, floating down the river in inner-tubes.

One thing that we saw here that is truly unique to me was the Pai canyon. The sediment is some kind of sand stone that must either have little creeks running though it or be victim to horrendous rain storms. The effect is that you find your self on little trails, big enough for 1 person only, that stand alone; on either side the earth has fallen away leaving gaping canyons and cliffs. You weave though the forest canopy like this on the trails trying to battle off the vertigo and to defiantly keep your footing. Really stunning, never seen anything like it.

I'll leave you with that and the photographs of course, we're going to make our way from here Chiang Rai then Chiang Kong and then Lao. So until then we'll be safe and hope you enjoyed the reading.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pad Thai, Chiang Mai & Muay Thai

  Sa wat dii everyone and greetings from Thailand.  Thailand is a Kingdom in South East Asia that looks like the head of an elephant, with enough imagination, oh and minus the tusks.  The money is Bath, pronounced bot, and its 33 bath to the dollar.  Its a 15 hour time difference from California, which means add three hours, change the date, and change the little am/pm symbol; the only bummer is that I can't watch sports, then report to you who won the games early so we could make money betting, I still don't understand why, but its some kind cleaver trick the sports companies pulled.  The Thai people are great, very chilled out, friendly, actually the entire country almost has a SC vibe.  Though I was skeptical of the food, I was pleasantly surprised about how good it is.  Pad Thai is what I usually order, but I have yet to have something that I didn't like. 
  We flew in to Bangkok on the fourth of January, and were headed North, but Nima came down with a fever on the 6th so we hunkered down in our mellow little teak jungle house, away from the noise of the city.  Nima soon got well and we got to visit with Nimas family friend Greg, who comes here once a year, so his advise was great.  We saw some of the sites and went to a great weekend market, where I got a hat, yep a cowboy hat.
  We bailed out of Bangkok, and headed north, to Sukhothai, near Suk Weing, just down from the river Muinch Poon.  This little village was once the capitol of the first Thai Kingdom, and is riddled with old shrines, and ancient Buddhas.  We rented bicycles and rode through town.  It was cool to see such old monuments in peoples front yards being used to dry clothed, or beef jerky in some cases.  Here we stayed in a Bamboo Bungalow where we were able to download Machete, the best movie ever, staring Danny T. 
  After a couple of days we met up with a Spaniard, a German, and an Indian American; not to be confused with the American Indian, on the way to Chiang Mai.  Our party of five rented motor scooters and we headed out of town to the Temple on the Mount, where we climbed the Dragon Steps to the top of this jungle temple.  In retrospect I wish I had a slinky, that would have been great.  On the way down we checked out the waterfall and headed to get Falafel.  That night we met up with our old friend from London, Jamyang, at a Muay Thai boxing match, which was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  It's like a very respectful dance sort of fight with kicking.  The music and the mood are great, we sat ringside at the blue corner where we watched the men gambling, shouting and drinking.  The women who fight are nuts, not the type of girl you want to mess with on the buss, unless your not a fan of your teeth.  Mid way through the matches, they stopped and four fighters entered the ring, were blindfolded, and proceeded to punch the crap out of each other for about ten minutes,with total disregard for the ref, who managed to dodge most of the blows.  All of this while disco lights flashed.  It was the best comedy I have seen in years.  
  So here we are in Chiang Mai on the down low till Nima overcomes her next little sickness.  She's all good, its just that the medication makes her feel a bit crappy.  We are stationed at this great little reggea bar called the Freedom Bar where they are currently blastin some Marley right outside our window, so nice.  We are headed to Pai next.  Well everyone, I hope the winter finds you well and where sleeping bears lie make sure to set your phone to silent.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Smoke on the Ganges

  Week three in India and we're alive and well and as tired of being ripped off as Germans are of Hitler jokes.  I mean if you have the slightest want to become famous just get your egocentric butt to India, where just for being white you will be asked every question imaginable, entire groups will stare at you for as much as eight hours at a time, and every family wants a picture of you with their grandmother and children.  Its kind of neat at first, but then you begin feel like some kind of freak, I mean I am some kind of freak, and I am use to a few strange glances in my own country, but hear you begin to think, OK OK what's wrong with me.  I just say for the sake of anyone that plans to take a trip to India, just so they are aware, oh and when you pack, be sure to bring a pair of those rose tinted glasses.  But I digress, where were we.  Yes, the all together 9 hour late train from Delhi to Chaki Bank, after which we take a 3 and half hour buss to Daramasala, then a quick 45 min buss to Mcloed Gang, the home of the Dali Lama.  This put our total travel time from Agra to Mcloed Gang at around 32 hours, but it was worth it.  Going there was like taking a vacation from India on account that its a place largely made up of Tibetan Refugees.  Its cleaner, the air the Himalayas is fresher, their are more trees, less crap everywhere, it was great.  We threw down some didge to get a nice place for Christmas and stayed at the Pema Thang Guest House, the place where Richard Gear stays when he comes to see the Dali Lama.  But seriously, all hamster jokes aside, he seems like a pretty cool guy, he really seems to care about the Tibetan people.  We had a great Christmas dinner of pizza and beer while we watched TV, though it sounds normal, it was magical, even our sit down toilet was magical, its the simple things ya know.  We spent four days relaxing there before our next trek to Veranasi.
   Just a short 4 and a half hour buss ride and a 2 hour delayed 22 hour train ride later we were at the famed smokey Ganges shore town.  We are in crunch time at this point, no time to lollygag, so we are switching our tourism meter from Californian to Asian; they are the power travelers of the world with the ability to see all the major sites in Europe, for instance, in less than one week.  We saw the cremations on the riverbank, took a boat ride, meandered through the markets, ate a few tasty meals and were out of their quick.  We met a great guy from France named Carlos, who urged us to go on the boat ride, and at the price of a whopping dollar it was worth it to get some pictures of the place from afar.  We also saw some kind of ceremony on the shore of the river and had front row seats.  I have no idea what it was for but it involved bells, singing, fire and flowers.  Another constant highlight are the monkeys of course, watching them from the roof of our guest house in their own man made jungle is pretty wild.  The way death is dealt with there is truly a mind opening experience, its not swept under the rug or ignored, it's right there in your face.  I must say it's a beautiful thing.
   Another 5 hours down the tracks brought us to Bodhgaya, made famous by the Bodhi Tree, where Sidartha became enlightened and transcended into the Buddha.  Beggars, thieves, and con artists aside, it is an interesting place.  The Buddhist Mecca.  The tree itself just begs to be climbed, and if anyone took the trees opinion into consideration it would probably much prefer that to the constant full prostration of all these funny ape descended creatures.  We visited some of the temples, and took a stroll through a local mud house village, where the people were great and everyone greeted us with smiles and namastays'.   On another note,  HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE.  Our midnight was spent on a rickety rickshaw bounding through dirt roads in India, and we were stoked to be having a unique experience as our proverbial ball fell.  I hope all of yours were unique and awesome as well, and for Gods sake will someone pleas have a beer for me, cause I am beginning to think beer went extinct in India.
   We somehow made it onto a train to Calcutta, and let me tell you it was by the skin of our skinless teeth.  First of all we didn't even have a real ticket, we were 39th and 40th on the list for one, and next we got on the wrong train.  So we stowed away and played it dumb, which worked out surprisingly well.  A good meal and a dirty hotels' night later we were off to the airport to catch our flight to Thailand.  So we must bid you farewell India, and hey you could do with a few more trash cans, and maybe a public toilet or two, and a few more sanitary engineers or an awesome janitorial team.  Well we love you all and remember what goes around comes around, if what your referring to is a boomerang.