Sorry for the long absence! Thailand has not been as internet friendly and the cozy trains of Japan have turned into pickup trucks on dirt roads so my laptop remains in its bag much more (as it should!) here.
We have had an action-packed first 10 days in Thailand. The play by play goes something like this: First we spent 3 days in Bangkok – the highlight was the night-bike tour through the canals and temples. I took the same exact tour last year with a group from my DU MBA cohort last summer. I thought it was so incredible that I wanted Autumn to also experience it. While not quite as ‘shocking’ for me the second time, it was still a great evening with our guide through the lesser-seen part of Bangkok, away from the traffic and annoying tuk-tuk drivers. Autumn agreed that she had a completely different impression of the city than the one you get during the day in the main tourist areas. And speaking of tuk-tuk drivers, despite my usually good con-artist radar we somehow ended up believing some guy that where we were going was closed and 15 minutes later ended up in a tailors shop being offered suits (one of the oldest scams in Bangkok). It was good laugh, in the end only costing us $1 and 30 minutes of our time. Lesson learned! We stayed in a great place off of the main tourist strip (Khoa San road) called the Shanti Lodge that my friends April and Brad recommended from their round-the-world trip a couple of years ago. It was an enjoyable little oasis in the madness that is Bangkok. We always looked forward to coming back to it after fighting the sun, crowds and diesel exhaust.
We agreed that on this trip we would not set any expectations on where we would go and would be open to possibilities and locales as we went along. The biggest decision in Bangkok was which direction to head first. After pondering our options and debating between a trip east towards Cambodia and Angkor Wat, we ultimately grabbed a bus heading north, hoping to make it to Sukhothai (the original capital of Thailand). Our plan was to make a loop through Thailand, starting near the Burmese border and heading through the northern towns, ultimately aiming for Laos. At the bus station, we were quickly informed that it was one of the biggest holiday weekends in Thailand (start of Buddhist lent) and there were no seats to be had. We detoured to Ayutthaya, the second capital of Thailand and I talked Autumn into climbing a few brick walls to see the temples in the evening and follow my Buddhism by night theory. We enjoyed the evening but weren’t too keen on the town – so we woke up early and headed to Sukhothai the next day. Here we spent two nights, renting bikes and wandered through the ruins (12th century) in the rain and seeing all kinds of ‘ancient Buddhist stuff’ as I like to say. See the photos below!
From Sukhothai we decided to take the path less-traveled towards the the Burmese border (most tourists stay on the north-south path between Bangkok and Chiang Mai). After a long, windy drive through the mountains in an over-stuffed mini-van we arrived in a border town called Mae Sot. We weren’t intending on seeing much here, rather just a stop over to rest our butts before the next grueling ride to Mae Sariang. Mae sot was a cool place – amazing food (I’ll talk about this later) and a unique ethnic mix of Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Hmong and Karen. After Sukhothai we rode for 6 hours in the back of a pickup truck to a small town called Mae Sariang that was known for arranging hill-tribe treks that were much more authentic than those from the Chaing Mai area. We took a chance and booked through a shady character Salawin who was recommended by Lonely Planet and spent the evening relaxing and getting our ‘gear’ ready for an 8 am departure…. ultimately the trek was an incredible experience – it deserves its own blog entry and will get one soon!
General thoughts on this trip so far – first the food! I’ve decided I cannot blog about every fantastic meal I’ve had otherwise that’s all I’ll be doing. We’ve eaten everywhere from nice restaurants to street vendors to guest houses to wooden shacks in the mountains over a wood stove fire. In Japan my primary food source was a seven eleven, here its just easier and usually cheaper to have someone cook for you – I nice plate of Pad Thai at a street vendor will set you back about 75 cents. My favorite dishes have been curries, noodle dishes and fresh fruit smoothies. The Thai’s know how to use their spices – even the most simple dishes will have amazing flavor. Autumn and I are going to take a cooking class in our next town – Pai. We decided to do away with the common wisdom of avoiding street vendors, eat everything including ice, vegetables and fruit without skin and things that we weren’t quite sure we were eating. The only thing we are avoiding is meat which we would be doing at home anyway 🙂
I am once again out of time – full travel day today. I promise to respond to everyone’s emails and comments soon, and get more of my thoughts out. We plan on spending a few relaxing days in Pai, getting massages, going to Yoga and finding a Thai cooking school.