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Thailand

The end of Asia...finally!

Kristin and I arrived in Bangkok this morning to exhaust, angry taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, and cranky market ladies. Asia has finally come to a close. Kristin leaves in 3 hours and I leave tomorrow morning way too early for my comfort. This trip has been an exceptional way to shock my system into living again. After last year with all of the extra jobs, boyfriend difficulties, and marathon troubles, I feel like I'm back in sync with myself. Full speed ahead...once again...with balance only a single gal in her late thirties understands. In some ways I feel like this trip made me realize I'm not so keen on cheap backpacker trips, but am too poor to travel the "5-star" way. I've moved myself up to the 3 star mode of travel. Thailand reminded me a lot of Peace Corps with riding in the backs of dirty trucks, eating from street vendors, smelling exhaust and food EVERYWHERE and a certain level of discomfort mixed with adventure. China is far from my mind but I know once I start looking at photos, I'll remember that part of the trip fondly. It's been refreshing spending so much time with Kristin in Thailand. She's a great travel companion. And, thanks to Kylie in China, I began getting back into the game of life again. There won't be any trips in the plans for some time as I really don't want to work 100 jobs. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and send comments. As fun as trips are, it's easy to feel lonely and homesick. I can't wait to see you all! Signing off from...Asia...finally.

Posted by venisha 04:41 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Final day in Chiang Mai

Today's our final day in northern Thailand. Yesterday we visited a museum about the hilltribe people. Today we visited a silk and silver factory. I'm getting anxious to be home with family and friends. I'm not getting excited to start the daily grind called work. I suppose it all goes hand in hand. Kristin and I have a flight to Bangkok tomorrow at 8:00 AM. She leaves tomorrow night at midnight and I leave the following day at 9 AM. We arrive within an hour of each other.

Stay tuned for the last blog tomorrow. :)

Posted by venisha 08:09 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Jungle Fever

Wow... that was quite the adventure! While the things we did were amazing, it feels SOOO good to be back in Chiang Mai. I got quite ill on the trek. It came on suddenly and for the last hour of our hike on slippery, steep, muddy trails, I was throwing up off and on. Our guide, "Dee" was so sweet. He patted my back and fanned me with a big leaf. I felt pretty miserable. Kristin was remarkable. She was and has been ill for a week or so now and she managed to hang out by my side each of the many times I vomited. Carrying packs, slipping on mud, and watching a friend by ill, is no fun when you are also sick. When we finally arrived at the hilltribe village, I was still sick. This nice Italian man brought me a coca-cola, which I was able to drink most of before emptying the gut again. Kristin and I turned in immediately while the others hung out. We slept on the floor of this thatched hut on stilts next to a river. The floor was bamboo and had random holes where bamboo had broken, rotted, or just never been built. All of us had individual mosquito nets to tuck under the damp pads on the floor. Throughout the night, I had fever, chills and I felt kind of delirious. I felt like I was spinning. Around 2:00-ish I felt like the fever broke. Could it have been something I ate? Malaria? Dengue Fever? The options really seemed endless. The next morning my fever was gone, but I still didn't feel too great.

I still participated in the elephant trek through the jungle, which was spectacular. Elephants are so massive, but they managed to walk on this muddy trail that would have been narrow for my feet. After the elephant ride, we went on a 2 1/2 hour bamboo raft ride down the river. They literally were finishing making the bamboo rafts as we were getting on. We went down rapids on this thing! Our raft started to fall apart a little and our guide was tying bamboo strings around it as we were flying down the rapids. Quite exciting! It was a great way to begin year 36 of my life.

Arriving back at our 6 dollar a night guest house never felt better. I took a shower and crashed out. The owner of the guesthouse knocked on the door and said that our trekking group was getting ready to leave so we should come and say goodbye. When we all got out in the restaurant portion of the trip, I was surprised by chocolate cake and an endless supply of fresh fruit. Our tour group consisted of a swiss couple, 2 Italian guys, 2 British girls, and a British guy. They are so sweet here.

Down time is in order now. We have been taking it easy since the trek. I have been in out of bed (mostly in). I found two new books at a used book shop and will be sitting in cafes reading and really taking it easy. I think a trip to an air-conditioned Starbucks may be on the agenda for the day.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! As I was spinning on the floor in the thatched roof hut at midnight on the 12th, I thought, "This must be a joke..." I decided it really was a cool place and time to be out of my mind. :) I wonder where I'll be and what I'll be doing at 37?

Posted by venisha 21:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Bamboo rafting and elephant trekking

Kristin and I leave today for a 2 day trek to a traditional mountain village. On the way we'll swim in a waterfall, a hot springs, and hike 4 hours. To leave the village, we'll make a bamboo raft and raft for 2 hours and finish with a 1 hour elephant trek to the road and an option to white water raft. The white water rafting is 10K or people can just swim and wait for a truck back to Chiang Mai (the city where we're staying). I don't plan on white water rafting. It's raining pretty hard so I'm sure the jungle trek will be a bit uncomfortable. I suppose it's better to be a bit uncomfortable and have an adventure than hang out in front of my TV watching DVDs in my 750 foot condo. :)

Posted by venisha 18:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Thai Cooking

Kristin and I took a Thai cooking class today. We were the only students. Firs, we went to the market to buy the ingredients. I learned how to make Panaeng Curry, sticky rice with mango, spring rolls, coconut chicken soup, and papaya salad. Kristin learned how to make green curry, bananas in coconut milk, spring rolls, coconut chicken soup, and pad thai. The day was amazing. I've eaten SOOOO much food I feel like it's Thanksgiving. We made the curry paste from all fresh ingredients from the market. The paste was made my smashing the ingredients with a heavy stone. It took about 30 minutes. Overall it was pretty easy to make the food. Get ready for a dinner party!

I was going to go to a mediation retreat center for 2 days but it's the Queen's birthday on August 12 (no I'm not talking about me!) Everything is pretty much closed down for the week. Kristin might go on a trek for 2 days, but it includes all the things we did out of Bangkok except you make your own bamboo raft to go down the river AND you see a few hillside villages. I'm thinking I might just hang out in the city and check out the temples.

Thinking of you all. See you next week!

Posted by venisha 03:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Last day in my bikini

Tomorrow is the last day I'll be in a bikini and a cotton sundress in Thailand. For the last 7 days that is all I've worn. I'm not sure why I carried any other clothes with me. I bought the bikini and the sundress on the streets of Hat Rai Lay. Kristin and I have a flight to the north of Thailand tomorrow at around 1:00. We're heading to a town called Chiang Mai and plan on trekking in the mountains. This part of the trip has been wonderful. I went snorkeling for the first time ever, saw the Tsunami Memorials on 3 separate islands, and drank lots of cold water and Fantas. We took a day trip snorkeling over to the beach where the movie, "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. The water was so clear you could see the fish swimming around. We also went sea kayaking over to an island full of monkeys. The monkeys came right up to us to play with our paddles. That was a bit freaky, but it was all worth it. The last few days have been remarkable since we've been on islands with no cars and "real" coffee. No instant coffee for me... For the past two nights we stayed on an island called Phi Phi Don. The island has a strip where you can see beach on both sides. Depending on the time of day, you can swim on one side or the other. This island was completely destroyed in the Tsunami. The building are all new and are made out of cement blocks. There were so many tourists on this island I had a hard time relaxing. The night life was insane until about 6 in the morning. The music was so loud we had to wear ear plugs.

Kristin hasn't been feeling well because of the heat, so it'll be good to go to the mountains. If she weren't ill, it would be VERY challenging to pull me away from Hat Rai Lay, which is by far my most favorite beach getaway.

Posted by venisha 05:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Hat Rai Lay

Massages on the beach, torquoise waters, caves and lime bluffs lining the beaches...

Kristin and I found heaven. We don't have air conditioning in our bungalow, but we have a pool and a beach a short walk away. The island doesn't have any roads, which is wonderful because there are no cars, motorcycles, or exhaust. I got a massage on the beach with coconut oil and tiger balm (the massage therapist said my muscles were too stressed and tight...). After the massage I floated around in the water for another 15 minutes or so. The massage was only around 6 bucks for a 40 minute massage.

We are staying here tonight and heading to Phi Phi Don tomorrow to try and find another fabulous beach. Our lodging is only around 9 dollars each and we have a nice fan, a private bathroom with hot showers, towels, and a TV with the National Geographic channel in English.

Ok, off to enjoy the pool.

Posted by venisha 00:58 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Krabi

We made it to the islands. We are in Krabi. There were no taxis when we got dropped off on the highway leading into town. We ended up walking 6K into the city. At one point in the walk we were charged by a bull and were in a couple of stand offs with miserably hot and unkempt dogs. The walk wasn't that much fun. :) Kristin was ill. She got super motion sick on the bus, she'd eaten something bad for breakfast, and I think she was still suffering from heat exhaustion for a 13 mile run the day before. She also forgot her sunglasses in her seat on the bus. When we got on the bus outside the airport we ended up without seats. Kristin got a seat about 40 minutes into the 2.5 hour trip. I got a seat as the third person (basically, I was just leaning up against the seat) about 1 hour in. I felt like I was in the Peace Corps again. Our hotel was only 3 dollars each. It was quite simple with just 2 beds and a fan. The bathroom is a shared one right across the hall. It's super clean so I think it's just PERFECT! We are off to an island call Hat Rai Lay today. We don't have a reservation anywhere so it should be interesting. I had an awesome run this morning along the river. I didn't have to deal with ANY traffic since there was a boardwalk along the banks. I would love to stay here for the rest of the trip but I think it's best to keep exploring.

Posted by venisha 18:56 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Luxury

I wish I could say that I'm finished with backpacker style "teacher" travel. Unfortunately, I'm only finished with it for another 15 minutes. Kristin somehow managed to get a first class flight to Phuket from Bangkok. She could bring 1 guest into the "lounge". I'm her 1 guest. She had no other choice. :) I'm drinking a capuccino, eating a ham and cheese sandwich while using free internet. The bathrooms have REALLY nice toilets, lotions, and soaps. I even sat down on the toilet seat. Imagine that! I'm glad we didn't get on a standby flight yesterday and miss this. The flight is only an hour long, but this lounge time is worth the first class price. When we arrive in Krabi, our hotel is only 3.00 dollars a night each. Like I said the backpacker style travel is only for another 15 minutes. I really need to find a "sugar daddy!".

Posted by venisha 23:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Southern Thailand

This morning I woke up and went for a run in a park called Lumphini Park. It was a little Chinese paradise. :) It is the only place in Bangkok I've ever seen anyone doing any sort of exercise. There was a 3k loop to run, walk, or bike. There was a huge lap pool, which I would have used had I known about it. The grassy areas were full of people practicing Tai Chi and oga, partner dancing, and playing badminton. This park is completely walled off from the city. Too bad there aren't more spaces like this in this dirty, loud city. :) We're off to the airport for our scheduled flight to Phuket. Our plan is to take a 5 hour bus ride to a town called Krabi as soon as our plane lands. Time to get out to the peace and quiet of island living.

Posted by venisha 20:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bangkok...again

Kristin and I got back to the city last night. The three day tour was so-so. There were a lot of tourists and we kept getting shuffled around to different groups. The lodging was on floating rafts on the Kwai Noi River. We went on a 30 minute elephant ride in the jungle, spent some time at a tiger temple where monks rescue tigers from people who try to make them pets, swam in a waterfall with water so clear you could see the fish swimming at your feet, and spent a lot of time standing around waiting for the tour guides to shuffle us around to different groups. I'm happy I took a tour because we were able to see more around Bangkok without dealing with traffic logistics. I don't think I'll take any more tours here. There was just too much downtime because of the lack of organization. In all we were in 11 different mini-vans in the course of 3 days.

Tomorrow we are off to Phuket (southern Thailand). We tried to go standby today but their flights were all overbooked.

Hope all's well stateside. :)

Posted by venisha 05:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Still in Bangkok

Kristin's bag arrived late yesterday. Yippee! We tried to buy a train ticket to the border of Laos but we found out that we need to buy our ticket at least 3 days in advance to get a seat. Also, we need a visa. I'm not sure why I didn't know that. It's a pretty fast process to get one, but given the fact that we have to be back in Bangkok for a flight to the south of Thailand on August 3 it didn't make sense for us to take a 13 hour train ride for only a day or two. Instead we bought a tour. This morning we traveled to the floating markets about an hour our of Bangkok. It took us about 3 hours to get there because our mini-van didn't have air-conditioning and the tour guide pretty much refused to travel without it. It took that long for us to wait for a car and 3 more passengers who were stuck in traffic. When we got to the markets, we took a long boat down narrow canals. I took a video of it. There were traffic jams in the narrow canals. When we finally had some space to move, the driver would kick the motor into high gear and we would zoom away. Since all the boats would do this, we had to go over some pretty high waves. The market was outstanding. Women were cooking on the boats and selling the food. They were selling hats and fruit. You name it, it came floating by on a boat.

After the market we drove to a wood carving factory. Kristin and I were passed off to another tour guide/group and the third mini-van of the day. We went to a crocodile farm and an elephant show for lunch. It was buffet so I got to sample Thai food. The Panang curry chicken was the best. We didn't have tickets for the elephant show, so we were whisked away to our fourth mini-van and tour group to be driven to the rose gardens. We walked around the grounds, checked out the Thai silk making process (outstanding), and watched a cultural show. There was a dance where instead of people jumping over a Chinese jump rope they jumped over moving bamboo sticks. There were about 16 sticks being smacked together in a rhythm that kept getting faster. The faster the bamboo sticks were smashed together the faster the dancers had to jump through them. I video-taped it. Wow, it's nice to have a camera again!

From the rose gardens we went back to the third mini-van we were on and headed into Bangkok. All the tour groups met at a gem factory. I bought a very, very small ruby. Kristin bought a small gem. I don't remember what kind. We were escorted out to our fifth mini-van. The driver brought us back to the hotel.

The traffic in Bangkok is hideous. It is miserable to go anywhere. We sat in traffic for hours. Tomorrow we are off on a three-day tour to a tiger temple where the monks are rehabilitating tigers, a bamboo raft river trip, and elephant trek to a waterfall, and a train trip over the a very famous river (can't remember the name of it). I won't have email for 3 days, so I'll fill you all in when I return. I finally have some cool postcards, so please send me your address, especially if you just moved into a new house (HOLLIE!).

Posted by venisha 05:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Part II: Bangkok

I arrived in Bangkok last night at around 7:30 PM. It was nice to arrive in a new city where I knew a friend was waiting. I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel where Kristin and I had talked about meeting if one of us was delayed. She got to Bangkok at 10:30 in the morning and waited for about 3 hours before realizing that I wouldn't be in until the evening. Her bag is still not here. We were going to leave tonight for the Laotian border, but we're waiting out the bag until tomorrow. We're buying an overnight train ticket for tomorrow night. Luckily she packed the essentials in her carry on. The taxi driver sat on the right side and drove on the left side. I was perplexed. I'm not sure I've ever been to a country where that was the custom.

This morning I got in a run in the extremely cool weather. It's overcast and high 70's. I felt like I should be wearing a long sleeved shirt. The traffic is NUTS! In China there was a separate lane for bikes and scooters and a sidewalk for pedestrians. Here everything just smashes together and there are NO bicycles. Also, there were absolutely no others outside exercising. Nobody was practicing Tai Chi, playing ping pong, or partner dancing.

After the run, Kristin and I ate a buffet breakfast at the hotel. It was DELICIOUS! I ate banana pancakes, bacon, yogurt, scrambled eggs, toast, and fresh fruit. Kristin ate green curry broccoli with rice. She's happy to be eating Thai food; I'm happy to be able to eat American food for a day or two. I'll switch to Thai food when we head out to the rural areas. It was nice to not eat a TON of grease, but not so nice to eat with a fork. I've enjoyed eating with chopsticks.

After breakfast we took a tuk-tuk (a motorcycle with a double seat and a roof on it) to the river for a water ferry. We got off at the Grand Palace and the reclining Buddha. Now we're hanging out in backpacker heaven where internet is about 10 cents for 30 minutes. It's so nice to be able to use internet and not have blocked websites. It's nice to not sit under surveillance cameras.

In a day or two I'll stop comparing China to Thailand, but I think it's human nature to compare and contrast. It also helps me understand the different Asian cultures. Thailand has flowers everywhere. Amidst the exhaust there are hints of jJasmine and Gardenia. There are flower shops everywhere. The airplane had flowers in the bathroom. Our hotel room as plants and flowers in the bathroom. Part II is going to be quite the journey...

Posted by venisha 23:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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