Chiang to-the Mai baby

Trip Start Mar 05, 2007
Trip End May 01, 2007

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

For some people, the idea of a vacation is booking flights, arranging transporting early to an already reserved hotel and then diving into the mapped out museums, restaurants and other points of interest found weeks in advance in travel books and on the internet. If this is you, you're missing out. I don't mean to sound judgmental, or to tell you that you're going to have an awful time on that trip to Paris you've got itinerized, but you're missing out. Until you've showed up in a city with nothing but a hope to meet the right people and find great things to do, you haven't gotten the full experience of being a traveler. Do it sometime.

We got to Chiang Mai yesterday afternoon and after 17 hours in tight quarters with a bunch of hygiene difficient backpackers, we were ready to shower and do some laundry. Bangkok is sort of a gathering place for all sorts of people who wish really hard they were hippies. The big tourist area is called Khao San Road. You could start at one end of the street looking like a Christian missionary from Princeton and after being tattooed, pierced and installed with long fake dread locks, come out looking like a shiny new hippy. You can really tell those committed to the hippy art of living from those who are backpacking in Asia to see what its like. Most people just want to stick their little toe into the hippy life and get all the pictures taken so they can show them to the future generations and say: "Yeah, when I was a wild child backpacking in Thailand..."

Anyway, we stumbled off the train and not two seconds later were assaulted by a woman I like to call Admiral Jessica. She's sort of the dictator of guest houses in the new part of Chiang Mai. She's a shorter but round woman with round black framed glasses. She putters around town on her little moto scooter just begging for people to sing the wicked witch theme as she passes. There are a lot of places to stay here so the Admiral decided to set up camp right at the exit of the train and start negotiating right there.  She weaseled us into her van and had her driver take us to her first guest house. We pull up outside the tallest and thinnest building around. Each floor has 4 rooms and as they lower to the ground they get more expensive. The top floor, the 7th,  is shared bathroom with a fan (or what I like to call "hell") for 150 B ($5), then down from that you get your own bathroom...We weren't really feeling this place, so we started to walk away when Admiral Jessica muscled us into the van again. I say muscled because this woman could take me down. I mean it, I'm 6'2 and 190 pounds and I'm still certain this Thai women could make me scream uncle with tears running down my face.

By the time we got to the second guest house, we were so exhausted we gave in. 150 B for a shared bathroom and fan on the second floor. It was cheap, we were desperate. How do these guest houses survive on $5 a night rooms? Upselling. They do your laundry, arrange trips, arrange your future travels ect... For example Jeff was walking out with a bag of our dirty cloths to take them next door when the Admiral caught him and before he could turn around she had taken it, weighed it and was putting it in the soapy water and asking for money. Every time we pass her she drills us on where we're going for the day and what we're doing tommorow. This doesnt sound like such a big thing, but they dont take no for an answer. The constant stream of questions, pamphlets and suggestions is just too much. We half expected to find an itinerary taped to our door this morning with a bill. We finally told her that we're leaving for Laos (which technically we are, just not for a week or so) and we're checking out tommorow.

We are having an amazing time here however. We've just been wandering around the city and have stumbled on some incredible experiences. We met an 65 year-old Thai artist who has galleries in Seattle and around California, but has never left Thailand. His gallery here is signifigantly cheaper and is basically piles of paintings everywhere. We walked past a temple while the monks were meditating and praying and spent three hours with them, including a long talk with the only monk who spoke English. We found a cooking course, which we took today, which was hysterical! We have a video of us learning to make a curry by lighting the pan on fire, we'll get that posted by the next blog. Our instructor took us to the market and explained all the ingredients to us as we bought them. Then we went to the cooking school and learned to make some incredible food. On our way home we past a spa and went in for massages and reflexology. Tonight we're going to the night bazaar and tommorow we leave for a three day elephant trek to the hill tribes.

So, my advice is to spend time wandering on your vacations. You're always bound to find interesting things if you keep your eyes open.

Something interesting we learned from the monk yesterday: "You always striving. If you don't paddle your boat, you don't go far."
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helenmonster on

Your blog
I'm just loving your blog in general. =)

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