Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Wednesday, March 2, 2005

We definitely cannot believe that it's March already...

Week one in Thailand has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs- both emotionally, and in our bellies, as we adjust to the constant influx of spice, rice, and sudden disappearance of dairy. (although we did see a dairy section at a small grocery store, called "daily foods"... in thai, the "l" and "r" sounds are interchangable.) For a Wisconsinite like Rachel, and a wanna-be like Jodie- it's hard to adjust to life without milk and cheese :)

Since last we wrote, we've worked our way north... spent a rather unremarkable night in Ayuthaya. It was so hot there that we had to hide most of the day away-- we eventually went on a 'sunset' tour of the ruins of Ayuthaya- many temples, Buddhist shrines, etc. But, as many of you know- it's hard to appreciate things that you have little to no understanding of their significance. So, lesson learned: either read up, or skip it- definitely is not a good feeling to be staring up at these beautiful temples, just wishing it was time to go back and find dinner.

We took the overnight train up here (a totally luxurious train in comparison with any train we've taken before, and for about 15 american dollars), and have been in Chiang Mai since Sunday morning. Chiang Mai is in the northern region of Thailand, and it is a lot different than Bangkok- a smaller city, but with a more cultural vibe--- tons of bookshops and markets EVERYWHERE. We were lucky to arrive on Sunday, when there is a special Sunday market, so much jewelry, silks, scarves, pillowcases---- it's like the stock room for Urban Outfitters, but for the equivalent of $2 or $3, as opposed to $20 :) Seriously though, it is all beautifully and intricately handmade crafts, and it is a new kind of exhiliration to weave ourselves through the variety of stalls, people, and many smells.

A friend of Jodies' from Brandeis is living here now, so we were lucky to have a Thai-speaking guide to spend time with at the markets... he has made a lot of Thai friends here, so we had one of our first encounters with the locals, drinking Thai whiskey, in traditional Thai style (with lots of ice, Coca-Cola, and seltzer). Yum. Everywhere you go, there are small children trying to get you to buy flowers from them... Rachel and I are suckers- how can you refuse an adorable child 50 cents? But word got out on the street that there were a couple of softies sitting at the bar, and by the end of the night, we were on our way to having a full on bouquet of roses.

We took a Thai cooking class yesterday, or perhaps it would be better to call it Thai Cooking Boot Camp. We had met up with a friend of a friend- a guy from Chicago who used to work with a friend of ours at Teva (a Jewish Environmental education organization) and before you knew it, there were the 3 of us, using a mortar and pestle to make our own curry paste, frying up Pad Thai... when all was said and done, we had each cooked 6 Thai dishes, and attempted to eat them all. We didn't "learn" how to cook so much as we were directed to cut, stir, toss, then eat. But it was quite delicious and we got cookbooks at the end.... Lesson learned? Could be fun to try making these dishes. Could also be cheaper and altogether more successful to just go to a Thai restaurant.

So, we're on our way out of Chiang Mai today, starting our journey to Laos. (Ten points if you know where Laos is, and if it's a country or a city, because months ago we weren't quite sure either.) We take a mini-bus to Chiang Khong today, stay overnight, and tomorrow we begin a boat trip up (or maybe it's down), the Mekong River... our first stop in Laos is a city called Luang Prabang... not sure what the communication situation will be like in Laos, but we'll be in touch again soon.

All in all, life is good, and we're bumping along. In a couple of weeks, our twosome will become three... a friend of Jodie's, Allison, is coming to join us for the rest of our trip, and we're excited. We'll head back to Bangkok to meet up with her, and then continue our travels in Thailand down south to the islands, and then to Cambodia.

Happy March!
Lots of love
J and R
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