My first Update from Chiang Mai
Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
41Trip End May 19, 2009
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Wow, this place is awesome.
Since I gave a review of every flight I had, I may as well give a review of my final flight. It was probably the best flight, (except for the lady who's scented lotion spilled all over my backpack during takeoff.) I had a lot more space, it wasn't too long, and it wasn't very full. When I arrived in Chiang Mai, I looked out the window, and saw incredible amazingness. From the air, it looked nothing like America, and I was still positive I was far from home when I looked out the airport window. The first things I noticed were the palm trees and the mountains ( I felt like I was in the Caribbean!) It's beautiful here. Getting my visa and luggage was no problem, and customs was hassle free.
After I made it through customs, I saw Scott and Cat, and they greeted me warmly. I got to exchange my 80 dollars for almost 3000 Baht, thus making me feel like an instant millionaire :-) I got the driving tour on the way home (they drive on the other side of the road, whacky). Their neighborhood is beautiful and their home fits right in. It's is much nicer, and much more "American" than I had expected. My MacBook feels right at home over here, where it has 3 other MacBooks to play with. The entire home has great architecture, great views, and great character.
The last few days, I've been doing some shopping for my dorm (dorm=apartment without the kitchen or living room. Essentially a bedroom with a walk-in closet, bathroom, and 20 sq.ft. porch.) Its a nice place, pretty barebones, and in need of a good soapy wipedown, but it'll be good for three months. My bed is queen size, but the mattress is essentially two gymnastics mats. The toilet is flushed by dumping a bucket of water down when you're finished. I have no furniture, so I've been headed to some of the main stores in Chiang Mai to try to find some. While there are hundreds of ethnic, original, cultural Thai only shops, booths, tents, and open markets to buy stuff, I have been surprised by how many stores there are that seem to cater to english speaking foreigners. The first of these stores that I visited was called Carrefour, and it is a Thai clone of Wal-Mart. All the labels are written in English and Thai script. There is even a KFC, DQ, and McThai (McDonalds) in the same mini-mall as the Wal-Mart. I also shopped at a Home Depot knock-off called Home Pro; got a padlock for my crib there. I got a Thai cell phone at a booth in the mini-mall, pretty legit. Nokia and Sony are the only phones available.
The night I got in I did a Chaing Mai Photo Safari with the Cougill's youth group. That was really fun, and I got to see a lot of the city. I saw the historic downtown, with a moat around the crumbling walls, the original mall (which was huge), the Night Bazaar (a mile long sidewalk tent sale with everything from knock off backpacks and jewelry, to hand carved and dyed soap flowers), and the Ping River.
Food here is great, and super cheap. Halfway between my dorm and the Cougill's home is a soup shop, where I can get a beef and noodles meal for only 20 Baht (less than 75 cents). The first night I was here, we went to the neighborhood poolside restaurant, where I had a New China sized meal for 40 Baht, and it was infinitely more tasty! The food here is HOTTT though, I put the fresh roasted chili flakes in my soup, without realizing how hot they really are. I'm struggling with the chop-sticks. It takes me about 5 times longer than anyone else to eat my food, but I'm learning. Another thing that really messes with my head is the fact that the only purpose of a fork is to push food onto the spoon, the main eating utensil, besides the chopsticks of course.
I got a motor-scooter lesson yesterday from Tim Cougill, who's 15, the legal age to drive one. I felt like a fool, because I almost fell over once, and ended up splashing sewer water into my sandals, and then later I completely failed to make a turn properly and fell over after almost running into a wall; embarrassing yes, but I shook it off. About half the vehicles on the roads are the same 100cc motor-scooters. The others are all Toyota cars and trucks, which I haven't quite figured out yet. I'll be taking pictures and videos soon, so be expecting those in the next few days.
For now, I'm off to eat some more delicious 20 Baht food at the soup shop.
Thanks for caring enough to read all this,