Travel Blog: Week 28
Thailand – the north this time
Week 28: 20.05.2013 – 26.05.2013
The rooster was on top form around 5:30, and it stayed that way until 9 ish. The roosters taking it in turn to sing their morning tunes. I got up, braved the toilet, and snuggled back into bed and watch the morning brighten through my mosquito net. What a view and with the sounds of the village getting on with its morning, it really was a fabulous way to wake up.
Breakfast was impressive for this location – toast, jam, eggs, and pineapple. The other girls had the appetites of a pigeon so I had extra toast and eggs which I shared with the dog.
We were off again. The others were suffering from blisters so the pace was slower but no stops. Louis was on a mission this morning. Thankfully it was cool and only started to really heat up around 10:30. We had a brief stop at a waterfall.
The rainy season hadn’t started yet so the water levels were down. We walked for around 3 hours, mostly down as we’d done the climbing yesterday.
At last we made it to the main road where our “limo” according to Louis was waiting. It was an open truck and we were bundled n the back and taken to a road side restaurant for a greasy Pad Thai.
Jade nearly passed out – never a dull moment. The last thing on our list was bamboo rafting. A quick trip to the river side toilet (another outstanding experience – here the toilet is flushed using a scoop, usually an old saucepan, to pour water from a toilet side bucket into the pan) as it was disgusting and the water next to the pan was full of tadpoles. I just couldn’t do it to the little things.
Then the four of us got on the bamboo raft, sitting in a few inches of wonderfully cool water, and were taken down the river. Excitingly through a few fast moving rapids. The obligatory tourist photo was on sale when we reached the end. It had been a great couple of days.
It took us about an hour to get back. All my stuff was safe and still securely stored which was a relief. Eleena and I waved off the other girls, found a room to share, and checked in. First things first – shower. We spent the evening together having dinner and a little window shopping whilst dodging the downpour. Back to the room and sleep. Eleena was flying to Bangkok early the next morning so she packed.
The alarm went off at 6 and Eleena left. I went back to sleep – the room was mine.
I pottered for the morning doing laundry and sorting out my stuff. I wanted an easy day so I just walked around the town dropping into art galleries and craft shops. I had a posh lunch, which was completely overpriced, but in a cool restaurant with swing chairs and chilled. I found loads of new streets and even a local market. So much fresh food. So interesting to browse. I found ginger!!! At last I could make myself ginger tea.
A mango smoothie, an hour long foot massage, and a bag of lycée later and I was done for the day. It had been dark for a while but I took the long way back to drop into the markets, look at some alternative accommodation, and grab some street food for dinner. I stayed a second night at the guest house.
Up and out early. I found a great bakery near to the food market I’d found yesterday and had a long breakfast, taking the time to reply to emails and update my blog. Today I was going in search of a temple where I could arrange a silent retreat.
I walked way out of town finding more little side roads full of Thai life. As is normal for me I explored and hence it took me hours to find temples.
None of which was the one I was looking for. I was hot and cream crackered and as the sun started to set I headed back. Miraculously managing to cross the busy main roads around the moat – the dividing line between the old and the new town. I found a new place to stay for tomorrow – run by French Fred (yes, really Fred this time) and David. I met Fred who was easy going. Just wanted to move into a more happening area and this room was bigger and cheaper – just fan though no aircon which I hoped would be OK. I sat in the garden of the new place and had a drink and read a backpackers magazine. Interesting articles on carrying less – I really must get to the post office.
More pavement pounding on new streets. Everywhere you go there are new things to see and extra insights into Thai life. I found a tiny little dim sum restaurant and had a small dinner. Ann – turnip patties for 40p. Bargain! More art galleries and random streets as I walked mapless around the city. I found a water machine and topped up my bottles. It’s so cheap for a litre of water and saves on plastic.
Back to pack. I’m looking forward to staying in the livelier part of town and having wifi that works!
Up early today. Breakfast, last minute packing (again) and out.
Do I get a tuk tuk or do I walk? I walked, I need the exercise and I packed it so I should carry it. This morning I met David – equally laid back. I checked in, settled my stuff and once again sat in the tranquility of the cool garden. I could get used to this.
I went out for lunch, finding the restaurant that “does the best food in the city”, mind you they all think that. I had soup, again, and then popped next door for the best yet mango and passion fruit smoothie. More walking, more discovering new places and more sweating. This city is a natural detox.
I have been watching my budget really closely over the last few weeks and it’s pretty tough to stay within my £28 once I’ve got food and room. I could save some on accommodation if I stayed in a dorm but I’ve done that and the small savings really aren’t worth it – the space, heat, cleanliness, peace and safety are more valuable. Anyway, I decided I needed to do some more trips if I can. Some are more than 2 days budget but as Mum would say this isn’t a rehearsal. Time to do something new.
Booked the 1 day cookery class at an organic farm out of town for tomorrow.
I wanted to find the night market again. I walked down more new streets and got a bit lost, but I found a tiny street cafe which sold salads (that’s pretty unusual here) and probably the best onion rings I’ve ever had. I was the only tourist sitting at the little rickety tables set out on the road but it was fabulous.
Onwards to find more adventure …..I found a night market which went on and on. These places are marvellously hap hazard and the buzz is awesome. I found this and that, tried on this and that – changing in the street (thank goodness I wore semi sensible pants), and bought this and that. Just when I thought the market was ending it carried on into further streets – ones I recognised. Phew I was back in the right part of town.
It was late by now so a meandered through the rest of the market to my new abode. O oh, the mattress on the bed was unreal – I could feel every spring!!!
After a rocky, springy night I got up and tried to get going. My fruit salad/smoothy shop wasn’t open yet so I ate a avocado and bacon baguette for brekkie – yum yum.
I was collected from the hotel where I met Nicole. She was checking out from the hotel but would be back later to collect he bags after the class. We immediately got on and I was so grateful for her company as the rest of other the pick ups were couples.
The class was everything the leaflet, and David at the hotel, had boasted. The class would be at a farm out of town. We stopped on the way at a local market. Bigger than the others I’d seen so far and so much more food. We we talked through some if the ingredients we would be using later – mostly the sauces and the various rice, in particular jasmine and sticky rice. The sauces included fish sauce, of course, but also soy, mushroom and oyster plus shrimp and vegetable pastes.
Back in the truck and onto the farm. We met Emby, our teacher for the day. A totally potty Thai women who was an absolute gem. She explained the different cooking methods for sticky and jasmine rice and got them under way. In the meantime we were taken around the farm and introduced to the other ingredients we would use. Holy basil, sweet basil, lemongrass, ginger, squash, long beans, mango, and cashews – I never knew how they grew. Each nut is in a shell and connected to a small apple like fruit. Straight from the tree they are poisonous but once roasted they are completely edible. No wonder they’re expensive.
We made 5 dishes, eating each as we went. I chose to make red curry paste, Tom yam soup, chicken and cashew curry, pad thai, and sticky rice with mango. Each one absolutely delicious. So much food though. The pad Thai I bagged up and took back to the hotel. It was a really fun and interesting day. And I made a friend – Nicole.
Nicole and I were dropped off just outside the old city and walked back to the hotel. Nicole decided to check back into the hotel so we made arrangements to go out that evening. Once showered and changed, as well as putting in an order for bracelets with the little Thai girl who ran the kitchen, we headed out for the night market.
We were out for hours and for sore from all the walking. What else could we do but get a foot massage. An hour later, feeling like zombies after a relaxing hour of massage, we headed back. Back to my not so comfortable springy mattress. It’s a hard life!!!
Up relatively early. We collected our brand spankingly newly made bracelets which were fabulous and headed out for breakfast. We bought cereal bars and yoghurt from the bakery and then settled into street side seats at the fruit salad bar. We ate like kings.
Today we decided to get a moped. Nicole had done a motorcycle course befor e she left home and had had moped experience already so I thought this was the perfect time for me to bite the bullet. Mr Mechanic was the recommended place to hire a bike and before long we’d signed up, were fully insured and were on the road.
First stop, gas. Easier said than done when the roads were one way. We got a little lost but fortunately found a tiny pump on a back street and put in 50THB – a quids worth! Now we were really on our way.
We went in search of Wat U Mong, a temple where I could do my silent retreat – Vipassana. The route we needed was the one I’d walked a few days before so I knew the way out of the city. Lots of detours and asking the way once we were out of the city – many contradicting the previous directions. Once we thought we were on the right road (we weren’t) we found a huge wooden Ganesh which was being restored. It was at the side of the road next to a fabulous old wooden house which was also being restored. It would be spectacular when finished.
The temple was a mix of a touristy entrance which became quiet and tranquil once wed passed through to the temple area. I didn’t get the true vibe from the place but the underground temple was amazing – a cool damp feel, lit by candles with bats hanging over head. We played with the reflection setting on my camera and came away with some great pictures. Outside we managed to catch one of the small chickens which were running around – poor little thing wasn’t overly impressed.
We stopped off for lunch at a market. Bought street food – papaya salad and managed to find some chopsticks. We sat at coffer shop inside market and enjoyed a chatty lunchtime.
We also found another temple.
We found our way back to the hotel where we met up with Anna – one of Nicole’s friends from her yoga retreat. A very quick change and out again to a veggie restaurant which turned out not to be far from where we had lunch. We were starting to know our way around which was just as well with 3 of us on a bike- great fun though. The restaurant was good but not amazing. Next stop was a bar in a new part of town. Mostly Asians and expensive beer – we also got charged for parking the moped. Outrageous!!!
After a very long route around the town we dropped Anna off at her place. We had to cross the river and discovered an amazing night market selling every type of fruit and veg. These unplanned detours always throw up something interesting. We got the grand tour of Anna’s place. Beautiful – arty bathroom, large swimming pool, aircon rooms, and beds with a mattress to die for. If only!!!
Back on the bike and to our rooms.
Up and out for breakfast. Our usual place was closed but we found somewhere new just down the road – fruit plus vegan cereal bar and homemade yoghurt from the bakery. They seem very easy going about you bringing in other food and drink – I guess if you’re a paying customer they don’t really care.
We kept the bike for another day which meant we could drive it out of town to find the university. The university had a top class dentistry faculty and Nicole had heard they offered outstanding treatments. She wanted to get her teeth cleaned. We found the dentistry department and she was soon booked in for the next day. The place was buzzing and the waiting room was jammed packed.
Instead of going back into town we were going to meet Anna at her place today – at the Eco retreat. It was a mammoth journey on the bike. We managed to get completely lost and found ourselves on the major roads out of town. A few scary moments with illegal u turns, gravel hand shoulders, skin of your teeth turns into the traffic and generally life flashing moments. We made it though. It’s just a matter of being confident or at least looking as though you are.
We reached the Eco lodge. The area looked so different in the daylight. Not the quiet, empty roads we had the night before but streets filled with markets. No wonder nothing looked familiar and we got a bit lost.
Anna was nowhere to be seen when we got there. So we paid out 100THB for a towel and a place by the pool (no free wifi but I half inched a couple of 15 minute vouchers from reception when the check in girl wasn’t looking). The pool was fantastic and I managed to get some lengths in. I’m so unfit – it’s going to be interesting trying to get back into an exercise routine.
Anna came back from shopping. She was leaving the next day so was stocking up on all those things we think we can’t do without. Nicole and I left soon after in search of food. Many of the restaurants were closed as it was Sunday but eventually, around 5pm, we found one. The food was great and well needed we could just have done without Jacob – a very drunk/stoned guy from Australia who for some reason came over to our table to tell us about the fantastic business plan he was going to put in place when he got home which would make him a millionaire!!!!
It was soon dark and we’d arranged to meet up with Anna and her friends at the night market. The street food was delicious and way too moorish – mango sticky rice, lemon drink, and fried taro. Some hours, and some THB, a skirt, scarf, top, and art we started to head back. It was gone midnight by the time we reached the hotel.
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