Around the world: First weeks in SEA (Thailand to Laos) – 26.11. – 05.12.2016

Howdy-ho dear family and friends,

first of all: apologies! We are in an awful backlog concerning the blog. I didn’t think that we would suck so bad at keeping it up to date, but without work you generally become very lazy in a very short amount of time 🙂

So sorry for the slow progress here, we will try to improve our posting speed in the near future!

Today I will write a bit of our first 2 weeks in South East Asia after flying from Kathmandu to Bangkok, which we spent in the north of the country getting to Laos! In the meantime Rudolf is finishing the pictures for Nepal and the next blog post on that will also follow very soon.

26.11.2016: BKK – Chiang Mai

We booked ourselves in on second class in the night train, leaving BKK Lua Hamphong station at 19.35 and arriving in Chiang Mai the next morning around 8.30 am. We booked one upper and one lower bunk so at the beginning we would have 2 seats opposite each other. In hindsight now I would book 2 lower bunks because they are much more comfy when turned into a bed, and you only spend approximately 2 hours sitting and then they come round to make up the beds – so the 2 opposite seats were not much use to us. Some Polish guys helped us store our luggage in the very limited space and the train staff was bringing “orange juice” (salty and I guess the Thai orange is more like a mandarin, because the orange juice does not taste like orange anywhere here!) A bit later it turns out the “orange juice” was not for free but cost 60 THB. The Polish group – of the 5 people only 1 guy spoke a bit of English – refused to pay since the impression was that the juice would be for free. I have to agree to that – it DID seem like that, but well, I guess nothing’s for free in life 🙂 After some discussions between them the staff guy said something like “you will not be going to Chiang Mai, next stop you get off and we get the police”, and that finally convinced the Polish group to pay (not without “you are a cheater” exclamations to the poor Thai guy from the train)… now I finally understand why Rudolf is always saying that “it smells like trouble” when Polish people are around.

 

Ok, at 9 pm the guy mentioned above came around making up the beds. We shared the lower bunk for a while reading / listening. When the time for sleeping came, we had to make the decision who would sleep in the slightly dangerous-looking upper bunk. Fortunately for me, Rudolf is a gentleman and let me sleep downstairs (which obviously was my aim from the beginning,  since upstairs was brutally light without a possibility to shield it from the corridor lights). I went to brush my teeth in the on-board bathroom (as can be imagined, it was very beautiful… not). When I came back Rudolf had killed the two pet cockroaches living in his bunk with his bottle of water. Then it was a light and very rattly (does this word exist??) sleep, me worrying about Rudolf falling off the top bunk. He apparently couldn’t sleep until 2 or 3 am, so trying to wake him up in the morning at around 8 am was a quite hard task. All in all I have to say that the sleeper train was a pleasant experience 🙂

27.11. – 03.12.2016: Chiang Mai

We initially booked 3 nights in Chiang Mai, with the plan to travel to Pae – which is supposed to be a hippie town in mountainous surroundings, and then onwards to Laos. Well, somehow after all the hiking in Nepal and the bustle of Bangkok, we were lazy. And so the 3 nights turned into 6! I have to say that this was also partially because of our nice little guesthouse – Plern Plern Bed & Bike – which provided super nice breakfast bowls, free bikes all day long and had the nicest and loveliest owner! So we kind of spent our days exploring the city by bike including many of the local temples, the night market and looots of nice, hipstery cafes, bars and restaurants in the Nimmanhaemman street / area, which is perfect for just watching the day go by (and yeah, it included an overload of coffee and beer).

 

Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

On our second night we booked an afternoon cooking class.

The cooking school picked us and our fellow cookies students up at our respective hotels, then we reached the venue and met our instructor, Pui, a lovely little Thai girl with the cutest voice I have ever heard. Then we had to choose which courses to cook. Spring rolls, curry paste and the respective curry were mandatory, but still 2 out of 4 courses had to be picked. The following choices were given: Salad, Stir Fry, Soup and Dessert. That decision turned out to be a huge disappointment since it was reached democratically, and there were just too many French people in our group. Seems to me like the French Revolution failed – who would choose a soup over a dessert? How stupid. So no sticky rice with mango for me. Duh.

Anyways, the cooking course was still fun, and I later got a sticky rice to go from the night market 😉

So under the proper instruction from Pui we cooked our meals.

Rudolf cooked Cashew Chicken (stir fry), Tom Yam (soup), and a green curry of strength 4 (from 1 – 5!!! I tasted it and everyone who chose that said that it was just on the edge of being enjoyable). I cooked the Cashew Chicken as well, a chicken coconut soup and a Penang curry, which Pui said is also called “baby curry” in the area of strength 2, and it was really good! Afterwards we were happy and full – well I wasn’t really happy due to the lack of dessert. But ok. It was still nice 🙂

 

Relaxing Days in Chiang Mai

As already had happened in Kathmandu and Bangkok, Rudolf tried to get his broken lens fixed. However, the local repair guy in Chiang Mai didn’t really want to repair it (“no time”) so again no luck.

On one of the days spent in Chiang Mai we rented a scooter and drove up to the Doi Suthep temple, which lies a few kilometres up the hill. It was nice, but Rudolf spent approximately 5 hours taking pictures, and the only information in English that I could read was “Don’t speak” “Don’t disturb the prayers” and “Don’t bring food from outside”. Awesome. Really helpful, Doi Suthep. I normally like to read a little about the places we visit, and it drives me mad if there is literally nothing. What do I pay for? So afterwards we went to the Royal Gardens, which wasn’t very exciting but at the least there were some information plaques in English!

03. – 04.12.2016: Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai

At some point of time we finally took the decision to move on, and booked our bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai for the 3rd of December. We booked the Green Line VIP bus fo, even though it is only a 3 – 4 hour ride, and the bus was really the most spacious we have seen so far. We arrived in Chiang Rai in the afternoon and just had time to visit some of the temples in the town center, the night market and a Tripadvisor-recommended restaurant, the surroundings of which were filled with angry dogs that barked at us when walking by in the dark – on the way out the waiter had to walk with us because I was so scared!! 😀

All in all I have to say that Chiang Rai was not worth spending more than one night for us, even though I read otherwise on the Internet from some people.

04. – 05.12.2016: Chiang Rai – Laos / Huay Xai

So the next morning we left Chiang Rai again by bus to cross the border into Laos. There are multiple possibilities to cross the border from Thailand to Laos, however the one in Huay Xai is one of the most popular. The bus journey was pleasant and the border crossing super easy and fast (almost no people apart from the ones on our bus). No issues there. Laos, like many other South East Asian countries, requires a visa on arrival for most countries, including Germany and Slovakia. The visa cost us I think 32 Euros – we still had some spare Euros and paid with those, since we were short on dollars, which is the preferred currency.

Once arrived in Huay Xai, we checked into our hotel – which I think was definitely the best choice in Huay Xai (Oudomsin hotel for 15 USD per night, and with decent rooms if you ask for a room with windows when booking). We visited the local temple and a little restaurant on top of a small hill. This restaurant – the Daauw Home – is also a social project and attempts to educate the women of the local tribes in different fields of profession: cooking, English language courses, weaving, other handicrafts and so on, and provides them and their children basic education and healthcare, and a “pause” from village life, if they so want. So there were also a few volunteers around. They also had a huge bunch of cats and little kittens loitering under our table. At the end of the meal, the mummy cat managed to get hold of Rudolfs fish bone, and pulled it to the floor, resulting in a complete mess and a lot of happy kitties. I felt sorry for the girls having to clean it up, but all the cats there looked like they could use some food, so no bad feelings there.

Huay Xai

We came to Huay Xai with the intention of doing the Gibbon Experience, which is SEA’s number 1 rated attraction on Tripadvisor. We somehow didn’t book anything in advance (even though the intentions were there, and I started the booking process a few times…), so when we arrived in Huay Xai at around 1pm on the 4th of December, we directly went to the Gibbon experience office, and as expected there was no free space left for departure on the following day. But they put us on a waiting list and told us to come the next morning at 8am, because apparently not all of the people always show up. And the next morning, we were lucky and got the only 2 free spaces of some people who indeed just didn’t show up. There were a few other waitlisted people there who unfortunately didn’t get in and either had to wait another day, or move on without Gibbon experience. Sooo, we stored our luggage, took our day packs and started off on a great adventure, of which we will tell you soon in our next blog post!

 

See you then!

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