Chau for Now SE Asia!

 

Tonight is my last night in Thailand, and of my entire Southeast Asia trip. Usually I am super nostalgic and never want to leave, but this time I’m actually looking to getting home. I’ve missed my family, looking at the lake, and the snow. And I’m super excited to practice some Thai Massage moves on people too! Not to mention the creative gifts I bright home to share with the family.

Sharing the stories and pictures of my trip with others is possibly the best part of traveling. Many people followed Paul and I through windy jungle roads, bus rides, and Kendra’s self-narrated videos on facebook, but being able to actually see all your faces and hear your laughter about the adventures is just the best :). I hope that traveling continues to change me for the better and help me become a better person. Many people become jaded and calloused in this rough life but traveling always reminds me that where there is pain, there’s also love. And where there is darkness there’s also light. Sounds cliché but it’s true. By doing my best to give appropriate interpretations, information, and observations of what is happening in these places I visit, I hope you all can get a better understanding of what other people go through and how they live on a daily basis; creating tolerance amongst different cultures and activating us to stand up to positive change in the world. Also, the beautiful handicrafts creations are amazing examples of the cultural preservation and talents many people here still practice and value.

 

Overwhelmed in Northern Thailand

Neither Paul nor I have wrote extensive blogs about adventure or observations the last couple of weeks as much as I’d like to.  However, we’ve been kicking butt with social media and the short tid bits on places to stay and travel information on facebook.  Sorry about that for all you enjoying the stories. Unless you’re a traveler, then “you’re welcome!”  Although our poetic selves have not been expressed lately via blogging, we have scootered over 600 kilometers (not including extensive detours into tribal villages), let our butts go numb, tumbled off longboards, found amazing artisan craft areas, been soaked in the rain and mud, walked through markets until our feet hurt, carried 30 pound bags of goods through crowded streets, and seen ridiculously large spiders and amazing smiles.  To put it all in simpler words; we’re exhausted.

After a day of exploring to find goods or learn about the culture, our minds and feet are so overly stimulated that all we want to do at the end of the day is nothing.  Being jacked up on coffee and questionable versions of Redbull, there are only so many trucks of hay and semis we can pass and be passed by on little 125cc scooters around blind turns to make us question the value of our lives and what is worth doing for Liquid Gypsy, lol.  The roads we had the privilege of riding are world known (at least for travelers) for their beautiful double takes around every curve.  The loop we did was one hot curvy Momma.  Day one we started in Chiang Mai and went to Mae Hong Son. Day two we rode from Mae Hong Son to Pai.  Stayed a couple days in Pai and then day three (of driving) went to Mae Sariang and enjoyed the tribal, rural feel.  Last day of driving we returned to Chiang Mai by the evening just in time for the weekend night market.  Each leg was about 3 hours but we took at least 5.5 to do it because we got distracted by caves, hot springs, beautiful scenery, and curious tribal towns.

In total, we spent about 6.5 days to do what’s normally a 3 or 4 day loop.  The great thing about it is we could have taken a month to do that loop there were so many wonderful national parks and nice people to get to know!  Next time!  All in all, the last week was totally fun, magical, and at times stressful and exhausting.  Every moment was worth it and at the end of the day, despite any anxiety to see more and do more, we realize that we are grateful for what we did see and do, and next time we will have another separate wonderful adventure full of other activities.  Please stay tuned for more stories filled with details with some of the places and people we came across in Northern Thailand.  There are hundreds of stories we could write so hang tight while we put together which ones to share.  Thank you!  Tonight we skipped the majority of the night market to rest our legs and have a cold beer instead.  Sometimes you just gotta draw the line.  We’ve learned so much so time to relax now.  FANTASTIC!

 

 

 

Far North in Vietnam

When I was in Northern Vietnam I tried my best to stay off the tourist trail, but at the same time see what all the hype was about. I got an experience somewhat in between touristy and uncommon.  At one point in Lao Cai, I wandered into a karaoke bar at 3pm on a weekday and got served whiskey and basically forced to try pickled chicken feet and sing a song with four hilarious friends in their early to mid-twenties; later in the day only to be zipped off on a motobike with too many people on it whizzing past cars and red lights until I sent myself home in fear of my safety. On the other hand, I stayed on a main hiking and shopping road in Sapa at a gorgeous home stay, trying rice wine and meandering through tribal villages. As unique as that may sound, that is what the tourist industry thrives after in that part of Vietnam. Still not sure if the villagers are ultimately being exploited or forced into a codependent relationship with Western tourism, or if it’s truly helping the culture sustain their autonomy and boost the economy. Albeit mixed review of both Lao Cai and Sapa, I must say that hands down, that region is one of the most beautiful places in the world I’ve been to and I absolutely will return someday and have all those nagging questions in my head answered first hand from those who live there.

My favorite memories of that three-day excursion were:

The moment I poked my head into the karaoke bar, being summoned by dramatic cries from a microphone, and saw a young Asian hipster holding a whiskey shot in my face. Lol

 

When I zipped around a sharp corner on my motobike in route to Sapa and saw huge water buffalos ?  grazing in a ride field with a backdrop of massive misty jungle mountains behind them and wrinkled, nimble tribal women selling goods off the road in their beautiful handmade colors.

As I stepped into my personal bungalow style room at the upstairs of the home stay and saw the perfect little window with the perfect little heated bed, and the perfect little desk to set down just what I need. Feeling the cool misty blanket over my face, nestling in a handmade bed cover with a heated mattress, and looking out to see for wrapping around the roof tiles and pink tree bids was truly magical. I just couldn’t wipe that smile or simplicity off my face.

That’s definitely not my only favorite memories of those days but just what popped into my head while writing this. If you ever have the desire to visit the far North of Vietnam, may I highly recommend getting a motobike for at least a week, if not four…. And slow your pace down, way down, so you can see the patterns the water buffalo walk, and the way the geese fight in the morning over food, how the people will smile at you if you shown them your true soul, and how each turn on the road leads you into another perfect and breathtaking scene not to be taken for granted.

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Eggs and Magic

39 Nguyen Hûu Huân

Eggs, rum, cacao, green beans. This cafe is decades old with black & white pictures of the past generations on the walls. This place not only has an eccentric coffee menu, but it appears to be a part of Vietnamese history as well.

Currently I  enjoying a coffee with egg & rum. Eggnog and brandy should be jealous this holiday season because this thick and frothy treat will bring new curiosity to the US  this winter. I’m trying to not cuss like a sailor these days but this drink is so fucking good, its like a rich drop of rum candy coating my throat.

As you will know if you’ve been to Vietnam or are going, there is a Cá Phê (cafe/coffee) every block. After all, they are the world’s number one exporter. But if you want to try a traditional Vietnamese coffee treat, with reasonable dinning out prices and filled with locals, visit Cá Phê Giâng (pronounced café Sá).

 

 

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Vietnamese Egg Coffee

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Mae Sa Waterfall

With belly’s full and caffeine flowing through our veins, we were now ready to hop on the motobike and go explore.

Just outside of Chiang Mai is Mae Sa waterfalls which is about 40 minutes outside the walls.

After a short ride we arrived at the gates and it is a 100 baht entry and 20 for parking.

The hike to the falls is a short one and is more about spending some time cooling off in the water. The nature out there is beautiful but use caution because the rocks are extremely slippery. We discovered this the hard way. Walking towards the falls there was a drop and I slid down the rock into the hole, body spinning, arms flailing, back handing poor Kendra but entertaining all the locals that stood by laughing, I was happy to be uninjured. Kendra and I couldn’t help but laugh.

After some time playing in the falls and having a good time it was time to head back.

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Sá Pa, Rice Alcohol, and Quanderies

While I was enjoying a fire and local rice wine the clouds lifted, inviting warmer temperatures and night lights to shine. My spirit may also lift as I try cocaine wine for my first time in a wooden bar made of candles, paintings, and canvases. Her English was pretty good when she was describing to me what cocaine wine is. I was wondering if she meant coca , like chocolate, but when I described the difference in English between the words coca and cacao, she insisted it was cocaine flower. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t about to have some powerful toxin that would lose me in the cold of the night and I wake up in a rice Patty. Luckily, she was just referring to the medicinal plant form of coca, not the toxic addictive, processed cocaine. I never chewed on a coca leaf in south America but I know it is a huge crop grown by the indigenous in the Andes used for medicinal purposes, and then somewhere along the way the crop began to become a market to transform into a lethal money maker. Anyway, I’m not sure how coca (an upper, stomach easier and head clamer) mixes with wine (happy and sleepy), but I will see if one glass will lead me to discover this traditional drink. She warned me if I drink too much I will become drunk and it’s no good, but with just a little it’s very medicinal and good for you. Lol, good thing we’re on the same page. I don’t need any help being more crazy. I wonder what would happen with the horse penis alcohol…. Lol. That literally was on a menu where I had dinner. I gotta give it to Vietnam, they do not waste animal parts and can make food out of any living creature. Great survivors.

When my nose sat on the glass rim, a waft of sweetness surrounded me, and then I took a small sip. Floral. Definitely flowers, but butter flowers, like Jasmine tea. Then the journey down. It burns like whiskey and has a bitter after taste. I’m gonna say it’s more like soft coca whiskey, not wine haha. Same with the rice alcohol I tried at dinner. Definitely stronger than sake. Sake is rice wine, this was for sure rice alcohol.

The Indiginous people’s here derive from the Mong people. They appear to be very self-sustaining as I have seen numerous crops, livestock, repairing, and building happening in the village. Clothing is a dark base, usually very dark blue, with bright vests, hats, bananas, and shirt patterns. They weave and die their own clothes just like Guatemalan Mayan groups. The water buffalo are a blessing to own and besides roll around in the watery rice patties, provide excellent labor for working the land. Not sure what the pigs do except eat…. I suppose they become food someday along with the chickens. The ducks I assume are food…. The dogs, well, I think they are both food and pets. Kinda confusing. That might not be the tribal people though. They are very quiet and to themselves like many natives I’ve seen. Some will leak a smile here and there but it’s hard to tell what they are thinking. I sure hope they dont hate and resent the tourist walking around taking pictures of them and pointing with their eyes at their clothes. Even though it’s admiration, I would feel awful if they felt like zoo animals or on display. I like to think that they can appreciate the Westerner’s curiosity to meet another culture different from theirs and want to share it with friends. Maybe one day I will finally know how to appropriately behave while passing by beautiful Ethnic minorities. That is my job anyway; to be an ambassador of oneness and cultural tolerance! And to sell really awesome tribal handicrafts, haha. IF it’s helping them and not somehow keeping them in a cycle of poverty. Oh my there’s so many things to think about for Liquid Gypsy! Nothing is simple. Except a smile :).

Ok, I just went off on a massive tangent from where I started. Maybe the cocaine wine is kicking in, lol. My eye sockets are super heavy but my eyeballs feel weightless and wide open. Strange. ALL I was trying to sat was that tonight I tried something specific to the tribal people of northern Vietnam. Rice alcohol. To name a few, they mix it with plums, apricots, Apple, banana, grapes, artichoke, honey, and of course, coca leaf. Very cool! And it’s more alcohol tasting than wine FYI. You have it straight or on the rocks. Ooooo, I just yawned. Maybe that’s the “wine” part, lol.

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Discovering Chiang Mai

Motobike RentalAfter settling into our guest room and resting for a little while we decided to go get something eat, but more importantly, we needed coffee. Sah recomended a couple of places that were cheap and we like cheap, so off we went.

The coffee shop we went to was at the end of the alley going east and to the right. It was fantastic coffee for only 20 baht, that’s about 65 cents U.S. and right next door was a Thai reataurant with delicious food for about 30-70 baht, that’s  less than $1 u.s. to $2.  It was insanely cheap AND tasted fantastic. I love Chiang Mai! After drinking our liquid crank and filling our bellies, we were off to find a motobike. We again asked Sah for suggestions and he directed us down the alley way to the left, at the stop sign turn left and it’s the rental place under the big tree along the North wall. Yes these were our directions.

When we got there and asked about the prices it was average. 200 baht for a day or about $5.50 U.S. The trick with motobike rental places is to either rent multiple bikes or multiple days if you can. We plan on taking the motobikes to Pai and are going to rent 2 so we were able to talk him down to $140 baht per day which is $3.90 U.S. which is a much better price if your on a serious budget.

Getting to Chiang Mai

Kendra and I decided to catch the sleeper car to Chiang Mai, which has its pros and cons. I for once slept like a rock on the train, Kendra didn’t have as much luck. Me tickeling her feet probably didn’t help, or the Polish girls up an hour before arriving being all chatty. The train was only 491 baht or 14 usd and is a great way to travel.

Once we arrived in Chiang Mai after 12 hours on the train, we were practically mollested as usual by all the cab drivers trying to get us into there taxis and get us to town. We didn’t have a place to stay yet so we decided to sit down, enjoy our morning coffee and look for a place on online. I notice an information booth for RK guest house, which had a private room for only 300 baht AND a free shuttle so we decided this was our best option. Once we arrived at the hostel, the gentleman at the front desk said that a single room with fan would not be ready until 10:00, it was only 06:00.

We decided to walk around and explore the neighborhood when we met Sah, the owner of a guest house right on the corner. Sah said he had private rooms for 250 baht and being as exhausted as we were we decided to go for it. The room was fantastic, large, big beds, balcony and gracious hosts. There is a bar right accross the alley that has a live bands on the weekends playing until 11 or 12. For us this was not much of an issue. We just figured it was like having a free concert with our own private balcony seating and enjoyed the show.On the trainViews from a trainSleep time!Great Room Fantastic PriceBalcony at front of Guest HouseFriendly HostHis F Family

Back In Bangkok!

After 11 hrs from SF to Tokoyo, 7 to Singapore and 2 to Bangkok I have finally returned, after 8 days. Kendra and I found a hostel and I was up at 4:45 cruisin’ the somewhat mellow streets of Bangkok on my longboard. Yes I brought my longboard. Too many hills and opportunities arise to pass up. Kendra and I have will be catching the 13:45 train to Chiang Mai and arriving at 4:15 so hopefully that will be another opportunity to cruise some sleepy streets. We will keep you posted.20151106_06062420151106_053721

Where I’ve Been.

Wrong bus!
Wrong bus!
Correct City Bus!
Correct City Bus!
Krabi Town
Krabi Town
Restaurant In Krabi.
Restaurant In Krabi.

Now that I have returned home and am looking through all the pictures remembering the amazing people I’ve met and beautiful places I’ve seen and unfortunately, the mistakes I’ve made  I am reminded of where I’ve been, what I have learned and why I love to travel so much. It is a very humbling experience and one that I hope to never take for granted.

For me, when I land in an unfamiliar place, my heart begins to race, I can feel it pounding in my chest. I feel my eyes widen with excitement trying to take it all in. The colors, the people, the land. I feel myself begin to connect with my soul deep in my very being as my chest feels as though it is physically swelling up. With every breath colors get brighter, things around me become more crisp and clear. I can’t understand the words that are written on the walls and the language people are speaking is completely unfamiliar. I look around at the my surroundings with the wonderment of a child. I feel alive. I may have to work my ass off and save for months (looking back I could have been better at that) but I have finally arrived. These feelings never get old and I pray they never do. It’s difficult to explain but I hope that one day you will experience it. I would love to guide you through these adventures just to make them slightly easier on you…and your pocket book. Hopefully these stories that Kendra and I share with you will help save you time and hard earned money.

After I made my way through customs at the Krabi, Thailand airport it was time to make my way to Krabi town. I went to the information booth to inquire about the bus to town (which was my first mistake. Most information booths are run by tour companies.) I went over to the counter and asked where I could catch the bus to Krabi and they directed me to another counter. I was told it would be 350 thai baht which is approximately $10 usd so I paid and waited for us to leave. I found out later that I had actually gotten onto the tourist bus not the city bus (mistake 2, I didn’t make it clear which bus I was looking for). The city bus would have cost me 90 thai baht which is approximately $2.50 usd. I just spent $7.50 usd more than I needed to and on a long trip, this adds up. Tremendously. That $7.50 is almost 2 nights in a hostel, 2 great meals or 10 beers. Do that 10 times and you’ve just waste $75 usd which is a lot of money in these countries. A months wages for some people.

So with all that is going on physically, emotionally and with your surroundings remember to slow down, ask the right questions and you will save yourself some cash.

Just so you know, the tourist buses at the airport look more like mini vans where as the city buses are parked to the left as you leave the airport and are white.

Safe Travels!!!