Friday, July 20, 2012

The Land of Smiles: Part 3

Southern Thailand: Beaches

Once cozy in our first class seats, drinks are ordered! It was before noon, so we opt for the breakfast drink- mimosas. Moments after we are level in the air, our fold down trays were magically supplied with OJ, Bubbly, water, hot tea, newspaper (that I could not read) and hot wash cloths! We are in route to Phuket. Tom's uncle lives there so he has been several times. It's sort of the 'hub' for that part of the country. From Tom's visits, he suggseted we away from there as quickly as possible and head for a more local vibe. Uncle Buddy decided to spend the week in Phuket and surrounded beaches. When the flight lands and we are off the plane "see ya laters" are said and we part ways. Tom and I had into town to hop on a local bus. It was about a 3 hour bus ride. We jetted to the back so we could have our own space. The bus was an old school Greyhound bus, if you will. Thia music videos were playing and there was little AC. Some windows were up and some down. For the next few hours I would star at this adorable little Thai girl that looked at us the entire ride, in between day dreaming out the window. As we drew close to Krabi Town, the landscape changed dramatically. We went a from crazy busy Mrytle Beach like area to out in the open, with breathtaking views of hard edged limestone karsts. Everywhere. Within 45 in of scenery change we are in Karbi. We were dropped in the middle of the city. We stuck out like sore thumbs. About 20 min later someone from the Hello KR Mansion comes to pick us up. We are riding in the back of a tiny red pick up truck. Do not be fooled by the website. The rooms or hotel did not look like this!. The rooms were about 300 baht a night so only $10 and we were in the heart of waterfront area of the city. The views from the roof top made the minimal misleading rooms ok. The sun was setting behind the karsts in bright colors of pink and orange. The lush green trees were a snuggled in between  the colorful houses that filled the city hills. Once the sun was all the way asleep and out of sight we were off to hunt for dinner. We came across a little bar with outdoor seating and we were sold. From dinner we walk to the water front for Tom to show me around. The night market is closing up and the area is becoming less hectic.

All along the trip I’d noticed bird gages, some with birds and some without. I just thought Thai’s like birds & bird cages. Well in Krabi town there were triple the amount I had seen in the other places visited. Finally I asked, after I saw a sign by a cage that said “Buy Birds Here”. Evidently, you can purchase birds then release them. The Thai culture believes its good luck to release birds back into nature. We skipped this lucky charm and heading to Joy Bar. The owner of the bar is there and he’s a very talented watercolorist for $1200 baht (around $36 ). It one of the things I wish I had bought. They were beautiful landscapes of Thailand- mostly Southern Thailand. After several games of pool with a nice Dutch fella, we headed back to count our zzzz’s.

The morning sun comes early in Thailand and once she has arrived, you have not choice but to rise up and start the day! We packed up and started trekking to the water front to hop on a long boat taxi- or so we thought. It is on the gloriously hot morning that I see my first Thai fight and it was not in a ring. Apparently when a man approaches you in the street for a long boat taxi he is to take you to the dock and direct you to a certain boat. A man approached us, but Tom’s knows the deal so we ignore him. Walk down the docks and meet two other guys, young and travelling like us who are also going to Ton Sai (there are several islands to choose from). We are told by a boat driver we must wait for a couple more people before he will take us to Ton Sai, well that makes since, full boat going to same place. We have 6 people going to Ton Sai, so we think we are set. An older British couple approaches the dock and are going to a boat as directed, they want to go to Phi Phi. All the sudden another man comes up and starts yelling at the man who directed us and the British couple. After several minutes of yelling we are told by a young Thai boy that one guy stole the British couple from the other guy. Next thing we know, punches are being thrown. Hard punches. They are on the ground blood is everywhere and Thai is being shouted in a very angry manner. This went on for about 15 min. I could not believe that no one was stopping them, I mean how long could this possibly go on? Finally two Thai men come and break it up, and that was that. We were all left standing on the dock looking at these two men not much older than us covered in blood, swollen faces and ripped shirts. We decided enough was enough. Someone demands that we get on a long tail with a driver of our choice and leave right then- Our choice of driver was neither of the fighters. So all that craziness and for nothing, since no one got on their boats. Tom told them due to the fight and insane length of time we waited we were all only paying 200 baht, not 300. The driver agreed and we were off. 8 of us and our packs headed off into the beautiful green waters, leaving Krabi and their fighting men behind.

A long tail boat is not what one would call a fast boat, but with scenery that surrounded us, there was no need for speed. I’ve seen a lot of striking sights in my travels, but the beaches and karts of Thailand are unlike anything my eyes had ever seen. The water is a turquoise green and so clear you can see the fish swimming, lush islands with tiny huts, and ornately painted long tails lining the shores of islands. With every direction you turn, there is another obsess karts plunging out of the water, some inhabited, some not.  After making a pit stop on Railey beach to drop passengers, we scoot around the cove to Ton Sai. I remember literally exhaling at the sight of it. We arrived to this rock climber’s paradise mid afternoon. The shore is lined with bungalows and outdoor bars and eateries. Hugging the shore so tightly, you wonder what happens when high tide or a storm rolls through. Soon enough I would find out. Ton Sai is known for their rock climbing. .

First things first, food. We plopped down and order a beer and some grub. Following our late lunch we proceeded down a long dirt road… once we arrive at Passook Resort we stop and Tom said “this is us”. Their sign read ‘Passook Resort, somewhere next to Railey Beach’. Grand total or our local resort is 500 baht or $16 a night. I was quite pleased accommodations: two beds with nets, a dresser and night stand, bathroom with sink, shower and toilet- a real toilet. There was no hot water, but with the heat, the last thing on my mind was a hot shower. The entire Island only using electricity from sunset to sunrise.

We decided it was time to go exploring. Turning left out of our “resort” the long, dirt, jungle like road continues as far as I could see. We pass bars, huts, hostels, restaurants, etc. The long dirt road, wraps back around to the shore. Since it was low tied, we decided we would trek around to Railey Beach. We took our time and just took it all in. Along the cliff side of the island, long tails were resting in the sand b/c the water had been stripped from underneath them. Rocks that hide underneath the water were now out showing off, and it then became clear why I had not yet seen anyone swimming! To get from one Island to the other, you can easily walk it during low tied. Railey Beach had a different feel from Ton Sai. It was much more commercial, you almost got the feeling those people had no idea that a few hundred young, adventurous, traveling souls were huddled up on the other side of the big karts that separated us. Here we found families, much more clean cut tourist, real hotels and restaurants and beaches full of people swimming!

Wandering led us through open karsts to a beautiful white sandy beach. Long tails were anchored along the beach selling beer, roasted corn, chips and drinks. Ladies surrounded the shaded trees selling fruit, snacks and handmade baskets.Just beyond them is soemthing that took me a moment to realize what it was. It was a cave full of wooden painted penis statues. Thai women come here in hope of increasing their fertility- or so we were told. After admiring them, it was time to rest on the beach. Blame it on my ADD, but I only lasted about an hour and half. I left Tom napping while I explored. Around the corner there was a open cave/ karst area. The tide was still low, so I could climb up, down, in, out and around the large rocks tucked inside. The cave was glowing with shades of green what little waster that was captured in there was clear and reflecting off the stone. It. Was. Awesome. Finally, I went to rise Tom up and we kept exploring.  As the day begins to close in on us, we still have enough time to to walk back to Ton Sai. It was one of the most peaceful walks I've ever had. The loud noise from the crowded beaches has seized and all the sudden once we turned the corner toward Ton Sai it was just Tom and I. The only noise was the nature. The sky was pink and shimmering.

Supper time had approached and I knew just where I wanted to go. While walking on the back road, we passed this place with a large outdoor kitchen. They were beginning to set up after lunch when we walked by. After being in the sun and heat all day, the cool shower was welcomed! After washing the salt off us, we strolled down. It was so pleasant, casual outdoor dinning with the fresh catch of the day. All the seafood was resting on ice; veggies were being cut and grilled on open fire surrounded by potatoes. This was unlike any meal I had in Thailand. I’m from Eastern NC, so it felt, smelled and tasted a little bit like home!

Spence and Sara were set to meet us in the next day; they were doing their own little island hopping. We were glad they would be arriving before the full moon came in two days. Full moon parties are huge in Thailand. They started on the island of Ko Pha Ngan in the late 1980s- according to what I’ve been told, there is not actual cool story tied to the full moon party, other than, some people said they had seen the most beautiful sunset and full moon of their life on Ko Pha Ngan and threw a party to invite people to come see/ share the beauty. Welp, it’s gone from 30-40 people to 20-30 thousand. Yes Thousand. People travel from all over the globe to experience it… These days they are experiencing a little more than the sight of a full moon. The parties happen allover the country… even on tiny Ton Sai! The night we attended one, there was a fire show, nigh rock climbing, live music and a couple hundred people huddled along the shore bars taking it all in.

Finally we made our way back to our sleeping quarters to rest up for our snorkeling day that was going to start early the next morning. We had to get off the island before low tide struck us or we would be stuck for hours. The sun and heat greet us and we are up and ready to go within minutes. All 4 of us met at the gear rental on the “main” street. We got all we needed for 50 baht each ($1.50). We split the 400 baht ($12) long tail ride to Chicken Island. Tom had snorkeled here before so was simi familiar with the island and layout. The boat drops us off and the ‘main entrance’ to the island- basically the only open spot on the front end reachable. Most of the island the reef reaches the shore. Sara and I follow the boys with our packs and we find a nice nook up on the trees/ rocks. Small monkeys were everywhere on Chicken Island, they were more of a concern with searching through our stuff over other humans. After getting our gear on we were off! Within seconds we were in the water walking across the reef about ankle deep and surrounded by ocean life… sea urchins in particular, they were everywhere! Once we finally got about waist deep and could float about the water with the fear of getting stung, it was breathtaking.  The colors, fish,coral, reef, seaweed the water was clear and the colors lively. The most remarkable part was when we reached the end of the shallow reef and it literally just dropped off. So far, that we could not see the bottom! We all dove down and to see the side of the reef… the fish were bigger, the coral and reef brighter and even adorned with a huge palm tree that was not apart of the reef (we figured it must have fallen during a storm). Star fish, Angle Fish, Balloon Fish, Clown Fish and Sea Horses were floating around us as if we were no bother at all to them. After several hours of swimming and snorkeling around the island we headed back to catch our boat. It was still only early afternoon and high tide was still filling the cove, so we rented some kayaks once back to Ton Sai and set off again. This time around we paddled our way through the lime stone caves and canals over to Ao Nang. Here we beached our Kayaks and had an expensive lunch at a fancy resort and afterward frolicked in the waves!

Once back to Ton Sai, the tide has come out so we have to carry our kayaks back to shore. Shortly after returning we gathered at the Peace and Love Bar. We were greeted by friends we had met along the way: Pia from Norway, Katie from Italy, Chloe from Korea, Arati from India and Jeremy from the USA! Another Thai rock band has taken the stage. Across the bar in the dirt pit, people gave fire twirling a  shot- all while standing on a tight line. Incredible.

The next day Sarah and Spence headed out to continue the Island hoping and Tom and I had a chill day. We spend the day reading and people watching on Pra Nang Beach. The cave that we walked in earlier in the week was now at least 6 feet deep in water. It was incredible to swim around in the cave that was once just a puddle. We climbed to the top of the rocks and jumped off, into the crisp, cool, clear and clean water below! We played from 11:30 to 4. Noticing it was low tide, we decided to walk back to Ton Sai. I was set to leave the morning to start making my way back to BKK to fly out tomo eve. We ate well, took in our last night and crawled into bed early as a horrendous storm rolled in. There would have been nothing worse than being hung over on a 24 plus hour gaunt home.

Leaving day approaches quickly. From the moment I woke up I was saddened. I was sad to leave the beauty and culture of the inspiring country I had been visiting, exploring and learning about and most of all I was sad to leave my bestie, Tom. We took a long tail to Krabi and a bus to Phuket. We arrived early so we had lunch on the water. The Coast of Thailand is edgy but peaceful. We were the only ones in the restaurant. Then it was time. Tom and I hugged long and tight then I got in a cab and was off to the airport. When I arrived in Bangkok I had 6.5 hours to kill. There was NO way I was sitting there for 6.5 hours. So I hoped in a cab and asked to be taken to the Grand Palace. However, it was closed. So from there I went to the weekend market, Chatuchak Market. It’s one of the largest in the world. By this point, I’ve got 2.5 hours to kill before I need to be heading back to BKK to catch my 9pm flight and meet up with Uncle Buddy. About 90% of the stuff at the market was things I would not dare purchase…. And the 10% of stuff I did want, I could not afford or have the room… furniture and beautiful jewels. I hailed a taxi outside the market and we headed back to BKK. This time around, it is pure mayhem. Not like when I arrived after lunch.

In just a matter of seconds after I get out of the cab, I reach for my phone to call Maggie to update her on my flight schedule and realized I did not have my Blackberry! That was the icing on the cake. Right there in the drop off terminal surrounded by hundreds of people, I start to cry. I was so made at my self. I had been in this country for over 2 weeks and traveled all over it via train, bikes, plane, water taxi, kayak, etcc and here I was 2 hours from departure and it was gone, lying in the back of a cab scooting through Bangkok. Following my meltdown, I pull it together and go to the taxi head quarters and try to explain what happened. First things first, they ask for my taxi slip. I thought with that we could just call Mr. up and ask him to come back- I was happy to pay the fee for his return. But apparently, that is not how things work. You have to go to the corporate office and file a report then they call him. Jezus, was all this really a necessary?! With each taxi from the airport, you get a slip with the driver’s name, phone # and taxi #. I filled the report, then they call him and he said he’d return “when he can, within about 30-45 min”. If he was a minute longer I would have to leave and start checking in. 35 min in, he’s back… sadly my phone is not. This end result was going to make the trip home even longer. I was hoping Uncle Buddy would be able to find me! I got a snack and drink and waited at the terminal, in case he showed up. Thankfully he was there when I turned the corner! Once we boarded we are off to South Korea to catch the really long flight home. Mercifully, I had a little guy purchased at the local pharmacy to help me sleep almost all the way home J

No matter where my travels have taken me, I always come back more humble, appreciative, thankful, liberated and lastly, slightly changed for the better. Thailand proved to be no different. In fact, this country of color, smells, liveliness, culture, history, beauty and gentle souls hold a strong tie with Belize, my most treasured travel experience. I have not gotten Thailand or, in fact, South East Asia out of my system. I hope to return and take in more of what this enlightening country has to offer. My heart will be forever warmed by the people I met and the things I saw and experienced while in this tiny country.

The Land of Smiles: Part 2

Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai

Before traveling to Thailand, I thought it was Bangkok and white sandy beaches. A mountain region never crossed my mind. Tom moved from Bangkok to Chiang Mai after taking his teaching class. We actually went to pick up his certificate while I was there! Chiang Mai is a large University City nestled in the Mountains of Thailand.

We took a night train leaving Bangkok around 7:30pm to Chiang Mai. It was about a 14 hour train ride, but most of it through the night, so not bad. Also, there were a lot of young travelers on the cart with us, so we played card/ drinking games and swapped stories. I think our ticket was like $40ish dollars. Chiang Mai is the big city in the mountains. We stayed in the mountain region for almost a week then booked flights (about 3 days out) to the beaches. We flew from CM to Phuket (booked first class by accident). Since we were there, I went ahead and booked my flight from Phuket back to Bangkok so I would not have to deal with it from the beach towns, and not knowing how much internet access I would have. For the flight to from CM to Phuket and Phuket to BKK was under $200 and one again, was first class.

The train was an older train, but complete with seats that fold down into beds and restrooms. The train maid comes and sets up shop for you with sheets, blankets and pillows. The views from this train make you thankful for what you left at home and amazed by what God created for us. I saw the poorest of poor villages and yet rode through beautiful national forest that winded around hills and mountains. When I opened my eyes from a rather well sleep, considering, I was anxious to get there. I could tell from my current surroundings- outside the train, I was going to love CM.

Chiang Mai means “new city”. This came from being the new Capital that was founded in 1426. It is the largest city in the northern region and one of the most cultural in the country. CM is the Capital of the CM Provence. She rest 435 miles North of Bangkok. Four “wards” make up the CMP and 1 million peeps reside within the four wards. Just this year it was named by Trip Advisor as one of the “25 best destinations in the world”. That alone is pretty darn impressive.

Once we got to CM we went to Tom’s apartment ($115 a month for a loft style room with balcony and with bathroom, toilet shower and hot water). From the train station there we took a songthaew which is basically at small pick up truck with seats and a roof built into the back bed. When we arrived at Tom’s apartment I could see why Tom loved it so much here. It’s a big city, with a small town feel tucked up in the mountains. The air is cool in the morning and evenings and the people are young, hip and very nice. I unloaded my stuff and just sat down for a moment. We sat on Tom’s balcony, had a beer and looked at the mountains, while we discussed our next move. It was decided the next move would be to find Uncle Buddy a hotel room. Right across the street was a hotel with a very impressive lobby, free breakfast, maid service, large bed, hot water, and private bath all for the bargain price of about $20.00 a night.

From there we head to grab some lunch and book flight to the beach. We thought we might as well get that out of the way. Cruising down the side walk we saw a tiny salad shop called The Salad Concept. One of the best salads I’ve ever had! . It was at that moment I was really surprised about the culture I was visiting. Here I was in Thailand, a place many people could not even tell you where it was, sitting in the AC eating a dank salad with cool artwork hanging around me.

After booking our flights we went to visit one of the most famous Wats in the CM area, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. This was by far my most favorite. We took a songthaew up to the entrance. The vibrant colored dragons that line the entrance staircase, let me know that I was about to enter something pretty spectacular. But I just had no idea how moving this place would be. After climbing yet another 302 steps you can’t help but stop at the top and take it all in. The beauty makes you speechless. Once more, I was enamored by the detail, colors, history, meaning, respect and the people in general. It’s no wonder that Thailand is named the Land of Smiles! This saying was specific to this country. They wanted to have a name that would be inviting to tourist as, Thailand’s main source of income from the get go, was tourism. The older generation is intriguing to look at. I wanted to sit and just listen to stories. Their smiles, eyes, skin and mannerisms made you feel like all was well in the world. From the very top, you can see all of the mountains and CM.

When we got back in the city, we showered and headed out for a night on the town. Tom took us to a wonderful eatery– ha, it was Italian, but still very good. From here Uncle Buddy wandered around and Tom and I went out! We started off with the Saturday night bazaar, the Wualai Market in CM’s Old City District. There were hundreds of vendors lined up along the closed blocks that bordered the moat and walls of the Old City.  There were plays, magic shows, fire shows, food, crafts, clothes, art work and beyond. The market is each Saturday from 4pm to 11pm.

Riverside Bar  was our next stop. Their live music and drinks were calling our names. It was 10 pm and not an open seat in the house due to people still eating dinner. Let me tell you, I love a city were you can still eat out after 9pm! The structure was made of dark wood and had an open layout. The entire back side was open, no doors, windows, etc..  The band was jamming out to American tunes. They were Thai Hipsters and everyone was moving! In Thailand you can purchase a pint of liquor, a mixer and ice for about $3. Sang Som was poison I picked, a Thai Whiskey. From there we went to The Drunken Flower, a Tom favorite. It’s a little  bar with a wicked cool owner. Here you could buy a bottle of Sang Som and if you didn’t finish it, not to worry- you can Sharpie your name on it and come back whenever you like to finish it! After Tom played DJ (there was a cd collection that made mine look insignificant) behind the bar for a while, we then headed to the disco- Moisture. Ha, such a cliché name.  The ride over was rather fun. We met some young guys our age at a bar across the street from The Drunken Flower. They all had motor bikes and were heading to Moisture as well. They gave us a lift. I rode with Khwan and Tom with Kikkok

There are times in your life where you look back and think “mmm, maybe that was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done”, but I believe in humanity and the general good in people. I choose to believe no one would hurt me- just because. However, I’m acutely aware of this flaw. On the flip side, I desire to live my life and not be afraid to take chances. I have never been a fan of the “what if” game. That game will ruin you…. And unquestionably shelter you.  My fondest memories, experiences, lessons and ‘ahhhh-haaaa’ moments have partly come from doing things that were not planned or ‘smart’. Things that I “should not” have been doing. I will not stress my mother out with all the stories & details. Hitching rides with Khwan and Kikkok was one of those moments- It’s almost hard to describe the feeling of zipping through streets full of people, cars, music, night markets, with someone you just met- but knowing you where in good hands. It really allows you to see the culture and city from a perspective. Even if Tom and I had rented motor-bikes, which you very well can do, it would not have been the same.  Tom and I arrived safely with wind blown hair, huge smiles and several new friends. After dancing for hours, we parted ways and Tom and I retreat back to his apartment. Elephant Day was drawing very near.

To our surprise, a friend Spence Martin was traveling SE Asia with his girlfriend, Sara Bott. Tom and I knew Spence from home. We knew they were up in Laos and were hoping to meet up with him on their way back into Thailand. With several emails behind us, we were sharing Elephant Day with them as well! We all met at Tom’s apartment and from there took a Songthaew that was going to take us to Maesa Elephant Camp , in the mountains of Chiang Mai. Round trip to the Camp and back was about 1500 baht, so about $46 round trip for each of us. It was about a two hour ride and the last hour we were deep in the mountains. Once there, we bought tickets and started down the guided path where Thai children were encouraging you to purchase bananas and pure stick of sugar cane. Apparently, elephants like bananas and sugar cane. Actually, they love it. After a feeding session, off to watch bath time! Probably 10 or so elephants of all ages and sizes are in the river with their Mahout or care giver. They are being washed, teeth brushed, sprouting out water, rolling around and talking! Every last one of them was putting on quiet the show. From here we head to the arena where we watch- true story- elephants play soccer, stack logs and the most mind blowing… painting. Yes painting, with a paint brush, paint, easel, and canvas. These pieces of art were available for 2,000 baht- about $57 dollars.  Finally, we get to ride them. There were baskets on the elephants back. Their Mahout sat right above the neck. We boarded buy climbing stairs with a platform that was the height of the elephants. Uncle Buddy has is own, Tom and I on one and Spence and Sara behind us. We took about a hour tour through the camp habitat, woods and mountains.

It is in Thailand where I feel in love with Elephants. They are beautiful, kind, smart creatures. Thai people believe they are a symbol of good luck, and now so do I.

Dinner time had approached by the time we got back into the city. After showering and a quick freshen up, Tom suggest we go for nice authentic Thai meal. It was one of his favorites, Khun Churn, . The five of us sat there for 3 hours, as if we were locals, taking our time devouring each item that was ordered and placed in front of us, as if it were our last meal. We must have ordered 10 or 12 dishes and shared them all. We had adult spirits to quench our thirst and incredible company. Uncle Buddy was determined to pick up the bill, so us four youngsters, let him… I for one still had a few days left in CM and then 5 days at the beaches! Astonishingly, the bill was around $45.00 dollars. After dinner, Uncle Buddy went to get a massage and we stopped by The Drunken Flower to finish our bottle of Sang Som then we all decided it was time to pass out. I had yet to get a massage and I decided it was time to change that! I walked across the street to the massage parlor from Tom’s apartment and asked for a Traditional Thai massage; I think it was 45 or 50 baht- so $2 or $3! One of the best massage schools in Thailand is at the University of Chiang Mai, so I just knew this would be one of the best $3 I ever spent. Welp, let me tell you. I am NOT a fan of the Traditional Thai Massage. It was rather painful. I was a little concerned when I was asked to lie on the floor and keep all my clothes on. I could not help but think how this is was going to work!? I was actually. In. Pain. Several times she asked if I was ok. I was indeed ok, but it was not pleasant. Embarrassed and not sure what to do, I pushed through for 45 minutes. I was pulled and pressed all over my body with her knees, elbows and knuckles. When I walked out of there, I laughed and told Tom what I had just been through. He said what I really wanted was a hot oil Thai massage. Just the title of that sounded better than what I had just experienced. Since we were white water rafting the next day, I figured I’d go back for round two after getting tormented by the aqua.

One thing you must prepare yourself for are early mornings, if you want excursions. We were to leave at 8 am. The Songthaew was full with just Uncle Buddy, Tom and I along with a couple other locals.  An hour or so along the way, we stopped at some tiny village and were told to grab food and use the restroom, as it would be a while before we were able to either again. We got off and scattered. We had 30 to do whatever we needed to do. After paying 1baht to use the restroom, we walked across the street to the market. This was a market unlike what we had seen yet. There was hanging meat (keep in mind it is at least 90 out) with flies everywhere, colorful fruits, people cooking on hot tops, live stock, etc...

The last hour of the ride was rough- very bumpy and on very authentic dirt roads. We saw roaming elephants on the sides of hills, just hanging out. It was hard to believe this was a legit tour place once we arrived. Siam Adventure Tours rest in the middle of a mountain within a village on a calm river. Once we arrived, they had fresh pineapple and juice for us! Lunch was also included. It was a pumpkin curry chicken with veggies and rice. After our snack, we were given the run down. We had about an hour to kill once we got there. The guides were now cooks. They cooked up a meal for all 20 of us. While they slaved in the kitchen we walked around the village. There was an old wooden bridge that looked like something from Indiana Jones, but being the dare devils we are, we walked across. At this point I felt like I was more in Vietnam that Thailand. The only colors around were the brown river, wooden bridges and houses, blue skies and green trees. The vibrancy had disappeared. Granted there were splotches of color here and there, within the homes and tiny gardens or the wild chickens wandering down the dirt paths, but overall- a totally different feel! I, at the point, felt like I was in a 3rd world country. No big buildings. No cars. No noise, other than nature. No busy streets. No pavement. No electricity. This tiny village of maybe 50 people lived and worked here daily. Probably knew no different and they were or at my sight, completely content. I was intrigued and grateful all over again.

After we ate it was time to board our boat. Our boat was just Tom, Uncle Buddy, our guide and I. We rafted down the river in about 2hours. It was Uncle Buddy’s first time. To our surprise there were some actual white water areas! We managed through with no accidents. Another boat was not so lucky, they flipped coming into a sharp turn!! The family members were all ok though. By the end of the day I was worn out and day dreaming about that hot oil massage. Once back in the city, we stopped and got some yum yum from a few street vendors, and then I headed off to get my massage. Let me tell you, a hot oil Thai massage, is what it is alllllll about. And it is $4.00. Yes, $4.00. I gave her $10- just because I felt like I was ripping her off! After we all relaxed a bit, we headed off to a late dinner, I wish I could recall the name but it was delightful. The food was fresh and delicious. We had a booth in the whimsical outdoor seating area.  

This was our last night in CM and we had an early morning flight. The three of us walked the night market and took the long scenic route home after supper and called it a night.