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October 2017
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Last Days of the Adventure

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After Pai, Chiang Mai felt like a gigantic frantic city. Having not dropped the strange shopping disorder Scott and I have developed, we spent the evening at the Night Bazaar shopping. We were also hoping to do one last cooking class – we’ve had such amazing Indian food on this trip that we figured it would be ideal – but after calling and getting a busy signal for days we thought we’d pop in on them. When we arrived, we found a locked gate and a dark place and it was only 8 p.m. – I think maybe they’ve closed down. That was a terrible disappointment, because there was nothing else we were really interested in doing there. The temple on the hill (the ONLY temple we wanted to see) was under construction; there was a tiger sanctuary where you can get your picture taken with a “sleeping” tiger (probably drug-induced), which sounded cool, but we didn’t want to support drugging those beautiful beasts; besides that, the only thing to do in Chiang Mai is elephant riding and hill tribe tours, and we’d already dismissed doing any of those.

The beautiful trees down by the river in Chiang Mai

The beautiful trees down by the river in Chiang Mai

So, we ended up spending the day walking around, and I got a pedicure. Somehow the people seemed friendlier here – so many locals stopped to talk to us. They seem to be really missing their tourists and seemed genuinely elated that we were there. It was awesome.

We boarded our night bus at 7 p.m., and were ecstatic that our last bus ride of the trip only had eight people on it, when it could seat 40 – that meant that everyone got their own row to spread out and sleep. I can’t say enough how amazing travelling Thailand in a period of “civil unrest” is. Next trip – somewhere where nobody goes, like the Congo or Darfur…

The bus ride was great until about 4 a.m., when the bus got a flat tire. Our bus was pretty rickety, and the driver was hitting some pretty massive pot holes, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened. We were 90 km out of Bangkok, and essentially in the middle of nowhere, so I couldn’t figure out what they were going to do. Well, we drove very slowly for about five minutes, and, no joke, we pulled into a tire fixing place. Now, it was 4 in the morning, so I thought we’d definitely have to wait. Oh no. This was somebody’s house, so the bus driver went and woke the guy up and he fixed our tire. Can you believe that? There must be tire fixers every 10 kilometers on that highway for us to have found one so quickly. Just think if you had driven from Edmonton to Calgary and got a flat tire. You would have had to call a tow-truck, which would take you to the next town, and then you would have to wait for the store to open, and it would take the guy hours to fix it. We were done in 30 minutes flat. It was unbelievable.

Fire damage to Central World

Fire damage to Central World

Bangkok has started to feel like home, since this was our third time in the city…so arriving at 6:30 a.m created no problem for us. Back to Khao San road! Because of the lack of tourism, we found a couple of pretty good deals on hotels – again, we love travelling in ultra-low season.

After a quick nap, we caught a cab in the afternoon and went to check out the devastation near Central World, where the Red Shirts had been camped out for two months and vandalized when they were expunged. It was unbelievable how much damage had been done to Central World – imagine half of West Edmonton Mall burned down, with a gaping hole through its side, like a wrecking ball had gone through it. It was nasty. There were tons of locals and a few tourists taking pictures and putting flowers on a memorial.

Puppies for sale in the markets

Puppies for sale in the markets

We decided to take a train to the Chatuchak weekend market, which was incredible – spanning 35 sq. Km, that makes it one of the largest markets in the world, and there were literally NO westerners. All Thais. And this place sold EVERYTHING – from plates to vases to clothes – there was even a section selling tiny pure-bred puppies (although I really think people should take in strays here…there are too many dogs as it is!). And we watched a guy make Thai tea by throwing it around in jugs, then ordered some street meat and sat in the adjacent park to enjoy (we’ve actually started eating really sketchy food since our bellies seem to have taken on the characteristics of a local). It was lovely.

One Night in Bangkok

Our Thai lady friends, Lotus and Mae

Our Thai lady friends, Lotus and Mae

That night, we decided it was time for one last hoorah – Bangkok style. We needed to exit Thailand with a Bang – and what better place than Bang-kok!?

After shopping our little hearts out, we sat down for one last bucket at a restaurant, and quickly met two British guys. One of the British guys was quite the lady’s man, and quickly attracted two Thai ladies who seemed to love ME (Landon – remind you of something?), and the group bonded very quickly. Unfortunately, our new friend Lotus decided to impress us by guzzling back bucket after bucket, and before long she couldn’t stand up, and Scott literally carried her to a cab. But, the night was still young, so the Brits and we carried on to the next bar.

Now, we were partying on a Saturday night, so that meant all the Thai ladies were out in full force…and quickly one glommed onto Scott. We decided to have a little fun and see where it took him. Not far apparently…these Thai ladies are INTUITIVE. She kept saying that Scott loved me (even though he made no indication that we were together) and she could tell by the way he looked at me. Our experiment was short-lived, but Scott discovered through conversation that she was a Red Shirt supporter from the poor Issan region (where most of the Red Shirts are from). This was cool, as she was the first one we’ve met (or at least who has admitted to it) in our travels. Scott tried to talk to her about why she supported the movement, but didn’t get very far as the loud music and language barrier combined to make things very difficult.

Kenna's "peace-au" Kaew

Kenna's "peace-au" Kaew

We’re not sure how, but at some point we headed to an after-hours trance club, where I met another friend named Kaew. She was adorable and kept calling me a “peace-au” which means “sister but not my real sister.” I thought it was cute and kind of shameful that English doesn’t have an equivalent. I think I realized that the reason all the girls liked me so much is that I was friendly to them – I don’t think many western women are warm or welcoming which is a shame. It’s always nice to make new friends, and now I have a few in Thailand!

Unfortunately, our last day in Bangkok was spent nursing a mighty bucket hangover and we didn’t do much besides wander down to the river. We did manage to find a really cool park that had a battle of the bands going on, which was neat. The most interesting part of being there was that, at 6 p.m., everyone stood up and they played the national anthem. Now, this wouldn’t have been odd, except it had happened the night before at the market too, but we hadn’t realized what was going on. It’s kind of strange – all of a sudden you look up and everyone is still and standing and you don’t really know what’s going on because the announcement is in Thai. So, we stood for the anthem. I later discovered from Kaew that this happens every day, and that it is for the country. I think Canada should do that. :)

A little 2-yr old girl doing aerobics in the park

A little 2-yr old girl doing aerobics in the park

After the anthem, an aerobics group formed right in front of us and started going. It was really random – just some guy coming out to teach and people show up and put donations in a box in front of him. It was so much fun to watch. I think this too should happen in Canada! We had a hoot watching a little girl, about 2, join in on the class and do all the movements with the Thai ladies. Finally, we went and finished up the last of our shopping and crawled into bed, having to be up at 3:30 a.m to catch our flight to Hong Kong.

Getting a cab to the airport in the morning was interesting, as we had one dude try to tell us it was 600 baht. We are now smarter to know better, and refused, and walked away to find a metered cab. The same guy claimed the meter cab would take us, but for 350 baht. I got mad, pulled our bags out of his car, and flagged down an honest cab and got in. In the end, the cab ride was actually 320 with the meter, so we did well.

Last days in Asia

Chungking mansions - notice all the Indian touts everywhere

Chungking mansions - notice all the Indian touts everywhere

Hong Kong is just as I remember it – crowded, chaotic and amazing. We had been told to stay at the Chung King Mansions – a crazy area, composed of six blocks of buildings (themselves inside a building) with over 80 guest houses inside. Upon arriving, it felt like we’d been dumped into Little India. A friend had told us to stay in block E, floor 6 – so we headed there. We got harassed by about 10 Indian men trying to tout us to their guest house – one even told us that the entire block E was closed. Hah. We managed to avoid them all until we were waiting for the elevator to the sixth floor. Some guy followed us in and tried to get a commission off us at the place we were already planning on staying, and then somehow managed to talk us into looking at two other places. Both were dumps. We tried to escape him and go back to the original, but ended up only making it a few flights down the nastiest staircase I’ve ever seen and dodged into a Chinese guest house. It was a bit more expensive, but much more spacious (even though the bed is barely bigger than a twin size – but all the rooms in every hotel were like this), so we’re happy.

The night we arrived, despite being exhausted from the early flight, we ended up meeting on of Scott’s contacts for dinner. This was quite random – his contact was from Sydney, and we were supposed to meet him in Sydney while we were there, but circumstances didn’t pan out. Coincidentally, he sent Scott an email a few days ago asking if we’d be in Hong Kong, and it turned out we’d arrive in Hong Kong on the same day. Talk about random.

We primarily came to Hong Kong to shop – every third store here is a jewellery store, so it’s a great place to get a proper ring, and the clothing is amazing. Aside from shopping, we spent some time visiting some of our favourite jaunts – the botanical gardens and Hong Kong park. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t cooperated and the first couple days consisted of constant torrential rain… I guess it’s fitting – the trip begins with torrential rain, and ends with torrential rain…

Our tea appreciation class

Our tea appreciation class

Since there wasn’t much else to do in the rain, we decided to take part in a free tea appreciation class, which, surprisingly, was amazing. We learned all about the process of cultivating and processing tea, how to serve it, and all the etiquette surrounding it. For example, green tea should only be steeped for 15 seconds, while black tea should be steeped for 1-3 mins. You’re also supposed to have a second teapot for loose leaf tea, called a “delivery” pot, so that you can pour your tea after the optimal steep time, and then store it in the delivery pot to serve. Each type of tea also has an optimal water temperature – green tea is about 45°C, while black tea is 90°C. I had no idea that tea was such an art form! It was like a wine tasting… and the tea menu was just as extensive as a wine menu. These Chinese sure take their teas seriously!

Bye-bye Excellent Adventure! Our last beach...

Bye-bye Excellent Adventure! Our last beach...

Our last day of the trip (coincidentally, our 5 year anniversary as well) was pretty much the same as many other days on our trip – a beach day! Being rather excited/worried about coming home, we had horrendous sleeps the night before, but promised ourselves we would wake up early to ease the coming jet lag, and headed to the other side of Hong Kong Island for our last glimpse of beach for a while. We headed to Stanley Beach first (where Scott had been on our previous visit to Hong Kong while I was at my conference), which was mostly a market and tourist trap – the only Chinese were working in the shops. But the real beautiful beach came at Repulse Bay – a beach not even comparable to Thailand’s, but still very nice. Unfortunately, yet again, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we only had time for a quick nap before clouds rolled in and the temperate dropped to a frigid 26°C (Edmonton is going to be a real shock). We headed back into Stanley for a quick bite, then back into town. We had planned on heading up to the peak of the Island, but drizzle prevented that.

So, tomorrow we head home, and the adventure must come to an end. It’s been a blast, but we’re looking forward to the new exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. See you all soon!


4 comments to Last Days of the Adventure

  • Isabel

    Awesome trip!!! Now, where did you ever find this cool timeline? I could not figure out whether it was a WP plugin or something else, did you do it yourselves? Would so like to use for my own blog. Your help would be appreciated, cheers!

  • Scott

    Thanks Isabel! Yep it’s a custom-built WP plugin inspired by TravelPod. I can send you the source if you like.

  • Isabel

    Sweet, that would be really kind of you! Thanks a billion!

  • Isabel

    I forgot to leave my email address: isa[at-sign]bischofer.com Cheers!

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