Chiang Mai elephants, white water sealed with reggae rooftop bar

Well it looks like it’s going to be my 100 post. special number, special place: Chiang Mai.

I think I liked Chiang Mai the most from the places visited in Thailand. No beach which for some people disqualifies it straight away. Not for me.

We flew from Bangkok and on arrival were welcomed by rain. rain in Chiang MaiNaturally we didn’t have place to stay so asked our tuk-tuk driver to recommend us a cheap place to stay. I can’t remember the place too well, I know we moved on the next day to a different accommodation in the same street which business card I have in front of me. VIPA HOUSE Mrs. Rabiab Pantkul, 14 – 14/1 Loikroh Lane 1 Rd, T.Changklan, A. Muang, Chiangmai 50100.

SinghaI’ll be honest with you I don’t even know where to start to give the true account of the city and our adventures.

This is my 100 post so it will be more funny than informational, I will write another bit about monuments later on. Now let me share our first meal with you. soupHave a look, yummy… funny thing: before our meal we saw a dog in the courtyard of the restaurant, barking and running around… while we ate there was silence and the dog didn’t show up until we left 😉 Yes… you are right this is a useless example of European sense of humor…

Each one of us ordered something else so we could try more dishes and see which one we liked. I think we didn’t have any proper Thai meal before because all we ate was street food. noodlesGod, Thai food especially in Thailand is the best in the World. Spicy and not spicy, rice, sea food, soups, noodles… I’m getting hungry while thinking of it. When I lived in London we used to have a very nice Thai restaurant just around the corner oh I wish I could afford to go there more often than I did. Anyway back to Chiang Mai.

Rooftop barFirst night we found our favourite spot to hang out: THC Rooftop bartop roof reggae bar. I wasn’t a big fan of reggae but this place was simply awsome. It’s called THC Rooftop Bar, 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road | On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai. One of us of course did not want to go… no names… but now he is the biggest fan of the place! Give it a try when you are around! You sit on the bamboo mats (and some carpets) next to low tables and you can see the city from the top of a roof. Amazing. Everything is colorful and even fluorescent.Making notes Quite out of space. The funniest is the toilet. Oh did I mention that you need to leave your shoes and then climb the ladder to get in? And what I just realised I lost pictures from Thailand, some of them anyway. I think the ones I have will have to do. Ah by the way this is before I started to take any interest in photography so composition among others is not the best.

As you can see on the picture I had a note book thatNasi tu byli I filled in with notes almost every day. I can’t find it! The thing is I was moving so much from the time I was in Thailand it can be everywhere. I can’t believe I lost it. It needs to be somewhere. I will keep on looking.

somehow didn’t have much time, we could not decide on one tour. Meaning we were given a choice: One day safari and long neck tribe/bamboo rafting tour or trekking and white-water rafting tour. Hard choice. thanks to A1 Travel Info (398 Tha Phae Rd, Chiang Mai, 50300) tour agency we were able to organise it differently. Tuk Tuk Chiang MaiWe were to go to see the elephants in the morning and then on white water rafting in the afternoon. Tight on time but as everything do-able in Thailand.

We met our tuk-tuk driver in the morning as arranged. You can see his picture on the left. You may not remember or not know that in 2008 thousands of anti-government protesters in Thailand have gone to streets. They blocked airports and some of the goverment buildings, radio and TV stations. On 30 October a grenade attack was conducted,Tickets elephant trekking Chiang Mai targeting guards for the anti-government camp. Read more on BBC. Back to our story. So there we were heading for elephant ride and suddenly found ourselves in anti-goverment camp. If you are not familiar with the army it looked quite dangerous. I think our driver was just checking on news from his friends or famili living in tents. Anyway it gave as an opportunity to be in the center of action.

Guiness World Record Chiang MaiThai elephants are playful and loveable. We fed them with bannanas and then went on a ride which ended with bathing in the river. You should see how happy they are to get into the water! A. lost his whole bench of bannanas when an elephant decided he was bored of waiting for him to tear one off. We also saw how they pat people on the head, and take their hat off and put them back on. Elephants Chiang MaiThere is a football field in Maesa Elephant Camp where games on elephants are played. A. made me feel bad he said it’s animal cruelty and we shouldn’t do it. I’ll be honest I don’t know what to think about it. In the end we gave up our freedom and live in states. this means we are not running free, we have to work, earn money and be part of this big machine for the sake of feeling secure and be provided for in terms that we no longer have to hunt, make our own clothes, homes etc Elephants are not Elephant & mefree and have to earn their living but they have shelter and food and are safe from natural enemies (like humans e.g.). So in a sense elephants don’t have a choice but do we human have it? I don’t think the animals are treated badly in this camp.

When we finished we had to hurry to catch our bus into the mountains to join white-water rafting group. But when we found our tuk tuk driver he said:Elephant trekking

“Tuk tuk broken. Don’t start” and he turned the ignition on a couple of times but nothing happened. It wouldn’t start.

“How come it’s broken?”

Shrug

“How are we gonna get to Chiang Mai. We don’t have much time!”

Shrug

“What do we do now?!”Tuk tuk negotiations

Shrug

(M. trying to start the engine…)

(We discussing what to do and trying to talk to the driver again)

and so on…

“We paid you! you have to get us back!”Waiting on tuk tuk replacement

“I call my friend”

“Yes do that”

Calling… speaking… waiting… waiting… waiting…

Finally there he was. He came to speak to our driver, then tried to start the engine… and again… and the time was running… He thought about something went to his tuk tuk and came back with a rubber tube. he connected it to both gas tanks. We were all bending over the tube to see if it’s working hahahha and then suddenly we felt the smell of the gas and looked up on our driver who was smoking cigarette while bending over with us. In a split second we all jumped away like the was some kind of a bomb there. Must have looked really funny.

Bamboo rafting Chiang MaiWell this didn’t help and so we insisted on the other driver taking us to Chiang Mai. First problem: too many of us, second problem, payment, third problem… our tuk tuk driver was drunk and the only thing that helped to get us out of there was to threaten to call the Tourist Police. It always worked when we were in trouble BTW. So the we were 6 people in a tuk-tuk on our way to Chiang Mai in this crazy world of Thai traffic.White water Chiang Mai

But we made it! We got back on time to catch our bus. When we arrived on the river bank where the start point was we saw other people doing the bamboo rafting. It looked wet, maybe not entirely safe but well they looked more happy than scared. We had a brief trianing, got divided into two teams for each raft and wearing a helmet and life vest carried the raft to the river.

Chiang Mai white water raftingIt looked so much fun! We got into the raft, the river was quite calm, some lady took a picture of us, all in smiles and then the hell began… it started raining and the rain was coming from the upper reaches of the river so suddenly there was twice as much water and it was going faster and faster. For the three of us in our raft it was first time on white water, we did not really know what to do with the paddles, we were obeying orders as well as we could. Have to say our lider was reassuring but the other one in the second boat was crazy! Actually both of them! Suddenly the other boat filped upside down and all of them ended in water. We couldn’t catch the other boat when it was floating away, neither paddles, even though M. tried really hard. We were lucky because nobody was hurt, well A. was battered but well enough to curse. When we all got back to the boats the other team was attacked by huge red ants coming down on them from the tree. So they ended back in the water. At some point our guides decided to rid the boats so we had to walk bare feet in the jungle. We got back to the boats and struggle some more with the water. For me it was just pure fun. I guess if I ended in the water not being able to make head or tail where the surface and where the bottom is I might not be saying that, but I didn’t. This is not all. You see when we reached calm waters just before waterfall the other team lider decided it will be funny to filp the raft again! we were laughing but the other people cursed. I remember Canadian girl telling us she went to all different kinds of white water but never it was so dangerous.

So we reached the safe shore… and had to climb on top of two wet rafts stocked on the pickup. Did not expect that! No seat belts, everything wet and slippy and the driver thought he is taking part in some kind of race. The mountain roads were narrow and winding. Crazy nation!

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Introduction to my trip to Thailand

Ko Lanta

I went to Thailand in 2008 with three friends. I was just going to write that it was my first trip to a different continent but it wasn’t.road-map-of-thailand It wasn’t a first trip outside Europe without parents as well, but it was first self organised trip to different continent (although we organised it together) and first time in Asia. Big thing, is what I mean to say.

We were flying from Dublin through Amsterdam to Bangkok. And had an outline of what we wanted to see. Now, who are we? A group of four people: a couple (J. and M.) my friends from Uni at that time living in Dublin (not anymore), A. (J’s friend from work) and me.

The outline (plan) when we were leaving Ireland was:

  • Sightsee Bangkok
  • Flight to Chiang Mai
  • Renting a car to get back to Bangkok
  • Night bus/train/flight south to Phuket or Ko Samui or Ko Phi Phi
  • Back to Bangkok to catch the flight back home

and it worked out almost like this. Thailand tourWe did not hop the islands we stayed at Ko Lanta and took a night bus there. On the right you can see our first week of sightseeing: Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Hot – Li – Mae Ping National Park – Tak – Sukhothai – Ayutthaya – Kanchanaburi – Bangkok

I will start this time with a little information on Thailand.

Thailand in Thai means the country of free men. Thais still remain proud of the fact that their country was never occupied by foreign powers. It was once called the Kingdom of Siam. What is special about Thailand? Beaches? The temples? I guess both but morely the hospitality of people and delicious food. There is even more than this. Each part of the country is different, jungle and mountains in the north, beaches and islands in the south. Everywhere plenty of beautiful, historic buildings and adventures. You will hear of some of mine!China Airlines

Facts & numbers (selected):

  • the narrowest part of Thailand is near Prachuap Khiri Khan, where the Gulf of Thailand and the border of Myanmar (Burma) are only 13 km apart,
  • Bangkok has been the capital of Thailand since 1782 since King Rama I, it occupies around 6500 sq km,
  • Topographically the country can be divided into 5 regions: Central dominated by Maenam basin (you can see the houses on piles here), Northern with limestone mountain ranges (this means caves), South-Eastern a gradual transition with evergreen tropical forests and granite mountains (good fishing on the coast line), North-Eastern a red sandstone plateau (Thailand’s poor house), Western with mountain peaks exceeding 2000 m (Khao Sam Roi Yot – mountains with 300 peaks), Southern (the trunk of an elephant, as Thailand outline resembles the head of one).Festive celebrations Bangkok
  • Three seasons of differing rainfall: the summer monsoon – rain (May – October), winter monsoon – dry except eastern coast of Malay Peninsula (November to February) and the rest of the year – high temperatures and thunderstorms; take into consideration El Nino years as well
  • Goverment recognises 6 hill tribes: Hmong (Meo) 58 000, Lahu 40 000, Yao 30 000, Akha 24 000, Lisu 18 000, Karen 246 000 they have common believes (animism) and ancestor worship
  • Akha, Lisu & Lahu live north from Chiang Mai up to “Golden Triangle” and produce opium
  • The king is the head of the state, has a personal veto and right of “royal decree”,King he has a tremendous reputation among Thais so be aware you are not to ofend him or say anything bad or insulting, no criticism of king is ever utter even behind closed doors
  • Pictures of the king are displayed even in the tiniest huts, he is everywhere
  • A significant proportion of visitora to Thailand are “sex tourists”, while prostitution is practised openly throughout the country ( tolerated and partly regulated), sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is strictly prohibited,
  • It is common to see children and adults with a thread of wool tied around their wrists, this is to bind the khwan (spirit) to the body and keeping health and happiness within the body, you should wait until the thread falls off on its own, never tear it off yourself
  • Once in a lifetime every free Siamese must spend three months in a monastery
  • good spirits are adopted into families whereas the bad find a home in spirit houses (saan phra phum) where they are appeased with daily offerings
  • the first Siamese twins known to western medicine were born in 1811 in Mae Klong (about 60km from Bangkok)

There are not many pictures this time but I will make it up to you in posts to come 🙂

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Puerto Escondido – surf, drugs and enchiladas chili con carne

Puerto Escondido

We decided to take a minibus from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido. If you do the same be prepared for an adveture…

on the way to Puerto EscondidoOn the way, first and only stop… I can’t believe we survived this ride… 7h of rollercoaster is too much even for me… it’s hard to describe but imagine narrow, mountain road (where 2 cars can bearly pass each other) going up and down the mountain, no air conditioning or ventilation in the old smelly minibus (while it’s boiling hot outside) and a crazy driver who sits on the other cars back bumperall the time, I loved it for the first half and was sick the other half… well made it finnally… and when we did even those waiting to sell us stuff knew better than to try it.

There is also alternative route coach and it takes highways rather than small mountain roads. So you can try it. We flew back from Puerto Escondido (splendid, beautiful airport) to Mexico City so this is another route to take.

We wanted to go to Acapulco when we planned this trip but Fishing in Puerto Escondidoin the end decided against concrete hotels next to the beach and someone recommended us Puerto Escondido. It’s one of the most important tourist attractions on the Oaxacan coast. It caters to a more downscale and eclectic clientele than neighboring Huatulco, mostly surfers, backpackers and Mexican families. West from the town is a large lagoon area popular for fishing and birdwatching.

We loved our hostel having a room with ocean view. It was called Hotel and Youth Hostal Mayflower (Andador Libertad, Mayflower Hotel and Hostel, Puerto EscondidoOaxaca, Puerto Escondido 71980, Mexico). We could also see a night market in the street below. I think only here we got ourselves nice suveniers. Acctually I bought Maya Calendar earlier in Teotihuacan. I think I bargained it to an extent when the woman was unhappy about the price. I don’t think it’s ecologic attitude and I guess now I believe that both parties should feel happy about the price. When you can’t afford not to sell but at the same time price gives you no margin it just seems so unfair.Night market Puerto Escondido

There are many small and mid-sized hotels and restaurants around and a few upscale hotels to choose from. Most cuisine is based on seafood and local plants, which include eleven species of banana, chocolate and coffee. In one of those restaurants I ordered Enchiladas chili con carne. enchiladas chili con carneI didn’t speak Spanish much but after the time we spend in Mexico I was able to make decisions from the menu lol before ordering I spoke to the waiter and made sure that enchiladas where with beef and tomato chili sauce. What did I get… well dry chicken and black bean sauce hahahaha so yes, at the sea don’t be stupid like me and order sea food! Anyway when the waiter after the meal asked if I would like to go out in the evening to a disco I refused straight away I was so disappointed with the food. My thinking went along the lines “How dares he! Serves me this instead of what I wanted even though I’d made sure it was with beef and tomatos and than asks me to go out!” silly, silly girl I sometimes am.Live music

The beach is lovely and it’s famous among the surfers because of the waves. The sunsets are stunning. You can take a walk along the Andador Escéncico (Scenic Walkway) which is a set of paths, stairs and bridges that begin at the main beach of the town and wind their way over rocky oceanside cliffs, passing below the lighthouse to a lookout the named Sueño Posible (Possible Dream). In some places the walkway is very near the ocean and gets wet from the waves.

pelicansWe tried surfing, not really on surfing boards but on body boards. I managed to catch the wave only once but it was enough. Going with the flow gets a totally different meaning. No wonder surfers have something of a hippi style of life. You don’t want to loose what you feel in the water after getting out of it.

The pelican are like gulls you can see them everywhere around. Summing it up if you don’t like crowds of people, fancy hotels and do like surfing Puerto is for you 🙂

P.S. You might wonder what happened to the drugs… well i’ve never seen any drugs in Puerto Escondido, only after some time when I told somebody about my trip there I got to know it’s famous for drugs. So maybe it is. Be sure if you don’t want to find them you won’t. unless things change which they do lol

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Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca CityThe unforgettable city of Oaxaca is the cradle of a multicolored culture with continual fascinating enchantment. For me it was also the city of romance. We had a very handsom guide on our tour to Monte Alban. Dark sparkling eyes, boyish smile, cute black curls and nicely built tanned body. I typically don’t like the “latino” type but he was  just so alluring… he asked me out which totally shocked me. Now, when I’m more aware of “customs” it doesn’t seem so shocking and makes me and my adventure less special. But let’s not spoil the sweet memories by thinking too much.Beer in Oaxaca City

We went out to have something to drink in beautiful Zocalo. In front of the cathedral I could hear opera singers entertaining the crowd. The plaza and restaurants were full of lights and people. The air was warm, the alcohol strong and his eyes bright and deep. After not that long we seemed to be talking only about desire, senses and romance. His fingers gently touching my skin crawl the length of my arms to climb to the line where the neck meets the hair. Then he slowly moved his hand down my spine probably reaching the intended effect of electricity in the air between us.

But… well but… just straight after coming back from Mexico I was to move in with a person I really cared about, so it didn’t really work that way. There was no electricity and the romance ended before it even started. Thinking about it now I just can’t believe feeling for one huy can make you so insensitive to seduction by another even though he was so very attractive and I recognised it. Strange. But well, happens right?Basilica de la Soledad

The city was formerly known as Huayacac, a Nahuatl word whose roots “huaxin”, stand for “gourd”, and “yacatl”, which means “pinnacle, point or beginning”, thus being defined as “The beginning or pinnacle of the gourds”.

The cathedral I mentioned earlier is called Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Nuestra Señora de al Asunción). It is acctually the third to be built as the first two were destroyed by large earthquakes in the 16th and 18th centuries.

Basilica de la SoledadBasilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is located four blocks west of the Cathedral on Avenida Independencia. It is built between 1682 and 1697 by Father Fernando Méndezon a site where supposedly an image of the Virgin Mary appeared. According to legend, the image of the Virgin was found in the pack of a mule that sat down on an outcropping of rock and refused to get up. When the image was discovered, the Virgin appeared, and a basilica was constructed to commemorate the event. The outcropping of rock is surrounded by a cage of iron bars immediately to your right along the wall as you enter the church.Wedding outside basilica de la Soledad

The concave facade of the Basilica de la Soledad, projecting forward from the building, is unique in Mexico’s religious architecture. The way the top is rounded and the tiers are divided suggests an imitation in stone of the traditional carved wooden retablos (folding altarpieces) common in Mexican churches.

Oaxaca is now preserved as a  “Cultural Heritage of Humanity” site by UNESCO.

Cuilapan de GuerreroDuring the tour around the city we visited also Cuilapan de Guerrero, famous XVIth-century open-air chapel hosted a mass by Pope John Paul II. Cuilapan was originally called Sahayuca and inhabited by the Mixtecand Zapotecpopulations. the monastery is located on a small hill which gives it a view of much of the valley area.It is one of the most extravagant and elaborate colonial area construction in Oaxaca.Built of green quarried stone and river rocks, it is a quiet place where footsteps can echo in the hallways. The extravagances of the site, include the tall basilica, the elaborate baptismal font, the Gothic cloister and murals remain as national treasures. The decorative work of the monastery, especially its murals, are important because they show a systematic blending of indigenous elements into the Christian framework, done in order to support the evangelization process in the local Mixtec and Zapotec people.Pope John Paul II in Cuilapan de Guerrero

One of the parts of the monastery is open air chapel. It is a three-nave chapel, also called “Church of the Three Naves.” The chapel has been given to the convent of Cuilapan fame for being the only of its kind throughout Oaxaca. The main facade stands out for its Renaissance elements. It has three entrances with semicircular arch on fluted pilasters. Central access is framed by Corinthian columns fluted shaft and a double cornice, above is a frame that Cuilapan de Guerrerocontains the shield of dominica order, flanked by two dogs carrying a torch in his mouth. Dogs, symbol of the Dominicans, represent, according to legend, a dream of the mother of Santo Domingo. On the sides of the frame are two human figures representing the virtues. The side entrances are lower than the central concert is an oculus with iron bars. The ends of the facade are occupied by two cylindrical towers, pierced in arch, and covered with spire. The top center of the facade is a triangular pediment.Cuilapan de Guerrero

The interior is in three naves. The naves are divided by two rows of 13 arches, supported by Tuscan columns, one of the rows is unfinished. The side walls have nine hits with arch. The bottom of the central nave ends with the triumphal arch, located near the main altar, now walled up. In the nave west, also at the bottom, is built a stone quarry with inscriptions Mixtec historical perspective, accompanied by the date 1555.

Cuilapan de GuerreroIf I remember correctly the chapel didn’t have a roof because the natives believed they wouldn’t have contact with God if they couldn’t see the sky.

We also visited Arrazola and San Martin Tilcajete, two towns which specialize in the art of crafting alebrijes (brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures), which can be purchased directly from the artists. And San Bartolo Coyotepec where the artisans specialize in black clay pottery.

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