We're off to Thailand! My (Juliana's) best college girlfriend (Emily) is getting married on the Thai island of Koh Samui on August 16. After many months of saying it was too expensive, we bit the bullet and decided to go. It's my first time in a non-English based country (I have been around north america and europe but not asia), and Ty's first time out of the country at all (not counting Canada). We are excited to travel together, especially for so long, but both nervous about being on the other side of the world and not speaking the language most of all. We are stretching the trip into 2 weeks: 1 week in the northern part of Thailand in Chiang Mai (second largest city and "capital" of the north), then 4 days on the island for the wedding, a day of traveling by boat and train up to Ayutthaya (UNESCO World Heritage Site), 2 days there in the ruins, then just a short day in Bangkok before we fly home. We've gotten our shots, our passports, our humid-weather-travel clothes, and a lot of anticipation built up!
We left Davis on Friday evening and were in transit until Sunday evening. We have lost 12 hours do to the time change, and it's the opposite time of day as it is back home (14 hours ahead). We have been breathing conditioned air (in cars, planes, airports, and more cars) for 2 days straight. After 2 days of traveling - SFO to Hong Kong (our 11:30pm light is delayed a couple hours, then a 12 hour flight, then 3 hour layover first thing in the morning in HK), Hong Kong to Bangkok (3 hour flight, then 4 hour layover in the airport), Bangkok to Chiang Mai (1.5 hour flight and short taxi ride, thank god!) - we arrived at our loding, Mountain View Guest House, and debated whether to collapse or try to make it to the night market.
(Ty trying to stretch out and sleep after a long night in extra uncomfortable airplane seats)
(we're happy as this is the last leg of our long journey. We've been in these clothes for 2.5 days! Ew!)
(Our first glimpse of the green hills of northern thailand, and the end of all this travel!)
(our great guest house, recommended by lorraine, a welcome site!)
(our modest but fantastic room)
(the view from our deck - the striped coverings protect our guest house patio and breakfast area from the daily rain. The roof of a temple is in the background. You can see a temple from our other window as well).
We went to the night market, although exhausted, because it’s the more authentic of the Chiang Mai markets, within walking distance of our hotel, and only happens on Sunday nights. Our friend Lorraine, our guide to all things to do in Northern Thailand, said we could not miss it. Who are we to argue? Plus, we have no sense of time anymore, so it could be the middle of the day for us!
The market was just blocks away, and we found it easily - already the first of many things it turned out we didn't need to worry about! At first we only saw little plastic tschotskes but further in there were more interesting things for sale – still touristy but more fun: artwork, carved teak, string lights, clothes, bags, jewelry, umbrellas, food.
(markets are set up right in the middle of town, closing streets and fronting sacred temples)
We ate good street food and avoided the fried insects. No stomach worries from that, although my stomach is overwhelmed in general. I am struggling with all of the pungent smells – fish sauce is everywhere. Even cilantro and basil can get to me, as well as all the diesel fumes. Anyhow, the market was lively, colorful, and full of other people - tourists and locals.
We saw our first temple, which was really beautiful at night, and an interesting contrast to the market vendors right in front of it. Everyone bikes in their wares and their stands. We walked several blocks from our hotel to the market and back, which made us feel like we were getting the lay of the land, at least near our hotel.
(this temple was open later than usual, perhaps due to the market)
The next morning it was all so different we still felt lost! There is no building code here – electrical cords running through puddles, gutters spilling out with no down spouts, all sorts of tripping hazards in the roads, sidewalks changing height, width, location at whim, all kinds of bolts/chords/posts/etc sticking up in the middle of the walkway. You walk down the street differently – after a few blocks you don't have to pay as much attention to your feet, but you are aware of yourself and your surroundings in a way that is different than at home.
It is very annoying to not be able to drink the water. No ice, no fruit, a hassle to brush teeth, and with the humidity, we have to buy a lot of bottled water to stay hydrated – which means more money and wastefulness. We do have a kettle in our room so we are saving bottles to refill with boiled water. We also aren't allowed to flush any TP! It goes in a waste basket by the toilet - this is going to take some getting used to!
(crazy sidewalks that wouldn't fly in the US!)
(there are definitely no ADA laws here...in fact, while we saw beggars without legs, we never saw a wheelchair)