Travel Deals – Thailand Etiquitte

Your experience traveling through Thailand depends greatly on the amount of research you do before you venture overseas.  It is a very nuanced country whose culture is full of etiquette do’s and dont’s and tricks of the trade as far as avoiding getting caught up in local tourist traps and scams (both of these I’ll talk about in this entry).  There are also definite places to see vs. places to skip, but I’ll save that topic for a different day’s work.  Once you understand the basics, Thailand is a beautiful and picturesque backdrop to, quite possibly, the best vacation of your life!

Perhaps the easiest and most fundamental key to traveling in Thailand is to avoid being around, possessing, talking about, asking about, or even alluding to anything drug-related.  While this rule may be a good one to abide by in any foreign land, it rings especially true in Thailand.  Over the years, the country has been getting increasingly overzealous in its anti-drug campaign – and because much of Thailand’s borders are burdened with drug smuggling this issue is exasperated.  Even though Thailand is generally a laid back place, the local police have begun to randomly drug test travelers in bars and arrest travelers for possession or positive tests.  This tid-bit of information is not meant to scare anyone away, nor should it be reason to avoid Thailand.  Just be smart…and maybe watch Brokedown Palace.

The people of Thailand are some of the friendliest people you will encounter on your travels, which I guess is why the country is sometimes referred to as, “the land of smiles.”  Nevertheless, here are some social norms that, if followed, should keep em smiling:  keep the PDA’s to a minimum – you may see Westernized Thai teens holding hands, but generally, that is the extent; keep your shirt on – no topless sunbathing ladies;  Thailand is a deeply religious culture, so respect it – while it is OK to wear shoes around the grounds of Buddhist temples, once you enter a building men and women should remove their shoes and make sure their legs and shoulders are covered – also, don’t go strutting around sans shirt in the town’s streets, bars or restaurants; keeping with religious values, Thai’s consider the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively and they don’t approve of touching anyone on the head, even as a friendly gesture; along the same line of thought, Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch (or be touched) by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one; don’t point the sole of your foot at anyone – it’s considered rude – so try to avoid doing this when sitting opposite someone and don’t use your foot to point at things.  Lastly, the Thailand culture has no tolerance for confrontation…if any misunderstanding does arrise, demur and settle it with a smile.

In the Thai culture, they don’t shake hands, instead using the traditional greeting, the “Wai,” which is used instead of a handshake, but also as a means of saying sorry, thank you, or to pay respect.  A Thai person will often Wai as he approaches a temple, Buddha image, or other item of religious significance.  When you are introduced to someone who Wais you, it is polite to return the Wai.  As you are walking through towns and villiages, small children will often Wai as you pass by – they love it if you return the gesture with a big smile. (Note:  If you receive a “thank you” Wai from a hotel employee or after tipping a waitress it is inappropriate to return the Wai, but a smile is always welcome!)

Most of Thailand is gracious and welcoming, but, as in any culture, there are some people out to make a buck any way that they can.  Taking a few precautions will save you money in the long fun.  If you get into a taxi and the driver refuses to turn on the meter, even if they use the language barrier as an excuse, simply thank them with a smile and get out to find another one.

Local Thais, mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings, will offer to act as your local guide to show you the “local” sights that many tourists miss out on.  While many of these offers are genuine and allow you to see a side of Thailand that would otherwise be skipped over, some want to make off with your money and leave you high and dry.  Often times, the legitimate ones will photocopy your passport and leave it with someone.  It’s best to listen to your gut instinct or visit travel forums to get specific names of guides – although locating them once in Thailand can be tricky.

Overall, Thailand has much to do, is accommodating to travelers, and is full of cultural, religious, and artistic sights.  Be prepared for hot and humid weather and venture out to see what Thailand has to offer you!

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (6 of 40)

local thai market - meow!

local thai market - meow!

conglomerate of stories…
“favorite food in phuket:  in our last few days in phuket, we found this little locals place hidden back off the road and tried their papaya salad for lunch, it was delicious.  we were so turned on by the spot we tried it for dinner that night.  the setting was something of an outdoor living room, the only other diners being what seemed family members and close friends.  the food was great and cheap! our first dinner there we sat and watched some thai tv drama while i sipped on so-co and coke…. it was great.  we ended up eating all of our meals there over the next two days and all were fantastic!  it was run by pretty much the sweetest lady with the best smile.  her daughter was a mini-me, looking to be 10 or so and seemed to be in training for a future running the restaurant.  dad looked like samuel l jackson if he were thai – by far the biggest/thickest guy we’d seen yet.  on our last night the woman was so sad to learn we were leaving for bangkok and, before we knew it, she ran off and then returned minutes later with this little plush blue bear.  she handed it to us and said it was for good luck on our travels and to make sure we come back when we return later in the trip.  it was great!  hugs and all and a firm handshake from the husband….great departure.

fresh orchids for sale

fresh orchids for sale

chinatown, bangkok:  it was like the stockroom of a dollar store or a walmart with all the hair things and fashion jewelry you could ask for.  swarming with ladies and girls.  crazy.  it then unfolded into the food market, which as the photos show, are not for the faint of heart.  it had anything and everything - most we didnt’ know what it was.  You can only imagine the smells that went with it…

teddy ska, brick bar, koh san road:  in search for the bathroom (cause I always have to go at the wrong time) we came accross a back-ally bar with live music coming out!  we decided to enter this dark brick-walled bar and check it out.  we walk in to a crazy rad bar filled with local 20-somethings rocking out to this really amazing ska band.  we were the only ‘farongs’ in there by far. it was great.  we met this drunk kid who proceeded to buy us beers and show usa good time.  sooooooo much whiskey there it was unbelievable.  for 1000 baht (a little short of 30 bucks) you buy a bottle and go to town.  nobody was drinking beer but us, so we too went to whiskey eventually.  but it was just so cool to see all these kids loving life and rocking out.  great tunes too, kinda like a mix between save ferris and no doubt…. we learned they’re a pretty famous thai band so we really lucked out in finding it…so cool can’t tell ya enough!!!!

monks waiting for the boat taxi

monks waiting for the boat taxi

with that we were on a music search and got a list of some top reggae and ska bands.  we bought our first cds today, “kaijai brothers”, famous for their song tuk tuk brokedown… the only bummer is now we can’t listen to them unless we find a usb cord for the ipod.  but we also, learned of “job 2 do” which is known for their song ‘do do do do…’ we had never heard it until today, but everybody refers to it everywhere…. and then “t-bone” which is  more ska…. we tried to get our friends from last night at the bar to write down their favorite bands for us, but too much whiskey and too loud….

stacy’s hair:  we were bored in phuket and i was frustrated with my hair being constantly wet and in knots… so jeff cut it.  he did a pretty damn good job too, but thanks to some remaining layers from my last cut, it wasn’t too hard.  i haven’t had my hair this short since highschool!  and it feels oh so fresh and so clean….

now we’re off to chang mai on an overnight bus……

cheers, peace and love!”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (30 of 40)

nie han beach

nie han beach

bagus bagus bagus
“three for three. not the biggest surf, but it’s bali surf. jeff couldn’t be more happy. the first day, met up with fernando and alana (jeff’s peruvian and auss friends, used to be slocals) and hit up bingin and impossibles. chest high and fun, it’s just good to be surfing with fernando, and just surfin’ at all. inconsistent now, but word on the wave, swells on its way. man was it a fiasco to get here though…

finishing up our days in phuket, we realized we would need a 60 day visa for indo, otherwise after 30 days we’d have to fly out and fly back in to get a new stamp. not a real problem, but we’ve got boards now and who knows where we’ll be on may 31st. so we figure lets do it, spend the few nights in KL or bangkok and go to the embassy and just deal with it. we pick KL (kuala lumpur, malaysian capitol) for something different. we call ahead, they say we could probably get it done in one day (whereas bangkok’s office said at least 3 days, another reason we went with KL). so, we book the ticket for thursday morning figuring between thursday and friday we can get it, then fly out saturday on the 2nd, giving us exactly 60 days between arrival and our fly out date of june 30th. good to go. bagus.

one of the many books weve read

one of the many books we've read

tidak bagus, not good. in reading the newspaper we realize it’s labour day on may 1st, friday. we’ve been seeing ad’s and signs for this day, but it just hasn’t been registering cause everytime i see it i think, no, it can’t be labour day (spelled the english way) because labor day is in september, duh. but, lo and behold, not everyone in this world is on america’s holiday schedule, and they have a few holidays of their own. one big one being labour day, experienced everywhere through the eastern part of the world, and even europe. what’s this mean for us? it means like most american holidays, big sales and all gov’t offices are closed. so we reassess. our ticket puts us landing in KL at 10:30am. if we want our visa processed in 1 day, we have to have it in by noon. it takes an hour to get from the airport to the embassy of indonesia (according to google’s trusty mapquest directions). so, that leaves a half hour margin to get off the plane, go through customs, get our luggage and get a taxi. jeff’s freaking out. this could mean if we don’t get it, that’s at least 3 extra days of NO surf and being stuck in another city, no matter how cool it could be.

tannings a serious business

tanning's a serious business

we have all our forms filled out and photo copied with extra passport photos and american dollars, we’re ready. we venture off to the airport with cynthia (my mom has already left two days earlier) and with good thoughts, we’re off to KL. we relax and even sleep on the flight, knowing once we land, it’s on, like donkey kong.

the breaks squeak, we sway from side to side like all airplanes do when they come to that screeching halt, and then we’re off. We grab our bags and speed walk our way as courtessly as we can, through the construction and crowds (keep in mind this is our 3rd time in this airport that is under construction so we know it almost like the back of our palms). we stretch our strides as far as we can til we reach the customs booth. i go first, hand the nice lady my passport, and then, she drops it. these are precious seconds here people, every last one counts. she shuffles in her spin chair, not wanting to get off it it seems. i see jeff’s already through now waiting on the other side for me. she finally reaches it, makes some small talk (side note: everybody at the KL airport are by far the nicest people we’ve come across throughout the trip. every time we’re here, we’re reminded of this), and then i’m through. we continue our giant strides, grab our bags, and make way for the taxi. believe it or not, we’re sitting in the taxi at 10:46am. wow.

jeff - last night in pukhet

jeff - last night in phuket

we make it to the office and walk in with all our luggage, after jeff had to put some pants on cause his shorts were too scandalous for them, at 11:45am. we take a number, we sit, then we go up, show the papers and make our request. he glances, shuffles, glances, then says we’re missing a photo copy of our passports stamped entry into malaysia. who knows whey they need this, but they do. he informs us there’s no budging around the 12 o’clock time whatsoever. i sprint around the corner to this little tiny weeny photocopy shop and get the business done, sprint back, and grab another number (seriously frustrating!). our number says 11:58am. so we think we’re golden. we get called up at 12:05pm. show the same guy our stuff, he shuffles, ho-hums, shuffles, gives us tons of grief on how hard it is for him to get a visa into the states, even with diplomatic whatever. e apologize for his grief, smile, but not too much, keep it short and polite. finally, after what seemed forever, he says he’ll process our visas for us, but not to expect this kind of service in the future. man, what a mess! after paying double the amount cause all we had was USD (not the local currency of ringetts), we got our 60 day visa meaning we were only stuck in KL for one full day…

more on it tomorrow!”

stacy - phuket - last night

stacy - phuket - last night

Guest Blog – Stacy & jeff do SE Asia (29 of 40)

east bay phi phi

east bay phi phi

on to phi phi don…
“a comfy air conditioned ferry ride later, we’ve arrived at what some say is the most beautiful island in the world: phi phi don. you probably will recognize it from pictures, the twin bays, and it’s sister island phi phi leh, is the famous beach of the movie the beach. beautiful it is, but crowded as well. everyone always wants a piece of paradise. more lounging, swimming, snorkling, and then we experienced our first monsoon rain. it’s the beginning of the season. a quick bucket of a downpour, and then steamy afternoons. a beautiful island, you can see in the pics, unbelievable water colors and cliffs. after one night and two days, we headed onward to phuket.

jeff escaping the monsoon

jeff escaping the monsoon

here it’s a vacation away from our vacation. lovely house, scooters for all, and for jeff and i, we’re so familar with the area, it’s like the comfort of coming home. some more monsoons, swimming, shopping, and always eating and drinking, we’re closing in on indonesia. jeff is so ready, he’s more than ready. so here we come! first a stop over in malaysia for a few days to take care of our indo visa (in order to stay 60 days, you have to prearrange it) and then we arrive in bali and let the surfin begin.

p.s. we can’t believe we only have two more months to go!!! time went so slowly in the beginning, now it’s flying by…. if anyone has any ideas on how to stay on longer, pass them on! we’re not ready to come home just yet, holiday lifestyle is too good to us :)

xxoo”

trail up to the phi phi don view

trail up to the phi phi don view

phi phi don island

phi phi don island

jeff & stacy

jeff & stacy

phi phi

phi phi

monkey!

monkey!

its real!

it's real!

eyebrows & eyelashes

eyebrows & eyelashes

mom cruisin down the highway!

mom cruisin down the highway!

beer sunset

beer sunset

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (28 of 40)

thai crew team

thai crew team

traveling om
“after we reached our “om” in cambodia with ancient towers and local laughs, we ventured on back into thailand.  our second time entering thailand, and this time like the first, the country seems to be at unrest.  from our taxi ride over the border and into bangkok, much more was visible this time around. swat teams on every corner with the plastic shields and army officers manning their perches, all with rifles.  still, in our little touristy neighborhood of koh san road, life goes on as normal.  little did we know, the morning we arrived one of the main current party leaders (a yellow shirt) was attempted assignation on (by red shirts) in his motor parade by assult rifles.  scary stuff, but lucky for us, the swat and army teams on corners was the only witness we had.  but, i’m guessing it’s gonna take some major time and consideration before thailand is at peace with itself.

approaching raley

approaching raley

after our short stay in the city, we flew south to krabi, land of emerald seas and rock climbers dream limestone cliffs.  first night was spent in krabi town (the province is also named krabi) which is nothing more than a boat launch to the islands around.  but we did catch a great weekend market including karaoke, marching band, and delicous food carts. from krabi we headed out to the penninsula of raley.  this is the paradise at krabi. split into east and west sides surrounded by towering limestone painted with rockclimbers everywhere.  mom and cindy stayed on the fancy west beach while jeff and i bargined for a great bungalow in the center in a breezy grassy valley in the midst of limestones, only 5 minute walk to west or east beach. there’s no cars, only boats, monkeys, birds, great beaches.

raley cove

raley cove

on arrival we realized we were just in time for the ‘awards ceremony’ for the annual rock climbing cup and fire dancing contest. so by night the west beach turned into a stage and fire show with live music.  after some impressive fire dancing, jazz and then calypso music, we were suprised to see our token thai reggae band, job 2 do, headline the show.  jeff and i first heard of them in phuket and then spotted them throughout thailand but we were always a day or 2 behind their shows. so it was fate we’d see them eventually. it was a great show.  dancing, drinks, and we got it all recorded…jah rastafari.

bungalow

bungalow

after exploring more hidden beaches for a day (by the way, the water temp, way too hot, by far the warmest water any of us have ever swam in), we left onward on a speed boat tour of surrounding islands: hong island, paradise, and two others whose names escape me.  we loaded on our speedboat with 16 others and were on our way. cindy, mom and i sat in the front of the boat while jeff got left in the back.  the driver said it may be a bit bumpy so beware. man oh man were we in for a ride.  there were four others up there with us and we went flying in the air, thank god for the railings we were able to grab ahold of. 20 minutes later we arrived at hong island.

gang on the beach

gang on the beach

here, we kayaked around the island into a beautiful lagoon, emerald with white sands.  once we reached the lagoon, already tired from our paddeling, we decide to go for a swim. jeff asks the guide if there’s a certian area, and he points to the sandy part.  unfortunately, mama wasn’t near us to hear these directions, so she leaped off her kayak onto a blanket of coral – sharp glass-like coral.  too quickly, her toes and feet got sliced (as seen in the graphic picture). luckily she didn’t loose any limbs, but she sliced her big toe and middle toe pretty bad, as well as the bottom of the other foot.  strong as she is, we continued our kayak trip and then back at the beach had the ‘life guard’ do a quick tape job that lasted a short two minutes. we pressed on. we snorkled until it was time to go onto the next island for lunch and more snorkling.  by the end of the day, we’d snorkled, swam, sighted a giant monitor lizard which roam these islands, lunched, and bumped our way back to mainland.  next day on to phi phi don…

xoxo”

happy couple

happy couple

fire show

fire show

fire dancin

fire dancin

jah

jah

job 2 do concert

job 2 do concert

paradise beach, raley

paradise beach, raley

beach view

beach view

beach panorama

beach panorama

beach shells and crab holes

beach shells and crab holes

fertility cave

fertility cave

cave close up

cave close up

caterpillar

caterpillar

beach sign

beach sign

raley west sunset

raley west sunset

jeff bravin the seas

jeff bravin the seas

hong lagoon

hong lagoon

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (12 of 40)

view from burning bus on the wayt to mae salong

view from burning bus on the wayt to mae salong

fire!
“we left pai yesterday on the local bus and headed towards our first stop mae ma lai… we tossed our bags under the bus, along with two other travelers bags, and we’re on our way with the locals.  the bus was big and long and we were at the very back (not a good combo on a winding road at all), but all the doors and windows were open so we were set…

about 30 minutes into the trip one of the bus attendants hanging out the door hollers to pull over.  being right at the door, we hop out first once the bus is stopped.  we see the attendant opening one of the luggage compartments underneath and flames rising out of it (fire under the bus, run!) almost… he pulled out a backpack and sleeping mat that belonged to the other travelers as well as an extra air filter that were all in flames.  the attendant threw them on the side of the road, which was piled up with dead leaves, which in turn caught on fire

controled burns by mae salong

controled burns by mae salong

so, for maybe 2 minutes it’s panic – everyone’s giving what water they have and the attendant and driver are trying to put out the fires.  by now other buses have pulled over now to see the commotion

after 10 minutes it was all okay – turns out the pack was placed on top the battery and heated up too much, hence fire.  luckily, jeff and my packs were on the rear side in their own compartment (we had placed them at that exact spot over the battery and changed our mind at the last minute, moving them to the back…. crazy!)

from that bus, we made our way to the town of interchange and hopped on another bus, arriving at the last stop around 7pm.  mae salong (where we needed to get to) was supposedly 1.5 hours more…so we looked for a bus but couldn’t see any.  we ended up with a german couple that had the same idea, and followed their lead in hitchhiking

within seconds we were in the back of a truck, packs and all.  by this point it was completely dark out and we started our ride up and into the mountains… it was beautiful!!! driving in pitch black, looking up at the thousands of stars and then on either side of us were mountains in lines of flames (controlled burns, not our bus fire)…. quite magical. 

mae salong hills

mae salong hills

since we went by truck, within 45 minutes we were at mae salong and dropped off at our guest house.

mae salong, a village created by chinese soldiers fleeing their country in the 1940′s, is now the tea capitol of northern thailand.  its a village of a town, scattered on tops and bottoms of mountains.  the houses were all very small, all tea houses, with only 4 guesthouses and maybe 3 restaurants in the whole town.  no bars and very limited foreigners…quite nice. 

we rented a motorbike and explored on the back roads and in between, going though tons of tea terraces/farms, lahu, akha, and chinese villages, and then through the tea houses where everyone wants them to try their tea: oolong, green, jasmine, ginseng….quite delicious. jeff was stoked to feel that ‘tea high’ again. 

cruising on our motorbike we felt, and looked, just like dumb and dumber – cruising at a speed of 5mph straight up a hill. a few times i had to hop off the back and walk… guess that was due to all the damn good coconut curries and chang i’ve been eating…..

we’re both just stoked to find a chill place with not to many other tourists.  we loved pai of course, but now we’re really off the ‘beaten path’ per se… but tomorrow we rejoin it and head further into the golden triangle…..”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (11 of 40)

elephant ride

burning butts and tongues…
“my butt is killing me and jeffs inner thighs are a burning…. we finally rode the chang.  his name was niompio, and was a male at the age of 30 years old.  we chose to go barback rather than the chair.  we were able to go for an 1 and a half, any long erwould have killed us both! but, we did it, we rode an elephant. 

we started through the dry forest, our helper dude ‘chicken’ on the head, stacy at the riens and jeff in the back holding on.  it was like riding the biggest horse ever – bareback… and then throw in the scaley ruff skin with three inch long hairs pointing into you.  and man was he slow!  and hungry. 

lets wok with tee

"lets wok with tee"

there was a few times when we both thought he was gonna roll us over so he could get to some food.  but after 45 minutes of riding on his back, we made it down to the river where he ‘bathed’ us with his trunk, and then doused us by rolling us over.  very intimidating the first few times feeling this giant elephant rolling over and sending you over too, only for him to maybe land on you.  but he didn’t. 

after riding him like a bronco and getting dumped on, we were completely drenched and cracking up.  great experience, but man were we sore the next two days….

‘let’s wok with tee!’  that was our cooking class.  we shopped around and went with this one.  when we arrived the first night just checking things out, we were immediately invited in to watch the current class going on and given whiskey and then served dinner…all for free. 

tee’s 34, from eastern thailand but went and holiday’d in pai 12 years ago and hasn’t left since, so he’s making his living through these classes. 

we started at 10am (no whiskey this early) and went over all the veggies and herbs most commonly used.  he realy just made you feel like you were at your own house, good tunes, casual and slow.  we picked out some curry pastes to make and then worked away. jeff made red curry paste which he turned into panang curry and i made masuman curry and dish. 

thai basil

thai basil

after 3 hours we had quite a feast.  then we took a break til 5:30 and returned to tee’s for stirfry.  we chilled a little more, drank some whiskey, got to know eachother a little more, learned all about sauces, and stir fried away… jeff made burnt red curry dish, i made holy basil with minced pork.  jeff then made our fav, green papaya salad, and i made tom yum soup… all along tee made dishes too that we picked out for him.  a great time, totally at our pace and retainable.  plus we’ve got a great cook book to go home with…..

we’ll have the dinner party when we get back and our in the mood for thai food again….”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (10 of 40)

our little bungalow

our little bungalow

and we’re off…part 2
in the morning, everyone was up at the crack of dawn, and the whole family was up and about getting things ready for the day.  women were already returning from the forest with baskets full of dried leaves, to either use as fuel or as roofing, kids were running everywhere, water was boiling, roosters were kooing, dogs were barking, it was quite a lively village.  as jeff and i walked around the village there were a few ecstatic ‘hello’s’ but mostly stares. 

after a large breakfast of scrambled eggs, a whole loaf of white bread toasted for us, hot tea…. we were on our way.  our plan was to go up to a lahu village then over to another karen village and then to a cave, waterfall, and get lessons on more bamboo cooking uses.  we ventured on through some burn fields (created for rice paddie farms) on to the lahu village.

lahu village

lahu village

within 20 minutes we were at the next village, a lahu village.  so close together, but there were so many little differences between the two it was pretty amazing.  appearance all together was different, this one seeming a little tidier, not as many trees and bushes or fences either.  and a lot more cows – tons of cows.  the houses themselves were made slightly differnt materials: palm leaves as roofs instead of the teak leaves, and the siding was actual wood slabs rather than woven wood.  the language different too.  we hung at a house for almost 45 minutes drinking tea and watching the men talk over banana leaf rolled cigarettes and observing. mong, the local lahu guide is hilarious – especially after some moonshine or even red bull.  he mumbles to himself as the leader of the pack.  we’d always ask him what kind of terrain was ahead, and he’d say, oh, easy easy, no hill, and then we would arrive at a steap and long hill, but to him, it wasn’t a hill.  pretty amazing. 

whisky in a bucket!

whisky in a bucket!

at the next karen village we were given yet another large meal, similar to the others along with tea and soda this time.  we relaxed for quite some time, went with some of the locals to look at the local ‘coffin cave’ (a 5 minute walk from where we were) saw a large old wooden coffin, then waited till it was time to go meet the truck.

overall a fantastic experience – we do wish we could have finished out the trip, but after jeffs spider experience, we were all a little nervous to camp in the jungle itself.  so instead, the next day we went with our new friends to the pool in pai and chilled all day long at the pool drinking beer and eating french fries… can’t beat that!
 
at night we decided to go out and see what the real nightlife was all about.  we went to a bar called re-tox (vs detox…clever) that was all about drinking games – chalk boards covered the walls with ongoing scores between countries based on the speed of drinking, the quantity of drinking, anything from beer to shots
jeff & our new french friends!

jeff & our new french friends!

this night happened to be the canadian owners birthday so he threw himself a party.  we weren’t really sure what to expect but before we knew it we were joining in on some dice games and drinking a bucket of whiskey.  the group was kinda small, about 15 of us, so we partied on and then ventured out to some other bars come midnight.  we met a crazy and cool west african chick that had some amazing stories of hitching through sudan and such, some crazy french (see photos), scots, irish, etc… by the time we made it to the next bar, we were well on our way so decided to call it a night before it was too late.  later we found out the rest of the gang was out til 7in the morning… wow were we glad we didn’t make it out that long, we felt hungover enough as it was…. but now we can say we partied hard in thailand!

next on the agenda:  elephant riding tonight, cooking class tomorrow, then monday we venture on…….

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (9 of 40)

stacy and her stick in the bamboo

stacy and her stick in the bamboo

and we’re offpart 1
“before we knew it, mong (our local guide) charged down the hill with his basket on his back full of tons of food, water, a pot, and who knows what else…. we were told to follow with our little daypacks on our back, toil (our pai guide) following behind.

we started through farmlands, then down to a creek through banana and bamboo groves.  first order of business was walking sticks.  the men stopped got out there machetes and cut each of us a sturdy bamboo walking stick.  we were off….

jungle lunch

we hiked up, down and around, and it was hot hot hot!  but we had our water, and every once in awhile it would get a little cooler.  we ventured through major teak groves and bamboo groves…we trumped over dry clay, through creeks, over bamboo fences, and through masses of dried huge leaves…it felt like trumping through snow, only a little crunchier sounding.  and of course, going through my mind was wondering what was underneath all these leaves, perhaps a poisonous snake? a giant spider? even a big lizard would give me a jump… but no such luck thank god.

villiage street

after a few hours we stopped for lunch in a dry creek bed.  the two guides pulled down some banana leaves and created some seats for us, then they swiftly created a fire with twigs, cut down some bamboo and made a mortar and pestle to crush chili and two bamboo cups for his homemade ‘moonshine whiskey’ – so resourceful! we sat in amazement as we watched the two of them create this tremendous lunch:  ramen noodles with tons of fresh veggies, salted fish, pork belly, and a fresh chili sauce using some ‘wild olives’ they found in the forest.  it was great, and super delish!

karen villiage

karen village

as we were sitting, we glanced above at the banana leaves and realized they were moving… there were thousands, if not millions, of daddy long leg spiders with the longest legs you’ve ever seen! and when the fire started, the smoke must of spooked them cause it started raining daddy long legs…. you could hear it even as they made a run for the ground, and crawling on us! it was crazy, but okay, none of us freaked too much, rather observed in amazement!

curious karen girl

curious karen girl

we tried some moonshine, and it literally evaporated on your tongue – strong stuff! and the two, toil and mong downed this stuff.  it must keep them running.  after lunch we ventured on to a waterfall, took a little dip, then we were on to the village.  all in all we probably hiked around 16 km (miles??) up down and around, we were totally pooped!

we arrived at the karen village at dusk and were escorted to a house where tea awaited us.  the ‘hill tribe’ was very much a village, with one satellite in sight, but still very rustic. we were greeted by what seemed like one very large family.  the village itself consists of around 25 families. the house was two rooms, only separated by a half size wall and an open doorway and a step.  the front room was the ‘kitchen’ and hangout area with some storage, the back room the sleeping area.  large mats were thrown down with a small table and from there we were waited on all night long with tea, way too much food, snacks, fruit, etc….

karen generations

karen generations

the dinner was rice, dandelion soup with pork, morning glory greens with cat ear mushrooms, noodles with veggies…. all very good!  and then we were given large samplings of a karen dinner… similar to ours but more spice and thrown in some dried fish and chili and tuna sauce that an eggplant like veggie was dipped into.  soo much food though, but all good.  the stars were amazing.  the most we’ve seen yet by far.  everybody was very nice, lots of staring from the curious kids too.

after we set up our beds, we all fell asleep pretty swiftly.  but then… shortly after a lil sleep, jeff was awakened by a small sensation – after a little more focus on it, he felt something crawl up his beardand then all giant 8 legs hit his face, just over his eye!  aaahhhhh!”   we had previously seen this suckers outside in their bathroom:  the size of your palm, dirt brown, skinny long legs and big eyes…… jeff swiftly and quickly grabbed it and threw it against the wall beside him creating quite a pound and a thump to follow, just to show you how big this guy was.  after debating whether or not to wake me and tell me, he chose to wait til morning and then mummified himself in his blankets and tried to get more shut eye.  so glad it wasn’t me, i think i would have screamed bloody murder!

more on our trek to come….

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (8 of 40)

lahu men

lahu men

the trek
“on our 3rd day here in pai we ventured out on a trek.  after seeing all the places in chiang mai we were getting kinda picky.  we didn’t want to just take a truck and get dropped off at the village and then turn around and get back on the truck.  thats’ what most of tours looked like.  we found a local guide named toil that seemed pretty cool – he caught our attention right away.

so we signed up for a 3 day 2 night trek, 1 night in a karen village the other camping in the jungle.  we lucked out with just 1 other couple with us, vs the other treks who would go with around 15 people.

so we hopped in the back of toils truck and ventured off.  our first stop, the tourist police.  toil gave them photo copies of our passports and informed them where we were off to.  then the head police guy comes out to us in the truck and gives us almost a farewell speech, it was crazy.  he pretty much said be safe its dangerous out there, our lives are in toils hands so respect him, and then finished it off with saying he hopes we return.

our guide

our guide

wow, you should have seen all of our faces.  what had we gotten ourselves into ?!?!  (later, at the end of course, toil tells us he’s never had the guy say that before and it even gave him the shivers! but here we are, safe and sound… )

so, we drove 45 minutes northwest and then off the main road up a fairly bumpy dirt road – pretty much reminded me of the indiana jones ride at disneyland…grasping on the handlebars as ventured up.  we arrived at a lahu village.

all these ‘hill tribe’ villages are migrants from burma and china from hundreds of years past.  each has their own language dialect and culture.  we were greeted by two guys, as well as puppies, pigs, cows, and chickens, all roaming around.  we were also greeted by a local guy, named mong, who was to serve as our guide.

stay tuned and we’ll tell you all about the trek….”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (7 of 40)

early morning

early morning

chiang mai to pai
“we actually survived beautiful bangkok! we have a few more things to do there but were going to wait until stacy’s mom arrives. after our overnight bus ride, which was a shitty bus with old uncomfortable seats we arrived in chiang mai.

the bus company has this little scam when you show up in town. they say that the bus can’t go into town so they need to drop you off outside and they will have their truck taxi take you into old town….so we all get out and load up into the taxi (around 10 people per) and they take us to a guest house where they offered coffee or tea.  its a good offer since it’s around 6:30 in the morning.

minutes later, after we woke up from our travels, they brought out a picture board that shows all the treks they offer in the mountains. 3 days, 2 nights, one day you hike then the next you ride an elephant through the jungle then you finish by riding a bamboo raft down a river – sounds pretty cool!  they sweeten the deal with a one night free room if you book it.

stacy and i are trying to get off the standard backpacker scam trail so we left for our guest house that we already arranged. i never thought i would be traveling with a cell phone but i have to say it makes thing easy in se asia.

once we were settled we went out to see chiang mai, the town everyone is talking about. a lot of the backpackers stay in the old part off town which is surrounded by a moat, and on the interior of that was a large wall around the city (now only the main gate is still standing). we search for what everyone has been talking about, but we only found a cool reggae roof-top bar and the night market where everyone goes to buy their gifts. stacy found some cool silver jewelry and a dress, as I found a chang wallet.

after we decided we weren’t really diggin on chiang mai, we fled and went up to pai, about three hours northwest on a windy road.  finally, a great place!  chiang mai was just too much of a city still for us.  pai is just the opposite.

killer pai breakfast - wild mushroom crepe and tomato salad

killer pai breakfast - wild mushroom crepe and tomato salad

hardly any cars on the road, maybe more motor bike, if even that, and bicycles.  it was described in the book as a little hippie town and that it is.  a little more touristy than in the past i’m sure, but still a great feeling all around.  now we’re staying in a killer little bungalow on the river just across from downtown, very cheap too!

the food everywhere has been excellent, all organic, some even vegan.  even the western food is great, though the thai is beyond excellent.  and of course, being the hippie town it is, lots of wheat grass shots, tons of different teas for every ailment out there, and then there’s the crystal wand therapy, reiki, yoga and good ol’ meditation… almost a little berkeley in the hills!”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (5 of 40)

rasta tuk tuk

rasta tuk tuk

maggot soup
“we’re in bangkok!  our flights in and out of malaysia were a piece of cake – still a pain in the arse – but it went smoothly.  once at the brand new airport in bangkok, we received our 30 day visa and are good to go!  the airport is only 2 years old so it’s shiny, sparkling, and huge (not to mention state of the art)

making sure to really use all our connections, we were met by brian, my friend’s brother-in-law at the airport.  brian is finishing up his third year (maybe more) living here in thailand.  his first two years were spent volunteering for the peace corps in a village north of bangkok.  now he’s working with the education department per se through the gov’t in town.  needless to say, he’s fluent and know his stuff.

so, we were privileged to have him meet us at the airport and get us a taxi into town.  the day we flew in, monday, was a local buddhist holiday so nobody had to work.  we headed over to an area near koh san (the backpackers district), found a cozy little guest house ,and then started cruising.  brian took us around to all the cool places and showed us some great local dishes, all in thai of course!  and we tried our fair share of the different beers they offer here.

buddha feet with incense offerings

buddha feet with incense offerings

bangkok’s crazy and everyone seems a little jaded…not the same hospitality we’ve experienced so far.  not everyone of course, but a lot of the people at the street restaurant/carts, hotels, tours, and the vendors just really seem to be irritated and fed up.  granted, we understand, this place is swarming with ‘farongs’ (equivalent to gringo), but they are making a lot of money from it.  just different.

also, so far, thailand’s a little more expensive then planned – we are in a major tourist area so we’ll see how it is outside of town.  but as of now, jeff may have to sell his liver…a very quick and easy procedure here in thailand   :)    kidding!

we saw some buddhas and rode a tuk tuk (local taxi/golf cart type thing) around yesterday, pretty darn cool.  huge buddhas too.  today we’ll ride the boat taxi around just to do it.  it’s very hot here – i got my first pair of fisherman pants last night, so we’re slowly working into the thai way of doing things.  food’s still great, though we ate maggot soup yesterday.  yuk.

reggae bar

reggae bar

i was trying to be cool like the locals and ordered what our tuk tuk driver got – it looked like a regular ol soup.  at first taste, okay, something was different - but we pushed through it because everyone in the restaurant was looking at us and slightly giggling…hmmm.  at the bottom, of course, we looked closely and realized there were little maggots or potato bugs or something in it…. hence the ‘different’ flavor.  we stopped dead in our tracks.  we said it was too spicy and that we couldn’t finish it and went on our way… after chewing our super minty gum we survived.  just part of doing the thai thing i guess…!

tomorrow we head up to chang mai on an overnight bus…

cheers!”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (4 of 40)

the big buddah

the big buddah

getting out
“well we have been in phuket for a while now. stacy dental work was a success and she is feeling better! we’ve been spending our days on the motor bike cruising around the island.

one day we went to the biggest buddah in thailand, then we also went to see a movie at the mall on the same day (inkheart). for $12 we got our own private couch (that reclines!) and for $3 we got 2 large cokes and a medium carmel popcorn…we just wanted to treat ourselves.

then we cruz to patong beach where anything goes. its a pit of travelers, women that are men, girls of the night, souvenirs, anything you want. we walked around for a bit then headed back to nai han where we’re staying.

we stopped at the small view reggae bar for a bite to eat and to see the local band covering some bob marley, peter tosh, jimmy cliff, and some thai reggae originals. we recorded it with our audio recorder. once we figure out how to put it on the web site you will be able to hear our music recordings.

we went sailing on tuesday for the night with plans to sail for three days. we motored to an island for the first night where we anchored in the cove next to all the thai fishing boats. when we arrived, our new friend with the boat (chip, a family friend of stacy’s) brought his 3 new kittens along. we decided to take them to the beach. stacy and i went snorkeling while chip watched the kittens and they decided to go explore. they left for the whole night in the jungle. we all were very concerned motoring to shore in our zodiac every few hours.

crazy

crazy

long story short, they were on the beach in the morning safe, but a little scared. so we decided to go back to phuket and get the kittens home.

we’ll try the sailing when we return to thailand in a few months. stacy’s mom is coming to visit us soon so we’re excited to see some family and explore new places together.

lots more to tell but i hate computers and its sunny outside. i also need to work on my tan in my banana sling, chicks are diggin it (and of course, stacy too).

peace and love, jeff and stacy”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (3 0f 40)

elephant crossing

elephant crossing

planes, trains and automobiles….
“seriously, 37 hours worth…. but we made it to phuket from bali in that short amount of time.

it all started sunday morning at 8 o’clock we went into to kuta from padang, returned our car and hitched a ride to the airport. from there we took asia air (a great cheap airline that flies everywhere direct, their slogan ” now everyone can fly,” which was free seating – kinda a funny airplane all together, but big. we made it safe into kula lumpar, malaysia. from here we didn’t really know what our plan was, but at that point we decided to head straight into thailand and we’ll come back and do malaysia. we took an hour bus ride from the airport into town to the sentral train station. wow. niether of us really knew what to expect in malaysia. driving through what looked like thousands of day palm farms, out of nowhere a mini brand new suburb would pop up; classy shiny lookin houses! and the roads are immaculate. the whole infrastructure was amazing. something i’d expect to see in japan or something. and all the cars on this 4 lane freeway were big and newer than our car cars. getting closer into the city we could see larger buildings holding some major technology firms or something. and in town, the bridges look like that of melbourne with the lines going everywhich way to create a modern art piece.

not knowing anything, what we learned is that malaysia is quite the melody between chinese and indian; between muslim, buddhist, and christian. in one area you see ladies adorned in beautiful scarves covering all of their body and then you turn around and see a group of young chinese girls in little heels with their mini skirts on. it was crazy. and in the bathroom, much to be said, but for one, all the ladies washed thier feet as well as their hands.

after waiting for three hours in the train station, we took an overnighter up to a town called butterworth outside of georgetown (can you guess that malaysia used to be under the british empire…?). this was the farthest north we could get by train on that day. the train was horrible. from all that we had seen so far we were really looking forward to it. but no such luck. the seats were okay, pretty spacious (no sleepers were available), but man, they had that a/c blasting all night with the flourescent lights on the whole time too…. we couldn’t believe it. we would have needed our thickest wool blanket to be comfortable on this sucker. after a miserable 8 hours we arrived at our destination at 6am and then started our bussin’ adventures at 9am.

mango salad

mango salad

these ‘gypsy vans’ (toyota vans converted to hold 12 people) were suprisingly pretty darn cool. with the funky curtains in the window, a/c above each person like on an airplane, and some decent local tunes, we cruised over the border accompanied by two local old men, looking to be the 70 year old version of bert and ernie but malaysian, a muslim girl, another girl dressed for a good time, a caucasian monk who kept to himself and a young boy looking like an abercrombie and fitch model. and us of course. a unique combination. four hours later and getting on and off this ‘bus’ three time to take care of stamping, paying, more stamping, etc…. we made it to hat yoi, thailand. then another bus to krabi, and then another bus to phuket. by 8pm monday night we arrived at our destination.

phuket. many people told us to not really hang here too long cause it’s just another expat area now, not too much culture. well this is somewhat true but we’ve lucked out meeting some great people and fell into an awesome situation. first night we stayed in old phuket town in the little china town part. we found a great little restaurant with the nicest owners who talked us through our first language lesson and told us about our whereabouts. we liked it so much we returned for breakfast the next day and tried their lemon grass juice.

sundown

sundown

all along this we communicated with my moms best friend who has a vacation house in phuket near the beach – it turns out she’s letting us crash there while they’re in south africa! this place is amazing. talk about the indoor/outdoor living with beautiful hand carved furniture, lovely bathrooms, and a pool to match it all. we are way spoiled! we rented our first scooter and we’ve been cruising up and down the coast. lots of little coves with the perfect turquoise water and white sand. lots of expats for sure. but hey, it’s beautiful here.

so today we venture on our scooter with snorkling gear in hand (hold the speedo) to go find the perfect beach. tomorrow we get down to business and find me a dentist. the healthcare is supposed to be great here, something people travel here specifically for, so we’re in luck!

p.s. pictures are takin way too long to upload so only a few for now….

peace and love….”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (2 of 40)

view from our front porch

view from our front porch

surfs up in padang padang
“not really, well sorta.

after an amazing time in ubud we’re back down in padang. the beach is still beautiful. ubud was a great little place, definitely the hub for displaying their culture, foods, music, and mysticism. we had a great little place looking over some rice paddies, beautiful pool, delicious green banana pancakes with a buddalicous host, all for a mere $10. couldn’t ask for more.

ubud has the charm of a little community, everyone excited to see you there. great markets with awesome crafts. the foods are everything you want, be it turkish flat bread and hummus, hamburger that actually tasted really good, polish sausages – yes, polish sausages – and the fab local cuisine. we listened to some great jazz, all mostly covers, but still great.

after leaving slightly frantically yesterday morning due to a painful tooth ache (stacy) we made it down to the clinic in legian/kuta area. great little experience, a little more expensive than expected but whatever. they gave me some antibiotics and pain killers and said ‘if tooth no better in five days, we take out’…. good thing we’ll be gone by then, so now i’m on painkillers and antibiotics and off to find a thai dentist…that’s another story.

first major rain storm this morning while we lay in our bamboo huts raised on stilts in our mosquito net. thunder like we’ve never heard before, not too much lightning, but buckets of rain. after the clapping stopped we sailed down to ulu and checked the surf. small but people out having fun.

suns startin to poke out so we’re back to the beach on padang. more pics to come, slow connection out here in the jungle though…

tomorrow to kula lumpar, malaysia…. from there who knows!”