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Chiang Mai - The real Thai Experience

Five days I had to spend in Chiang Mai - easy days to fill here.

I arrived with the night train from Ayutthaya and again, trains are so different from those in India. It was more like an ICE in Germany but for the night, so no bed, just seats. But there was some kind of catering like in planes with snacks and juice, they had blankets against the AC-Coldness and the Fan-Wind. So the night was not exactly comfortable but all right.

So I arrived in Chiang Mai early in the morning and took a Tuk Tuk to my Hostel - the green tulip. It's a nice little guesthouse in one of the quieter areas in Chiang Mai, I have a dorm bed, very clean everything and everybody very nice! I booked a cooking class for Thai-cooking for the next day and a Two-day-Trekking-Tour and went out to see some of the city. Chiang Mai is mostly Temples, they are called Wats here, but really beautiful ones. It's nothing compared to the ruins I saw in Ayutthaya, they look more like chinese tee-houses with golden Buddhas in it.

And while I was wandering around through the city of course I got lost. To know were I was I went inside a Temple to see what it's name was to look it up on the map but instead I found a family dining inside the Temple. And sitting in the corner reading my map, trying to figure out my position a boy and his grandma came up to me and invited me to join them. First I refused, but no chance... So I sat down and had the most amazing lunch ever. The people so nice, the food so good. Simply amazing!

After finishing my sightseeing tour I picked up a new guidebook for Cambodia and went to a very far away market to get my shoes repaired and went back to the hostel for a short nap. Cause for the evening I was planning to do some more Temple-Watching and strolling through the Saturday night market. The market sreads out over a whole street, no traffic, lots of stuff nobody really needs but everybody want to have, lots of musicians and lots and lots of food. You can have everything there, from squid and other things on sticks, soup to even bugs (really disgusting, especially when you see them being eaten). I have a great time just wandering around!

For the next day I signed up for a cooking class to learn some real Thai-Cooking. Pot, my teacher for the day picks me up at the hotel and together with three other people - one youngster from the UK, Jo and an older israeli couple - we are going to one of the local markets. Pot explains a lot about thai vegetables and the different ingrediences. We smell, feel and try all different kind of things, it's really interesting.


After the market we drive to the cooking school, where we start with trying some fried bananas and sweet potatoes and the selection of the dishes we want to learn.

All in all I learned how to make Pad Thai, creamy coconut soup and spicy Papaya salad in the first round and in the second fried cashewnut chicken, green currypaste and green curry and sweet sticky rice with mango. Of course we hat to eat all our dishes, so that my stomach is really aching afterward... But it was so good and hopefully I will be able to make some proper Thaifood back home!

 

After a really needed nap I go out on the famous sunday street market to buy some gifts for friends and family. And on my way I'm meeting two guys from the hostel who are "out to eat bugs". So of course I'm not going to miss that... It's disgusting, really! And the guys are so sick afterward, so that I'm really glad I chickend out on this!!

For the next day a Two-Day-Trekking-Trip is planed, so that I'm going to bed early. At my dorm I meet Sarika, a girl from Fiji who is coming with me on that trip. It's amazing how fast people sometimes klick...

So at nine the next morning Tony, our guide for the trip picks us and the rest of the group up. We are a group of seven people - a korean couple, a girl from Croatia and one from Germany and a guy from Wales. The koreans are very nice but quite, the german and the croatian girl quite annoying (after five minutes!!), but the welsh guy is great. Rhodri is not a really talkative kind of person, but funny and straight and exactly with Sarika and me...

So we're driving first to a market to buy some food, then we're off to an elephant camp, where we get to ride Elephants for 30 minutes. It's nice, not really my favourite kind of stuff and the guides are really rough with the animals. So once in a life time thing...

 

Afterward wie start our hiking tour, it's about two hours of hiking, not really difficult but terribly hot, even in the forest. And Rhodris near-snake-accident didn't help at all But after two hours we reach a waterfall where we can cool down a little and have a nice cold beer. From there it's only 30 minutes to our basestation in a hilltribe village. We stroll a little through the village until sunset and return two our house. Tonys cooking dinner for us and after getting rid of the annoying, always complaining girls we have a great funny evening with our guide! And I'm thinking about going to Laos with Rhodri...

Next day unfortunately the group has to split up, because the koreans and Rhodri are up for a three day trip, so Sarika, Tony and me are on our own with the annoying ones. But I'm going up front, so it doesn't bother me too much. And after another two wonderful hours through Thailand forests we reach a river, where we take a bath and heading to the base of a bamboo rafting station. Getting terribly wet on the raft, but great time!! Really funny!

 

After that it's back to the hostel, take a shower, have something to eat, pick up a Laos guidebook and leave for the famous Chiang Mai Night-market. Again I buy some presents and have a great time with Sarika.

The next day starts frustrating. Flipping through the Laos guidebook I have to realize, that I have to little time to do all I want to do, because I have to go to Phom Penh to catch my flight to Australia. So it's either Laos or Cambodia and because the flights from Laos to Phom Penh is far more expensive then the Trip from Bangkok to Cambodia and because I really want to see Angkor Wat I skip Laos again and start planing Cambodia. But first I allow myself a Thai-massage - astonishing what one can do with my body...

Cause the trip planing was so annoying I want to see a temple, but unfortunately it's very far outside. But luckily my to new spanish roommates have scooters and they're taking me and Sarika along with them to the temple.

For the evening we meet up with Rhodri and Tony - both back from the trip - for some Thai-Whiskey. Jose and Joaquin are joining us and we have some amazing food and a great funny evening!

Actually I wanted to leave for Bangkok tonight, but you I'm having to much fun with the group here, so I extend my stay one night longer. Alexis, another guy from Spain who is living in Chiang Mai for some time takes us to a beautiful lake nearby and we spend a nice lazy day just swimming and relaxing.

In the evening the spanish guys take me to a Muay Thai - a Thai-boxing evening. Alexis is normally one of the boxers, but tonight he's off the hook, so he can explain some thing s to us. So, how is Thai-boxing? Good question! I think it's ok, when adults are paid for being beaten up, even though it's really brutal, but children fighting? Nine year old boys, one of them unconscious after just three minutes, I don't know...

But after all, it was worth doing it, it's part of the thai culture, right?!

So, today I'm leaving finally to Bangkok, spent some days there before going to Cambodia! Alone again, but sure not for long!

*


2 Kommentare 1.3.09 14:28, kommentieren

Cliche or what?

I was told Bangkok is mainly noise, dirt and bustle. And some temples, of course. So truth or cliche?

I arrived at Bangkok at 5 o'clock in the morning. Why you might ask? Good question! All thanks to you Joaquin, my friend... So arrving in the middle of the night is more or less not really funny, but I found a bus going into town and dropping me near the famous Khao San Road (known to everybody who has seen 'the beach' and every party-obesessed). German and all planned out like I am I booked a Hostel nearby in advance, so that I was under the shower and in a nice AC-Room by 6.30 am. So what now? Khao San Rd didn't looked very inviting at the morning, with all those still drunk people lurging around. So first of all I need coffe - ya, I'm still addicted! After that off to the grand palace.
Here I have to dress up a little into to longarmed shirt and trousers - luckily a have my fisherman pants with me. So sweating into I'm allowed now to enter the temple area. It's a huge districed with a lot of temples, buildings and people (everywhere Japanese). The buildings are glittering in the sun and the big golden Chedi is competing against. The pictures are showing that better than I can't describe in words...

 

The main temple contains the emerald buddha. A little buddha statue, famous and wanted in the whole world. But honestly not that impressive with old the golden statues around it and the golden cloth on. The rest of palace buildings are all not open for public, so I just wander around for a little and leave Mickey-Mouse-Temple-Town behind.

 A lot more impressive is the liying Buddha at Wat Po, he tops everything I've ever seen in a temple!!

 

Day two contains a visit in China Town. It is, like everybody expects chinatown to be. Full of food stands, lots of people, hello kitty and Micky Mouse.But with Hongkong noddles for breakfast tothing can go wrong, right! And so I just wonder around, suck up all the life and enjoy the happy people and my good mood (everything is better with music).

 

For lunch I meet Anthea and here boyfriend (a girl from University who is in Bangkok as well) and enjoy the company from back home. But after they had to leave I don't stay a long for long, in Bangkok there are always people if you don't want to be alone. So I meet James (UK) and Markus (GER) and together we stay up the whole night, listening to live music on Khao San Rd.

So my conclusion about the Bangkok cliche: It is and at the same time it is not at the same time. The temple areas are beautiful but kind of over the top. Khao San is directly next to some nice quiet streets full of thai people, no tourists. Modern is meeting tradition. Busy, yes bustling, no. Dirty - Bombay was dirty man, but Bangkok not.

So I like the city a lot, evn though I'm sure, that there are nicer parts in Thailand to visit! 


2 Kommentare 8.3.09 11:14, kommentieren

Bordercrossing

After staying up all night in Bangkok I just take a shower and go to the train station Hualampong to catch my train to Aranya Prathet, the thai Town on the border to Cambodia. Tuk Tuk to the actual border, emigration from Thailand and then...

I was told before, that I can buy my visa on arrival.Yes, it is possible, but you have to pay some bakshish to the police that they do so. But still it's cheaper than through an travel agency and I am very proud of me being such an adventurer

From the border I share a taxi to Siem Reap with three others and after a bumpy ride I arrive in Siem Reap at midafternoon. The hostel a girl recommended me in Chiang Mai, well that's its own story...

Ok, what is there to expect from a room that is 1 USD per night? Apparently a mattress and a mosquito net out in the open. No door, no locker... First impulse - run Forrest, run. Second - hm, it's cheap, it's kind of cool, well, ok. And after shower and some food I go to the rooftop, have a beer for 0,5 USD and a nice night with nice company.


For the next morning (after a loud night) the clock goes off at 5 am so that we can see the sunrise. But all we see at Angkor Wat are clouds - still nice but not the reason for getting up at 5 am!

But Angkor Wat is impressive. I've seen a lot of temples so far, but nothing like this. It's just so huge. It's like a bag inside the bag inside the bag but with temples. And each of them is impressive. The outer wall is cover with carvings of stone so marvelous and rich like it was designed on  computer, unbelievable!

And so is the rest of this humongous  complex! It's a lot of smaller and bigger temples, some kind of included in the jungle - like the one they used for Tomb Raider - and one with huge stone faces all over the towers that gives you the feeling of always being watched. Some monks strolling around and of course a lot of people. But thanks to the rainy weather and the early time it/s not so bad and we have an amazing time!

 

Later I collect a bunch of guys and we go out for dinner and shopping at the night market and finally I buy myself a dress thanks Philipp). And of course we end up having beers at the roof top ... all night ...


Next day I start early with the bus off to Phnom Penh. With me is Fergus, a young guy from the UK with whom I will spend some days in the capital - it's so much cheaper  to travell with someone... The busride is awfull. Cambodian Karoke all the time really loud, so that I nearly can't hear my own music and really uncomfortable seats. And I'm dead tired!!

The Hostel in Phnom Penh is at an Backpacker alley by the lake, nice, but really small rooms. But I'm not up for much anyway... But in my really crappy mood, a not-liking-Phnom-Peh-mood I decide to change myflight to Perth and fly earlier to Kuala Lumpur and take an overstop there from friday to sunday - and thats the great thing about travelling alone. To be able to change my planes whenever I like or not to have plans at all!

What there is to see in Phnom Penh itself is really little. But it's kind of impressive. First there are the killing fields where people where murderd and tortured to death by Pol Pots men in the 1970ies - unbelievable!!! A touching monument to remind of the cruelty that happend so little time ago - tower with all the sculls they foung inside, a lot of massgraes, signs about what happend.


The second sight is the prison where Pol Pot used to keep the people to torture and get information. An old high school, filled wit all the torture instruments and pictures of the prisoners - how can a seven year old by possibly be a threat to a goverment or a bby? Why did they have to murder children and innocent people just for their intelligence?


The third one is not that depressing, it's the royal palace and the Silver Pagoda containing an emerald buddha - very similar to that in Bangkok, but still nice to see.


For the rest of the day is planed out doing nothing, perhaps getting a massage, going to the night market and looking forward to Malaysia!

 

Cambodia was a lot of border crossings for me. Not only the real one, no it's a really different country with another kind of poverty combined with resignation or fear to do something with ones brain or talent - due to the history more than understandable. All there is left, so it seems, is the great Khmer history and architecture. And again I had to leave a lot of nice people behind who I really gonna miss...

Till the next time keep well,

hugs and kisses **

 

 

1 Kommentar 10.3.09 09:11, kommentieren

Spur of the moment

Arriving in Phom Penh my first intention was to run away again. And so I started racking my littele brain of possibilities. Started with heading north to see some waterfalls, followed by going down south to the beach and ended with going to Kuala Lumpur. My original flight to Perth was sceduled with an overstop in KL anyway so I just resceduled and flew to days early.

Arriving here in KL was like coming back to civilisation but with a sledghammer. On the way to the hostel I'm surrounded by skyscrapers, modern buildings and all in really good shape. Not like in Bangkok or Delhi, in really good shape like new...

The hostel is fine but I'm quick on my way into the city heart, the Petronas towers. Closing the ticket counters for the skybridge at 5 p.m. I arrived there at 5.15 so of course there were no tickets left. But I must have looked so doomed, that they gave me a ticket anyway Driving up with the elevator 41 Levels in 41 seconds made my ear pop, but the view over the city is totally worth it! I still can't believe, that I stood on the same bridge as did Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones for their movie Entrapment (Verlockende Falle)!

 

After that I stroll around the KLCC and see the all the incredible skyscrapers one formed fancier than the next.

The next day I start early to see China Town. On my way there I pass famous sights like the Masid Jamek, Medan Pasar (Old Market Square) and the Independece Square. Chinatown itself is like it's supposed to be - crowded, full of street vendors, food and fake-stuff. But I love it!

 

To complete my shopping-sight-seeing I go to KLCC-Mall, a huge Mall next to the Patronas Towers. It takes like two hours just to look at all the stores, even without buying anything. And they have an amazing food court there as well!


I go back to the hostel just to for a quick shower, but I got traped there, because it starts raining and it continues doing so for the rest of the day. So I just hang around, reading, writing and chatting.

So if I had to come to a conclusion about Kuala Lumpur I would say: Small city with big buildings, easily to do in a day or two, great mixture of different cultures and people and worth a short visit! I'm really glad I did that even though I was a little afraid of my own courage

Pictures coming soon...

1 Kommentar 15.3.09 03:28, kommentieren

Being a granddaughter one more time

Arriving in Perth felt like coming home. I don't know weather is was that there was a familiar face in the crowd at the airport waiting for me or weather it was the fact that nobody was staring at me anymore, just because I'm a white chick.

Anyway, Guenther brought me home to Pat, my own room, my own bath and my own washing machine... It's so great having all these things back after some time of travelling...

All in all, my time in Peth with Pat and Guenter was like being a granddaugther once more, even though all my grandparents are dead. Those two people, barly knowing me just took me in, spoiled me in every way and really made me feeling welcome!

We did some daytours together.

The first one was just a short trip to Kings Park, where one has a great view over the whole city of Perth and the Swan river. And where you can have a look at all kind of native australian plants such as grass boys or boab trees.

 

The second one was to the Pinnacles 250 km north of Perth. That's kind of a little dessert just behind the coastline with these absurd sandstone pillars all over the place - amazing what nature can do, isn't it!

And we had some great fish'n chips for lunch, my first since my holiday in London...

The next trip I did on my own. Cause lets be honest, it's not all fun for me or for dear Pat and Guenter with their 80 something years to do a city trip together

 

So I went early morning to the city, enjoyed some "normal" windowshopping and not being stared at all the time - even though I missed it a little, being special and stuff

The city itself is not that big and has not so many sights, so that I finished my tour by midday. But it left time for organising my international driving license...

On Thursday we went to the famous Perth AQWA, a huge aquarium showing 12,000 miles of Australias coastline. In a big tank we wandered throug glass tunnels on the groound of that tank with sharks and stingrays swimming over our heads, turtles lurking around and aa lot of smaller fish peeking in the visitors tunnel. Really impressive! And a fish patting zoo was there as well - who of you has ever touched a ray before??


The next day I was on my own again. After picking up my driving license in Perth I went to Fremantle, a little town in the South, and from there by ferry over to Rottnest Island. This small Island is the refugee for Quokkas, little marsupials - cute things!
I rented snorkeling equipment and wandered along th coast line until I found one little bay, with white sand, turquis water and only two other people there. It felt like paradise!


Well, snorkeling is not jet my thing, I'm too afriad of everything underneath me, but at least I saw some fish and reefs and a lot of seaweat. But I prefer swimmig and lying in the sun - which by the way did not show herself too much that day
On Saturday I went with Guenter to Caversham Park - a mixture of zoo and wildlife park. I saw all kind of marsupials - Kangaroo, Wombats, Koalas, Quokkas, Wanabies, Quollas and Tasmanian devils - a lot of birds and Emus and lizards and was allowed to feed and pat the kangaroos. Totally granddaughter like


On my last day in Perth I dragged Pat and Guenter to Fremantle. We visited the bustling market, the shipwrek and Maritime Museum and had some great fish and chips out on the harbour. I also picked up two bottles of the famous Little creatures - local beer. After a short break back home and a little snooze for the elders we went out to Scarborough beach to watch the sunset. Unfortunately it was a little clouded so that it was no uh and ah breathtaking sunset, but still it was amazing seeing the sun fall into the ocean!


With a Little creatures I finished my stay here in Perth. Ready for Sydney!


2 Kommentare 25.3.09 07:59, kommentieren

Sydney

I know, I've neglected my blog a little - apologies for that! I try to make it up to you now...

I arrive in Sydney after a 4 hour flight from Perth at around 6 p.m. I had some Email-conversations the last days with Wolfgang - the german guy I met in Ayutthaya/Thailand - about meeting in Sydney and renting a camper van together. So I take the shuttlebus from the airport to the hostel he's staying at, the Sugar Shak. Good thing about the Sydney-Shuttle, it drops me right in front of the hostel!! Wolfgang is already waiting for me there. Get my room without any problems, my roommates, all german by the way, are unfortunately a little strange.

So I just go for some dinner shopping to the Supermarket and do a little Internet-Update on Perth. And after that I call Jono - the australian guy I met in Siem Reap - and make an appointment for the next day to meet him for my private city tour! With Wolfgang I make up to book the camper the next morning and perhaps reschedule my flight to Santiago.

The next day I get up early to organize everything - to early for australian habits apparently, 'cause everything is still closed. But I call David Robinson, a business friend of my uncle and make a date with him for a beer later that day.

Trying to get a camper on short notice appears more difficult than I thought first, because obviously there are a lot of people going from Sydney to Cairns (like we planed) and dropping the car there and so there are nearly nocars left in Sydney or a least no affordable ones. Wolfgang is not reachable, so I delay these decisions and start wandering around Kings Cross and Elisabeth Bay to kill time until it is time for my "date" with Jono. We're meeting at hyde Park - yeah, there are confusingly lots of places here like in London! He's as nice, polite and funny as I remebered. "Cause I don't know, where to go or what to see at all I leave him the guidance. His suggestion is kind of a walking tour to his favourite places in the city like he used to do, while he was living downtown. Perfect idea for me liking a walk throug the city anyway!

So we start at Hyde Park, going across St. Marys Cathedral and down to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. On that way we stumble acorss some curious things in the park called The Domain, like gigantic matches, one burned, one new, or arock in a tree. The museum itself containes some australian art - which I like fine - some aborigini art - amazing, interesting, different - and some european stuff - boooooooring!

 

After that we go through the botanical gardens, along flying fox - contaminated trees (little black dots in the picture) down to the eel-infested duck pond.

And there we are right next to th Farm Cave. From here the Opera and the Harbour Bridge are already visible and I take a huge amount of pictures. The way leads up to Mrs. Macquaries Chair on one side, from where I have an astonishing view all over Sydney harbour, the Opera, Harbour Bridge, Fort Denison, The Prime Ministers House and Luna Park.

 

On the other side Farm Cove ends at the Opera and the Harbour and of course we go there, circle the Opera and stroll through the warfs. Jono shows me the Museum of contemporary Art, but we are both so hungry, that we go for lunch to "the Rocks", one of the oldest and hippest areas around Sydney.

After lunch Jono has to go back to Hyde Park for another appointment. But on the way back he shows me Customs House, the Museum of Sydney, the Sydney Conservatorium, the High Court and the the Mint. And of course the War Memorial in the middle of Hyde Park. All the way today he tells me a lot of things about the city and its buildings and sights. I'm really impressed about that knowledge! And I'm kind of sad to say good bey so soon again, but I hope we meet again!

On my way back I visit varous camper-hire-agencies but without reall success. So I just go to the hostel, take a quick nap before dressing up for my second "date" taody with David.

I'm supposed to meet him at Customs house. Jono had shown me the place earlier, but it appeared to have been the wrong place. But David finds me after a quick phonecall. And like everybody back home told me, David is really nice and we have a great time nd I have my first Victoria Bitter. And an invitation to Davids House for dinner sometime, if I should be in town again before I fly to South Amercia.

Back at the hostel I agree with Wolfgang that we go on camper search again together tomorrow and so we do.

We start as early as possible and after a short look around we manage to book a van for Friday, ten days up to Brisbane. And I also book a three day tour to and on Fraser Island, open date.

Exhilerated as I am, I go down to the harbour, catch a ferry to Manly to enjoy a lazy day at the beach. It's really good to have a day like this once in a while.

Because we have to fill the time till Friday, Wolfgang and I go to the Museum of Sydney together on Thursday. They have some great exhibitions about the history of Sydney as one of the first cities of "european Australi", about the Sydney-Aborginies, the Harbour, the Fort, the Bridge, the Opera - and only now I realise, how good my guided tour with Jono has been, thanks again Mate!

After that I go to the Museum of Contemporart Art while Wolfgang is going to Bondi Beach. At the MCA is one great exhibiton of a japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. Never ever heard of her before, but I really like her art! In the basement is a mixture of australian artists displayed, not so much my kind of thing. So I just go for some lunch down to the harbour, then over to Darling Harbour and via Pitt Street and George Street, Sydneys big shopping streets - if I only had more money and luggage space - back to the hostel.

So, that was Sydney for now. I'll be back for Bondi Beach after my camping tour before I fligh to Chile. If anybody has any suggestion for me, what I have to do or see in the city, what I have missed so far, please feel free to leave a feedback note

2 Kommentare 30.3.09 10:21, kommentieren