Thursday, November 20, 2008

From Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand

It's been quite a while since I last posted. We were busy travelling form one place to another. And now the internet on the Islands is quite slow, so I didn't want to post any pictures.

We did indeed rent motorcycles to travel from Chiang Mai to Pai and back. 136 Km and 762 curves through the hills oneway. It was great fun....except. At about Km. 90 on the way back a dog ran out in front of me. I tried to stop but went down with the bike instead, inexperience being the culprit not the dog. So now I have what is called Thailand Tattoo, a scabby knee and elbow. I'm most upset about ruining my favourite pair of pants. Jim patched me up and we continued on to Chiang Mai to return the bikes to the rental place.

The following day we traveled by air to Surat Thani, and the next day by ferry to Koh Phan Ngan. Four days in paradise, in a hut on the beach. Mind you, a pretty basic hut. It's difficult to describe the "bathroom". The attached bathroom had no roof, other than the overhanging coconut palms. In Thailand most places ask you not to put toilet paper down the toilet. Come to think of it, they may actually have a better system than we do. You figure it out.

We arrived on Kho Tao, one island north, yesterday after a very, very rough 2 hour crossing Lots of sick passengers. Twenty more minutes of slamming up and down and rolling from side to side and I would have joined them at the back of the boat. This is monsoon season on these islands and we checked today to see if we could get seasickness medication for the trip back to the mainland.
Ko Tao has a much different vibe to it. Phan Ngan is a backpackers island, beer, lying on the beach, hustling the Thai girls. Koh Tao is about (Jim says) sex and diving. More commercial . Lots of diving outfits, lots of boats in the harbour, more expensive accommodation and meals.
We have repeatedly read that Thai culture frowns on nudity. Women, even foreigners shouldn't wear anything than the knees or reveals the shoulders, yet on Kho Tao all the shops sell skimpy sun dress and really sexy women's clothing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11, Tuesday Chiang Mai

On Saturday November 8, Jim and I rented 2 Honda Phantom 200cc motorcycles and rode a 100 km loop north of Chiang Mai. I was quite apprehensive, having only put about 60 Km on our Yamaha 650 this summer, but Jim didn't take my feeble no for an answer and away we went. It turned out to be fantastic fun, once out of the city. Driving on the wrong side of the road is easier than crossing the street as a pedestrian. You just stay in the lane of traffic that's going your way! right hand turns are a bit tricky. The road we travelled was in the mountains, up and down, switchbacks with stunning scenery. We stopped at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp for the 1:30 show. Watching the elephants paint pictures was fascinating. We saw the finished paintings of 4 other elephants as well as the one we could see in the process. Each painting was entirely different but all of plant life. I truly enjoyed the spectacle.
Of course we got lost trying to find our way back into the city because we approached from a different direction. The Phantom was an excellent bike for me, with a low center of gravity I felt quite stable on it.

Sunday Nov. 9 we visited Wat Phra That Doi Suthep at the top of a mountain 4 km. from Chiang Mai. In the evening we strolled through the Sunday Market. The police close off several blocks in the old city ( near our guesthouse) and hundreds of sellers set up stalls of things for sale. Really nice things. The market is so large Jim and I ran out of energy after 3 hours and couldn't see all of it. There were several things I wanted to buy but didn't.

Monday November 10, we went on a tour with 8 other people. First we visited a hill tribe village, then went for an elephant ride, lunch in a hill village, then a trek up a canyon river to a waterfall, then white water rafting, the a short bamboo raft segment on a quite part of the river. The other people in our group were all young people of course and were fun to be with. All very enjoyable but just a sample of each activity. I'd like to do a longer white water trip another time.

Today, the 11 Nov. Tuesday we had planned to rent 2 Phantoms again and ride up to Pai, 140 km north of Chiang Mai but Jim was tired( he was in the front of our white water raft and had to work pretty hard). Instead, we put a deposit on the motorcycles for tomorrow so we're committed(hope this isn't my last post!). We'll overnight in Pai. We have airline reservations for Saturday to the south for some beach time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chiang Mai November 7

I don't seem to be doing very well with this blog. All the pictures I uploaded today were labeled but the labels didn't show up when I viewed the blog. ???? Anyway, we're resting for a while today, trying to decide where to travel to next. We will probably stay in the north for a while longer before heading south to the beaches. Travel between locations here is quite slow according to the Lonely Planet so we have to decide how much time we want to spend on a bus versus site seeing in a single location. The food is delicious, we haven't had a meal I didn't enjoy yet.

Chiang Mai November 7, 2008

Wat Pho, Bangkok

Chiang Mai Thailand Nov. 6/08

After spending 5 days in Bangkok(too many) we took a 12 hour train ride yesterday to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. It was only about 350 km. but the train was slow. The way it bounced swayed and jerked, slow was probably safer. In Bangkok the hustle for the tourist $ is intense( but not threatening). We enjoyed the sights but were glad to leave. Chiang Mai is smaller (about 200,000 compared to ?? millions) and much more relaxed. The hustle for the tourist $ is still here, but less persistent and more benign. After 7 days in Japan, Thailand is a bit of culture shock. Japan is clean, tidy, beautiful, organized and there are rules. Thailand is not clean or tidy, especially Bangkok but is beautiful here and there in a different way. The rules of the road are - the bigger you are the more rights you have. Crossing the street as a pedestrian is an adventure.