Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas everyone! I am pretty exhausted because we just got back from an action packed weekend in Chiang Mai which is in the north of Thailand. We had a three day weekend for Christmas and Chiang Mai is pretty far so we took a night bus out from Bangkok on Friday night and took the bus back in on Sunday night.

Once we got into the bus station on Saturday morning we were picked up by the travel company we had booked a package tour with and they took us back to the guest house where we could freshen up and have breakfast. From there it was on to the snake farm where I witnessed a crazy 4 fingered man jump into the water with a giant python and kiss deadly cobras. Not sure how he managed to do that but the cobras looked pretty pissed off and he milked one of them for their venom in front of us...I couldn't help but feel sad for the animals, even if they were snakes. After that it was on to the orchid farm where there were more types of orchids than I even knew existed, big ones, little ones, purple, red, orange and white ones. Very beautiful.

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From there we were off to do some white water rafting. I was a little worried because it was freezing cold and they mentioned that the boats could flip over. The instructor did a good job of freaking us out too; he was like a drill sergeant calling out commands: forward! backward! over left! over right! get in!!! He convinced us that if we didn't respond to his commands at the blink of an eye we would all end up dead in the water. We had a few close calls, Susan almost fell in and then they tipped us over in calm water on purpose. The rapids were pretty gnarly; going through them backwards was probably the most exciting. We made it out alive but I did end up with some pretty nasty bruises to remember the trip by.

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We were all pretty much exhausted and we drove up the windiest twistiest mountain road I've ever been on to go to Pai, a little hippy town in the mountains where our guest house was. It wasn't the nicest of accomodations but we were so tired and hadn't slept in about 2 days that it didn't matter. We had dinner at this outdoor restaurant called the "Unicorn House" and there were a bunch of farang hippies lying in hammocks and trippin out. Kind of what you would expect at a place called "Unicorn House".

In the morning I thought I might die from hypothermia. I've been so used to the Bangkok 95 degree weather that being in the cold mountains was too much for me to handle. I actually missed being hot and sweaty...I guess we're never happy are we? First thing in the morning we went to a giant cave in the mountains. We had to take a bamboo raft into the cave and then we walked around. Didn't see any lives bats but we did see a dead one and supposedly there was a 3000 year old cave painting but I'm not sure if it was real or not because it wasn't protected at all and the guide went up and practically touched it to show it to us.

More driving through the mountains on crazy windy roads and then we did some crazy off-roading in our jeep to visit a "hill tribe." Before we went our guide had us buy snacks for the children. I had some reservations about this kind of tourism because I felt weird just going to look at people like they were some sort of oddity but it was part of the tour so I thought I would just go with the flow. When we pulled up in our car the kids spotted us and came running. I was all prepared for the kids to be cute and nice but no all they were interested in was the snacks that we brought. At one point I was carrying a bag of cookies and three children came and attacked me to grab the whole bag. My instinct was to fight back but then I just gave up and ran. It was very awkward and the whole time we were there I wanted to get the hell out of there. They did have some cute baby pigs though.

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More mountain roads, more driving and we ended up back in Pai for elephant riding in the river. The elephants were huge (of course, they're elephants right?) and there was no saddle. Riding elephants bare back...not so comfortable. They said we would go "swimming" we the elephants but basically once we got in the river they told the elephant to turn over sending us falling into the river. Haha. Funny. So we climb back on the elephant which was insanely difficult and then once we're back on he tells the elephant to dunk us again. Haha. We get back on. Dunk. We get back on. Dunk. We didn't learn out lesson but it was funny, until the elephant started pooping in the river where we were swimming. I just hope he didn't decide to pee too.

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After that we pretty much were exhausted but still had a 10 hour bus ride back to Bangkok. I had so much fun that it made the long bus ride worth it. The north of Thailand is so beautiful and different than Bangkok. I would love to move to Chiang Mai but alas there aren't as many English teaching jobs up there and it might be time for me to head home soon.

You can check out more of the photos here:

Miss you all!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Heres a brief recap of this months happenins:

Went to Koh Tao which is in island in the Gulf of Thailand. It was amazingly beautiful although it took nearly an entire day to travel there by bus and by boat from Bangkok. The water was clear blue green but the sand was not as nice as it was in Koh Samet but the island made up for this in the fact that there were tons of fish to see when you go snorkeling. We planned on going scuba diving but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to take the whole course (and I didn't feel like winging it when it could be potentially fatal) so we decided to go snorkeling instead. We saw tons of fish including clown fish (think Little Nemo), barracuda, angel fish and lots of other really colorful tropical looking fish. We hired a boat to take us to this place called the "Japanese Gardens" which is so called because the coral reefs supposedly look like a Japanese garden. The boat guy threw food in the water and all of a sudden I was surrounded by hundreds of fish that weren't scared to come right up to me. Another great thing about Koh Tao was the food. Lots of Westerners there so that means lots of Western food including yummy mexican and italian food.

School has been going well now that the nun has decided to stop talking to the foreigners. This comes after another incident of them "forgetting" to pay us and the foreigners threatening to "forget" to come to work the next day and drama drama drama. I decided I really love teaching and want to go to grad school for education when I come home so that means working on grad school applications and GREs and all that good stuff which I'm not really looking forward to.

Today I went to meditation classes at a temple here in Bangkok. It was quite an experience but different than I thought it was going to be. I'm glad I went because I want to learn more about Buddhism and get in touch with some sort of spirituality while I'm here. I'm just not sure if I'll go back to that same place again. After meditation classes I went to Wat Pho which had the huge golden reclining buddha statue. It was amazingly big and awe inspiring. I'll post up some pictures later.

Sorry if my posts seem a little rambling. I'm usually typing them at the internet cafe which has so much noise I can't normally think straight. Imagine Thai girls chatting with their foreign boyfriends in this obnoxiously high pitched voice, Thai music blaring and video game noises and you'll get somewhat of an idea of what I'm listening to right now. Miss you all!