Saying Goodbye to Thailand

Goodbyes are a fairly common part of travel. I often find myself saying goodbye to any number of people, places and even on occasion things, and I’ve only been traveling for a little under 2 months now. If I’m being completely honest I can tell you that I’ve grown accustomed to saying goodbye, but on occasion there’s a goodbye that makes me a little sad. For me leaving Thailand falls under the very sad end of the goodbye spectrum. I have had such a wonderful time traveling, learning, and experiencing new things while meeting some incredible people along the way. In short: Thailand has been good to me, and like most good things, it’s a little hard to say goodbye.

April 20

I woke up after my very last night at the Chiangmai Backpack House to the empty dorm room I fell asleep in and a twinge of sadness hit me. As I lugged my pack downstairs and ordered my last meal, I felt a little tired after having not lifted my pack in 2 weeks, and a little sad that my time here had come to an end. When my minivan arrived to take me to Chiang Rai an hour or so later, I got in as quickly as possible and tried not to look back. That hostel had become a sort of home away from home for me, so it was hard to have to say goodbye to such a wonderful place, but I knew I couldn’t stay much longer, and there was more of Thailand I wanted to see before heading into Laos.

The plan was to spend a night in Chiang Rai before moving on to Chiang Khong after spending the day exploring the town and visiting the White Temple. When the White Temple ended up being included in the ticket I purchased, I found myself at the Chiang Rai bus station with a decision to make.

Do I stay and see what else there is, or do I catch the next bus and head straight to Chiang Khong? After a little hemming and hawing, I chose to catch the next bus, so after a bite to eat that’s exactly what I did.

Now, I’m not advocating that you spend all your time riding in non-aircon buses on a trip to Thailand, if you ever decide to go, but this public bus was far more comfortable and less scary than the minivan I had just gotten out of. The driver took his time getting to Chiang Khong, mostly due to all the stops we made along the way, but despite that, not once did I have to brace myself on a seat or feel like vomiting, and at the end of our journey I didn’t thank God or Buddha for allowing me to arrive in one piece. To make the trip even better, we were driving through some of the most beautiful rice fields I had seen yet. There were mountains in the background and an ever setting sun to complete one of the most beautiful scenes Thailand had offered me yet. All of this wasn’t making leaving the country any easier, so when I arrived in Chiang Khong I was almost asking for something bad to happen.

Instead I was approached by a beautiful Thai lady telling me about her guesthouse a few hundred meters away. Since I hadn’t booked anything in the hour I gave myself to decide, I hopped into the back of her truck, thinking like I have on many occasions how this is exactly the sort of behavior I was told to avoid my entire life, and was taken to the most darling riverfront guesthouse I could imagine. Score another one for Thailand. Once I had settled in, I joined the many other guests for a night of laughter and drinks, and went to bed happy about my decision to come to Chiang Khong early.

April 21

I spent the day doing absolutely nothing. It was perfection.

April 22

I had planned on leaving, but that never happened, so I did a little wandering around before spending the afternoon doing nothing. It was becoming my specialty in Chiang Khong.

April 23

Eventually I will leave Thailand, but one more day in a quaint guesthouse by the Mekong won’t hurt. If you haven’t figured out what I did with my day by this point, then you may need to reread April 21 and April 22 above.

April 24

I actually woke up early enough to catch the free ride my guesthouse offered to the border. After getting stamped out of Thailand I boarded a small boat and made the 2 minute journey to Laos. I was definitely sad about leaving Thailand, and as I’m sure you noticed, I did my best to procrastinate until there was no more time left on my visa.

Sometimes the scariest thing about traveling is not knowing what awaits you in a new place, so leaving somewhere familiar becomes that much more difficult. This was one of those times for me. I found myself feeling afraid that Laos would be a huge disappointment after all the great things I had experienced. Thailand had offered up a hefty dose of culture, temples, great people, and interesting experiences to last me for the entirety of my trip, but all good things must come to an end sooner or later, and in the back of my mind I knew it was time to leave. I had postponed my exit as long as I could, and although it was a little sad staring at the shore of Thailand from across the Mekong, I knew that more great experiences were ahead of me in Laos.

April 20 Total: 612 Baht or $20.90 for  my minivan ride, bus, food, drinks, and accommodation

April 21 Total: 380 Baht or $13 for food, drinks, and accommodation

April 22 Total: 770 Baht or $26.30 for food, drinks, and accommodation

April 23 Total: 430 Baht or $14.68 for food, drinks and accommodation

Temples, Food & Thai Hospitality

April 16

After Songkran was over, and the city of Chiang Mai had settled into its normal routine again, Tony informed me that he was taking my newly made friends Becky and Dave and I to Doi Suthep the following day. Now technically the name of the temple he wanted us to see is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, but to the locals in Chiang Mai its referred to as Doi Suthep which is a lot easier to remember, let alone say in conversation. Now Tony is the owner of the hostel where I was staying, named the Chiangmai Backpack House, and is by far one of the most inviting and welcoming hostel owners I have come across during my trip. When he told me the four of us would leave around 10 the next morning, and that we couldn’t come to Chiang Mai without visiting this temple, I knew he was serious and made sure to set my alarm far in advance so he wouldn’t have to come wake me up. I was still sick from Songkran, so agreeing to be up early wasn’t something I liked doing, but sometimes there are more important things while traveling than nursing a cold.

April 17

Thanks to my alarm I woke up with enough time to shower and eat before 10 am rolled around. I met Becky and Dave downstairs and over breakfast they told me all about how Tony had informed them last yesterday evening that he was taking them to the temple the following morning. Since they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to Doi Suthep, they agreed and like me woke up early. Tony had given all of us a speech about waking up in time, so we had a good laugh at how we ended up sitting around waiting on him to get ready. Once he had everything he needed, we were off!

The drive up to Doi Suthep takes you on a narrow winding road full of vehicles zooming by in both directions. I asked Tony about the story of the temples location, and he very graciously shared everything he knew with us. In my guidebook there is a story about an elephant carrying a Buddha image on its back up to the top and dying, but the version Tony gave us didn’t sound nearly as mythical. Apparently there was a monk in Chiang Mai who decided to make the climb up the mountain to create a home for himself there. Since it was located so far out-of-town, every day he would have to walk back down for food, only to turn around and walk right back up again. He repeated this journey for many years and eventually he had worn a path into the mountain side. After some time had passed a temple was built at the top, and the people of Chiang Mai would walk up to the top to pray, following the path the monk had created. In the late 1800’s  to the early 1900’s, some westernized people came and built a road on top of the path created by the monk. It was only one lane but made the journey both by foot and car much easier for anyone who wanted to visit the temple. As the temple grew in popularity, and time went on, the size of the road increased to what is now 3 lanes. To this day the path you drive on to get to Doi Suthep still follows the same path that first monk walked every day.

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Statue of the monk who journeyed up the mountain

Once we had reached the top, Tony herded the three of us like school children to the ticket counter, and instantly became appalled at all the coffee shops and souvenir stands that had sprung up at the base since his last visit. While I understood the reason behind his reaction, to me the sight of coffee shops and souvenir stands was nothing new while visiting temples in Thailand. In fact it was downright normal. After he finished telling us about what it used to be like, we headed up towards the temple where Tony, Becky and Dave gave me a crash course in the process of praying and paying your respects to Buddha at a temple. It was the first time anyone had ever explained the meaning behind the things I had been seeing for the past month, and as they pointed towards one thing or another I felt that I somehow had a better understanding of Buddhism… if only just a little.

After spending a good amount of time at the temple, taking photos and listening to Tony tell us about his time spent in the Monastery as a young man, we made our way back to the place where you deposit your shoes on the outside of the main structure. As Tony and Dave put on their shoes, Becky and I found ourselves swept away with the sights and performances happening around us and soon wandered off. There were little girls dancing on a bed of flower petals, a man dancing with a winged costume on, and lines of people ringing bells. Eventually we met up with Dave and Tony, who looked exactly like my father and brothers do after my mom and I wander off in a department store. Sensing their chance to leave we all took off towards the large stairwell that leads up to Doi Suthep and began our decent. Apparently you’re supposed to count the steps in both directions, but it’s easy to lose count even after the first few as you find yourself watching all the tourists snapping photos and little children playing in their traditional clothing.

Once we were back in the car, Tony drove us farther up the mountain towards a Mong village for lunch. If I had any sort of memory at all I’d be able to tell you the delicious chili noodle soup we ate, but since names have never been my thing I can only image the glorious taste of it in my mouth as I type. It was by far the best meal I had eaten in Thailand with its perfect balance of flavor and spice topped off with a stack of crispy noodles. Since I was too busy enjoying my delectable meal to take a photo of it, you’re just going to have to take my word … or lack there of … as gospel regarding this meal.

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View of the Mong village from above

Once we were done eating, and had taken a short stroll through the village, we were off towards our next destination. This time Tony was taking us to have coffee at a small cafe in the mountains that sells the resulting beans grown on the University of Chiang Mai’s plantation. This leg of our journey took us on a one lane road hugging the edge of the mountain on its course through the surrounding jungle. On more than one occasion a parrot swooped down in front of the truck in a glorious display of colorful feathers and grace. The lane we were driving on is so narrow that 2 cars can’t pass at the same time. Each time we would reach a turn, someone would have to honk their horn in order to gauge if they could proceed. There was never a lack of excitement while driving as we encountered quite a few motorbikes and cars along the way, but the journey to the end was more than worth it.

As we found a place to sit, Becky, Dave and I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful place we have been brought to. There were rows of coffee trees in front of us, green everywhere you turned, and a large assortment of flowers growing on the grounds. To make the day even better, we were all handed on of the best cups of coffee I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. To be fair, coffee in the states isn’t gourmet, so I”m not experienced in the world of coffee. With that being said I do know what I like, and this was one good cup of coffee. I barely put the glass down until it was empty, at which point I ventured around the grounds using on my favorite features on my camera: the close-up setting which optimizes my zoom, allowing me to take beautiful photos of things I can barely make out with my human eyes.

Soon it was time to leave, so we all piled into the truck and drove back down to Chiang Mai. The three of us tried paying Tony for the temple, food, and coffee, but he adamantly refused. When I checked out a few days later I asked his wife Oi how much I owed them for the trip to Doi Suthep, and she told me not to worry about it and wouldn’t accept any money. Not only was this possibly one of the most amazing days out of my trip, I also discovered that Thai hospitality goes beyond politeness and the occasional free meal/drink. Tony spent the entire day away from his business to give us a tour he thought we’d both enjoy and couldn’t miss during our time in Chiang Mai, and he did it all out of the kindness of his heart.

Visa Running for Songkran

At some point during your travels in Southeast Asia you’ll have to go on a Visa Run in order to gain a little extra time for sightseeing or festivals. Apparently it’s so common in Thailand, that when you go to book your bus or minivan, they ever write visa run on your receipt. I hadn’t been planning on overstaying my Thai visa, but after a week in Chiang Mai with all the wonderful people I become friends with, I decided to extend my stay for Songkran. To be fair, it would have been ridiculous to miss the largest celebration of the Thai New Year all because of a date stamped on my passport, so I asked Tony and Oi, who own the hostel I was staying at where I could book a trip to the Myanmar border, and they graciously agreed to drive me to a travel office to help sort out the ticket. Luckily for me, the first place Oi drove me had openings for a visa run, so I booked a van for early the  next morning and thanked Oi for taking time out of her day to help me. I really did have the best hostel owners ever.

April 11

The minivan picked me up really early in the morning, and to be honest I slept almost the entire way to the border. When we got there, the driver gave us a meeting point and said we have an hour to get over and back. I quickly got into the ever-growing line of foreigners obviously on the same mission as me, and exited Thailand without an issue. It was weird to be walking through a place that doesn’t really belong to one nation or another. No man’s land was full of both Burmese and Thai people begging and selling food and drinks, as its easy for them to exit their own countries in favor of standing between the two borders.

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Myanmar Border

Once I was through Myanmar immigration, I spent about 10 minutes wandering through a small market off to the right hand side. I didn’t think I had any extra time to spare, and I really would have liked to stay longer, but it was back to the border for me. Getting through Myanmar immigration was a breeze. The Thai immigration on the other hand wasn’t so fast. I spent a good 40 minutes standing in line before I ever even reached the window and had my passport stamped. Since I had seen about 3 people from my van in line behind me, I took my time getting back and stopped to buy some snacks as I hadn’t eaten all day. Our driver had threatened to leave anyone not back in an hour behind, which we all knew was a load of b.s., so I wasn’t surprised to find him and a handful of people waiting outside the van by the time I made it back. Once everyone had arrived he shoved us back into the van and proceeded to drive at the nauseating pace of all Thai drivers. It seemed as though Songkran had already begun in the mountains. We passed hundreds of people throwing water at cars with buckets and having water fights with their friends and family on our way back.

It was exciting to see, since I hadn’t had a legitimate reason to have an all out water war since I was a little kid, and I could hardly wait for tomorrow morning to come.

April 12, 13, 14, 15

SONGKRAN! SAWATDI PI MAI JOW! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Basically from New Years Eve (12th) to the end of the Songkran celebration on the 15th, I was engaged in water fights with anyone with a bucket or water gun. All of the people in my hostel banded together the first day and threw water on the cars that passed by. Since it was indeed war in the streets of Chiang Mai, we created rules to make sure certain people were most definitely hit with as much water as possible. Anyone wearing Tye-dye was to be hit directly in the face, sex-pats were to be mercilessly attacked with as much water as we could muster, and for all the Europeans participating, anyone wearing an opposing teams football jersey was fair game. We also had a lot of fun attacking trucks full of people and tuk tuks. A lot of the time the tuk tuk and truck drivers would motion to us to attack the people in the back, and would slow down or often times even stop long enough for everyone to get soaked. They seemed to be enjoying the festivities just as much as anyone else. I even sprayed a monk in a tuk tuk at some point. Now, before you get too up in arms about my disrespectful behavior, none of us in the group shot him with water until after he asked us to, at which point we proceeded to spray him with the same amount of effort and water we used with any children we encountered. He happily waved to us afterwards and seemed to be happy about being a part of the celebration.

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Chiangmai Backpack House group

Since everywhere you turned water was being thrown your way, I didn’t take my camera with me to document the festivities, but man was it a lot of fun. The best section of Chiang Mai to be in during Songkran was down by Tae Pae Gate. On day 2, by the time a group of us made it down there, we had just missed a giant foam party, but there was no shortage of people throwing water and perfume, or smearing clay onto your face. It was what you dreamed of as a child as you hunted down your siblings in a violent game of water fighting, but with alcohol and better music. There were moments where we would find ourselves on some backstreet viewing another part of Songkran, which was more spiritual and less reckless. People were blessing monks with water out of silver cups and processions slowly made their way down streets lined with Thai people. Occasionally someone would gently pour blessed water onto our shoulders and we would tell them Happy New Year in Thai. It was nice to see both sides of the celebration throughout the course of 4 days.

By the time it was over I was sick from all the canal water that had been thrown on me, but even a cold couldn’t ruin the fun I had reverting to childhood on the streets of Chiang Mai.

 

Chiang Mai & Pai

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while everyone. I’ve had fairly unreliable internet until recently, and didn’t  bother attempting to update anything. SO without further ado, I will now regale you with tales from my time in Chiang Mai and Pai… keep in mind this is before Songkran took place, so there will be much more Chiang Mai to come!

Day 1 – April 3

I arrived at the Chiang Mai train station around 9:30 pm and caught the first taxi I could find to a hostel I had been told was a good place to stay. Apparently the lady driving didn’t actually know where it was located, so she dropped me off at an expensive resort instead, that happened to have the same name as the street the hostel was located on. At first I didn’t realize there had been a mistake, so when the guy at the front desk started to check me in and told me the room cost 845 baht a night, I almost had a heart attack. After a few minutes of trying to explain to him that I was in the wrong place, he pointed me in the right direction, so I made my way to the hostel I had asked for on foot. Unfortunately by the time I got there they didn’t have any more space available, so one of the workers kindly drove me to another hostel nearby and made sure I got checked in without any issues before telling me goodnight and leaving. This was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but Chiang Mai Backpack House would become so much more than just a place to sleep during my time in Chiang Mai.

By now it was 11 pm, and I was both incredibly hungry and sleepy, so I followed one of the workers up to my dorm room and quickly got acquainted with the only inhabitant Zoe, before heading out for some quick dinner before bed. I was SO happy not to be in Phitsanulok anymore.

Day 2 – April 4

I woke up at a decent time and chatted with Zoe before heading out to explore Chiang Mai. My goal for the day was to visit a few temples and get a feel for the city, so I was more than excited to find a bustling market that sold everything, including a large bag of grapes that eventually became my breakfast. Since I never quite figured out exactly which temples I managed to visit during my first full day in Chiang Mai, I can’t give you an elaborately drawn out account of how my day was spent. I mostly wandered through side streets, with an annoyingly happy expression, and stopped anywhere that seemed interesting. I ended up in 3 different temples, grabbed lunch at a small Thai restaurant, and enjoyed an iced coffee in an American themed cafe. All in all a great evening, made even better after chatting with the hostel owner, Tony, who instructed me to try a seasonal desert named Khao Niaow Ma Muang which is made up of  Mango, sticky rice and coconut milk. It’s very sweet, but oh so delicious.

Day 3: April 5

Since Zoe and I were still the only two people in out dorm room, we got to know one another fairly well from forced habitation, so when she invited along to a swimming pool I couldn’t say no to the chance to swim, so after a quick breakfast the hostel owner drove us to the Thai public swimming pool, and we proceeded to forget about the outside world for most of the day. When the sun began to recede in the sky, we caught a sorngtaaou back to the hostel and got ready to go out to dinner with Zoe’s friend Yinon who had just gotten back from jungle trekking. We all wandered through town until we found somewhere good to eat, and as they planned their trip to Pai the next day, they generously extended an invitation to me. Since everything I had heard about Pai was good, I accepted their offer to tag along and we headed back to the hostel to organize baggage storage and bills at the hostel. Luckily we just happened to be staying with the most respectful and understanding owners of any hostel I have come across, so they were more than willing to help us book our trip and take care of our things while we were gone. Like I said earlier, this hostel became much more than a place to sleep during my stay in Chiang Mai.

Day 4: April 6

Zoe and I woke up around the same time, and proceeded to take over the dorm room as we pulled things out of our large packs in order to pack smaller bags for the short trip to Pai. It was lucky that we were still the only two people staying in the female dorm, because I’m sure anyone else would have been annoyed with how much space we had taken up to accomplish such a small task. Our bus would be there to pick us up around 11:30 am, so we hurried downstairs and found something to eat. It would be the first time I had really been into the mountains in Northern Thailand, and let my just say that this particular trip is not one I would repeat if given the chance. It was by far the worst day and bus ride of my entire life. There are a reported 762 turns on the road up to Pai, which is situated in a valley towards the top of a mountain range, and the whole journey takes about 3-3 1/2 hours… all of which is spent speeding along at the normal hectic Thai pace. Needless to say I eventually had to hold my head out a window while I proceeded to throw up all over the side of the bus. To make matters worse, the driver continued to zoom along at a hurried pace without any concern for me or anyone else in the vehicle, and there were a few times where my head came close to a long hanging branch along the side of the road.

When we were forced to stop at a check point, some poor Thai soldier stuck his hand in my puck and quickly went along his way to go wash it up. If anyone on the bus had drugs, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to them. We seemed to sit there for a long time, and eventually the bus driver came back with a bucket of water and went off towards a building only to return with some sort of rubbish. He proceeded to call me out of the bus and make me scrub the side down with trash while he poured the water everywhere. Humiliating and hilarious all at the same time. What a spectacle I must have been to everyone on the bus and all the soldiers at the check point, but once it was over I washed my hands and we were off again. The second time I got sick, the driver was more apt to pull over and let me out of the bus without any complaining. I guess he didn’t want to help me clean it all over again.

Pai

Photo taken by Zoe Gossage

I was so happy when we reached Pai that I practically ran off the bus and found somewhere to sit while Zoe and Yinon negotiated for some motorbikes. The plan was to get two for the three of us, but after a quick trip to the gas station proved to be uncomfortable, we went back and got me my own bike. Once they had given me a crash course on how to ride my bike in the middle of the street, we got directions to the resort, where their friend Jenn was staying, and we were off. After the day I had been having, I was happy to make it to the resort alive and without any incident. After checking in and getting everyone organized, Jenn took us out to explore a little of Pai by motorbike before the sunset. It was a lot cooler than Chiang Mai, so late afternoon felt wonderful from the seat of a motorbike, but once again I was happy to make it from point A to point B in one piece.

After our little journey and some dinner, we walked across a rickety bamboo bridge and found a crowded bar to enjoy a few drinks in. By this time Zoe, Yinon, and I had decided to stay another day, so I partook of a few beers and tried not to think about getting sick. I have to admit that I still didn’t feel good from the trip up the mountain, and that I was all for the decision to stay another day because it meant that I didn’t have to get back into that bus again in the morning.

Day 5: April 7

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Photo taken by Jenn Farmer

After what was meant to be a quick breakfast eventually turned into a few hours of all of us trying to get each other organized and ready to leave, we finally got on the road and headed off towards our first destination: the Pai Canyon. I have come to realize that any canyon I’ve seen, after visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time some years back, is automatically a little bit of a let down. While the canyon was cool, and provided us with some decent photo-ops, it wasn’t nearly as impressive as I had been imagining.

Next it was on to a few waterfalls. The first one was rather small and not too far down the road from where the canyon is located. The water was freezing cold, but felt good in the hot afternoon sun. While we were here our group went from 4 to 7 with the addition of Alicia from Brazil, and two French-speaking guys whose names I never did catch. I’m horrible about not asking for names when meeting new people! As we left and rode through town, we basically took over the lane with our 6 motorbikes, and somehow made our way to waterfall number 2 with little to no trouble.

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The first waterfall of the day

This one was packed full of foreigners and Thais alike swimming in various pools and sliding down the side of the large rock central to the falls. It was the type of activity that looked both scary and fun all at the same time. Most of us climbed up on the rocks and enjoyed a swim in the freezing water, but only a few people out of our group actually slid down the rock. By this point Jenn and I had made friends with a girl named Megan who rounded out our group as we headed back towards town for food and the promise of a swimming pool nearby. All you could hear was the sound of motorbike engines echoing in the trees, but it was nice to have so many cool people around to enjoy the experience with.

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Waterfall number 2

All of us were enjoying the ride, and I was feeling fairly confident on my bike at this point because I had finally figured out how to turn using my weight, when I heard the worst sound imaginable: Zoe screaming and metal crashing. Since she was riding behind me, I quickly looked into one of my side mirrors and saw a cloud of dust and her bike crashing into the asphalt. My heart sank, fearing the worst, and I stopped my bike as fast as I could and ran back to where she was at on the ground. It didn’t take long before everyone was soon crowded around her as she made her way over to a bench nearby. Zoe had hit her face on the ground in the accident, so she was convinced her nose had fallen off, and none of us knew how to tell her that her nose was probably the least of her problems as we could all see the scrapes and cuts along her right arm, leg and foot.

Since she had apparently used up all her bad karma on the crash, two French guys came out of a bar down the street and brought alcohol and paper towels with them. One of them proceeded to clean Zoe up a little bit while we all kept her calm and held her hand. Eventually they discovered a rather large hole in her foot and instructed us to take her to the hospital to have it cleaned properly. When everyone suggested we just let her rest and go to a pharmacy on our way back and clean it ourselves, I made the executive decision to take her to the hospital, out of fear that something might happen if we didn’t.No one really seemed to argue, so we began to organize how to get her here.

During this time we heard an ambulance coming towards us, and were collectively a little confused since we hadn’t called for one after her crash. When it zoomed past us on its way to the waterfall, we knew something horrible had happened, but were all more concerned about getting Zoe to the hospital that we put it out of our minds. The 6 of us that were left headed off with the directions the nice French man had given us in search of the nearest hospital. Poor Zoe was forced to ride on the back of Yinon’s motorbike, as she felt safest with him knowing he had ridden with people on the back before, but despite that she told me later that she almost had a panic attack on the back of the bike. To be fair I was even a little apprehensive about my bike from this point on out. I was WAY less experienced at riding than Zoe was, so I knew any false move might end with me right beside her in the hospital.

Luckily we found the hospital without any trouble, and once we realized that the empty building was open, a nice Thai nurse or doctor ushered us right inside upon seeing us. Zoe knew that having her foot cleaned would be painful, so we asked if it was okay if I stay with her inside the little operating room, and somehow through broken Thai and English he agreed and I told her to squeeze my hand as tightly as she wanted too while he proceeded to clean all her cuts with water, then alcohol, and finally cover them with Iodine and bandages. By now Jenn and Yinon had left to deal with the motorbike company, and both Alicia and Megan had graciously been waiting out front refusing to leave poor Zoe before they knew she was safe.

Once the paperwork was filled out, Alicia carried Zoe on the back of her bike and we all headed back into town. Along the way there was a collective decision to grab something to eat, so we found a vegetarian restaurant and enjoyed a little normalcy after our crazy afternoon. I don’t think any of us had realized how hungry we were until the food arrived. After eating, Megan had to go return her bike, so Alicia stayed with Zoe and I as we ran to the pharmacy, 7-Eleven, and ultimately back to our bungalow resort. I changed Zoe’s bandages and helped her hobble around, giving Yinon and Jenn a free pass to enjoy their evenings. It ended up being a blessing that Zoe and I had decided to share a bungalow the day before, because I was there to keep her company until we fell asleep.

Day 6: April 8

We were leaving Pai, and after Zoe and I organized all our stuff and took turns in the bathroom, I grabbed all our bags and headed up the hill to check out. We had a late afternoon bus, but since Zoe was injured, we tried to take care of everything at the bottom of the hill before heading up to the common area. After some breakfast and down time, during which time Yinon being the good guy he is went and purchased our tickets in town, we piled everything back onto our bikes and went to return them. There must have been some sort of paperwork error, because they didn’t mention the wrecked bike to Zoe when she went to pay the difference on our bill and retrieve her passport, that had been held as collateral, so we rushed out before they noticed and talked about it in hushed tones a little farther down the road. After a quick stop at both 7-Eleven and the pharmacy, where I purchased some motion sickness medicine for the ride, we grabbed some lunch before the bus arrived.

Buying that medicine was the best decision I have ever made. Despite the fact that it did make me act like a really stoned person at the rest stop, which didn’t fail to entertain either Zoe or Yinon when they found me laying on a bench, I can say that I made it through every turn without feeling a tiny bit sick the entire time. Needless to say I was happy to be back in Chiang Mai, and after finding Zoe a sorngtaaou at a reasonable price, I proceeded to walk back to the hostel thanking every figure there is to worship for solid ground.

Day 1 Total: 706 Baht or $24.11 for food, drinks, and accommodation

Day 2 Total: 455 Baht or $15.53 for food, drinks, and accommodation

Day 3 Total: 579 Baht or $19.77 for food, drinks, pool entry, lounge chair, sorngtaaou and accommodation

Day 4 Total: 920 Baht or $ 31.42 for food, drinks, helmet, motorbike, bus ticket, and accommodation

Day 5 Total: 405 Baht or $13.83 for food, drinks, motorbike, and accommodation

Day 6 Total: 515 Baht or $17.58 for food, drinks, bus ticket, motion sickness medicine, and accommodation

Why Am I Still in Phitsanulok?

It was a question I found myself asking over and over again during my time in Phitsanulok. What was meant to be a few nights stay ended up being the most drawn out and boring part of my trip, all thanks to a stomach ache.

Day 1

I arrived in Phitsanulok by bus from Sukhothai. If you ever get asked to stand in a bus for an hour or more, just say no and wait for the next one to leave. I was crammed into the isle of the bus with about 40 school aged girls and a smelly man dressed in denim from head to toe.  Luckily most of the people on board got off within the first half hour of the trip so I was able to move about, but this was by far the most uncomfortably half hour of travel to date in Thailand. Once I arrived I found a mototaxi to take me to a hostel and booked a room for two nights. That’s about as exciting as day 1 got.

Day 2

I spent the entire day sick laying in bed watching movies and catching up on a few television shows. Luckily I had booked an aircon room so I was fairly comfortable. The highlight of the day was when I went to the front desk and paid for another 2 nights in the hostel.

Day 3

I was feeling a little better so I explored the surrounding neighborhood a little. I found a market selling everything from fresh fish and produce to clothing and shoes and spent a little time wandering around before once again feeling ill and heading back to my room until dinner. The neighborhood around my hostel ended up being rather boring and this would be the first of many days where I asked myself  why I was still in Phitsanulok. For the first time in a few days I was actually hungry so I made my way to the night Bazaar and had something to eat by the river front. After dinner I wandered through the clothing shops that had sprung up along the street before calling it a night and heading back to my hostel. Along the way I stopped to have a beer at a cafe and found myself talking to a brave little gecko that kept crawling onto my table. Apparently I was really in need of some quality conversation after a few days alone in my room, and since I had yet to encounter another traveler I resorted to the kind of behavior one only exhibits when drunk… which sadly I wasn’t. Feeling shameful of my crazy behavior I went back to my hostel and locked myself in my room until morning.

Night  Bazaar in Phitsanulok

Night Bazaar in Phitsanulok

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My lizard friend

Day 4

Since I was feeling loads better this morning I made an effort to look like a human and went to the train station to book my ticket for Chiang Mai. Unfortunately I would be stuck in Phitsanulok for another day and had to go back to the hostel to book yet another night… I’ve really grown tired of Phitsanulok by this point, but since I’d be staying another day I decided to find my way to Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat which houses the stunning bronze Buddha. It was a decent walk from my hostel, but since I couldn’t seem to find a taxi to save my life, walking was the only option. Once there I pulled on my cardigan and headed inside. There was no entrance fee, which was a nice change of pace from everywhere else I had been previously, so I took off my shoes and kneeled down so I could take a photo. Despite the size and lack of entertainment in Phitsanulok, Wat Phra Si is fairly busy, and there were a lot of tourists taking photos of the revered Buddha image. After a few minutes I quietly left the temple and followed a small group of Thai people through a doorway to the inside of the complex. They made their way to another ore private temple and entered to give their respects to the Buddha image inside, and I followed because it was nice to have a moment of peace and quiet in such a beautiful and religious place. While I was there, two monks came in and bowed to the Buddha image about 6 or so times before getting up and leaving. It was the first time I had ever been in a temple with monks so close to me, and it made the experience of being there that much more memorable.

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The Bronze Buddha

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The small temple

Once I had spent a respectful amount of time in the temple, and waited for the monks to leave, I made my way to the small market inside the temple walls. I spent an hour or so browsing through the stalls and found my way to the back of the temple where there is a set of ruins from another temple that crumbled centuries ago. It hadn’t been mentioned in my guidebook, and no one had told me anything about it, so I was surprised to see it, but it was almost as cool as the bronze Buddha inside and well worth seeing. After a few quick photos, I headed back to my hostel and relaxed before catching dinner down by the river.

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The ruins

Day 5

I’m actually leaving!! I was beginning to think this day would never come. I headed out for a late breakfast and went straight back to my room to finish packing. My train was scheduled to leave around 1:30 so I checked out of my hostel a little early and made my way to the station. The train, of course, was running on Thai time so it didn’t arrive until well after two, but I did get to witness the most unholy of monks while I waited, so I didn’t mind the delay.

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A Monk waiting for a train while smoking a cigarette and talking on his cell phone

After 8 hours on the train I made it safely to Chiang Mai and found a place to stay. It’s been about a week since I arrived, so I’m a little behind on updating, and since its Songkran or the Thai New Year today, I’m going to be enjoying the 4 day long water festival and will do my best to update you all then.

Day 1 Total: 790 Baht or $27 for motorbike ride, bus, food, drinks, and accommodation

Day 2 Total: 475 Baht 0r $16.22 for food, drinks, and accommodation

Day 3 Total: 1348 Baht or $46 for food, drinks, a pair of shorts,and accommodation

Day 4 Total: 338 Baht or $11.54 for food, drinks and accommodation

Day 5 Total: 1224 Baht or $41.80 for food, drinks, train ticket, and accommodation

Happy Thai New Year!