Australia: 12/12/12

Today is 12/12/12. What an awful day to choose to fly. If there is going to be an end of the world, it’s surely now. The choice is not mine to make though, and I will be getting on that plane and out of Bangkok no matter what. Even if there is to be an apocalypse. I would rather spend my final moments in life eating stale airplane food than being heckled by a suit salesman on Khosan Road, even just once more.
I actually don’t really know much about the predictions of the end of the world, besides the fact that it is due to happen this year and I guess by default, this month. I don’t believe in any of it anyway, but I have to say that if such a thing were to happen, I would be content in the fact that I spent the last months of my short life doing exactly what I’ve been doing.

Thailand: Koh Phangan to Koh Tao

We set an alarm early enough to clean our room before checking out. There is some face paint and glitter on just about everything, and it will cost us 500 baht if they have to clean it. We do our best to cover up any paint stains that we can’t remove, which I don’t feel bad about because our sheets were stained and had patches sewn on when we arrived. The glitter will do the room some good, it’s pretty now. When we’re done it looks acceptable at best, but it’s check out time so we just drop the keys and hope that they won’t check the rooms before we’re good and gone.

Laos Slow Boat Day 1

7am breakfast isn’t so bad after falling sleep at 9pm the night before. We wake up and go downstairs to eggs and toast which aren’t bad. The hotel also provides a packed lunch for the boat ride. We meet some guys from England at breakfast who are also on their way to Laos and are taking the same slow boat that we are.

Laos: Slow Boat Day 1

7am breakfast isn’t so bad after falling sleep at 9pm the night before. We wake up and go downstairs to eggs and toast which aren’t bad. The hotel also provides a packed lunch for the boat ride. We meet some guys from England at breakfast who are also on their way to Laos and are taking the same slow boat that we are.

The White Temple

We get up early to catch a van that will take us closer to Laos. We won’t actually reach Laos for 2 more days, and will be traveling mostly by boat, but today we take a van further north-east in Thailand. The van fits 10 people so we share the space with some other groups of people. There is a group of girls (3 American and 1 Canadian), a German couple, an older French guy, and a younger guy who looks Scandinavian, but I don’t know for sure where he’s from. It’s a quiet ride to the hotel.

The driver of the van is totally cray, and takes corners at 80km an hour. This is not an exaggeration. At one point during the ride I dozed off, and woke up because I hit my head on the ROOF of the van from him driving so fast over a pothole. We’re driving up through a mountainous area which is very windy, and I kid you not I look at the speedometer to see he’s going 130km/h through hairpin turns on a pretty skinny little road. People are bouncing all over the place inside the van. Sketchiest thing ever, BUT out of 4 vans doing the same tour that we are, we arrive at The White Temple first. Boom.

The White Temple in Chiang Rai (not a typo. There is Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai) and it’s a half way point through our days journey. This temple is even more gorgeous than the one I visited yesterday. It is a bright, piercing shade of white with silver accents and the most detailed architecture. It is surrounded by a small moat and has ponds on either side filled with fish. From afar, the temple looks ancient due to it’s classic style architecture (and I guess I just assume all temples are ancient) but as we get closer I start to think perhaps it is not so old. Just before the entrance way, over the bridge to cross the moat, there are two almost bare trees with white heads carved as dragons or scary demon faces hanging from the branches, which are all surrounded in dead grey moss. The pathway up to the temple is lined with two pits on either side, with hundreds of white hands reaching up out of the ground, some holding skulls and others holding up bowls (temple donations). One or two of the hands have red painted finger nails… it’s creepy but sick. It’s what is inside the temple that I really find the most interesting about this place. We aren’t allowed to take photographs inside, so you will just have to rely on my description of the art on the walls, and I know you won’t believe me when I tell you.

The back and side walls are painted dark orange and red, with very fine details painted in… of pop culture characters. Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, SpiderMan, The Hulk, Jabba The Hut, Darth Vader, Michael Jackson, and The Terminator, just to name a few. Among the paintings of these characters, are scenes of the twin towers being blown up, tentacles surrounded in flames, wearing digital watches, cellphones, and basically anything else you can think of. When you step back to take it all in you can see that the basic backdrop is the face of a dragon roaring (or whatever noise dragons make) and all the images are emerging from it’s mouth. It’s all so fantastic and SO confusing.
There is a monk sitting in front of a gold buddha statue at the front of the room. Ilona and I can’t figure out if he is a real monk or a life-sized wax figure because he doesn’t move once, and has a slightly shiny finish to his skin. In a regular temple I would of course assume that he is a monk who never moves, but in this place I don’t know what to think. I don’t know how to ask without potentially offending someone so I let the mystery be for now, and plan to google it later.

Around the temple, there are a few stores and cafés, and a lot of construction happening to build more. It seems as if a little urban centre is being built up around the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I plan to google that also. I didn’t see any brochures or other sources of information about the temple so I will just have to find out for myself… I am intrigued.

By 4pm we have arrived at our hotel, where we will stay until tomorrow morning when we get on the slow boat to Laos. There isn’t much of anything surrounding the hotel and the van leaves immediately, so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do for the next 15 hours. There isn’t even wi-fi, and the rooms are mediocre at best, but at least it’s not a night train.
Yeah, I went there. Prepare to hear about this frequently. Forever.

I don’t know if it’s the heat or what, but my hair is legitimately turning curly. I’m sad about it. Straight hair was so much easier to deal with. Especially when traveling.

I have a quick nap on my sketchy hotel bed and get up for dinner which is served downstairs outside by the river. This is the only opportunity I have to access the wi-fi. It doesn’t work in my room. Our boat leaves at 7am tomorrow morning, so after dinner I plan on just going to sleep and waking up early. Woot woot!

Thailand: The White Temple

We get up early to catch a van that will take us closer to Laos. We won’t actually reach Laos for 2 more days, and will be traveling mostly by boat, but today we take a van further north-east in Thailand. The van fits 10 people so we share the space with some other groups of people. There is a group of girls (3 American and 1 Canadian), a German couple, an older French guy, and a younger guy who looks Scandinavian, but I don’t know for sure where he’s from. It’s a quiet ride to the hotel.

Thailand: Doi Suthamp Temple

Doi Suthamp Temple is the most famous in Chiang Mai, so I have to see it. We wake up relatively late and go downstairs for our delicious croissant breakfast creation. I am set on seeing this temple, which Ilona has no desire to visit, so instead of dragging her up 300 stairs (we’ll get to the stairs) and instead of missing it, I choose to go alone. As directed by the front desk guy downstairs, I hop into a tuk tuk that takes me to the Chiang Mai Zoo, which is right at the bottom of the mountain heading up to the Temple. From the Zoo I get in a big red truck/bus crossover thing that is another form of taxiing in Thailand.

Sunday Market

After breakfast we decide to use this day to get some things done. I haven’t done a laundry yet since we’ve arrived, Ilona needs to send a package of things home (which I was lucky enough to have Dolly do for me when I was in India), we have not decided on a way to get to Laos yet, and we have yet to book a place to stay in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party, so most of our afternoon consists of those sorts of things. Not too exciting, sorry.

Someone that we met a couple days ago had told us that there is a market that only takes place on Sundays downtown Chiang Mai, so we decide to go visit that when we’re done with the boring stuff. The market is HUGE and we walk around for about 3 or 4 hours but I lose track of time because I’m having so much fun. I buy lots of small things like hair accessories and jewelry, because all the market clothes are a size like 00-2 and are “one size fits all”. Grr. Other than the small clothing, the markets in Thailand are awesome and this one doesn’t have any raw fish stalls (just fresh fruit and cooked meats) so it doesn’t smell! Bonus!

The market is lined by shops which are there full time and stay open late on Sundays to get business from the market go-ers. A lot of them are vintage clothing shops, which are fun to look at but the shoes are SO tiny.

We walk into a store (not a market stall but an actual, in the wall, store) that was similar to American apparel in the sense that it just had SO many different colours in a small variety of styles of clothing. I buy a pink t-shirt and while I’m paying, the store employees ask us if they can get a picture of me holding the shopping bag and of course I say yes. One of them runs to the back, which I assume he is doing to get a camera, but no, he comes back with two purple slushy texture “shots”. We ask what’s in them and he tells us it’s vodka, blueberries and raspberries. We pose with the shots and the bag for a picture, and then drink the shots. He comes back out with the blender full of slushy drink, and pours us two more. We drink them quickly say thank you, and get out of the store before they try to get us totally hammered with a mystery purple drink. In hind sight we should NEVER have drunk it at all because I do not know these people… But a) it was a legitimate store not a random market stall, and b) they were like the cutest and friendliest Asian people, who were just REALLY happy that I bought a shirt.

We walk home (slightly buzzed from the slushy shots) and go to sleep.

Thailand: Chaing Mai Sunday Market

After breakfast we decide to use this day to get some things done. I haven’t done a laundry yet since we’ve arrived, Ilona needs to send a package of things home (which I was lucky enough to have Dolly do for me when I was in India), we have not decided on a way to get to Laos yet, and we have yet to book a place to stay in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party, so most of our afternoon consists of those sorts of things. Not too exciting, sorry.