Monday, June 2, 2008

SCORE!

If you're looking into booking vacation travel to Chiang Mai in the future, you NEED Robin as your travel agent. I'm blogging from the front porch of our beautiful hotel room along the shore of a quiet river in rural Chiang Mai. I don't have time to go into detail on the super coolness of this place right now since our driver is picking us up soon. We have a FULL day in Chiang Mai booked.

Thanks everyone for all your comments. We're feeling like rock stars.

The following is a blog post Robin wrote on the overnight train last night. Regretfully, I forgot our USB cable in Bangkok, so the pictures aren't included right now. If we can't find a new cable in Chiang Mai today, we will post the pictures from Monday as soon as we get back to Bangkok. In the meantime, here's the text from Robin:

Today was a 180 from yesterday in pace, but not enjoyment.

We decided after yesterday’s whirlwind tour of Wats in the heat we wanted to relax a bit. We set out after breakfast to teach ourselves how to use the Skytrain and Subway systems. It turned out to be very easy, remarkably not crowded (perhaps because it was already 8am?) and we were surprised to be nearly the only tourists on the Metro especially. We noticed right away that nearly a third of the people we saw were wearing yellow shirts to honor the King, since it’s a Monday. (The King was born on a Monday – not this Monday in particular – they just love their King!). The system was very clean and the ticket kiosks had English instructions. The only mildly disappointing thing was you have to buy separate types of tickets/tokens for each system. (So a one-day pass for the Skytrain won’t get you onto the Metro, but once we figured that out it was no big deal.)

Our newfound knowledge was quickly used to whisk us to the area of Lumpini Park. Kyle thought we should try to see if the US Embassy was within walking distance, as we knew we were on the right road. It was not quite close enough (especially with little T strapped to us), and crossing the street was a harrowing, frogger-like experience. I’m not really sure of the purpose of the occasional cross-walk, except perhaps to give drivers a heads-up that pedestrian-smooshing occasions are present.

Lumpini park was a very nice, cool, and relaxing place. The sprawling park has multiple boating lakes, streams, and walking paths and is surrounded by skyscrapers that you can see poking up past the trees along the edges of the park. It’s much like we imagine NY’s Central Park might be like (but we’ve never been there). The park was filled with Thai people doing Tai Chi, running, biking, gathering with friends, and catching naps in the shade. There were very few tourists, so we loved it. We saw someone performing Thai massage on a bamboo mat under the shade of a large tree, and I told Kyle it looked heavenly, but I’d never be bold enough to walk over and see if I could get one, too.

We saw lizards - some as big as a Labrador retriever! - with long forked tongues and longer tails. They swam through the ponds and streams and crawled across the green lawns.

After strolling for a long time, we sat under a Chinese pagoda along a pond and watched the fish jump and strange birds swooping around. An old man was sitting on a nearby bench in the shade, and after we’d been chatting at the pagoda for almost an hour, he wandered over, smiled, and tried to speak in Thai with us. Jim: I remembered your email when you taught us to say something that sounds something like “My Cow Die” that actually means, “I don’t understand”, but I obviously didn’t remember it quite right, because he didn’t understand that at all. He kept chattering away, and then pinched Kyle’s bicep and asked a question. For some reason that escapes me now, we densely thought he was saying us: You’re a scrawny dude – how much do you weigh? So we were trying to convert in our heads to kg and using our little dictionary to give a number, chuckling to ourselves about this strange conversation with the friendly old man. He didn’t understand our attempts at pronouncing what we found in our dictionary, so we were writing numbers on the palms of our hands. He wrote back “100”, at which we were confused. No – Kyle doesn’t weight 100 kg. He then motioned over to the place he’d been sitting, and made a motion like we should come with him and take a nap. Or so I thought. I didn’t understand any of his constant stream of Thai (he didn’t really seem to get that we weren’t going to understand a word out of his mouth). I didn’t want a nap on his little bamboo mat. But he was really disappointed in this, and then pinched my bicep multiple times. LIGHTBULB! Duh – he wanted to give us massages! For 100 baht. To verify our suspicions, I looked up the work for massage in our little dictionary and said it to him. He nodded and got excited that we finally understood (dumb Americans!). I actually wanted a massage, so I was also very excited, too. It was divine, and I think it lasted almost a half hour. He used a massage oil that smelled like Eucalyptus and made my skin tingly and warm. I’ve never had a massage before, but this one was pretty cool, because he pulled and stretched my limbs in strange angles. Kyle told me after it was over that a lizard had been only a few feet from my head at one point. Thanks for looking out for me, man! Kyle declined to get a massage because he’d worn long pants today. I enjoyed it so much, and so many of you guys commented on the great massages near our hotel, I will try to talk him into one when we get back to Bangkok.

After I was thoroughly relaxed by the massage, we made our way back to the neighborhood our hotel is on to find lunch. We found an awesome little bookstore, Asia Books, with an amazing selection of Thai books for kids, written in Engligh (like ABCs with Thai things represented, and the Brave Little Tuk Tuk, and So-And-So’s Adventures in Bangkok.) We were already checked out of our hotel and our bags stored away with the bellboy, so we’ll go back and buy many of them when we’re back from Chiang Mai.

We found a place to eat just as the rain was starting. We enjoyed eating to the sound of a downpour and thunder. (I love storms!) By the time we were done eating, the rain had slowed to sprinkles and we headed out again. We stopped at the grocery store across the street from our hotel to get water and munchies for the train. We picked up the backback we’re taking to Chiang Mai from the bell boys. Then we took a cab to the train station.

We were really early to the station, and we killed time by eating ice cream and Belgian waffles (amazing!). We bought very cheap yellow King shirts so that next Monday we can wear them. We also watched each and every little Thai boy with great interest. Hannah had told us the kids wear squeaking shoes and boy they sure do! Over the din of the train station was a persistent SQUEAK SQEAK SQUEAK as little ones toddled around. It’s hard to be here and know T is so close but we can’t meet him yet.

My trip to the restroom was not lovely. I paid my 2 baht to enter, discovered a Thai toilet (squatting), and remembered the advice of friends to check other stalls for a western stool. I did find one, but it was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen and there was no way I was sitting down there. There was also no toilet paper anywhere in the room. I hadn’t brought extra baht into the bathroom with me to buy any. So I left, feeling grossed-out and defeated. I sat for awhile until it was time to work up the nerve to try again. This time armed with a packet of Kleenex, I returned and decided the Thai toilet was a much better option under the dirty circumstances. I was glad of the decision I’d made. On leaving, I encountered a pair of distraught tourists in the Oh No There’s No TP situation I’d been in, so I did my good deed for the day and gave them the rest of my Kleenex.

We boarded the train just before 6pm. We’re taking a 1st class air conditioned sleeper to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, it gets dark here at around 7pm, so we weren’t able to see much of the countryside. Our little compartment is a bit grimy around the edges, but the seats/beds are comfortable. We have our own room that locks, with a couch, sink, mirror, and table. The stewards come around and turn your couch into an upper and lower bunk at bed time (which for us was 7:50!), complete with an extra mattress, sheets, and pillow. I’m typing now around midnight, unable to sleep anymore. Jetlag still has me in it’s grip. I was exhausted this evening and now I’m wide awake.

Dinner and breakfast are available for order. We brought snacks and had eaten a late lunch, so we skipped the dinner, but it smelled great. We ordered breakfast for the morning. Hope it's good!

I had one moment of panic when we heard a rustling noise while locked in our little room. It sounded to me like the trash bag was rustling. I became convinced there was a rat inside it, trying to get out. I picked my feet up off the floor. The rustling got louder. Kyle was sure I was nuts and told me the sound wasn’t coming from that direction. Until he could identify the source, however, I wasn’t very happy sitting there. Finally, my second Duh moment of the day – it had begun to rain outside. Once we knew we weren’t going to be gnawed at by rodents, it was a comforting sound.

The Chaos of Thailand seems to extend even to the way the trains move. Unlike the rhythmic, steady click-clack---click-clack of the trains in Europe, our train sounds more like click----click-click-clack-----clunk-swooooosh----clack---clack-click. It’s not bad, just amusing.

We can’t wait to see sunrise in the morning.

-Robin

7 comments:

Hannah said...

I just love reading your adventures! Favor: If you buy some of those kids books for Thanu, could you pick up a few for Jesse? I never saw anything like that while we were there - I'll of course pay you back :) Hopefully you'll have room in your luggage, but if not I'll understand.

Can't wait for more pictures and more adventures from the Kyle & Robin show :)

Melissa May said...

Wow! What an adventure and what thorough details! You're going to be so glad you have this all written down when the years make it hard to remember... I'm glad you have enjoyed some slow days too. : ) I'm going to have to ask you at some point about the Saranrom Royal Gardens back in Bangkok. Our son's last name is Saranrom so I think we'll want to go there! : )

Glen and Andrea said...

Guess what? I think that was the funniest post I've ever read!! Yeah, I was laughing heaps when I read about the park/massage story. And if it somehow happens that you get to the end of your trip and you are saying to each other 'man, we've got so much space left in our luggage and nothing left that we want to bring home, I wonder how we can fill our bags?' Can I please have 1 or 2 of those English Thai books too? The one about the Tuk-tuk sounds good! Like Hannah said, I'll pay you back!

Courtney said...

SO funny! Such a treat to start my day with a good laugh from your blog. And I can't believe that right now you are mere miles away from our daughter!! Can you feel her presence? :) Ok, I will be spending the day thinking of cool lizards and beautiful rivers, and trying hard not to think of dirty toilets and rats in trash cans.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you ones are having a great time. I love how you are so detailed in your posts. I look forward everyday to reading about your adventure.
Nichole

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you got that Thai massage Robin! Have a wonderful time in Chiang Mai- don't forget to check out the night market! And my favorite dish out there was a dish called "Kow-sway". Its a Burmese dish actually but since you are quite close to Burma, most of the restaurants out there serve it. Anyways, I'm looking forward to reading about your next set of adventures :)

Ameena

Becca said...

The first thing I do every morning is run to check your blog! We are really enjoying reading about your adventures and it brings back so many wonderful memories!
Becca