thailand

Jungle clean

It’s almost competitive, the majestic of the sky and the mountains here. The mountains are beautiful and should make the clouds look smaller but they compete with such ease you can’t give either enough attention.

Our last day, the breakfast bell rings early. Pee Naan Jim and Pee Naan Tea have made breakfast special since we decided to climb the mountain today. They send us with two hard boiled eggs and five bananas each. Oh, and sticky rice, to the mountain. The entire crew of volunteers (minus sick Sophie) ascend with no sign of trail.

From muddy, snakey, spidery woods, we find dry, pine covered grounds as the view starts to subtly take. our. breath. away. The mountain ridge leads us to the misleading top nearly four times before we celebrate the peak with our humble feast. Everyone lays out, is quiet, ignores the thoughts of the inevitable and exhausting trek down.

Two parties split and mine is strangely welcomed as we accidentally climb into a local woman’s home. She sports a shirt that reads “I’m cute? No shit” and speaks no English. We speak no Thai, so our communication is brief. We rush the showers, and as I turn off the suspended hose, muscles strained, body clean, I’m the happiest. I look out on mountains and painted clouds on the walk to my bamboo hut (whose floor I’m about to fall through any day now).

The garden salla has become our coziest of meetings spots. After hard mornings of work, we retire in the shade to our books for hours until the sun sets. Volunteers come and go to the showers, to the kitchen, to the village, to their huts. Mad swarms of dragonflies occupy the recently weeded gardens and the row of four ducks hurry by.

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We spend all our time living.

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In the mornings, we wake up and make breakfast. Breakfast always includes sticky rice but we were lucky to catch the end of avocado season and I believe Niav is responsible for the introduction of some eggs, some potatoes, some pancakes? We pray ” every pee naan please go to the mountain and eat a lot. go for it. namaste. and live a long life” – Pee Naan Jim.

We clean. we work. we cook. we eat. we clean. we rest. we cook. we eat. we clean. we rest. we meditate. we sleep.

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One lucky day, however, Buddha day, pee naan jim rented us a truck. 7 pee naans and a chicken in the back, we drove around the villages and through the mountains. Pee naan tea stops us in the road to crack nuts open with sticks for future snacking. We lose our way and end up in the front yard of a hot spring resort. As lions, we bask in the sun, bath in the river, and eat. We move slowly.
No plans, no schedule, nothing to get back to. Nothing that needs doing.

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Our ride ^ look close for the chicken!

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Pee naan Vince, ten years of dreads falling low beneath his hips, hands Niav his small knife to cut into the first egg of his feast.

“Is it clean?”
“jungle clean”

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Thinking outloud

I’ve never traveled this way. I’ve backpacked around Europe couch surfing and moving often and ive studied for four months in India but never have i spent almost four months traveling, moving, staying still a bit, moving quickly.

Wandering around a city, no matter how new and different the city, remains the same activity: wandering, You begin to really feel cloud-like, pixelated cloud-like when it’s deep. Floaty, without something grounding you or making you sit down and focus every once in a while. ( It’s only been a week!)

I’ve never traveled around this long with another person. It’s amazing but easy to fall back on each other in a very comfortable way. Laziness or fear? I think laziness on this one. You feel less a need to make friends and talk to strangers.

It’s great for these same reasons and more. Having a person you’re close with to share these views, tastes, smells, sounds, experiences with is amazing. In real time.

It’s amazing to see what the two of you see and don’t see when looking out on the same scene. What you take with you, how your mind changes. Having to vocalize and articulate all of it is good for me. We are learning a whole lot.

Cooking Thai

We started at a local market. Anything you could want (and much much much more) filled the stalls which filled the aisles. She showed us the difference in rices from sticky to jasmine to black sticky (woah).

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Coconut milk and cream. Mature coconuts with the shell are ground up and ground up and ground up.

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Fairwell to the market, our guide, Ebee, and the 12 of us drive back through the city and out to their farm. We arrive and are shown around the garden, tasting leaves and bitter eggplants before finding our stations, prepared with ingredients for the first dish.

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We put jasmine rice and sticky rice on to cook for awhile. Sticky rice is fun to play with but needs soaking overnight.

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The first dish is curry. Options are red, green, and yellow. I picked yellow for the turmeric and cumin addition and added shallots, galangal, kaffir lime rind, garlic, krachai, lemon grass, and coriander. We pounded curry paste for a long time.

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Until it looked like this, and set it aside.

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Then we transitioned to soup. I made a coconut milk soup with tons of lemongrass, onions, tomato, tofu, as well as hotbchillies, kaffir lime leaves, coriander, chives, galangal, soy sauce, and lime juice!

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Adding coconut milk and water to the pot, we chopped up veggies, added basil, tofu, and fish sauce.

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(more ingredients… that’s a LOOOONG pea)

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Lunch consisted of jasmine rice and sticky rice, our curry and our soup. So much food/ under the table nap time.

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Back to work! Pad thai ingredients, let’s go.

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Cooking the tofu, onions, and garlic before adding in the egg, we heated the oil in our mini woks. Added carrots, sprouts, and Chinese leeks before removing from the wok. We then cooked the noodles and added our sauce. Finally, mixing everything together and garnishing with chili, peanuts, and a lime!

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Coconut, banana dessert.

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Century egg. This egg is fermented in sulfates, ash, clay, quicklime, and rice hulls for a number of weeks, to a number of months.

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Mango with sticky rice was a delicious dessert that is pretty self explanatory. We made a coconut milk sauce by adding palm sugar to coconut milk and poured it over our sticky rice. We added a ripe mango and garnished with roasted mung beans. Before driving home – full.

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Heading to a farm tomorrow for up to ten days, not sure if I’ll be able to write from there but will see!

Did I mention that I love Chiang Mai?
I love Chiang Mai!

How many temples is too many temples?

chiang mai has more than 200 temples! (lots of dragons!) We hardly made it to all of them, but visited a ton today. We went to Wat Prah Singh which was built in 1345 and to an old Burmese temple where we waited out the quick downpour. Lots of dragons, Ganesha’s, and other elephants! I totally caught a monk hanging out on facebook in one of the temples outside the city walls.

The pictures look from different days if we focus on the weather, sunshine to downpour, overcast to blue skies.

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Along with exploring temples today, we experienced ourselves an adventurous day of food.

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Kao Soi (below) is a must have

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Qual eggs

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Sunday market was incredible. Almost no need in visiting the night bazaar with a market like this one in town! Massive, tons of unique products at better prices, and amazing food!

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One hour foot massages for 200B (about 7 dollars) and delicious burmese salads (recommendation from Chris and Mckenzie – amazing!). We still could not find crickets, but had all sorts of things I don’t know the names of!

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Chiang Mai

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Chiang Mai’s a big change from Bangkok. Quiet, clean, walkable, and charming to start. I really love this city already. Tons of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and a seemingly young, creative population. It’s amazingly quiet and even the night bazaar seemed subdued and on its best behavior on a saturday night.

We had amazing Indian food and coconut water but couldn’t find success with our search for fried crickets… it continues! We walked all around the outside walls of the city and felt totally welcome before night capping with a bucket of mojito? When there are four straws in a drink you’re sharing with only one other person…you begin to question your sharing skills.

An outside bar area had battling musicians reminding me of a much quieter version of Burning Man with less techno, more American 90’s covers.

Unfortunately, sleep went missing in the night. No AC is mostly responsible and wandering minds of too flexible travelers. We keep trying to nail down some dates and places but there’s an entire new city outside our digital devices to explore!

Tomorrow, a full day cooking class outside the city, and today, we will visit tons of temples. Chiang Mai has tons of temples.

My parents have so instilled in me to be scared of motorbikes that I’m choosing NOT to rent one even though they are so cheap and practical (parents, I hope you’re proud!). The city is walkable and bike-able but still quite large!

Has anyone ever tried Unique Internet? I wonder what that’s like…

no smoking in bed

Bangkok chaos. we’d been warned but I’ve never been so disoriented in a city with no glimpse of hope in understanding it.The cleansliness and organization of Bangkok’s subway system impressed us but Tuktuk’s, as in all my experiences with Tuktuks, were exhausting.

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Accomodation:
We stayed (very happily) at the MHC guesthouse. A good sized,air conditioned room with a mini fridge, tv, and private shower! (Okay, so we spoiled ourselves, but it’s a long trip! ) The location was great, super close to the subway station, only a few stops from Nana (Bangkok’s red light district), soi 11 (a great street of bars & clubs), and a beautiful park occupied by tons of runners and walkers. Free coffee and tea, plus a super helpful, friendly staff.

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Thai massages: Lucina, soi 26
Be prepared for a full body experience. Full body for everyone involved.
450Bhat (about $15) for a 90 minute full body massage. It was great and strange and felt good and bad. Definitely worth it!

Food!
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Chinatown, stressful.
Chinatown makes me not want to go to China. I’m always in the way, I have no idea what anything is, and it’s hot. I feel bad that i feel this way.

Sky bar: Red Sky
Top floor in the city, beautiful view and fancy prices.

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15 hour train to Chang Mai, sleeper, second class. We had the top two bunks over two Belgium kids on a three week venture. Staff walking buy selling beer and hard-core pouting when we declined. Finally granted the time to write, read, and really sleep. I woke up at 5am and went to the restaurant cart where I was clearly unwelcome. Staff just waking up, prepping themselves and food for the day. Windows open, mountains hidden in the mist.

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I already love this city. No motorcycles on sidewalks. It’s walkable, laid back, and we are about to eat fried crickets!

Meanwhile, Carolyn cut off my hair, it’s hot here!

Alternative Agenda

Late start… and a slow one. We paid for last night’s celebration of sky water and two unadjusted-to-the-time-difference bodies. By noon we were out the door trying to decide what road side breakfast to go for. 25 baht for scrambled eggs and rice, 15 baht for a bag of fresh pineapple and some mystery delicious fruit. (about 30 baht = 1 USD) The next question… where can we eat this? No tables or chairs, no one eating anywhere, but food carts everywhere.

We somehow managed.

The public transportation in Bangkok is awesome. The train, at least, everything else is hard because of traffic and fighting constant rip offs. The train is like Tokyo’s, clean, well behaved, and overall extremely pleasant MINUS the complexity of the Tokyo system. Today, however, we added tutus and the river ferry to the list.

The river ferry was convenient and watery… lots of super fancy hotels. The ones that make you want to make money. Money so that when you decide to stay in a hostel or on a strangers house or on the airport floor, it’s a choice. One I’d still make!

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We passed lots of temples and somehow, with saying almost nothing… got set up on strange personal tuktuk tour with a man and two squirrels.

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He took us to the big buddha:
(not a real link!)

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and to this place:

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He made us go into one of those terribly overpriced stores that will pay him in gas for bringing tourists in to the store. The deal is that we have to stay inside for at least five minutes while they aggressively follow you around and tell you to buy. It’s as bad as in India. This was totally a scam and he rerouted our temple visiting pretty quick.

we stopped at the flower market:

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robots!

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there is just no getting enough street food

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