Do you know what I miss most about the States? It's not the food or the lack of a language barrier or the overpriced food. It's the bathrooms. Yup, you read that right. Let me explain. When you go to the bathroom in Southeast Asia, there is a 90% chance that you will be using a squatting toilet. For those of us with questionable coordination, this is already decidedly not the dream. On top of that you have the serious probability of a lack of toilet paper, which leaves you up sh*t creek without a paddle in every manner of speaking. To combat the issue, there are cheap napkin-esque packages for less than a dollar at every convenience store and you just have to keep them on your person at all times in case of an emergency. And lastly, the soap. A bar of soap is something I never perceived as a luxury before traveling through this part of the world, but boy oh boy do I get excited when I see soap at the sink after using a public bathroom nowadays. It's not often that you get the trifecta - an actual toilet, toilet paper and soap, but when you do, it's cause for celebration.
Speaking of celebrations, we did make it to our newest country (#22 for me but who's counting) all in one piece, which is a feat in and of itself considering who we are as people. Mind you this was after I had to pay EIGHTY FREAKING DOLLARS to check my TOTALLY ABLE TO FIT IN THE OVERHEAD BIN bag on our flight from Siem Reap to Chiang Rai. My own personal actual ticket for a real life human person only cost $120! Are you seriously going to charge me 2/3 of the price of my ticket for a twenty pound bag?! The answer is yes. Yes they were. I was not happy, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it - except say no and stay in the sweltering heat of Siem Reap, so I paid the absurdly high and totally unnecessary fee and we rolled through security without a hitch. One three hour layover in Bangkok involving uncertainty about whether I would get a visa (the visa guy was glaring at me like I wasn't worthy of his country), some crappy airport food, and a much needed ice cream to soothe the pain of the cost of my luggage's international travels, and we arrived in Chiang Rai. We expected an onslaught of tuktuk drivers and taxis vying for our attention upon exiting the building, but there was almost no one, which was almost just as bad. We had read that taxis were way overpriced from the airport (as per usual) so were wary of them, but couldn't think of another option until we realized Uber and Grab are a thing. We headed back to the airport (we had wandered a bit in search of transportation) and linked up to the WiFi to find ourselves an Uber.
We arrived at our hostel (Koon Cha Learn Backpackers Hostel - totally recommend if you're looking for a few quiet nights with an incredibly accommodating Thai family) just in time to grab dinner at the nearby night market. We filled our bellies and emptied our wallets as we wandered the stalls of the bazaar looking at anklets and bracelets (which we now wear in excess and are collecting from each city we visit). Ky found himself a coin purse - which he would like to reassure you is incredibly masculine - bc Thai baht use coins for the lower denominations and coins and leather wallets don't get along. We searched for Deet just about everywhere we went (we need a new bottle bc I didn't bring mine to Thailand bc it was too big and I didn't think I would be CHECKING MY BAG) but literally could not find it anywhere and have still yet to encounter it, so we're thinking the Thai are just immune to malaria and mosquito bites and dengue fever and aren't concerned with the rest of us running into problems. If I don't respond for awhile I'm probs at the hospital trying not to die of some mosquito transmitted infirmity so cross your fingers for me.
The next morning we rented motorbikes again, despite our reservations. Why so hesitant, you ask, after already having used them twice? Bc in Thailand they drive on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. I would call it the "other" side, but "wrong" really does the same job, doesn't it? If you remember at all, I was in England a few months ago and my survival was uncertain when I was just walking from place to place. So naturally, I rented a motorized vehicle. The motorcycle rental guy must have known about my need for speed and tendency towards idiocy/injury, however, bc he gave Ky a bike similar to the ones we've ridden before while he gave me what can only be described as the Easy Bake Oven of motorbikes: plastic, colorful, and not worth a damn. Either he knew I'd probs be wrecking the bike, or he was a sexist bastard who thought I couldn't handle the big kid bike. Either way, the bike served its purpose, which was to get us around the city for the day visiting a massive female Buddha statue and the most gorgeous temples I've seen to date which have more eloquent names in Thai but their beauty is wasted on Westerners like you and I for whom they have dubbed them the White Temple and the Blue Temple.
While visiting the White Temple, Ky decided to add a little excitement to our lives when he realized he LEFT HIS MOTORBIKE KEYS IN THE GODDAMN IGNITION and absolutely booked it out of the temple to find out if the bike was still there. Thankfully it was bc I can tell you right now that my Easy-Bake-Oven-Vespa-thing masquerading as a motorbike was most definitely not going to be able to carry both of us back to the hostel. It would fall apart along the way and we'd be left with something comparable to the Flinstones' car. After our heart rates slowed to normal rates, we headed to drop off our bikes and grab dinner at the night market again bc we are absolutely obsessed with them no matter where we are. The food is cheaper, the people are more awesome, and there's just so much to see!
But sometimes, friends, you see things you don't want to see. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Sometimes you forget where you are and how vast cultural differences can be until you see something that reminds you where you are. On this occasion, we saw pimps. I know we're in Thailand, so your immediate thought would be actual pimps, right? Wrong. These are worse. SoOooOoOOo much worse. They're bugs. Or at least they're classified as bugs, though the term "nightmarish creatures from hell" seems more apt. They're actually called maeng da bugs, also known as water bugs. But you don't eat these like crickets or centipedes, which can be sauteed and kind of taste like popcorn. No, no. That would be too easy. These demon bugs are a damn mission to eat. You have to pull the wings off, separate the head from the body, slurp the meat out of the body, and then eat the head. If the head is too hard to chew you scoop the edible bits out with your finger. I have provided a picture below in case you hate yourself enough to take a look.
**pause reading to vomit**
Now that you're back, I'll end this post with an image that doesn't make you want to actively end your life. Today we took a bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, and we almost missed it. And by almost, I mean we did miss it. We had a slow morning of packing and renting bikes to grab lunch in town and enjoying another sinfully delicious Thai tea, thinking that our bus left at 4PM and we needed to be at the station at 3PM. That was not the case. Our bus left at 3PM. We arrived at the station at 3.04PM to a very nice Thai man telling us our bus was gone. It wasn't until we looked at the ticket that we realized we were (are) actual idiots. What's worse is I'm someone who checks every ticket and reservation like 73x so as not to miss it or mix up the dates or times or locations or what have you.
We thought we'd have to buy a new ticket for that evening, but the bus company employee we had spoken with walked us over to a line of tuktuks, selected one for us, and we were off faster than I even understood what was happening. All we knew was that our bus was due to make another stop in town and that we might be able to catch it in time. Now listen, I don't know what that bus employee guy told our tuktuk driver, but this old guy drove like he was in the middle of filming Fast and Furious 7. He had places to be and idiot westerners to deliver to their missed bus bc they're illiterate and man, did he deliver. We think the bus company guy called from his station to the other so that the bus would stop, bc as soon as our savior of a tuktuk driver dropped us off at the second station - I could have kissed him when I realized our bus was still there - we boarded our bus and it left immediately for Chiang Mai.
In conclusion, Thai people are literally the nicest humans I have ever come in contact with. They didn't have to make all that effort for us, but they did. It was a beautiful reminder of how wonderful human beings can be. Like, it wouldn't have been the end of the world to have to buy another set of $10 bus tickets at a later time in the evening, but they had absolutely no obligation to even kind of help us out, let alone stop the whole production so that our dumb*sses could catch our bus. But they did. To have that mindset and live that lifestyle is so unbelievably important to me, and to be in a country where it truly seems to be the thought process of the overwhelming majority is beyond heartwarming.
But for now, I have a new city to enjoy and new night markets to venture out into, so this is where I leave you folx. It's shaping up to be a pretty awesome few days here in Chiang Mai so I promise to update you as soon as I have the capacity to keep my eyes open and stare at my computer a little longer.
Lots of love from Thailand,
Today's list of surprises and differences:
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Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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