A few more weeks into Chiang Mai and we are more settled in to life and have even ventured out of Thailand…
Firstly I’ll share some delights of living here – I have found a sweet lady who does our laundry AND ironing for the same price as an iced coffee! She does a fabulous job and I’m seriously considering packing her up and keeping her for life ;). Then there’s the markets! Its lovely walking down in the morning sunshine, stocking up on organic fruit and veggies for the week, every time I’m still amazed at how much I get for under a fiver! It’s impossible to carry it all home.
The past few weeks I made it my mission to find somewhere to do my Pilates and practice yoga. There isn’t too much equipment Pilates here, but I found a place very close by and booked a private session as that’s all they do. Well….within 20mins the instructor established he wasn’t going to be able to charge me because he realised he couldn’t teach me much and arranged a contra deal – I teach all the instructors how to teach Pilates once or twice a week in return for me being able to use the studio to work out. Sorted! They’re a funny bunch though as they don’t like to sweat!? Apparently it’s a Thai thing, but I think they’re realising they’ll have to get over that if they are working with me. For the same ‘no sweating’ reasons, I’ve found it a little difficult to find a yoga class worth attending but think I finally struck it lucky on my 5th class…phew.
Lunch with the Monks and my inappropriate attire
Still testing out various ‘eats’, we had a memorable time going to a vegetarian cafe ( being a predominantly Buddhist country there are many) situated at the back of The Monks Chat Room. Bells probably should have rung for me when the location was described but alas we arrive and not only is it in the grounds of a temple, but it’s a university for monks and there I am in my shortest shorts and singlet top – to fill you in, when visiting temples they advise wearing long trousers or skirts and to cover up your shoulders, and as a woman you must be careful walking past a monk, cos if you brush them they have to do some intense cleansing ritual. So as you may imagine, my goodness, talk about feeling self conscious! I ran to the table and quickly covered myself up with the table cloth, eating swiftly, then it was a very brisk walk out of the place. I’m sure they’ve seen it before but I did feel like I was being rather disrespectful….I now carry my shawl when out, just in case.
Last weekend we headed off to Vientiane, Laos for what travellers call ‘a visa run’. The airport in Chiang Mai was already an adventure in that our plane was a
Before we knew this was to be The Pink Plane of Death
rather archaic two propeller plane, however it was pink so I was sure it would all be fine. Hmmmm! Now I’m extremely relaxed about flying, take offs and landings, but I must say it was a pretty steep take off and the landing was nose down, more like a steep roller coaster ride than a commute on the plane – the pilot got very fancy with the brakes and acceleration before we landed too which didn’t really do much for our trust and confidence in him. Then as if that wasn’t enough, to add to the excitement it seemed the plane didn’t slow down once landed and it felt like we were driving down the tarmac with the plane doing a speed I thought was only for formula one cars. Clearly though, we did arrive safely and I think the whole thing is absolutely normal for them as our return was very similar. I won’t bore you with the details but lets just say it was a long trip that included a plane, tuk tuk, long wait, bus, tuk tuk, bus and car….and the bus station in Udon Thani, Thailand was the furthest thing I’ve ever seen from a bus station!
We had an interesting old time at our hotel in Vientiane which was supposed to be ’boutique’. We got into our room on the first night and there was a select swarm of mosquitoes buzzing around…eek! They love me so Michael always knows he’s safe, however we both ended up sleeping with deet on, firmly under the covers of our rock hard bed and the fan of the air con on so high that it sounded like there were gale force winds happening in our room. The most incredible thing about this situation is that we have come on our travels completely prepared to be at war with mosquitoes…we have a net to sleep under, mosquito mat repellents as well as a healthy supply of strong deet, however it was only the latter we brought with us.
Along the Mekong River – King Chao Anouvong offering hand of friendship to Thailand
The city sits on the Mekong river and across the river is Thailand, the bridge that connects the two countries is called ‘The Friendship Bridge’ which is a nice thing I think. Michael and I walked along the river front during the day, which is a lovely big kind of park and there weren’t too many people around but come night time it turns into a Bondi/Venice Beach vibe with people jogging along, cycling, kids playing ball games. To top it off at 6pm every night they have two aerobics classes going on either end of the park and I kid you not, about 100 people in each, pretty entertaining to watch and we were tempted to join in for a laugh but there were no westerners and we felt we might stick out a bit 😉 This whole scene was a far cry from the temples we visited (modestly dressed this time).
I don’t think Vientiane is Laos’ jewel, but we did have a fun time, there were a few ‘photo moments’ and we did learn
Beauty at one of the temples
how to say ‘too expensive’ in Laos, a necessity when bartering for tuk tuks as they crack a smile, understand you’re not such a tourist and we’re in business. In the end, we went to get our double entry tourist visa for Thailand and mission was accomplished.
Trying to blend in with the Buddhas at Wat Sisaket, the oldest surviving temple in Vientiane
So that’s the latest….till next time.