Photos from Thailand

18 07 2010

I think this is the last chunk of photos from our trip to Asia.  Here are the best photos from Thailand together with some Thai music.

Mae Sai Visa run and then back to Bangkok

26 03 2010

Before entering Thailand from Laos we had heard that we might only get a fifteen day visa exception into Thailand, which would be too short for us, but the Lonely Planet book told us thirty days so we didn’t worry.  When we were at the border we discovered that the 30 day visa is only granted when you fly into Thailand so we only got fifteen days.

That meant that our visa would expire before we fly to Hong Kong and the fine for overstaying your visa is 500 baht per day ($16).  To escape the fine we needed to make a visa run.  A visa run is to go to a neighboring country, only for a few minutes, and then back to Thailand to get extra fifteen days.  The cheapest option is to go to Burma (Myanmar) (Laos $30 and Cambodia $20) where you can get a day permit for $10 or 500 baht, which is very strange since $10 is actually 330 baht ?!?!

For our visa run we drove up to Mae Sai, a small border town by the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet.  The Golden Triangle used to be the world’s biggest opium producer but that has all been cleaned up – at least on the Thai side.  The four hour drive up to Mae Sai was painless and once in Mae Sai we just walked through the Thai immigration office to get stamped out and into the Burma immigration office where we paid the fee got our Burma passport stamp and walked back into Thailand with a new fifteen day visa.  The whole process took about ten minutes and was as simple as could be.

After getting our stamp we drove back to Chang Mai to take the ten hour sleeper bus to Bangkok.  We are only staying the day in Bangkok before talking another sleeper bus down to Chumpon and from Chumpon we take the boat back to Ko Phangan where we intend to load the batteries before taking on China – The Middle Kingdom.  I have a few topics I want to address while on the beach so stay tuned :)

Thai cooking and Pandas

24 03 2010

A few days ago we went to a cooking class with …well I can’t remember the name right now …in Chang Mai.  It was a full day course, thought by the Thai version of Rachel Ray.  She was just like the pirate movies that the street vendors are selling – almost a complete replica.

The course was set up in a way that first we went with our Rachel to the market to buy the stuff we needed and after the market it was time to cook the courses we had chosen – we were able to choose 6 different dishes plus making our own curry paste from scratch.    I picked banana spring rolls for an appetizer, spicy papaya salad, Tom Yum (hot and sour) soup with shrimps, chicken and cashew nut stir-fry, red curry with chicken and mango and sticky rice for dessert.  Elínborg however picked fresh spring rolls, seafood salad, the same Tom Yum soup, Phat Thai stir-fry, green curry with chicken and banana cooked in coconut milk for dessert.

The whole course was a lot of fun and we learned a lot about the Thai ingredients.  We were also told what we could use at home instead of the Thai stuff that we can’t find in our stores.  We seemed to be naturals in Thai cooking, at least everything that we cooked tasted fantastic and the best part of the whole course was to eat all that great food ;)

Now that we know how to cook Thai food, you guys will just have to buy the ingredients and invite us over for dinner and we’ll come and cook for you !!! :)

We also went to the Chang Mai Zoo.  The zoo was just OK, not more, but had a few very interesting animals.  The main problem with the zoo is it is widely spread over a very hilly area so it is hard to walk around. 

We were very impressed with the selection of cats where they had both big and small cats.  In the big section they had white tigers, lions, Asian tigers and both a black and yellow panthers.  The panthers were a lot of fun, the black lady was in heat and the yellow male would make rough love to her every two minutes or so – lasting about 5-10 seconds each time.  The small cats section has some interested cats as well, cats that we hadn’t seen before – desert cat, panther cat, fishing cat and others.

The main attraction of the Chang Mai Zoo are two Pandas, a few months old baby Panda and an adult panda – we weren’t sure which sex.  The baby Panda was awfully cute and full of life.  He sleeps most of the day but is woken up twice a day to play and eat and we managed to be there for that.  He was like a two year old human kid, running all over and playing with his keepers, doesn’t want to do anything he is told to do – just play.

The older one was not as playful at all, just sat and ate and only moved to get more bamboo to eat.  You could really see though that Pandas are not just cuddly cute teddy bears, he or she had huge fangs and seemed powerful enough to snap a human in half in a few seconds.

…and now the Jungle Flight

21 03 2010

Yesterday I persuaded Elínborg to join me on a trip with a company called Jungle Flight.  The guys at Jungle Fight have set up a zip wire course in the canopy of the jungle in the mountains beyond Chang Mai, similar to the original Flight of the Gibbon.  The course consists of 33 platforms with 26 zip wires, 2 sky-bridges, 4 abseils and one spiral stair case.  The longest wire is 300 meters long and the highest is 120 meters above the ground.

In the beginning (and the whole day before) Elínborg was terrified of the thought of hanging high up in these wires and the anxiety didn’t lessen when we came on site.  The staff was made up of of guys that, already at just after seven in the morning, acted like a heard of calves in the spring – cracking jokes, all laughing and making noise and didn’t  seem responsible at all.

After brief instructions we went for the first zip wire and when in business the guys were very careful and responsible – although continually making jokes.  Right from the beginning both of us were loving the experience and all fright was out the window.  It was so much fun being up in the canopy and sliding over those wires, enjoying the view.

Gradually we learned more tricks and got more frisky and went head first – Superman style, we went together on twin wires, went backwards and without hands.  The distances, height and speed varied greatly so sliding on the wire never got old.  In between they also had the abseils where a rope is fastened to your back and a guy lowers you down in a Mission Impossible kind of style, down 20 to 40 meters at full speed – a fantastic adrenalin injection.

We had opted for a cheaper option, 22 platforms, but midway through we were offered to upgrade, which we gladly accepted.  I don’t think anyone could pass up on that opportunity being midway through the course.  We were in a group with two Taiwanese girls that were doing the big circuit and that made the decision even easier.

So we had a great day in the forest and all in all it was a great experience and a lot of fun that I hope can shines through in the photos – we would highly recommend this to anyone that has the chance!

Tiger Kingdom and Jungle Flight

20 03 2010

We have just been loving life here in Chang Mai.  First of all it is great to return to some sort of organization after Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.  This time around we really notice how much better off the Thais are – both in terms of organization and money.  Another great thing that we were really missing is the Thai food.  Being back to fantastic red or green curry, tom yum soup and other fantastic dishes is just great!

The first day in Chang Mai we just wandered around the city, trying to get our bearings.  On the second day we decided to take a tuktuk to the Tiger Kingdom, a park with about 30 or so tigers.  We had very mixed feelings going in, you never know how the animals are treated and how things work.

The deal is that you can come and have a peak into one of the cages and then you can buy 15 minutes with one (or many) of four different age groups – newborns, “teenagers” and adults – with the newborns a bit pricier than the others ($15 vs. $10).  We thought long and hard if we wanted to do this, we had seen that if you go in with the adults you are not really petting them, more approaching them from behind and tap on them and it felt very strange to us and not worth the experience – except maybe just getting the thrill of standing next to an adult tiger.

So we opted for seeing the baby tigers since we were there and just to sum up – the experience was amazing!  Once we came into the enclosure where they were kept – by the way they were three 6 weeks old kittens – one of them just ran to Elínborg and right into her lap and he stayed around us the whole time.  The kittens are a bit tricky because they just go where they want and we were not allowed to hold them, fetch them or anything – just be there and if they wanted to play then we could play with them.  Those ten to fifteen minutes with Kankoon (Jack Fruit) were just wonderful and so much fun!

Elínborg with little Jack Fruit

After seeing the baby tigers we were allowed to walk around the part and see the other tigers (through the fence) and what amazing animals they are – so graceful and elegant.

The teenagers

After the whole visit we felt really good and had no second thoughts.  All the animals were born in captivity, they seemed very healthy and well taken care of and seemed happy to us (without a degree in tiger psychology though).

Well this has been long enough, I’ll just post about the Jungle Flight experience tomorrow.

All the way from Vientiane to Chang Mai in Thailand

18 03 2010

After the fun in Vang Vieng we took the bus down to Vientiane, the Laos’ capital.  Vientiane is a nice and cozy city but we had heard that there are not that many things to do and see there.  We therefore decided to get a room for the night and head for Thailand in the morning.

At the guesthouse we met new friends when we were going to sleep – there were bedbugs in the bed!!!  At first we saw one and thought that it was just some harmless bug but soon there were others that followed.  Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep that night and hurried away from the guesthouse as soon as possible – after refusing to pay the agreed rate.  What got us even more angry was that they seemed to know there were bedbugs in the room and rented it to us anyway …bastards!

We had seen tickets from Vientiane to Chang Mai in Thailand for 1,100-1,500 baht ($33-$45), which felt way too much for us – the savvy travelers :) so we decided to go on our own.  We had seen that everything seemed to be overpriced in Vientiane and felt sure we could do better when in Thailand.  We went to the local bus station and got a ticket to the nearest big Thai town (Udon Thani) for 80 baht – a good start.  Going through the border was extremely easy and straight forward …and no payment to get the Thai visa, which is nice :)

For some reason most towns around here have at least two, if not more, bus stations and it is not uncommon that you have to get your self from one station to the next if you have to change busses.  On top of that the bus stations are often outside the towns and that doesn’t make things easier.  Anyway we had to take a tuktuk between bus stations and got a ticket to Chang Mai three hours later for 525 baht.  By showing a little initiative we saved about 50% or 600 baht on the fare, which is huge in backpacker terms, and arrived in Chang Mai 3 hours sooner than if we would have taken the Vientiane-Chang Mai bus so we saved both time and money :)

I have to admit that the 14 hour bus ride was no luxury ride, we had one stop after seven hours and that was it.  Twenty minutes to pee and eat.  Apparently we had a toilet on board but that wasn’t really accessible because the bus was completely full with about fifteen people standing in the middle without any seats – some of them were standing for hours.

We were very happy to reach Chang Mai where we knew of a great guesthouse in the middle of town waiting for us.  Chang Mai is the main city in Northern Thailand and offers a lot of tours and activities that we are now trying to decide between so stay tuned!

ps. we have not been taking enough photos recently as you can see by the crappy photos in the last few posts but I promise that we’ll shape up here in Chang Mai ;)