Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Final Days - Bangkok aka hell, and the 83 hour flight back to civilization

Well, we arrived in my favourite city Bangkok and sadly it has not undergone any changes.  It's still stifling hot, the infrastructure is all broken, it's difficult to navigate the streets and raw chicken with flies all over it is still on platters in the sun,   Nothing has changed.

The final day was sad with my daughter.  We were both bone tired and in a gravol stupor from the Red eye bus.  Made our way over to my second favorite place in Thailand, the first hostel who had kept our extra bags which was very nice of them.  We arrived at 5am to yak with a bored bartender who let me have a shower.  Funny, it wasn't as horrifying the second time when you realize much of Thailand is similar, but it was still out of a Stephen King movie gross.  I came out feeling like a million dollars, and prepared my knapsack for the trip home and to take on all daughter's excess and by the time I finished it, I was a river of sweat.  How do this live in this humidity at 5AM????

So she thought I would like the Golden Palace, which is a famous temple.  Due to her superior navigating skills, we traveled the city all day for about 30 cents.  She is travel agent extraordinaire.  At the Golden Palace, we knew already that there was a dress code and it was on the PA the whole time.  We had been wandering the streets and there were police everywhere...something was going on.  At the temple, we joined the sea of humanity- I think all of Thailand was on holidays.  Everything you want to see is mostly outside in the 1000 degree temperature but I have dressed appropriately and she is in a skimpy dress with tiny sleeves.  Out comes my shawl and my outfit is complete.  The only thing I have to offer her is a black omg winter sweater.  The joke was on me; the clothing police pointed to me and told me to cover up; I'm covered from head to toe.  Daughter's tramp dress was fine and I had to wear the black sweater which was my version of a burka.  Now I know have may not have been the best sport up until now but you have NEVER seen a crabbier, more miserable, bitchy traveler than I was on that day.  My poor daughter.  She was watching her coin and I was unbearable so we refused to pay the hefty 500 baht ($17) took a few random photos, did the sour grapes thing, (I never wanted to go anyway) and left.  She was sweet enough to take me to a local trinket shop to see what they were all selling as mementos from the Palace and it was the jade Buddha.  Took a picture and was all caught up.

My reality was the oppressive heat so we bused to Terminal 21, which is an odd high end mall, with air conditioning and each floor is a different themed country.  The main floor highlighted Italy but it was the gorgeous bathroom that captivated us.  The seats were automated with a panel on the side that resembled an airline panel. I didn't have my glasses handy so I took a picture of it and checked out how to use it after.  There is warm water spray for the front, a separate one for the back end, a bidet, a blow dryer and temperature settings.  WTH.  I want this in Canada. We did a bathroom run on the different floors but this was the best.

Daughter was desperately trying to make my last day busy and eventful but we were pooped.  We decided to go see a movie upstairs... chose a kids Dinosaur movie with the intention of sleeping and that's exactly  what we did. She slept more than me and I was enjoying the movie until the baby dinosaur got separated from his family and had to travel alone.  Well, the significance of that event and my 27 year old traveling alone again overwhelmed me and I was the sobbing, Kleenex drenched mommy thinking of deserting her baby in this Bangkok hellhole and then Australia for another year.  Patrons must have thought I really got into the movie.  So glad she slept.

With my red nose, we walked to Chinatown, which to me is the whole city but we were on a mission to find the restaurant we missed on the first arrival date that received a great rating for Pad Thai.  She made me walk, like my older sister always does on vacation.  It's a conspiracy, I'm sure.  100 hours later, feeling hot and sweaty, we arrived to an open building with one single man shaking his head to let us know they were closed, even tho Google said they were open.  Another couple followed behind us with the same reaction.  More forced walking and we settled upon a restaurant called the Sidewalk Cafe and it was quite possibly the food highlight of my trip.

We took lots of pictures and tried to cross the busy streets with median full of flowers and pictures of their king/leader/dictator?  Suddenly, we noticed the streets, which normally had 9 rows of traffic each way were empty.  It was such an eerie feeling.  I took out my camera and heard a voice warn me, "No pictures lady".  The royal family was passing through the downtown and they love their royalty.  His picture is everywhere.  Daughter warned me that if I drop a baht bill on the ground and it starts to fly away, if I step on it, it's game over sister.
Bought matching bracelets and went back one last time to get our luggage and take the final metro to the airport...no tearful goodbyes but it's bittersweet as I don't know when I will see her again.  I've learned that I'm a terrible third world backpacker and my body is reminding me of that.  It saddens me to realize this but I just don't enjoy this anymore.  When did I become old?

Went to use the bathroom and the attendant smiled and talked in Thai to me for 3 minutes...awkward.  I made my exit but she sought me out again to "talk" some more.  Really nice lady but she is the sole attendant for exactly one bathroom; that's it, that's all, nothing else, and there are only 3 stalls.  No wonder she's bored.  This place takes their bathrooms seriously.  Then there were three looking after the bathroom.  WTH.  I can't go with that many people listening.  24 hours earlier, I had buckets of money but now I have nothing left.  Spent it all with daughter.  Canadian money is useless, and the last security confiscated my last water bottle.  I hope I don't perish from the airport smog, poverty or lack of food and water.

Seat selection is very important to me.  I like the aisle seats only and especially if they are only two together; it's a claustrophobic thing.  On the upcoming 5 hour flight, I chose the perfect seat.  Heaven, until a young girl asked in broken English if she could sit beside her relative, and switch seats with me. The old lady beside me starts smiling like a jackal and talking a mile a minute and nodding her head at what  a good idea this is but she speaks not a word of English.  Damn, I really want my seat but this poor young girl will be alone for 5 hours.  Finally, and with a panicky feeling, I very reluctantly agreed to sit in the middle section, only to find out that half the plane are her relatives, she falls instantly asleep for five hours and said not one word to the old bat.  On the next flight, it happens all over again so I said, I will only switch if I end up in a two seater in the aisle.  Since they had to work it out amongst themselves, they gave up and I was happy.

On the flight, time is all screwed up and they deliver lunch or supper at 2am.  I'm all messed up but I eat it anyway.  stood most of the flight at the back and did stretching.  We flew over the North Pole.  Damn, it looked cold.

Back in Ottawa finally.  It's cold and I'm busing home.  The cold is all I could dream of in Bangkok but we've just had an ice storm.  Walking the finally two blocks gives me time to walk one inch at a time, and thinking that I may never eat rice or noodles again. My poor body is a toxic cocktail of smog and Gravol. My hair is gross, I gave up on makeup 17 days earlier and all the clothes that got soaked on the ferry 24 hours earlier, well, they are starting to stink.  I have become that hippy that no one wants to stand downwind from.  Can't wait to eat salad again, and have a bubble bath back at Spoiled Rotten Bed and Breakfast.   I want to be spoiled rotten!!!!!!  I LOVE Canada and my home.
Can you guess- me with my sweater on at the Temple.  Not a happy menopausal traveler in this heat.

The Grand Palace.

At Terminal 21 mall on the Japanese floor.

My beauty at one of the colourful road medians before they almost shot me for taking a picture of their exulted leader.

Street food- scorpions.

Our matching bracelets and the end of our journey together.  

The Golden Palace was sooo busy.

Weird seeing Christmas in the heat.

This bathroom console made my bum happy.

We didn't talk about the elephant in the room- my departure.

The Japanese bathroom was beautiful too.

Chi mannequins.  Hmmm.

The democracy monument.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Off to the islands to Scuba Dive and the Drunkards 26-29 Nov

It's travel day and travel with anyone is challenging; add 12 solid days together with a family member, and it would test the finest relationship, let alone a loving mother and daughter.  Self reminder:  don't kill her off yet as you will surely perish.  She knows that I know that she knows only she can keep me alive.
The flight to Ko Samao was quick but arranging the bus to the subsequent ferry was more challenging.  You know when you are being taken, by choosing the first desk you come to because you are in a very big hurry and they tell you there are only two more seats and of course you are traveling in pairs.  Bloody hell, I know they are taking advantage of us but we pay.  And we did get the ferry so whatever, eh?  It's just money!
While we wait for the ferry, I notice that the scenery is spectacular and all sunsetty; it reminds me of Greece.  The drawback is, the nearby island has just celebrated their Full Moon Party, (an excuse to party and puke) and while we hoped they would all be too hungover to travel, the Night of Living Dead has become our reality and they are all lined up in various methods of drunkdom.  Seriously, some are incapable of walking so they are flung over their friend's shoulder, they must push themselves because there is another Drunken Party walk / Pub Crawl on the next island that is calling them.  Oh, it's going to be a long ferry ride.  They are all in their 20s and exactly what you don't want your young adults to resemble; the great unwashed, hippies, pants off their commando butts to make a plumber proud, and commando because they would have to do laundry...yes, I know I'm coming off not as the cool mom but a tad judgmental. The ride is rough and I should be puking along side of them but my mind is hellbent on being in top form to rush off the ferry and get the best accommodations before these zombies; I did not have to hurry.  I wanted a bungalow on the beach with air conditioning, a luxury none of these travelers would be blessed with, something I should have been more sympathetic about.

The first dive company to overpower us also offered accommodations as they are each affiliated with different places to stay.  It was 1000 baht- holy cow, that's alot ($30) and the places sucked. Finally settled on one that was fine, and the mattress was again, petrified stone, the bathroom is dripping, but the AC rocks.  Sadly, we are a few hours short of signing up for the open water dive and the mood is low.  She rested and I went for a long walk in the dark up endless hills, down thru poverty covered streets, dark roads and full feeling of safety. A young couple of store owners were killing time and one piped up, "How old you".  I overestimated a tad for the shock value and said, I'm almost 60 and they both whispered frantically and smiled.  I have no idea what that was about but I'm hoping they were thinking how well preserved I was.  And the day ended.
Hopefully tomorrow will be a Fun Dive.  Poor daughter, no dive, and almost no communication with dad or sister.  Traveling lonely sucks.

After a relatively early start, once we realized there was no WiFi as promised, we checked out a day early and funny how they are so welcoming when you arrive for two days but leaving early, "don't waste their their time".  Whatever, I get it, but no WiFi, no money.  We cabbed to the next town over and checked out three properties and finally settled on the most expensive one, on our own beach with the waves crashing.  FINALLY!  Why didn't I do this 2 weeks earlier instead of doing the hippy bum thing and saving money.
While she rested from another long night of deserting me and partying, I went into the water and counted my blessings.  It looked like the water's edge was full of seaweed but actually, it was a massive school of fish and every time you walk through them, they part and circle around.  As I was just present, with only my head above water, the strangest phenomenon happened.  All the fish, simultaneously stood on their fins and jumped or flew out of the water towards me as if to attack.  Imagine 1000s of tiny killer goldfish attacking you - it was hilarious and spectacular and surreal.
It was right up there with the bio-luminescence of British Columbia.  Simply stunning.

Now here is where things get dicey.  The really nice dive shop signed us up the previous day.  After talking with many shops, they all agreed, if I have gone diving in the last year or two, I probably don't need the refresher...it's about 1000 baht....( I keep getting caught up in the number of zeros and I think, no way, I can't afford that- $30 to save my life.  I'm a terrible scuba diver).  This company however says within 6 months so I bold face lie and pay just the dive fee.  Once back at the room, later that night, I remember I had taken a picture of the details of my last dive.  It was four years ago.  I was dripping with panic.  I have forgotten everything.  When we arrived though, they said, if I wanted to just sit in on the course to be with my daughter, it was no problem.  OH THANK GOD!  Unfortunately, the scrawny English speaking dive instructor was constantly referring to me, Mama, for the right answers and I just didn't have them.  I don't do well on the spot so I fell back on, "we don't use that sign in Canada".  He rolled his eyes, pretended he believed me and explained it anyway.  It was very nerve wracking trying to appear knowledgeable and save $30.  So not worth it.  Funny thing was, like riding a bike, once you enter the water, it all comes back.

We killed time by walking back to our previous town and shopping, then eating, what else... the same damn thing I've eaten for 17 days.. rice or noodles with our new diving friends.  We got outfitted, crammed my body in a wet suit...a truly humiliating experience beside all the bikini clad 20 somethings putting on their sexy second skins.  I hate them all.  :)  They nimbly leapt into the Dragontail boat and I clumsily did the whale asking permission to beach on the boat thing.  Off that boat onto the larger dive boat to find the only spot left in the Gulf of Thailand that isn't infested with jellyfish.  As we approached Mango Cove, the waves were Titanic and oh so pukey so we had to turn around and find some other spot.  We joined all the 1000s of other dive boats and not one jellyfish.  Diving was amazing but seeing it thru the eyes of a daughter who has waited all her life to do this, and seeing the sheer joy, was worth every penny.  I will live to regret this because I promised, as her Christmas gift, to pay for her certification the next time she is near the area.  At least she will be certified for Australia and the Great Barrier Reef where one day I will see her again and dive.  Right up there on the bucket list.

But I digress.  Daughter signs up for the Pub Crawl and all but telling me in no uncertain terms, I will not be invited, I cannot go, my presence is not required.... and oh, it's for my own good.  I would hate it.  What an ingrate!  She reminded me I could get another massage, eat in a real restaurant and just chill.  No longer the cool mom, I see, so I get my $6 Thai massage and witness some of the best massages on the planet and I leave without tipping again because that is what the internet said and my daughter.  What is challenging about getting massages after you have taken the course is your mind is always on the current techniques and you can't just relax anymore and just enjoy it.  This was the second massage booked with the same person because she was gifted.  Then off to another cheap eating dive and while planning to eat overlooking the water, a chatty traveler and I start yakking and solo dining is not to be.  He's an Emergency driver from NY so out comes my business card.

We see the drunken queue walking down the street and later, I follow the noise to see fire poi is being twirled on he beach.  I know she will be not far but as the drunken masses stand to leave, I see Daughter reach for the poi, and have them set on fire, for her first time, and start spinning like a wild dervish, whatever that is.  OMG, this is what she does when I am not around.    Stunned at how good she is, I take out my camera and start taking pictures, and when she looked up and saw that she had the memory in print, she just beamed.  That was the second top moment of the trip, alongside diving.  What I now have to deal with is knowing she enjoys her all night parties, playing with fire, probably running with scissors and when she is sick, there is no one around to get her better.  These are hard truths for a mom to learn.

We got up early to swim and finally daughter saw the dancing fish, twice.  Damn, and then they reappeared for the old broad as an encore.  We walked to the other town for a Canadian Poutine and the weather was 3000 degrees.  The couple from Canada were so friendly and desperate for Canadian cheese whiz etc.  Remember Seinfeld's sponge worthy episode?  Well these two gems were maple syrup worthy and thrilled.  They had just received another bottle that was almost empty.  He was serving shooters with a slice of Canadian bacon, some booze and maple syrup.  Catchy but no. Unfortunately, I asked the owner about tipping in Thailand and he says you should.  OMG!  I raced back as fast as I could to the massage place and properly take care of her.  I felt like poop for all the others.  If I believe in coming back to re-live my unresolved conflicts, I guess I will have to come back to Bangkok again, God help me.

My friend Linda back home had asked me to pick her up some Thai yoga pants from the factory but as with the maple syrup, it never happened. As you enter all the identical shops, you ask if there are large and in broken English, they respond, "One size only, Thai size.  You too big". Well, in the blink of an eye, I choose three, don't try them on, figure I can let the elastic out  and strike a bargain.  As I waddle away, I realized that I had paid $7 per pants, normally they would be about $60.  Yup, I should have bought many but then I would have to carry many.  Back, home, I realized I was part of the one size fits all club.  Woohoo!

Back at the beach side bungalow, we wait for our ferry transfers that never arrived.  No one is in their stall and we realize they may be on the main road waiting...and waiting and getting very annoyed.  Oops.  The ferry lineups were long, and we were often in the wrong queue.  The ferry was Satanic.  Many hours driving into a tsunami, as the boat tossed and turned like a rag doll.  Daughter sat on the open deck up top with no seats and two new friends loving every minute.  I had relocated to the centre with an airline puke bag glued to my mouth and a green face for hours.  Others on the ferry looked at me with pity, each sporting their own misery.  After many particularly harrowing boat rocking almost too far right and left, I went in my wallet, took out the only gvt document I was willing to lose, my drivers license and slipped it in a deep pocket.  I had heard too many capsized ferry stories lately and I wanted them to know who the foreigner was when the body was washed ashore.  Truly, I thought this was my time.  All of our knapsacks had been placed on the outside deck and covered in tarp.  ALL of the knapsacks were solid laundry that had not gone thru the spin cycle and we would now have no dry clothes for the next 24 hours till my trip home.  I wanna go home, not back to Bangkok/ Hades and definitely not back to the first hostel where our suitcases were- Hell on Earth.  God help me.

We zombie wandered, yes, I had become one of the masses I loved to hate, and were directed to our bus.  Another OMG moment.  It was a sardine open backed mini bus/van with 4 benches facing each other.  This is the all nighter bus.  NOOOOOOOOOOO!  Daughter sees the look of panic and reassures me it's only the bus to the depot.  Whew! It's another harrowing ride but the wait is worth it.  In Thailand,  I took my first bus ride that was an all nighter and the best I've ever taken.  They gave us each snacks and water, a blankie, pillow, the seat reclined FLAT....it was wonderful.  Now, looking like the locals, we head to our last day in Bangkok.

Waiting for the ferry.

My fav bungalow on the beach.

Our beach, shared by all.

She always dresses like me.

She forced me to eat this every day.

Caught her playing with fire.

The scuba diving class.

Looked like Santorini, right?

The dive master.  Funny guy.

Daughter and I.

He liked her.

Lots of hanging beds.

The scary bus.

The great all nighter bus.  

For the record, no one on the planet ever looks as good as she did after diving.  Such a rotten daughter making me look bad.  We were sharing our song, Stolen Dance by Milky Chance tho and that was the best memory.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

More Chang Mai, Festivals, Massage, and good Samaritans - Nov 25 2015

Not a stellar start to a day with tourista and going to do a Thai massage course, with 3 hours of bending.  Oh my! One of my favourite clients wrote me today to inquire about my trip and if I can teach him massage.  Which one, I wonder, hot stones, Thai massage or old faithful? How about Thai Stone Fusion???

I just got smoked by the cabbie and it's my own damned fault for not learning the language.  I asked the front desk for my Thai word for taxi and the word taxi; unfortunately they are not the same thing.  The Thai word is the cheapest cabbie but Taxi is the big ticket item...like ordering a limo at 200 baht, you know, $6!!!  Highway robbery.  Well, this poor driver earned his keep.  I gave him the name, the Thai name, and I showed him the Google MapMe so he could find it but he circled the downtown for what seemed like ages until he called and realized it was in the centre of a block, not to be seen from the road.  It really goes against my grain to not tip but I read about it and my hippy vagabond veteran of travel Daughter assured me you never tip, so I didn't.  I was almost late for the best class I've ever taken.  
By the way, take note, MapMe is the best ever app to download on your phones for getting around without WiFi.  Loved it!!

Back to Thai massage - there were only 5 of us so I was paired with a random Yoga student who spoke not a word of English.  Imagine telling the teacher to translate not to put too much pressure on the bra strap as "the sisters" were getting squashed.  Poor guy.  Miming was challenging.  It was only a three hour class for back massage but somehow, I was so interested that on every break, I would ask the instructor to show me the proper way to do....literally everything.  All the previous massages I had had that week since I had arrived prepared me for learning my favourite moves.  Now, I'm not passing judgment but one snot nosed physio gratefully lapped up the free info and then sneered, "you must be hell on your instructors when you are on course".  Bloody ingrate. 

I did show my gratitude by telling some casual inquirers for the course that they HAD to sign up here.  They did.  Passed out their flyers all day.  
The taxi home was a colossal failure of monstrous proportions.  I showed him the name of my guest house, in English and Thai, and the map again.  Daughter tells me they can't read maps although they put on a good show.  We stopped no less than 4-5x to recheck the maps, his paper and my computer.  I said Inspire and he repeated Spicy Thai hostel.   No, no no.  We circled for about an hour and ended up on the far side of town at the Spicy Thai.  After three other handsome dudes joined us with their own challenges explaining where they were going, I warned them they would be sorry joining my journey.  I was right.  We were sooooo lost.  They were this adorable gay couple from Arizona and wanted to know all about my B&B so I had to pull out yet another business card that happened to be handy.  You never know...
I was so late getting back to join Daughter at her Embassy visit across town, ironically almost across the road from the Spicy Thai hostel.  Outside our hotel, a tuktuk was magically there and the most wonderful partially English speaking driver (maybe that was the miracle) was waiting to take us cross town for next to nothing.  We jumped out a block early and he was worried so as we turned the corner, he parked, got out of his car and followed us.  While we were in line at the embassy, he caught our eye, smiled and waved, happy he didn't desert two nice foreigners left to their own devices. Wow, now that's customer service.  
Sometimes Mom is cool for travelling and other times, her questions are just plain annoying.  I wanted to get more info about the Lantern festival that night.  Everyone in town, ok the misinformed travelers, had too much conflicting information so I wanted to ask the so sweet Embassy dude who always had an accommodating smile.  He gave me the info and said it was an hour bus ride away, he knew because he lived right there.  I intentionally blurted, well wouldn't it be easier for us if we just carpooled with you when you get off work.  He agreed and we were beside ourselves with gratitude.  On the tuktuk over, I again mentioned manifesting a good, safe and available ride to the festival.  Woohoo.  We had to kill 45 minutes so we went to our first temple together, across the road.  Of course we must be dressed properly even tho there was only one other participant.  On went the capris pants and sweaters and shawls....

So we met up with dude and got a direct ride to the university, gave out our first Chinese Canadian maple syrup thankyou bottle and with absolutely no idea where to go next, and not a soul looking "like us" or speaking English, we were on to our next adventure.  I stopped on sole walker and said Lantern??? We got the best directions ever in Thai- the arm point and we were on our way heading down a 1-2 km deserted road with hope.  We were the only "loco" walkers, which was perturbing but the lineup of cars was rush hour long on the dirt, dusty road.   Finally, we joined a mass exodus to see this beauty.  

Here's the scoop.  The city sponsors a city lantern festival along with the floating flowers in the river.  People did it locally but supposedly the city cancelled that one, altho no one seemed to have gotten the memo.  The big one, one hour out of town, is sold out a year in advance at a mind blowing Thai perspective of $100 USD.  There is also another, it's all so confusing, one that the monks offer but they are a rogue breakaway group so we skipped that one.  The one we went to is separated by the big one by a narrow river.  

On one side, is the rich planners who bought a ticket and the other side is for cheapies like us who pay for one lantern and light it up three hours early with all the others and watch it float away, sometimes into the trees to catch fire.  We changed locations a few times and resat in dirt.  One time, we left and walked a ways to a new place.  Five minutes later, a young Thai lad walked up to me in the dark, no less, and asked if I was Miss Cathy?  Ok, come on.  This is getting weird.  When I left the last site, my only credit card fell out of my pocket or purse and he tracked me down.  There is no picture on it and there were LOTS of white people.  Perhaps it was my beauty... but more likely my age that made me memorable. What decrepit old lady travels to Thailand.   I was stunned.  
Our side kept busy for three hours.  Their side lit their 1000s at 9pm sharp and the sky exploded with beauty and fireworks and then they were finished in moments.  Next comes the long, suffocating sardine taxi ride home.  Oh boy, that's fun, and they don't close the rear door so if they slam on breaks, I have no idea if people fall out; oh maybe that's why we are wedged in there.  Imagine going from Cumberland to Kanata, the far side, in rush hour for $3!  

A typical day ends with a wonderful event, for this old broad but not the youngster in the group.  I have more pictures in my collection of early morning parties I was NOT invited to.  I'm getting a complex.  

Well that's almost it for the mainland.  Off to the islands to scuba dive and get Daughter certified and knock another item off her quickly dwindling bucket list.  
The local city random lightings of lanterns

You wouldn't believe how nice this hotel's marketing was for this room.  It was fine but our standard of living was improving.

This is some of the decorations for the parade 
Does your city have gargantuan floats like this.  Amazing!

The local floating of the candle food and flower bouquets.The streets are packed!

Our wonderful tuktuk good Samaritan driver.

It's official, temples won't catch fire when Daughters worship.

The temple

One of the first lightings.  Quite magical.

Perhaps this is better.  The paid side.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Chang Mai for the Lantern Festival and Lei Peng 21-24 Nov 2015

So we're off to Chang Mai to see the famous Lantern festival.  After the previous night of trying to find ANYTHING in festival week, good ole Airbnb came thru, thank God.  
I don't know how the youth travel, party and have energy for the next day.  After shaking up the town til the wee hours, she has leapt out of bed again with a smile on her face.  No idea how she functions with only a few moments of sleep.  Her purse was stolen so this is the first time I've heard of anyone being affected by theft.  I never expect it by others but I also try not to give them the opportunity, or maybe I just travel with crappy old lady stuff no one would want to swipe.  I never feel unsafe on the roads except for the scorching sun from 10 am on, and the narrow rickety streets with millions of rows of motor bike and car, oh ya and they drive on the other side of the road.  Most don't wear helmets because they know where the police hang out.  What kind of logic is that.  Anyway, I'm forever checking the wrong direction for traffic while crossing the street.  So really, I guess I'm terrified all the time. Saw a boy standing in an open truck holding up a mattress.  Safe.   Daughter saw a man talking on his cell phone while riding his motorbike but it was ok; the cell phone was duct taped to his head!

She arranged for a taxi to take us south of the city to our new digs and we were dropped off with no idea where the hotel was.  We wandered up and down the busy street with now 4000 pounds of maple syrup, but to no avail.  Stopped and asked locals who spoke NO English, and they were stumped.  Turned around again and someone pointed further.  Finally, we stopped at a hotel to see if anyone could help us with wifi, a guest secretly gave us the password, and we found out we were actually at the Baan Thai which used to be called Mojo.  Apparently the booking company used an old account so not only did we have a bad time finding the place that no longer existed, we couldn't check in even though Airbnb had our money but Baan T was maybe not going to get paid.  Finally, I used all the authority befitting my stature, wisdom and age and demanded our room and said we would figure it out after.  OMG, it worked.  Go figure.  

It was in this city that we had plans to see things.  The lovely front desk lady directed us to the 1/2 day Elephant sanctuary but when we went to pay, the new girl had no idea so we delay it.  I want to sign up for a Thai Massage so she gave me directions to the school which is just around the corner and across from a 7/11 of which there are many.  "I couldn't miss it".  Oh how many times have I heard that?!  I wandered a long way in the wrong direction and turned around, wandered in the high heat for hours, stopping constantly but never finding it, but I did find a few 7/11s though.   

I now know why they use parasols; they don't want to tan.  They apparently want to look white like us and there stores are full of products to help that happen.  Funny, our stores are full of products to make us look tanned like them.  

So, we swam and prepared for the Best Thai Cookery school out in the country.  The first stop is at the busy market to learn about foreign foods we normally look at quizzically back home.  At the school, we learned how to make mango sticky rice, Pad Thai, Cashew Chicken, Stir fry, soups,...OMG it was good and we each got to set things on fire, which was very nerve racking.  Shot more video.  
We finally booked the Baby Elephant Sanctuary for the next early morning.  The clerk told us we could carry the baby elephants around and me being the idealist, loved the idea.  You do not carry around a 5 year old 250 pound baby elephant who is taller than you in your arms while trying to swaddle it. I'm just stoopid!!!!  I truly believe SHE believed what she told me.  Still working on booking the Thai massage and a Couchsurfing house party.  Did you know that Chang Mai, which is huge, has only 2 million people but Bangkok, which is the armpit of Thailand, and is tiny, has 14 million sardines.  
So we got up long before dawn to wait for transport to the elephants. Now, I realize that this next story will make me sound like a cold heartless bitch but here goes.  Elephants bore the hell out of me.  I had unrealistic expectations of holding tiny suckling babies but was shocked to see how big babies can grow.  There were three for our group of about 6.  One was huge and the other big and both were well trained.  They did pride themselves on having a safe, loving environment but when we followed protocol to greet them, we were rewarded with a well programmed response.  They were there to perform and entertain us.  Feeding was amusing.  Once they knew you had bananas, you could not slow down.  They were like vacuums.  The baby was absolutely filthy so I took picture with it but really didn't want to pet it.  I guess I think I'm better than them.  I dunno.  The final ewww was heading to the pond.  There are two ponds; the first is for them only and they poop balls bigger than grapefruit.  Then they are led to the communal larger pond to be washed down and wet.  The young trainers are thrilled to have all the nubile bathing suit clad girls so they start a splashing session.  I can't imagine any activity I want to do less than having my face and hair constantly splashed with elephant poop water.  I know, when did I become soooo old?! Anyway, maybe it was just the hot sun again that was making me crusty.  Back to the next hotel that was gorgeous....on paper.  Sigh.  Just another average hotel that calls itself a B&B.  
That night, we went towards the city center to watch Lei Ping but we were going away from the festivities into the fantastic parade and I knew it so I was even more miserable.  I went home alone to watch an English chick flick; you have no idea how rare that is, and passed the night waiting for my night owl to return from seeing her friends.  Dang this girl has friends everywhere.  

So here is what I have learned.  
#1  My trip should always be longer than one week in a third world country for me to acclimatize.  The first week is for adjusting and by the second week, all the complaining goes away because I simply give up and go with the flow.  
#2 Never stay longer than a week in a 3rd world country.  Sure your blogs will be full of whining and rants but you will forget them faster and move on to remembering the good times faster.  

At Pai, we saw temples and the 
monk showed us every statue in 
the place so we took tons of pics.

This was the change room
to try on my yoga pants.

Parties happened long after my sleep.  

Thai Cooking school

Baby and me.

Lantern Festival

Lei Pings throngs

The really sweet Tuktuk driver who wanted to be sure we arrived.

Daughter praying and expressing gratitutde but the place never burned down.

The poor mans Lantern festival

Setting our food on fire.  

The Baan Thai.