Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation-Tuk Tuk

Chiang Mai The Final Day

After waking up at the elephant park and watching the next group of tourists feed the elephants we headed out on a trek up a mountain/hill. We were rewarded with a waterfall to swim in at the top and then a reverse hike down the way we came up.

Chiang Mai Trek - Waterfall

Josh & Tiff Chiang Mai Trek

You like those pants? Totally functional in this weather and everyone is wearing them over here.

We ended the day with a white water rafting trip and then a traditional Thai bamboo raft that Joshua had to steer. Not maybe worth the plane ticket over just for this day but in the grand scheme of life - still fun!

Tomorrow we head to the beach. And when I say "the beach" I mean "The Beach." Ten Points to anyone who is not Carl who can name that location.

Friday, October 29, 2010

English Word for the Day

We totally lucked out on our elephant adventure. We decided to splurge and spend a day and a night at the elephant park and hands down most interesting part of the trip so far. Do you know the english word for elephant caretaker?

Baan Chang tiff riding elephant 1

Baan Chang joshua feeding elephant

It's mahout. File that away in useless knowledge. These guys basically adopt an elephant and spend every day taking care of them. The elephants only sleep 3 or 4 hours so these guys only sleep that long. They get paid basically nothing but they do it because they love elephants. I liken it a bit to being a ski bum.

Baan Chang elephant and mahout Baan Chang 29
These were my two favorite mahouts that we met over the campfire that night. The one on the left is the leader of the mahouts and takes care of the 2 year old elephant. He also lost all of his front teeth in a scooter accident. The one on the right took us to see the sleeping elephants. Both are from Burma. Did you know that elephants sleep with their trunk in their mouth? And that is item number two of useless but interesting knowledge for you. You are welcome!

Baan Chang-Josh & Tiff in water

The most fun/gross part of the day was cleaning our elephant in the pond. I won't go into details, but let's just say the bottom was about a foot of "sludge", and only half of it was dirt. Still an amazing experience though. We walked away from the day saying "did we really just do that?"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thai Cooking 101

Did we make the perfect curry paste? Nope.

Did we give it the college try? Absolutely

Thai Cooking School-Joshua cutting ingredients

Thai Cooking School-papaya salad

Thai Cooking School eating

We do know enough now to attempt pad thai, 2 different kinds of stir fry spring rolls and in theory we can make curry paste from scratch. We also know that I don't like pumpkin in coconut cream. Well worth the time I think.

With every passing day we are noticing that we don't come across many Americans. Like none. We've met all kinds of Europeans, Canadians and plenty of Aussies but our country is poorly represented in this side of the world. I don't understand how we could have met two separate groups from Belgium in two different parts of Chiang Mai but not a soul from the States. It's crazy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chiang of Pace

After 15 hours of train/bus travel we arrived in Chiang Mai. The feeling of decompression was immediate. I liken the city to Verona, Italy: quaint, laid back, idyllic in many ways, but still plenty of city life, history, culture, etc. We settled in at our new temporary abode: the Thapae Boutique House. The value in Thailand is amazing. For roughly $28/night we have a lovely room, free wi-fi, breakfast and service that puts Hampton Inn to shame (and most every other US hotel experience for that matter) all located in the heart of the city. They even do take out laundry: $2 for a full bag of clothes. I could definitely see staying here for a while.

Thapae Hotel
Once we settled, we got out and did a little walking tour. Saw some more buddhas, got a dirt cheap massage at the women's prison (wouldn't have thought women doing hard time would laugh that much, but I think it's awesome that they're learning a trade and getting to practice on tourists!) then explored Tha Pae Road.

Wat Phra Singh
(in case you don't recognize it, that's excitement on Tiff's face)

Once the sun exited we hit the night market for a bit

Night Market
then grabbed some dinner at the "Good View Restaurant". Although the name leaves something to be desired in creativity, the ambiance and view more than compensated.

Good view restaurant

Ping River

Tomorrow's agenda: A day learning how to cook Thai food at a local farm. Curry here we come!

The Fykes and Floods

2010 may be the year of the Tiger but seems to me it should be the year of floods. Thailand is having some crazy rain in the north that is causing some serious issues with the rivers and canals further south. We just barely made it out of Bangkok last night because the rail lines are starting to be covered with water and impassible. We had luckily arrived early enough to catch what was going to be the last train out.

Along the way they had to take us off the train and put us in buses to drive through the worst part. Personally, I would think a train through water was safer than a tour bus through water but my Thai isn't good enough to argue with the transit authority so we just got on the bus and tried not to notice the feet or 2 of water we were driving through.

We were passing through the worst of it just at dark and it was crazy to see these houses they had built on stilts still having water getting into them when it wasn't even raining. Not to mention the people laying on mats at all the high land because I presume they had already been flooded out. The Nashville flood was horrible and as I watched people trying to sweep the water out of their houses I had quite a flashback to doing the same thing at a neighbor's house. However, when their option isn't a friend's home but a tarp at the top of the hill it seems even more tragic.

We are safe and dry in Chiang Mai but I know my Nashville friends can appreciate first hand the tragedy of homes being overtaken with water. I doubt the news is telling you anything about this so I thought I'd let you know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two Sides of Bangkok

We started the morning at the Grand Palace. It's my understanding the king and queen don't reside there anymore but it is still the place where he's coronated and all kinds of other grand ceremonies that require a canopied throne which we aren't allowed to photograph.

Grand Palace 2

Grand Palace

Grand Palace 7

I loved all the sparkling colored glass but Joshua was most impressed with this chunk of stone.

Grand Palace 6

He said it made him want to go see Angkor Wat in person. For me, I felt like I had a pretty good view from here.

Then there is a New York side of this huge city too. There are still walls around all building - the windows are all gated at night but wow are there buildings.

We hit Siam Square which is around what I would say is the fashion district. Tons of small shops by designers along with a huge mall called "MBK."

MBK Center

Then there was also this restaurant in the business district.

Moon Bar @ Vertigo 5

Moon Bar at Vertigo was most definitely worth the 160 Bahts for the taxi and then 700 bahts for something to drink.

Moon Bar @ Vertigo 4

Special thanks to Ian from upstate New York for sending us this way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

If you think dogs in clothes are weird

Today we headed to the Chatuchak Market far north of town. This is a huge market where the Thai go to do a lot of shopping. I expected it to be a tourist spot but this is a local thing. The part of town we are staying in probably has a 10 to 1 ratio of tourist to Thai and the market was probably 1 to 4 so it was a nice change.

Chatuchak market 2
I love that every tiny booth has a name, address and most of them have a logo. Now you may be thinking I'm using the word huge loosely but there were thousands of booths selling anything from popsicles to furniture to ...

Chatuchak market 3

That's right internet, you can own a bunny in a dress.

We planned to spend the day there but after 3 hours I was beat, lost and sooooo hot which meant one taxi ride later we were cooling off in the pool before lunch.

Oh, lunch! Can I tell you how good real Thai curry is? Neither Joshua nor I really like curry but we decided to be true to the experience so we had green curry for lunch. Amazing. It had such a clean flavor and if they would cook their vegetables just a little more I think I could eat it everyday. We were on the fence about a cooking class once we got to Chiang Mai but lunch pushed us over the edge. We must come back to America knowing how to make that.

Hope you are all doing well. We can't wait to get to Ehren but if we're going to have to wait 2 weeks this is most definitely the way to do it.

The Unlikely Travel Companion

I have no idea why parents haven't clued travelers in to how amazing diaper bags are. It's probably because they don't find themselves with the diaper bag without the child and all the child's accoutrements. And that is where we can provide a service to you fine people. We have the diaper bag but no child for a few more weeks.

#1 reason we love our diaper bag for travel: There are a million pockets so everything has it's own space and you always know where the hotel key is.

#2 reason we love our diaper bag for travel: There are the convenient bottle pockets that hold water bottles perfectly. Plus our bag has "stay warm" bottle holders which also keep those water bottles cold in the oppressive Bangkok heat - for five hours! Amazing!

Am I saying run out and buy a diaper bag for travel? Maybe not, but if you find one at a garage sale (like we did) you may consider picking it up if you have an upcoming trip. Especially if it comes in incognito orange like ours

Baby Bag

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lamphu Treehouse - Bangkok

Because our luggage was a bit more intrusive this trip we decided couchsurfing may not be the best option. So thanks to Lonely Planet we came across this place on the plane ride into Bangkok.

Lamphu Tree Hotel

If you ever come this way and want to stay in the Old City you want to stay here. The rooms are clean, they have hot water, AC and a cold pool. I didn't fully understand the importance of that last item from America but I will never come to Bangkok without staying in a place with a pool.

Check out the digs we got for about $45/night.

Lamphu Tree Hotel 5

Lamphu Tree Hotel 3

Khlong Bang Lamphu

All I would change is the canal brings out the mosquitos a little earlier than I would like. Everything else is perfect.

It's also around the corner from Khao San Road which is deemed as a backpacking destination for cheap food, lodging and travel. That means it is busy all the time and great for people watching.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road 2

We got our airline tickets around Thailand, Joshua turned down an opportunity for a "happy ending" while I got some prescription sunglasses and most importantly we ate pizza. We have yet to have a night that doesn't take us to Khao San Road but we are very glad not to have a guesthouse there like we were originally planning.

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation 1

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bienvenido a Bangkok

After one and a half days of traveling and another day of accidentally falling asleep as soon as we arrived, we are glad to report we have survived our first day in Bangkok.

First off it is nothing like we expected. When we compare it to all the other places we have been it is closer to Port au Prince and Lima than anywhere else. That's not bad at all but just a little unexpected.

Near the Standing Buddha

We spent the day yesterday being "scammed" by a tuk-tuk driver which just means they drove us around and stopped at certain shops where they get commissions.

Tuk Tuk

However, along the way we got to see a lot of the buddhas around the city and so I wouldn't call it a lost cause. I would say I'm all good on seeing buddhas though.

Standing Buddha 3

Golden Mount 2

Golden Mount 3

In other news I keep trying to speak Spanish to everyone because apparently when I'm in a place where they don't speak English I just switch into Spanish. Turns out it hasn't been helpful so far.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Our Next Big Adventure

I'm not talking parenthood. That's the big adventure our next big adventure is going to take us to but first we have a pit stop in Thailand...maybe.

If you think the last sentence was confusing you wouldn't imagine how it feels to live it. We still don't have a firm date to pick up Ehren. However, we leave North America for Asia in just over 48 hours.

As we got our final decree and everything seemed to be pointing to our traveling to get him in early to mid October we began to wind down our business and stop finding new clients. By last week we had kind of closed up shop and were just waiting around for the call. We finally decided why not wait for the call on a beach in Thailand. You can live well for like $50/day over there and we're already paying for the huge plane ticket so we started making plans for a few weeks backpacking in Thailand complete with elephants, snorkeling and Thai cooking school.

We are packed for those plans.

There is also a chance we could be at the orphanage in no less than a week and be handed our son. Since we have a layover in Tai Pei we may just jump off the plane there if we only have 2 days before we have to be in Taitung to pick him up.

We are packed for those plans and Ehren's suitcase is twice the size of our backpack.

So traveling in true Fykes fashion we are packed for anything and have reservations for NOTHING. I have a list of hotels to contact if we end up in Bangkok and I'm working on my list if we jump off the plane in Tai Pei. Hopefully we know which country we are going to end up in before we taxi away from LAX but there is a very real chance we don't hear anything and have to wait until we arrive in Tai Pei on Wednesday morning. Stay tuned...I know I will!