4 days in Vang Vieng

Sept 24, 2017

Had one last noddle soup from upstairs for breakfast. They let us check out at 12 today instead of 11. Everyone who had to go to the Vietnam Embassy left around 2:30pm, while I tried to knock out my blog. While I love blogging, I feel like it’s becoming a little bit of a chore. It takes me forever (around 4-5 hours) to finish one entry. The wordpress app for iPad is also really funky when I tried to upload photos. I guess I just need to do better at finding proper times to write.

I’m doing so much every day and if I’m not doing anything I’m socializing with all the great people I decided to travel with. Everyone gets along so well. We’ve dubbed our name the “Los Banging Fabu #Team11”. We’ve all been in the same group since the slow boat, and I really enjoy everyone. We do this thing called “where’s 1?” and Andrew, the oldest from Canada, yells 1, Charlie from the UK is 2 (second oldest), I’m 3, Hannah from the UK is 4, Nicole from America is 5, Josh (kiwi) is 6, Kevin (Canada) is 7, Liv (UK) is 8, Mike (UK) is 9, Sam (UK) is 10, and Ida (Denmark), who just recently joined our group is 11, the youngest.

We were all on the same bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng together. Our driver picked us up at 3pm, and after maybe 5 mins of driving, we could tell that this dude gave no fucks. He wasn’t smooth with the clutch, the roads were already bumpy, and he would swerve and break at a dime. No one could really sleep because of how awful the drive was. It was cloudy and misty, we’re kind of glad we decided to travel today.

After around 4 hours, we finally arrived in Vang Vieng and checked into our hostel “Real Vang Vieng Backpackers Hostel”. It wasn’t as nice as the hostel we stayed in previous, but it worked for us. I was in a room with Josh, Mike, and Sam. By the time everyone settled in, we were starving. So, we went to the restaurant across the street where we just happened to run into Ben & Becca (what a coincidence). They just happened to walk down a random side street and eat at the same restaurant we picked. We asked to join them and we all sat down ravenous AF. I got some noodle soup (big shock). 

Once back in the hostel, we were already getting recruited by the Westerner’s who work at the bars here. One bar had free shots from 8-9pm, the other had free shots from 10-11. Since it was already past 9, we thought we’d wait until 10pm to go to the next bar. Viva Pub was the name of the bar and I asked for whisky shots (it’s free whisky, the real cheap Lao whisky we’ve been drinking everywhere) because I don’t like mixed drinks (they make you pee more). We played some beer pong and danced. We ended the night at the Rasta Bar, where Nicole had a huge laugh attack. It was freaking hilarious.
Sept 25, 2017

Our hostel also gave free breakfast before 10, so I got up just in time to get an omelet. Today was the day we’re doing the infamous tubing down the river. This is probably the most popular thing to do here. Basically, you rent a tube and wade down the river to the different bars on the banks.

We got to the river around pmand didn’t even get in the water. They have a little makeshift boat that takes you across shore to your first bar. Luckily, the group and I pregamed before we got there, so we didn’t have to spend much on alcohol. They had this really fun jumbo jenga-like game with funny things written on it. You had to do the task that was written on the top of whichever block you pulled out. For example, my block said “Get Whaled”, which was the only one that we weren’t immediately sure of, so we asked the British boy who worked at the bar. He didn’t tell me what it was he just told me to lie down, open my mouth and keep it opened, poured beer in my mouth, and blew on my nose so air shot down my nose into my mouth and the beer spewed out like a whale blowing water out of it’s air hole. He said I was a good sport for doing it. Some of the rest were things like “write cunt on your forehead” “kiss every pole” “would you rather”. It was really fun.

After 2 or so hours, we floated down to our next bar. This one, we were in the bar for like 5 minutes before we saw something. We were told that only 2 bars would be open, so we thought this bigger-looking bar on the right side was the opened one. However, we were all incorrect and all of asudden we see two people on the left hand shore waiving and trying to pull us in. I immediately started swimming over and caught this rope that was attached to the tree and on the end of the rope was this guy riding like a makeshift board. The rest of the group had to be saved by a guy a little downstream with a rope and bottle attached at the end.

This bar was fun, they were playing fun music so most of us just danced the whole time. Josh makes friends with the most random things. The bar before this, he disappeared for like 30 mins and came back and asked if I wanted to pet a cow. He then brought me to where he was hiding this whole time, petting this cute freaking cow who like fell asleep in his lap. At the second bar, he made friends with these local Lao women. He called me over, and the Lao ladies instantly gave me a shot of tequila and asked if I wanted a bite of their food. So freaking sweet!!! It was super spicy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The makeshift board on attached to the tree also became almost like a wakeboard. If you could balance on it then you could go out into the middle of the river and back. This was fun because I was actually able to get up, which I’m hoping is a good indication for my surfing skills (stay tuned).

When we saw that it was getting darker, we finally headed back into the tubes (some still drunk) for another float down the river. We weren’t in the tube for more than 5 minutes when we saw a tuktuk driver on the side of the road waiving his rope around trying to catch us. I’m not sure if we could float down the river more or if that was the end point but we all got out anyways. All but Sam and Andrew who floated a little way down before getting to the side and walking back upstream.

We came back to the hostel, hungry and wet. Some didn’t even walk back into the hostel, they just picked up their shoes and headed to the restaurant across the street. We haddn’t eatten since breakfast, and we were out all day drinking in the sun, so we were STARVING. I got something other than noddle soup (YAY), this chicken dish called kafao (I think).

After everyone showered and put on clean-ish clothes, we got ready again to go out. I also switched beds with Andrew, so I could b in the room with Liv, Ida, Charlie and Hannah. I was really tired from the whole day and didn’t think I had the energy to go out. I opted to stay in and finish my blog, which would take me freaking forever. Everyone came back so drunk and I was still finishing up my blog. These drunkasses were so hilarious, it was fun being sober and watching the shenanigans go down. Let’s just say, it was a very interesting night.

Sept 26, 2017

I woke up just before 10 again to get breakfast. This time it was scrambled eggs, pretty standard. Most people were hungover and about half of them didn’t make it up for breakfast. It was a very slow morning, everyone was hungover, we didn’t know what we wanted to do, then we settled on the blue lagoon. For lunch, Ida, Josh, Liv, Nicole and I went to get lunch (basically me plus the people that didn’t get up for breakfast). We ate at this restaurant called Bamboo Tree, which had a nice selection of Lao food and Western food. Liv and I were craving some Western food, so we shared some chicken nuggets, fries and pizza.

After lolly gagging for a few hours, we finally set off to the 3rd lagoon, by this time it was 2pm. The lady who works at the front desk said that it would take about an hour to get there. The tuktuk driver picked us up and we were off. This probably was my favorite tuktuk ride because we got to go through actual Laos. We saw the villages, the beautiful landscape. Kids were so cute, waving to us from the back of bikes and treetops. Only a 1/4 of the ride was on an actual paved road. The rest was dirt road riddled with potholes and cracks in the ground. Some of the boys wanted to be adventurous and stood on the back. The tuktuk driver saw this and said that they can sit all the way at the top (so freaking fun, where else can you seriously do this??) 

The ride there lasted about 45 mins, but it was seriously one of my favorite things I’ve done so far (just a random tuk tuk ride, but I enjoyed the hell outta it). The 3rd blue lagoon (I guess there’s 3 and we picked the farthest one) is basically a spring/lake thing where they’ve built a man made pool to gather the water in one concentrated area. There was a cool rope swing and zip line type apparatus that landed into the pool. There were fun tubes and a bamboo raft. It was super relaxing, and I had a lot of fun doing the zip line and rope swing. We relaxed in the pool for little over an hour before everyone started to get cold (the water was a bit chilly). Everyone wanted to check out the cave that was nearby so we started our trek there. It wasn’t that far from the pool, maybe like 10 minutes at most, but the climb up was very steep and dodgy. When we finally got to the mouth of the cave, it was too dark to really see anything and there were bamboo ladders that led down. We were all in bathing suits and flip flops (and I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes since my spray washed off in the pool). So we didn’t actually end up going inside but it was a nice adventure. When we got back to the pool, I counted 7 bug bites in that amount of time we were sitting by the cave. I knew I was getting eaten alive (they damn near had breakfast/lunch/dinner on my body) because I saw them swarming around everywhere.

We rode again in the tuk tuk, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and met up with Josh and Liv back at the hostel (Josh was too hungover and Liv had an injury from tubing). We told the group about the amazing selection of Western food at the restaurant we went to for lunch, so that’s where we headed next. I wanted to eat Lao food (because I had Western food that day already) and opted for this Laos traditional pepper steak, which was pretty good (but not as good as Mom’s back at home). Once we were finished it was free shots time at the Sakura bar. I got a few shots there with Hannah, Josh, Charlie, and Liv before meeting everyone back at the hostel. I also bought a bottle of soju and drinking yogurt for my drink that night. (Side note: there are TONS of S. Koreans here, and they’re probably equal or more of them than Westerners.) We all played a fun drinking game before heading out for the night. It was very bittersweet since this is probably the last time we were all going to be together (Sam & Mike are flying out to Hanoi on Friday and Kevin needs to find a motorbike to ride down to Cambodia, so they were checking out the next day to go down to Vientiane). 

We then went to Viva Pub to get free whisky shots from 10-11. I can confidently say I finally got drunk (man, I didn’t realize how much alcohol I needed to get drunk, but since I had 3 shots before, then a whole bottle of soju, and more free shots I was able to feel it). I had some balloons filled with laughing gas that let you hallucinate for a brief moment (like a minute) and somehow made it back to my bed all safe and sound. It was really funny actually, all of us seemed to come home at the same time or within the same time frame so we had a drunken powwow in our hostel room. Ugh, I love these people!

Sept 27, 2017

I can confidently say today, that I didn’t do jack shit. It wasn’t that I was hungover, it was more because I was just so exhausted from all the activities we’ve been doing (and maybe the drinking). Plus, Sam, Mike and Kevin were leaving, so we wanted to give them a proper goodbye. 

Breakfast was meh, I was forcing myself to eat it because I woke up in time, damnit!! Lol. But really, after breakfast we all just hung around, literally exhausted. Around 2ish, Liv, Ida and I went to go look for food. Christopher, that really old dude who lived in Vang Vieng for a year who we met on the slow boat said that Gary’s Irish Bar served the best Western food, so we decided to check it out. We saw that there was (1) a veggie burger on the menu (Ida’s vegan and she’s been craving a proper veggie burger for a while), (2) Irish stew (I’ve been talking about how much I love it for such a long time now and I was so happy to see it on the menu), and (3) “chips” and cheese and gravy (Liv wanted Lao food but just couldn’t pass up the tempting melty goodness of fries with cheese and gravy). So we stuffed our bellies–they had the biggest portions we’ve had so far and with really filling food.

Once we came back, I decided to check out Moon Bar with Hannah, Charlie, Nicole, and Josh. We smoked a bit then went back to the hostel. Everyone was exhausted so we went into our rooms and tried to sleep. However, here they turn off the AC in between 9am-6pm to conserve electricity, I presume. So we all tried to nap but couldn’t because it was just so damn hot in our room  (and I’m not exaggerating how hot/how dead we all were). Sleeping would have been nice but I guess it was ok. It started to thunderstorm and the power went out. Since the fan wasn’t going and we were all melting from sitting in a sauna for a room, we were forced to sit out in the lobby until the power came back on. 

After sitting around even more, we finally decided to go to dinner. Mike, Sam, and Kevin had already left and Liv wanted to stay in. So the remaining 7 of us went to find a nice Lao food dinner. I settle on some curry, even though I was still a little full from that freaking Irish Stew. When dinner was over, some of us wanted to take a walk. We’ve only really been on two streets the whole time we’ve been here, so we wanted to see the rest of the town. We definitely should have done this the first day because there were so many places that we could have checked out, but just didn’t. Oh well, lesson learned.

I’ve just been sitting in my bed since we’ve come back from dinner, now that the AC is on in our room. It was a very unproductive day, yet I feel like that’s totally fine. I don’t want to burn myself out, relaxing and doing nothing is sometimes better than trying to do everything at once. It definitely made me appreciate my time here a little more, and it helps me reflect/gather my thoughts. Plus, I got to blog without it feeling rushed/forced! YAY! Tomorrow we’re getting a 9:30am bus to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, where we’ll stay for only one night before departing to Vietnam. We would’ve been screwed if we went out for free drinks tonight.

Laos grew on me. I didn’t really like Luang Prabang as much just because it was an expensive city. But Vang Vieng was such a good idea. And, I’m loving all of the people I’m traveling with, we have a really good group. I’m sad we can’t all travel together for the remainder of our trip, but alas, these things happen. Thanks for staying updated if you’ve read this far, this shit takes a lot of effort so you’ve already made my day by reading until here. That’s it for now, stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE!

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2 Days on the Mekong & 4 Days in Luang Prabang

Sept 19, 2017

We had to wake up extremely early today. 6am to be exact. The bus ride to the Thai/Lao boarder would be around 8 hours and we didn’t want to get left behind. I said my goodbyes to Stevie before we left, she’s definitely my favorite dog I’ve met out here.

Josh, Liv and I met up with our friends Ben & Becca on the mini bus in front of Aya Services. A bundle package for transport from Pai all the way to Luang Prabang was around 1750 baht, I’m not sure what that is in USD, maybe around $50, which is pretty good since they take you all the way to Chiang Khong (the Thai town before you get to Laos), give you accommodation, take you across the boarder, then take you to the slow boat in Huay Xai (the Lao town on the boarder). 

So, we were off. The journey from Pai to Chiang Mai was around 2 hours. We stopped at this little place on the side of the road and I got some Gra Pow Gai. Once we got to Chiang Mai we switched buses and picked up a few more passengers. On the way we stopped for lunch at an extremely overpriced cafe. Usually meals are anywhere from 40-60 baht, these meals were 120-160 baht. I’m so glad I ate before or else I would be forced to eat overpriced food. I think these companies get commission from the places that they drop us off, that or they’re family/friends of the people who work for this company because we get dropped off at these really shitty areas.

On the road again, we made another stop in Chiang Rai, a city I wish I had time to see. They have the famous white and black temple there. The guy dropped us off by the White Temple and let us walk around for a little bit, at least I got to see that. After another 2 or 3 hours, we finally got to Chiang Khong. They dropped us off at the guesthouse that was prearranged in our package tour. They gave us forms to fill out for the boarder in the morning. Then they showed us our rooms, they were probably the worst that we’ve stayed in so far, but we didn’t really explore too much into it. We kinda just dropped our bags and left, looking for food.

After eating at a little restaurant overlooking the Mekong river, we picked up some snacks for the 2 day journey ahead and walked back to our guesthouse. Liv and I sat on our beds in this really rundown room. Our fan didn’t rotate, we didn’t have a screen on our doors so we could leave it open at night (unlike the other rooms), holes in the wall were covered by tissue paper, and bugs were crawling everywhere on our beds and falling from the ceiling. We got extremely freaked out and immediately thought of bed bugs. We’ve heard of some really bad bug bed stories and this was the ideal place we thought they could be. Paranoid and scared, we googled anything and everything about bed bugs. We tried to find the guesthouse on TripAdvisor, or any other review sites that could give us some insight of where we were staying (something very important these days). There were only a handful of reviews of the place, but one in particular really stood out. It was the most recent one, written in April 2017, by a girl who said she came across this place after she booked a package tour going to Luang Prabang. In her review, she writes that she looked at the place, and immediately left to find accommodation elsewhere, at a place called Namkhong. So that’s exactly what we did. Although Josh was in another room, a little better than ours because I think we had the worst room, he was also paranoid of bed bugs. So we all left together to find this hotel.

At first, we walked 15 minutes to the extremely nice Namkhong hotel that was 1300 baht per night. That obviously isn’t in the budget but they took us back down to their sister site, which was 100 baht per person for one night, much better. Once we got into our room, we all gave a sigh of relief. It was much nicer, with cleaner sheets, a nicer bathroom, a rotating fan, and MOSQUITO NETS!!! The best thing we could have asked for after being rained on by bugs. They even had a pool, so we took a late night dip in the pool, to take full advantage of our stay. After that I blogged for another 2/3 hours and went to sleep.
Sept 20, 2017

It was another early morning. We had to be at the original guest house for breakfast at 730am. So we sneakily (and unsuccessfully) walked back to the place, trying really hard to not seen. The guy greeted us right away, they probably get people who do that all the time and they got paid already so it’s no sweat off their back. Breakfast was eggs on toast, a little runny for my taste but I ate it anyways. Our group, me, Liv, Josh, Ben, Becca and two new friends, Nicole from Maryland (yay another American) and Kevin from Canada, headed to the boarder. It was a pretty easy process, they took our departure card in Thailand, exchanged baht out for Lao Kip, and paid for a bus ride over the “Friendship Bridge” to Lao. There we filled out a arrival card, paid $35 (in USD, which I thought was very strange because even if you’re not American you have to pay in USD) and got in a really crammed toktok with like 15 other people.

They dropped us off by the Mekong, where we would get on the boat. I bought some fried rice, even though I wasn’t that hungry because I didn’t want to get hungry on the 7 hr journey. I didn’t have any expectations walking onto the boat, but I was so impressed after a few hours. The country is so beautiful, green and lush. There are still trees and vegetation everywhere, there are rural villages with water buffalo, there are people fishing and kids walking home from school. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness and I’m so happy I made the decision to take the boat.

I sat on a cushioned seat where I read my book and watched the countryside go by. A Lao mother with her son sat next to me. I wondered what the must think of Westerners, and I always come to this conclusion: they must fucking hate us. I mean, we’re so ignorant in what we do and what we say. We’re never culturally sensitive or try to understand/respect their customs and traditions. The only reason why they tolerate us is because they make a lot of money off of tourist. I notice these Lao people, then I notice these asshole Westerners, with their short, shorts and tank tops and snap backs worn backwards, walking with beers with the intent on getting drunk on the boat. It’s just an extremely stark difference, and it’s so humbling to be aware.

We arrived in Pakbeng, Laos at around 5pm. We were immediately swarmed with people trying to sell us accommodation, kids asking for our snacks, and people trying to sell us food. We knew this would happen, and instead walked right pass everyone to find our own place (we read it would be cheaper that way) and found accommodation for pretty cheap. The place wasn’t as nice as the guesthouse we found last night but better than the one that was apart of our package. Plus, the owner lady said that there were elephants that bath in the river in the morning, across the way. It was me, Liv, and Josh in one room, Ben and Becca in another, and Kevin in one and Nicole in one. Our guesthouse was right next to the most popular bar in this small, rural town, the Happy Bar. There, we saw that a few of the guys who were taking a similar package tour from Thailand to Luang Prabang were also looking for food, Christopher from Miami and Mike and Sam from the UK. As a group, we set off to find food.

Everything in this town was overpriced because they know tourists have to stop here during their 2 boat trip. So my first experience with Lao food was a bust since I didn’t want to pay a lot of money to eat. The restaurant we ending up picking sucked us in with a free whiskey shot and fruit plate. I also met Hannah and Charlie there, two girls from the UK who are also on the slow boat. I met them previously on the tour that I took with Sarah in Pai.

During dinner, a local Lao man convinced us to check out his new bar. He was so sweet and genuine. We got to his place and realized it was a brand new bar. He asked us if we could give him any suggestions about how to make his bar better, since he said he’s only been open about a week and it’s his dream to own a bar. He wants to use the money to pay for school and help out his family. It may or may not have been untrue but it caught us all in the feels and we all tried to support him by giving him suggestions and buying from his bar. If you ever do go to Laos and do the slow boat to Luang Prabang, go to Hive bar, the man is actually really sweet and you feel that you’re doing good by spending money there.

Finally, we headed to Happy Bar where we finished the night. This bar was far better/superior to the Hive bar, with free shots as you enter and loud music and lights. Since our guesthouse was literally next door, we just walked home when we were finished.
Sept 21, 2017

We woke up at 7am, bed bug free. The elephants were in the water across the river, just like the lady said. We got ready and headed downstairs where the nice lady was making us breakfast, which we told her the night before what we wanted. I ate my delicious rice soup while watching the elephants bathe in the Mekong. After breakfast, we walked back to where we were dropped off the day before. This time, the boat was WAY smaller and we got there a little later bc all of the good seats were taken. I sat with Josh on these seats that looked like they belong in a car. They were comfy nonetheless and way better than the wooden seats everyone else was sitting at.

Unlike yesterday, today’s weather was very overcast, as if it was about to rain. That, mixed with the cramped-ness of the boat, made for a boring ride. Instead of reading and marveling at the beauty of the landscape, like I did yesterday, I mostly napped, listened to music, and watched my episodes on my iPad. This journey was a lot longer and less comfortable than the day previous. It was still beautiful though, once the clouds and rain subsided. 

When we landed at the port, no one really knew to leave. The drivers didn’t say anything, the local Lao people got off, and then finally when he saw that no one was getting up, he finally told everyone to get off. Thanks a lot for the heads up, dude. We were forced to buy a toktok into the city, which I had to pay for, but the notes here are very confusing and I think I over payed…again. Lesson learned.

Me, along with Hannah and Charlie, headed to our hostel Vongprachan Backpacker’s, where the rest of our group was waiting. I guess that dude Christopher, this old guy who’s lived in Laos before, had a friend who owned a Mexican restaurant. Everyone wanted to go for Mexican…for our first day in Laos?? We met up at 7pm to go to this Mexican restaurant that I was very underwhelming. All the dishes were really expensive and, coming from California, the food was just subpar to all of the taqueria’s I’m used to (do I sound like a spoiled brat?). The Brits were impressed since I guess they don’t have a lot of Mexican restaurants in the UK. Josh and I split a plate because we didn’t want to pay a lot for our meal (I couldn’t justify spending a lot of money to eat mediocre Mexican when I’m in Laos).

After dinner we made our way to the night market and then Utopia bar. Utopia bar was very cool, it’s right by the river and I just enjoyed the vibe. This bar closed early as well, around 11:15pm. Right when they turned off the music (and at the same time called for last call???) there were toktok drivers asking if you wanted to go to bowling. We all agreed to go, so we headed to the bowling alley, which also had archery (BOWling, get it LOL). There were 9 of us who paid to go bowling, but they only counted 8 and therefore gave us 8 people on the board. Christopher tried to tell them that 9 of us paid, and asked for his money back. After a lot of arguing, they gave him his money back but took off a player on one of our games. We were kinda pissed because they really do try and scam us at every point of contact. So, no one really wanted to play again because we were all over it by that point. Some of us played some archery but we didn’t stay long and left.
Sept 22, 2017

Breakfast ended at 10am, so I woke up 20 mins before and lugged myself upstairs to the rooftop. Banana pancakes was my choice for today. Mostly everyone was upstairs already, I was the last one. As we were eating, this girl, Lillee, from Sydney, asked our group if we wanted to go to a different waterfall (rather than the most popular one). We didn’t have anything planned so we all agreed.

Patrick, a Canadian living in Australia, Antonio from Spain, and Lillee joined our group and we headed to Tad Sae waterfall. In order to get there, we needed to take a toktok and a boat that lead down a river. Once there, the waterfall was absolutely beautiful. It had little terraces of pools, much different than the raging cliff waterfalls I’m so used to seeing. The water was cold and clear. The only bad thing was there were elephants you could ride into the waterfall and a monkey in a cage that definitely didn’t belong. The poor thing was in a cage built for a rabbit, had nothing to entertain itself with, and no friends. So it was literally bored out of it’s mind, bending it’s body in the same motion like a robot with it’s hand out of the cage, just hoping someone would give it a water bottle, food, or something it could entertain itself with.

Other than that, I was really impressed with the waterfall. It was so refreshing and beautiful. We were all hungry as well, so after about 1-2 hrs in the water, we went to the little restaurant adjacent to the water. Noodle soups are really common everywhere (and usually the cheapest) so that’s what I’ve been eating mostly. Some of us had to go to the Vietnamese Embassy to get their Vietnam visas (all the Brits). I opted to get mine online so I didn’t go with them.

Later on that night we walked to the night market where we could get a whole plate of carbs/veggies for 15,000 kip. Only issue is that it was HOT AF in the small little alley, that was covered and enclosed. Plus, there are tons of food stalls and dozen of ladies cooking. We walked around the night market again then ended up at the hostel. This time we were smart and bought alcohol (finally, a hostel we could bring our own booze in). We got kicked out around 1030 and moved to a bar that Lillee told us about, the Lao Friendship bar. After hanging out for a bit, we ended up at the bowling alley. I was very sober again, and waited ever-so patiently for everyone to be finished before we headed back home.
Sept 23, 2017

Again, I had to wake up before 10 for breakfast. This time I got noodle soup. Everyone was super hungover so we didn’t really do much today. I wasn’t hung over but I did want to workout. Josh told me about a gym on the next street over. It was 15,000 kip to get in, which is super affordable. It felt so good to workout, this was my second time in a proper gym and I always make the most of it by spending a good amount of time.

By the time I got back, everyone was finally awake (and slightly getting over their hangover). We went to the affordable restaurant next door where I got chicken curry with an egg and a banana shake (holla for coconut milk in my shake!!). Everyone was still hungover but agreed we wanted to actually see something today. So at around 5pm we walked to the temple on the hill to watch the sunset. The temple on the hill, I’m not sure the exact name, had a lot of freaking stairs. Mind you I just went to the gym and my legs were sooo tired. But, the view was worth it. We sat on the top, just in time for sunset. I don’t normally watch the sun go down and sometimes you forget how quickly it actually moves. In less than a minute, I watched the sun peak over the mountains and get smaller and smaller until it vanished behind the landscape.

The boys wanted to watch another damn footie (soccer) game. So we went to this place called “Aussie Bar” (lol bc we had a Kiwi with us) to watch their damn Premier League game. We almost watched the whole thing before we decided that we were hungry again. The little restaurant next to our hostel (called Bamboo) was the obvious choice. Everyone was too hung over, but I wasn’t and drank basically by myself. We called it an early night, even though I was definitely feeling the alcohol.
Sept 24, 2017

I decided on an omelette this morning, it came with a delicious toasted baguette. We wanted to do the popular waterfall today, Kuang Si. So all of us (to remind you it’s me, Liv, Josh, Nicole, Kevin, Andrew from Canada, Sam and Mike from the UK, and Charlie and Hannah from the UK) along with our new friend Leo from Germany, crammed in a toktok for about an hour ride to the waterfall. In this complex, there’s also a Moon Bear (different than the sun bear) rescue center where they rescue these moon bears from illegal animal trade and especially bile farms. Their bile is believed to have special medicinal abilities in China, so the poor bears are stuck in a cage their whole lives. I didn’t know there was a difference between the sun bear and the moon bear since they both have that crescent yellow mark on their chest, but apparently the moon bear is bigger than the sun bear but both are found in Asia.

Next, we finally over on to the actual waterfall. This waterfall was so much bigger than the Tad Sae waterfall we went to a few days prior. It had the amazing terraces just like Tad Sae, only this one’s water was an amazing turquoise blue. We walked all the way to the top, which was a steep and hard climb. Again, the view paid off. The pool was nice and refreshing and bonus there was a freaking swing! The fish in the water are the ones that you see in massage/nail places that eat the dead skin off of your feet. So instead of paying money, we all got a free foot clean by the local fishies. 

After being up there for about 2 hours, we finally headed down in search for food. It would have been nice to swim in the lower menthol blue pools, but we were way too hungry to think about swimming again. We opted for this little restaurant outside of the waterfall complex. I, again, got soup.

Once back at the hostel, some of us were still hungry. I took a quick shower and we headed off to the night market. Some of us bought some booze after a quick wander around the market (and snack) so we went up to the rooftop of our hostel where we drank. This time everyone was drinking. We even made some new friends from the Netherlands, Joe and Daan, who joined us in drinking and card games. Again, we ended up at the bowling alley.

Unfortunately, I woke up the next morning and my purse was soaking wet. My camera was in there and I tried to turn it on. To no avail, it still doesn’t work. I’m trying to think about how it could have gotten wet. The outside wasn’t wet and the only thing I could think of was that people were throwing ice cubes at the bowling alley that night. One must have gotten inside my purse, where it then melted and fucked up my camera. I’m in Vang Vieng now, and it’s been sitting in rice with no signs of working. I’m really freaking sad because I really loved that camera. Luckily, my SD card made it out alive and I have an SD card reader, so my pictures are safe. I’ll have to use my shitty iPhone 5 camera for now, until I get a new camera hopefully in Vietnam!

Thank you all if you’re still reading this. It’s getting a little difficult to find time to write and to remember all these details! I’m sorry if you’re bored or if my shit doesn’t make sense sometimes. I’ll try to write more often, with better details and more exciting things to say. Luang Prabang was fun, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Thailand. Vang Vieng is cool too and I’ll try to post about this place soon. Stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE!






  

4 Days in Pai

Sept 15, 2017

“Just go to Pai” they said, “you’ll love it” they said. Well, I guess they were right. Pai was AMAZING, even if it did rain 2 days outta 3 that we stayed. Pai had such a different feeling than Chiang Mai & Bangkok. I can see why people call it the hippie capital of Thailand. Some of the locals look like people I’d see walking around Berkeley, along with pshycadelic art booths, vintage shops, unique cafes, and the fattest street dogs you’ll ever see.
Josh, Liv, and I woke up at Stamps around 10:15. We wanted to check out of the hostel and eat at The Hideout again for some gourmet sammies. I got an avocado and egg on a bagel this time…much better than the sandwich I got the day before that almost burnt my mouth off. The truck to Pai picked us up at 12 along with our new friend, Fred. We also picked up some British boys from the Living Place, the hostel my brother told me I should stay in at Chiang Mai (unfortunately I couldn’t check it out since I was with other people). Steven, Josh, and Josh (yes, there were 3 Josh’s in the truck) were all from the UK, like north or something. I’ve been meeting so many Brits out here and they all talk about the places that their from and the different uni’s (universities) they’ve attended. I just like to sit back and watch British people talk. It’s actually very interesting because it would be like meeting someone from California and talking to them about where we live and the college we attend, since the UK is basically the size of California.

We got to a bus terminal (Aya Bus service, just remember that name) and moved to a mini bus that took us to Pai. The first leg of the bus ride was fine; I slept perfectly. After we stopped at a rest stop for 20 mins and got back on the rode was when I felt sick.  The last leg of the journey was so windy, and I usually don’t get car sick, but this road was insane. The roads would curve at such a sharp angle that we’d basically be facing the other way every hundred meters. Luckily, I was sitting in the front, but I can’t imagine sitting in the back let alone motorbiking up it, which is what some of our friends from the Stamps hostel did.

After finally making it to Pai and checking in at this infamous Common Grounds hostel, we went for a walk around the town. Right away I noticed how different it was to Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Instead of a big city, metropolitan feel, it was more laid back, almost like Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu compared to the big capital of Honolulu. The pace was much slower, the vibe was more chill, and the air seemed MUCH cleaner. We also noticed the “heaps” (kiwi/Aussie term for ya) of Western food restaurants the lined the town. They definitely catered to the foreigners, but we were looking for Thai/cheap food! We are in Thailand after all! So we settled on this little hole in the wall restaurant run by a family, so small and little, it didn’t even have a name. There was a little boy and grandma sitting with the tables, the TV was on and on the back wall, directly in the middle. He was watching cartoons eating a popsicle and he was freaking adorable. I gave him a little kangaroo eraser and his grandma told him to say thank you to me. SO SWEET!!! I got some good noddles probably Pad See Ew while the others tried Rad Nah. It was delicious and cheap, just what we were looking for.

We walked around after we finished eating to see what else they had around town. I noticed they had a more significant Muslim population, the only Muslims I’ve seen in Thailand, which is promeintely Buddhist. We headed back to hostel to chill for a bit before we went out for the night. I decided to write my Chiang Mai blogpost in the meantime and let me tell you…that shit took me 3 hours. Josh & Liv kept coming by asking me if I was done yet. Even Sarah, our German friend who we met back at NapPark in Bangkok, came to say hi, left, ate dinner, came back and I still wasn’t done. But, alas, I know this is my obligation and I need to finish it. Plus, after 4 days my memory starts to go and it gets harder to remember the stuff that we did each day.

Once I was finished was when the drinking began. Granted, I didn’t want to drink that much because I’m cheap and the drinking prices were worse than Chiang Mai and Bangkok AND we couldn’t even bring outside alcohol in *eyeroll* (this is the 2nd time a hostel has forbid us to bring outside alcohol into their place because they want to make money from the foreigners). So, I only had a few before they closed the bar (at 11) and we headed out to the town to check out the night scene. The first bar was Boom Bar, their overpriced cocktails, deep house music, and blacklight facepaint were a little overrated, but it was cool to experience. They had a beer pong table, which was cool but you had to pour your own beer in so I suggested water. I kinda had to set it up for the Brits since beer pong is more of an American thing.

We chilled there until we were kicked out at midnight. The next stop was Yellow Sun Pai. This bar still had overpriced cocktails and even worse music. I mean the music was ok, but it was so quiet, their speakers must have been really small. The music choice was all over the place, but I think in order for me to have fun I had to be really drunk, but I was just not because of the drink/price situation. I went back to the hostel with Liv and called it a night, I had to be up early for a tour I booked with Sarah.

Sept 16, 2017

I woke up earlish, around 8:45am since I had to meet Sarah around 9:30. Everyone in my dorm was still sleeping, probably because they’ve all had a crazy night drinking. I met Sarah at this little cafe down the street from my hostel and got a yummy mango shake. After that we got into the back of the truck/cab thing that would be taking us around Pai for our tour. We thought it was a pretty good price, 500 baht for a day at the Lod Cave, hot springs, waterfall, Pai Canyon, and see the sunset at a viewpoint, with lunch included. This was definitely a budget tour, I could tell from the big cloud of smoke that spewed from the exhaust every 10 seconds. It didn’t help I was sitting right next to it. The others on the tour were all Brits basically, and one Scott but I kinda put them all in the same boat since they’re from the UK. It was pretty cloudy that day but it hadn’t start raining yet (although it looked like rain).

Our first stop was the Lod Cave, which was probably my favorite. We walked to the mouth of the cave where men on bamboo, homemade boats were waiting. Only 3 of us plus one guide could fit on them. They paddled us out about 200 feet to the part of the cave where we could walk around. It was really cool, granted the Thai guides were only there to point out formations that looked like different animals like the Elephant ear, Frogs, bats, etc. It was pretty cool to see and I really enjoyed the bamboo boat ride, even if it only lasted a minute. When we got back I went to the bathroom and once I got out is when it started to pour. Luckily, Sarah and I were not far from the restaurant so we tucked and ran.

The tour included lunch, so we got to pick from 4 menu items what we wanted. I got Gra Pow Gai (Chicken stir fry with basil), which turned out to be such a small portion. Sarah wasn’t as hungry because she ate a little before so I had her leftovers. After we were all finished with our meal, we headed to our next activity. It started to pour down rain and we were in the back of these trucks that had covers on the top and sides. Of course, I was sitting at the end so I got the majority of the rain. We stopped next at this supposed “viewpoint” but the clouds were so massive and it was so misty/rainy you couldn’t see anything. I’m sure during a sunny day it’s nice and beautful, but I literally couldn’t see shit.

After sitting through another pour down in the truck, I couldn’t wait to get to the hot springs. Because, not only am I wet, but I’m also cold from being in the back of a speeding truck. The hot springs were really nice. You couldn’t really call them hot, they were more warm springs than hot, but it still sufficed. There was this cute little local Thai boy that kept splashing around. There were lots of tourist there so I think he got a kick out of all the attention. He would climb up this broken tree in the middle of the hot springs, then jump and splash everyone. It was pretty adorable.

While at the hot springs, we were informed that we couldn’t go to the waterfall because of the amount of rain and I guess it would be dangerous? I’m not sure, I have a hard time understanding sometimes so I just generally nod my head like I get it. We also couldn’t see the sunset because it was just overcast and cloudy. So we ended up at this coffee place so we could see A view. The funniest part was that everyone had bought plastic ponchos from the hot springs and decided to wear them. We also happened to all get different color ponchos, there was a pink, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. So fucking hilarious.

The guide then took us to this place they call the Canyon, which is just an interesting land formation that has steep cliff sides and small pathways. I’m sure it would have been nice during the day or with sunlight but in the rain it was just miserable. He said he was gonna give us 50 minutes to check out the place but everyone was done in 15 and we headed back home.

After a nice warm shower, Josh, Liv, Cortland & Patrick (our friends from Jackson Hole, who motorbiked up that day in the pouring rain) and some other people from the hostel went out to get some street food. At around 6pm, these food stalls open down one of the main streets of Pai with really good food. The best part is that EVERYTHING IS CHEAP! Items range from 10 baht to a 100 baht (for more of the fancier stuff). Josh and I first split some potstickers, then spring rolls because we wanted to sample everything without getting a full portion to ourselves. I also had some skewers that were bomb. Since Pai is like the hippie capital, most places offer vegan and vegetarian friendly items, which is a nice change.

We all got our fill then went back to the hostel for another night of drinking. I had a few more than the night before, but again not enough to get drunk without my pockets really feeling it. The coolest part about my hostel is not the facilities or the atmosphere…it’s THE DOGS! They have 3 dogs that kinda roam around the place. Two look like your standard street dog, with no collar and a iffy temperament, their names were Panda and Nektah (I think this is how you spell it, it’s Thai so I could be completely wrong but just sound it out phonetically). One of them was this smaller girl pup who was pretty different looking. She was probably between 6 months and a year, but she definitely had the temperament of a puppy. Her name was Stevie and she was quite the character. Very naughty at times, but in the cutest ways. She’d play with her ball, try and get Panda to play with her, get attention from foreigners, mess with the frogs at night, bark at the most random people, bite the pillow cushions, just puppy things. She was definitely my favorite and one who you could tell was raised around foreigners because she didn’t have that uneasy/untrusting temperament that some of the dogs had, probably from being abused by some of the locals. 

Sarah, Liv, Josh and I went out again. We ended up at Boom Bar again but once it closed, we decided to go back. However, this day was SUPER rainy. So, naturally, we all decided to run back to the hostel, in the rain, a little drunk. It was so much fun and definitely an experience for the books.

Sept 17, 2017

Today I woke up late because I wanted to sleep in. Josh, Liv and I got breakfast/lunch at the place we ate the first day, the little hole in the wall. Since it was rainy and cold again, Liv and I went for the noddle soup. It was SOOO good. Josh pointed out that they put the little kangaroo animal eraser that I gave the little boy on top of their TV, for everyone to see. WHEN I SAW THAT IT LITERALLY MADE MY HEART MELT! It made me feel so good inside!

There wasn’t much we could do for the rest of the day since it was super rainy. We walked around and explored a little. But for most of the day we just chilled back at the hostel and played pool. We had such a late start to the day anyways and Josh wanted to watch his Arsenal footie game at 7:30. We got some street food before getting to a restaurant called the Banana Bar & Restaurant, who was broadcasting the game. Ben & Becca met us there, our British friends from Stamps, who we planned to meet. This bar actually had affordable drinks (& pizza). Liv and I couldn’t resist, the pizza was calling us. 

After an uneventful footie match (no one scored, who even likes watching soccer it’s so boring, JK loads of people around the world love soccer and I’m sure they say the same thing about baseball) all of us, including Ben and Becca, went back to Common Ground to chill and drink there. We got there pretty late because the bar closed a few minutes after we got there. They generally kick us out and make us either go out or go to our dorms to sleep, but because we were pretty quiet and mellow they let us sit and chat for a while. I also forgot my water bottle so I ran all the way back Banana to get it, I’m not losing that thing it’s freaking great. And we called it an early night.

Sept 18, 2017

I woke up pretty late again today. Liv and I wanted to get our laundry done today so we dropped it off at this sweet lady’s shop. The lady who we first wanted to get it done by was very rude when we told her we didn’t want it dried in the dryer (later we figured we had to since hang drying takes a whole day and we were only staying one more night). She told us to go find another place and pretended not to hear us when we asked questions. So we said fuck it and went somewhere else to someone who deserved our business. We had another late breakfast/early lunch at this cute cafe called Om Garden. It’s a very hippie, vegan-like place that served pretty bomb ass food. I got this fried cauliflower burger with a banana coconut shake, which HOLY EFF was the best thing I’d ever drank (at least in Thailand).

I just wanted to chill again today. Liv and Josh rented motorbikes to explore, but I was very nervous that it was going to rain and didn’t trust myself to drive in wet conditions (it didn’t end up pouring rain like I thought it would). So I just chilled, hung out with Stevie, got a workout in, and took a shower. When I came back out Liv and Josh had just gotten back and were talking about something they witnessed on their motorbike adventure. Apparently, some girl had crashed her motorbike, she was probably on her phone and didn’t see the corner and completely wiped out. She was also probably in shock, only fussing about her phone which was lost (Josh later found it in the bushes). The Thailand police/army dressed guys (?) were trying to help her but she was just fixated on finding her phone. The ambulance later came and cleaned her up. I’m sort of glad I didn’t ride the motorbikes because I feel like that could have happened to me. I know you just have to be careful and aware, but I’m just not trusting of my motorbike abilities.

However, I did ride on the back of Liv’s when we went to go pick up our laundry. We did a few laps around town after we were told our laundry would be done in 10 minutes. After picking up our laundry we packed, chilled, and went out again for street food. This time I got pockstickers (my favorite and how can you say no to 5 potstickers for 20 baht or less than $1), cha sui bao (siopow for my Filipino friends), fried tofu, and MANGO STICKY RICE! After eating and doing more laps around town on the motorbikes (in the back of one for me) we went to this vintage store with cool vintage button-ups that Josh wanted to look at one last time. I ended up getting this cool fish Hawaiian shirt and I LOVE IT!!

Back at the hostel we didn’t decide to drink since we had to be up at 6:30am. So we played pool and called it a night.

Now I’m sitting in Chiang Khong, at the boarder between Thailand & Laos. After a crazy lodging debacle (which I will get to next blog post) we’re comfortably in a better guesthouse. Tomorrow, we’ll be on the slow boat to Laos, which generally takes 2 days. So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE!!!

4 Days in Chiang Mai

September 11, 2017

So…remember how I said I was on my way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via sleeper train? Well, I got no sleep…like absolutely ZERO. I’m a pretty picky sleeper and I’d gotten a good amount of sleep the night before so I wasn’t exhausted. I also need like silence and stillness when I sleep and that just wasn’t happening in a rickety ass train. It doesn’t help that the lights in the cabin didn’t dim or darken at all, it was light the whole time. The sun started to come up around 6am and the train attendant lady started to wake everyone up yelling “orange juice, orange juice”. I finally stopped trying to sleep around 6:30am and instead checked out the view outside. It was so beautiful, the Thailand landscape. So green, so lush, so amazing.

The lady again asked me if I wanted anything. I said “no” because I’d brought a cup-of-noodle and the train food was overpriced. Last night she asked me and Josh if we wanted coffee or tea, I said tea thinking that it was at least included. Well it wasn’t. She also asked if I wanted hot water. She told Josh it was 50 bhat. When she came back with Josh & me’s cup-of-noodle with hot water in it, she demanded 60 bhat. It’s so annoying because these people try to squeeze every little cent from you. I didn’t argue and just gave her the damn 60 bhat for hot water & tea. When I wanted a refill, I asked her if it cost and she said “free” with an annoyed face. I think she was annoyed because Josh & I didn’t want to buy anything from her, unlike the other backpackers/foreigners on the train so she scammed us.

Anyways, we (me, Liv, & Josh) finally go to Chiang Mai around 9am and got a red truck (their form of cab) to our hostel, Stamps Backpackers. We heard a lot of good things about this place from a few people from the hostel we stayed at previously. After dropping our bags off, we wandered around the town to kinda get our bearings. Plus, we didn’t really have a plan of attack for our first day. There are a lot of temples in the town of Chiang Mai, so we checked out a few of them, ate some lunch, and Josh & Liv booked the same elephant tour as me. We got authentic Thai massages from a community at a temple (Wat) for pretty cheap and really took it easy for the rest of the day.

A cool thing about our hostel, Stamps Backpackers, is that they have an activities board filled with everything from Elephant parks, to cooking classes, and day trips. It’s a really awesome way to get things booked and find other people who want to go with you. We signed up for the 9pm LadyBoy cabaret show, something that the staff raved about. When it was time to leave there were a huge group of people, like around 20-30, mobbing to this LadyBoy show. I can see why everyone loved it–it was pretty fucking awesome. You could tell that the LadyBoys were really enjoying themselves, they were hitting all the moves in their 9 inch heels, their lip singing (to songs by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Madonna) was not the best because obviously they’re not fluent in English but it added to the hilariousness of it.

After the cabaret show we all headed out as a hostel to Zoe in the Yellow, a local bar where most of the backpackers party. It was really fun, but Liv, Josh and I didn’t drink that much since we knew we had to wake up early for the elephants and we learned the first time at the Floating Markets not to drink if we had to wake up early in the morning. So after a little we headed back to prepare for the next morning.
Sept 12, 2017

It was an early morning for the 3 of us. We were told our bus would be here anywhere from 6:30-7am so we got down in the lobby at 6:30, but naturally they got there at little passed 7. The transportation here is pretty cool, it’s basically a pick up truck converted into a van, with seats on the bed and a cover up top and on the sides. I sat in the back with these 4 girls from Washington. After about an hour we arrived at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (Camp 6). We had to change into these shirts, which were authentic, traditional Karen garb. Apparently, it’s better for the elephants, who meet new people every day, to feel some familiarity and comfortable.

The first activity was feeding them. We took some bananas, elephant’s equivalent of chocolate, and were taught how to feed them properly. The best part was that they had a 5 month old baby elephant, who was so tiny and so cuuuuute! After about an hour of feeding them bananas and sugar cane, we changed into our swimsuits to give the elephants a mud bath. There was this huge mud pit that the elephants just immediately laid down in. Our job was to get them as muddy as possible. So we threw a whole bunch of mud on them and the guys doing the tour started throwing mud on us….sooo…basically…MUDDDD FIGHT!! After we were muddy and dirty, we made our way to the stream where we were given buckets to throw water on the elephants to wash them off. Again, the elephants immediately submerged their whole body in the water. It was a cool thing to watch and a great experience. 

Elephant’s are so gentle, majestic, and amazing creatures to experience up close. It’s important that, when in Thailand, you visit an elephant sanctuary. Most often tourists are suckered in to going to a place where elephants are forced to give you rides. This isn’t the best for them, since they’re almost always tortured, mistreated, and forced into giving tourists rides. The elephants in the sanctuary are rescued from these unfortunate circumstances and instead are used to educate people and give them a different experience.

After we finished washing the elephants, they prepared us a delicious Thai meal. Then we were taken back home. Instead of riding in the bed of the truck, I instead rode in the front seat. The driver was really talkative and chatted with me the whole time about Thailand and Chiang Mai. It was a nice conversation, although the language barrier made it a little hard to understand him. 

Once back at the hostel, I was fiending for a workout. I asked the staff at the hostel if there was a gym, they pointed me to the best one. I walked about a mile to it and worked out for about an hour and a half to 2 hours. A guy that was staying at the hostel ended up there as well, and we took a red truck back to the hostel together. It felt good to workout, I feel like I need to stick with my routine as long as possible. After a nice shower, I met up with Liv and Josh again. We headed to the Night Bazaar where we ate some good street food, picked up some souvenirs, and wandered around aimlessly among the thousands of stalls. We had to rush back to the hostel because it said on the activities board that there was a bar crawling event at 8:30 and we made it at 8:45 and they hadn’t left yet. In fact, we wouldn’t leave for 45 more minutes, until 9:30. This was a hostel tactic to get you to drink more alcohol at their bar. This hostel was different than NapPark, in that, you were not allowed to bring/buy your own alcohol outside of the hostel. You could only drink the alcohol that was provided at the bar. So, me being a cheap/efficient drinker, decided to take shots of the cheapest thing on their menu, this thing they call a “Black Cock”. This is actually the name of the drink, a rice type whisky that has a banana after taste. I think I had about 3 or 4 shots of that before we headed out.

The first stop was this Oasis bar, a rooftop bar. We were the only people here, which was pretty cool. It was a different bar, which I appreciated and I had good conversation with some of the people from our hostel. After this bar we headed to Zoe in the Yellow again, and this time I could fully enjoy myself. After a few shots of tequilla and lots of dancing, the bar ended up closing at 12am. Apparently, its the curfew in Thailand and most places aren’t supposed to stay open passed 12. Well, we ended up going to this place called Spicy, an illegal, underground club that costs entry to get in (but I guess you get a free drink so it evens out). Liv and I had a fun time, but the music wasn’t all that great. I also cut up my feet because people broke some beer bottles and we were wearing flip flops. When we’d finally had our fill, Liv and I headed home around 2:30am.
Sept 13, 2017

Our dorm room was very quiet this morning. No one woke up until like 10-11am, arguably hungover from the night before. I woke up hungover, but I was able to sleep in. Hearing horror stories from Liv and others from the hostel, it seems like a few people had a long night, puking in the bathroom for 2 hours or woken up from the insanely loud puking happening in their dorm room. Liv was really craving pizza and Josh and I weren’t opposed to that idea, it’d be a good hangover food. We wandered around the streets until we found a cafe that had western food. This food is obviously more expensive than the food we’ve been eating, but it was definitely worth it. Usually, the Thai food we can get on the streets range from 35-60 bhat or $1-$2. At this restaurant we paid 280 bhat each or 8ish dollars.

We went back to the hostel to relax and find others that wanted to go to the Temple on the Mountain or Doi Sumphet with us. It’s better to get a group to go to split the cost of the red truck round trip. We found this couple from the UK, Ben & Rebecca to join us. After about a 40 min drive up the mountain, we finally made it to the temple. We had to walk up TONS of stairs to get to it. Slowly but surely we made it up and were rewarded with an amazing view. This temple is apparently a pretty important temple to the people of Chiang Mai. We hung out here for about an hour before heading back. 

On the way back down the daunting stairway there were a few Hmong children dressed in traditional clothing, probably taking pictures with tourists then asking for money. Before I came to Thailand I bought a bunch of erasers from Daiso that were in the shapes of animals and food to give out to kids out here. It was recommended by one of my Tita’s friends who traveled to South America and said she did that for the kids down there. I put a few in my bag and gave them to the kids, a much better gift than money their parent’s probably make them get. Even after giving them one, they slyly asked for me more, as if one wasn’t enough. I only had one eraser left that I gave one of the girls, thinking she wanted it for her brother or something, but she ended up just keeping it. 

We were so hot and tired from walking we got a fruit shake to cool us down. The fruit shakes here are so good. They’re fresh, made with real fruit and ice, and only 30-50bhat or $1-2 dollars. The lady who took us up there was waiting for us at 4pm, the time we said we’d meet her back at the car. Once we got back home, I took another shower, a must out here since it’s always hot, humid and you’re constantly sweating. At 6pm at the hostel, they were having a customer appreciation night, which meant free buffalo wings & hot dogs. Since we had such an expensive lunch, we wanted to take advantage of this free food. Unknowingly, I met the owner and told him how hungry I was while waiting for our food. So, when he started to hand out the food he would either tell me first about the food or come back to me to give me seconds LOL! Only after was when I realized he was the owner.

The hostel wanted to go out again as a group but Liv, Josh and I were so hungover from the night before and too tired to go out again. We hung out with them until they headed out and once they did we went upstairs to sleep early.
Sept 14, 2017

After sleeping for a good 10 hours, I finally decided to wake up. Anna, one of the girls in my dorm, recommended this delicious “western” food place called The Hideout, where they serve gourmet sandwiches and salads. We wanted to check it out so me, Liv, and Josh and our two ski bum friends from Jackson Hole ate here. I had this really good, super hot (Thai Spicy) sandwich that was Thai inspired. I wanted this sandwich because it was something I couldn’t get back at home, but it was a mistake since it was so hot I couldn’t eat the second half.

We went back to the hostel to try to see if anyone wanted to go with us to the Grand Canyon. However, we also wanted to do a cooking class and didn’t realize that they picked us up at 3:30. So it was either that or the cooking class and I had heard so many good things about the cooking class we decided to do that. Plus, Josh couldn’t come with us to the Grand Canyon because of his knee, so it was a good thing we picked the cooking class. 

Liv, Josh and I and our new friend Fred, who’s actually from the same town as Liv, decided to check out a local market. The Wararot Market was a local market and we were the only foreigners walking around. It was cool to see but very intimidating to try and buy anything. We did it just to try and kill some time before the cooking class people picked us up.

Once back at the hostel, we realized a lot of people from the hostel actually signed up to also attend the cooking class. There was a total of 10 of us. 7 of us squeezed into the back of the truck. Siam Garden Cooking School let us pick from 6 courses what we wanted to cook. They then took us to a local market, where they explained the different ingredients and what courses they would be used in. Then we went back in the truck and drove to the school, this beautiful house with a great garden and TWO THREE MONTH OLD PUPPIES!! I know it’s so bad, but I was more interested in the puppies than learning how to cook. But, how can you not be distracted by a Golden Retreiver puppy and a Beagle puppy?!?? (Don’t judge me, I love puppies).

The first thing we cooked was the soup. I picked boiled rice soup. They showed us how to cook it, then let us eat in it in a nice, air-conditioned room while they prepared the next course. The next course was creating curry paste for the curry of choice. I picked Khao Soi, a dish Chiang Mai was known for. After creating the paste, we prepared the stir fry dish, which I chose Chicken Stir Fry or Gra Pow Gai (being a Thai-food enthusiast, I know the names of the dishes I love most). We cooked our chicken stir fry and curry and ate it in the AC room. The next dish we cooked was the appetizer, I picked chicken salad or Larb Gai. By this time I was getting sooooo fulll!! Of course the portions were really small but it was still a lot of food. Lastly, was the dessert. I of course picked mango sticky rice. The staff was so amazing and funny. Art, a bakla younger guy, shaped the rice into a penis and a vagina, it was so funny! We had a really great time and were so full by the time we got back to the hostel.

We got back later from the cooking class, around 9:30 the time that the bar closes at the hostel. So we all downed a couple of beers/shots (me, Liv, Josh and a few guys from the cooking class plus our Jackson Hole friends) and we headed out for the night. Our first stop was this Fat Elvis place. There were tons of girls from the UK there in their sluttiest outfits, I think thats why the boys wanted to stop. But after a bit I started to get annoyed, mostly because I didn’t know any of the UK songs they were playing and I wanted to go to Zoe before it closed at 12. We finally made our way to Zoe and danced for a bit. We met up with the hostel who ended up going to the LadyBoy show again. Once it hit 12, Liv and I didn’t want to go to Spicy so we ended up going home and sleeping early!

Chiang Mai was amazing and I’m really glad I went to Stamps Hostel. Everyone was so friendly and there were always things to do with people. Right now I’m in Pai, and this freaking blog post took me 2 hours to write. I’ll try my best to keep these up! Stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!

4 Days in Bangkok

Sept 5 – Departure Date
…or should I say D-Day? Just kidding, but I can assure you that I was very nervous when I woke up this morning. I went to the gym one last time before my dad and Carl (my pup) picked me up to go to the airport. We picked up Mom from the city before heading out to SFO. It was after I said goodbye to my parents when the feeling really hit me that I wasn’t going to see them for 3 months…and that I was traveling all by myself. I teared up a bit walking through security, that uneasy feeling of the unknown. Excited, nervousness, fear were all rushing to me at once.

My plane ride was about 12 hours. Luckily, the flight wasn’t booked up so the middle seat was open and I had a little more room to sprawl out. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and The Zookeeper’s Wife and got maybe 4-5 hours of sleep. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and arrived in Wuhan, China. Their terminal is quite different: they make you collect your baggage and recheck it in even if you’re transferring flights. You also have to wait for a specific check-in time before you can even go into the terminals, so I was waiting in the lobby for about 3 hours.

I was exhausted by the I got on the plane. I passed out immediately, and woke up to food on my tray. The strangest thing happened to me, the guy next to me had eaten my hot meal and I only had snacks left. He didn’t speak English, but he was trying to give me other food that he didn’t want, maybe because he felt bad or was trying to make it up to me. I was a little pissed because WHO DOES THAT?!? I ate the snacks real quick and fell asleep again. By the time I woke up we were descending into Bangkok.

Once I arrived at the airport, it was already 2am in the morning. I had to catch a cab to my hostel since it was so late, which by the way is a very intimidating and annoying process. The cab drivers try to squeeze as much money from the foreigners as possible and have meters that are either broken and charge you very quickly or don’t turn the meter on at all and try to charge you a ridiculous rate. I think my cab driver’s meter was rigged but it’s hard to tell let alone accuse them of it.

I finally arrived at the NapPark Hostel at around 4am in the morning. People were still out and about, which at first I thought was strange, but come to find out later that this would be the time I’d be coming back each night. Since Bangkok is 14 hours ahead of California time, I tried to sleep so I could at least acclimate to the time difference. It actually wasn’t hard since I had been traveling for basically 24 hours now.
Sept 7 – Day 1 in Bangkok

After 4 hours of sleep, I woke up around 8:30am to get my day started. Our hostel has a nice little cafe downstairs where I had this traditional Thai yogurt with banana and cereal for breakfast. I then headed out with the goal of seeing Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) & The Grand Palace. After wandering the streets of Bangkok for a bit (I kinda got lost) I finally made it to Wat Pho. This temple was beautiful, although I was pretty entertained by the feral cats more than the actual temple itself. I then made my way to The Grand Palace, which was also beautiful. However, The Grand Palace was WAY more crowded and 5 times more expensive than Wat Pho. There were hoards of Chinese tourists everywhere, which made it quite bothersome to actually enjoy the place. I also went to the National Museum of Bangkok where they displayed a lot of traditional Thai artifacts dating back to basically the beginning of Thai existence.

After 5 hours of visiting temples and museums, I went back to the hostel with the goal of taking a nap. Unfortunately, there’s no AC in the dorms from 12-6pm so I went down to the common area to relax and hang out. This actually turned out to be a great idea since most people hang out here anyways and it’s a great opportunity to meet other travelers. I met a bunch of people who wanted to go out that night. We all chatted and made plans to end up at Khoa San Road later on. At 6 I went up to the dorms to take a nap (bc the AC was def needed to get a good nap in) and went back downstairs around 8pm. Someone suggested food, so we all headed out to Khao San road to get some street pad thai, which by the way was SO GOOD & SO CHEAP!

The guys and Liv, my new friend from Manchester, all decided to pregame before heading out. I had some delicious rum–just kidding, it wasn’t delicious, it was seriously like jet fuel, but it was cheap and did the job. We walked around Khao San, where we stopped at a stall on the street an got buckets of alcohol and balloons filled with laughing gas. After we finished the buckets, we went to “The Club” (literally, that’s what it’s called) where we danced and had a good time. I finally got back to the dorms around 4am, where I passed out.
Sept 8 – Day 2 in Bangkok

Today I woke up so exhausted. I still hadn’t got a good night rest since my body is still in California time. I woke up around 9 and got a traditional Thai omelette from downstairs. I said goodbye to the 3 cool Irish dudes that I met the night before. Not sure what I was going to do that day, I hung out in the lobby of the hostel for a few hours before deciding that I needed to be productive. 

I walked around Khao San road, this time in the daytime and checked out the different clothing/food stalls. I wandered around, got my nails done and legs waxed, then went back to the hostel. Liv was at common room when I got back to the hostel, we both agreed that we were hungry and went to get a bite to eat.

When I got back to my bunk I met my new bunk buddy, Rosie from the UK. We all made plans to go out that night too. After napping (again) for 3 hours, I pregame again with my disgusting jet fuel rum, mind you I could only sip it slowly and have 2 glasses max since it was so gross. A bunch of us, including me, Liv, Rosie, and another new friend Lucy went to Khao San road, where we went to the same sidewalk mini bar. This time I had 2 buckets and danced in the street before having to leave a bit earlier than the others. Liv, Josh (my new friend from New Zealand) I had to wake up early (7am) to go to the Floating Markets.
Sept 9 – Day 3 in Bangkok

Today, I had to wake up early since the shuttle bus that was taking us to the Floating Markets would be downstairs at 7am. However, I didn’t even need to use my alarm clock, since the guys across the way from me decided to come in at 6am in the morning, drunk off their asses and basically waking everyone up. I think I woke up drunk that morning or at least VERY VERY hungover. It was an excruciating bus ride and our first stop was the train market. This market is situated right by the train tracks. When the train comes by, the vendors put back their shades and take their products away from the path of the tracks, then put everything back once it’s gone by. The train literally chugs by within inches of everything and the vendors are so used to it they barely blink, unlike the tourists, snapping pictures in awe.

The next stop was the Dumnoen Saduak or Floating Markets. So cool to see this floating market, with vendors either on the shore of the river or on boats. Most of the items they were selling were tourist stuff, so I’m not sure if it is as authentic as it used to be. Josh, Liv and I were all hungover, trying to enjoy this floating market but really needed to find some food. Luckily, we stumbled upon this small food stand where we devoured our food. The last leg of this trip was a speed boat, taking us through the village communities by the water. This was fun because the boat actually went quite fast and we were able to see real Thai communities from a cool ass perspective (the water).

Liv, Josh and I got back to the hostel around 1:30pm, where we all booked a sleeper train to Chiang Mai for the following day. I watched a movie in the lobby, napped a little, and took a shower. Liv & I then got some street pad thai again before heading out. A bunch of us girls wanted to go to Lebua, the Sky Bar where Hangover II was filmed and the highest view point in Bangkok. We all had to dress up, since this was an expensive place and let me tell you this was a hard task to complete for backpacking girls. 

At the end of the night, it was me, Lauren, Lucy, Liv, Sancha & Sarah (my new friends from the Netherlands). Cocktails here started from 710 bhat (~$20)…the most expensive freaking cocktail of my life. But, there was no entrance fee and you basically pay for the ambiance. Most people just go there to take pictures (like us). It was a very mellow night since I could only afford one drink and compared to the other two previous nights.
Sept 10 – Day 4 in Bangkok

Last night was the first night I was able to sleep with no problems. I woke up around 10am since Lucy, Rosie and I wanted to go to the Chatuchak weekend market. I got some amazing street food for breakfast, this fried chicken salad over rice that Rosie recommended getting. We then had the difficult task of finding a cab driver to take us to the Chatuchak market who would actually use the meter. We passed up around 4 cabs who refused to turn the meter on (jerks, the police here say it’s illegal but they still don’t care and try to scam tourists).

Finally, we found a cab driver who would turn on the meter and not use the speedway (since it’s a 50 bhat fee to use the high way). Once we got there, we were overwhelmed by all the stalls, There was so much to see, so many things being sold from clothing to fake flowers to furniture and ceramics. I got some cute shorts and tiger balm, since my bug bites are swelling out of control and I am in some serious need of some relief from the pain. We stayed for about 3 hours before heading back.

Right now, I’m currently in the sleeper train with Josh and Liv, headed to Chiang Mai. It’s such a cool experience and I loved every second of Bangkok. The backpacking community out here is so amazing. Everyone you meet is so friendly and cool to talk to, I can see why people stay out here for months. Stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE *in the voice of Saturday morning cartoon announcers*.