I was in Chiang Rai for a few days (I think about three) and I had a good time I didn’t really do anything touristy or fun. I basically just walked around or hung out in the hotel. I was only there for a few hours before I realized that if I wasn’t going to be doing any side-tours that I really wouldn’t have anything adventurous to do. I don’t mind though, I consider this trip to be more of a time to renew, or strengthen past memories. Again, like Chiang Mai, I would get small flashes of the time I was there before.

The city is okay, like I mentioned there really isn’t a lot of things to do if you don’t go on tours so relaxing was my best option for my time there. I felt like the city was small and nice. There is a great night market that is held on Saturday nights so that was my first stop the first night I arrived. It was packed with people. So many people that you pretty much had to keep walking so as not to get run over by the mass of people following behind. I think my heel was stepped on about twenty times. J The food was fantastic though and I had to admit it, but I ate probably enough street food for at least two people. It was the first time on this trip too that I saw some of the more exotic Thai cuisine, like fried mealworms and crickets, and no… just no.

So I’m sitting in Starbucks in the city of Chang Mai, Thailand and after ordering my drink I found out that they don’t have internet access. What? I came here specifically so I could plan the next part of my journey, which requires access to the internet. So after sitting here for about fifteen minutes just staring at the ceiling, I decided to write something for the blog, whether or not it ends up getting posted will remain to be seen.

To update what I’ve done and where I’ve been in the last few weeks since my most recent entry; I have been traveling around quite a bit. I was in Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia for about a week. I’ve been there several times so I didn’t really do a lot of sightseeing, (which is a theme for most of the places that I’ve been to recently). Even though I’ve been to Georgetown so many times, it was kind of nice to take it easy and not do much. The hostel that I stayed in was a remodeled historic house, and was absolutely beautiful. At night with the lights on, it looked more like an art gallery than a hostel. Unfortunately I got bored pretty quickly and was ready to leave after a week. I ended up becoming friends with the owner of the hostel too. It’s always kind of nice that when I leave there is someone that makes a point of giving a hug or handshake and telling me that they hope to see me again. Sometimes I do, but more often than not it is the last time I’ll see them.

My original plan was to head to Thailand after Georgetown, but the Thai government has a rule that if you cross the Thai border by land, you only receive a 15-day visa, if you cross by air, you get a 30-day. Since I wanted to travel around Thailand 15 days was not really an option, so I had to book a ticket to fly in. The problem was, was that I needed to go back to Kuala Lumpur to fly into Thailand. I’m not really on a schedule so there wasn’t a problem with doing this, it just seemed a little bit strange.

I stayed in KL for a few days. This was the first time that I didn’t stay at my friends hostel though and I felt kind of guilty. There were multiple reasons that I chose to stay somewhere else, the biggest being reason was I constantly was getting bitten at night, even after liberally covering myself with insect repellent. I got to the point where I was convinced that there was bedbugs at his hostel. I didn’t want to say anything to him though because it’s maybe the worst thing that a hotel/hostel can have.  I was in KL only long enough to plan the trip into Thailand.

I flew into Krabi, Thailand and instantly felt good. I didn’t mention, but KL, and most of Malaysia, has been covered by a blanket of smoke that originated from forest fires in Indonesian. The smoke was really thick and with the high heat and orange colored sky sometimes it was very uncomfortable. Once I walked out of the airport in Krabi I was hit by blue skies and warm temperatures. It was just perfect. I stayed in Krabi for about five days mostly just enjoying the food, and taking an occasional trip to Ao Nang beach about twenty minutes away.

My next stop was Bangkok. I didn’t really have anything planned for being in Bangkok, it was simply the best stop on my way to Chang Mai other parts of Thailand. I took a bus from Krabi and although it was a pretty simple journey, it was still a rough journey. The bus arrived in Bangkok at about 5am and just dropped all of us off on a street. I didn’t really have a clue where I was or what I needed to do. The stop was packed with taxi and tuk-tuk drivers all trying their best to get people to commit to hiring them. It can be somewhat overwhelming when you woke up like two minutes ago and you have about five taxi drivers all hounding you to drive you somewhere.

I hung out in Bangkok for about three days. I didn’t go see much, though I did walk around quite a bit. I enjoyed my time there mostly because I liked the hostel that I booked. It was another restored historic house and just like the one in Penang, it was also very pretty. I got along well with the owner too.  She and I talked for quite a while and it seemed that I had stayed longer we would probably have become friends.

I took the night train from Bangkok to Chang Mai about four days ago. I was looking forward to being on a train and it was just as good as an experience as I had hoped. There is something that is unique to sleeping on a bed, while the train makes its way through the jungle. The sound of the train going over the tracks and the occasional muffled blast from the horn is, along with moving silhouettes of the jungle trees through the light of the moon, almost magical. There is the slight jostling from left to right and sometimes up and down that is soothing.

The train arrived in Chiang Mai on Tuesday and I’ve been here since. I’ve been here before, but it was long enough ago that I don’t remember very much. Every now and again as I’m walking around, I’ll get a flash of memory about something, the moat that surrounds the old part of the city being the strongest memory I’ve had. I can’t believe the amount of old white guys here though. Every where you go, there is some old, like 60-70+ year old white guys sitting around drinking coffee or beer, and many of them have a young(er) Thai woman with them. It makes me uncomfortable because I’m close enough to them by age for some people to consider me one of them. The city also seems to cater to them as well. Everywhere you go there are massage parlors with young Thai women sitting outside along the sidewalk. As I walk along I hear them call out to me, asking if I want a massage, sometimes, like last night I was eating dinner and across the street from me was two massage parlors each with a group of women sitting outside. Every time I looked up it felt like there were eyes on me. Once, one of the girls even crossed the street to the restaurant and sat at the table next to me. I also want to acknowledge that I am more expressing how I felt and maybe it was just a coincidence (or wishful thinking).

Tomorrow I am going to be going to Chiang Rai for probably about a week. Like Chiang Mai, Chang Rai is a normal stop for most backpackers venturing into Northern Thailand, and just like Chang Mai, I have been there before. The difference between the two is that I think I remember more about it than I have about Chiang Mai. I’m hoping that it will be fun.

I made it Krabi City in Thailand about five days ago and like what seems par for the course this trip, I have taken very few photos and have neglected the blog. Hopefully this entry will be enough to sum up my experience(s) so far.

Krabi City, aka, Krabi is the main city in the Krabi Province. It’s small, but not so small that it’s boring. There are big stores here as well as some Western fast food outlets, like KFC.

I like this town. The city, as mentioned, is small and a little touristy, but not as bad as some of the places that I’ve been. Koh Lanta was less touristy, but in some ways Krabi feels a little bit more ‘natural.’ Many of the locals don’t speak any English and although it can make for difficult interactions, it’s something that I truly enjoy.

As much as I do enjoy being here after nearly a week of just hanging out, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m ready to move on. I’m definitely getting the “hotel California” feeling being here. You know, “You can check in anytime you’d like, but you can never leave” feeling. That part of the song runs through my head if I start to get a little bit too comfortable someplace, and especially if I’m sitting in my ‘usual seat’ watching people check in, and a couple of days later, still in my usual seat, see them check out. It was really hard not to warn people at Koh Lanta. At times I’d have to hold back from yelling, “Don’t check in, it’s a trap. You’ll never get to leave.”

My next stop is Penang, Malaysia. I’m not sure how far it is from Krabi (just googled it, 500km), but I know that it’s close enough that if I leave relatively early, I should be there in the afternoon. That’s including crossing the borders. I’ve rented an apartment for a month there, so I know I’ll be there for at least thirty days, but I do intend to live in Kuala Lumpur as well. The problem with KL is that from what I can tell it’s pretty expensive to rent a place, so I may only stay for a couple of weeks. I’d really like to be in KL for New Year’s though… But I’ll have to play it by ear for now.

Today I went on my first ‘touristy’ thing since I’ve been here. You know, I hate to admit it that It was just what I needed. I’ve said it to other people and I guess I needed to hear the same thing, the reason people do touristy things is because they’re usually fun. It was a fun day.

The itinerary said that it would be a full day of kayaking and sightseeing, including a visit to feed some ‘friendly monkeys.’ I could have sworn that some snorkeling was involved, but I think I may have misread or confused this trip with another, because we didn’t do any snorkeling.

 

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The truc picked me up at about 8am and made the rounds to pick up the other people who were going along. When I got on the truck there were already two young girls on board. You could tell that they were the shy nervous type… It turns out that they were from Myanmar and to be honest I was glad that the trip wasn’t full of Aussies or Europeans. When we finally emptied out of the truck there was a total of about 8 of us and two were small children. We arrived at the dock at about 9 that we would board a traditional fishing boat called a long-tail boat that would take us to the spot where we would do some kayaking.

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It wasn’t that long, maybe thirty minutes before the long-tail boat pushed up on the very small beach where we were to begin our kayaking adventure. As each kayak was lowered to the water two people would jump on and start paddling out to wait for the rest of us. I kind of hung back because as I’m always so painfully reminded, I’m by myself and don’t quite know who’s going to be with me. I can compare it to being the last to be picked for a team. You watch as people start leaving and pretty soon you’re the only one left. It turns out that the guy who is in charge is going to be with me. While we were getting set I look over at the two girls from Myanmar and they are floundering… they are going in every direction but the direction everyone else is going. It was so funny to watch them. It wasn’t long before the guy in charge switches the girls with us, I was with one of the girls and he was with the other. The girl I was with was named Bam.

Bam and her friend.
Bam and her friend.

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After the kayaking we jumped back on the long-tail and headed to a small island for lunch. The island was beautiful and the lunch was okay. We were there for probably an hour, but probably closer to two. To get a feel for the island, it’s got white sand beaches and little to no waves. The water is warm, in fact any warmer it probably would be too warm Nearly everyone in the group went for a swim and took a nap afterwards… that is except for Bam and her friend, they just hung out at the table we ate lunch at. They didn’t get up or move the whole time, I even tried to convince them to go swimming, but with no luck.

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We loaded up the long-tail and headed to a mangrove area that had ‘friendly’ monkeys, if you were to believe the brochure. Turns out the brochure was pretty accurate. These monkeys have grown accustomed to people feeding them so they are pretty friendly. We had a few jump in the boat and steal things, mostly just garbage, but it was fun to see. I’ll post photos since it would take too long to explain.

We spent about thirty minutes feeding the monkeys and soon we were on our way back to the dock. It was a good time and although I think I would have enjoyed more kayaking than we did, I can say that I had fun and glad that I went.

My time in this resort is ending in about 6 days and to be honest I think I’m ready to go. I mean, the place is beautiful with its foliage surrounding the bungalows and the sound of waves breaking in the distance, but generally I feel a little bit locked in. Everywhere I turn there is someone around me to the point that I feel like I can’t just hang out on my front porch without feeling that I’m being strange. I guess I think that I’m being judged by not spending my time doing all the touristy things that a person at the resort should do—did that make sense?

Besides feeling like people are judging me for being boring, I must admit that I am also kind of bored. My goal on this trip was to experience culture, but where I am is really not that close to being in a cultural environment. I’m a tourist and there is no way around it. I think if I were in a bigger city I would be able to shun touristy things and try my best to blend in with the locals.

There are some things that I still need to do before I leave here. First I want to go on a tour of popular islands around the area. I’ll probably book it for tomorrow morning. It should be fun from what I’ve read about people who have actually done it. The second thing I want to do, but I’m not sure that I can is find a place that has a ‘package’ is to go trekking in the mountains. The jungle around here is closer to being the real thing than I’ve seen in quite some time and I’ve got this urge to hike. The problem is, is that I haven’t seen anything that suggests that this is even possible so I’m not sure if I can do it or not.

The last thing I have to take care of is where I’ll go when I leave here. I’ll still have about two weeks in Thailand before my visa expires and I don’t want to leave. I’m planning on spending a week in Krabi and a week in Bangkok.

So I’ve been in Koh Lanta, Thailand for about nine days and the first thing that comes to mind is that it is close to paradise. The days are warm with just enough clouds to cool you down when it seems like you need it most. Usually a rain shower comes by at least once a day effectively cooling things down for a while. Add to this, the sea is warm, the beach is long and everywhere around me is jungle. Yep, pretty much makes this almost perfect.

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I got to the place I’m staying about nine days ago and since I’ve been here it’s been a little bit like a ‘kids’ rollercoaster, ups and downs but nothing too up or too down. I’ve rented a scooter twice to make my way around the island, and I’ve even taken off on a couple of long walks.

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The island is very small, about 30km N/S and 10km E/W which makes it pretty easy to explore. Maybe, if I were to be honest, it’s possibly a little too easy to explore. Like I mentioned I’ve rented a scooter a couple of times and I saw the highlights of the island in a morning on the first time. The second time I went in different directions and then went back to the places that I explored earlier. It is definitely fun but not that exciting.

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About a week ago I decided to walk to the nearest town (Sala Dan), according to Google it’s about 5km away, though it sure seemed further when I was walking it. Nothing really interesting happened, but I did get to see the area at a slower pace than traveling in a car or on a scooter. Along the way I was kind of haunted by one taxi driver in a pickup. She must have stopped me about 3 times asking if I needed/wanted a ride. Each time I declined and had to convince her that everything was okay. It was kind of cute in a way, almost like she took it upon herself to watch over me. The last time she stopped me, she said the ride was free and to get in. I didn’t because I was there for the walk, but it kind of gives you an idea of her determination. ☺