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Chiang Mai

A girl dressed in hilltribe clothes posing on the steps of Doi Suthep

Well, things change (as they must), and after two years, some of the things we were most looking forward to have changed or gone completely. The guest-house we were looking forward to staying at is gone: razed to the ground! As for my all-time favorite vegetarian restaraunt with the kitschy, coca-cola decor… it’s still there and the food is still great, but the prices have doubled, and I think it has changed hands… *sigh*. Oh well.

We (my wife, our friend from BKK and I) arrived early this morning via bus from Bangkok. After discovering the ruins of our intended lodgings, we got lucky with number two. Ironically though, this also is under new (but friendly) management. We have a beautiful room in a good location, and have spent the afternoon window shopping around town (talaat Wororot and Chinatown area…). Right now Ize (my wife) and Nes are getting their hair done next door while I right this. I can’t wait to see what color Ize’s hair is now!

Chiang Mai is hot right now, but not as uncomfortable as Bangkok. In fact one day last week, we took an overnight trip to Ko Samet, just to get away from the heat! It was our first trip there, and we liked it–even though we got there late, left early, and it rained most of the time ^__^! Actually, that just made it nice and cool, and the contrast of the dark sky and green water was beautiful! I jumped in and swam around for a half hour or so, and the water was simply mah-vellous!

We chose Samet because of it’s proximity to Bangkok, but we were happy to find that it was so nice. The sand was white and smooth, and there were more Thai tourists there than foreigner (as opposed to other places we’ve been, like Samui or Pa Ngan). In fact, that was really nice for us, because as a mixed couple/group- we didn’t seem to draw so much suspicious attention.

Well we took plenty of pictures but I don’t have a way to load them onto this computer right now, so maybe next time I’ll share some.
Right now, my wife and I are so happy because we just checked our final grades online… and we both got straight A’s! Thank you… thank you very much. She was worried but I never had any doubts about it. As for our friend… she just finished up her exams in Bangkok, and she’ll be in suspense for another month. So I guess we can’t celebrate to riotously until then…

Ok, since I’m obviously unable to focus my thoughts into a logical, and relevant sequence… I’ll say goodbye for now, and I’ll try to write again soon.


Back in Thailand Again

So we finally made it back to Thailand. We left New York at around midnight on Tuesday, and after stops in Alaska and Taiwan… we landed in Bangkok at noon on Thursday! The other times that I’ve flown into Thailand, I landed at like, 3am, so I was suprised at how busy Don Muang airport was. I had to wait in the customs line for about 15 minutes, while my wife with her Thai passport scooted through in about 3 minutes! The airport was packed but we collected our bags with no problem, and we exchanged some cash. Then we started to look for our friend who was to meet us at the airport. Three phone calls and one hour later, we realized that she was at the wrong terminal! Oh well. She soon found us and we had a happy reunion in the 95 degree Farenheit heat. The line for the taxi stand was very long, so I suggested that we step back inside and get a less “official” taxi. Well they offered us a ride for 650 Baht! We decided to wait in line after all. For the ride to Sukhapiban 3 (Ramkamhaeng University), the fare was about 370 Baht (including the 50B surcharge), however we also had to pay about 80B in expressway tolls.

That night, (after a little nap!) our friend cooked for us in her dormitory apartment, and then we took a taxi to The Mall Bangkapi. This is a HUGE shopping mall not far from us that even has a four-storey waterfall inside! Of course the first thing that my wife wanted to buy was a mobile phone… so we got the one she wanted, and the funny thing is that I spend more time playing with it than she does! Back at our friend’s apartment, we had kao-niaw mamuang (sticky rice and mango), lychees and green mangos. Ah, I have really been looking forward to the food in Thailand more than anything. And I’m not talking about curries and seafood, either. I’m vegan, which means that I don’t eat meat (including fish/sauce and chicken), eggs or any dairy products. What I mean is the fruit! Sliced fruit like watermelon and pineapple, or fruit by the kilo, like rambutans, lychees, mangosteens, lam-yai, oranges, and many many more. Especially coconut. Fresh coconut has got to be my favorite food… I love the toasted coconuts, coconut nam-phan (smoothie), dried coconut, coconut sticky rice; everything with coconut! Also, I love the cool snacks that you just can’t get in America. For example: Nori-seaweed flavored potato chips, curry flavored Pringle’s (sadly discontinued), Koh Kae (coconut peanuts), and other cool things including many many varieties of iced-tea. Strangely though, it’s hard to find good hot tea… ask for hot tea in Thailand, and you will usually get Lipton’s. Go figure.

Friday morning our friend took a bus back home where she will be a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding. She will return on Sunday morning. In the meantime, we will have her apartment to ourselves, and I guess we’ll get to catch up on Thai television. One thing that I had forgotton about Thai T.V., is that they censor cigarette-smoking. Whenever there is a cigarette, they blur it out! I’m not quite sure what to think about that, especially since the front pages of Thai newspapers are nearly always dominated by graphic, bloody pictures of some violent crime or the other.

We plan to stay in Bangkok for about a week, and then we’ll be off to Chiang Mai, and we can’t wait! We would leave sooner except that our friend wants to accompany us, and she has to stay a little longer for exams. Again, the thing about Chiang Mai that I miss the most is the food! Specifically, one particular restaraunt that we used to eat at 2 or 3 times a day when we lived there. It is a tiny little place run by a sweet old couple. Except for one dish with egg, the remainder of the extensive menu it completely vegan! In addition, the food is of excellent quality yet happens to be among the cheapest around (20B per dish)! It is the perfect restaraunt for me, and so I have been dreaming about it for two years!

It is called “Baiporn” and is located on Thanon Si Phum, Soi 1. If you are in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend it (especially if you are vegetarian). Of course that isn’t the only place to eat in Chiang Mai, just MY favorite! We also used to enjoy late-night excursions to the night-markets and food stalls at Chang Phuak gate. Patongko (fried doughnuts) with fresh, sweet, hot soy-milk, steamed buns with red bean paste filling… of course, my wife isn’t always a vegetarian, so she likes to get kuay-tiaw (noodles with meat-balls), pad-khapao kai (stir-fry with basil and egg), and luk-chin (fried meatballs on a stick). Something we both like is Nam Kaeng Sai (shaved ice with coconut milk, topped with black or red beans, and/or various other sweet things). Ooooohhhh, nam lai lai! I’m drooling just thinking about the possibilities!

If, after all that, I’m not too stuffed to move… I’ll drop back in and tell you how we’re getting along. Sawatdee khrap!