A Moment In Chiang Mai

A Moment In Chiang Mai

 

We’ve arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we’re enjoying fast food, fast cars, fast bikes, fast people and fast internet. Before launching into Thailand, we want to notify our readers that a collective decision has been made to head into Myanmar tomorrow…we’re going to the border town of Mae Sot and Myareddy for a day trip.

This is a last-minute, impetuous decision, so please wish us luck as we try to find our way into one of the most secluded nations on Earth. If you don’t hear from us in at least 3-4 days, then something went horribly horribly wrong. Haha, just kidding. Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.

 

 

So where can I begin with Chiang Mai? It does everything Luang Prabang doesn’t: although Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s idyllic vacation spots much similarly to how Luang Prabang was for Laos, it cannot prevent itself from being influenced by the excesses of Bangkok: there are streets lined with prostitution, loud fratty bars and massage parlours, drunk Westerners toppling over themselves, markets of cheap overproduced goods not made by the locals, and an overall sense of “selling out.”

While Luang Prabang keeps urbanism and the outside world at bay, Chiang Mai looks like it’s slowly bending over backwards to commercialism. It still has a long way to go before Starbucks starts popping up at every corner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I caught their new McDonald’s somewhere around here.

 

Just to remind you what Luang Prabang looked like:

 

This is Luang Prabang

Stuck in Luang Prabang

 

And this is Chiang Mai:

 

CDS_5773

Notice the difference?

Here are a few of the more cultural highlights I was able to pick out:

 

If I wanted to capture any sense of the old charm Chiang Mai may used to have, I’d go for a night safari and a few treks but then get the hell out before the gentrification swallows me whole.

 

 

- At time of posting in Chiang Mai, it was 25 °C - Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: broken clouds

 

Overdue Videos Of Laos

Overdue Videos Of Laos

So these are some of the overdue videos from Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Laos!


Vientiane


Initial impressions of Vientiane:

It seems almost deserted on this particular Sunday afternoon. True, the city picked up on Monday when businesses re-opened for their business. However, the city was still rather slow-moving, especially compared with all of the other major cities that we had seen.

 

Buddha Park – Exploring the Monkey:



Luang Prabang

Kouang Si Waterfalls:


 

After climbing up to the top of the waterfalls, we came half-way back down to go swimming in one of the pools created by the falls. There were some interesting attempts at dives, and I met some cool people. I’m the one waving at you in the video… and the kid that I’m sitting next to is from LA! We didn’t realize until later on that each other was a Boston Celtics or an LA Lakers fan. Oops.

 


Phousi Mountain – Sunset:



Hmong Night Market:


Laos In A Nutshell

Laos In A Nutshell

The so-called “forgotten country of Asia” doesn’t mind the moniker; it makes the most of it. Sleepy, charming Laos has more than enough to give for any average traveler without trying too hard. Let’s face it: Vientiane is a suburban town, but it exudes a slow, steady charm you won’t find at any other capital city in Asia. And Luang Prabang quite lives up to being one of the “most romantic city in Southeast Asia”; spend one night here and you’ll already feel like you’re unearthing a shiny pearl by the Mekong. Landlocked Laos may not be as well known as any of its neighbors, but we found it to be a backpacker’s darling. Give it a look,

 

FOOD

Khop Chai Deu – Th Setthathirat; Vientiane, Laos

Paraded as the “South African capital in Laos” as a way to get people to watch the World Cup, it also is an impressively designed multi-level French villa. This was our guesthouse’s choice for good food in Central Vientiane, but I honest can’t remember the food too well. Not to say it was bad, but it also didn’t stand out. I had a sour chicken bamboo soup that tasted fine, but getting to watch the World Cup on the big screen maybe made everything taste a little better.

Taste: 2.5

Affordability: 2.5

Health: 4 (I had a fever that night; the next morning I felt fine…it didn’t get me sicker, that’s for sure.)

Overall: 2.5 – Drizzle/Rain


Coconut Garden Restaurant; Night Market in Luang Prabang, Laos

Pleading for customers because of its relative newness to the town and that “we have not yet been reviewed by guidebooks”, we found the restaurant to be already incredibly popular with foreigners. Another well-designed French villa, the food was a bit better than Khop Chai Deu, but not by much. I was more impressed with their drinks, although one of their vegetarian dishes (pictured above) really made my mouth happy.

 

Nazim – Luang Prabang, Laos

Solid good Indian food along the main street of Luang Prabang. I had a ginger chicken which was cooked to a perfect balance of sauces and spices that went very well with the chicken, some very filling and aromatic saffron rice, as well as one of the best mango lassis I ever had. I ended the meal with a giant booming “shukriya!” (“thank you” in Hindi) and a “yey acha hey!”  (“this is great!”) to the owner.

 

 



HEALTH

I only got 2 bug bites in Laos, but I was suffering from a mild sickness that probably started in Cambodia. However, Laos definitely did not make it a whole lot better (it went away and came back for another day) except for taking my time in their magnificent herbal saunas.

Health Rating of Laos after 5 days…

  • # of bug bites:  2
  • # of Immodium used: 3
  • # of Pepto used: 2
  • # of Advil used: 3
  • # of antibiotics used: 0
  • # of total medication used: 8
  • Creams used: Lots of DEET, sunscreen, 1% Hydrocortisol

Quality of healthcare:  They say that except for diagnosing dengue fever and malaria, all serious health concerns should be taken care of in neighboring Thailand. Although they had more than a fair share of local pharmacies, it was very hard to find a hospital in Laos, let alone a clinic. One of the bars we stayed at would tell us: “whatever you do in Laos…DON’T GET SICK! By ANY MEANS!”

Sanitary Conditions: Although it’s another one of the poorest countries in the world, the Lao people seem to take better care of themselves; all food was cooked properly and urban roads and sidewalks were very clean. We also did not find any slums in our explorations, and roadside seemed much better taken care of (houses with roofs, running water, etc. instead of huts and shacks with bodies of still water lying around) than the ones we’ve encountered in other countries.

MONEY

Unless you’re going out for some heavy-duty shopping, Laos is much easier on the wallet than Cambodia. Excluding lodging and travel, I spent only about $50 USD, which lasted me almost all 5 days in Laos, including the shopping!

Breakdown for 5 days: $50 spending + $32 lodging + $20 food

Goal: $30 USD/day

Spent: $20 USD/day for 6 days

Result: SUCCESS

LODGING

Souphaphone Guesthouse; Central Vientiane, Laos

Simple and to the point guesthouse with optional breakfast (and an extra $3 a person), taxi service to/from airport ($8 one way; $10 return), no internet, and free water. Staff was friendly enough. Otherwise the perks are that it’s clean and spacious. Nothing special.

Price: $9 USD/night per person

Internet: None.

Other Amenities: None

 

Alouavath Guesthouse – Luang Prabang, Laos

Rated #1 B&B on Trip Advisor, it has an incredibly helpful staff (one found Annah a SEA Games T-Shirt that took us over 4 days to locate to no avail) with free internet (although slow as anywhere else in Laos), and free simple breakfast. The layout is a beautifully spacious French Villa that is both clean and efficient; you won’t be disappointed. I certainly was fond of this place, although not sure if it deserves the #1 status.

Price: $10 USD/night per person

Internet: Free! but slow.

Other Amenities: Free breakfast, great staff

 

Next up: THAILAND!

 

- At time of posting in Chiang Mai, it was 26 °C - Humidity: 83% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: broken clouds

 

Overdue Videos Of Laos

Videos From Big Brother Mouse

I forgot to mention in my previous posts- my “Rough Guide” suggested that if I wanted to do some volunteer work – I should stop by this place called Big Brother Mouse. It’s a new and developing program to help Laos adults and children learn English. They have English practice sessions every day from 9-11am and this video is one that I took during this practice session. If you want to know more about how to help out from across the globe, please see their website: www.bigbrothermouse.com.

So, I checked out the website  and I went to help adults practice their English at 9am (as instructed by the website). I sat and met some kids my age – all of whom were studying English at the University down the road. I got some pointers on what I should do in Luang Prabang and where I should go eat.

It was really nice- they all really want to practice and talk with you. Most of them have only been studying for a year or two but are capable of having a full (but slow) conversation.

 

   

 

It’s a really cool project and the people really want to learn English. I would recommend visiting the place if you ever are in Luang Prabang.

Overdue Videos Of Laos

Southeast Asian Call To Home

Okay, so after leaving Vientiane, we headed to Luang Prabang… which really just feels like a Southeast Asian version of Cape Cod. Small, quaint, exorbitant prices for sunscreen, teeming with tourists and almost invisible residents….

For me, there isn’t really much appeal, coming from the girl who grew up living on Cape Cod (and yes I do mean year-round).

On another note…

A couple of things learned in Laos:

1. The airport in Laos’s capital, Vientiane, is not much more than a concrete building with three rooms… doesn’t look like it’s falling apart – but if the airport were to suddenly close, I wouldn’t have any problem thinking that the building had been abandoned for quite some time.

2. Don’t pronounce the “s” in Laos – you’ll look like an idiot.

3. Apparently I look like a local? People see Calvin walk past with his huge camera, then Caitlin who is not Asian, and then they see me and immediately start talking to me in Laos. People almost think that I’m their tour guide or something.

4. No one in S.E.A. and especially in Laos wears sunscreen and so stores can get away with charging exorbitant prices ($14USD for a carry-on size bottle) for sunscreen. Pft.

I am currently attempting to upload videos in a slightly faster internet cafe. Hopefully they will be up soon!

The Pearl Of The Orient: Luang Prabang, Laos

The Pearl Of The Orient: Luang Prabang, Laos

The internet remains frightfully slow, so we may not be able to update at full capacity until we reach Thailand. As for Luang Prabang…everyone needs to experience this city. It’s not where you blow through sites like other places…it’s just a wonderful place to be.

Today Annah and I volunteered teaching and conversing in English with a couple of university students around our age. That was really a fantastic experience; we got to learn more about the Laos lifestyle and the differences and similarities between us. Afterwards, we took an hour ride via a jumbo tuk-tuk up to see a 60m high waterfall, where we took a dip in the pond for some great swimming. Caitlin and I swung like Tarzan off a tree; I unfortunately swung too hard, swung back and knocked into the tree, twice, before falling in.

Then we just…chilled…until we saw the sunset off the tallest hill in central Luang Prabang.

I see Laos as a necessary rest stop in between the mayhem of Cambodia and what we perceive to be mayhem in Thailand. See you there.

 

Luang Prabang:

 

I’ll put up a country review of Laos once I upload all the pictures necessary for it. That probably won’t be until we reach Bangkok.

 

- At time of posting in Luang Prabang, Laos, it was 25 °C - Humidity: 89% | Wind Speed: 4km/hr | Cloud Cover: mist, rain