The End is not the End

Annnd we’re back.

Not just back to blogging. We’re back in the USA!

I’ve been neglecting this blog. I suck. The problem is, since we arrived in LA from Korea last month, things have been non-stop crazy. Been trying to visit everyone we possibly can before embarking on our next adventure – a cross-country road trip!

We decided to come back home, mainly because we were tired of flying, but also because we were just plain tired. And now, although we’re basically living out of our car, that sure is an upgrade from two backpacks!

Now, we’re touring our home country, seeking our next (at least) temporary home. Right now, we’re in Missouri, and I’ll start chronicling the road trip shortly. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I have yet to post anything about our 1 month+ stint in Thailand!

IMG_0003_2Crowded Siam Square outdoor market on Saturday night, just outside Siam Paragon mall.

Thailand is great. I can’t wait to go back one day! The people are genuine and friendly, and there’s so much to explore! But probably best of all, since we visited toward the end of our trip – it’s REALLY cheap! We were able to live on $30/day on average, sometimes less. 1 USD = about 35 Thai Baht, and you can easily find a meal any time of day for 30 THB. We even managed to rent a pretty nice apartment in Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) for the equivalent of $11 per day. Adventures abound in Thailand, and they won’t break the bank either. 🙂

IMG_0001_2Local homes in Bangkok, Thailand.

IMG_0005_2Wat Pho: Buddhist Temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

While in Thailand, we visited Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. Bangkok is a must-see, mainly because of the high concentration of outdoor markets, street food vendors, and temples, all of which are integral elements of Thai culture. Phuket is one of Thailand’s many islands, and although we enjoyed our stay there, based on what we heard from fellow travelers about other Thai islands, there are others we would choose to visit over Phuket if we were to visit the region again.

IMG_0010_2Sirinat National Park in Phuket, Thailand

IMG_0009_2Insect buffet at Phuket Weekend Market

I was pretty bummed that we never got to visit the famous Krabi for sightseeing, snorkeling and scuba diving, or experience a full moon party on Koh Phangan. This article gives a nice summary of what some of the popular Thai islands have to offer. Each island has its own unique character.

Chiang Mai was our favorite by far, so much so that we ended up spending more than a month there! This was the first place where we found people that we really clicked with, so it was the perfect spot for us to take a break from moving around for a few weeks.

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Although scenic, Chiang Mai is an area known and frequented by expats, so it’s heavily geared toward western tastes, especially on the famous Nimman road and surrounding areas.

mayaMaya mall, at the north end of Nimman road. We ate many a cheap, yummy meal in the basement here!

The best and worst part of Thailand as a whole was the never-ending population of critters! Walking along the streets of Bangkok at night was always an adventure: we were probably entertaining for locals to watch as we hopped along the sidewalk in attempt to avoid the dreaded crunch of huge cockroaches. We were never caught out at night wearing sandals. Too risky!

IMG_0021_2“Stick bug” caught and kidnapped for an hour in Pai Canyon.

I was especially cautious of stepping on the many lizards we encountered – they’re so cute! I also have a strange love of snails. Here’s a photo of a giant snail we met inside a convenience store, placed next to my foot for perspective.

Chiang Mai snail sighting

There were so many strange creatures to see: brightly colored beetles, various species of lizards, and some giant spiders. Sadly, we didn’t see any monkeys. Although we did see some owls (below) and elephants (read on)…

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We explored both Phuket and Chiang Mai/Northern Thailand on a motorbike. These can be rented for as little as 100 Thai Baht per day (about $3). However, you are responsible for any repairs while you have a bike, which is extra fun when you get a flat during midday peak heat. Being on the motorbike really gave me anxiety at first, but I got over it with time.

IMG_0013_2Motorbike parking lot at Maya mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Motorbikes are central to Thai culture. It seemed as though they are equal to cars in popularity and use as a means of transportation. It’s very safe, as drivers of cars are accustomed to driving among crowds of motorbikes.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Doi Pui, a Buddhist temple and neighboring local village, are just a short 30-minute drive up Doi Suthep mountain from the center of Chiang Mai. It’s a scenic (and sometimes scary) drive, and a visit to this Wat entails a climb up 300 stairs to reach the entrance.

DSC04811About to climb the steps up to the Wat!

IMG_0004_2Inside Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Buddhist Temple)

DSC04857Also inside Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

We took a separate day trip to Doi Pui, a local village, also located on Doi Suthep mountain near the Wat. Here, we found a market, local homes, children playing, some streams, and a few walking paths. There is a well-maintained garden inside, where locals charge 10 TBH for entry.

DSC04973Doi Pui village flower garden.

DSC04999 Shrine in Doi Pui village.

DSC04936Doi Pui village outdoor market.

DSC05026Local boys trying to catch a bird with a slingshot in Doi Pui village.

Also notable during our Chiang Mai stay was our brief trip to Pai. Pai is about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, and the day we left, it was raining of course. Since our bike was rented, and the rental shop didn’t provide the latest and greatest in protective headgear, the rain was pelting our faces like tiny bullets. This was one of those times that wearing glasses is transformed into a saving grace from a mere annoyance. At least we could keep our eyes open!

About an hour into the drive to Pai, the rain let up and we were able to enjoy the scenery. We were so happy to finally arrive – 3 hours on a motorcycle is killer on your lower back!

IMG_0024_2Feeding the elephants at Thom’s Pai Elephant Camp. They’re so cute and happy!

We didn’t ride any elephants in Thailand, simply because it’s inhumane and unnatural to ride them. Their backs aren’t very strong. We loved Thom’s, because they raise their elephants responsibly; they even allow them to wander into the jungle to sleep at night. We were happy to just feed them bananas and hang out with them at the preserve.

We also took a tour through Lod Cave, about a 2-hour drive from Pai. The cave was huge and dark inside, so it was difficult to get clear photos.

DSC05177 Bamboo raft inside Lod Cave.

DSC05193Bamboo rafts lined up at the entrance to Lod Cave.

We only spent one night in Pai before heading back to our home base in Chiang Mai, but the storm really picked back up about halfway through our return trip, way worse than the day before. We stopped at a small café, hoping to wait it out, but it just wasn’t letting up. Thankfully, some nice Thai women brought out some trash bags for us to use to cover our faces. They were lifesavers!

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Unfortunately, we also never got a chance to visit the white temple in Chiang Rai during our stay in northern Thailand. This would have been another 3-hour journey. After the trip to Pai, just the thought of a repeat adventure made my back throb!

We’re so grateful to have had a chance to spend so much time in Chiang Mai, and to have met so many cool people undertaking some interesting projects while abroad. Thailand seems to be the hot new breeding ground for import/export endeavors, due to its low cost of living and close proximity to China. A great income opportunity for someone who wants to spend an extended period in Southeast Asia! Check out our friend James’ great blog, where he explores issues related to international import and export endeavors.

Although we spent an extended period of time in Thailand, we feel as though we hardly made a dent in all this region has to offer. We’ll definitely be back one day to do more exploring!

We have so many great photos, more than I can share in a post! Check out our Flickr account to see more, link included with the other social media links at the top of the page.

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