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semi-overcast 15 °C
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We made it! After 36 hours, 6000 miles, and 6 airports, we finally arrived home Saturday afternoon. Completely exhausted, and with our Thailand adventures and new friends behind us, we will resume life as usual on Monday. And start planning for the next trip - Oktoberfest '08! I'll post some pictures here as I get them uploaded.

Posted by nat-ali 21:27 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Last Day

I don't want to go home!

overcast 36 °C

It's our last day in Thailand, and it feels like the last day of school. No activities today, everyone's just doing their own thing, and everything's packed away, including the new goodies in our additional suitcase. We started a collection for Gordon Wilson to take any clothing or personal items that don't get packed home to donate to his refugee camp, so that feels good. Can't believe it's been 2 weeks gone by so fast, and now we're in for 36 hours of travelling. We took about 600 pictures, and spent our last baht, so we're almost ready to go. For our last night we went out to dinner with the whole group at a nice restaurant on the river. Nathan is dying for some mexican food and pizza! He picked up his suit yesterday, and picked up some last things at the night market. We toured the temple on the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai where the white elephant carrying Buddha's bones collapsed, and so was enshrined. The most remarkable thing about it was the swarm of millions of termites flying everywhere, that the temple boys were swatting out of the air with brooms, which came out after the rain. We did get caught in a morning monsoon as we gave alms to the novice monks at 6am on the mountain, but it was neat to see them in their saffron robes singing chants, the little ones just 8-12 years old. So we'll compare pictures with our new friends while we await departure at the airport. See you soon!

Posted by nat-ali 17:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

ChiangMai, the Rose of the North

sunny 38 °C

Today I write from the lap of luxury at the Four Seasons resort, one of the Top 10 hotels in the world, and the second we've visited on this trip (including the Oriental in Bangkok). We arrived Chiang Mai Tuesday afternoon and being day 10, have exhausted our laundry supply, so took them to the drycleaners for $4.00 for the whole load. Then Nathan went to the well referred tailor to order a suit, which he'll get tomorrow, after his final fitting. We didn't have much else on the agenda, so explored the vicinity of our hotel and the largest night market in Thailand, but were too late after dinner to make it back. Tom's friend Gordon Wilson, who retired here, met us at the hotel and took us on a driving tour of the old walled city, and went out to Mushroom Suki, a chinese style mushroom-fondue-progressive course dinner. We begged off the night market because we had an early wake-up call today to go to the elephant camp. It was fantastic! We had an hour ride through the jungle, saw the babies and juveniles in training, and watched the performance which included about 30 elephants playing a harmonica chorus, playing soccer, and painting pictures, of which I bought a couple. Then we stopped off for lunch at the Four Seasons, and are waiting for the shuttle back to town. A couple tidbits from Monday night I forgot to mention. We had dinner at one of the most famous restaurants in the country, Cabbages and Condoms! I had a delicious seafood curry served inside a coconut, and we got free condoms with our meals. :) (part of the family planning/HIV prevention campaign in Thailand). Then when we got back to the resort, my uncle Mike was playing - a Thai Elvis impersonator named Mike Hammond! Tonight we may see a demonstration of Muay Thai boxing and a drag show at the night market, but we have another early wake up call tomorrow to give alms to the monks at the temple. Running out of time!

Posted by nat-ali 02:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Back on the Grid

Did you miss us?

sunny

Here we are! We have internet at our hotel in Chiang Rai, so we can catch up on the last couple days. Mostly it has been bumpy bus travel through the Thai countryside, but our chauffeur drives the double decker bus like a Formula One car, so I think we've made record time covering 1000km to the "Golden Triangle" the confluence of the Mekong River dividing Thailand, Laos, and Burma. We had a river boat ride and stopped at an island in Laos, but we didn't make the Burma crossing as they charge $10 US to give you your passport back. We just hiked up to a viewpoint instead. We've had some interesting pit stops along the way, most notable was our first night in Phitsanulok about 200 mi North of Bangkok where we took a pedi-cab tour of the city to the night market and I ATE BUGS! There's a reason they call them mealworms. :) Taste like pork rinds. I wasn't gutsy enough for the grasshoppers or beetles, but a German lady on our tour ate a cockroach! Also on the way there we stopped at Lopburi where monkeys live in one of the temples, and you hire a "bodyguard" - a 16 year old thai boy with a slingshot to protect you from the monkeys as you take pictures. Yesterday we drove another 200 miles to Lampang, and stopped for lunch at a town with a market selling live fish, snakes, toads, and rats on a stick! Didn't have any samples there. TOday we have a free day before we go to Chiang Mai for the end of the trip. I'm most looking forward to the elephant camp. Should have no trouble writing when we get there. It's nice to have a rest, and more time to get to know our fellow travelers. There are 40 on this tour, mostly retirees, but Nathan says it's like the Amazing Race - there's the newlyweds (us), the two young Indian girls, the black ladies, the grandma and grandson, the bickering couple, the gay couple...very entertaining! That's all for today. Postcards are coming!

Posted by nat-ali 01:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Last day in Bangkok

Out with a roar!

rain 35 °C

We spent our last day in Bangkok in grand style! We started the day with a visit to the world famous flower market, then toured the Grand Palace (aptly named) and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. There appear to be two schools of thought on buddha shrines - bigger is better, and more elaborate is better. I am of the latter opinion, because the shrine encrusted in gold and thousands of emeralds, rubies, and sapphires was much more staggering than the 3 metre golden buddha we saw the other day. After the morning tour we went out on our own to the backpacker mecca of southeast asia, Khaosan Road. It was so hot in the middle of the day that everybody was pretty lethargic, but it was the first place we've been where "farangs" (foreigners) outnumbered Thais. We came home in the afternoon to wash our sweat soaked clothes in the bathtub (although however they will dry in this humidity escapes me) before a sunset dinner at the River City shopping center. On the way there we encountered our first monsoonal rainfall, which would work perfectly for the bronze rain drum Nathan is coveting, but the weather cleared for a beautiful sunset. Then we went to the Oriental Hotel, one of the top 10 hotels in the world, but first I had to buy nice shoes to pass the fashion inspection. Not kidding! Last night I got turned away from the State Tower observation penthouse "The Dome" for wearing sandals, and today I got chased down the street by a homeless man shouting in Thai that I needed to comb my hair! Not kidding either! Lucky I passed muster to get into the Grand Palace, but with the impending rainfall and breeze the weather was tolerable for more clothing. So we ended the week by covering alot of ground, and treated ourselves to a traditional Thai foot massage. Tomorrow we will go upcountry, which is like going back in time, as each region is a former capital from an ancient dynasty. Probably the next time we can write is Chiang Mai in 4 days. Sawatdee!

Posted by nat-ali 20:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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