Friday, February 12, 2010

Thailand rocks...so far

We have had an AMAZING two days in Thailand, and hope that it continues.  Two separate postings and I hope to have some photos uploaded later today or tomorrow.  Working on the computer in the library at the fabulous resort we're staying at in Northern Thailand on the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma).

Two Wild Rides
We flew from Shanghai to Bangkok yesterday and then had a 6 hour layover before our flight to Chiang Rai, so we decided to go into Bangkok and see a few sights.  We went to the Grand Palace, which was one of the most opulent and wonderous sights I've ever seen - much of it was gold-foilded with brilliant colors in mosiacs.  Spectacular.   I still need to do some reading on exactly what we saw, but it's basically the former residence of the King of Thailand, along with a Buddhist temple and outlying buildings of note.  Thailand is still a monarchy and photos of the king are everywhere. 

It was about 95 degrees and Nick and I almost melted.  But, still a good two-hour jaunt away from the confines of the airport.  On the cab ride back to the airport, our car broke down!  Luckily, we were only a few hundred feet from the terminal.  We were going to hoof it, but another cabbie stopped to take us the rest of the way.  It was truly an Amazing Race moment. 

We landed in Chiang Rai about 8pm last night, and weren't sure how to get a cab.  Some friendly Thai directed us back into the airport to have our luggage re-security screened, which we thought quite odd.  Then they took us to a window where we paid our fare and were met by our driver.  (So, I guess they don't think you'll blow up a plane with a bomb in your luggage, but perhaps you'll strike a smaller target like a taxi).  Anyway, he walked us out to the parking lot and we put our bags not in a taxi, but in his car.  He was super friendly and chatty, buy this man drove like a complete maniac, and there were several times on the 35km ride where I thought you'd be reading about a terrible accident involving two Americans.  I think there were times when we had to have been doing 90 mph.  Another Amazing Race moment, though.  Nick and I were certain that having this guy as a driver during a leg of the Amazing Race would've been a great thing.  He would've left everyone else in the dust.

We did finally arrive safely at our hotel which is on the side of a mountain and unlike any place I've ever been.  We'll have to take some video or photos and post them.  It is incredible. 

Day 1 at the Top of Thailand.
We awoke this morning to the sun rising over the mountains, the sound of geese honking, some other wild birds or animals making noises, and some small deer grazing on the hillside viewable from our patio.  Today was our day of biking around the area.  Our guide met us at 830 and we drove back into town for a 35 km bike ride through rice paddies, small villages, up hills and down.  It was phenomenal.  Truly one of the best vacation excursions we've ever done.  Bee, our guide, was wonderful. 

At one point we stopped at a crematorim (it looked like a very small little country church) and he told us that most Thai are cremated.  Some are done at the crematorium, and others are burnt outdoors, just like you'd burn leaves or have a big pit barbecue (we even saw the area where this is still done).  Then he walked us over to show us where some of the ashes and pieces of bone are thrown.  Lovely.

We kept riding, had a small snack of wonderful Thai fruits, including a tiny pinapple called poulet (yes, like chicken in French) and something like a jicama.

Rode some more until we saw a baby water buffalo (in the field to our right).  We stopped a moment to watch him, when all of a sudden, we see three adult water buffalo charging through the field on our left.  Luckily, there was some barbed wire fencing we were able to use as a barricade, but it was unnecessary because the herd went around the fence through an opening and straight to the baby.  It was a little freaky, though.  And, they even stopped to apologize and let us take their picture.

We topped off by getting a traditional Thai massage.  Holy crap.  My body was bent and twisted in directions that I didn't know it would go, and the massage therapist walked on me, sat on my back and stretched me farther than I thought my muscles would allow.  But, I feel great right now.

All for now, but a very, very good day.

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