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Pai Travel Blog

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Hello everyone!  We've found our place in Thailand!  It's called Pai, but more on that in a minute.  Last time we wrote we'd just survived the Loi Kratong festival.  Since then we've done a lot of stuff.

We returned to our cooking class for another day of school.  It was fun.  This time we learned to carve vegetables, make spring rolls, fry bananas in coconut toffee, and a bunch of other yummy dishes.

We also ran into a friend of ours from Yosemite, "sheepy" Dave on the streets of Chiang Mai.  We got to eat dinner w/ him and his friend and he told us some cool places to visit.

Next, we went to see Doi Suthep, the big Buddhist temple on the hill overlooking Chiang Mai.  Rachel almost puked in the songtaew (pickup truck taxi) on the ride up there 'cause it's so windy.  It's a pretty neat old temple w/ tons of bells and a sign saying not to ring them.  We got to watch all of the stupid tourists run around ringing all of the bells (we did not ring the bells!).  There's like a billion steps leading up to the place, though (ok, maybe only 300) and a ton of Buddha statues all over the place.  They also have giant drums w/ great big megaphone thingies on the back that Garrett liked to beat on (there was no sign saying not to).

We've also gone to see two movies now.  The first was a Thai movie w/ english subtitles called "My Girl."  It was a cute story about a boy and a girl growing up together as best friends and then drifting apart.  Aaahhh!  The 2nd movie that we saw was the 3rd Matrix movie.  Rachel, not having seen the first 2, didn't understand it but Garrett sorta liked it.

Last Sunday, we went to Meditation school.  The class is run by a group of monks as part of their efforts to educate people about Buddhism (they run a program called "Monk chat" where you get to talk to the monks, in addition to this one).  They started by driving us out in to the countryside to a place called the Forest Monastery (which really just means that it's not in a city).  They dressed us in big, sloppy, one-size-fits-all white clothes.  Rachel's clothes were huge and Garrett's were too short.  They gave us a short introduction to Buddhism and then fed us dinner.  Unfortunately, most of the food had meat in it so Rachel didn't have much to eat for the 2 days that we were there.  After dinner they taught us a sitting meditation and a walking meditation.  The highlight of that day was the hot showers that we got to take at the Forest Monastery (our first since arriving in Thailand!). The 2nd day they woke us up at 5am and we began meditating at 530am.  Surprisingly, neither of us had trouble staying awake during meditation but we were both drifting off later during the question and answer period.  After lunch, they drove us back to town and we ran off and gorged ourselves at a local restaurant.

The day after meditation camp, we caught the bus to Pai.  We love it here!  It only has about 3,000 people (as compared to 300,000 in Chiang Mai).  The streets are pretty quiet and there's little traffic.  The guesthouses are pretty nice (especially for ones costing $3-5 a night) and almost everyone here speaks better English than anyone we found in Chiang Mai.  The first night we stayed in a nice little bungalow on the river ... right next to a school that blasted music at night and annoucements in the morning!  The next day we hooked up w/ a trekking company.  We started off by going for a 1.5 hr elephant ride through the jungle.  All of the elephants had seats but the guides let us take a turn riding on the elephant's neck.  We saw a bunch of big spiders in the jungle and some birds.  Then we took a break while the guides took off the seats and fed the elephants (elephants do a lot of eating ... and pooping).  Our guides on the elephant ride were awesome.  They didn't speak English but they were very funny, always cracking jokes in Thai that we were funny even to us.  Then we went on another 1.5hr ride, this time to the river.  We rode bareback the whole way.  At the river, we got to play and shower w/ the elephants.  Our elephant liked to sit down in the river on his butt and then fall over onto his side so that we'd fall off into the river.  Or, he'd kneel down on his front legs and dump us off over his head.  He would also try to spray us w/ water which never really worked very well until Rachel was sitting on his neck and he got a trunk full of mud to spray in her face!  Elephant riding has definitely been the highlight of our trip.  After the ride, our guides fed us and then took us back to town where we got another guide and another truck ride up into the hills.  Our guides were two sisters named Noi and Joi (they almost looked like twins).  They began our trek by leading us to a popular waterfall where we watched people slide down the rocks into the cold water below the waterfall. Then we hiked through the jungle to a Lahu village, complete w/ paved roads, trucks, motor scooters, fields and million assorted dogs, cats, pigs, and chickens (animals by far out numbered the 200 villagers).  In addition to their animals, the villagers grow garlic, rice, corn, lychees, papayas, bananas and poinsettas.  That night, we stayed in a converted shed that is owned by a friend of our guide, Noi (Joi left us in the evening and rode home in the truck w/ her boyfriend).  It was very cold that night, even w/ 3 or 4 blankets.  The cool thing about Noi was that she understood vegetarianism pretty well, so Rachel was able to pig out.  Noi and Joi also spoke pretty good english so they were able to tell us a lot about the plants that we saw and the people we visited.  The 2nd day, we walked to another waterfall for lunch and then visited a Lisu village before catching a ride home.  On the way we saw a lot of different fields and drank rice whiskey w/ some farmers that we met in a corn field.  All of the trails were very bad by our standards.  They either went straight up the mountain or straight through the thick jungle plants or both.  The jungle parts were the worst; it was like swimming through an overgrown, overheated pool w/ lots of little stickers that liked to catch a ride in your clothes.

Today, we rented bikes and rode out into the countryside around Pai, making sure to stay on the left side of road (Rachel did a much better job than Garrett).  We visited the big temple on the hill overlooking Pai (this one was small compared to the ones in Chiang Mai).  Then, we rode out to the elephant camps where we'd been a couple days before.  We stopped to see a baby elephant at one of the camps (we got to pet the momma but the baby wasn't trained yet) and met a nice Australian woman who was volunteering at the camp.  She was able to answer all of our elephant questions that our guides hadn't been able to answer.  Then we rode out to some natural hot springs (that were too hot to swim in) and to some commercial hot tubs where we soaked for a while.

Tomorrow, we are going back to Chiang Mai to prepare for our trip to the Southern part of Thailand (we are going to a beach town called Krabi).

Hope everyone is doing well.

Rachel and Garrett

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photo by: Stevie_Wes