I took a 7:30am mini bus to Pai....it took us about 3ish hours or & MAN what a ride. Up in the mountains, very windy & slow! It was gorgeous. I loved seeing the mountains!!
But - when we got to Pai you couldn't see any of the mountains anymore! Apparently there have been all these fires so it's been alll smoky. I found a hostel, had some food, rented a motorbike, biked around a bit & then found a nice COOL internet cafe with a FAST internet connection so I spent awhile uploading pictures. Honestly, it was nice to just be inside & I've been really wanting to update this site...so there you have it. I'm sending out this e-mail to a bunch of people who are on my e-mail update list (if you aren't & want to be, let me know!) - it describes what's going on today for me so I figured I would just cut & paste it here so I don't rewrite everything! :)
***Before I do that - just a side note that it is now the next day & I wanted to write about the night! I went to dinner at this amazing place called Charlie & Lek's - all organic and DELICIOUS! Well, I met this awesome woman named Allie from Vancouver & we ended up chatting a bunch at dinner.
After dinner, the two of us decided to "hit the town"- which involved doing a bit of retail therapy at the "night market" (it was so small, that's why it's in quotes - but it was night, & it was a market). We then stumbled upon this great bar called Buffalo Hill and we had a couple beers, sat around the fire pit & met a bunch of cool people. Well, Leo was my favorite - I think he was from the Netherlands & he had such a fun way about him. We all had a lot of fun & it was awesome to get to experience Pai in this way - also to walk around more of the streets when it's not as hot & get to see how adorable the town was. Made me think I didn't want to leave the next day!***
I believe the last time I wrote, I was in Melbourne (where there were fires burning, ironically enough) & it was probably about a month ago or so. I can't believe it - I am now HALF WAY done with this amazing trip. I really don't know where the time is going!
I FINALLY had a chance to upload my pictures (I didn't have time to do all the captions!). I've literally been trying to track down an internet cafe with fast enough internet so it doesn't take hours to upload pictures & I've looked ALLLLLL over Chiang Mai
(a BIG city!) and who knew I'd find it in this TINY little hippie village in the north! I love it.
So, since I last wrote I learned to surf (thank you Andy!), went biking, kayaking, snorkeling and wine tasting in Adelaide, had a crazy few days in Bangkok
(SOOO many people, crazy hot & just all around craziness), scuba dived (dove?), sailed at Nai Harn beach in Phuket
& watched the MOST gorgeous sunsets (thank you Matt!), saw the gorgeous limestone islands (one is actually "James Bond" island where one of the movies was filmed) and eaten lunch at a Muslim village built on stilts in the bay (Merci beaucoup Francoise et Isabelle), relaxed, hiked and rock climbed in Railey Beach, meditated at Doi Suthep, roamed the streets of Chiang Mai and have had countless massages since I've been in Thailand!!! And that's just to name some of the first things that came to mind.
You can check out my blog if you want to see pictures or read more about what I've been up to!
Today, I conquered another fear of mine - the MOTOR BIKE! I've been wanting to try one - there has just been so much traffic I've been a bit scared. So, I just rented one today and explored Pai & its surroundings a bit. SO FUN. And Pai is definitely the place for me to hop on one for the first time - definitely mellow. The whole "fire in the hills" thing though prevented me from going to the waterfall I wanted to see because I was on my way there and then on the side of the road I was traveling on was literally on fire. Since as I said, I was in Melbourne a few weeks ago & I know all about the whole bush fire thing, I got my butt out of there.
And now I'm here - writing to you. :)
A couple recent observations/learnings about Thailand and the Thai people and actually, just some random thoughts...
1) You read Thai from left to right, like English. Now, you may have known this...but I was instinctively looking at it from right to left. Not like I was understanding it - but because of Hebrew, that's the way I realized I was "reading" the words. So funny!
2) I've seen so many people asleep out in public. Whether someone is at their clothing stand & they are just tired so they are taking a quick snooze, or they are in the back of one of those red pick-up truck cab things, or they are just sleeping in their cars - they love to sleep. But hey, I can't say I blame them - it's frickin hot out there - I want a nap too!
3) Another thing that I've seen a TON of in public is self-grooming.
So many people just popping zits, cleaning their teeth, tweezing their eyebrows. I love it. I would love to take a picture of it, I just feel like that's a bit rude so I haven't been able to pull it off yet. (Actually, I *think* I got one when I was in Bangkok at the Chatachuk Market - check it out - see if you can find it)
4) There are a ton of old/used/defunct parts, machines, thing-a-ma-bobs in this country. In Chiang Mai & Bangkok, there are SO many open garage thingys with just a bunch of stuff in them. And more often than not there are a couple people in there, just sitting around (or sleeping! See #2). And they also are blow-torching something. It's just so interesting.
5) I feel extremely safe! It's definitely a very kind, polite culture and I have not felt uncomfortable traveling along AT ALL.
6) I love how you can tell if someone is a happy, good energy person even if you don't speak the same language. I just LOVE this guy named Noon at my new favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai. We can barely communicate, but there is such a sparkle in his eye & he is just so happy & smiley & so good - it's so much fun to meet people like that & interact, even if you can't talk. When I get back, ask me to show you the picture he drew for me.
7) I love the sound when the women shout "Foot massage"...if you've been here, you know what I mean. "Foot massage madam" :)
8) I love that when explaining things I've actually had several people use the "Same same, but different" phrase. So great.
So, yes, I've been having the time of my life -- but I've also been very saddened recently with the news that Yael Kaniel, Natalie's sister, passed away this week.
It's been really hard to be away from San Francisco - from Natalie, from her family and from all my friends there. They held the funeral yesterday and I heard that there was a tremendous turnout & an outpouring of love and support from so many in the community. I am of course, not surprised. I got an e-mail from Natalie (Nat, I hope you don't mind that I'm sharing) saying how authentically Yael lived her life and how she was always true to who she was & what she wanted to do. As I travel, I will definitely keep Yael in my thoughts and I will continue to live in her spirit of authenticity. I will also look forward to when I come back to San Francisco and I can see Natalie. (Second internet cafe on this trip where I have people looking at me funny because I have tears rolling down my face.
Okay, I think it's finally cooling down a bit outside, I'm going to go figure out dinner & then I heard there is a night market in Pai. They definitely love the night market in this country (and so do I!) :)
My upcoming plans are to go back to Chiang Mai - do a cooking class, maybe do this elephant caretaker for a day thingy - then I'm off to Laos. I may do the 3 day trip down the Meekong to get to Luang Prabong. I'm very excited for LP! After that, a bit more of Laos and then I'm off to Vietnam to do my Habitat for Humanity trip. I'll be outside of Hanoi from 3/28th - 4/11th building houses! After that it's a bit up in the air - defintiely doing Cambodia, trying to figure out if I'll be able to see my friend who lives in India, or I may spend more time in SE Asia & hit Koh Chang back in Thailand before heading off to Croatia to meet up with Megan & some other friends & then onto Bella's wedding outside of Split, Croatia.
Phew - at least that's the outline so far! Stay tuned....
I think of you all often & hope everyone is doing well!
As always, MWWWWAAAAHHHH!!!!