We spent just over a month since in Thailand. There are a lot of tourists who keep coming back here time after time. We've met so many French, Dutch, Swedish, German,... travelers who came here when they where young, and now continue to visit as a family and so many have moved here permanently! I think I understand why. I rarely have the desire to go back to where I've already been, but I will be back to this beautifully generous country again for sure.
Here is a post to share some of my sweet memories of Thailand with you...
But before a few Thai Culture delicacies to prepare you for the stories...though some of them are just there for me to recall in the future when I read my blog in a few years :)
- Thais love their full moon parties. Eventhough they are on a solar calendar now, they still use the moon for their true guidance.
- The word for the White Tourist is Farang (pronounced Falang) [really cool for me because in Iran they call foreigners Farangi!]
- Thai names are complicated, but everyone has a simple 1-4 letter nickname.
- Being associated with the Thai Police is thought very highly of.. so everyone you meet tries to introduce you to someone they know in the Thai Police. Or even better.. every man claims to have at some point worked for the Thai Police!
- Regency is what they call good Thai Whiskey, it is good, but its actually Bourbon. Thais drink it with club soda and they drink it at all hours of the day! A mickey bottle of Regency costs about $8.
- Gesturing is not really common in Thailand
- Thai women, have an awesome sense of humour :) They make little clever twisted jokes of situations even despite language limitations.
- Everyone is selling something out of the front of their home, or off their motor bike or at a stand on the side of the highway. But the Thais are not pushy sales people, so it was very comfortable to be a tourist and explore the new items without feeling obligated to buy.
- Gren Jai is a cultural concept that refers to saying no in consideration of not inconveniencing the person who is offering. If someone is being Gren Jai (Farsi equivalent for this characteristic is "Ta'rofi") you tell them Mai Thong Gren Jai to say don't be Gren Jai!
- The dogs in the north of Thailand don't chase bikes. We got some chasing happening in the south but I learned from observing our friend, O, that if I call them with noch noch/tsk tsk sound ask I approach they stay calm! :)
- The Thai phrase for lots of vegetables (pag mak maak) and really spicy (pet mak maak) sound very similar pronounced by the Falang.. learned to not try my Thai tongue the hard way!
Ok now the memories...
Celebrating Loi Krathong with Dariya and friends in Chiang Mai. Will have to come back some day for the full lantern festival, and would love to experience Loi Krathong in Sukothai - it would be magical being surrounded by temple ruins and water ways!
Trekking through Karen Villages in the mountains surrounding Mae Sariang. So humbling to observe their simple and resourceful way of living.
The advertisement noisemaker machines...
Late start out of Kampheang Phet after getting lost leaving the city and a stop to check out the big Bhuddas.. but being rewarded with a random stay at Oom Noi Resort just 20km south of town. Telik works for the Thai Police while his wife Tjip and her mom run the little store in front of their home.
Granma made us a delicious dinner from fresh veggies from the store, while Kaofang, their bright 7yr old daughter and I tried to have a conversation using our dictionaries and google translate. Kaofang's favourite animal is Rabbit :)
Lunch with Thai Mama, her son and his friend. Thai Mama teaches at the local school so she spoke some English.. this day was a holiday when we rolled into her backyard behind an abandoned restaurant looking for shade. Thai Mama thought us that eating rice the next day is no good in Thai culture (I still do it from time to time ;)) and she cleverly censored the questions and answers of her son and his friend as she translated for us all to have a conversation!
On our way south between Nakhon Sawan and Uthai Thani, we were following secondary roads not even shown on our map. At the end of our day when we asked for the town we were headed to, we realized we had switched highways without realizing our direction change... so we go with the flow of what IS now and asked if there is a place to stay nearby. We got directions to a resort in the middle of the woods 10kms away (Country Lake Resort, in Ban Nam Song, Thailand). We rode on small roads through little villages, got there and found out the resort rates are way over our budget. So we asked to speak to the manager to bargain ... and of course, succeeded to bring the price down by 30%. Turns out the manager is a 65yr old Thai man, nickname "Doe", who was a long distance cyclist on the national team for many years and in 1974 he cycled from Bangkok to Munich (through Iran!) to go to university! He gave us a discount and poured us a glass of Thai Whiskey when he joined our dinner table to share stories.
One of his funniest stories was about challenges of reading gestures in a new country ... apparently in India, Yes and No head gestures are pretty much identical! From Doe, we learned that what we have been using as gesture for "how much" in Thailand actually means "bribe me/pay up"! Now it makes sense why we got all the confused looks at the markets ... crazy Falangs, taking my cucumbers and asking for a bribe on top of it too!
First time in presence of monkey energy.... thinking of my dear friend Leyla who is crazy about monkeys!
Being thought about the local fruits by the local at River Marina Resort near Uthai Thani where we stopped for Lunch. We discovered Tamarind trees thanks to him and learned to avoid this other weird fruit at the markets! ;)
Waking up to a Chinese festival in Uthai Thani!
The sugar cane irony .... polluting the air to pollute our bodies .... if only we would just stop.
Randomly deciding to stop at Dan Chang at 11am for the day (it was soooo hot, so once we heard about the Greenview Resort with swimming pool we weren't going to move! :)). At the pool, Dariya finds out about an awesome Pizza House in town where a top Holland Chef of Swedish decent has a low key new life with his Thai wife and kids. At dinner at Pizza House we meet the Spanish crowd in Thailand for installing two Solar PV Farms. I decide to go see the one on our route the next day and came really close to taking a job offer to work with them for the last month of their project!
Sam Chuk market...And meeting Shu.
Learning that rubber comes from trees!
Meeting Lino in Ayutthaya. The best friend we have made this trip so far. Lino you should have come to Koh Chang for new years! :P
Getting picked up by O and her boyfriend dTon after dark after discussing with Dariya whether tonight is the night that we start camping because we are nowhere near a village. O you are an Angel :)
O lives with her boyfriend, her mom and dad and her brother's son in a beautiful and humble home surrounded by vast lands of fruit and rubber trees. O and dTon work every day on the rubber trees to keep the sap flowing. When we asked how many hours a day they work we weren't able to get an answer, shortly after we realized it's because there is no answer... people here work as long as there is work to be done; day, night, how long, doesn't mean anything.
Discovering Kaow Lam (rice and beans cooked traditionally in Sugar Cane stem) at our iced coffee stop near Klaeng. Cappuccino's mom gave us a Kaow Lam for free after over charging us for a little package of pineapple cookies.
Meeting Justine and Andre just after leaving Chantaburi after a long midday break. They were riding the opposite way so we all stopped to chat and exchange information about the roads we've been on. 5 beers later and a false promise by the local store keep that we can stay with his family tonight and cook dinner all together, we rode back to Chantaburi in the dark to find a place to sleep.
Meeting this awesome couple reminded me my desire to bike hard and long days is ok and that even though bottled water is cheap it is still not cool to buy bottled water. So I made a promise to myself to pump filter and treat my water from this point on - no more bottled water. A few nights later Dariya and I watched Story of Bottled Water together in Trat and I think she's on with the no bottled water challenge too now ;)
Meeting Tuke while roaming around the alleys in Trat. Ended up staying in Trat and extra day inspired by her and her awesome touch in Thai Massage. From Tuke and her friend Peo we learned about Morkeaw's self healing techniques.
Tuke was so Gren Jai, that even after giving us free massages, and sharing her dinner of rice and mushrooms, she still felt shy to accept the little bit of fruit and chocolate we brought her for thanking her.
And of course the many a overloaded bikes and cars and you name it... so many , missed photo opportunities, but I caught this one :)
On our extra day in Trat, we met Karen and Michel.. cool Belgian couple cycle touring Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and China for 4.5 months. We crossed the Cambodian border together yesterday and might be riding together a bit out of here. So excited!
But before crossing over, we loaded up on out favourite Rosy crackers, spent the rest of our bahts on Magnums and Maprao (coconut), before heading into the unknowns of Cambodia. And good thing we saturated with comfort foods in Thailand, because there are no 7elevens in Cambodia ;)
Random notes for the traveller:
-Mae Sariang and Sam Chuk where my most favourite cities
-There is an awesome bike mechanic in the old market in Sam Chuk
-I wish I had spent more time in Uthai Thani, Chantaburi and Trat
-The North has a much more peaceful vibe than the South
-The Muslim cities have an unpleasantness for female traveller... (Mae Sot and a few towns East of Ayutthaya on the way to Chanthaburi) No bad experiences though, just felt watched the whole time
-The locals are often off on km counts for directions and for divisions at the market... double check the kms with a few people and do your own math at the markets!
-The best roads for biking are the 4digit highways
-When you cross into Cambodia, the 20baht Quarantine fee is bogus.. walk around it straight to the arrival window. And if they ask you for 1,000baht for your visa instead of $20USD they are ripping you off, insist on the 20 and you will only pay that.