Thailand

Khao Yai

Khao Yai was totally awesome. The first night, our tour guide took us to a cave that was part of a temple, and showed us thousands of bats and bizarre bugs. It was especially other-worldy because there were carved Buddhas and shrines hidden in the cave. Pretty much all of those pictures were on my real camera though, sorry. He also took us to watch the bats leave another cave at sunset.

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The next day we had a full day tour in the park. It was incredibly beautiful and there was so much wildlife. Wild elephants, gibbons, monkeys, snakes, hornbills…

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It was awesome. We headed back to Bangkok the next morning for one more night. While there, we checked out the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It was insane. It seemed endless, and you could literally buy just about anything you want there: trendy clothes, tourist clothes, pretty good art, beautiful furniture, food, good cocktails, pets, jewelry, lamps, shoes, whatever.

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The next morning, we said goodbye to Thailand and hello to Cambodia.

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Bangkok dangerous

We’re in Siem Reap, Cambodia now… But I need to backtrack a bit.

We booked a room in a hotel off of Khao San Road, a touristy backpacker area. It seemed too nice for what it we paid for it. It had an aged glamour, James Bond kind of feel to it.

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It turns out that it was SUPER close to the protests. But it wasn’t really that big of a deal other than having to constantly negotiate with taxi drivers to stop over charging us to get there. There were army checkpoints somewhat regularly, making sure no one was carrying any weapons or anything. They ignored us farang.

Bangkok is massive, loud and awesome. We found some really good spots to eat/drink, rode the water taxi, visited the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and wandered around Chinatown.

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We also wandered into the food hall of this huge crazy mall called the Siam Paragon. Outside was what looked like another market, so we decided to check it out. Once we kept going, we noticed that some of the merchandise was protest gear… And then found ourselves in the middle of it. Honestly, it was really relaxed. It could’ve been a music festival with stalls, massages, and food.

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After two days of Bangkok, we were off up north a little to Khao Yai National Park, outside of Pak Chong. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and mostly only Thai tourists from Bangkok visit it. To get there, we took a local public bus for about $5. We just had to trust that they brought us to the right one, and they blared what I would call Thai adult alternative music the entire way. It was overall kinda funny.

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The Khao Yai post is coming soon.

Oh my Buddha

We’re currently on the day train to Bangkok, since the night train was booked up before we tried to get our tickets.

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We finished our three day trek in the hills up north yesterday, and it was really fun. The first day consisted of a pretty steep, strenuous hike to a hill tribe village, where we stayed for the night. The hills were very pretty, but staying in the village was… strange. There were at least a hundred tourists staying in this one village, with several being driven up specifically for this experience, unlike our outdoor experience-themed trek. It just felt like tour companies are exploiting the other-ness of the villagers and making them a sort of spectacle. Our guide, Mike, grew up in one of these villages, though, and he seemed pretty aware of the effects of these tours. He was awesome.

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The second day was an easy hike to a couple of waterfalls, and a stay in a jungle camp. Some villagers taught us how to fish in the river, which consisted of rerouting the water and making pools of it, which you drain with bowls to find the fish. It was a lot of work for little reward, but the small, spicy fried crabs were delicious.

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Mike cooked our lunch with bamboo and banana leaves.

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The last day we rode elephants, went white water rafting and rode bamboo rafts. Riding the elephants was… Unpleasant. They don’t treat the elephants well at these camps for tourists, and the results are pretty sad. If we had been able to book a trek without the elephants and stuff, we could’ve, but they were all much more expensive. We hesitated before the ride, but since we were already there and had theoretically paid for it anyway, we did it.

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Anyways, now on to Bangkok!

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Same same, but different

Yesterday we had a pretty relaxed day wandering around Chiang Mai and getting a Thai massage.

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This is a picture of Wat Chedi Luang, in the middle of the old city. Because it’s one of the biggest and most popular temples, it has some of the best people watching I’ve seen so far.

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At night we decided to check out the hip university area, which coincidentally is where I (Emily) stayed 8 years ago. There used to not be much over there, but now it’s filled with fancy, bizarre malls and clubs/bars. We wandered around feeling under dressed for most of the places that actually had people in them, but then we found this fancy beer bar made out of a shipping container that could have easily been in Hayes Valley in San Francisco. Road House was even playing on TV. That area was totally too cool for school.

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Today we took a fabulous cooking class out on an organic family farm. They taught us how to cook 5 (!) dishes and gave us a recipe book, so if you’d like a recipe, let us know.

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We’re leaving for our trek tomorrow for three days, so we’ll be mostly out of touch. Once we’re back on Monday night… We don’t know what we’re doing since we’re having trouble finding a spot on the train to Bangkok. 😦

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