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Tuk-tuks to Hillside tribes.. Chiang Mai is magnificent!

Day 3 was already time for us to fly to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The city is much smaller then Bangkok and we loved it as soon as we landed. Our hotel was the Amari Rincome and since we only booked 4+ stars hotels, we started laughing uncontrollably when we entered our room: This place makes Hotel 8 look like a 5 star hotel.
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We spent the day walking around Chiang Mai, then hopped in a tuk-tuk to the night market. Tuk- Tuks are 3-wheeled motorbike taxis that are absolutely everywhere in Chiang Mai at any given time. Tuk-tuk drivers have downright wild driving techniques but so does every car and scooter driver surrounding them. A ride around town cost between 1-3 $. On top of being a totally fun experience, it’s almost free!!
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The night market is jam-packed with thousands of booths crammed with junk on top of junk for tourists. We did end up buying a small piece of art for which I bargained the unfortunate bite-size lady from 1200 Bath down to 600 (about $18)

On day 2 here, we booked another private tour to experience Chiang Mai to its fullest. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and very rigid on her Buddhism believes. Ready for a little funny? Her name was… Wait for it…... Wait for iiittt……. : Porn Tip. Bet she’d make great tips at Cabbage & Condoms with a name like that.

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We started our day by visiting the hill tribe village high on a mountain and deep in a forest of Chiang Mai. Our guide gave us the story of this tribe which left us with a bad taste in our mouth. The tribe are people from surrounding countries that came into Thailand to grow poppies to make opium. To convince the tribes to stop growing drugs, the King offered them Thai passports, free land and help with starting new crops such as coffee and vegetables. They accepted but are still ungrateful and careless with the land inspite of everything that was given to them. If we would have known the story, we would have never booked the tour.

The rest of the day was spent between temples,
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temples
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and yup, you guessed it.. more temples.
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Every one of them is as beautiful and different as the last.
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No disrespect and as interesting and spectacular as they all were, after visiting 8 in 5 days, we’re all set with temples for a few years!!
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Tomorrow is "own an elephant for a day" day!!! :) :) :)

Posted by Rattrays 19:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

You want me to do WHAT with my elephant's poo??

Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai

Last day in Chiang Mai was “own an elephant for the day” day. Or better known as: the coolest day ever!!! It was UN-BEEE-LIEVABLE!! As there are several options available, we carefully chose where to spend a day with our very own Dumbo. We decided on Patara Elephant Farm because it’s not a place where you see elephant’s paint, play soccer and do all kinds of tricks to please tourists. No. This is the real deal. This is a farm where you go to take care of an elephant while he’s just.. well.. being an elephant.. The goal of Patara is to breed and adopt elephants to ultimately increase the population of the Asian elephant.
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We first had to dress with provided clothing and then were each matched with our companion for the day. Ploi and Plau were the names of our elephants. Armed each with a big basket full of bananas and sugar cane, we were accompanied by the mahout (caretaker) and off we went to feed our 4-ton friends. Ok.. lets be honest here, they are quite impressive. How fast could an elephant crush you if he’s having a bad day huh? Or squash your whole hand while you put a mini banana in that gigantic mouth of theirs. The first minute was a little scary but Patara’s elephants are so docile and happy, it took no time at all to be very comfortable around them.
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Next thing on the list was to confirm the healthiness of the elephant. Step 1: Assess his mood. Ears flapping, tail wagging = happy elephant. Check! Step 2: Make sure he slept good by looking for dirt spots on his side and face. Check! Step 3: A healthy hydrated elephant perspires only in one place on that enormous body…confirm sweat around his toes. Check! *Note to self, bring Doctor Scholl’s for stinky elephant feet on next trekking day* Step 4: A healthy elephant has healthy turds. Examine poo.. Umm.. I’m sorry mahout, you want me to do WHAT with the poo?? Oh yes ladies and gentleman. I not only looked and smelled the poo.. I had to pick it up BARE-HANDED! That’s not even the best part.. I had to squeeze it to make sure it was well hydrated and dripping poo juice. So….. : Check! Truth is, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. Since they eat bananas, plants and sugar cane only, it doesn’t smell too bad and feels like finely chopped grass, very fibery.
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Now that we knew they were fed and healthy, it was time to bathe them… and them to bathe us in return. :)
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Finally it was time to get on the elephant and trek to a larger river. You think elephant, you think big and tall. Once you’re on top though it‘s even higher. The elephant is very high but you forget to account for half your body height as well. So you’re wayyyy up there. In spite of that, riding an elephant feels very secure and quite serene. They are very sure footed.
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We trekked an hour into the juggle and ate lunch by the river while the elephants re-hydrated, compliments of the waterfall and river. Then came the best part of the day: swimming with the elephants. This was the ultimate elephant experience!!! Scary to be with 3 beasts like that rolling around in the water but sooo mucchh fuuun!!!
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Finally we trekked back and half way through, they allowed the couples to ride in tandem on the elephants. I got to ride right on Plau’s head while using my hubby’s arm’s as a seatbelt.
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What a incredible day!! :)

Posted by Rattrays 07:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

The Beach

Phuket and Phi Phi Island

We were so sad to leave Chiang Mai but thankfully, we were only half way through our trip. Next destination: Picturesque Phuket. First I have to clarify the pronunciation as I can here giggles from here. It’s not pronounced Foo-ket and certainly not Fuk-et as a couple of friends enjoy referring to it as. The “H” in Thai is silent so it’s simply “Pooket”
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Katathani resort is one of the very few resorts right on the beach of the island of Phuket. There are many beaches on the island so we were delighted to learn ours was one of the most secluded and quiet ones. Yet we are only one little but very steep hill away from the buzzing small village of Kata: hundreds of little shops, tailors, restaurants and prescription eyewear stores (nope, we don’t get this last one either.) It was already late when we got to our hotel after a 2 hour flight and 1 hour drive. We checked out the place then walked to Kata to have a very disappointing first Thai dinner in an otherwise lovely beach front restaurant.

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Day 2 in Phuket was a speedboat trip to Phi Phi Island. Remember our Thai pronunciation lesson from easlier? With the “H” silent, giggles are totally allowed for this one. It is “Pee Pee” as in “Little Johnny had to go pee pee on the island”. But the dazzling beauty of this place is no joke. Aqua water, lime stone rock with shear cliffs covered in lush green foliage. It’s a dreamy place.

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Our first stop was on a small deserted island where we had about an hour to enjoy the beach and snorkel around the water.
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Next was another snorkeling stop but this time in the middle of the sea by a coral wall. There were many fish swimming around us but the snorkeling in Roatan kicks Thailand’s snorkeling butt, hands down.
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Afterwards it was time for lunch on another island. Delicious buffet on the beach. Yummers! Off again we went in the speed boat for a swim in the middle of a secluded cove.
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Our last stop for snorkeling was in the middle of nowhere which was jam-packed with tiny, nasty jelly fish. Needless to say we were both in and out of the water before you can say Jelly-fishy 3 times… These buggers sting like a be-atch!! ;)
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The final stop was in Maya beach. Remember the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio from 2000 where he hears rumors of a beach paradise where a very small secret community lives? That paradise is Phi Phi Island filmed on Maya beach.
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The reality now is it’s crammed with boat loads of tourists. It’s so busy it’s difficult to look past the people to see the extreme beauty of the Island.
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Another 45 minutes of a bumpy but exciting speed boat ride brought us back to the pier leaving me with a super stylin’ reverse raccoon sunburn on my face!! ;)
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Posted by Rattrays 07:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Bond, James Bond (Island)

Phang Nga Bay

Day 3 and 4 can be summarized by : sea - pool - beach chair - sea - pool and repeat! However day 4 had a lot of mini stingy sea monsters so the pool was favored that day. Funny how an inch long sea creature can make you swim away like you just heard the “jaws” theme song.. On the night of day 3, Amy who is a friend of a friend living in Phuket, came to meet us. On top of being a very nice girl, she has a lot of knowledge about the Thai culture so we had a great evening with her. She took us to a super tasty local restaurant called Red Chair and we had 6 different dishes (and tons of it left untouched), 2 sodas, and a giant beer for about $15.
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We learned during our trip that the cheaper the prices, the more typical the cuisine is and therefore the yummiest. Thai food must be the only cuisine where the higher price doesn’t mean higher quality. It just means that… you have less money left in you pocket. On the night of day 4, we went to Kata for our first non-Thai dinner since we’ve been here at “2 chefs” which cost us about $60 for 2 dishes and 2 drinks but really wasn’t any better that our $15 feast the night before.
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On day 5 (Monday) we took another fantastic speed boat trip but this time we went north of Phuket for the day. Destination: Phang Nga. (pronounced more like Paagna) Phang Nga Bay is home to some 42 lime stone islands with sheer rock faces covered with lush greens and a few of them gifted with lovely beaches.
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We did a lot of sightseeing in the morning and stopped on “James Bond Island” where “The Man With The Golden Gun” with Roger Moore was filmed in 1974. Neither of us have actually seen the movie but the island is quite stunning with its 1 tall piece of rock that split from the island centuries ago and stands proudly in the middle of the water in front of the beach. Gorgeous!
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Next we went canoeing through islands, coves and mangroves. Fun, impressive and exciting!!!
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Some passages were so low that we had to literally lay down on the canoe to avoid banging our heads on the rocks. Fun times and spectacular views!!
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For lunch we journeyed to a village built atop the lime green water, adjacent a small island. It was such a bizarre thing to see. A whole village with houses, school, shops and restaurants built on pillars in the middle of the sea. The meal was composed of seafood and fish. I have to admit seeing the eyeballs and teeth of the food I’m about to eat is quite the turn off for me. ICK!! As for David, let’s just say he has simply forbidden me to remind him of this lunch experience.
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The rest of the afternoon was spent on one of the scenic beaches of Phang Nga where we swam, had a little nap and walked up and down the beach in search of sea treasures.
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We were back at the hotel by 6pm, went for dinner in another local place and finished one more fantastic day with a 1 hour Thai massage for the ridiculously low price of $7. But the priceless event of the day was opening my sleepy eyes while getting my massage and seeing David’s masseuse literally walking barefoot on his back.. Thankfully my masseuse didn’t have the same brilliant idea ;)

Posted by Rattrays 00:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Beautiful "ladyboys" and Patong

The last full day we had in Phuket was my birthday. I couldn't think of a better place to be to celebrate. We did the whole pool- sea - beach chair routine again.
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At the end of the afternoon I treated myself to a Thai massage right by the beach while David was reading a book. What a perfect way to pamper yourself! Massage, sun and the soothing sound of the waves. Best bday day evaahh :)

After getting cleaned up we went to another local restaurant for some yummy food
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and off to "Simon cabaret" to see the Lady Boys perform. What was supposed to be an excellent cabaret show turned out to be very amateurish as the "ladies" were neither singing (nor knew the English words to the songs they were lip sinking) or synchronized in their dance steps. But oh my goodness were some of them disturbingly beautiful!!! I say disturbingly because if you wouldn't have known they were all dudes, there is no way you would have guessed those stunning women where supposed to be wearing boxers or briefs instead of bikini or thongs.. ;)
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We had a lot of giggles watching a Thai Tina Turner shaking what her mama gave her and even more watching a chunky Diana Ross singing "I wee swaaa" (or "I will survive" as we know it in America) then having her shimmy her breasts ON the face of some poor Chinese guy sitting in the front row. Hilarious!!
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After the show we ventured on to Patong. Another city in Phuket. Patong is where the action is. In fact the place is complete mayhem. It's a bit like Vegas with bars, lights people flicking things at you except that instead of being little cards for strip clubs and escorts it's signs for go-go girls (lots of ladyboys here too) and ping pong shows.. but not the G rated ones if you follow my drift...
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There is also A LOT of prostitution happening in the city. We found it quite disgusting to see many older man walking arm in arm with young Thai prostitute(s) on a mission to get to their hotel. But we found a dark pleasure in seeing a few clueless men being accompanied with ladyboys instead of a woman they thought they were going "home" with - which we heard happens on a regular basis to some ignorant tourists going to Thailand for the insanely cheap prostitutes. Surpriiise!!!
We had a few drinks at different bars and ended the night at another bar. Actually a roof top pool party with Amy and a few friends visiting her.

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The next day was time to pack our suitcase and go back to Bangkok for our last night. We still had half the day on Kata Noi beach so we were up super early to enjoy every minute of it. We were staying at the airport hotel and arrived around 7pm. Since we have been waking up before 7am pretty much every single day of our vacation to go exploring this amazing country, we decided to stay in for the night as we were both quite tired from our vacation.

We've been to a few countries and each trip is as exciting as the next but we both agree Thailand was the most fabulous and diverse yet. Thai people are outstandingly nice and we will miss being greeted by a happy "Sawa dee Ka" (or Sawa dee Kap for a man) - which means hello in Thai. We will miss the delicious food, especially from Chiang Mai at the Boat restaurant were we found THE BEST Thai food for about $4 for dinner for 2 including drinks. We will also miss culture, traditions and the architecture of this beautiful country.

With heavy hearts we left Bangkok this morning and are back in Japan for our first layover. Next stop: Washington, then home to Boston where we will most likely sleep all weekend to recover from the 26 straight hours of travel, the jet lag and a very satisfying vacation!! :) When we awake I'm sure the first thought will be WHERE TO NEXT?!? ;)

Posted by Rattrays 21:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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