Monday, November 5, 2012

I plead The Fifth

(Note: The title is relevant, but we can't explain it any more for fear of being deported from the country. If you were with us Saturday night, you understand. If not, well just think of it as a meaningless title.)

At dawn….we ride!

After sport day, the rest of the week went by slowly even though it was pretty easy.

Wednesday was the day of the long boat races in Thawangpha so a lot of kids were not at school. We left a bit early that day to watch some of the races. The long boats are basically giant canoes rowed by a bunch of guys. The races take place on the Nan River, which has concrete stands where the races finish. On the day of the races the riverbanks on the more populated side of town are packed with people cheering on their respective teams and vendors selling snacks. On the other side, there is a market and a carnival-like atmosphere. There were even some carnival games. We watched a few races and then headed over to the market. Ethan tried a hot dog on a stick and I tried these angry bird shaped snacks on a stick. We are pretty sure they are made from tofu and cooked in hot dog flavored water. They were disgusting and we also didn’t know you could ask them to heat them up so we ate them cold. Never again. I bought a pair of purple Jasmine pants (3/4 pants that are tight at the bottom) at the market, after which it started raining. Everyone was packing up their stands so we decided to head out for dinner. The boat races were neat, but pretty boring overall. We didn’t know who the teams were and had no idea what the announcers were saying so it was only slightly entertaining.

Skye forgot to mention we went to Wat Nong Bua
On Thursday we didn’t have morning classes for some reason so I ended up only having 1 class and Ethan had none. It was nice, but mostly boring because we have to stay at school. Friday, was long and hot. My first period class had something going on so I didn’t have to go, but I had two classes at the end of the day. Having classes past 1pm is the pits because it’s sooooo hot. If I don’t have a fan pointed directly at me, I sweat miserably. It’s terrible. At the end of the day we went with one of the vice directors (not sure of his name) and his wife Kru Lin to rent a motorbike from their uncle. It made the torture of the day slightly less painful. We’d talked to the vice director about getting the motorbike the previous week, so the plan to do this had been in the works for a while and we were super excited. They drove us to one of the nearby towns called Chiang Klang where their uncle owns a repair shop. We chatted (more like smiled and nodded a lot) with the guy for a while and he showed us the motorbike. It’s red and relatively new so we were happy. Unfortunately, it was not ready for us to take just then, but they assured us it would be ready the next day. We crossed our fingers, but knew there was a possibility we wouldn’t see it again for a few days. We had planned to ride it to Nan the next day though so we really hoped for the best.

After the motorbike shop, we went out to dinner in the town closest to us, Pua. Pua is slightly bigger than Thawangpha, which is great because there is a large grocery store and more restaurants. They took us to this really nice place up on a hill that overlooks the main strip in town. We proceeded to have the best meal we’d had in Thailand yet. It was delicious! We had a vegetable/ground pork soup, cashew chicken, fried fish (that I didn’t eat) and stir-fried veggies. The cashew chicken was amazing and Ethan really liked the fish. During the meal we got to know the vice director and Kru Lin a little better, which was great despite our difficulties understanding each other. They told us about their family and asked us a lot of questions. We tried to ask them some questions too, but most of the time the point of the question was lost in translation. We got some interesting answers and a few times they just straight out told us they didn’t understand what we were asking. Anyway, it was a really great meal and we were grateful to get out of Thawangpha and eat some different foods that we really enjoyed.

This would be my favorite spot in Thailand to date...
Saturday morning we spent doing laundry and preparing for our trip to Nan. By some stroke of magic our motorbike was dropped off to us right at 12…exactly when we asked them to. We grabbed a snack at the market then headed out for Nan. We were planning on meeting a couple of friends (also in the program) there and were really excited to see them and hear about their experiences so far. It took us about 45 minutes to get there – we had to stop for rain twice (we bought ponchos in Nan, but I seriously wish we’d had them on the way). Once we got to Nan, we forgot our map to the hotel so we had to check the map at the tourist center, but we finally found the hotel (It is tucked into a corner on a tiny alley street so it’s hard to see). We pulled up and our friend Josie, who teaches in Wiang Sa (about 20 mins south of Nan), was already there. She helped us figure out how to get a room and then we headed up to the roof where a shaded area houses a hammock and some chairs. The hotel is really small, but we really liked it. For about $6 (200 baht) we got a small room with a queen size bed and a fan. All the rooms on the floor share the bathroom, but it was clean and spacious (there is 1 stall with a sink and shower and two toilet stalls). Once we had settled in, we hung out on the roof and waited for Caitlin and Kristin to arrive – they took the bus to Nan and had to walk to the hotel.

Once they got there and had settled in we headed out for some lunch, where we sat for quite a while talking about our different experiences and situations. It is nice to know that other people are going through some of the same things that you are. After lunch we hit up my favorite place in Nan, the smoothie shop! This time we got a maple nut mini-cake too. The smoothie and the cake were amazing. It’s a good thing we don’t have that in Thawangpha because we’d be broke. After our snack we headed over to the school where another friend from the program (Daylan) is teaching. She had mentioned that she was there playing soccer with some guys – we had no idea who she meant. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived because she was with a bunch of other westerners. Caitlin, Kristin, Josie and I gaped at them for a whole minute. Other native English speakers?!? How did we not know about this? She introduced us to everyone and Ethan joined the soccer game. We also met three people who are teaching in Pua that we had no idea were there. It blew our minds. While the guys continued to play we talked with the Pua people for a while about what they were teaching and how they liked Pua. Colin, Tristan and Kelly are really cool and we decided we needed to meet up with them since we lived so close.

At the local pizza place! Best find ever!
When the game was over we decided we’d go to dinner and then out to one of Nan’s “clubs.” We had to walk back to our hotel though, which really isn’t far, but it was super-hot and highly uncomfortable. We had the motorbike to take to dinner and the club though so our pain was only temporary – that motorbike is like a breath of fresh Michigan air and makes life here infinitely less sweaty. Dinner was amazing. We had cashew chicken, spring rolls, deep-fried kale, and this really strange but delicious chicken “quesadilla” - for lack of a better term – type thing. It was cut into wedges like a quesadilla and filled with chicken and other things, but it was wrapped in some sort of crunchy breading and fried. We loved it. They also ordered fish, which Ethan said was the best he’d had here – even better than the fish he had in Pua! (Ethan- there were also a number of rounds of beer bought and we ate everything Thai style, meaning family style) After dinner we biked down the road to a carnival/market. There was a ferris wheel, merry-go-round and carnival games. They also had a Muay Thai boxing ring set up and two young boys were the fighters. It was entertaining for a few minutes, but we left the boys there to watch while the girls wandered the market. This was definitely not your average Thai market. First, there was a stand selling bugs to eat, then there was a tattoo stand, followed by a stand selling the cutest miniature bunnies I have ever laid eyes on. They were like teacup bunnies that fit in your hands. They had a few in cages ready to sell and they all had little outfits on. We knew full well that this was highly inhumane, but we couldn’t get over how cute they were. The guy selling them picked one up that was asleep and we all about died. We had to get out of there before someone bought one. The rest of the market was fairly normal. They had clothes, fake watches and fake sunglasses, random food items and such. We found a place that makes Thai ice cream, which is finely shaved ice covered in a mixture of dairy products and flavors as well as your choice of toppings. It was good, but I prefer real ice cream.

Once we had escaped the market we headed to the “bar mall,” which is an area of town where all the bars are located. It was highly overwhelming, but pretty cool too. It’s essentially a wide road where all the bars are open air and all facing the middle. Since they were all playing extremely loud music it was hard to hear anyone so I mostly people watched while everyone chatted around the table. We saw more westerners to my surprise and got to talk to more people about what they were up to in Thailand. Once everyone had their fill of the bar, we went to the “club.” It was less a club and more a bar with live music. It was entertaining watching the band sing American songs really poorly and listen to Thai songs that we had no idea what they were saying. The experience was interesting to say the least and by about 1 am I was ready to go. Finally got my wish at 2:30, but when we stepped outside it was raining and I had to drive the motorbike back to the hotel. I was also the only one who knew how to get back. Sweeeeeet! We hopped on the bike and I pleaded with Ethan not to sway (he was a bit inebriated) as I have had about zero practice driving the thing with him on it. We headed out into the rain, Ethan and I on the motorbike and the three girls on their bicycles. It was pretty hard to keep the bike steady while going slow for the bikers and having 200lbs of Ethan (E- 195 pounds!) on the back, but we made it back...And I was quite proud of myself. 

The following day Ethan slept off the night til about 11, while I ate breakfast with Josie. After Ethan ate we went to one of the many temples in Nan that overlooks the city. The stairs to the top were torture. (E- 305 in all. I counted on the way down) We stopped numerous times, but it was well worth it. The view was amazing and the giant gold buddha watching over the city was really cool. After the temple we hit up the department store, grabbed lunch at the pizza place and headed back to Thawangpha. It was a lovely weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed getting out of our little town. We're also looking forward to hanging out with the cool people we met. :]  

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