Thursday, December 20, 2012

eventfully uneventful

Monday: So this past weekend we stayed local and didn't do much of anything. We went to Nan Friday night for a birthday party where the theme was to dress in a costume that started with B or X (in honor of those people whose birthdays we were celebrating). So Caitlin, Kristin and I went as Blind Mice and Ethan went as Xenophilious Lovegood from Harry Potter (Google it if you're confused). Of course there isn't much that we do here that doesn't involve some sort of drama and this day was no different ....on the way to Nan our motorbike pretty much stopped working. Ethan would try to accelerate, but the bike would just putter along and then stop. We opened the gas tank hoping we had just run out, but that wasn't it. We puttered our way to a gas station that we knew was near with our fingers crossed that they had a mechanic or knew one close by. They put some gas in and then did everything they could to fix it (including taking things apart), but they didn't have the proper tools to remedy the problem. They were all so nice though and we are super thankful for them. When they finally decided they couldn't fix it, they put me on the back of one guys bike, while Ethan drove ours and two kids followed behind him. They took us to a house nearby where presumably the owner fixed motorbikes. They spoke a bunch in Thai and then the guy started taking apart the bike. We just crossed our fingers and hoped that he knew what he was doing and that it could be fixed. We used our time there wisely and made some parts of our costumes (Ethan's wig and my tail...the family probably thought we were nuts). So about an hour later (after the guy had completely dismantled the front end of the bike and put it back together) he wheeled it out, took it for a spin, brought it back in, replaced the cover and handed us the keys. All in all it cost us about 2 hours of our time and 100baht in repairs (or a little over $3). No too shabby!
blind mouse and mr. lovegood

So we get to Nan and go to the party thinking everything is cool. But then Ethan starts to feel weird. A little while after he mentions it to me I notice he is gone and when he comes back he tells me he just threw up and feels like crap. Seemed like we weren't going to catch a break on this event filled Friday. We went back to our hotel when everyone left the party to go to the bar and Ethan spent the night mostly with his head in the toilet. Poor guy! We determined he either got food poisoning or some other weird bug from some pork on a stick he ate for dinner. It was a rough night for him and an even worse morning when we woke up to see the incredibly disturbing and horrifying news about the shooting in Connecticut. We were overcome with a feeling of homesickness that we hadn't felt yet since being here. I think it was just not being able to talk about it with our families and friends and not seeing it plastered all over the news everywhere was what made it so strange (not that we'd really want to watch sensationalized stories about mass murderers, but just not hearing about it at all is really strange and sad). Our hearts go out to all those who died and those who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Saturday we did nothing all afternoon and went out to dinner with the Pua gang and a couple other people. Ethan's stomach was feeling better, but we still called it a night earlier than everyone else. Sunday we did nothing as well. "Did nothing" is a bit extreme... I cleaned and we did laundry and we ate food. But that was the extent of our movements that day. It was a very chill day that I think we both needed. We had lots of time to recharge, talk about our upcoming vacation plans as well as reminisce on our past travels together and our wedding. It was the perfect way to start the week. :]

On a side note, it is really cold here at night and in the morning! I slept in sweats and a hoodie the other night and this morning I could see my breath. We definitely don't hate it (its actually really nice), but it sure is strange to wake up and want to jump into a hot shower in Thailand. I don't think the Thais like the cold very much though, because they all wear scarves and sweaters and shiver all morning.

Wednesday: On another side note, Ethan got sick again yesterday (Tuesday). More of the same symptoms from Friday :[ It started early in the afternoon and lasted until late evening. We have no idea what's causing it, but if it happens again I think we'll be making a trip to the hospital. He's feeling better today and staying away from any unknown/weird foods. We're also preparing for our upcoming vacation during which we will be visiting Chiang Mai for a few days and then traveling south to the well known island of Koh Chang (Thailand's second largest island.) We just booked accommodations at both places and have our train/bus tickets booked (for part of the trip). We're very excited to get out of Nan Province for a while and spend some time relaxing on the beach. We are in the midst of planning what activities we'll be doing in both places, but we have a few ideas. Our ideas include, but are not limited to motorbiking to Thailand's highest peak, visiting the Chiang Mai zoo, visiting an elephant camp, visiting a temple on Doi Suthep (Google it), kayaking, snorkeling and chilling out. We will have wifi at both places so we'll probably be posting photos and what not. We leave Friday at 9:30pm for Chiang Mai! Aufwiedersehen (see you later) Thawangpha!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The land before time: Sukhothai

We made full recoveries from our leech bites last case you were wondering. And neither of us got sick! Hooray! It was a pretty easy week in terms of school. We had Wednesday off for Father's Day (the King's birthday). Tuesday night we went to Pua to eat dinner and hang out with the Pua gang. We stayed pretty late, which ended up changing our plans for our day off.

We were going to go to Nanthaburi National Park for the whole day, which is 25 km from Thawangpha. But we didn't get around to doing anything until about 1 o'clock. We decided we needed a day to relax anyway and it felt pretty good just to be lazy most of the day. After we finally got ourselves together we headed out to the park just to check it out. We wanted to see how hilly the road was, how long it took to get there, and if it would be worth a return trip. It seemed like it took forever to get there even though it wasn't as far as Doi Phu Kha. The road was very winding, but not as steep or high as the road to Doi Phu Kha. After we had gone about 25 km we decided if we didn't find it in 3km we would turn back, but it was only one more kilometer away. The road into the park was the worst part of the whole ride. It was muddy and pretty hilly, which isn't a good combo on a motorbike. I had to get off the bike once so Ethan could get it up the steep hill leading into the parks headquarters. The park was really pretty and perched fairly close to the very top of the mountain. There is supposedly a trail that you can walk that will take you all the way to the top. We tried to figure out if you can motorbike up, but I don't think we got our point across. We tried to take the bike up the road anyway, but ended up getting stuck on a particularly steep/slippery hill. We parked the bike and tried to walk, but decided to try again another time. We really didn't know how far it was from where we were and I was in no mood for exploring. We headed back down the mountain and called it a night. (E- We also didn't even know if we were for sure on the right mountain or if we needed to motorbike down the main road some more to get to Doi Wow. That's Thailand for you. You never have the information you need/want.)

Friday afternoon we left school a little early to catch a bus to Sukhothai. Our friends, Shannon and Alexis, decided not to make the trip as the bus schedule wouldn't give them enough time in the city. We were pretty bummed about it, but are hopeful that we can see them over a different long weekend or maybe even in March. Anywho, we boarded the bus around 4:30 and were slightly surprised when we got on. There was a motorbike parked in the very back in front of the last row of 5 seats. We didn't quite know what it was doing there or whose it was, but we didn't really have a choice but to go around it and sit in the last row. There were no pairs of seats available... I guess everyone wanted two seats to themselves. The ride was a bit uncomfortable because we could only lean one way (against the window) and we were positioned right above the rear tires so it was probably the bumpiest bus ride I've ever taken. There was also the motorbike right in front of us so we couldn't really stretch out our legs. (E- People used the motorbike as a seat and literally rode their entire journey perched on the motorbike. I used the front basket as a foot rest for a while as well.) No one was snoring though, so we were thankful for that. Along the journey we stopped at random places on the side of the road and at bus stations to pick up/drop people off. It was a bit unorthodox and made the journey go fairly slow, but eventually we made it to Phitsanoluk. From here we needed to catch a bus going to Sukothai. Here's where things get interesting....(as if they weren't already!)

waiting. waiting. waiting
We hopped off the bus, hoping beyond hope that we could get a ride to Sukhothai. We asked one guy who told us to go to another window, that person directed us elsewhere, and those people directed us back to the first guy. Finally, we asked information and they directed us to the first guy. One of the people we talked to said there was a bus, but not until maybe 1am. I was not willing to work with 'maybe', so we ended up at the first guy. He said there was a bus at 12am. Phew! We're saved! So 12am rolls right on bus. 1am. Still no bus. At 1:30 I asked him again what time the bus would come. He says (nonchalantly) "Oh bus late! Maybe 2am!" LORD HAVE MERCY! So 2am rolls on by and at 2:30 I was almost (key word here) in tears. Ethan decided to take matters into his own hands. He sees a bus that says Bangkok to Sukhothai Historical Park on the side pull into the station. A few minutes later a Thai boy who was sitting in front of us, and had followed Ethan, came back to tell his girlfriend they were going to Sukhothai. I looked up at him and said "Sukhothai??" He nodded and I bolted for the bus. Ethan was just coming back for me when I got over there and said we could take this bus to Sukhothai. There are two parts to the town, new and old Sukhothai, which are about 9km apart. We had no idea which part we were going to, but decided we could figure that out later. So after being at the bus station for 4 hours, we were finally headed to Sukhothai. Thankfully, we put Phitsanoluk to our backs.

We rolled into Sukhothai at about 4am and got off the bus. We didn't actually know what part we were in but luckily (or maybe not so lucky?) there were "taxis'' there waiting to take sleepy passengers to their hotels and guesthouses as well as make them overpay for a ride. Ethan was convinced we could walk, so when a driver told us it was 80baht for a ride we promptly said no and started walking. He relented though and gave us a ride to a guesthouse for 50baht. It actually turned out to be a good thing that we got a ride because the driver woke up the owner for us so we could get a room. Thank Jesus. They only had a room with two twin beds, but seriously we didn't care one bit. It was hot anyway. We jumped in bed and went right to sleep. It was glorious.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
In the morning, Ethan woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, so he tried to figure out how to walk to the bus station, while I continued snoozing. He ended up figuring out that our guesthouse was really only a 5 minute walk down some side streets and a dirt road from the bus station. He's so good at finding ways to save money! When he got back, we got ready for the day and headed out to find some breakfast. The place we had in mind wasn't open yet, so we headed to old Sukhothai where the ruins of old temples are hoping to find a place that served some American breakfast food. Lucky for us there were about 6 or 7 "Thai/European" restaurants within walking distance of the historical park where we were dropped off. Whoop Whoop! They seemed to be relatively the same so we arbitrarily picked one. After breakfast we rented bicycles to get around the park and got our tickets to get in They were 100baht each plus 10baht for each bike! Yowzas! (E- That's under $4 a person to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not too bad, but it also translates to 7 plates of pad thai. Hmm.)

one of the many beautiful ruins
The Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it's pretty cool. If you want to know what it "really" means then Google it. (E- Sukhothai calls it a "Memory of the World," which is yet another great Thai translation.) Anyway, we were super excited because the ruins are really super dooper old (some of them have been reconstructed to a certain degree, but we don't know when it was done or what ruins have been reconstructed) and supposedly really beautiful. So we rode our bikes into the park and the ruins really were very cool. The only thing we didn't like was that it was so out in the open. We were kind of expecting them to be more in the forest and and have like vines on them, but they were really out in the open and made for tourists. There were some trees and a few motes and ponds, which added to the ambiance. We walked around a few of the bigger temples in the central section (the park is divided into 3 sections, central, north and west). (E- All 3 sections require a different 100 baht + 10 baht bike fee) We ended up taking a break at one of these larger temples and actually ended up falling asleep under the pagoda. It wasn't a very long nap, but it was just what we needed to finish exploring the park. We stayed at the central part for a bit longer, then decided it was time for lunch. We grabbed some food and headed out to the western part. We only ended up exploring one temple on account of the fact it was a longer bike ride than the map made it look and to get to that temple we had to climb this strange rock wall path up a big hill. So by the time we got back down I was pooped and we headed back. The bike ride back was much more enjoyable because we took a different route that took us by some more temples and through the woods. We were super drained when we got back so we had dinner at a place called Poo Restaurant (Thai people have the best names for places. So creative!) and called it a night.

Ruin at Si Satchanalai 
In the morning we weren't really sure what we wanted to do, but ended up catching a bus to another historical park about an hour from Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai. The "bus" was actually a mini-van that was taking other people to the park. I was a little nervous that we might not actually be going to the park, but there were also several other people with us so that made me feel better. We did make it to the park eventually after the driver stopped about 6 times for various reasons. We were super hungry so we got some lunch that ended up being not very good, after which we rented bikes to tour the park. There were only two parts to the park and we only explored the second, bigger one. We ended up exploring it with a Canadian named Kate. We got to talking with her at the bike rental place and she asked if she could tag along. Of course!! The more the merrier!! So the three of us biked around and looked at the various temples for a few hours. We really enjoyed this park...even more than the one in Old Sukhothai (they are actually part of the same park). It was in a more natural setting and there were a lot less people. It was just really pretty and serene, which made for a very relaxing afternoon.

The bus that goes back to Sukhothai was supposed to pick us up at 4, but didn't get there until around 5:15. Slightly annoying, but not nearly as annoying as where we had to sit. There were no seats left and all the standing room in the usual seating area was full, so we (and several others) were forced to sit in the luggage hold. I get motion sickness from sitting in the back seat of a comfortable, air-conditioned car. So this was about to be the worst ride ever. Luckily, Ethan was asked to stand in the stairwell and the ride wasn't that long, so I switched places with him. Like I said, the ride was short, but it still wasn't very fun having to stand. We also had to stop and let people off and on, so I was constantly in the way. Ethan made friends in the luggage hold though - two girls who were in the same program as us, but had been here since May and Fabian from Germany. (E- One of the girls was a former die-hard Avalanche fan of the late 90s. We relived the glory years of the Aves-Wings rivalry and were able to keep our gloves on. This is by far the BEST RIVALRY in the history of sports. I enjoyed pointing out that the rivalry died because the Aves suck now and the Wings are still thriving.) When we arrived Kate, Fabian, Ethan and I decided to meet up for dinner later. And later we met up at the Chopper Bar - a place that supposedly had good food and a rooftop deck. The deck was full, but we got a seat kind of outside. Anyway, we had a really great time chatting with Kate and Fabian and talking about life in Thailand as well as our home countries. After dinner Fabian took us to the Night Market (that was closed), we got some roti, and finally ended up chatting for a while on the porch of Fabian's hotel. It was a really great night and we really enjoyed hearing about their experiences in life. (E- We got tore up from the floor up by mosquitoes. Quite literally, our ankles were destroyed.)
riding in the luggage hold. normal

We went to bed as soon as we got home - so tired, so sleepy! In the morning we got some breakfast at our guesthouse and caught a bus to Phitsonoluk. We had really hoped to not have to return to this dreadful place, but hoped the experience would be better given that it wouldn't be the middle of the night this time. When we arrived we figured out that the next bus back home wasn't until 2:30. It was around 12 so we decided to try and find a place to get an infamous Thai massage. We walked around the bus station until we finally found (on the last street we checked) a place that did Thai massages and foot massages. Ethan had been wanting a massage for a while so that's what he went with, but I chickened out and only got a foot massage. I can't say it was the best foot massage I've ever had, but it did feel good after having been on my feet for two days. (E- for an hour long full body massage and an hour long foot massage the grand total came to be.. dun dun dun dunnnn... $10 USD) When we stepped out of the massage place I looked up at a passing bus and saw Kate looking out the window at us - what a crazy coincidence.

Anyway, we grabbed some "lunch" from 7/11 before we headed back to the bus station, which consisted of a microwaved mini-pizza and a ham and cheese croissant (which were both strangely delicious). The bus actually arrived early, which made us really happy we were there early to snag seats because there were a ton of people standing on this bus. Unfortunately, we chose seats behind a guy with THE WORST dandruff I have ever seen. Just huge flakes everywhere and his hair was greasy and he kept scratching his head. Why?!? Why does this always happen to us?? Ugh. I tried my best to ignore him and when I finally had all but forgotten about him...he started snoring so loud. And it wasn't normal snoring, it was nasty, head congested snoring with all sorts of snorts and gurgles. My stomach was lurching for an hour. Fortunately, he got off the bus like half way to Thawangpha. Thank Jesus. (E- He looked like a thumb. The worst thumb you could imagine. Like slamming your thumb in a car door and then immersing it into a pot of boiling water. That bad. No joke.)

We got back home around 8:30, grabbed some dinner and headed to our apartment. It was a great weekend and although getting there was a bit rough we really enjoyed the parks and whatever we had to endure on the journey was well worth it (except for dandruff guy...that was too much for me).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Doi Phu Kha

In my previous post I could not remember what had happened Friday afternoon, but Ethan kindly reminded me that we did have a somewhat eventful day. We decided a while ago that we wanted to go to Sukhothai, which is one of the old capitals of Thailand. It has a bunch of ruins and other cool things to see and we were planning on meeting some friends from orientation there (Alexis and Shannon who teach near Bangkok). But we still had to figure out how to get a bus there and how to buy the tickets, so we spoke to Kru Rin who told us where to buy them. We headed out to get gas first and then go to the ticket agent. After we left the gas station we heard a strange noise coming from the motorbike and it bouncing a lot. I looked down to see the back tire completely flat. We had no idea what to do, but luckily there was a car repair shop within pushing distance. We pushed it up there and managed to communicate that we needed air in the tire. They also managed to tell us where we could get it repaired. Unfortunately, the place was closed and we had no idea what time they opened on Saturday morning. The air the put in the tire lasted until we got a few hundred yards from the school, so we walked the bike to the school and left it there. We decided we just needed to talk to Kru Rin about what to do because we didn't know if anyone left at the school would be able to help. So we borrowed Kru Rin's bike from Caitlin and Kristin and rode over to her house. She said that there was a repair shop in town that we could push the bike to (no thanks!) or we could wait until the guy down the road from the school opened in the morning. She was almost positive that he opened really early so our trip to Doi Phu Kha would not be cancelled. We really had no reason not to trust her, but there was definitely an air of uncertainty.

Saturday Ethan woke up fairly early and pushed the bike down the road to the repair shop. Turns out there was a whole in the inner tube that the guy was able to patch for only 30baht! After he got back we got ready to head out to Pua (We never made it to the bus ticket agent, which was annoying, but more about that later). We were going to Doi Phu Kha national park with the Pua gang and were super excited. Right before we left Caitlin found a seriously nasty scorpion outside her room so naturally Ethan messed around with it for 15 minutes before we left. I seriously hoped we didn't run into any more over the weekend.

B.E.A - utiful! 
Doi Phu Kha is a national park about half an hour outside of Pua. It is home to the highest mountain peak in the Nan province and provides some incredible scenery. The drive up to the park was amazing and the higher we got, the cooler the temperature. It felt really nice and it smelled even better. Surprisingly there are pine trees the higher up you get and they smelled so good and reminded me of home. Our motorbikes are manual shift so we kept having to shift down to 1st gear when going up hills. It made for pretty slow going and Caitlin and Kristin (who are riding Kru Rin's really old motor bike) were forced to stop a few times. That motorbike has seen better days and did not do well with the steep hills. Eventually we made it to the waterfall that is just outside the park. We hopped off our bikes where we hoped there was a trail down to the fall. The trail was muddy and slippery (Caitlin slipped in the first 10 feet) and there were prickly plants (I got my hair caught in one). It was treacherous, but we eventually made it to the waterfall. We ate our lunch then the boys and Kristin explored the falls and climbed all over the rocks. The water was cold and I was still exhausted from our Loy Krathong excursion so I opted out.
the falls that claimed Ethan's ring :[ 

After a while, we noticed that the guys had been in the same spot for quite a long time. We wondered what they were doing. Then Ethan came down with a strange look on his face and held out his left hand. I realized immediately that his ring was gone, but Ethan likes to joke that it's lost all time. So I didn't take him seriously at first, but he definitely wasn't joking. He had slid down a rock and it slipped off into the water. He felt (still feels) awful about it, but there was nothing we could do. It could have been anywhere. The boys had been looking for it that whole time and came up with nothing. I was sad, but it also was only $30 and easily replaceable, although the sentimental value might be lost forever. :[

We were bummed, but weren't about to let it ruin our weekend. We trekked back up to our bikes and after driving through a teeny tiny hill tribe village, headed to the park. We checked in at the park headquarters and decided to rent two bungalows for the night. (Ethan- There is usually a 200 baht entrance fee for farangs, but we brought our work visas with us and got the 40 baht local price. SCHWING!) When we pulled up to the set of bungalows I was pleasantly surprised. They were relatively modern and really clean. They consisted of one big room with 4 twin sized beds (two were pushed together to form a "double bed" a toilet room, shower room, sink area, closet, and refrigerator. There was also a shared patio area that overlooked some really awesome views of the park. We decided to chill for a while and catch the sunset before we headed back down to the restaurant in the park for dinner. We had a delicious meal of chicken fried rice and stir fried veggies.
giant moth! Ahhh. 
After dinner we hung out at a larger common area that had picnic tables and everyone, except me, got fairly inebriated. It was a pretty entertaining evening and we met a Thai man who had lived in England for 20 years. His name was David and he spoke perfect (albeit British) English as well as Thai. We also met his family and friends and ended up chatting with them for a decently long time. After a series of failed attempts to get everyone to bed I gave up and passed out.

In the morning, it took everyone a pretty long time to get it together, but eventually we did. We ate lunch at the restaurant and then headed out to hike the nature trail. We didn't know anything about this trail other than it was 4 kilometers long. While I wasn't too happy about hiking that far, I was excited to explore the jungle. That excitement quickly faded after the first few hills, but it didn't get terrible until we figured out that there were leeches everywhere. At first, we thought they were just weird worms because they were so tiny. After we continued walking I felt something sort of sting my foot. I looked down and attached to the back of my ankle was a tiny little leech. I flicked it off, but then wondered if any more had gotten stuck on me. I took off my shoe and there between my toes was a leech getting fat from sucking my blood. I screamed and flicked him off, but it was too late. Blood came pouring from my foot and wouldn't stop. It was so gross. I started crying and told Ethan I didn't want to keep going. I was wearing my Keen sandals that have holes all over them and just couldn't keep walking in the leech infested jungle knowing that they were just going to continue sticking on my feet. (We had been told that they can carry diseases as serious as AIDS in places in Thailand and had been warned that there might be leeches in the park, but that the likelihood was slim, so we didn't take it seriously). After I gathered myself, I borrowed Kelly's socks to help protect my feet and made it my mission to get out of there without any more leech bites.

LEECHES!! Everywhere!! 
The rest of the walk was long and filled with many stops to check for leeches and scrape any off that attached themselves to us. It was a huge bummer that we didn't really get to enjoy the trek because we were scared of the leeches. In reality, I'm sure there was nothing for us to worry about, but they were really gross and being leeched is not fun. Ethan ended up getting about 18 bites and by the end of the hike his feet were very bloody. We cleaned them out as best we could at the lodge and then again when we got home and put Neosporin on them just in case. We're also taking antibiotics that would hopefully kill any infection they might have been carrying.

Ethan's wounds! Only a quarter of them... 
The ride home was a lot faster and just as beautiful as the ride up. We stopped in Pua to eat dinner with the gang, played a game of bananagrams and then headed home. Overall, it was a great weekend with a couple unfortunate events. We definitely learned a few lessons and will never enter the jungle without proper footwear again!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Loy loy krathong, Loy loy krathong

Monday and Tuesday were quite a blur in our preparations for Loy Krathong...nothing really exciting happened. After school Tuesday we packed and got a snack so we could eat a late dinner on our way to the bus station. The bus didn't leave until 9:30, so we were taking a chance with food places being closed, but we didn't want to have to go all the way back to our apartment. So we waited around until 8ish, but that turned out to be poor choice because it started pouring down rain halfway there. We ended up having to pull over under an overhang in front of a pharmacy. The guy inside surprisingly spoke decent English and let us hang out inside with him until it stopped pouring. When it did, we busted outta there and made a quick stop to get our lanterns to release at Loy Krathong. We also stopped at 7/11 for some snacks for the trip. We tried to get dinner where we normally eat, but they were closed. Rude. So we got noodle soup at this place that was randomly open... it ended up only being 20baht so Ethan was happy. After that we dropped the motorbike at the police station and met up with Caitlin and Kristin at the bus station. We also met Felix there. Felix is a German foreign exchange student who goes to our school. Kru Rin decided that he was going to come with us and told us about it on Monday. Despite being slightly annoyed that she expected us to chaperone him, we were excited to talk to him about his experiences in Thailand.

We boarded the bus in a complete down pour, but fortunately the driver had an umbrella to hold over you as you walked to the door. Thais are so thoughtful...most of the time. So the bus wasn't as big as I thought it would be, but it was air conditioned and modern. The seats were seemingly comfortable, except they recline wayyyyyy too far. Seriously, if you are sitting in the upright position and the person in front of you is reclined all the way back, their head is in your lap. Not even joking. So if the people in front are reclined, everyone is reclined. It was nighttime so being reclined made sense, since we were going to be sleeping, but I can't say that I look forward to any day trips we might take. Another frustrating thing about the reclining is that the seats aren't made for people over 5'6". If both of the people in front of us had been reclined Ethan would have had to put his legs in the aisle. Luckily, the guy in front of me wasn't reclined so we took turns sitting behind him. So we were semi-comfortable and finally settled in when we heard it... the most obnoxious snoring in the entire world!! This guy was sawing some serious logs and it was completely outrageous. We were livid. In all our travels we have never encountered snoring this hideous. I wish we could have recorded it. We both wanted to smack the guy upside the head, but we decided that wasn't socially acceptable in Thailand. Anyway, it just went on forever. I fell asleep a few times, but I honestly don't know how. I will never go on another bus in Thailand without my headphones. Never. Again. It was 6 hours of straight up torture.

We pulled into the Chiang Mai bus station at 3:30am. It was very strange being in a foreign place in the middle of the night, but we saw a McDonalds on the way into the station so we felt like we were in civilization. We debated about taking a tuk tuk or one of the trucks with benches (songthaew) for a while because we were certain they were trying to rip us off, but we finally hopped in a truck and the guy dropped us at our guesthouse. Ethan had been emailing the woman who owns the guesthouse and told her that we'd be getting in late. She said she would have someone waiting for us with keys to our rooms. Well she lied. We walked up and no one was there. Not a single person. We had no idea what we were going to do until this guys walks up and asks what were doing. Turns out he was staying there too and after explaining our situation to him he opened the gate to the "lobby" area. There were tables and chairs so we plopped down and tried to decide what to do. We just didn't understand why they hadn't left a note or something. Ethan finally sees that he got email from her saying that our keys were at the 3rd building across the street. So we walk over there, but no one is there either. We do see a guy sleeping in the corner with a mosquito net over him so we debate about whether or not to wake him and eventually we just did it because none of us wanted to sleep outside (Ethan- I was fine with sleeping "outside." Especially if that meant we didn't have to pay for it.) So he wakes up and speaks no English and is really mad at us for making noise and waking him up, but eventually he goes and gets someone who shows us where the keys are. Was that so hard? No. It wasn't. He was not happy, but if the owner had been more explicit with us, it never would have happened. I decided at this point that I didn't like the place and never wanted to go back. Rational? Yes.

Giant chedi ruin
So we decide to try to wake up around 10 (it's now 5am), which came way too fast due to the fact that A. 5 hours just isn't very long AND B. the sheets were dirty so I slept in my sweats and hoodie on top of the sheets, which just doesn't make for very comfy sleep for me. Another reason I am highly reluctant to patronize this place again. Anyway, we got up, got breakfast (PANCAKES!!!!) and walked over to one of the gazillion temples in Chiang Mai. It was actually one of the coolest ones I've seen in Thailand. The chedi (the pyramid type things that are usually gold at temples) was HUGE and made of brick, but it was super duper old so a bunch of it is missing. It was really neat to look at and I really liked it. (E- It's the biggest structure in the Old Town part of Chiang Mai) After that we decided to rent bicycles to get around rather than pay for a bunch of tuk tuks all day. So we hopped on our bikes and headed out to another temple. This temple was in the forest and it had tunnels under the chedi. It was pretty cool and you can walk in the tunnels. I don't remember what they were for but it was pretty neat. There was also a big fish pond, where you could feed the fish. This also attracted a lot of pigeons, so it was slightly terrifying because there were hundreds of pigeons in this really small area. I was mostly afraid of getting pooped on. Ew.
In the tunnels 

Felix had informed us about this big mall that had all sorts of awesome places to eat, so after the temple we made it our mission to find this mall! After a few stops for directions we finally made it. The mall itself was pretty cool, but the best part was the food. They had Pizza Hut, Subway, DQ, Auntie Anne's and all sorts of American food joints. We ended up at The Pizza Company thinking it might be cheaper than Pizza Hut. It was delicious and I loved it. We shared a pepperoni pizza, even though I could have eaten a whole one myself. The only problem with western food in Thailand is that it's expensive. Let me explain... It's cheaper or sometimes the same price as it would be in the US, but that pizza was equal to almost 12 plates of pad thai in Thawangpha (we usually share one plate of pad thai for dinner). While we make a decent amount of baht, in order to save money for traveling after we definitely can't eat like that all the time. That is one reason we are glad we aren't in a big city. We have zero self control when it comes to food, so we're really glad that western food isn't there to tempt us every day. After pizza we got some DQ ice cream then headed back to the guesthouse and were going to check out a market on the way. Unfortunately, Caitlin got a flat tire so that nixed our plans for that. She got it fixed and then we had to go get bus tickets back to Thawangpha for the next day. It was slightly irritating because we had to go all the way back to the station and the line was horrendously long, but we got McDonalds so it was worth it.
Ethan gives Ronald the Royal Wai

releasing our krathong 
When we got back from the station we chilled at the guesthouse for a bit, then headed back out for the main event: Loy Krathong. This festival attracts tons of people every year and there literally were thousands. It was crazy. There was a parade and fireworks and people were already starting to send their lanterns into the night sky when we left for the river. There were people everywhere and several streets were closed to traffic, but completely full of people walking toward the river and setting off their lanterns. We decided to head to the river to float our krathong that we bought on the way. It was beautiful to watch all the krathongs float lazily down the river and to see people really getting into it. You are supposed to be giving back to the river and also letting go of things that you have been holding onto. (E- It is also believed that if you send one off with someone else, then you will get together with them within the next year. However, if you send one with someone you are already with, then you'll break up. So I let one go on my own and Skye opted out of buying another. We didn't feel like tempting our fate in Thailand.)  It's a really awesome spectacle. After that we decided to send off some of our lanterns. We each had one so Ethan and I did one and Caitlin and Kristin did one, so we had two left for later. We watched a few other people light theirs first and then decided to give it a go. It was actually a little more difficult than expected, but once we got the thing in the middle fully lit, we just had to wait for it to fill with hot air. Once it feels like it will float, you just let go! It was fully awesome! And seeing thousands of lanterns floating into the sky was awesome and arguable one of the most amazing things we've ever seen. We watched lots and lots of lanterns float away then decided to get some dinner. (E- Although this was the official Loy Krathong day, the main floating lantern night is Saturday night to mark the start of the Yee Ping Festival. Everyone lights theirs at the same time and a signal is given when to release so you literally get 1000s upon 1000s of floating lanterns released at the same time. If we're in Southeast Asia again, we'll be attending this night.)  We ended up getting some market food down the river a ways, then made our way back into town to catch the end of the parade.
floating our lantern 
After the parade we got some banana roti. Yep. You heard it. Banana. Roti. It's normal roti, but stuffed with banana slices and covered in chocolate syrup. It was a truly heavenly eating experience that I can't wait to have again. I loved it. We kind of wandered around for a while after that and then Ethan found a really cool spot to set off our other lanterns. The old city used to be surrounded by these huge brick walls, but they're mostly ruins now with some corners and spots still standing. So he led us to the corner closest to our guesthouse where you can walk up to the top and look down on the streets below. (E- I had found this place in the morning when I walked around a little to kill time while the girls were getting around.) We set our lanterns off there and then hung out for a while before heading to bed. It was a very long, but very magical day in Chiang Mai. Loy Krathong was so cool and I would love to see it again some time in my life.
thousands of lanterns. magic! (doesn't do it justice)

The next day we got a pretty late start and the group decided to split up. Ethan, Felix and I checked out a market, the soccer stadium and a couple of (sub par) monuments and got Mexican food for lunch (it was Felix's first time eating Mexican!), which was D-E-licious and so very satisfying. After that we kind of just milled around until we had to drop our bikes off at 6. We found a place that made paninis so we ate dinner there, then we decided we had plenty of time to walk to the bus station, which was about 2 miles away. The Loy Krathong celebration was in full swing still, which made the walk slightly frustrating because we had to fight through crowds of people. Eventually we made it though and hung out at McDonald's until it was time to board the bus. The bus left at 10:30 and while there were no obnoxious snorers, it was an incredibly uncomfortable 6 hours and we had to be at work at 8am. We got in at 4:30 and were in bed by 5:15. The alarm went off at 7:15 and Friday was a complete blur. I took like 3 naps and aside from getting paid I really don't remember much of what happened that afternoon. (E- somehow I didn't take a nap, maybe because my breakfast was an M-roi haa sib (M-150,) which is an energy drink more potent than anything in the States. I went to first period completely exhausted, but full of energy from the drink (oxymoron?) and was expecting to just sit there because my coteacher said he would teach the class. I get there and he says, "Ethan, you teach. You teach. Today, you teach." Well thanks dude, I have nothing planned, but figured it out...)