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...)

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