Sunday, February 17, 2013

Birthday Bliss at Si Nan National Park

Last weekend was our friend Tristan's birthday and what better way to spend it than exploring another one of Nan Province's national parks?? We didn't have school on Friday, so Thursday after our classes were done Ethan and I took off for Nan city. The park we were headed to was about an hour from there, so we decided we would leave Friday to do some recon at the park and meet everyone there on Saturday.

Sometime during the day Thursday Ethan spoke to a Thai friend of ours about getting a bamboo tattoo from a monk. The friend told Ethan where to go and even said he would go with us if Ethan wanted to go that night. This seems pretty impulsive of him, but trust me...he has been thinking about it for a while now. Anyway, he decided he wanted to do it, so after we got to our guesthouse our Thai friend, Benz and another friend Katie met up with us to go to the temple. Getting a bamboo tattoo is the traditional way to get a tattoo in Thailand. Instead of a tattoo gun, which is a set of very fine needles, to push the ink into the skin, they use a piece of bamboo (1-2 feet long) with a needle at the end. It seems like it wouldn't look good and that it would be hard to get really detailed tattoos with just a piece of bamboo, but that is definitely not the case. Obviously, the detail depends on how skilled the person doing the tattooing is and what the tattoo is supposed to look like. Ethan got his tattoo by a monk, but you can get them in normal tattoo shops too. Anyway, we had to wait around a while at the temple for the monk to return from whatever he was doing, but once he got back and Ethan decided what he wanted the tattoo process only took about 20 minutes. The inscription says "good luck" "prosperity" and "protection from evil spirits" - at least that is what we were told it says. Let's hope it's true!
Wat Chiang Rai just south of Nan. Thanks, Benz.
After we were done we went out for dinner and I finally got one of the things I've wanted since we got here - a stuffed Stitch (from the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch). I had one in high school, but it was tragically taken from me (a story I'd rather not recall) and when I saw that they had them here we made it our goal to find a small one for relatively cheap. I can't take any credit for finding it though because Ethan went out while I was napping and found it for me. (E- Skye is extremely picky when it comes to her stuffed animals and I think I failed on her birthday present stuffed animal (sorry Sanook) so I scoped out the little bugger, but waited to buy it until it got Skye's approval.) So Ethan got a tattoo and I got a stuffed animal - Happy Early Valentines Day to us!

Friday morning we got breakfast and headed out to Na Noi - the town at the base of Si Nan National Park. It didn't take very long to get there for which we were both thankful - our butts appreciated it the most. We got some lunch in town then headed up to the park. The park was also not very far away, which was good and bad. I was kind of hoping it would be higher up in the mountains because in the last two weeks the temperature here has soared into the 100s. So I was looking forward to some relief from the stifling heat, but it wasn't to be! The good thing about it being so close was that we could go back into town for food quite easily.

When we got into the park we headed straight for one of the viewpoints. Unfortunately, this view point wasn't one you could drive up or one that was a quick and easy hike. It was a short hike on land and then a short hike over jagged rocks. I was not at all prepared for how scary it would be or how hard it would be. I was sweating like crazy and got stuck a few times because I got scared. I seem to forget that I am scared of heights until I'm on top of something really high. There were a couple times where we were on rocks that had nothing under them or there was a hole and I would get so scared that they were going to cave in that I wouldn't go any farther. Fortunately, Ethan wasn't scared of these holes and was able to talk me through these situations. I didn't end up crying and I know you were waiting for me to say that I lost it! When we finally got to the top of this cliff I was shaking and couldn't stand up, but the view was stunning. Well worth the struggle... and the sweat. Then we had to go back down.... much less terrifying, but still not very fun. (E- I'm pretty sure there were some tears forming at one point. Maybe they didn't make it onto her cheeks, but they were definitely there. I also had to straddle these "holes" so Skye wasn't scared of falling into them. That's fun for me though so it was a win-win.)
Pictures from two climbs up to Pha Hua Sing from Doi Samer Dao
After we were back on solid ground we went to the park headquarters to see how much tents/cabin were so we could weigh our options when everyone else got there the next day. Once we had done our reconnaissance work we headed back into town to find a place to stay. This proved to be more difficult than expected and we ended up at the first place we checked out, which was quite a bit more than we are used to paying, but there was air conditioning and free wifi! We added the stay to our Valentines Day gifts to ourselves. We got dinner and checked out the teeny tiny market nearby. We spent the rest of the night enjoying the a/c and taking full advantage of the wifi.

Saturday morning we laid around until the rest of the group got to Na Noi around 11:30. We all got lunch then headed to the park together. We decided that a cabin would be the best place to stay at the park because we tend to be very loud when we're together and each one came with its own fire pit. (E- the cabin had 6 twins and a double so it worked out perfectly for our group of 8.) Once we had all that figured out and paid for we checked into our little house where we sat and chatted for quite some time. Once we felt sufficiently caught up with each others lives Ethan led the group up to the view point we did the day before, while Kristin and I enjoyed the view from down below. I was not about to put myself through that again! After the climb we went back into town for food and beverages, which took a bit longer than we expected so it was dark when we got back. But we did get a chance to check out the stars on the way back, which was awesome! Ethan and I even saw a shooting star! No, we won't tell you what we wished for! :] We spent the rest of the night chatting around the fire about life and all sorts of things including, but not limited to, stuffed animals, love, marriage, the universe, traveling, religion, being adopted (E- the Illuminati, Kanye West, how terrible cigarettes are)...the list could go one, but I'm sure you get the point.
Pha Chu cliff - highest flag pole raising in the country
Sunday morning it took us a while to get it together, but we eventually checked out of the cabin and headed for Pha Chu, the other viewpoint. This hike would have been a lot easier than the first if we had had more water and had eaten a decent breakfast (E- and hadn't celebrated a birthday the night before.) Unfortunately, none of us were in the proper mindset that morning so we journeyed to the top fairly unprepared. (E- I'm always in the proper mindset for a hike.) There was a lot less rock climbing on this one, but it was almost just as scary...for me. We made it to another really awesome view though and I didn't cry! We stayed up there until everyone was too hungry and thirsty to stand it. On the way back Kristin and I brought up the rear and had a wonderful discussion about the culinary expertise of Panera Bread Co. and how much we missed it. Mouths watering, we headed back to Na Noi for lunch and then back to our respective places of residence to prepare for the last two weeks of teaching.

It is currently Wednesday evening and we are as excited as ever to finish teaching. Right now the students are preparing for their final exams, which means several of our co-teachers are teaching in Thai leaving us with lots of time to think about our travel plans. Ethan's sister Emily has decided to join us for our first month of travel and will be here in a little over a week! We'll be going to Bangkok next weekend to pick her up! It is very surreal having this experience come to a close and to think that in a little over two months we'll be back in the US of A. :]

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