This is a story about the last month of my life.
Most of it revolves around food.
Mainly meat on a stick.
Food tastes better when it’s on a stick right?
After what seemed like at the time a somewhat stressful three weeks in Burma, we were super stoked to get back to Bangkok and onto the over night train to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. At the train station we got into the noodles big time then I spent a lot of time in the 7/11 carefully choosing a Mars Bar and a Kit Kat which I then proceeded to eat. Gaaah. The train was pimpin’! Well it’s wasn’t that good but the majority of our accommodation in Burma was so average it seemed like pure luxury.
Chaing Mai for me was instantly likeable. I don’t know if it’s actually that great or if it’s because we’d just been in Burma. Regardless, I was much enamoured by its cute little lanes, street vendors and markets.
Michael couldn’t believe his luck! Arriving on a Friday meant that we were able to peruse the Saturday AND Sunday markets, the night market AND we even went to a second hand market which is exactly as it sounds. People selling old shit they found lying round, putting it on a blanket on the foot path any hoping someone will buy it. COOL! The only good part of the second hand market was 1) leaving and 2) seeing this pussy cat. Check out those eyes.
The the other good thing about the markets was seeing a dog riding a wee scooter. Cue laughter.
Chiang Mai is full of things for tourists to do like visit temples! Not a chance Or go on a trek! You’re joking right? Not after what happened in Burma Or pay money to pat drugged up tigers! Tigers are wild animals and not made for patting Or ride elephants that live in poor conditions! I did that once and I still feel guilty As much as i wanted to canoodle with a tiger and kiss a poor tourist elephant on the schnozzle, we exercised our consumer vote and, well, didn’t do a thing. We were going ride a zip line through the jungle and go white water rafting… but that kind of didn’t happen either. Our old friends Mr Meat and Mr Hangover got in the way.
For three days in a row I ate meat on a stick… for breakfast. And at other times of the day too of course. If it wasn’t the lady selling crumbed chicken it was the man selling KFG (KFC street styles) or the other lady who stands there and bastes her pork on a stick with a jar of delicious something. STOP IT LADY, YOU’RE KILLING ME WITH YOUR SWEET, SWEET BASTING. We were back to the land of pineapple of every corner served in bags with tooth picks and coconut curries for dinner. Yus. Life is good.
One night out that is worthy of a mention is when we met and English man and a Scots man both living and teaching English in Chiang Mai. Alarm bells! DING! DING! DING! These guys were pretty much self confessed sexpats. Sexpat you say? Let Urban Dictionary define:
Sexpat (noun), a compound of sex and expat or expatriate. A person (generally man) who couldn’t get laid in a brothel back home, who moved to a country where prosititutes are cheap to finally be treated like the man he always knew he was. The difference between a sex tourist and a sexpat is the sexpat much live in the country, a sex tourist is a short stay visitor. “A sexpat approached me in Starbucks whining ‘all the Thai girls are just after my money.’ ‘Ohhhh really’ I mocked Mr Ugly Sexpat, ‘did you think it was your fat gut or your balding head the pretty girls were after?'”
Yes, an afternoon of beers with these two and the stories of their Thai and Cambodian girlfriends started flowing thick and fast. There were two things got me. First was that HIV is a big topic of conversation. These seemingly intelligent men are putting themselves and others at risk yet they’re just resigned to the fact that it’s probably only a matter of time until a test comes back positive. Secondly, although I had an understanding that it was a bit of a money game, one man seemed convinced that if he could just get his last Thai girlfriend back then everything was going to be okay and he wouldn’t get HIV. But alas, he can no longer afford the lifestyle she has become accustomed to. So after dinner at a restaurant, which was also the home of a dog called Mary who was the size of a small horse, after a few more drinks, some serious conversations about making GOOD CHOICES from me, we left the shaking, skinny Scots man at the restaurant and carried on to a reggae bar with an eight piece band playing of all things The Cat Empire. Life is really good! The night ended hours later with me on the back of the English mans, Thai girlfriends scooter going back to their apartment to watch Flight of the Conchords. That’s what he associates with NZ. I’ll take that.
From Chiang Mai we caught the minibus of death to Pai. Pai is small and pretty with cutesy little shops down the main street full of things that look hand made but probably aren’t.
There is also a really brown looking river which we had the pleasure of staying on in a little a-frame bamboo hut.
In Pai, apart from indulging in the odd beer and cheap bucket of rum we spent a day at Charlie and Leks’ Restaurant cooking up a storm. We got to choose five things to cook off the menu.
Then we went on a tour of THE cleanest and most orderly market I have ever seen in Asia.
Lek talked us though all the different foods, some of which we’d be cooking with, others just for interests sake.
Then Lek, the good woman, bought me a coconut, probably out of the 700 odd Thai Baht I paid her to spend the day in her restaurant, but hey! It felt free.
You only have to add a few things and this egg
This plate with the giant shroom on it
This plate with that tasty piece of meat on it
We even got to deep fry our own spring rolls.
All in all it was a good day and I don’t like to brag, but I am now pretty much a qualified Thai chef.
The other great thing about Pai was the restaurant with mayo on every table.
From Pai we took the minibus of death back to Chiang Mai, hopped into another minibus which arrived at the Thai-Laos boarder at around 1am. Our accommodation was included in the fare and was one of those places that only survives because of whatever deal they have with the bus company. The bed was like a piece of wood with a sheet over it. I’m not even joking. I’d rather sleep on the footpath in Burma. The next morning we joined the queue to get stamped out of Thailand, take a boat across the Mekong to the Laos boarder and join the mess that is the Laos Visa office. Eventually, and I mean eventually because it took HOURS we make it on to our boat for the next two day which takes us to Luang Prabang, Laos.
On the second morning of the boat trip this guy approached me and wanted to have his picture taken.
When we arrive in Luang Prabang late in the afternoon Michael did what he is good at, carrying both our bags!
And then we ate what every second stall in Luang Prabang sells, a big old tasty baguette.
We had a baguette every day we were in Lunag Prabang BUT this one day we didn’t go to the lady we’d always gone to, but the one next to her, and her baguette was the worst. So the NEXT day we went back to our original lady. What a drama. I tell you, this travelling business is hard work.
We did heaps of other stuff while we were there too like walking the streets.
We saw a dragon pulling a pukana.
We indulged in a few bottles of Laos finest beer.
Did you know that the price of one Beer Lao is about the equivalent of a days wage in Laos? Crazy shit man.
One afternoon we walked down a road and crossed a bridge.
Then we walked back on the other side of the river and had to pay 10,000 kip (6,200 kip = $1NZD) to cross back on a shitty bamboo bridge. They got us good.
We ate pork crackling.
Then on the way home I fought off three dragons so Michael didn’t get scared.
I spent an afternoon coaxing ants onto my plate.
And this cat slept on the bench beside me with her paw tucked under her head like a little human.
We took a tuk tuk with some new found friends from Portugal, Ireland and Argentina out to Kuang Si Waterfall.
I have about 400,000 photos of this waterfall
We walked to the top in what was not the longest but quite possibly the steepest climb we’ve had so far and like always, I sweated enough to drown the mosquitos that landed on my body. Lucky I was wearing my togs! It was just like swimming, except you’re not in water, you’re just bathing in your own juice.
After walking down, which was actually harder than walking up (especially when you’re wearing jandles and the soles of your feet are sweating) I had a real swim in the waterfall.
But it was shut. Typical.
So we had Indian for lunch.
And then, most exciting of all, Michael had a hair cut.
The next day we got on a mini bus to Vang Vieng. We struck it lucky. It seemed our bus has a few locals on it that needed dropped off in the middle of nowhere so we took a back road that was still being built. It surely made for an interesting and very bumpy ride in the back seat.
In Vang Vieng, this happened.
Michael found a bar that was playing Formula 1 so he started preparations for the real thing the following week.
Vang Vieng was also full of restaurants plays Friends.
But the activity that draws the largest number of travellers to Vang Veing is the tubing down the river. We were excited! With a mushroom shake in one had and a happy pizza in the other we were off down the river. Check out these photo. IT WAS CRAZY!
Feeling somewhat disappointed, we finished the tubing with our skull still in tact. We didn’t get to ride the ‘slide of death’ or paralyse ourselves after jumping on rocks from a flying fox. All the bars on the river had been shut down a few months earlier you see, so no silly business. A few had reopened at the top end of the river, but at the rate the river flows, you’d be well hungover by the time you finished. Tubing in the Vang Vieng is clearly not what it used to be but perhaps with good reason. You only have to do a quick google search to read some of the horror stories. Tubing did rekindle an idea smouldering away in the back of my head though. I’m looking at you Charlotte Griffiths.
An AWESOME afternoon/night depeniding on how things pan out (You’re a doctor right? I mean really what could go wrong?)
Whaddaya say? Lock it in!
Vang Vieng has one of the nicest landscapes I’d seen in a while.
I have it on good authority from a real life expert *cough* that’s you Britland, that the big pointy hill bits have come about due to limestone erosion over ONE BILLION YEARS or so. See, learning as I go along. How ever they were formed, it makes for a perdy pic.
In Vang Vieng we hired a motor bike and went to the Blue Lagoon we’d heard so much about. I was a tad disappointed and said something along the lines of “Is that it?!” It looked like more of a big ditch and after the waterfall in Luang Prabang, I was expecting great things. Still, I managed to kill a few hours in there with this nice Asian man and these sluppery fush.
We celebrated St Patricks day and Amanda Jacka’s birthday, our bus friend from Syyyyyydney and then on the last day I tried to buy a pair of shorts but the lady wouldn’t let me try them on. “No, no” she says! “These small, you LARGE. These small, you very LARGE! You need BIG ones.” Right. Thank you. It’s time to leave Vang Veing and head to the capital of Laos, Vientiane.
I’ve got nothing to tell you about Vientiane. Honestly. By the time we got here we were so full of food and beer it’s all a bit of a blur.
I do have this picture though
Nek morning it’s to the airport and onto our amazing $15 (plus baggage of course but I’m going with $15) Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur. Hello big city life. Love it. Michael was loving it even more than me though as we had tickets to ALL THREE DAYS of the Formula 1.
As soon as we arrive in KL it’s straight to Chinatown where we’re staying and to the market to get me a Lacoste minidress and Michael a few genuine Ralph Lauren polos. No. That didn’t happen and really, does anyone actually own and wear that stuff? I’m judging you if you have a Lacoste minidress.
I love the way the stall owners try to claim their stuff is genuine by showing that it’s good quality or better that next doors because of the stitching. No it’s not. It’s all the same. You know that. I know that. My favourite man was the one who stood there yelling “GENUINE COPIES!” “GENUINE FAKES!” If I was going to buy something, it would be off him.
Our accommodation in KL was average at best, but can you complain for $15 per night in a big city? Firstly, cockroaches. Secondly, shared bathrooms. I mean, I don’t like to judge people (unless they’re in a Lacoste minidress) but surely you don’t have to piss all over the floor, wall and ceiling every time you go? Just saying.
The very best thing about staying in Chinatown though, apart from the roaches, was the street food.
I have to admit, for someone who’s only seen F1 on the telly but never really watched it, it was pretty impressive. But it sounded like, well, the worst thing I’ve ever heard but after three days I got used to it. Kind of.
In our down time between warm ups and races we did things like play cards, and purchase overpriced beverages and fight off the fire breathing ants, centipedes and flying frogs that Malaysia has. Ugh.
Everyday the sky looked a bit ominous.
And everyday it didn’t rain at quite the right time. I (along with the rest of the crowd I bet, but no one is brave enough to say it out loud) was hoping for rain so I could see a few sweet skids and wheelies. I only saw one, but it wasn’t that good and it wasn’t rain related. Good one sky.
On the Saturday night after making the pilgrimage back to Chinatown from Sepang (it was a train ride then an hour and a half to two hour bus ride to the circuit each way) we stayed on the train and jumped off at the Petronas Towers.
I wasn’t too excited about seeing them but now I think buildings or at least tall buildings might be my thang. Holy moly! Has anyone seen them in person before? I was mighty impressed to say the least. So impressed I went home and googled a chart of tallest buildings in the world. Next stop DUBAI.
Anyway, the towers, they’re great. People were everywhere, there was even a concert on with the main act being the Backstreet Boys! I didn’t know they were still together?! The concert was for Earth Hour and within 15 minutes of us arriving they TURN OFF ALL THE LIGHTS ON THE TOWERS! And I can tell you now, they’re not so impressive with the lights off.
Earth Hour might have had a little more impact if the office workers had tuned the lights of INSIDE the building too
Our last day in KL was all mine! So we went to some local shops where I replaced a few of my rank, sweated out clothes with nice new ones. In the afternoon we bathed in the air conditioning at the movies and saw Tarantino’s ‘Django’ then topped the day off with teppanyaki for dinner. Back in Chinatown we packed our bags and prepared for out flight to Kolkata the next day.
Next time: I’ll tell you what I saw a dog eating in Varansai, why we should take our own bags to the supermarket, why NZ is lucky to have basic infrastructure and I’ll also treat you to stories about the number of people I’ve seen taking a crap on the side of the street. Hello INDIA!