Travel can be hard, tiring, and sometimes downright frustrating, but it is all so rewarding. It’s been two weeks abroad and I feel like it has been a lifetime already. I for sure think I have sweat all my body hair off. I didn’t really have a lot of arm or leg hair, but from what I can see it’s gone. So, I finally feel comfortable enough to compose something. My first accommodations, contracted through the school I am attending were sub par. It would have been fine if I hadn’t had my iPad stoled and was’t sleeping on egg crate and plywood. Another student, an older guy from the UK and I found a place further from the school, but has a pool on the roof and is super plush. Pics in a later blog.
The first week was fast and furious with travel. First, I went to Taiwan. When I mean dreams come true, they do. I have been an ESL teacher for 6 years. I have met some wonderful people from all over the world. Some of those people were the most gracious of students. Of course, they all say, “Come visit my country.”, “Tell me when you come.”, “I will show you everything.”, “I will show you traditional blah blah blah…” My students from Taiwan didn’t let me down.
One student hosted me in his apartment. He fed me in the morning and drove me around the country side. I ate stinky tofu. It stank, but tasted like tofu. It didn’t taste like the smell.
They took me to a baseball game.
He also organized a small reunion of sorts and we ate a tremendous meal. After the meal we went to see some live music. My dream has been to get as many students as possible together and party. Thanks Sean “Uncle” for making this happen!
Unfortunately, I was extremely jet lagged. There is so much more I need to see in Taipei, let alone the rest of the country. I also need to see more of my wonderful students. Honestly, Taiwan now rivals Korea as one of my favorite places. Watch out Taiwan. Next time, I will have an appetite.
Traveling from Taiwan to Thailand wasn’t so bad. I continued flying with EVA Air and then a small Thai boutique airline. I reached Chiang Mai wanting to do a lot of self care, like sleep. The hotel wasn’t really a hotel. It was more like a timeshare. It had a pool and was very quiet. A friend recommended a place to stay, but honestly, from the pictures online it just looked like a big party…maybe next time.
The first day/night I didn’t leave the hotel room. Well, I didn’t after going to the market to grab some fruit to keep in the fridge. I slept, swam, and watched “Stranger”on Netflix. It’s a nice Korean mystery drama, starring Bae Doona from Sense8. The next day I walked around Chiang Mai old town taking pictures of Temples and checking out the sights.
I was really tired still so I didn’t do too much. I was glad on the other hand to use my new wide angle lens while photographing. Later that night I went to see Muay Thai boxing live. The ticket sales are heavily pushed on international fighters, so I had to negotiate and explain that I didn’t come to Thailand to see westerners fight.
They started young and light. There was even a fight with some tough females. I didn’t make it to the main event though. I was too tired. Come on, there are five rounds to each fight and they do a ritual before every fight, so…
Of course I made friends with the taxi driver from the airport. We had arranged that he pick me up and take me about the day after. Mongkol is his name. Super nice guy. He picked me up and drove me round in the air-conditioned taxi where ever I wanted to go. The first place was Soi du thep. This is a golden temple in the mountains. I walked up more than 300 steps. The drive up was cool. At the bottom, you think, such nice weather in the mountains, until you start climbing the steps. Sweating from effort, it never evaporates to cool you down. The breeze stopped and it was just sticky. Not oppressive, but you noticed.
From there we went to see the Karen people. Thais call them the”Long Necks”. This tribe is where the women adorn themselves with gold rings and it stretches their necks as they add rings. I wanted to take more photos, but felt very strange taking their picture. Other times I have taken pictures of people they ask for money. Here they didn’t ask, but I felt obligated to give it. The village area we see is quite tattered. There isn’t much to it except for booths to sell souvenirs. Each booth has the same exact thing. If they see you buy one thing all of them try to pull you to their booth to buys something.
I picked up a small little bag to hold my money. After pulling sweaty money out of my pocket all day long, I thought they might appreciate getting dry money handed to them instead of soggy sweaty money. Actually, I’m sure they don’t care as it happens all the time. For me, it feels better giving people dry money.
I tried to get the driver to take me to the arboretum, I’m so accustom to going to places like that with K. Plus, I have a new camera with a lens that can get so much area, I thought it would be a great chance to get some good photos. It was also heavily shaded. Instead, the driver took me to the Royal Garden. No shade.
I’m not so interested in flower gardens. I like things a little more natural and not so manicured. Also, the sun had come out. It was like fire walking in the sun. I grabbed a few photos and high tailed it out of there.
After Mongkol dropped me off, back at my hotel after lunch, I arranged for him to pick me up in the morning for my early flight to Ho Chi Minh City. That evening I met with a friend for dinner. She lives in Chiang Mai and recommended a really nice restaurant. There was a garden where we sat. It was just far enough from the band playing so we could have conversation and catch each other up on our lives.
Chiang Mai is a wonderful little place. Like Taiwan, I need more time to explore it. I was glad to get a little taste though. I know I will go back.
I’ve learned a new term since being in Vietnam. “Idiot Tax”. I’ve paid my fair share so far. So, I left Chiang Mai to HCMC. I had booked my flight through Air Asia. You can get a deal with this airline, if you travel light. I mean real light. I should have stuck to a larger airline, as they allowed my luggage to fly basically free. One bag was overweight and I paid about $30USD extra to get “Rolando”, my suitcase has a name, to Asia. Well, Air Asia thought that Rolando was worth a first class ticket to Thailand from SFO…$1082USD.
As I sat on the plane, which was no better than a Southwest airline seat, I thought I probably should have just bought another ticket all together. It bugged me the whole way to Bangkok and then HCMC. Damn you Zion! Pay attention! Having spent the money, sitting on an uncomfortable plane compared to EVA, and being tired, I just wanted to get to Saigon. I was really more embarrassed than anything. I brought my world with me and that’s what it cost.
As I mentioned before, my previous accommodations were not that great. I just didn’t do more on my laptop than watch Netflix. I hope that I will have an opportunity to catch you all up with what is happening in Vietnam. Tonight is my first night sleeping on a proper mattress and classes begin tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the next month.