The adventure continues. (I apologize, this is possibly the longest post ever, so hang tight, and I understand if you just can't make it through!)
After Ko Tao, we grabbed a hostel in Chumphon for the night, planning to meet our friend in the Peace Corps, Liz, and stay with some of her friends in a nearby village.
After a calm night where we ended up passing out at around 8 p.m. (Mr. Jet Lag just wouldn't leave us alone) we got up and met Liz at the (wrong) bus station, but it was soooooooo grand to see her and have someone lead us around who knows the language!! Liz is seriously the most generous person ever!
As are the rest of her PC buddies. We stayed with her friend Josh, outside of the village of Lang Suan (pronounced Longswan) right on the beautiful coast. The first day is a blur--Liz led us to Lang Suan, where biannual boat races were going on, and it was crazy crowds. So loud, so many people, so much color and smells. We stowed our packs in the police station and tried some of Liz's papaya salad (the jury's still out on that one) before meeting Josh and another PCV Leanne to watch some races.
Right about the time the downpour began, we hightailed it into the market tents, and that's the first time I noticed the stares.
Having spent most of our time in well-touristed (that probably isn't a word, but shush) areas, we hadn't had much experience being the animals-in-a-zoo foreigners, aka farangs.
The staring is blatant, little children will be nudged to get their view of the farangs wandering through the market, sampling all the food in sight (which sometimes completely backfires!!). Especially as we were in a group of farangs!
The staring, while obvious, was never what I would call rude. I had one experience in a small village in Peru where I felt totally unwelcome, but everyone here would point and gawk, but also smile.
I guess there's a reason Thailand is called the Land of Many Smiles! :)
It was great having Josh and Liz as tour guides, and urging us to try everything possible. The sweet sticky rice wrapped in some sort of leaf was delicious, as were the pomegranates and many other exotic types of fruit. The worst thing we tried (the worst thing we've tried this entire trip, in my opinion) ended up being eggs from a horseshoe crab. I can't even describe how awful they are, but YUCK. The taste wouldn't go away, even after some pink (insanely sweet strawberry) milk.
One thing I've discovered about Thailand--my sweet tooth has got nothing on theirs. Everything is drenched in sugar. Their chocolate milk is so sweet one sip makes me feel sick--and for those of you who know me and my insatiable sweet tooth, this is quite impressive.
After the market, we had a quiet evening eating Josh's homemade Thai food and wandering up to Lang Suan to visit the 7-11, which is, according to PCV here, Mecca. I didn't get the draw at first, but it does always have A/C and lots of fun little snacks.
Josh's place, in another little village outside of Lang Suan, is this adorable little cottage about three feet away from the beach. It was so nice and peaceful, and he was such a great host! All these people are making me and Court feel soooo welcome.
The next day was a true day of adventure.
Soon after waking up, we headed to this nearby island that apparently in hot season you can walk across the water too, but after the previous day's downpour, this was not an option.
We started the trek down, and were quickly picked up by, of all things, a truck full of crabs!! It was actually really fun, and I only got pinched once (why none of the other five crammed in the back got a pinch is beyond me, but that's just my luck).
It was also my first experience hitchhiking, and now it's one of my favorite ways of travel. I'm not sure if we'll do it without one of our Peace Corps buddies considering our grasp of the language pretty much stops at "pretty," "delicious," "hello," and "thank you." It's still a fun, acceptable mode of transport around here, and I like it!
The rest of the day passed quickly: we hitchhiked a boat to the little deserted island, hung out on the perfect deserted beach, showered, wandered into town for some internet love and delicious seafood fried rice, and planned for our departure the next day.
The next day, we made friends in Chumphon, including a cute old Thai guy named Charlie who showed us around, and a Brit by the name of Dean who was currently almost done with biking from the UK all the way to Singapore (yeah, WOW). We bid a sad farewell to Josh, and waited for our bus, killing time by watching the Joy Luck Club, a great movie that had us all missing our mamas!!
Another night bus (rapidly becoming a main mode of transportation, which are not at all thrilling like the hitchhiking) and we ended up in Bangkok. There, we bid Leanne, and Megan, another PCV, goodbye, and wandered the city for the day. I had some articles to finish up for Outside Bozeman (and somehow, I finished them, even though writing about ice climbing with Boy Scouts while hanging out in an alley sweltering in approximately 100 percent humidity was surreal) and Liz had to visit the Peace Corps Lounge.
The day was nice, we took the Sky Train around which was fun, these boat taxis that I LOVED, I accidentally brushed against a monk and did not get thrown in the water, (and neither did he!) and we had ice cream and visited the giant Chinatown in Bangkok.
That night, we hopped on another bus to Liz's village, which is just outside of Phrae, in northern Thailand.
There, we continued to experience the weird feeling of being farangs, but again, everyone was so friendly about it! We stayed in Liz's house which, despite the bucket shower (yes, you pour the bucket over yourself a few times, and that's it) and the squat toilet is pretty and cute.
We visited the rice paddies, corn fields, and teak forests, visited many of her neighbors and were constantly being given food and smiles and compliments. I had my first Pad Thai which I am now ADDICTED to, got called a doll more than once, and met the students I will be helping out with in a few weeks!
THEY ARE SO CUTE. I CAN'T WAIT.
We also met one of Liz's co-teachers--the Peace Corps policy is to have the volunteers help out another teacher, as that is more sustainable than them just coming in, teaching, and leaving. Her co-teacher, Ba Pat, is this adorable little lady who gave us our first experience with "Thai-napping." Thai-napping is when you hop in a car or bus or whatnot and end up going a million more places than bargained for.
For example, Ba Pat kindly agreed to take us into Phrae to shop (which, being obsessed with all things Thai, we could hardly refuse). Before that though, we ended up sightseeing at this nearby cave which has recently been remodeled to look sort of like a discotheque.
The cave was beautiful, but it was quite interesting to see all the work that had been done--very different from the US, where all the caves I've been to have been about leaving-no-trace, not filling it with neon lights to attract tourists.
The end of the cave also had a lovely shrine to Buddha, just like most of the country, so we paid our respects and played a fortune-telling game included in the shrine.
My fortune was...terrible. Ba Pat, amusedly, told me I should just put that one back and forget it. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be true, because my life certainly does NOT suck!
Courtney, of course, got a lovely fortune, just like she got the lovely Thai nickname, and gets the lovely pictures taken of her...and no, I'm not bitter at all :). It's kind of funny how, when Thais learn her name, they say, "awww..." (her name is Fondow, which means falling star) and when they hear mine, they laugh. Mine, on the other hand, is pomegranate, or Macgaw (I can barely pronounce it, much less spell it!!).
I do like pomegranates, and they're especially delicious here, and it's better than my first two nicknames, which were Bendy (guess where that came from) and Kanom, which means snack. I also like that Macgaw is in the northern dialect of Thai...taptim is pomegranate in Central Thai, fyi...and for some reasons it sends people into hysterics when they hear Macgaw. Maybe that's just my face, though. :) So far, I have been called beautiful many times, which I'm told is mostly because I'm white, but hey, I ain't gonna fight that. I also have been told I look like a doll (can't decide if that's a good thing), that I'm fat (don't worry, I don't take it to heart--they are TINY here) and also that my nose should be used as a model for plastic surgeons. Suffice to say, I LOVE the Thai people!
Anywho, after the cave, we went a little crazy shopping and eating Pad Thai with Ba Pat and her sister. It was quite the day!!!
Whew, I made it through the first two weeks. Now, Court and I are doing a wee bit of traveling on our own, renewing our visa in Laos, so we can stay in the country longer and volunteer in Liz's school and see Loi Krathong, the lantern festival!
I hope you at least smiled if you have made it this far, cause I sure am!!! :) More to come, if you have the stamina to continue!
p.s. You can find my cousin Courtney's accounts of our travels here!