Good Morning Viet Nam

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Born to Be Wild

It's good to be back, on the bike that is. Your favorite hammock-swingin' reader by the river somehow found her way making a 5 hour journey to Mae Hong Son with a fellow culinary enthusiast. I don't know what the rush is, but I definetly have caught the fever and am hooked. But not hooked enough to actually ride one by myself yet. Stefan actually attempted to teach me how to drive one, but even when I was straddling the bike, fully equipped with a helmet and kilometers of open road before me, I couldn't do it. I know I can do it, I'm just not ready to be completely responsible for myself yet. But when I do, that will be one ginormous milestone. It might even be blogworthy.

Back to the actual ride. Beautiful mountains and fun curvy roads with lots of tribal women selling fruits and tribal jewelery in bamboo stands. Wow. The actual city was pretty neat, for the 1.5 hours we spent there. Not as many readily apparent bamboo bungalows, though. But I'm pretty partial to Pai and it was great to come back. As you may have already guessed, the actual drive was the best part of the trip for me. I heart road trips.

But not all road trips. I just went to Myanmar the other day and spent 14 hours in a bus in order to get my visa extended. Passports can be such a bother. Details. But it wasn't a total waste of a trip because I did learn that I am not ready to leave the laid back atmosphere of Pai yet. Mae Sai was pretty claustrophobic for me and am glad I only spent 2 hours there. So who knows when I will actually leave. I'm here, without penalty, until Feb 20th. I think I am intercepting inspiration that Laos will be my next destination. The question is just when. Stay tuned.

Wok N' Roll, Dude!

That's right, I've actually tried to improve my quasi-existent cooking skills here in Pai. All I have to say is thank goodness for the Junior League Dinner Club that has shown me the way to cook and serve my guests properly! Without that I would truely be a helpless cause with non-existent skills. Back to the Wok, um yeah, it was interesting. A fun-filled day complete with a trip to the market and lunch and dinner prepared with love by me and my fellow classmates. However, true to form of me in the kitchen, it didn't take long for me to get too overwhelmed and almost cause a scene. There were only 3 students along with Tee, the laidback chef. Lots of opportunity for some quality 1-on-1 instruction, dug that. Oh, and then there was also his not-so-laidback Austrian girlfriend, Lisa, who gave me a little too much 1-on-1 attention, didn't dig that. That was definetly a contributing factor to my overwhelmed state, but not the sole factor. I simply forgot that I am not a detail-person, and there are so many details in these recipes. Not really, but for a complete novice like me it seemed that way. Don't even bother letting me know if you have only cooked pad thai, or an even more complicated dish, only once and it took you a mere 10 minutes! Congrats. With time I will improve, but I have already resolved that, while I have a whole recipe book full of exciting Thai recipes that are "easy" to make and I know I could master after only a few dozen test runs, I will be enjoying restuarantstyle Thai food. The only exception would be that the JL Dinner Club assigns me that dish. Okay, fine. I am being a bit dramatic. On the positive side we had some EXCELLENT pad thai, tam yum, and green, red, and yellow curries. And yummy food attracts more cool travellers for Minty to meet. So more new friends from the West coast and some good blog material is all I need to have deemed it a fun day, even though my headache at the day's end didn't support that thought. I know if I can portage a 70 lb. canoe, then I can definetly master the wok. Manana, Manana.

Hot Apple Pai A La Mode

Loving my piece! Yep, still chillin' in my bamboo bungalow by the river. Speaking of, I need to make a correction as to my previous post. I originally stated that my bungalow was a 4 x 5 foot room on stilts, which is infact wrong. If that were true that would mean I would have to sleep doubled over, which I don't. So I measured and took great detail to report that the approximate measurements of my bungalow is now 7x7 feet. Didn't want you all to have the wrong visual image while you are staring off into space at work wishing you were here. And speaking of visual images, it is my February resolution to actually upload some photos so you all know that I am really over here in SE Asia and haven't holed myself up in my basement for the past 3 months. My New Year's resolution is to have a monthly resolution. January's was to actually finish my Postmascards, which surprisingly enough didn't happen. Therefore February has 2 resolutions, postcards and photos. It's going to be a big month! So what have I been up to since my last post besides blowing off actually writing postcards?.......

Monday, January 10, 2005

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza PAI...

THAT'S AMORE!! Love the fact that I have no clue as to the artist of that song! But never the less it makes a great title! Yes, I am here in northern Thailand in a darling bamboo bungalow infested village in the mountains and absolutely LOVE IT HERE! I've just sent off the last of my SF travelling crew and am officially on my own.

So what's so great about Pai? Everything! This is the first place I have been where I am not anxious. But are we surpised? Hardly, nature is totally my element. There are loads of savvy western travellers here and making friends hasn't been hard at all. And one can be as active, or inactive as their heart desires. They have everything from bamboo rafting to elephant trekking. The only adventure I have done, as of yet, is elephant trekking. Went with Dav and Mie and had so much fun. The highlight was swimming with the phant. We tried to stay on her back, but just when we were balanced she would toss us off. The new era of bull riding has come. I also have the option of taking a cooking, weaving, massage, or meditation class should I be inspired.

And what have I done with my time here in Pai, other than trek on the phant? Absolutely nothing. Okay, so maybe I haven't been a total slug. I have been to yoga, and enjoy it even though the instructor is certifiably crazy, and the spa, that's a shocker!, I've exercised my wit and helped my team get last place in a fierce trivial pursuit competition, and I've been entertained by breakdancing flame throwers who can't breakdance nor flame throw at a village party. But all of those fun times transpired before Dav and Mie flew the coop.

The fun times have continued, just a little more subdued. Have moved into a great little bamboo bungalow right on the river. It's a basic 4x5 foot hut on stilts with a porch and hammock. Am totally digging listening to the river while reading in the hammock. Life doesn't get any better. Or does it? They do have a school here where the English teachers are all Thai. A perfect opportunity for a novice native speaker. The wheels are turning. That's me from the other side of the globe. Wishing you all were here!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Rave that Saved My Life

Happy New Year one and all from your favorite blogger! Hope 2005 is treating you all well! I am currently in northern Thailand in a darling town called Pai. But that's a whole other post. First things first. Before I get to my week in review, want to take care of a few business items. I had the lofty goal of sending out Christmas cards in the form of postcards this year. That has since been transformed from my Christmas project into my New Years Resolution. Last time I sent one out was in Hanoi and I only made it through the I's in my address sheet. Wasn't inspired to write on the beach, but am sensing motivation here in the mountains. Therefore, if you want a postcard and I don't have your address, you know what to do. I can't guarantee when it will get to you, but hopefully everyone will receive one by March! Merry Christmas.

Second, just switched my blogger reply email address. Your replies were going to my Hotmail account, of which I have forgotten what my username is and thus wasn't getting them!, but now they are sent to my Yahoo, which I check daily, if not twice a day. Wasn't ignoring you all, I promise!

All right, here is my week in review..... The full moon party was clearly the worst party I have ever been to with 25,000 others. Worst in that people were being so disrespectful to the environment and each other. The beach looked like a landfill. The energy wasn't good either. But how could it be with a natural catastrophe happening so close just that morning? Glad to be able to check that one off the list, though. And seeing how it was because of the party that we were in Ko Samui/Ko Pha Ngan and not Krabi instead, I consider it a very small price to pay to still be alive.

We spent the whole week in Ko Samui, which was nice but stressful as well. The group of 8 people I had linked up with is a great group of people from San Francisco. Just like all people are, each person in the group was truly a unique individual and thus handled the catastrophe in their own unique way. Aka, a little more drama than I am used to. The beach was so nice and calming, exactly what I needed that week. I splurged and got a massage every day, one day I even got two. Things were stressful because everyone who was headed to Phuket had been rerouted to Ko Samui. More people means less hotel rooms. Actually it meant no hotel rooms. Shouldn't be too big a deal since we already had a room, right? But some of the hotel owners were sneaky and out to make a profit of the situation, and consequently had rerented the room we had booked for the week 2 days into our stay. Priceless. Luckily my roomate, Christy, and I found lodging and didn't become one of the many who had to camp out on the beach. It was touch and go there for a bit, though.

Had no idea being so close to a disaster would affect me the way it did. I can't even really describe it, but I just felt off my game the whole time I was at the beach. New Years was nice, though. The Thais really like fireworks! Christy and I spent a few more days enjoying, more like surviving!, on the beach and when our plane took off on the 3rd for Bangkok we were ready to move on. Christy and I were planning on travelling together to Pai, but she had to go home early due to a piece of rust getting embedded in her foot. Somehow the Thai docs had a hard time getting it out and she just decided to cut her trip short. I was really bummed to lose my travel partner, but met up with some others in the group who had already come to this mountainous paradise and am having a great time. Christy made the right decision and luckily adverted a Staff infection. She's mending well in San Francisco. She is the best roomate I could have asked for and was truly a blessing!

I know this isn't a great post by far, but it's all I could really muster to give you all a glimpse into my experience. It was all very personal and I am still processing it as I type. On the flight back, Christy posed an interesting question and asked if I would have come had someone warned me of the week's events? Without a doubt, YES! I am really thankful to have been a part of the SF group and can't thank them enough for being my ticket out of Hanoi.

So onward and upward and into the north we go! Stay tuned...