Monthly Archives: December 2017

Pai, Thailand–A Wonderful Life

This year for Christmas, Ryan and I rented a big, fancy bike (a Honda CB650F) and drove up to Pai.  Located about 146 km (or 91 miles) northwest of Chiang Mai, Pai is a sleepy town near the Myanmar boarder.  It sits on the banks of the Pai River and has a population of less than 3,000 people.

We enjoyed our drive up from Chiang Mai.  It was nice to have the extra power going up the steep and winding roads.  Our scooter, Kimmy K would have had a much harder time making it.  Mad Mary barely broke a sweat!  For the first time since we’d been in Asia, we were riding in style!

You sexy thing!

I think Ryan was a little embarrassed by his cargo…LOL!

Ryan got a big kick out of this sign, which was offering a toilet near the top of an especially winding section of road.

Upon arrival, we checked into our accommodations so we could stash our stuff before heading back out to explore.  Ryan had made reservations at a cute little resort out of town.  They had festive decorations, cozy cabins, and friendly staff.  We got all settled and then we returned to our bike and spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve exploring the countryside near Pai.

We usually go home for Christmas to freezing temperatures and several feet of snow.  Being clear in Asia this year made that more complicated and was further complicated by my reluctance to take too much time off work.   It was odd being in such a warm and green climate and I couldn’t help but think, “It’s nice, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

I remember the moment that changed.  We were just driving around and I was listening to my Christmas music.  We passed a field with some really pretty flowers growing by the side of the road.  The light was just right–sort of soft–and suddenly this feeling came over me and I thought, “Now it feels like Christmas.”  There it was.  We didn’t have to be snowed in or surrounded by family and friends.  It found us all the way in Thailand!

As the day progressed, we stopped at many of the sights including Memorial Bridge.  My favorite part of the adventure (aside from just driving around on the bike) was visiting Pai Canyon.  This place was pretty incredible.  Our plan was to watch the sunset but we got there a little early and after about 45 minutes of waiting (with another 45 minutes or so to go), I opted to move along in search of an early dinner.

Back in town, we found some tasty Thai food to eat and I was thrilled that mine wasn’t too spicy.  (It was a Christmas miracle!)  Then we made our way back to our resort to get settled for the night.  I watched It’s A Wonderful Life.  I hadn’t seen the movie in ages and it brought back a lot of nice memories to send me off with a good night’s sleep.

On Christmas morning, they served a beautiful breakfast.  We even received Smor Bullar, which are classic Danish Christmas cookies that I had never had or heard of, but enjoyed immensely.  Apparently the proprietor’s husband is Dutch so they served these to all their guests.  It was surprisingly chilly (but in a good way) out on the deck and we enjoyed watching the birds while we ate.

After breakfast we began the journey back to Chiang Mai.  Several hours later, Ryan surprised me by stopping at my favorite restaurant for lunch.  We’d stumbled on it several weeks back on one of our scooter adventures.  It was in the middle of nowhere and we’d been lucky enough to find it the first time.  I never expected that we’d be going back but he’d managed to work it into our route and I was thrilled to sit by the river one last time and enjoy my Thai iced tea and pineapple fried rice.  I even got to swing!

Even after we’d returned to Chiang Mai, Ryan still had some Christmas magic up his sleeve.  He presented me with a gift of melon-flavored Euro Cakes that I’d fallen in love with and were somewhat hard to find.  Then he took me to get my favorite Japanese katsu curry for dinner.  Afterwards, as one last Christmas indulgence, we had Korean bingsu for dessert.

So yes, it turned out to be a pretty nice Christmas in Thailand.  I had a loving husband.  I was a happy wife.  Once again I was reminded that I truly do have a wonderful life!  Merry Christmas!


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Koh Samui, Thailand–Truly Pampered

While my parents were still in Thailand, we all made a quick side-trip to somewhere sandy.  We chose Koh Samui which is Thailand’s second largest island (after Phuket).  Getting to Koh Samui was a somewhat interesting process in and of itself, although we chose to make it so.  We caught a quick flight from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani.  From there we took a 2 hour bus ride–which felt more like four hours because I really had to go to the bathroom–and then we caught a ferry.  Needless to say, I was happy when we arrived at our final destination.  I think we all were.

We’d all done a lot of looking into different accommodations during our planning phase and we finally selected the Zazen Boutique Resort and Spa.  This is on the north side of the island, near Bophut Beach and the Big Buddha.  They took excellent care of us at the resort and I was blown away by our bungalow!  I particularly liked the shower.

The private beach area was small but very relaxing and the perfect place to take a nap or a dip in the ocean to cool off.  We took advantage of this almost every afternoon.  The color of the water was probably the prettiest I’ve ever seen, although the water itself was a little dirty so I preferred swimming in the pool.

The food and drinks at the restaurant were fantastic!  We ate most of our meals right there at the resort and I had the best massaman curry I’ve ever had.  It was packed with flavor and not too spicy for me to eat, which was a real treat.  In addition, because of my parent’s great generosity, I got to try some of that seafood I’d been craving.  Thank you Mom and Dad!!!

The best massaman curry in the history of the world

That doesn’t mean we never left the resort.  We still wanted to see Koh Samui so on one of the days we paid a driver to take us around the island.  We stopped at many of the temples along the way, including What Phra Yai (or the Big Buddha) and Wat Plai Laem.  These two temple complexes were both very colorful and modern.  Neither were too crowded, which I always appreciate.

What Phra Yai (or the Big Buddha)

Two good sports

Part of the Wat Plai Laem temple complex

18-armed statue of the goddess Guanyin at Wat Plai Laem

The mummified monk at Wat Khunaram was especially interesting.  Loung Pordaeng is Koh Samui’s most famous monk and his body sits in an upright glass casket surrounded by offerings.  I was a little surprised (and somewhat relieved) to find him wearing sunglasses.  It just goes to show that monks often have a great sense of humor.

We visited many of the beaches during our outing as well, including Bophut, Chaweng, Chaweng Noi and Lamai.  They were less crowded than I’d been expecting and the sand was nice and clean and soft underfoot.  We stopped at the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks (aka Grandpa and Grandma Rocks) resembling male and female genitalia.  It was a lot easier for me to recognize “grandpa” than “grandma,” although she was definitely there.

Hellllooo “grandpa.”

And here’s “grandma.” I didn’t take a very good picture so I borrowed this one off the internet.

We also visited the Na Muang 2 Waterfall.  This place was a little more crowded with tourists but not overwhelmingly so.  We found a more quiet place down stream which gave us a good view of some elephant rides that were taking place along the river.  It was interesting to see how well the elephants could maneuver their big feet around all the rocks in the river bed.

Our day of adventure concluded in Nathon Town with some shopping and lunch.  It was good local food, but I have to admit I was happy we’d be having dinner again back at the resort.  There’s just something so tasty about being truly pampered and I enjoyed every minute of it!  Thank you Mom and Dad from the bottom of my heart!  Not only did you come all the way to Thailand to visit us, but you spoiled us rotten.  What an amazing trip!


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Chiang Mai, Thailand–Big Love

Elephants are greatly revered in Thailand, and especially in Chiang Mai.  In fact, of the three-four thousand elephants living in Thailand, twenty percent of them can be found in the Chiang Mai province.  Statues and pictures of elephants decorate almost every part of the city.  In addition, Chiang Mai is the first place that Ryan and I have visited where we have seen elephants on the drives we take through the countryside.  They can be found tied to the bases of trees near the open roads, much like cattle.  There are also posted signs warning drivers to be on the lookout for elephants crossing the road.  We definitely got a kick out of these.

My parents recently came for a visit and Ryan and I took them to Elephant Nature Park.  This rescue and rehabilitation center is well known and therefore reservations can be difficult to make.  We discovered this the hard way when we were unfortunately unable to visit the park with his parents in October because we hadn’t planned far enough ahead during their visit.  (We’re sorry Matt and Sheree!)

Elephant Nature Park is located approximately sixty kilometers from Chiang Mai.  In addition to their elephants, they also rescue cats, dogs, and buffalo.  You can visit the park for the day, which is what we chose to do.  You can spend the night.  You can be a part of their volunteer program and help feed, wash, and walk dogs.  You can even adopt one.  Some of the dogs were in kennels, but a surprising number were running free.  They had plenty of space and fresh air.

Of course we were there to see the elephants.  Our guide walked us around the park and introduced us to many of the elephants and told us their stories.  As can be expected with a rescue facility, many of their elephants had sad histories and were still being treated for horrendous injuries.  A few had been blinded by hooks (either intentionally or unintentionally) while others had been the unfortunate victims of landmines.  We got to feed some of them.  We even got to wash one.  I was a surprisingly bad aim with my bucket, but our elephant was very patient, as were the other members of our group when I accidentally splashed them.

We spent a nice, relaxing day at the park with the elephants and I enjoyed getting to see all the animals living together in apparent peace and harmony.  Elephant Nature Park truly seems to care about their animals and I felt lucky that we got to be a part of it for a day and that we were able to share it with my parents.  It was a very special experience.  Thank you Mom and Dad!  Thank you big, beautiful elephants!  Thank you Thailand!



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Chiang Mai, Thailand–All Templed-Out

While my parents were in Thailand, we got them more than just a variety of local food.  We also took them to see a large sampling of Thai temples since they had come so far to see us.  We started by taking in a good view of Chiang Mai from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (often just referred to as Wat Doi Suthep).  It’s located at the top of Doi Suthep Mountain and features a golden stupa (or chedi) and an emerald Buddha.  We nearly lost Mom in the crowd.  She was getting in her fill of photos and we’d lost sight of her, but she turned up before long with some amazing shots.

I had guessed ahead about what their favorite temples would be, and I think I was mostly right.  For Mom, I chose Wat Chedi Luang.  I call this site the Chedi Ruins (and I’m sure others do as well).  This temple complex consists of a partially crumbled 15th century chedi and the city pillar (Sao Ithakin) which is believed to protect the city.  It’s located in the ancient walled part of the city and appears to be one of the oldest temples in the area.  I immediately thought of Indiana Jones the first time I saw it, so I thought she’d be a fan, which she was.

I think Dad was impressed by the tranquil location of the hidden temple Wat Pha Lat.  He especially liked hiking the monk’s trail through the forest to get there.  The path was marked by orange fabric from monk’s robes that had been tied to the trees and there were some pretty sights along the way.  The 30 minute hike was fairly easy and took us up the first part of Doi Suthep mountain.  Once we’d arrived at our final destination, we mostly had the temple complex to ourselves and we enjoyed exploring at a leisurely pace.

My favorite temple complex, Wat Ban Pong, shall henceforth be referred to as the Temple of Opulence in honor of my parents.  I’ve always had a lavish streak and I was awed by this impressive sight the first time I’d seen it (as well as every time since).  Ryan and I discovered it entirely by accented during one of our scooter adventures to the sticky waterfalls.  Because it’s so far off the beaten path–though not hidden in the forest like Wat Pha Lat–it sees a surprisingly few number of tourists.  Mom and Dad thought of Disneyland because it was so “opulent,” as they said.  I understood what they meant.  Walking around the extensive grounds made me feel like I’d found my way inside a fairy tale.  It was no wonder I was such a big fan of Disneyland!

The first time I saw Wat Phra Singh, I immediately thought about the movie Goldmember.  Believe it or not, my dad was once a big Austin Powers fan so this temple was a must-see on our list.  Here, everything was large and gold.  There were also some amazing statues of monks inside.  I think they were made of wax and they looked completely real!  We were especially interested in the signs we saw warning tourists that it is offensive to use Buddha as a decoration.  Dad had been considering bringing back a small Buddha souvenir for one of his co-workers who is in fact Buddhist, but seeing these signs made him reconsider and I think the rest of us were in agreement.

Wat Umong was one of the most unique temples we visited.  Wat Umong is made up primarily of a system of interconnecting tunnels.  The story behind it is especially interesting.  Apparently the head monk was well connected and when he developed Alzheimer’s and began to wander away into the forest in search of some peace and quiet in which to pray–the city had grown up around the temple over the years–the king intervened and had a special sanctuary built in order to let him continue to pray in peace.  It was a cool story.  The tunnels are not tall and I was a little worried about Dad and Ryan’s abilities to navigate through them comfortably and safely, but they both managed perfectly well.  There were also a lot of good-looking roosters lurking around.  I’d been trying to convince my parents that Chiang Mai has the best-looking roosters of anywhere I’ve ever been and here was some proof!  I think they were a little confused by my interest in roosters.

I had expected that Dad would like the view provided at Doi Inthanon–this is very near the highest point in Thailand, which I thought he would also enjoy visiting–but it was the last temple on the list and by this time I think he was a little templed-out.  We’d been visiting one after another for the past 4-5 days, so I could hardly blame him.  I think he still enjoyed the view from the highest point in Thailand–although the weather wasn’t great–but I’m pretty sure he enjoyed the ride through Doi Inthanon National Park nearly as much, if not more.  We even stopped at a waterfall along the way, and took in a nature trail.  Thank you so much Ryan, for driving us to the highest point in Thailand on the opposite side of the road.  You’re the best!


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Chiang Mai, Thailand–They Held Their Spice

Christmas came early this year when my parents announced they were going to be able to visit us all the way in Thailand!  This was an especially big treat because it’s difficult for my dad to get time off work.  It’s also hard for him to take a lot of days off in a row, which becomes more important the further from home you want to travel.  When he told me that he was going to be able to stay for ten days, I couldn’t believe it!  They showed up ready to explore, relax, and have a great time.

Fresh off the plane and getting rehydrated

Welcome package

Before my parents came to visit, I asked them whether or not they like spicy food.  It was odd that I didn’t really know the answer.  A good part of the reason is that I’ve always had an embarrassing intolerance for spice so it wasn’t generally on the menu at home when I was growing up.  In response to my question, my dad told me that he was a mild spice guy and Mom could handle medium spice.  I’m proud to report that while they were in Thailand, they were both handling medium to spicy spice surprisingly well.  Unlike me, there wasn’t much they couldn’t eat and they enjoyed trying a variety of local dishes.  We even got them a good sampling of Burmese food and they enjoyed that as well.  I’m pretty sure the food scene was one of the highlights of the trip for my dad.

Night Bazaar

He wasn’t the only one.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that one of the things I most enjoyed while my parents were visiting was going out to breakfast every morning.  This is something that Ryan and I never do on our own and it was such a treat!  Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day and there were a lot of options around our neighborhood that had mouth-watering pictures of pancakes and waffles and toast that I’d been dying to try.  I’d been walking past them somewhat begrudgingly for the past two and a half months.  Suddenly, I had something delicious to look forward to every morning.  It was a great way to start out each day.  Thank you Mom and Dad!

In addition to the food, I think my dad really enjoyed getting out on the trails.  He loves to walk, so this wasn’t too big of a surprise.  I think he especially enjoyed the short 30 minute hike we took up to the hidden temple Wat Pha Lat.  This temple is located in the middle of the lush fortest up the first part of Doi Suthep mountain.  To get there you follow the monk’s trail, marked by orange fabric (from their robes) tied to trees.  The temple complex is very tranquil and there’s some nice scenery along the way.

Part of Wat Pha Lat

I think one of the highlights of the trip for my mom was climbing the sticky waterfalls.  She fearlessly tackled all three.  I had failed to advise my parents to bring proper footwear and going barefoot was a little hard on my dad’s feet, so he climbed the first one and then he became the designated photographer.  On one of our trips up and and down the trail, we came across a little crab.  It was odd seeing a crab in the middle of the forest and I’m not sure what he was doing there, but like my mom, he was fearless and he held his ground on that trail until we passed.  I was happy to see that when we returned a while later, he had moved on to a safer location.

I think my mom also enjoyed visiting a couple of the silk worm factories.  Here we got to see how Thai silk is actually made.  My mom is a fiber artist (among her abundant talent in many other mediums as well) so this was a great opportunity for her.  The factories were both huge and they had a variety of products for sale.  We spent the most time in the first factory.  Mom found some fabric and Dad found a couple of ties and a silk shirt.  They bought me a hat that I’d fallen in love with.  We tried to convince Ryan to get a silk shirt for himself–it’s kind of hard to talk him into going out to a nice dinner when all he has to wear is a black t-shirt–but he politely passed on the offer.  (I think he wants nice dinners to continue to be off the table while we’re still budget traveling.)

Although we were out and about quite a bit, we also made it a point to relax.  Once again, my parents did a great job, especially my dad.  I’m still convinced that I’ve never seen him so fully relaxed.  This was especially evident when he decided to grab a cocktail before dinner one night.  Although my parents aren’t big drinkers, Dad had been enjoying the local Chang and Singha beers.  Then one night he developed a hankering for a gin and tonic.  Mom’s Lychee Lady won the contest for most interesting beverage selection.  It came out on dry ice and that was one dazzling lady.  It was even more impressive than the Christmas tree out front made of Coke bottles!

On one of our more relaxing afternoons, Dad and I went out to refill the water and we made a detour at a nearby eyeglasses store to look for sunglasses.  Dad had had his pair for a long time and they were pretty scratched up.  He knew what he was looking for and he found a pair he liked almost right away.  The ladies in the store were very helpful and they informed us of a 3 for 1 sale they were having at the time.  Dad bought his pair of sunglasses, and then he told me to pick out two pairs for myself!  I couldn’t believe how spoiled I was getting.  Needless to say, I’ve had very few shopping experiences with my father, but this one definitely makes it towards the top of my list.  For the remainder of the trip, we went around in matching sunglasses and I loved it!  For our next stop, we were heading to the beach and now we were both ready to really soak up the sun!

Yay baby! Check out the matching sunglasses!!!

Dad’s songthaew ride on the way to the airport


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