Sunday, September 14, 2014

July,August, and Now

Well my writing has become scarcer and scarcer, but I'm starting to get back into the rhythm of it to prep for our travels. A quick recap for the months of July, August, and up until now. Work has been going by incredibly fast. Teaching is great. The kids are fun, the work is easy, and the days fly by. Our weekends alternate between Chiang mai and Pai. In Chiang Mai we do our usual Saturday basketball group and occasionally rent motorbikes to check out spots outside of the city, but our real adventures are in Pai. In Pai we rent motorbikes and explore. The nicely paved, non-crowded roads, and beautiful scenery make Pai the ultimate destination for spontaneous adventures. At the end of July my friend Jan came to visit for a week and we were able to take her to Pai. She loved it. We had so much fun. We went a long hike to a beautiful three tiered waterfall. I even rode a motorbike for the first time! It was a little daunting at first, but I got the hang of it, and ended up really enjoying it. After the waterfall we took her to our favorite spot; the land crack. Once again we were greeted by the friendly owner who generously fed us snacks and juice. We were happy to be sitting in his hammocks enjoying our treats at the time we were, because it began to pour down rain. It rained nonstop for over an hour, and I was just happy I wasn't riding the motorbike while it happened. After Jan left Ryan and I did another trip to Pai where we decided to venture out of our normal areas. We rode our motorbike about an hour and a half north to see the lod cave. The cave was amazing. We paid a small fee to get a guide to take us in and show us around, but it was worth it. The stalagmites were huge; some looked like something out of a scifi movie, and others resembled coral. On our ride back from the lod cave we came across a couple of other smaller caves that you could explore on your own. Those were smaller but equally as cool. They didnt have the stalagmites like the other cave, but the formations were just as interesting. The smaller caves were more clay looking, kind of like a Flintstones house. On our more recent trip to Pai Ryan and I went to Boy's property to go fishing. He lives on a very beautiful piece of property with bamboo huts, tipis, a house, and a very large lake for fishing. We spent the afternoon fishing and hanging out with Boy, it was the ultimate thai style relaxation. Aside from our Pai adventures, teaching, and our lazy weekends in Chiang Mai playing basketball and shopping at the night bazaar, not a whole lot has been going on. The reason for this is mostly because we are saving up for our next epic travel adventure. October 3rd is our last day of work, yipee! The few days after will be spend cleaning up our apartment and packing our things, because on the 6th of October we will be flying to Medan Indonesia, where we will spend three weeks exploring the Sumatran jungles, Hiking Volcanoes, and Staying at on an island inside the world's largest volcanic lake. Sounds too good to be true I know, I still pinch myself every time I think about it. After Sumatra we will make our way over to Malaysia where we will spend a little over a week on the Island of Penang, world famous for its street food. From Malaysia we will be flying back to the US, but excitedly enough our travels wont end there. We fly into Honolulu where we will be staying a week with Ryans family. Then just when the tan lines from our sandals become overwhelmingly dark, and our hair is bleached blonde from the sun we will return back home to Santa Rosa. Luckily the transition from vagabond lifestyle to so called "reality" wont be a dissapointment because we have so much to look forward to, like going to the property, seeing family and friends, christmas, snowboarding in Tahoe, and moving to Humboldt. AHHH, so many exciting things happening I dont know where to concentrate my excitement. But then I remeber all the valuable lessons I have learned from the life changing books I have read on our trip, and refocus my excitement on the present. Reality check, we are still living in Chiang Mai Thailand. We are teachers, We are explores, and I  am sharing the most incredible life experience with my soulmate. If there is one piece of wisdom I have learned on this trip it would definitley be the law of attraction. Everything that we are excited for is everything we have manifested through our desires. I could not be more proud of us for making all of dreams come true, and in the process finding peace within ourselves and connecting with each other on a spiritual level I never knew existed. Life is a true adventure, and I am begining to see that through desire, and the law of attraction you can make anything happen. I am so thankful for all of our experiences, Ryan and I have changed in ways I cant even begin to describe, but for that reason, I know the change that has happened is so powerful, because putting words to it would only devalue the authenticiy of the higher perspective, experience, and oneness we have attracted over these past ten months. Life is truly beautiful, and we can not wait to experience more, whether we are traveling, or  back at home in our daily routine ,every experience is a chance to gain wisdom, connect, and love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Well it's been a few months since I have last written, and a lot has happened. The month of June was jam packed with family visiting. We had Willie and Aileen visiting for one week, Evie, Dave, Sue, and Katie for three weeks, and Heather and Rob for two and a half. Unfortunately we had to work while they were here, but that didnt stop us from making the most of our time with them. From 3:30pm when we clocked out to about midnight every night, we were busy showing them around Chiang Mai, and having lots of wolf pack adventures. Some highlights were; our trips to Pai, river rafting, secret waterfall exploring, playing with elephants, cooking class, getting wolf pack tattoos, and our spontaneous waterfall excursions outside of Chiang Mai. I will elaborate on my favorite experiences, since going into detail about it all would take way too long. I'll start with our trips to Pai. Ryan and I are in love with Pai, and we love taking people there too, because they also fall in love with it. The small hippy town lays in a valley, surrounded by jungle mountains, and has the most friendly people on earth. In the town itself there isnt much to do; bars, restaurants, and bamboo bungalows with hammocks line the river that run through the town. But a short ten minute ride on a scooter will get you to the outskirts of the town where there is so much to see. Our first time in Pai was with Willie and Aileen and because we were novices to the whole Pai scene we mistakenly paid way too much for a tour to drive us around to the attractions. The tour was 600 baht per person, when you can rent a motorbike for 100 baht (50 baht per person). Rookie mistake, but we still had fun. On the tour we went to a hot spring, that was so beautiful and relaxing. There were six different pools, and they all varied slightly in temperature, ranging from really hot, too really flippin hot. We then made our way to the Pai Grand Canyon, where we had an incredible view of the valley and all of the farms. The canyon had a very narrow path to walk on. Some of it involved steep rock climbing, and careful balance, but in the end it was worth it. The Canyon was a firey orange red, and the colors of the canyon wall looked majestic against the lush green jungle background. It was definitely one of the prettiest sights in Pai. After sweating bullets in the blistering sun on top of the canyon, we made our way to our first waterfall. It was a three tiered waterfall that had a swimming pond at the bottom. There were many tourists and locals there. The locals were jumping off the rocks into the water, and sliding down the slick walls of the waterfall and into the pond. Ryan, Willie, and I decided to join in. At first it was intimidating because the rocks were so slippery, and if you went down the wrong way you could hurt yourself, but we did it anyway, and it was a blast. After exploring the beautiful scenery in the day, we would retreat back to our bungalows and get ready for the night. The town of Pai comes to life at night. There is one main street in Pai that is lite up by the quaint wooden restaurants and outdoor bars. This street also has the best food vendors. We discovered our favorite one; a vegetarian Indian vendor. The food is delicious, the people working are so friendly, and the prices are great. Along this road are many souvenir shops selling all kids of goodies. Many of the clothes you find at the night bizarre can be found here, but there are also lots of handmade crafts, like moccasins, jewelry, hammocks, fun magnets, and t-shirts. The bars in pai are awesome. Our first time in Pai we found the Spirit Bar. This bar is a small little outdoor bar with a fun relaxed hippie vibe. Psychedelic paintings, firepit, wooden stumps with cushions, a handmade jewelry shop, bamboo walls , lanterns, and hippie bartenders really give the place a burningmanesque ambiance. Our first time at the Spirit Bar was with Willie and Aileen, and we wanted to smoke hooka. So I walked up to a guy at the bar and asked if he knew anywhere that we could get hooka. He was white and his English was good, but his heavy accent, and lack of recognition of the term hooka led to a comical misunderstanding.He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said "Hooka, You want a hook?".  Me- "Yes do you know where I can find some". Him- "Um, I dont know let me ask". He looks at the bartender, "Hey do you know where to get a hooker, this girl wants one?". My eyes popped, " no a hooka to smoke..... you know shesha".   "Oh shesha. Ok. I was gonna say, you don't look like the type to want a hooker."  
And that incident led us to a great friendship with the owner of the bar; Boy. The white guy that I asked a hooka for was a traveler from Poland, and we ended up making good friends with him. He asked Boy; the owner of the bar if he knew where we could get shesha, and Boy said he had one of his own that he would let us smoke. So Willie, Aileen, Ryan, the Polish man, and the Thai bar owner Boy, all sat down and smoked his hooka. We couldnt believe his generosity. Boy became our first friend in Pai, and we made sure to visit him every time we were there.
Our second time in Pai was with the wolfpack. We had a blast. Boy, his brother, and two of his friends took us on an incredible hike to a secret waterfall. The drive to the waterfall was a little sketchy since it has just rained. The dirt roads turned to mud, and there were trenches in some parts. Katie fell over  on the motorbike three times, the first time Sue was on it with her.The hike itself was breathtaking. It was the prettiest jungle I had ever seen. There were the most beautiful wild flowers and crazy insects. There is one type of beetle that makes this loud car alarm sound. If you were to hear the sound without seeing the bug, you would think that there were hundreds of them, but then you spot one on a tree and see its body vibrate and realize the obnoxious loud sound was coming from one tiny bug, it was incredible. There is also another bug that makes a sound like an electric saw, the first time I heard it I was convinced someone was in the jungle sawing wood, but Boy told us it was another type of bug. The jungle environment seemed so foreign to me at first, with all of its scary insects, and creepy sounds. But now that we have done many hikes in Pai, the jungle sounds are comforting and make me feel at home. The rest of our hike was long. It took about two hours to reach the waterfall. The waterfall was about 30 ft high, with two smaller tiers off to the right. The water was cold, but bearable. We all hopped in and swam. The pressure from the waterfall was outrageous! It almost hurt too much to put my hand under it, if you were to put your head, you would for sure get knocked out.

Monday, July 28, 2014

This Coup is not coo

 On Thursday night around 8pm we received a message on facebook from a friend in our basketball group, letting us know that there was a nationwide curfew in Thailand from 10pm - 5am. The Curfew would last for as long as the political conflicts continued. The Curfew applied to everyone; even tourists,and if you were caught breaking this rule, you could be imprisoned for two years or pay a 40,000 baht fine. This curfew came as a complete surprise. We knew that there had been protests in Bangkok from the moment we arrived in Thailand, but so far we had not seen any action in Chiang Mai. This was the first time that the political issue was really brought to our attention. All TV channels were temporarily banned, as well as outside news stations, and certain websites. The only thing on TV, was an automated message saying "peace and order", and every half hour or so, the picture would switch to a short clip of an army general reading a letter in Thai. Later that night around 10pm we received a call from Moz, letting us know that all public and private schools would be closed tomorrow and we would have the day off from work. When we got this call we were a little worried about the situation. And unfortunately for us, our information on the situation was limited. The only news was a short thirty second clip in Thai. Because of this we relied on our basketball friends, and a Chiang Mai group on facebook, for news updates. This was not a reliable or very accurate source. Rumors of the internet being shut off began to spread .People were talking about Thailand being on the brink of civil war, and others were saying that the situation wasn’t a big deal, that Thailand has had a coup every four years for the past fifty years, and that there was nothing to worry about. Naturally we were a little worried for our safety and were unsure what to do about the situation, but we decided to stay positive and make our own judgments based on how safe we felt. As the weekend passed and we read updates on facebook, and found a few reliable news articles online, our feelings were put to ease a bit. A website we found online called Asiancorrespondence, gives hourly updates about the political situation around the country. It was on that site as well as from people on facebook that we learned that there is a military presence in Chiang Mai now, as well as other places all over the country. Many people on facebook have been posting pictures of candle lit, peaceful protests by people in Chiang Mai. The military presence is mostly at Thapae gate as well as Chueng Gate. On Friday night there were two hundred posters and about a hundred military men at thapae gate. The military fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd,and arrested five, but no one was hurt. Besides the military presence around the moat and the nightly curfew, life in Chiang Mai seems to be calm. The conflicts in Thailand have hurt tourism in the last few months, but with the curfew added, many businesses are hurting even more. As far as school goes, it was back in session on Monday. I feel fortunate that the protests in Chiang Mai have remained on a small scale and have ended without anyone getting hurt. On the other hand Bangkok is a different story. Everyday thousands of protesters crowd the streets, and the military has made several arrests, including politicians. In fact a list of people who are suppose to report to the military is read almost daily on TV. Those who report are most likely arrested, and those who don’t, are in hiding. Because of the political unrest in Thailand many tourists have canceled their travel plans, and unfortunately for us all of this is happening at the time our families are scheduled to visit us. But like I stated before, life in Chiang Mai, from a tourists standpoint remains unchanged aside from the curfew. With that said my brother Willie and his girlfriend arrived on Monday. I am so excited to have family visiting, and so far we are having a wonderful visit. As far as work goes, Ryan and I are loving our jobs! My kids are adorable, and so much fun. The first graders are a challenge, every lesson incorporates dancing, music, and games. The older ones are easier because of the variety of activities I can do with them. Some new things I have learned while teaching in Thailand. The students are very honest.When we play a game, you never have anyone cheating, or complaining about getting tagged out, which came as a surprise to me since they are such a competitive group.They are very lazy when it comes to physical activity. Just asking them to walk to the front of the room, they groan and complain. They love using their rulers for everything, and are very finicky about perfection. My only complaint is that I dont get to form close bonds with the kids because I have 1,200 students, and only the same student every other week. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

First Day of Class 5/16/17

Our first day of work was on a Friday, an odd day to start the school year, but nice to have the weekend to assess the classes and create lesson plans. The workday began at 7:45am, we clocked in, I went to the staff room in the Prathom building (elementary), and Ryan went to the Mathom building (middle/high school). When I got to the staff room I immediately found the fellow foreign teachers. There were three guys, one from Canada and two from England. They had all been working there a few years or more, so they knew the system. I would be working with Daniel. We had the same schedule, except he taught social studies and I taught health. The way it worked, we would both walk to the homeroom of each class we had, and we would divide the class in half. I would take students 1-24 (group A), and he would take students 24-50 (group B). There are four classes to each grade level, and there are six grade levels, all of them which we split in half, which means I only see each class once every two weeks. As far as lesson planning goes, this makes it easy on me, since I only have to plan a lesson every two weeks, but for the students it doesn’t seem like a very good strategy. How are students suppose to remember what they are taught in a fifty minute lesson if they only see me once every two weeks? Some aspects of Thai teaching re very different from the United States. For example, because I work at a private school and parents pay for their children education, they expect their students to receive all passing grades. So it is against the rules of the administration to give any students below passing grades, even if the student refuses to do any work. The laid back life style of Thai culture is also very prevalent in the school system. It is so laid back that it can definitely be seen as unorganized and not prepared. On the first day my classroom changed three times. At first I was to move classrooms every time I taught, and then I was told I would be teaching in the staff office, and finally I was placed in my own room. I was so grateful for this. The room was large, with plenty of desks, an open area, and whiteboards. The only downside was there was no air conditioning, but I wasn’t going to complain because I had my own room, which was a lot more than most of the other foreign teachers got. The first Friday of teaching I was suppose to have taught five classes, but only ended up teaching one. Every class I went to to pick up my students their Thai teacher said that they were behind schedule with their class, and that they wouldn’t have time to make it to my class. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to teach, but was also happy for that time to clean up the classroom and perfect my lessons. One of the things that is definitely different about teaching in Thailand is the resources. I went to the office to ask for paper, and they were hesitant to give me any. Finally they gave me a small stack of white paper from the photocopy machine. I got the impression that if I needed any materials I would have to buy them myself. While I was in the office getting paper, the head of administration for Pathom greeted me. She looked at my outfit; a long blue skirt that went down to my ankles, and a white long sleeve button up blouse, and told me that my skirt was too long. I thought this was funny, because I wore the exact same outfit when I saw her a week ago in the interview, and she told me my outfit was fine. The school is an all girls catholic school, and I knew that they would be finicky about dress code, but I never thought they would have told me my skirt was too long. Almost all of the staff at the school don’t know a word of English, so communication is difficult and nearly impossible. For that reason, I am happy there are other foreign teachers who have been there a while who can answer some of my questions. When lunch time came around I made my way over to the Mathom building with the other teachers where we went to the staff cafeteria and were served a free lunch. The lunch was rice, chicken, and cucumbers. I found an open table and sat down. Ryan joined me shortly after and we told each other about our day. Like me, he hadn’t taught any classes yet. Earlier in the morning there was a school assembly that I didn’t know about, but Ryan went to. He said that in the assembly all of the new teachers got up on stage to introduce himself, and he was the only white person among a line of Thai people. One by one they passed the microphone, everyone spoke in Thai, and when Ryan got the microphone he introduced himself and said what grades he was teaching. When he did this, the girls in all of his grade levels, began to scream and cheer, like he was a celebrity. When he told me this I was so disappointed that I wasn't there to see, or to be on stage and introduce myself as well, but the foreign teachers in the prathom building didn’t go to the assembly, so I was unaware that there was one. When we finished lunch we washed our dishes. This is one aspect of Thai culture that I think should be in American culture. All of the students and teachers wash their own dishes after their meals. Outside the cafeteria there is a washing station where you wash, rinse, and leave your dishes on a rack to dry. When we finished I said bye to Ryan and made my way back to the Prathom building where I taught my first and only class of the day, fifth graders. They were a fun group, and because they were older they understood enough English where I could play games with them. We played musical chairs, four corners, and introduced ourselves. At 3:30pm we clocked out, and made the short walk back to our apartment. Although Ryan and I only taught one class each, we had a great day, and know we will enjoy our teaching experience. 

Trip to Laos 4/25/14-5/14/14

The last two weeks have been very mellow. We moved into our new apartment at Doi Ping Mansion, and couldnt be happier. For $300 a month we get a fully furnished one bedroom apartment with huge living room, kitchen, bathroom, and giant bedroom. We even have a small balcony with a great view of the ping river and a temple. The place felt huge compared to what we had been use to. More than anything we were grateful to have a place with a kitchen so we could cook again. We cooked up a storm. With two weeks in our new place with out any real obligations I spent a majority of my time shopping at the markets for new produce, researching how to make different things, cooking, and eating. I made tortillas, fried rice, pad thai, coconut milk and banana ice cream. We definitely filled our cooking needs. In between cooking and shopping we met up with our usual groups to play basketball, worked out in our apartment, and watched movies. A week before we started work we got a call from Aom letting us know that our paper work for our work visas came in. This meant that we would need to make our last and final trip across the border. The next day we caught a night bus from Chiang Mai to Vientiane Laos. The bus ride was a brutal twelve hours. When we got there we went straight to our hotel to nap and shower. We had three nights in Laos. The first day we leisurely checked out the city. Although Vientiane was the capital of Laos, it had a small town feel The streets were clean, the buildings were new, and everything was well kept. Because Laos use to be under the French rule, you can see the influence of french culture through architecture and food. At almost every restaurant and street food vendor you could find baguettes, where it was a baguette sandwich or a baguette with butter, they were everywhere. The people of Laos were not as friendly as Thai people. If you smiled at someone, they most likely didnt smile back, which is complete opposite of the people in Chiang Mai. The food was also on the pricier side. I'm not sure if it was because we were in the capital, but everything was at least fifty cents more. The one thing that was very different about Laos was their currency. One bottle of water was 13,000 kip. An average meal was 100,000 kip. It was so confusing. On our second day we woke up bright and early to go to the Thai embassy to turn in our paperwork to get our Thai visas. We arrived forty five minutes early trying to beat the crowds, but a long line had already formed. The doors opened at 8:30 am, and everyone went in and got a number. It felt like we were at the DMV, but worse. It was excruciatingly hot and humid outside, well over a hundred degrees, and we had to sit outside in the heat as people were called one by one to the counter. When it was our turn we went to the counter and turned in our paperwork that was given to us by the school, and then sent inside another building where we paid the fee for the visa and left them our passports. The passports are suppose to picked up the next business day, but because the next day was a Thai Buddhist holiday, we had to wait an extra day to pick it up. When we finished we went back to our hotel where we rested until late in the afternoon. We would have explored more during the day, but it was too hot to be outside. Around six we made our way to the park near our hotel where we caught the most beautiful sunset. The blood orange sun looked beautiful as it lowered in the sky, with its reflection sparkling over the winding river. We walked through the park and checked out the night market. For dinner we ate at an Indian restaurant where we had the most delicious food. One of our favorites was the Aloo Palak, which is an Indian style spinach and potato dish. It was to die for. While we were there it started storming. The sky lit up purple as huge white streaks of lightening crashed to the ground. It was the loudest thunder and biggest lightening bolts I had ever seen. We Sat there eating our delicious food, and enjoyed natures show. The next day we spent the hot afternoon in the room. When we came out later in the day, we decided to take advantage of the fact that Laos had a good variety of bread. So we went to the cafe near our hotel that sold croissants, baguettes, bagels, and bread rolls, things that we had been missing and couldn’t find much of in Thailand. The next day we went back to the Thai embassy and picked up our passports. This time we got there two hours early, and there was still a line outside, but this time it was less than a dozen. We left the embassy around three o’clock. From their we walked to the bus stop where we bought a ticket to Udon Thani in Thailand. When the bus arrived an hour later it took us to the Laos border, where we had to get off the bus and get our visas checked and stamped. Once everyone on the bus passed through we got back on and drove to the Thai border patrol, where we got off and repeated the same routine. From there we were taken to Udon Thani, where we took a tuk tuk to the second bus station and caught a ten hour bus to Chiang Mai. We arrived the next day at 7am. We were exhausted. When we got back to our apartment we immediately went to take a nap, so we could be ready and prepared for our first day of work the next day. 

Songrak (Thai New Year) 4/11/14-4/16/14

Connie and her friend Kristen arrived two days prior to Songkran .It was my first friend from home visiting, and I was more than excited to see a familiar face. We began their visit with a fun cooking class. Our cooking instructor took us, along with five others to the market where he pointed out the different ingredients used in common Thai dishes. After a fun and informational tour we were brought to a small cooking school. Each of us were given a piece of paper with different meal  options. I chose green curry, mango sticky rice, cashew chicken, and coconut soup. We all gathered around a large table with a set of cutting boards, knives, and ingredients. Our instructor talked us through each recipe. We cut, chopped, fried, stirred, and prepared all of the meals individually. After every dish, we sat down at the dining table and ate together. When the meal was finished we returned to the cooking table to make our next dish. By the end of class we were so full we could barley eat our last two dishes. The instructor ended the class by giving everyone a cookbook with the  recipes of the dishes we made, along with a few others. We left feeling happy, full, and eager to use our new cookbooks.
The next day the Songkran festivities began. Although Thai new year is officially the 13-16 of April, it begins a day early in Chiang Mai. We realized this when we woke up the next morning to the sound of music blasting, water splashing, and kids screaming with laughter. The new year was traditionally celebrated in temples where water would be sprinkled on peoples foreheads as a cleansing for the new year. But more recently, in the last decade it turned into a country wide water fight. Chiang Mai is said to have the second biggest celebration of the Thai new year. Although it is celebrated through out the city, the most concentrated part of the celebration,as well as the craziest, is along the moat where we live. We were told that Songkran was a crazy celebration, this is an understatement. We were completely blown away by its insanity. For four straight days we were soaking wet from the moment we walked out of our apartment, until the moment we walked back inside. We participated in the mayhem by buying cheap water guns and buckets, soaking anyone and everyone; kids, adults, elderly, people in taxis, no one was forgotten. This same rule was followed by everyone else. If you were outside, you were guaranteed to get drenched. No one had immunity from the festivities. The outside road bordering the moat was the craziest. Thousands of people lined the side walk with tubs of ice water, filling up their buckets and water guns to splash anyone walking or driving by. The roads were jam packed with pickup trucks. In the bed of every truck was a group of thai kids and adults crammed together with trash bins filled with ice water. With buckets and guns they would drench everyone they passed. The people who didnt have access to the bins of ice water, like us, were throwing  buckets into the moat,filling them with water, and pulling them up with a string. In the center of the moat food vendors lined the streets. They key was finding a vendor that was a bit more hidden so your food wouldnt get soaked as you were eating. The options for food were endless. There were vendors selling pad thai, coconut icecream, fried tempura, you name it. Near the food, was a large stage with a dj and dancers. This was the craziest area of them all. Thousands of people gathered in front of the stage dancing and screaming with laughter.And as if the celebration couldn't get any crazier,on both sides of the stage were bubble machines. This was my favorite part! Every hour for fifteen minutes ,the machines would go off, filling the street with bubbles. The madness never stopped. Around 6pm when the sun would set, we would seek shelter at a nearby restaraunt. Dinner time was the only time we had dry clothes; as we stepped back on the streets we were drenched. It wasnt until we were back in our apartment that we were safe. 
The first few days we had a great  time walking through the streets and wandering through the massive crowds of people, but on the last day of Songkran we spent most of our time hanging outside the THC Rooftop Bar. The owner of the bar put a large garbage bin out front and kept it filled with ice water. When the ice would melt, someone would come out with a fresh block. The bar also had a DJ playing reggae and EDM. Everyone at the bar stood out front filling their buckets and water guns, and attacking anyone who walked by. At one point a group of people across the street counted down from five, ran over, and soaked everyone outside the bar. From that moment it was an all out war between both sides of the street. We would fill up with ice water, they would fill up with ice water, someone would count down, and we would all charge to the middle of the street. When our guns were empty and our pales were light, we would return to our sides of the street and repeat. This went on all day! The amount of people who partook in this event blew my mind. There were hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the street and on the sidewalks splashing, spraying, and soaking everyone with water. The best part was everyone was filled with joy. I have never in my life seen so many smiling faces all together. It was a beautiful experience being around so many smiling faces and happy people Without a doubt Thai people have the best New Year's celebration in the world, and I am so grateful that we were able to experience it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The sleeping Illegal Aliens 4/10/14

The next day we woke up at 5am to take care of our visa issue. Our first stop was to the atm where we depleted our savings, by withdrawing $1,300  to pay for our costly mistake. It was a tough lesson to learn, but one we would never make again. From there we hopped in a tuk tuk, and went to the bus station. The tickets for the first bus to Mesiah was sold out, and the next one wouldnt depart until 4pm, but that  would be too late since it is a 3.5 hr bus ride to mesiah, and immigration closes at five. We didnt want to stay the night in a hotel in Mesaih for a few reasons, for one we didnt have the extra money to spare, secondly we needed to take care of the issue immediately, and lastly my friend Connie would be flying in the next morning to Chiang Mai, and I wanted to see her. After talking to the sales woman we learned that our only other option was to purchase a bus ticket to Chiang Rai which was departing at 11am, and from there book a bus to Mesiah, which leaves every half hour. So we did it, we bought our tickets to Chiang Rai, and went to a nearby coffee shop to kill three hours.At the coffee shop we started to research buses to Chiang Rai, and Mesiah. In our search we read many comments from fellow riders who said that because the buses ride along the route of the "golden triangle", the most natorious opium drug trade in the world, that buses are frequently stopped by police to search for drugs and check ids. These comments sent us in a panic. If the bus is pulled over and we are asked for ids, we will without a doubt be taken to jail and deported. Even if we tell them we are on our way to the border to take care of the issue, the police have no mercy on overstayed visas. After contemplating what to do, we decided to lose out on the money we spent buying our bus tickets and book a mini van ride to Mesiah. We left the coffee shop, hopped in a tuk tuk, went back to our apartment, and started to call minivan companies who do daily visa run trips. After calling a few companies we learned that they were all closed for the next week because of the upcoming Songkran holiday. We looked at our watches. If we got a ride back to the bus station we could still catch our bus to Chiang Rai. We caught our third tuk tuk ride of the day, and went back to the bus station where we caught our bus, and took our chances with the police. On the way the bus drove past three police check points. The first two check points the police officer waved the bus past with out coming on board, but the third time we werent so lucky. My first instinct was to pretend like I was asleep. Luckily Ryan and I were at the very back of the bus, which bought us a few extra seconds to think on our feet. I quickly tapped Ryan and told him to pretend like we were sleeping. We shut our eyes, slumped over, and I even cocked my head back and opened my mouth a bit for authenticity. When the officer came to the back of the bus I could feel his presence next to me. "Passports", he said. "Passports", he repeated. We pretended like we were sleeping, and after what felt like an eternity, he finally gave up and left the bus. We waited until we felt the bus in motion for a few minutes before opening our eyes, and when we did we looked at eachother is disbelief. I couldnt believe we got away with that. I turned my head to the seats across from us and a thai man and his wife, saw what we did, and they smiled and laughed. An hour later we were in Chiang Rai. From there we caught a mini van to mesiah, which was another hour. In Mesiah we caught a ten minute sangtao ride to the border where we would meet our fate.We took a deep breath, and walked up to the border patrol window and handed over our passports. The whole process was a lot easier than I expected. They looked at our passports, called over an official officer, he translated to us, telling us that we had overstayed our visas, and said we needed to pay our fines. We nodded in agreement, handed over the cash, signed a few papers, recieved a stamp in our passport, and were pointed in the direction of Burma. From there, we walked a hundred feet over a bridge to the Burma border patrol. The patrol officers at the Burma entrance saw the stamp in our passports that indicated we over stayed our visa, and saw that we paid a twenty thousand baht fine. When they saw that we had paid that much, their faces lit up with excitement. They tried to charge us a thousand baht each to enter Burma, because they knew we had money. Luckily before making the trip to the border we had done research online, and knew that we would each have to pay 500 baht to enter Burma.We told them no, that we would only pay 500 baht. They tried to hassle us into paying more, but we finally got them to agree on 500 baht. They gave us the stamp we needed, and we  immediately walked out of the office and back over the bridge to Thailand.At the Thai border we filled out an immigration card, received another stamp in our passports, and were allowed back into the country. We were so relieved that everything worked out, it felt good to legal again. After our experience, we could say that we felt a new understanding and compassion for people in the U.S who are illegal immigrants. We made our way back to the bus station and hoped to find a drect bus to Chiang Mai. The woman working the ticket booth told us that the last bus to Chiang Mai had just departed, so we bought a bus to Chaing Rai  with hope that we could catch a bus from there to Chiang Mai. On the Ride to Chaing Rai our bus was stopped twice by police officers checking ids, and this time we confidently handed over our passports.When we got to Chaing Rai, we were lucky enough to buy the last two tickets available for the last bus to Chiang Mai. Once again everything worked out perfectly. We arrived back at our apartment in Chiang Mai around 11pm.