A Travellerspoint blog

Chillin in Chiang Dao

38 °C

By James:
We are now in Chiang Dao in the mountains 1 hours drive from Chiang Mai. We are staying at Malees bungalows and they have a kid! He is 12 years old and his name is Peter we play all day (unless I'm doing my shcool work). On our first day here me and my dad went on a fun bike ride with Peter and his dad on our way back we stopped at a cute little coffee shop. I ordered a one scooop ice cream but ended up getting 3 scoops and it was before 10 in the morning.

Peter was also a good guide he took us on a jungle hike we had huge sticks for poking snakes but we didnt find any.

The next day we were walking down to the celebration at the temple for dinner we went on the trampoline. The next day we were walking back from the celebration holding four little toys that our dad won for us in the shooting game. Today we went on a half day tour we saw the cultures of 6 different hill tribes. My mom liked how they were weaving scarves out of cotton. Me and Neve discovered a fruit that was so sour that it even made me pucker. We called it a lemon-tomato. There were also so many chickens and pigs and ducks and even a monkey on a leash!

By Arin:
We escaped the city to the mountains for some nature and to be able to sleep! Its so hot, reaching 37 degrees during the day. The image of Thailand I imagined doesn't exist at this time of year, its brown and dry in the forest and in the rice fields. The view of the mountains is completely obsccured by smoke from nearby forest fires. These are deliberately set to make clearing and planting easier. But Chiang Doa has been really nice in other ways, Malee's bungalows feel very welcoming and home-y, the temples nearby aren't over-the-top ritzy like we've seen everywhere else but seem more holy and certainly more thought provoking. The monastery has 600 steps leading to the summit with motivational sayings on signs all the way up. The temple James mentioned is actually inside a deep and convoluted cave. We had to hire a guide to lead us through the small openings and twists and turns of the cave to get to the main shrine. This temple is the one holding the festival, it is fundraising party whereby people from the region make money trees and parade them into the temple to help fund a new project. The festival has been running for four days with games, food stalls, souvenir stores, live music and dancing and even a Thai boxing ring. In Chiang Mai all these activities would have been charged for separately and not have been anywhere near as authentic. Good times, even the monks were getting into the shooting games!

here are some snapshots of the area:

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Posted by Arin MacDyer 02:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged james Comments (0)

King Cobras loose in Bangkok!

overcast 36 °C

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When we first got to Bangkok it was about noon. We got a taxi for 200 baht( 10$) to our hotel when we got there i could not belive it on the doors were two signs one saying sex tourists not permitted and another saying this is the place you are looking for if you know it if you dont you will never find it. We went in and it was nice. It had a swiming pool, turtles and 30 cats! But on the funny side there were signs everywhere saying things like no complaints, at least not at the prices we charge! And swim trunks cannot be worn in the lobby.

Bangkok was great we traveled mostly by Skytrain to beat the traffic. Bangkok is ten times the populaion of Edmonton but takes up less space than it should because everyone lives in giant towers and condos.

After the next day we went to the snake farm and they were playing with king cobras and the man was almost letting the snake bite him and then yanking his arm away with no time to spare. The snake farm was in a hospital and was built to milk snakes to make anti-venom.

The next day we took a 3 hour taxi drive down to Ko Samet,a little island off the shore and our beach was so nice (other than the fact that it was covered from head to toe in resorts. After a good night's sleep we were ready to party on the beach then i noticed the beach was covered in balls of sand and I looked closer and i saw crabs digging holes. I took a step closer all the crabs around me ran into their holes. In the next hour i had caught 50 of them. That night we were looking around for dinner and we saw tables with mountainous amounts of sea food on them. The next day we learnt that you could pick anything off of those tables and get the restoraunt to cook it for you they also had skewers and corn. At night after we were done eating there were fire dancers.

After 3 days there we went back to Bangkok to catch the sleeper train to Chiang Mai. The sleeper train was nice we had 2nd class seats i slept on the bottom bunk when i woke up in the morning i was cold and in two hours we were there. When we firstt got here it was 10 in the morning we got a taxi to what we thought was our place but they told us our place was across the river! That evening we went to the night market i bought a bug in glass and glass cobra. Chiang Mai is great.

Posted by Arin MacDyer 21:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged james Comments (3)

Happy Chinese New Year

overcast 30 °C

We've spent the past week in Siem Reap with loads of tourists from all over Asia (the New Year is an annual holiday which has made booking rooms tricky!) as well as many more western tourists than we've seen on our travels in SE Asia so far. The draw of the temples is impressive. When we were in Penang we met another travelling family from Regina; Mike, Louise, and Sam had loved Siem Reap and given us lots of ideas about what to see and do so we've been busy ticking off the list!

Our main reason for visiting was to explore the temples at Angkor. First we visited the Cambodian National Museum to get a good background on the history of the Khymer empire and symbology of the carvings on all the walls. We then spent two days exploring some of the ruins, we visited 10 giant temples and barely scratched the surface, before the kids couldn't handle the heat or to climb another crumbling stairway.

On our way home from the temples we stopped at the Cambodian Landmine Museum. It focused on the life's work of one man who not only cleared landmines but also adopting children harmed by landmines and providing them rehabilitation for their injuries and a solid education. I learned a lot about the Cambodian civil war and the efforts taken to stop the use of landmines in all future wars. Did you know Canada sponsored an international treaty to ban landmines in future conflicts?

Unique to Siem Reap, several attractions and businesses were social enterprises designed to help people, and especially kids, in poverty. The circus, Phare, was a non-profit organization that not only trained yourh to become circus performers but also funded a school and made donations to communities in need. The museum doubled as a boarding school for landmine victims. We also ate at a restaurant (Sister Srey's) that had set up charitable foundations to help its staff and their families. We attempted to volunteer at a night school (also a charity) for students who want to learn English, called Jimmy English School, as was recommended by Louise and that welcomes tourists to help the students practise speaking but it was closed due to the holiday.

Travelling outside of the city to visit the great Tonle Sap lake we were able to see that there is real simplicity to lives of the average Cambodian. Many people are rice farmers and live in very basic two story homes (they live upstairs when it floods, downstairs when its hot). We visited the stilted village of Kompong Khleang where fishing in the great lake is the lifeblood of the community. We visted in the dry season, but when it rains the lake rises by over 20m to lap at the doors of their incredible houses. It is the largest lake in SE asia by area and produces half of the fish eaten each day in SE Asia. We got to sample a few Cambodian snacks but none of us would try the stinky fermented fish paste!

We've been promising the kids some time in the markets so we spent several evenings strolling around the night market and busy Pub street which was lit up and really festive to celebrate the New Year. James and Neve went back for more "fish massages" and loved driving around the city in our tuk-tuk. Simon tried fried spiders (taste like prawns!). We were thrilled walking through the Central Park and noticed a huge colony of flying foxes (giant fruit bats) right in the city. Good times...
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 20:28 Archived in Cambodia Tagged arin Comments (2)

Temples and foot eating fish!

overcast 33 °C

We are now in Cambodia. Yesterday we went to see the temples on a tuk-tuk (a caridge pulled by a motor bike). The first temple went to was Angkor Wat it was the temple built by the seventh king. We walked around looking at the cool carvings on the walls then we got to the carving of the gods playing tug of war with the naga (the giant snake like ruler of the underworld.) They were doing it that to ubtain the nectar of immortality.

Next we went to another temple but I've forgotten the name. When we pulled up the gate was shaped like the huge four headed god Brama. When we got into the temple it was falling down all the towers were being supported by 3 strips of duck tape! And the temple was also being swallowd up by big trees. It just shows how powerful the Cambodian jungle is.

Next we went to Angkor Thom the last and biggest temple to be built first we went to a small temple inside the Angkor thom area then we went to the tallest temple the royal temple but you still couldint get a very good view . Next we went to the elephant terace. It was a long stone walkway about 100 meters long with elephant carvings all along it. Then it was time to take the tuk tuk back that evening when we had finished our dinner and were walking around the night market i was pestering my parents for a doctor fish massage. You stick your feet in a tank and let the little fish eat the dead skin off your feet and I finally got one for two dollars for me and Neve. It tikkeld like mad because she wasint getting any fish on her feet so she got moved to the next tank.
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 20:01 Archived in Cambodia Tagged james Comments (3)

So Many Spices

overcast 25 °C

Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into when we chose chicken over fish for the meal we were preparing as part of our culinary tour of Samosir Island. Our trip to the market ended up with James carrying two live chickens! We also bought tapioca leaves, potato, durian, banana and a bag of spices. In the bag was cinnamon, cardamon, and coriander, the rest of the ingredients came from the forest and garden surrounding our host's home.
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The house was traditional Batak built in the 1960s but just the same as the ones we toured that were 150 years old. Two rooms, one being a kitchen with fireplace, no furniture but a radio and a bed. It was very dark because the house is coated in soot from cooking smoke and, in addition, there was a power cut that afternoon.

We spent over three hours preparing our meal. First we had to pound all the spices together with fresh lemon grass, shallot, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Candle nuts and red chilis to give it more flavour. Simon butchered the chicken (careful to save the blood!) and started it cooking in the spices. Every part was cooked, from the beak to the feet. The kids were put to work peeling and chopping potatoes as well as pounding the tapioca leaves in a giant mortar and pestal. James got to try his hand at making coconut milk.
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While we waited for the food to cook on the fire, we got to eat the durian fruit. We'd already tried durian icecream and pudding, but fresh it was so much better. It tasted like sweet onion and it sure hit the spot.

When the food was cooked we sat on the floor and stuffed our faces. It was delicious! Fresh and flavourful, spicy but not too hot for the kids. The combination of all the fresh spices and being cooked on the fire will make it a meal we could never replicate at home. Finally, our host brought out her favourite dish - grilled chicken with a sauce made of the blood. Luckily I was already full so I only had to have a taste - it was okay, but unappetizing.
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Bananas were for dessert and we learned that there at least eight varieties.

Arin

James' version of the day:

We are now staying at the Tabo Cottages in Lake Toba. Yesterday we went on a traditional cooking trip first we went to the market to buy durian bananas live chickens and tones of spices. Then we drove down the rocky roads to the place where we were going to do the coocking. When we got there we first we had to carry every thing up the hill i got to carry one of the chickens i had to hold him by the feet so that he could not peck me. We got to the top of the hill and there was our istructer for cooking she was an elderly women and she realy knew how to cook. First we had to kill the chickens we did that by cutting their throats then we had to mash all the spices together then we peeld potatos and finaly it was time to pluck the chickens. We were getting very hungry so we opend the durian it smelled like an onion and it was squishy and boy was it good.then it ws time to eat our lunch it was rice, chicken body part curry, tapioka leaves and chicken breast in black sauce (chickens blood). (I only ate the rice) nothing went to waste.

Posted by Arin MacDyer 00:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food james arin Comments (4)

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