Leaving Chiang Mai after 2 nights stay, we drove up north to Mae Sai which is the most northerly point in Thailand and very crowded with shoppers just south of the Friendship Bridge to Burma (Myamar)
Thum had been looking for a wicker table and we found one here as well as a nice wicker chair for me and a toy for Simon, we all got something we wanted.
Then we headed west and went to the Golden Triangle where Myamar (Burma), Laos and Thailand all meet at a point where two rivers including he big and famous “Mekong” river meet.
There was lots to see here with a big Buddha on a boat and boatrides although we were a little late and I felt rushed once again. We couldn’t stay the night as we had to keep moving and went on to Chiang Rai (another 60 kms) and got there just after dark. It took a while to find a hotel that had wireless internet as the Eagles game was coming on in the middle of the night. We finally found one, the newly built “Diamond Park Hotel” which was very nice for 700 baht. Our room had 2 big beds, marble floors hot water (in the evening anyway) and wireless internet.
But, in the middle of the game (at 4 am) the connection went down. I woke up the desk guy and he said, he was sorry but the internet always went down every night and there was nothing he could do. So, being the good Eagles fan that I am, I took my laptop and got in my truck and drove around for about a half hour until I found signal and parked at the side of the street and watched the game on justin.tv until half-time. They looked bad and I decided to go sleep instead as it was now 5 am. I woke up around 8 to find out that they lost although they made a good game of it in the 2nd half. Oh well. No Superbowl this year for us.
Chiang Rai seems to be a much higher level of class of people, hotels, food , music and everything that we’ve seen in our short time here. Once again, I wish I could stay and hope to be back someday to check it out some more. The hotels are all very nice and about double the usual 300 baht price, they are much nicer inside and newer. People seem friendly everywhere and of course, Simon is always a magnet for nice people.
In the morning, we drove around town a bit and then went and had a meal at an Issan restaurant so Thum was very happy about the food. Next door was a good bakery and I got some treats for myself.
Heading south now, the trip seems to lost it’s sense of adventure as we are heading home although still a long way away. We stopped for the night in Phrae which is an old city with the old walls around the middle. We stayed in a huge hotel full of men mostly called the Nakorn Prae Hotel I think. We walked around a few blocks to a street full of food vendors and had a good meal there.
Heading towards Hoi Yang and our house there, we stopped to eat at a nice roadside pond where Simon and I tried some fishing. Thum was happily eating some Conan Jean while we made a few casts. It was a bummer but we lost our best and newest lure on my 3rd cast. I could’ve swam out and gotten it as it was caught in someone’s net but it was too cold for me. At $.50 a lure, I let it go. Then we tried some real food as Thum said Thai fish aren’t stupid enough to bite a plastic lure. They want real food. But we had no luck and continued on.
After looking in the book (Lonely Planet) we decided to camp out instead of stay in Lam Sok as we had planned.
So, we decided to go to Nam Noi National Park and were driving through when i remarked to my Thum that the Lonely Planet Book said that there may be wild elephants in the area. Not 10 seconds after i said this, i looked over to my left and saw an elephant in the jungle! So, i stopped, and backed up with my camera ready (on video mode) Sure enough, it was an elephant and he looked at me and then let out an huge, loud, PHHEEEEWW! (what do you call that noise an elephant makes?) and charged us! I couldn’t believe it. He got to a pretty big tree (about 20′ tall, not that big) that was between us and hit it. It shook but held and my wife was screaming. I had one hand on the camera, and one on the steering wheel and needed another one to get it into 1st and not reverse but kept filming anyway. My son (3 year old) started crying and the elephant seemed to be looking for a way around the tree. So, i kept it in reverse and kept filming and backed up a bit. He started coming around towards us and i finally got the heck out of there.
Our hearts were pounding for at least 15 minutes afterward. I don’t know which is worse: Bear, Moose, or Elephant but i do know which is bigger! Wow. I’m still excited thinking about the feeling. We camped out last night at the park campground and my wife had to make sure we wouldn’t be attacked in the night by any elephants. The ranger just laughed but did say that they’ve been known to flip over a car as apparantly they don’t like pictures taken of them (or flash?) The video is pretty shaky but i will work on something to post on my facebook when i get more time.
Anyway, we camped out that night and it was a little cold so we had a nice fire in our barbecue grill as usual. In the morning, many of the campers came and sat around our fire with us as they were all cold. Very friendly people from Hat Yai in southern Thailand were right next to us and we exchanged phone nos. and pictures etc.
Heading on, it was time to go home (for Thum) to our hose in Hoi Yang, a small town in Chaiyaphum district near Kon San. It wasn’t too far and we got there in the morning to many neighbors and friends waiting for our arrival.
Simon had many friends there: Jig Saw, Star and Fa and had to show off his new toys. Now, Thum’s mom knows that I don’t like all the chickens and this time had netting keeping them in a specific area. I hate stepping in chicken shit in the morning. When I built the house and stayed there for 8 weeks, we got rid of all but 2 but now, she has about 20 again. And 2 cats and a dog. I guess she gets lonely as they never seem to eat any of the chickens.
That night, I went to the market and was shocked to see for the first time ever: skinned rats for sale with their carcass opened up to display their guts. I had to go home and get my camera and when I started taking pictures of them, people were telling me how delicious they were. I made a pretty big deal out of pretending I was puking every time they said this. That night, over some beers with neighbors and friends, I kept asking everyone if they ate rat and they all said no but some had tried it already.
It was a good party and one of the couples was telling me they had a silk worm farm about 2 kms away. So, the next day, Simon and I went to visit it. It was pretty cool although brand new and he only had one pile of worms but said in 15 days, they would make the big building full. He had a nice little farm. His name was Lek and his wife Doi (meaning: small and mountain) They had many tamarind trees and gave us a lot of the fruit to eat.
That night, I went to the brand new internet and game room right up the street as the internet has finally hit Hoi Yang after all these years of my driving 15 kms to intermittent internet. This new place had about 40 brand new computers with very comfortable reclining chairs and 2 people in there. I worked for an hour and the fee was 10 baht (about 30 cents) I can’t imagine how they are going to make any money but then this is Thailand (TIT)
So, on Friday, Jan, 23rd, we left early in the morning and within 15 minutes came across a parade. We were on the back road to Phu Kiow when all traffic was stopped for what at first appeared to be a high school marching band. But it turned out to be about 25 marching bands of all ages. Some of the older marchers were lady boys and not so young either. Many were kids and I was surprised to hear much of the music being played coming from children playing melodicas. This is an instrument that I had just bought one for Simon and have been working on playing myself. Of course there were many drums too and some horns. Turns out it is a big contest among schools (and parents it seems) for different athetic events including tug of wars, 3 legged races, etc.
We stayed and watched for almost an hour. A few hours later we were stopped for our 3rd police check that day. (they definitely seem to come in spurts) and for the first time was asked for our truck paperwork as well as my drivers license. All was in order but the policeman got Thum to walk around the truck and told her that she was lucky to have a nice baby and farang and what did she have for him? She knew what he wanted but since all of our paperwork was in order, she gave him 30 baht (less than a dollar) and he seemed happy with that. It is one of the worst parts about Thailand as the police openly practice their graft or “tea money” it’s called and everyone just accepts it and pays. Apparently if your paper work is not in order, you pay between 100 and 300 baht depending on how good a talker you are.
We got through Bangkok with no problems with the GPS and I think it was less than an hour through the busy city even though it was Friday afternoon. We stopped at the salt drying flats and bought some salt and watched a guy feed some tiny algae or minnows and I believe he was making fish sauce although I’m not sure.
We stayed at our same hotel that we started the trip with in Chaam and got the front (seaveiw) room.
Heading home the next day, things turned out longer than we wanted so, we ended up spending the night in Ranong which is a border town to Myamar. I’ve been there lots of times on visa runs but the family has only been there once before. We got a room in a brand new hotel near the northwest part of town and right near many restaurants including another 69 baht AYCE buffet, which Thum likes so much so we did it again.
Driving home the next day and passing many National Parks again made me think how big this country is and how our 4 week trip could’ve easily been twice as long ONLY to see the half that we did.
We had to rush through the 2nd half of the trip and passed some really nice stuff.
But, duty calls and I had to be on a gig on Monday morning. Turned out the gig was pretty nice as a German couple got married and invited their best friends along and we took a speedboat past many beautiful islands east of Phuket and over to Railay beach which is a favorite part of this great country for me and Thum and Simon’s been there 3 times already also.
So, this time i got paid to go there and even stopped at a few beautiful places on the way and on the way home including elephant island where we had lunch and i played on the beach.
Not a bad way to end the trip although i wish the family was together for it. I missed them already.
Well Simon started school a few days later so now we will be waiting for the school schedule for the next 12 years or so for our roadtrips and vacations.
Now, that this journal is finished on this blog, I have uploaded all the best pictures to an onlin album.
Can be seen here All the pictures are in order except for the last 4 (differernt camera)