Thailand, I Love Your Beauty

Thailand, I Love Your Beauty

This title sounds like a bad pick up line, but it’s true – I unabashedly love Thailand. Where else in the world can you stay in a nice clean room with a bathtub in the center of the city, but on a quiet street for $8, have a lovely vegetarian Thai dinner in a restaurant for $1.85, then get an hour long massage for $4.80? It’s ridiculously good here in Chiang Mai.

Sometimes it’s the little artful ways things are presented. The beautiful textiles to tropical plants hanging, and tiny fish swimming in a bowl. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea:

Beautiful Thai silk

Flower arrangement in a bowl

This is a store in Chiang Mai

Then, there is simple and artful food presentation. The dishes pictured here cost between $0.60 – $1.25.

Fried tofu with corriander and spices in a completely biodegradable leaf bowl.

Vegetarian green curry with rice

Spring rolls being made

There are always the little elegant touches all around the city of Chiang Mai:

Elephant door knocker

Flower market

Golden wat and mountain view from a guesthouse in Chiang Mai old city

What makes Thailand such a special place is the people. Thai people are some of the warmest, gentlest people on the planet. Trying to speak a little Thai goes a long way. I am still a complete beginner, but I try to speak a little bit each day.

The little girl who was intrigued with me while I was eating breakfast.

The funny and friendly Jara, and Kapoon his dog, from Kavil Guesthouse. This is Kapoon doing the wai guesture (putting hands, or in this case paws, together in a prayer position when saying hello and thank you) Sawadee Khaa! Khap khun khaa! (Kapoon is a girl dog).

Then there is Yaya. She and I have had loads of fun together. She invited me to participate in this Buddhist celebration at Wat Sumpow and the lunch afterward.

Thailand is one of those places that surprises me everyday with just how warm and beautiful it is.

Suay maak!

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Border Crossing

Border Crossing

Crossing a border is always a somewhat nerve wracking experience, but you don’t normally do it to turn around and come back in to the country you just left 10 minutes later. That’s what I did today…

In Thailand, if you cross the border into another country, you can come right back in and get 15 days on your passport free of charge. It used to be 30 days until a few years ago.

Today, Oct 1, I got my coffee and left Chiang Rai in the morning for a bus bound to Chiang Khong. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the countryside of Chiang Rai province is. After about 21/2 hours of winding through rice fields, little towns, and mountains n the distance I arrived in Chiang Khong.

Chiang Khong is a border town in Northern Thailand on the Mekong River. Across the river is Laos. I made this border crossing into Laos in April of 2000. So, although things constantly change, I had a little idea of what to expect.

I was picked up on the back of the lovely Maeleewan’s motorbike to go to her guesthouse called Baanrimtaling. It is slightly out of town with a beautiful quiet view of the lazy river. She assured me that the whole crossing experience would just take 1/2 hour and that I had time for lunch first. I ate a delicious vegetarian green curry with Maeleewan, her American boyfriend, and a Peace Corps volunteer friend of theirs. Being stationed in Chiang Khong for the Peace Corps has to be pretty nice we agreed.

Maeleewan let me borrow her one of her bicycles to ride across town to the border crossing. I pedaled through the town as motorbikes and truck whizzed by. I arrived to the border control, got my Thai exit stamp and was off to the muddy riverside where the little boats make the river crossing for 40 baht (about $1.30)

Oddly, the first sign I saw today "Obama blended spirits"

On the bike ride I saw this extremely groovy picture of the King

Condoms for sale anyone?

I waited about 5 minutes for some other people to fill up the boats, then we made the 2 minute river crossing and I was in Laos. I have not been to Laos since 2000, and I know that it has gotten money from Japan, Korea, and China for development since then, but I imagine it is still much less developed than Thailand. This is slightly evident at the border.

Boats going to Laos

I was surprised that I needed to pay $36 for the 30 day visa to Laos even though I was only staying for all of 5 minutes. The Lao immigration officer, who was not too pleased with me for only being in his country for a Thai visa, explained that I pay for the visa even if I’m in the country for one minute. Live and learn.

the Thai/Lao border

Crossing back into Thailand I wanted to get a 90 day visa, I asked for this in my rudimentary Thai. The immigration official said no and that I got 15 days. I said, 90? and the guard joked with me, “These people get 15 days, but you, maybe 2 days.” I decided to take the 15 days and get out of there. I didn’t know you had to get that processed while out of the country. Another lesson learned. Amount of money it cost to cross back into Thailand with 15 more days on my passport? $0.00.

Laos

I was glad to be back in the land of smiles. I think I’ll stay a while…if they let me.