Tagged: temple

Miri, Sarawak, Borneo

 

Miri we stayed at Dillenia Guesthouse, which is located downtown. Miri is the destination for Brunei locals to come on the weekend to party. The city is pretty small but there are plenty or bars and restaurants to keep entertained. It’s relatively clean (except near the water) and the locals are friendly. 

 

Vermont and I checked into our dorm then headed out for a walk. We went down towards the water, which we thought was going to be a beach, and it ended up being a dock covered in garbage. There are a few seafood restaurants on the waterfront and a massive construction site. We had wonton soup and much needed iced coffee at one of the restaurants, then kept walking around. On our way home we stopped at the spa below us and got a massage. It costs $9 for an hour, which is expensive for Asia, but it’s the cheapest I’ve seen in Malaysia.

A friend from our hostel in Seminyak arrived and we’re now officially three people traveling together. He’s British but works in Gibraltar and lives across the border in Spain. 
The three of us went out and had dinner at local street restaurant. The restaurant didn’t serve alcohol so we grabbed beers across the street. We then walked across the street to a massive bar complex and started at the first bar on one end, which also was the only bar that had people. It was a Monday night and everywhere was dead.
After there we headed towards the water to Hangover bar. We stayed here for the night playing pool and darts. I loved the darts and I wasn’t bad.
The next day we slept in late because we were all exhausted from a lack of sleep the night before. When we did get up we went for lunch and had chicken roti’s. We then grabbed a cab to take us to the main temple in Miri.  

San Ching Tian temple is the largest Chinese Taoist temple in all of South East Asia. The temple has an archway, a courtyard, the main structure and smaller gazebo’s around. Inside the temple are three buddha’s and cushions to kneel on for prayer. There are floral candles available for purchase and some were lit already. The temple is incredibly colorful (bright rainbow colors) with intricate detail and carvings. 

  

  

  

 Down the road a new Taoist temple is currently being finished. This temple is also colorful with two large dragons  boarding the entrance. There’s a koi fish pond and large red wooden doors to enter the actual temple. The temple is closed but we were able to see inside by the side windows.  

     After the temple we came back downtown and checked out Imperial Mall across the street from us. I was hoping it would have some of the cheap Malaysia stores I found in west Malaysia, but it was filled with regular western stores.

At 9ish we went for a late dinner on the waterfront at Yi Hah Hai Seafood. The restaurant had fish tanks and Gibraltar and I picked out what we wanted to eat. We chose shrimp, calamari and oysters. We were served butter shrimp, steamed oysters with garlic and fried calamari. We also got sautéed vegetables. The shrimp was absolutely delicious.  


 

 In the morning we took a public bus to the long distance bus terminal and boarded a bus towards Sibu for Lambir Hills National Park. It was a 30min ride, so an hour trip total to get there. Lambir Hills, which is a rainforest, has multiple hiking trails and waterfalls throughout. 

We first walked from the park entrance to Pantu Waterfall which was almost 2km. The waterfall wasn’t that big but the freshwater pool was Cleese turquoise and the mountain sides were completely covered in moss which gave made the scene fantasy-like. We all swam here and the water was cold and refreshing. [first image] 

We then walked backwards .34km and to Pantu Mountain (1.4km.) It was a gruesome hike up to the top with steep climbs. It started to rain on our way up which made it slippery but felt amazing in the over-heated forestry. The view was foggy when we got there but it cleared over the next ten minutes.   

 

The trek down wasn’t as long or slippery as expected. We walked the 1.4km back then 2.2km to headquarters. 


 

Along the way we stopped at Nibong Waterfall, which we couldn’t reach because it was through a pool. Then we passed Latak Waterfall, which we had to cross over a bridge to reach. There was a beach and a massive freshwater pool below the fall. I didn’t swim here because I was still wet from the rain.  

We hitchhiked for a private bus back to the main bus station, then headed to the public bus stop. While we were waiting a man pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride to town for 2rm each, only .50 more than the bus. We said yes and crammed in. I told him the street we were staying on and he said he knew it but once in town he drove far in the opposite direction. He then stopped to let two other people out and told us it’s 3rm each and to get out. After refusing to exit and yelling about money we finally got him to turn around. He had absolutely no idea what we were saying and I had to guide him all the way there- keep in mind he’s a private driver and it’s a tiny city. We had him drop us off a block away and I gave him 6rm (for the 3 of us) quickly and jumped out. I’m completely sick of locals trying to trick me, and this one was definitely trying to take advantage of us.

For dinner we went to The Workshop Grill for pork burgers. This trendy hole in the wall restaurant is funny because it’s a Muslim country and most restaurants have window signs saying they don’t serve pork. This place only serves pork. We sat at a table outside and I had the classic burger, which was a grilled fillet of pork covered in onion chutney. I added some chili and it was delicious.
 
After dinner we ran some errands (aka stocked up on alcohol for Brunei) and went home to chill out. It had been a long day and we had another early morning to look forward to. At 8:30 we got picked up by a mini-shuttle and rode 4 hours to Brunei. 

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

 I got off the shuttle bus in Ubud and decided to walk the 35 minutes to my hostel. The town is lovely but reminds me of the Hamptons (in a tropical setting) and not Asia. The narrow street Hanonan (one of the main streets) has hippie chic clothing and jewelry stores, spas, vegetarian restaurants and coffee shops, wooden decor and jewelry shops, and yoga and tourist shops. The street was full of white Westerners and the only locals work at the shops, or harass tourists on the street about taxi’s and hotels.

I turned the corner onto Jl. Raya Ubud, the Main Street in Ubud, and was shocked to see a Dairy Queen, Starbucks, Polo Store, etc, intertwined into the locals stores. Ubud is very much a western paradise and not Asian at all. Nevertheless it is nice and has incredible food, and yoga places/ spas galore. 
I stayed at In Da Lodge hostel which is just off the main road at the far end. The hostel is also hippie chic with brick walls, gray shutters and copper metal accents. There’s a bar/restaurant lounge area and a pool area with bean bag chairs to lounge. I stayed there with my two New Zealand friends that I met in Gili.
After checking in I headed back to town to Dewa Warung, a local restaurant written about in Lonely Planet but was also recommended to me. The local restaurant has sturdy long wooden communal tables and looks much nicer than local places I am used to. Everything in Ubud is nicer for westerners. I had my first watermelon juice in a long time, along with tofu in tomato sauce.  

 On my way back I stopped for a wax and a foot massage. The woman opened a tall foil sheet next to one of the beds to curtain me from the street window. She then heated the wax on the stove and applied the wax with a spatula. As for the massage I slept through the whole thing.

We went to go to the famous Kecak Ramayana and Fire Dance show that night. The performance is 100+ men choir singing without instrumental accompaniment. There’s a story line about a monkey army going into battle, and someone dies, but even with the scene description we had no idea what was going on. The choir chanted the same tone over and over and then there were the actors- a few men monkeys and a few traditionally dressed girls. At the end of the play there was the fire scene- a man/horse kicked around lite embers for a good ten minutes while the men chanted. The horse has something to do with trance.

 The next morning the NZ girls and I went to Dewa for lunch, then walked through the market to shop. I had wanted to buy a sarong but they were all cheap feeling and had print on only one side. I ended up being one thin cover-up dress but nothing else. All the merchants were incredible aggressive and grabby- I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Then we went to Monkey Forest, a sanctuary in the town. The forest is pretty small but pretty. There are loose monkeys everywhere. We saw a mom and dad money sleeping holding their child. We also saw a newborn which had patchy hair.  

 Walking home along Monkey forest street we stopped at L.O.L. for happy hour, 2 for 1 mojitos. I tried the watermelon and the mango and both were delicious.   For dinner we went to Rouge Sushi which was not what I expect from a sushi restaurant. The interior looked like a club lounge, then there was a live jazz band, and they serve Japanese food but no saki. But the sushi was quality and the music was good. I had a super deluxe sashimi.

After we went to CP Lounge. We did a rainbow shot round, played pool and smoked chocolate shisha.   

In the morning I hired a motorbike to take me to some temples. After negotiating with three drivers I finally got one for a decent price- more than I wanted to pay but not outrageous. The driver had a million excuses for needing more money: he gets tired driving, it’s so far, he gets hot, etc. I replied that if he gets tired driving three hours then he shouldn’t be a taxi driver.
First we drove almost two hours north to Pura Besakih, the mother temple. It’s considered the number one temple in Bali. The temple is about 600m up hill from the parking lot. I was harassed at the bottom to get a guide,which I refused (I already bought an entrance ticket.) On my walk up a local stopped and offered me and ride saying he was on his way up. At the top he said he would be my guide and when I told him no he started yelling at me to give him money for the ride. I lost my temper and yelled back. I always forget that locals in tourist areas are never being genuinely nice, they always want money.  

 The temple is on the side of Mount Agung and has a nice view of the surrounding mountains. The temples are wooden and stone and the roofs have multiple tiers. I was told that without a guide I wouldn’t be able to enter the temple; however, I could see inside from the outside so it was not a problem.  

      The next temple we went to was Tirta Empul, the Holy Water Temple. I ended up never paying for a ticket because I couldn’t find the booth. The temple was a lot smaller than I expected. The main attraction is the Holy Spring, which is holy water and used for purification. Locals bathe in the pool, as do some tourists. I wish I knew about the bathing before as I would have worn a bathing suit, or brought a change of clothes.        
 

After that temple we drove back to Ubud through the Ubud Rice Terraces. I did a very late lunch at Warung Biah Biah. I got traditional Indonesian small plates- one coconut chicken and one water spinach. Both were cold and not that great. The restaurant was crowded though so it surprised me that the food was bad. After I stopped into Tukies Coconut Cafe for a fresh coconut.

Later I went to Borneo 8 for dinner with some new people from my hostel. I had sautéed water spinach with broccoli. The portions were small and the shrimp was almost non-existent, and it wasn’t cheap compared to the other local place I’ve found and loved. Then later we went back to CP Lounge.
The next day I went back to Dewa for a third time for lunch. I had a nice chat with the couple sitting at my table, a young Argentina guy and his husband from New Zealand. After lunch I had the worst massage of my life. The lady obviously had no training and just rubbed different parts of my body for two minutes at a time. After the dreadful expletive I walked around for a few hours. 

      

  had been planning to gift shop when I set out for the day; however, the real stores are expensive and not unique, and the market is a nightmare. I ended up just buying the hand carved buffalo skull I had wanted for myself, which I’m having shipped home.  

 The next day was one of the NZ girls bday’s. We started the day buy having a local lunch at Ayu Warung where I had the tofu curry. We then went to Lily Spa for massages. I had a Balinese massage and shared a bungalow with a male Canadian friend of ours. They definitely thought we were a couple. After the massage I had a Balinese coffee shot at Atman Cafe. I was served a small plate with a shot of coffee, a glass of ice, a shot of simple syrup that tasted like dulce, and a teaspoon with a bit of sea salt. I mixed all the ingredients in the cup and finished by drinking the dulce straight. It was delicious.  

 At 9pm a group of us went to dinner at Taco Casa, a Mexican restaurant everyone raves about. I had the shrimp fajitas and a carafe of sangria. The food was by no means authentic but fresh and delicious, although the shrimps weren’t jumbo and they were overcooked. After dinner we all headed to CP lounge for a night of stage dancing. It was my third time there and the first night it was packed.

The next morning we checked out. I went for a last lunch at Dewa and got the avocado salad and my tofu dish for the last time. I then went to pay for my carved horse skull (my decor treat for myself) and had it shipped home. We spent the rest of the early afternoon by the pool before taking a taxi to Seminyak. 

  

Mandalay, Myanmar

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We arrived in Mandalay and went straight to our local’s cousins restaurant for lunch. Italy and I ate fried chicken with a bunch of little side dishes. We then went to our accommodation to change for the night.

I stayed at Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse which I saw on many blogs. The hostel was amazing. Mama started the hostel out of her home ten years ago to learn English. The girls that work there come from families that couldn’t afford them so Mama took them in. A few years back the government found out about Mama’s home hostel, which was apparently illegal, so she bought another building around the corner and expanded. The hostel is now the place to be for backpackers. The breakfasts are huge (eggs, toast, a hot side dish, fruit plate, coffee, tea, juice) and she’ll feed you until your stuffed. You get complimentary water bottles everyday and free refills. Free packaged snacks when you buy beer and every night there’s free peanuts and watermelon to snack on. She treats you like family, the way your grandmother would. Every single night she’s overbooked and if anyone shows up and there’s no space she’ll let you sleep on her floor. The place really feels like a home in the best way.

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After setting in our local picked us up with his cousin and we drove to Mahamuni Pagoda to see the large golden sitting Buddha. Like most temples women are not allowed in the front near the Buddha so I stood back and observed all the praying women while the men went up.

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We then drove to U Bein Wooden Bridge. It’s made from timber and is the longest wooden bridge in the world. Our local and his cousin sat behind while Italy and I walked the bridge. If you walked regularly it would probably take about 20 minutes to get from one end to the other, but we stopped continuously along the way to watch the fisherman. There were local fisherman fully dressed (some with helmets) standing in the middle of the lake with fishing rods not making a single move. The better fisherman had a string of alive fish attached next to them. Apparently they stand there from sunrise to sunset daily.

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After our stroll we headed back to the boys. I got a coconut and tried the dried mutton that was already on the table. When our local paid the restaurant didn’t have enough change so they offered him a cigarette instead.

After the bridge we went to a liquor store and the local bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum, which apparently was released in 2015. We then drove to Mandalay White House Hotel for a “pool party.” A DJ party next to a pool. There were two other older westerners there who were guests of the hotel but Italy and I were definitely the ones the locals were looking at. We went through a few bottles of Johnnie Walker that night.

The next morning Italy left for Bangkok and our local picked me up at noon for a day outside the city with his cousin and dj friend tagging along. We drove to a local restaurant outside of the city. The restaurant is known for serving different types of meats and that day they had mountain goat, rabbit, hog, mountain cat, deer, and snake. We got dried goat, rabbit, hog and fried eel. We also got Myanmar beer’s of course.

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After lunch we drove on winding mountain roads to Pyin Oo Lwin city. We went to the small waterfall, which was more like a multi-level babbling brook. However there was a old wooden bridge there that was fun to run across.

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We then went to the national park, to the botanical gardens. We walked around a massive landscaped park area that had a pond. There were musicians playing on one side and local tourists lounging around. We went to a coffee shop inside the park and I had a cappuccino which almost tasted legit- too much milk and cold.

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Later that night I went to see the Moustache Brothers with a guy from my hostel. The brothers became famous in the 90s as comedians who repeatedly made fun of the Myanmar government which led them to prison more than once. The main brother passed away last year but the second brother still runs the show from their house downtown. He’s the MC, his cousin (the third “brother”) is a clown, and his wife and sisters are traditional dancers. The show itself wasn’t that amazing but the brothers personality shines. It was great seeing locals go against the government and risk their lives to do so.

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Fyi. The locals here love Obama. He’s visited twice since being in office and whenever someone finds out I’m from America they just scream Obama in my face in a jolly way.

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The next day I bicycled to Mandalay Hill with a guy from southern France. We drove throughout all the temples near the hill (didn’t actually go inside any) then parked our bikes and made the long walking journey up. The walkway stairs had multiple levels of temples. Every time we thought we were at the top we weren’t. When we did eventually reach the top we thought the view was terrible. All I could see was pollution in the air. I decided to take my photographs halfway down when I could actually see what was in the city.

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We then biked to Amaravarti Spa to get massages. I got a Thai massage which was incredible. Along the way we saw a group of about ten cows walking in the middle of the Main Street. They were completely on their own and stopped at a local deli to try and break open the pastry wrappers sitting in the front. It was absolutely hilarious. We had to stop just to laugh as the store women came running and screaming down to the street.

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The next day I just chilled around at the hostel with a few other people who were also leaving later that night. We drank some beers and feasted of free peanuts and watermelon.

I splurged on the VIP bus to Yangon. The bus had reclining seats and mini-tv’s like an airplane; however, the movies were all bootleg AVI films most of them completely un-watchable. When the bus started the stewardess handed out orange soda and pastries then sang a song in a soothing voice.

I got to Yangon at 6am and headed straight for the airport. The cabbie took a short cut and drove through Okkalarpa village on the way which was especially rural and cute. I left the airport terminal since I couldn’t check in for another 10 hours and headed across the street to Food Center and camped out there for a couple of hours, then I went to the airport hotel to see if they rented rooms hourly. The receptionist was incredibly rude to me and tried to charge me $50 for 5 hours, which is a rip off and I did not do. I later asked if I could use the wifi and she said $5 for an hour, which is also insane. I didn’t pay for anything but chose to camp out in that lobby versus the airport for a few hours. Later I caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur at 7pm that landed at 11pm. I was planning to sleep in KL’s airport in terminal 2 but I was forced through immigration and couldn’t get back in. I ended up renting a Capsule bed in the airport for $30 for 12 hours. It was expensive but I just had to. And the hotel was actually really cool. Storage containers are transformed into double decker capsule beds, and bathrooms are also in containers. The color scheme was turquoise, yellow, black and teak, which made the whole thing look modern and relaxing.

I woke up and caught a flight to Penang at 1:30pm the next day.

Bagan, Myanmar

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I arrived at Bagan around 2am. This time I pre-searched hostels and their prices, although I was still unable to make a reservation in advance. I ended up staying at Paan Cherry in Nyaung-U, sharing a double room with an Australian freelance writer I met on the bus. Our room was just two twin metal beds again but the beds were comfortable and it only cost $14 between two of us.

I woke up the next morning and rented a bicycle from the hostel. Worst mistake. I didn’t notice until I pulled out into the road that the bicycle was designed for small Asians. My knees and back were in terrible pain the entire time I rode it- it felt like a children’s bike. Nonetheless I rented it and therefore I rode it.

In Bagan pagodas are scattered throughout the city, or rather the city is now scattered throughout the old pagodas. The city consists of Nyaung-U, Old Bagan in the middle, and New Bagan. Nyaung-U is cheaper accommodation, Old Bagan is the heart of the pagodas, and New Bagan is more expensive hotels and resorts.

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I biked through Old Bagan and into New Bagan to have lunch at Be Kind The Animals The Moon. A bizarre name but recommended by a friend and written up about. I however was not impressed. I ordered the Garden Veg curry and not only was the portion almost non-existent but the curry had absolutely not flavor. The restaurant was Western in a nice garden in the middle of dusty brown Bagan so I knew it would be overpriced, but I at least expected it to be good.

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For sunset I walked to Shwezigon Paya, the big temple near my hostel. I spent an hour wandering the temple then walked down to the river for the sunset. There were locals playing in the water and fishermen floating about. I walked closer towards the sun and stopped where a bunch of young boys were playing soccer. Their mom was preparing dinner at their house on top of the hill. The sunset was spectacular. The sun was a solid ball of deep orange and the colors reflected evenly onto the river below. In the distance there were mountains on the right and pagodas on the left. A perfect sunset before spending the whole next day looking at the pagodas throughout the city.

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I went to dinner at the local spot next door to my motel. Perfect Cafe with the big Jewish star in front. The menu was Chinese and cheap, which was perfect. I ordered a noodle soup and then saw that they had dim sum (can you believe it?) so I ordered steamed shrimp dumplings as well. They weren’t as good as home but I can’t be choosy here when finding dumplings.

The next day I hired an ebike and set out for a day of pagodas. I got to Hti-lo-min-lo and a guard asked me to show my ticket. I didn’t have it on me and freaked out so the guy let me in anyway. Afterwards I scooted back home and ripped apart my room and discovered I lost the ticket already. I wasn’t about to buy another $20 entrance ticket so I set out for a second time this time planning to cry my way through all the entrances. Right away on the road I ran into a guy I met on the bus to Bagan, he’s Italian now living in Spain. We ended up spending the whole day together. First we went to Gaw-daw-palin, then
Bu Paya on the water, then Manuha with the big Buddha and largest sleeping Buddha, then Shin-bin-tha-hylaung with the oldest sleeping Buddha in Bagan (and second largest sleeping one at 18m.) Finally before lunch we went to Dhamma-yan-gyi Pahto, the biggest and oldest temple in Bagan. The temple was dark inside, the ceilings filled with bats.

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We then headed to a local restaurant. Before ordering we went out back to the toilet, which ended up being a raised shack with a floor hole toilet. The bathroom even had a security guard who kept it locked when not in use. On my short walk back a local girl painted my face with the natural bark sunscreen that all the locals wear.

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For lunch we ordered as the locals did and we each ended up with a bunch of little dishes (chicken curry, rice, lentils, eggplant, soup) for $2. We also got coconuts which they later cut up for us and we ended up snacking on for the next day. After eating we moved to bamboo lounge chairs and rested up avoiding the afternoon heat. We watched them repeatedly make sugar cane juice, which Italy eventually ordered and it was surprisingly refreshing and not too sweet. We also observed a local tour group arrive in a 1960s retro bus.

After a three hour siesta (do as the Europeans do) we headed back to the pagoda’s. We went to Ananda, the only active pagoda. We then ebiked off road and checked out a few others before heading back to Shin-bin-tha-hylaung for sunset. It’s the most touristy temple for sunset because it’s the tallest, which made it worth it. We got their relatively early (45min to wait) and got great spots sitting on stones on the top level facing the sun. The sunset was incredible. Another massive orange ball in the sky, this time with a massive pagoda in the forefront.

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While we waited the 45min we started chatting to a local sitting next to us. He’s 25 years old from Yangon now living in Bagan and owns Hotel Blazing, a three star hotel in Nyaung-U. We hit it off and decided to go to dinner after. He picked us each up in his modern minivan and we ate BBQ at Shwe Yar Su Restaurant. We had grilled quail eggs, okra and pork, and of course Myanmar beer served with complimentary soup. After dinner we went back to his hotel to check it out and use the wifi.

The next day the local picked us up at 8am to take us to breakfast at his hotel, and then to drive us to Mandalay where he was also going. We took the new private highway road which apparently is less bumpy than the old one- it was practically one rough lane and I cannot imagine what the old road is like. We learned that the locals father is heavily involved in politics even though he’s a businessman, and his mother’s father was once mayor of Yangon. His family owns 5 companies in Myanmar including the hotel and the new private highway, and the local is planning to open at least one more establishment, a social hostel in Bagan.

The ride was three hours, two hours less than the bus.

Chiang Rai, Thailand

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I stayed at Fun-D guesthouse, which was recommended to me by my guesthouse worker in Pai. It’s the nicest place I’ve stayed so far. I’m staying in a 8-bed girls dorm. The rooms and are spacious, and the whole place is clean and modern. It’s a 5 minute walk from the night market and pretty much anywhere else I’d want to go. The hostel also has free high-speed computers and a common TV, first place I’ve had either of those things. And breakfast is included. I thought it was a bit pricey ($9 a day) but now I know why and it is definitely worth it for a few nights.

The first day I had lunch at Ti Amo Cafe on Jetyad road. It was the worst meal I’ve had since I started my trip. Definitely made me even more excited for the night market food later that night. The rest of the day I just relaxed at the hostel, mostly on the internet catching up on errands. I definitely wanted to take full advantage of the hostel amenities while I’m paying for them.

The night market was better than I expected. A huge area designated to food- stalls lined the 2 long sides and tables and chairs filled the interior. On one end was a stage that had performers non-stop- everything from lady boys doing cabaret to regular musicians to Thai female dancers. On the opposite end was the start of the shopping bazaar which continued for a while but wasn’t overwhelming. In the center of the shopping bazaar is another stage with performers. Christmas lights line the streets and for the most part everything is clean and well maintained.

I had a spicy hot pot soup with beef. Think fondue Thai style. I was served raw beef with a basket of cabbage, greens, rice noodles, mint and an egg. The hot pot comes (a clay pot over hot coal filled with broth) and first you crack the egg into the pot. Mix up the egg for about a minute and then add a bit of the meat. Let that sit for a few minutes then add the veggies and noodles, but in parts. The egg mixture will remain in the broth but the rest of the ingredients will last at least 4 rounds. Once a batch is cooked you add it to your little bowl and add mint and hot sauce, then cook again. The meal was delicious! Local Thai’s were indulging on hot pots all around me so I know I made the right decision. The majority of the other expats (and there aren’t many) were eating the fried foods and pad Thai.

After the bazaar I got a Thai massage, and it was the best one I’ve had so far. Then I just went home to watch TV. First time in a month and wanted to take full advantage of paying for the expensive guest house.

The next day I did a full-day all intensive sight-seeing tour. First stop was the White Temple. I had read online that the white represented the Buddha’s purity so I was completely shocked when I saw nothing but skeletons and death all around. The temple is spectacular made of only white materials including glass. There’s nothing in the backdrop so the temple looks surreal against the white clouds. The trees leading up to the temple have deformed eaten heads hanging from them. The facade of the temple is incredibly intricate but it’s the entrance that really stood out. Hundreds of hands are reaching from the ground upwards and lining the pathway are skeleton heads from both humans and animals. But because it’s white it’s less scary and sort of reminds me of A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Next we went to The Black House, which holds dark art. Also not what I expected as I was picturing there to be painted artwork inside. Instead there were alligator skins and skeletons, massive chairs (throne like) with horns, and long wooden tables. Seemed like it was once used for meetings but I doubt that. The grounds to the house are quite large and there are other smaller houses and building around with similar art. In the middle are 3 cages- one with an owl, one with 2 massive snakes, and one with some birds.

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Next we went to Long Neck Karen, the village of long neck women. The women have coils around there neck which doesn’t actually lengthen their neck but rather pushes down their clavicle bone to make the neck appear longer. They do this for looks, to appear more beautiful. They start to get the coils around age 5 and randomly get new ones as they get older. The coils are incredibly heavy (I tried one on) and the women never remove them, unless they must for a medical exam. A few modern girls are starting to take theirs off because they want to attend university and because they want to end the culture of doing it in general.

I didn’t want to see the village at all but since it was part of the tour I did. The whole thing was sad. We saw two different tribes in the same area. The area of the villages we saw was just for tourists, a shopping area. We are forced to walk along a pathway of non-stop stands all selling the exact same thing- scarves, metal bracelets and bells. Each stand has a local woman in traditional garb. As we walked into the first village all the women began placing their traditional hats on (beaded with bells.) These women did not have long necks. They were forced to perform for us in the middle of their square once all the tourists arrived. The woman banged bamboo pipes on the ground while frowning, and an old man played a flute type instrument and hoped from foot to foot. The second it was over they all left with their heads down.

We then continued the path and ended up in Long Neck village. Again just women in their stands in traditional garb, but these women had long necks. They were wearing bright colored leg warmers, shorts, shirts, shoes and head pieces. They too looked sad. I tried to take more candid photos of them but they’re literally there to be taken photos of. Tourism is how they make money. I could see the bruises from the coils on some women- blackness below the neck. I also saw a group of young kids playing, with the younger girls having their first few coils.
I didn’t stay long. I waited for the group outside.

Then we went to Monkey Cave, which was definitely the highlight of my trip. The cave itself isn’t much of a cave, or at least we can’t get in. But all over the ground next to the entrance of the cave are monkeys crawling around. There were a few mama’s and babies. One tiny one wrapped around his moms stomach, and a few older ones following their moms around. One mom was picking something out of her baby’s hair and he was trying to escape but couldn’t. Then there was a monkey with huge balls and another with huge breasts, those two liked to just sit. But the little humans are aggressive. They are running around grabbing purses, skirts, and one tried to grab my camera right out of my hand. I bought a bowl of peanuts to feed them and the second I walked over to buy the peanuts about 10 monkeys followed me. They were all reaching for me and fighting each other to be fed. One of the larger monkeys actually came over and smacked the bowl right out of my hands, the bastard. But nonetheless the monkeys were amazing and adorable. I probably fed all of them. I tried to get a little one to jump on my should but the big guys scared him away.

Under the Monkey Cave is Fish Cave, a body of water under the cave full of large fish. The type you see in tropical resort ponds but much larger.

Last we went to the Golden Triangle. This is where the Mekong River and Ruak River meet, a center point for Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. We drove up a cliff to be able to see the view, and to see the old decaying temple that resides there.

The Opium fields, and heroin fields, are in this area. I didn’t pay for the Opium museum but saw most of it when they let me go to the bathroom inside. An old sad museum. I wanted to see the real fields but that’s not possibly. Some people say they no longer exist but that’s not true, they’re just too many cops regulating the area that it’s not safe to go nearby. Too bad.

Back to the night bazaar. Mushroom spicy hot pot this time. There was a drunk homeless Thai man sitting next to me. He fell backwards in his seat once, begged another Thai guy for money, and raided a vacated table for leftover beer. A security guard came over and dragged him out of the area, whipping him on the neck while walking. Seemed brutal but I don’t actually think it was.

It’s been a good month Thailand, now off to Laos.

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