I love sweet drinks and, fortunately, Lisa is usually quite excited about them as well. It has become something of a routine for us to find our favorite drinks in each country and then partake in them endlessly. In the states, I usually accomplished this with unlimited coca cola during at least one meal a day. When I travel, it is rare for me to buy soda as I prefer it from a fountain, loaded with ice and free-refills, something you just don’t find often outside of North America.
Here is a recap of some of the better drinks I’ve run across. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of all of them, as I was usually too excited to just start drinking.
I needed a ride to the Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery for my meditation retreat. Just the day before, the woman who ran the guest house I was staying at, Boot*, had given me a motorbike tour of Mae Hong Son province. While I enjoyed the day, I knew I had been ripped off, but I had been too tired and unwilling to attempt to negotiate a better price when I arranged the trip.
So when she offered me a ride to the monastery, I was determined not to let her get the best of me again. I bargained harder than I ever have before, and I finally got her down to 450 baht ($14) from 900 baht ($28). I absolutely hate haggling, but I was still proud of my “achievement” (I was still probably paying too much).
We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand with about five days to spare before the ultimate frisbee hat tournament. So we headed further Northwest to Pai, a small town along the Mae Hong Son loop that is known for it’s hippy atmosphere. I had read about a two-day rafting trip, and after many helpful emails back and forth with with Guy, the French man who has been running Thai Adventure Rafting for over 20 years, I decided to sign up. It’s currently the dry season in Thailand and there was only about one week left in the rafting season. The water levels would be low, but it sounded like a fun way to get to Mae Hong Son where Lisa was going to be hanging out for a couple days.
This rafting trip seems much more exciting when set to an absurd soundtrack!
I went off by myself to a meditation retreat at a forest monastery. Why? The easy answer is faith, instinct, and serendipity. The long story requires a bit more explanation. I’ll start with this quote:
“Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand… the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.” ~ Alan Lightman
Note: Writing this post was a struggle. I wanted to avoid discussing theology because my spiritual journey is highly personal and private. I was also afraid that putting my thoughts out there would cause others to label me as some sort of New Age-y, hippy-dippy kook, and that I would lose credibility. But it was ultimately impossible to write anything without touching on some existential thoughts. So I have found a middle ground where I have glossed over a lot of my own beliefs and generalized a lot of others, and I apologize if they are unclear or confusing. They are here to form a framework* for the larger discussion.
Shortly after I wrote the last post, I made the sudden decision to go off on my own to a Buddhist forest monastery near Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand. I’m still processing my feelings on the week I spent there, but I’m short on time and wanted to get a post up since there hasn’t been one in a bit, and it’d be too long to explain the logistics as well as my emotions in a single post. I’ll organize my thoughts soon, but this post is about the basic routine and structure of my week at Pa Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery.
the milky way! i’ve been trying for this shot for months
Uh, it’s January 30th? 2014?!?!?! It feels like it was just the New Year a couple days ago! Maybe that’s because it’s the Lunar New Year tomorrow. Or maybe it’s because I’ve completely lost all sense of time and reality.
It has been a crazy month. We entered Thailand on December 30th, Malaysia on January 6th, spent two days in Singapore (January 19th and 20th), and then spent one day in all three of those countries, reversing our route. We are now back in Thailand. For a large portion of that time, we were joined by Cara, a friend we’d made a few weeks before in Cat Ba island. But she eventually got tired of our snarkiness…
and went back home to the States, and we’re back down to two. Here’s a more in-depth summary of the last month.
A huge part of why our journey thus far has been so amazing is the kindness and hospitality that we’ve been shown by others. Whether it be by chance, old friendships, ultimate, or couchsurfing, our trip has been blessed by other people who have been our travel angels.
Perhaps the greatest traveling lesson I’ve learned thus far is how helpful it is to explore a new place with a local. They can help you avoid getting ripped off, find all the best food spots, and give recommendations on all sorts of things from how to get around, sights to see or avoid, and what the craziest local dish to try is. They’re also useful for learning about a place’s culture and understanding what life is like for them. And, greatest of all, having a friend in a new place makes traveling so much better.
Matt and I have made it two months on the road! It feels both like an eternity and the blink of an eye since we were back in Denver. Our trip hasn’t turned out as I had anticipated, but all in positive ways. I didn’t have any specific expectations for this adventure, just some vague goals about self-growth. I thought we’d see some cool stuff, eat some good food, and meet a few people. In all those ways and more, these last 60 days have far exceeded what I had thought possible. We’ve had so many amazing and incredible experiences that it doesn’t seem possible that we have only been at this for two months.
We spent a month in Vietnam and generally loved it. Despite the ornery locals, the place grew on us, and I was surprisingly sad to leave it. But we arrived in Thailand early this morning, and there are already a number of categories in which it beats Vietnam.
1. Cleanliness. There are TRASH CANS here!!!! In Vietnam, they were only in the bathrooms for you to throw the toilet paper. Here, they are in the bathrooms and also everywhere else. So instead of throwing trash out the window of the bus, people will hold on to it and use a trash can at the rest stops. As a result, there isn’t as much litter everywhere.