And I’m Back

Traveled halfway around the world again this week to bring myself back to the USA. But lets go back to the beginning of the week.

Sunday was another delightful, relaxing day in Chiang Mai. Mostly spent getting food that might not be available at later points in time to me. Fresh fruit from the market in the morning with some really amazing fresh fried bananas. Hot, crunchy, juicy, and sweet. Sooo good. And in the evening there was a trip to the night market, of course. I got fried grasshoppers and a foot massage. The grasshoppers were really salty and crunchy and the foot massage was awesome.

Monday took me up to Pai, a smaller town in the mountains with hot springs, waterfalls, elephant meeting areas, and a surprisingly large number of tattoo shops. Its popular among tourists, especially western tourists. Compared to Chiang Mai, which felt like it had a lot more eastern tourists, in addition to fair numbers of western tourists. Just a noticeably large number of white people walking around in Pai.

To get to Pai, most people take a 14 passenger van from Chiang Mai or other nearby town up windy mountain roads, driving faster than most people would drive up windy mountain roads in a 14 passenger van in the west. There is a lot of line crossing. Unfortunately, that means some people don’t really handle the ride too well. Amazingly, the smell of vomit didn’t really spread through the van and my stomach survived without trouble. There is a stop half way up at place that sells some food and has bathrooms (its a three hour drive), but not too many people go for the food options…

Once in Pai, I had to try to find a place to stay. Through social media, I had heard about the Pai Circus School and Hostel and  really wanted to check that out. Unlike a number of other hostels, hotels, and resorts, the circus school does not advertise, show up on tourist maps, or even really post signs to help you find them, which did make it a challenge. So, I walked around the walking street area to both orient myself and to try to find the school without a lot of luck. Eventually, I stopped for a fruit shake and wifi so I could use my phone to find it successfully. With it in my sights, I walked over and got myself a bed in a dorm. They’re located a little outside of the main town area, across the river, and have a pool, a restaurant, a bar, circus toys, and music. And a lot of probably 20-something party-seeking hostel goers. It was very different from most other places I’ve been on this trip. It was cool! Great to have a pool to swim in, people juggling and hooping and fire spinning and more. Managed to convince some people to acro with me and otherwise just played with my hand balance stuff. Head back to the walking street for dinner with positive results. Yum. They’ve got some great options.

On Tuesday, I swung into town to get breakfast (wok omelet is always amazing), walk around to see what else is going on around town. I tried, without luck, to find a park, but did see a building for sale and was tempted, but resisted. Thought about doing a cooking class, but it was going to be just me and cost a bit, so I didn’t. Additionally, I wanted to find a waterfall and thought I wouldn’t have time if I went to a cooking class. So, I walked back to the hostel to get more water and set off to find a waterfall. Google told me there was one about two kilometers from the hostel! How exciting! Well, I walked over there and it turned out that the mark was just the trail head and the waterfall itself was another four kilometers up the river/creek. “Cool!” I thought, “That’s just an hour walk or so. No problem.” Well, you know how we usually mark distances by how far you have to travel as someone who is walking? Apparently, that is not the case in Thailand. This I learned two hours later when I found a sign that said the waterfall was still another hour’s walk away. They must mark the straight line distance instead. Luckily, when I got to that sign, two people arrived from the other direction and told me that the waterfall was only a half an hour walk. From the sign, one did have to go up the side of the valley to get around a particularly tricky section of the creek. The valley wall was very steep. Finally, I made it to the waterfall and was a little underwhelmed… So it goes. It was a fine waterfall, but not grand, and the repeated confusion about how far away it was only added to disappointment. So it goes. I was glad I took the afternoon to get back into nature a bit. On the hike along the river, I saw a ton of beautiful bugs, some river crabs, a single astoundingly large fish for the size of the creek (only half of it fit in a time going through the rapids), and a lot birds including a hawk and what I’m pretty sure was a racket-tailed drogo (very distinctive tail feathers – look it up). Then, I walked back and fortunately found some more direct routes along the way, cutting about half an hour off of the walk. Spent a little time at the hostel, played with my hand balance game and helped another guy staying there give some inversions a try. Ended the night back on the walking street for dinner and enjoyed more great food!

Wednesday morning I got myself back down to Chiang Mai by minivan because it was time for my trip to end! Back in the old town I got my last fruit shake from the awesome fruit shake lady, a curry, and some more delicious fried bananas (the bananas are just so much better over there!). I got all of my things packed up and made my way to the airport for about 36 hours of travel back to the states. A little time in the Chiang Mai airport, then I slept very well on the plane to Bangkok. I had about five hours there where I did a little yoga, walked around looking at nothing, and just waited. So much waiting. From Bangkok to Abu Dhabi took about seven hours and the movie watching began. A few hours in Abu Dhabi was mostly taken up by getting from the airplane, through security part one, then finding my way to the right gate and going through the USA pre-clearance, so that I would not have to go through customs when I got back to the states – time saving! A little chilling at the gate and finally the long flight began. 13.5 hours through the day, crossing a lot of time zones. to eventually arrive in DC Thursday evening where my parents met me. Movie thoughts from the flights… Deadpool was great, Zoolander 2 is at least as stupid as you think it will be, but still plenty entertaining, and that’s all that really sticks with me. A delicious dinner with a great cheese plate in DC and I spent two nights there for a job interview and some social fun on Friday. Saturday morning brought me back to Baltimore and now I’ve got to figure out health insurance, moving possessions around, and more planning for my road trip in addition to seeing people.

Happy Mother’s Day to mine and all of the mothers out there! You keep us whole.

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