Month: February 2014

Koh Chang, Island Paradise

OK, we checked into a perfectly nice bungalow resort a short walk from Klong Prao beach. On the plus side, we got exactly what I expected: a clean, spacious, air-conditioned bungalow beside a pleasant pool, with an extremely friendly host and warm staff. I went for safe and predictable, though, because I have had some unpleasant surprises, both on this trip and others, and this part of my trip is supposed to be my proper vacation, from which I go home relaxed.

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In a future trip, if I return to Koh Chang, and to this beach specifically, I will look into KP huts or next door Tiger Huts. Although unsophisticated, their vibe and section of beach are awesome. We’re there now, or just beside, having rented two chairs from a surly Russian guy and set them up under some palm trees in the grass. It’s wonderful right here. This is our 3rd full day on the island.

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On the first day, we breakfasted then walked through the Blue Lagoon resort, with its bridges, to a shack restaurant on the beach with free loungers. The benefits there were padded lounge beds, available coconuts and watermelon juice all day long (or any other drinks), lunch when we wanted it, shade, toilets, and easy beach. The only downside was that the food was pretty mediocre. All in all, a winner. There are posher places all up & down the beach, but this one had huge lounge beds and cost us almost nothing for the entire day.

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The beach here has a strip of broken coral just before the water gets deep enough to swim. I cut up my feet and hands, which stings in the very salty water, so the next day I bought some diving shoes in Ban Bang Bao, where we departed and returned from our snorkeling trip.

At the end of the day, we cleaned up back in our bungalow then watched the sunset from the lounge chairs at the Tropicana resort.

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After dark, we walked a short distance to Ka Ti Culinary, a restaurant and cooking school that our host recommended. The food was excellent, but unfortunately our timing was bad and we caught the middle of the dinner rush. I watched everyone around us, including many who had arrived long afterwards, receive their food while we waited for our first course, soup, to arrive. I finally asked the waiter, who looked shocked, said he’d forgotten it, and that he’d go check. Consequently, all our food arrived simultaneously, long after we were too hungry to really appreciate it. Too bad, because it really was very good.

We went back to our resort, paid our balance, and signed up for a snorkeling trip the next day.

So, day 2 on the island (Wednesday) was spent cruising the islands and swimming and snorkeling. I don’t have an underwater camera, so no pictures from in the water, but it was like swimming in someone’s tropical fish tank. It was mostly small colorful fish, lots of them, and interesting anemones and corals. Beautiful. I might do this another day as well.

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When we returned to the resort later, we decided to eat on the stilted seating at the Blue Lagoon, which is also a cooking school. Matt may do a cooking course while I lounge on the beach, one of these days. The food was beautifully arranged and very tasty, and the service was friendly, atmosphere excellent. The panang curry at Ka Ti was better, though. 🙂

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This morning, day 3, Thursday, we are relaxing a bit further down the same beach, as described before. It’s very windy today, so I’m a little chilly in my bikini whenever the sun goes behind a cloud. I’m staying carefully in the shade of the palm trees, moving my chair as necessary. The water is choppy, and I’m very happy to have the snorkeling mask Nicola gave me, which makes it easier to swim through the waves. It’s warm and wonderful water. 🙂

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Near sunset, Matt went for a massage at the beachfront massage shack, and I watched the sun go down while reading.

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Beautiful.

When he got back, we packed up, retrieved our laundry, and went back to our bungalow. I showered then went for an after-sun aloe vera massage, which was lovely. Then we went for a delicious dinner & cocktails, yum!

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Bangkok then travel to Koh Chang

We knew we had overdone it a bit on Saturday, so we took things a little more slowly yesterday.

We enjoyed a dim sum brunch at our hotel in the late morning, which was delicious. I think I prefer getting to choose my own dishes, like at our regular Sunday dim sum place, Oriental City, in Amsterdam, though. The Shanghai Mansion has a better egg custard bun, I must admit. And like Oriental City, it was crowded on Sunday with Chinese families who were not guests of the hotel, always a good sign.

After brunching, we took a taxi to the Jim Thompson house. Jim Thompson was an American architect who built a gorgeous house using traditional Thai techniques and style, and who is largely responsible for the global trade in Thai silk. He disappeared mysteriously in the late 1960s.

This is the restaurant onsite. I took the picture only because my maiden name is Thompson, and it looked so pretty here.

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Although the place was lovely, and there are several possible things to see, I can’t say it would normally make a must-see list for me. Yet I overheard and read of several other people who think otherwise. For me, it was a low-key way to do spend a Sunday afternoon. For Matt it served in lieu of a museum that struck his fancy.

To get there, we had walked through part of one of the protest zones. To leave in the direction of our next destination, we had to walk through the center of it. I am struggling to reconcile the reports I’ve seen of violence and deaths with the pretty orderly speeches and demonstrations I observed there. I can only imagine that the violence erupts very suddenly, rather than slowly building. Anyway, there were roadblocks all around the site, so we were directed to walk up the center of the road as we left (that’s another couple, ahead of us).

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Our next stop was the Caturday Cafe, which seemed like a very kawaii concept. We were not only the only foreigners there, but older by approximately 20 years than anyone else. There were tons of gorgeous cats and giggly girls and boys playing with them.

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It was their 4th day opened, and they were a hit.

We’d been there about an hour when Pepijn appeared outside the window. We paid up and split.

I had my first alcohol in a month in a gay bar amidst many, a pitcher of Mai Tai. Way too sweet, but fun.

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When we finished the pitcher, Pepijn left us and we had a nice dinner then went back to the hotel.

This morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, which had excellent coffee, then checked out. We took a taxi to the Victory Monument, then 2 minibuses (vans seating 12-14 people) to the ferry for Koh Chang, then a shared pickup truck to the town where our bungalow resort is located, then walked a kilometer because the driver didn’t know where to take us. Total travel time: 7 hours.

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The owner here is Swedish and very friendly. Our bungalow is comfy and has cute towels.

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We checked in, cleaned up, and walked to the beach. We found a nice-looking restaurant and enjoyed great food and drinks with the sound of the waves in the background. I’m looking forward to seeing it by daylight tomorrow!

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Wat Po, Bangkok

05:00 comes way too early, especially after packing until well past midnight. My flight wasn’t until 07:00, but my hosts had arranged a 05:30 taxi for me, somewhat earlier than I had requested.

I got into the hotel, in Chinatown, around 10:00 or so. It’s really nice. It’s called the Shanghai Mansion. Here is the view of our room door:

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And the central area.

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Our bed is huge, larger than a king size.

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And I’ve already had a bath, too!

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It was a while before I cared to leave it, but eventually we went to do a little sightseeing. First, a canal ride:

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There are monitor lizards in the canals. They’re huge, about 1.5 meters. I saw one crawling up some rocks with a huge fish flopping around in its mouth. These ones were just sunbathing.

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I also liked picking up speed on the river.

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The boat dropped us off beside Wat Po. Wat Po has a famous massage school and also depictions of Sen lines and acupressure points, sculptures of Ruesri Datton poses, and a huge reclining Buddha.

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I love the toes.

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We wandered around for a little while after visiting the wat, but then I realized that I was suffering from heat stroke. We headed home, took a nap, then went for streetside dinner in Chinatown.

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Last Day in Chiang Mai

OK, I had a pamper day. I have been living in a budget guesthouse, wearing copious amounts of mosquito repellent and sunscreen, sitting frequently on the ground, and driving around in the dusty air. My skin felt caked in dust and chemicals, and I wanted to feel clean and reborn, also so as to look a little less like a hippy backpacker.

I woke up, rode somewhere for breakfast, then dropped my bike off early. They were surprised to see me, but I couldn’t get the things done that i wanted to with a motorcycle.

First stop was Lek Chaiya for a massage. Oh yeah, that old lady there rocks. She really worked on my hip/leg problem, and I really love the hot compresses to finish.

After that I went for a walk. I really wanted to buy a statue I’d seen in my first couple of days, but I also really wanted to check if I could find it in some shops I’d passed the day before. It was a nice wander, but in the end I went back to the first shop.

This is Seda. She will arrive to grace our roof terrace in a couple of months. The scale is not part of the statue.

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After that I found a waxing salon and dealt with the forest under my arms.

Then I wandered a bit more. I was contemplating finding a cafe to rest in when I passed a branch of Lila Spa, so I got a facial and a mani-pedi. As a professional in this industry, I found the facial nice although missing a couple of elements that make it more effective, and I could have done a better job painting my own nails, but whatever. It was about pampering and cleaning up, and that worked.

I was hungry when I left, but I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so I really wandered for quite a while. I ended up in the northeast corner of the old center, and I realized I was going to starve, so I stopped in a silly Tex-Mex and American place that had a band setting up. It was another cover band doing classic rock.

While sitting there I got into a conversation with an Irish guy who lives in Australia and was waiting for his Aussie girlfriend to come out of the salon across the street. He was entertaining, and so was she, and it would have been fun to chat a bit longer, but I had one moire plan before I was finished: a body scrub/mask/oil massage treatment. I got my legs waxed while I was at it, too.

By the time that was finished, it was after closing time, about 10:30, so I grabbed a tuktuk and headed home. Weirdest tuktuk driver ever, but that was also fun, actually.

I haven’t been able to get a tuktuk from one side of the old city to the other for less than 60 baht. Many of them ask me what I’ll pay, or say they want 100. I always counter with 50, but it always finishes at 60. Sometimes they say 60 from the outset. So, 60 it is. Works for me.

Anyway, I then went home and packed, browsed Facebook, read some online comics, and fell asleep. 5am comes early.

Wat Doi Suthep

Thursday.
I was thinking I’d been here before, but that they’d finished renovation and the bathrooms had been upgraded. But as I sat down in the shade to write about it, I realize that I’m wrong. The mountaintop wat that Matt and I had visited had a gigantic white Buddha in the middle, or something like that. Anyway, it was all white, not all gold. This is all gold, shining very brightly on this sunny day.

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On the way up. Why have a railing when you can have a dragon? 🙂 awesome!

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I love the bells.

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So, that little sign says don’t touch the bells in Chinese and English. I guess they figure Thais know better? Anyway, guess what all the tourists were doing? That’s right. Ringing all the bells.

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On the way back down, I can’t help by being entertained whenever I see monks doing perfectly mundane tasks. It’s not like the only thing they do is meditate. Monk with weed whacker:

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It’s the dry season, so there’s a haze over the city below. I could taste the air changing as I wound my way up the mountain on that little Kawasaki. What a relief. I’ve been wearing a dust mask while driving around all week. I don’t need it up here.

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Yes, I’m skipping class. I’ll be skipping tomorrow, as well. I decided this when my alarm went off this morning and I was already awake.

I had a very good day yesterday, but although I think the content of what Pichet is trying to teach, both in massage and philosophy, is relevant and good for me to learn, his methods of teaching are not for me. At least not right now. He keeps saying we should listen to our bodies, and mine is telling me to get the hell out of there.

Since beginning at his school, my body is exhibiting all the signs of stress that had completely disappeared in the time I’ve been here. My hip and leg are aching all night long, waking me up with pain, I’m emotionally very sensitive, and I’m losing my ability to let minor irritations wash over me. I do not want to see Matt for the first time in weeks in this state. I want to be the happy relaxed me that the first 2.5 weeks of this trip helped restore. So I’m taking these 2 days to relax and heal, starting with an escape to the mountain air. Riding a motorcycle always feels awesome.

I forgot to get gas before leaving town, so I won’t be cruising around indefinitely. That’s fine. I’m parked in the parking area below the temple and can easily spend several hours around here. Since I should be able to mostly coast back down, I’ll make it back OK. The early warning light hasn’t come on yet.

Later. Indeed, my early warning light came on as soon as I was aiming downhill. I knew it was probably the angle of the tank, but to be on the safe side, I put it in neutral and coasted the whole way down. This had the interesting effect of making me even more aware of other people’s comfort zones in driving. Every time there was a relatively straight or flat bit, I fell far behind the cars and bikes ahead of me, but since they braked hard at every curve or steep patch, I always caught up again. And no one was behind me the whole way down, so I guess I never was slow enough to be caught up to, either.
The air quality gets worse later in the day, so already I could taste the dust before leaving the parking lot. It worsened as I continued down the mountain. I asked a kid on a scooter where to find gas, and he pointed, but it was all the way back on the moat ring, so it’s lucky that I was right about the tank being at an angle. I was damn close to empty, anyway.

I rode out to Wararot Market but didn’t find anything I needed, including food. I’d tried to buy a bamboo sticky rice at the temple, but the old lady just ignored me. She ignored my money. She ignored my, “Kator ka” and my “sawadee ka.” So I gave up. I’m not that into sausage, except dry sausage, which I adore, and that was the only other thing up there.

So I drove to the other side of the river, and had a nice view, pleasant atmosphere, tasty watermelon juice, and mediocre softshell crab curry at the Good View cafe. My waitress was surprised when I asked for chilies. In my opinion, my taste for spicy is pretty medium, but they serve everything so mild here for foreigners, and seem so surprised every time i ask for chilies that I start thinking I’m really exceptional. It’s weird.

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Anyway, the next stop was the blind massage salon, for another 2 hour session. Banya decided to get my back under control this time. Holy moly! He also worked my bad leg a lot, which was great. I could tell it still needed more, though. I will go to Lek Chaiya again in the morning. I trust that little old lady there. She’s got me exactly.

First Time at Pichet’s? My advice.

I’ve been quiet for a couple of days. That’s because it’s been a very challenging week and I haven’t gotten my head around it well enough to describe it.

However, since when I worry about logistics, my anxiety about everything goes up, I’m going to describe the logistics in detail. I found only very sketchy details when I searched online, and that brings out the worst in me.

All of these were recommended, but here is my advice.

1. Calling in advance
I read that you have to handle this very delicately, citing your experience or lack thereof, and politely asking to join. Here’s what happened when I called.

People are around in the classroom from 08:30 until 09:30, so it’s safe to call during that time, possibly earlier. I wouldn’t call later, since we start sometime between 09:30 and 10:30, and you’ll be on speaker phone. I’m not even completely sure you really need to call. I called on Thursday morning, today is Wednesday and someone called today. Friday is fine. Someone else called over the weekend, but there is no class on the weekend, so you risk no answer.

When you call, don’t be nervous. He doesn’t even want to know your name, so I doubt he cares about your experience. Maybe he cares about numbers, but we’re overfull now & he didn’t say no.

2. Showing up the week before you start
Possibly fine. There are so many people coming & going, I doubt you’d be a distraction. Maybe aim for lunch time 13:00ish or the end of the day (16:30) to be least distracting. At 16:00 everyone gathers for the closing prayers, so don’t show up until 16:30 unless you want a big entry.

I was nervous about finding the place, so I drove out there Friday afternoon, arriving between 16:30/17:00, and it seemed fine but unnecessary.

3. Bring your payment and an offering for the shrine.
Lessons are 800 baht per day. You can pay the whole week at once, or just pay each day. If you pay each day, you don’t need a new flower offering every day, only the first day.

For the offering, here is what you need. Flowers are most important. Get a couple of bunches of whatever you think is pretty. If you get lotus flowers, that’s awesome because you’ll have something fun to do while meeting people when you’re there. Classmates can show you how to fold the petals in preparation. But don’t only get lotus flowers. You’ll want something else on your offering tray as well. (You don’t need to bring a tray or basket, it’s provided.) If you get the little wrapped flowers in leaves that you see on household shrines, get 3 or 5. 3 is symbolic of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha (Buddha, the Teachings, and the Monks). 5 includes those 3 and your mother and father, to whom you should also show respect. Placement of those in the offering dish is scripted, so ask someone to show you how. Note: these aren’t necessary at all, but if you choose them, now you know how many to bring. I brought one, which had sticks of incense in it and candles, but one isn’t appropriate. You can also bring garlands of yellow flowers if you like, but again, that’s optional.

Lotus flowers, with petals folded:

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You also need incense. Look for a big wrapped package, decorated gold or silver. There’s symbolism in those colors, and while I was there, Pichet seemed to have plenty of gold ones but not enough silver. You can buy incense in the Buddhist supply stores, which I seem to see everywhere.

Finally, you can bring a package of candles. I noticed that not everyone had candles, though, so it’s up to you.

For your payment, you don’t need to buy an envelope. There are envelopes you can use. Put your payment inside and write your name on it. If you pay each day, you do this then put only the offering inside the shrine, no need for the whole flower offering (except for your first day).

As for putting all this in the shrine, this is scripted too, but your classmates can help you. At least now you know what you should bring. This picture was taken after the flowers (and the envelopes) were repurposed from the offerings.

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Fruit! I almost forgot. Bring fruit, anything you like. It goes in a separate communal offering platter, and I honestly don’t know whats happened to it after that. I brought bananas and mangosteens, which I was told to put in the platter. Other people brought other things. My things disappeared but I don’t know where they went. The whole platter got presented at the shrine later.

4. Food and drink
You don’t need to pack a lunch unless you prefer to. There are cheap little eateries serving pad thai, khao soi, and various other things. Other students brought fruit to share, which you could also do if you like. Pichet has water, coffee, tea all there for you to drink as well.

5. Getting there
Here is what I read online before coming:

To get there:  Go to Chiang Mai gate (the southern central gate). Across the street from the market (on the other side of the street) you’ll see a yellow songthaew (yellow pick up) on the corner. That pick up is probably going to Hang Dong.( ask the driver first). Take the yellow bus for about 10-15 minutes, it will first pass the Old Medicine Hospital, then continue past the airport, and then it will begin going down a wide boulevard with a divider island down the middle. You will pass a large SONY billboard on the right. This will continue for about 8-10 minutes more. At this point you should look for a big blue/white “American Standard” sign on your right (on the opposite side of the boulevard). When you see the American Standard sign, you are about ½ mile away from the stop. Ring the buzzer on the bus, or tell the driver you want to get off at “Baan Chang Kam”, which is about 1 block before a wat (temple), which you can see on the other side of the street.  Get off, and on your left, just past a little woodworking place, you’ll see a dirt road that winds past a field on your left. In the distance on the left you’ll see a few banana trees. Pichet’s house is right there, at the end of the block, before it curves to the right.. If you get lost, just ask for “Ajahn Pichet” or  “Baan Chang Kam.”

I didn’t take a yellow pickup, but I think it’s pretty accurate. Others took them and didn’t seem to have any trouble. I rode a motorbike. Here is what was different, or relevant.

It is basically a straight shot south from Chiang Mai gate or Suan Prung gate, on route 108. There are no turns until the very end, onto a narrow road. It did, however, take longer than that description says. It took me about 40 minutes, and I was not going slowly, nor was I passing everyone. I’m not familiar with the Old Medicine Hospital (rather, I know of it of course, but haven’t been), so I didn’t notice it in passing. Further, I did not see the Sony billboard. I did see the American Standard sign, which looks a little bit like this, but not really. I include this as reference to the lettering.

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At the American Standard sign, be prepared to turn left. (The sign is on the right, as is Baan Chang Kam, a nice-looking guesthouse directly across from the turn off to Pichet’s.)

I didn’t notice a woodworker, but that’s possibly because the corner stall was closed this week. Anyway, it’s the very first left turn after you pass the billboard. It’s a narrow, paved road. You will pass this on your left, shortly after turning onto it.

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And Pichet’s home is just after you pass the field. You will come straight at it, and his name is on the wall to the left of the drive. Pichest Boonthumme.

So that’s how you get there. Now you know!

6. What to wear
My understanding, before arrival, was that long flexible pants and something with sleeves are appropriate clothing. I wore a pair of fisherman’s pants and a short-sleeved T-shirt, which is what I usually wear for massage. But here’s something I didn’t know, as a non-Buddhist: DON’T WEAR BLACK!!!

Preferably, wear white, or a very light color, to symbolize your openness to learning. If you don’t have white, any color except black will do. If, like me, you don’t own much of anything that isn’t black, buy something. Otherwise, in addition to learning it during the “welcome” talk, you will hear about it from several of your classmates, who apparently didn’t think you were listening, since you haven’t changed yet.

As for bare shoulders and shorts and such loose pants that you’re flashing everyone any time you’re being a practice model, hey, go ahead. Apparently, it’s just color that’s important, and not how appropriate your attire is to what you’ll be doing.

7. You don’t need a notebook. Some people had cameras and made videos, but I don’t think that’s very useful. Up to you.

Proof that I’m out & about on a motorcycle

Thank goodness for an engine to ride.
I had a nice wander about after class today. I needed it. Found some nice gentle curves and picked up some speed. On the way back I saw a big Buddha from the road, & went for a photo. Sorry for the quality.

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And after that, I went home, showered, washed my hair, then went for food.

I remembered not particularly liking khao soi last time I was here. Its a regional specialty, and our guides the first few days had taken us to try it at their favorite place. I wonder why I didn’t like it. This was amazingly delicious! I also ordered fried wontons, but I filled up super fast, barely finishing my khao soi and only a couple of the wontons.

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Weekend Wellness, what’s that?

It’s like that little taste of free time Friday gave me a bug. I’m super tired. This weekend seemed long and draining. I’m pleased with everything I’ve done, but I’m happy that I’m done with all the certificate earning for the trip. Here’s the last one:

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After class today, I had a little rest at home. I didn’t really want to shop again, but there were a few things left on my shopping list, and today is the Sunday Market, and my last fun market day in town. So I went. I walked one of my normal routes to the far end.

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I didn’t try anything particularly interesting, so no pictures of food there, but here are those mangosteens I told you about. You eat the white bit around the seeds in the center. Ideally, there aren’t any seeds there, but I don’t know how to choose them yet. Because the purple part is soft and I was curious, I also tried to eat it the first time. Yuck. It’s bitter.

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Here are my new friends, the self-massage tools. I’ve already put them to good use. These will not be shipped home. Instead, I will continue to use them.

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And sadly, that’s all you get today. Maybe I’m feeling just a bit sad already. This is my last week, and I’m saying goodbye. Of course, now it’s time for a new hello. I’m off to study with Pichet for the coming days. I’m looking very much forward to this.

Ah ha! I finally made it to the Saturday market!

I had a late start this morning, and even so was way too early for class, which started at 09:00. It was the first day of the Pregnancy Massage course. As many of you know, in have already been massaging clients in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters, with doctor approval and after much independent research. However, until now I had not taken a course. I wanted to learn more about contraindications, things to avoid, why, and to be able to ask questions. For this, I am perfectly satisfied. It’s not much in the way of new techniques, more focus areas and positioning tips. I’m happy, and it is therefore really easy.

The course is at Spa Mantra, which is ITM’s partner spa. It’s gorgeous inside.

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Quite posh. And who were my classmates? Bianca and Tatiana, both of whom I’d met at ITM a couple of weeks ago! Bianca is the Dutch woman living in Antwerp, my lunching companion. Anyway, it was nice to see them. And Bert joined us for lunch, at a lovely vegetarian place nearby that Tatiana recommended.

After class, I rode back home, changed bags, and left for the Saturday market. It is much the same as the Sunday market, except a different street and a higher percentage of Thai people, although I think many of them were also tourists.

Here is something I ate, which got the usual questions from nearby tourists. An old lady was preparing it and it smelled good. It turned out to be sticky rice with red beans, topped with coconut and sugar. Yum!

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And for your entertainment, I give you…
Zwarte Piet? What in the world?!?!?!

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I have just realized that the only massage I’ve had today was practice in class. Damn, what was I thinking?

Riding the bike around town is a totally different experience, especially after buying a bijillion things at the market! Thank goodness I borrowed that bungee cord!

Another Day in Paradise

My one and only free day has been wonderful. Ahhhhh. As I write this, my feet are soaking, before my herbal foot spa, which I imagine is basically a spa pedicure. Works for me. My feet have seen better days.

I put my earplugs in last night, and woke up around 8. Well, truthfully, I still heard the host family in the kitchen, but it was muted and only woke me up a couple of times.

I met up with Pepijn, Pear & Navin at 9:30, and we drove first to Mae Sa waterfalls, which were a nice break from the city. On the way to meet them, I passed a marriage equality demonstration, hurray! (Psst… Yes that’s P, P & N standing together there watching the other family play.)

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After the falls, we drove up up up, and enjoyed a beautiful view over the hills.

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On the way down, I got motion sickness, as I did last time I was here as well. But we finished our trip with lunch at a lovely garden cafe somewhere just north of Chiang Mai, and I felt better.

After they dropped me off, I picked up a Kawasaki Ninja 250 at Tony’s Big Bikes, where I had stopped in to chat on my first or second day. Nice English guys, really friendly. They gave me a discount on a week rental as well as a full face helmet for free (usually 50 baht/day) and a bungee to borrow.

I spent about 2 hours riding around. First I just drove around the city walls, to get a feeling for traffic, then I aimed out in the random direction of Pichet’s school. Since I hadn’t actually taken the correct route, I got slightly lost, but I was still able to locate myself on the map, and corrected it.

Pichet’s house is located only 20 minutes from my guesthouse, according to Google. It took me over an hour. I almost turned around, but then saw a sign pointing to the Night Safari, which I’d seen on my map. I knew I had to go much further than there, so I continued until I saw, as promised, the American Standard sign on the right, then the woodworker’s, then the small road. And, as luck would have it, there was a very tiny, very smiley old man walking on that road. I greeted him and asked him for Ajahn Pichet. “Yes! Ajahn Pichet!” He pointed down the road. Yay!! I smiled and went that way, hoping it was obvious.

It was. In fact, there was no way to surreptitiously check location and flee, as students were leaving, so I got off the bike and went in to say hello. Now I knew where it was, I drove back to my guesthouse directly. Even in light traffic, it took me nearly 45 minutes, so I will plan accordingly.

I checked with my hosts how they want me to park, then I drove off again in search of gloves. Tony’s only had one pair, too big for me, but although I found a store (the one with guitars and helmets), they only had one size, also too big, and 3x the price for poorer quality. When I declined, the woman asked me how much I’d pay, and I said that for the quality, I’d pay half the price of the ones at Tony’s, but that made her angry, so I laughed and left. Making friends, you know.

It felt so good to be back on a bike. It’s so much easier to navigate traffic while in it, rather than walking. Still, I parked it, showered, and walked to Chiang Mai gate for market food before coming here for a pedicure.

Here’s my new friend for the next 7 days.

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By the way, today is a public holiday, the day of Buddha’s enlightenment. There is lots of activity in the wats. I also saw lanterns floating up to the sky all over. Here’s one wat’s decorations.

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And here’s the Chiang Mai gate market, where I eat often.

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