The North

Chiang Dao


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Chiang Dao Nest. We should have stayed here longer.

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IMG_1178Scenery.

IMG_1207 Chiang Dao Cave.

IMG_1215Sloane preferred not to look up.

IMG_1233Our transportation to Chiang Rai.

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Crackers and boats. Life is good.

Chiang Rai

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The White ‘Temple’

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Inside the Black house

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Never too young to learn about opium.

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Myanmar on left, Laos on the right. If only we had more time…

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Cruising the market in Mae Sai, about 50 yards from Myanmar.

Chiang Dao: A local bus ride out of Chiang Mai landed us in this mountain town. Chiang Dao was the perfect place to relax and enjoy some cooler temps. Tucked right up against the mountains, everything about the resort is top notch, especially the food. We really enjoyed hiking through the mist-shrouded mountainous jungle as well as the miles deep Chiang Dao cave. Outside the cave, Fay pretended to observe the Sacred Fish pond while sneakily plucking all the hopefully not so sacred flowers in her path.

Chiang Dao to Chiang Rai:  The best part about Chiang Rai was getting there. Using the river for a leg of our journey, the 3-hour boat ride was a wonderful way to see northern Thailand. Fay loved every minute of it. Sloane was slighly stressed however, since Fay quickly developed a habit of trying to hurl herself overboard.  Although her 90 attempts failed, she did succeed in casually tossing her bow over the edge.  Two bows down…only two more to go before Fay’s bald head is finally free . 

Chiang Rai:  Our ill-informed research led us to believe Chiang Rai was like Chiang Mai, yet with more charm.  We would like the world to know this is false.  It lacks all of the positives of Chiang Mai and retains all the negatives, and then some. Ty decided to dub this place ‘Chiang Lame’. We did see some interesting, weird things up here (white temple, black house, opium, and THIS), but nothing that you can’t live without. Our advice is to only stay here if you are en route to Laos or Myanmar (although the night market does have an incredible food court).

Daily Life in Chiang Mai

Our time in Chiang Mai has come to end. Here’s a glimpse into the day-to-day over the past month.

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 Fay loves riding in the Songthaews ( little red trucks with seats in the bed)

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Street food is delicious. 

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Main form of transport for the month. 
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Fay’s feet look like this at the end of every single day. 

IMG_1009 We call her Gollum when she’s not behaving.

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Fay’s toys.

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Just chatting away with the cute old ladies at church. 

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Sorry about the pews…didn’t see that one coming.

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The best food joints look like this. Not sure what Sloane and Fay are up to.

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Real Thai dinner with our friend Pern.

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Locals taking pictures of Fay on the go.

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Happy Movember.

Sunday: We go to church on Sundays. The branch we attend is wonderful. It has about 100 active members, and most of them are local.  We do have a small handful of English-speaking expats, which means we get our own English-speaking Sunday school. Fay is now completely impossible to contain. Luckily, the nursery leaders just take her away during Sunday school. She usually lasts anywhere from 20-40 minutes, at which point we begin to hear her terrifying screams echoing down the church halls. We cherish those 20-40 minutes. After church, we continue to seek after truth by visiting the dozens of Buddhist temples dotting the city.  Then we break the sabbath and go out to eat. Cut us some slack, we only have a mini-fridge. 

The Rest of the Week: Ty has been putting in quite a bit of work during the week.  He’s been spending most of his time getting his current business ready for Christmas and planning for 2014. He’s really enjoyed strategizing and coming up with new ideas with Austin (his amazing business partner)  via email and Skype. He’s excited for what lies ahead, even though he has no idea what that might be. The rest of his time is spent networking with other entrepreneurs and researching new business opportunities. 

So what does Sloane do when Ty is working? All you mothers out there already know the answer. It’s a miracle Fay is still alive, and that miracle comes daily in the form of Sloane. In addition to keeping Fay happy and alive, Sloane has become quite the explorer. She can usually be found perusing far-reaching botanical gardens, wandering specialty markets, and learning about the local handicrafts. 

Food: Food holds a special place in our hearts. We go out to eat for nearly every meal and we are very grateful that the food is cheap enough here to pull that off. We were especially excited to eat an authentic Thai dinner at Pern’s place…until they made Ty eat raw shrimp and strips of pig skin. Afterward, they turned to Sloane and said, ‘maybe you shouldn’t eat any of the raw food, we don’t want you to get sick’. Nice. Since we couldn’t show up empty-handed, Sloane made an american classic for our Thai friends: Rice Krispie Treats.  They were a big hit. 


The Big Event : Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong has been on our calendar since January. 

***Our friend Zack Lazarus shot some amazing footage (including several shots of Fay) during this event.

We suggest you watch this video first- it captures the event better than anything else we will post. ***

 

***

OK, now you can watch our short little YouTube clips if you’d like:

 

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This is Fay’s new friend Lou. 

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Fay can just feel the excitement building.

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Mind blown.

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 Mind still blown.

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Mini-mind blown.

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We are happy.

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Letting go of all our cares on the Ping River. 

Loi Krathong & Yi Peng Festival: These two festivals are basically fusing into one, though technically Loi Krathong refers to the floating flower decorations, while Yi Peng refers to the floating sky lanterns. The sky lanterns are released to show respect to Buddha, while the flower decorations are released to both show respect to Buddha and let go of all cares and negative thoughts, etc. The festivities last for three days and include cultural performances, ceremonies, and parades. 

Maejo University:  Releasing the lanterns at Maejo University was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. We loved sharing this magical experience together as a family.  No alcohol, cigarettes, or revealing dress was permitted at this Buddhist event. Triple awesome. It was incredible to participate in such a peaceful religious experience with so many people. We have no idea how many people attended the ceremony and participated in the unified release of the sky lanterns, but our guess is over 10,000. We attended the event with 30 other expats running their businesses from Chiang Mai. Fay had tons of fun and cozied right up to all of them during the festivities. We were really surprised at how well she did the entire evening. We wish we could better express how incredible and moving the experience was, but Ty is the one that writes these posts. So good luck with that. 

The Real Adventure: The real adventure began after the releasing of the lanterns was over. As the initial excitement faded and the lanterns floated off into the distance, all 10,000 of us began wandering towards THE ONLY exit in the entire area. Recipe for disaster: 10,000 hot, sweaty, tired people trying to leave through one small exit, whilst loud fireworks and fiery lanterns fly over head. Our conversation quickly turned to all of the horrific human stampedes we hear about on the news. Neither one of us have ever felt so trapped; it literally became difficult to breathe. Sloane was particularly nervous since she had the mini-human strapped to her. It took nearly an hour to move a few hundred yards, after which we were able to cross a bridge to freedom. Crisis averted. 

Life of Pai

We took a break from the city life of Chiang Mai for a few days. 

IMG_1110Welcome to Pai.

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Real work.
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Pai Canyon

IMG_1048Hard core Sloane trekking through the jungle…for about 10 minutes.

IMG_1057The end of our 10 minute jungle trek.

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Sloane is wondering if we should trust this thing.

IMG_1071Fay loved it.

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The ladies were itching for some pool time.

IMG_1113Great night market here. We were sure to snack up every night.

The Journey to Pai: Pai is a 3-hour minibus ride from Chiang Mai. As we boarded we were enthusiastically greeted by a dozen Chinese tourists with funny little patches behind their ears. We were all excited to see the beautiful Thai countryside en route to Pai. The excitement quickly faded. We really don’t want to complain, but it can be hard to appreciate such beauty when your driver is hopped up on cocaine (our theory) while navigating the windiest mountain pass on planet earth (760 hair pin turns). Screeching tires, slamming on brakes (slamming on the gas), and sharp swerving motions characterized this journey.  Ty stared ahead with grim determination while Sloane dramatically fanned herself and hung her head out the window. Fay hardly seemed to notice both her parents were dangerously green in the face. Well played Chinese, well played. In sum, we lived in anxiety, fear, and misery for 3 hours straight. It took our bodies about 4 hours to fully recover. 

Life of Pai: Pai is a beautiful and relaxing little town. Since most of the roads surrounding Pai have no traffic (ok, a few elephants and mopeds), we rented a motorbike and explored the area for three days straight. We loved watching  the scenery, the unhurried farmers, and the Moms motorbiking matching uniformed children home from school.  We could have easily stayed here longer. We had an absolute blast. Our B&B was the most charming so far. Removed from the town we had quiet views of the gardens and rice patties with a backdrop of mountains. The brand new rooms had the look and feel of bungalows, but boasted real walls (big deal for keeping spiders out).

Bamboo rafting was surprisingly quite pleasant and fun. Nothing more than 10 bamboo poles lashed together.  It was actually the smoothest float down a river we’ve ever had. This is because water just flows up between and through the bamboo instead of getting slammed against it. Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to use this as a metaphor in a church talk someday. 

Fool me once….we were prepared for our journey home to Chiang Mai. We brought treats, 2 lemon schweppes sodas, Dramamine, and we booked early to reserve seats at the front. Thankfully, our driver on the way back was sober and relaxed. Combine that with our Dramamine and we felt pretty darn good on our journey home.  

If you are still reading, Fay would like to give you a wave:

Fay in Pai

Tigers & Snakes

Confession: Unlike our dear friends the elephants, we are more than happy to see tigers and snakes in enclosed areas. Well, not so much tigers, but definitely snakes. Sorry, we do not love all animals equally just yet.  Ty says he’ll start worrying about that once he can figure out how to love all humans first. Could be awhile…

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This dilapidated old snake farm was awesome. In red: ‘if there is any danger, we will not be responsible’ 

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Our own private snake show.  

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He thought it was cool to show us its deadly venom inches from our face. 

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Ty succumbed to peer pressure and gave her a kiss. Sloane refused.

IMG_0971Mongoose incarnate.

IMG_0876This tiger is terrified of Fay…and rightly so.

IMG_0878Fay pounces on her prey. 

IMG_0910Already bored. 

IMG_0939Fay was not allowed in. Something about ‘tigers are aggressive toward babies and the elderly’.

IMG_0925Some claim these tigers are sedated. We beg to differ. The next photo was taken 1/2 second after this  one.

IMG_0926Quite alert… where did Ty go?

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“Fay, we don’t put our fingers through the fence. You’ll have to trust us on this one.”

Where did Ty go? Ty has long claimed he has lightning fast reflexes, and this moment was no exception. As soon as he heard the tiger growl and move, Ty’s flight instinct kicked in. Before he knew it, he was standing safely behind the tiger trainers. In Ty’s own words, “I seriously didn’t even think. All the sudden I found myself in a safe location, putting several bodies between me and the tigers.” Oh yes, they all had a good laugh when Ty bolted. But we’ll see who’s laughing the next time a tiger attacks for real. The trainers won’t even see it coming. 

The tiger kingdom really is amazing. First, it’s amazing because tigers are spectacular beasts. Second, it’s amazing that we all trust this place enough to go inside an enclosed area with six full-grown tigers inside. The baby tigers were really quite cute and fun to be around, though they wouldn’t let Fay play with the more rambunctious ones for some reason. We felt very at ease and calm with the little ones. The big ones were a different story. Ty admits he was a bit on edge after his flight instinct kicked in. Sloane was more than happy to wait outside with Fay for the duration of the big tiger experience. 

The Snake Farm: We got a kick out of the dilapidated old snake farm. The snake show stadium was surrounded by dozens of cages holding all sorts of snakes and other reptiles. None of the cages were properly locked, and many were on the verge of falling apart. After we viewed the different types of snakes, we walked back to see the snake show. We were informed that we would need to wait 20 minutes. In Thailand this term is used to politely say ‘we have no idea how long it will be’. Ty then gave them a nice calm roll of the eyes and walked back to Sloane to let her know they might end up having to wait hours. To his surprise, the employees had a change of heart and decided to give us our own private show. They did not disappoint. We started on the first row of course, but within seconds Sloane had drifted up to the 2nd, then 3rd row. The snakes were either huge, deadly, or fast. We shelled out a nice tip due to the guilt we felt for placing them in harm’s way. Now we know what they were discussing when Ty asked about the show:

“Well, I’m not really in the mood to risk my life with only three people to watch. Let’s at least wait for a tour bus to arrive. We can only get so much in tips from one family.”

“Yeah…but maybe we should it, that farang seemed kind of annoyed. Maybe we’ll get some lunch money”

“Ok, whatever, let’s do it. I haven’t been bitten for a week now so I’m feeling pretty confident.”

 

Elephants.

We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.   

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Meet Boon. In order to start off on the right foot, we fed him a basket of bananas.

IMG_4842Fay learns about poop.

IMG_5152Boon gets a bath.

IMG_5333Goin’ deep.

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IMG_5487We get a bath.

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IMG_5649Time to hop on.

IMG_5768Ty referred to himself as ‘Mowgli’. All day long.

IMG_0813View from up top.

IMG_5857This little guy was 5 days old.

IMG_5940Mowgli enjoyed sitting together as a family. His wife did not. Story below.

IMG_5816No, we’re not falling. This is the dismount. As graceful as it could be. 

A fun story: In this world we are all born with different talents. Riding elephants happens to be one of Ty’s.  Sloane was blessed with other talents, such as kindness, patience, and understanding. These talents did not prove beneficial during our elephant ride. As the saying goes, there must be opposition in all things. While Ty rode in peace and harmony with Boon, Sloane rode with moderate tension and anxiety. Nevertheless, Sloane was finally convinced to ride with her legs in front of Boon’s head (2nd to last picture) for a brief period of time. It was during this brief period that Boon went rogue and decided to tromp off the well-worn path, cross a stream and start eating the tall reeds on the other side. To Ty this wasn’t really a big deal, but then again, he wasn’t the one blessed with understanding. It turns out that  an elephant moves and twists his head in order to eat and break off the plant/reed/tree/branch/whatever.  This results in a lot of up and down, side to side, and twisting motions. According to Sloane, it is difficult to balance on top of an elephant’s head when this happens, especially with a baby acting as a mini-pendulum on your front. “It’s like an egg balancing on an egg!” While Sloane entered into panic mode, Mowgli remained calm as a cucumber and held them close with his small, but wiry right arm. After what seemed like an eternity (to Sloane), our guide took notice and called Boon back to fold. No humans were harmed. When asked if people do fall off their elephants, our guide simply responded, “some”. 

The Elephant Experience We openly admit that we like elephants more than other animals. We’ve long admired and respected elephants, so we wanted to make sure our first experience with them was both meaningful and ethical. We went all out and chose the Patara Elephant conservation farm, the highest rated (and probably most expensive..) company. We made the right choice. This place was in the middle of the forest and the elephants just roamed free. No cages, no chains (the caretakers were sleeping every night with an expectant mother due any day). They call their program ‘Elephant Owner for a Day’, and they put you to work. The entire morning was spent learning about them, feeding them, and bathing them. Then we got to ride with them through the forest on their way to lunch. Obviously we were still tourists, but we felt less like spectators and more like caretakers. It was an unforgettable experience. Ok, off the soap box now. 

A Few Elephant Facts  (based on what we remember)

1) Elephants sweat in only one place: right above their toe nails. Increased sweating is a sign of pregnancy.

2) They eat 10% of their body weight in fruits and greens daily. We were told Americans could learn a lesson from them. Touche. 

3) The diagonal rocking back and forth motion (often in the zoo) is a sign of mental illness. These guys love walking several kilometers a day. If they don’t have enough space, they go crazy (imagine that).

Welcome to Chiang Mai

You’re going to learn a lot about Chiang Mai over the next month.

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Sloane immediately signed up for her long-awaited cooking class. 

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House of Flames.

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The results did not disappoint. 

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Fay’s first visit to the zoo. She loved all the different kinds of monkeys.

IMG_0709Still at the zoo. We loved the scenery as much as the animals.

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How to make your zoo awesome: just build it in the jungle. No landscaping required.

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Stopped by Wat Phra Singh after church on Sunday. 

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Behold, Ty’s ‘beard’.  Fay looks cute too. Oh, and this is Wat Doi Suthep. 

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This is Sloane taking a picture of a monk taking a picture of Fay. Or maybe it was Ty…

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Heading down from Wat Doi Suthep.  Favorite temple so far. Located up in the mountains, its surroundings are beautiful and the weather is nice and cool.
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See you next week.

Arrival:  Chiang Mai is a great city to settle down in. It has a great vibe and culture, and tons of delicious food. There is plenty to do, plenty to learn, and plenty of interesting expats to talk to. After pounding the pavement for a few days, we found a great little apartment for $300/month. They even clean and bring us new towels and sheets every week.  We would go on and on about how much money we are going to save, but we’re probably going to end up spending it all on activities and tours. Chiang Mai will be home base until the end of November. 

Thai Farm Cooking Class: Sloane LOVED the cooking class.  We started off by learning about the ingredients at a local market, then headed to the farm to pick out all our greens. Sloane learned to make Spring Rolls, Chicken w/ Basil, Mango Sticky Rice, Chicken Coconut Soup, and Green Curry, paste and all. Meanwhile, Ty was babysitter and photographer all day long.  Let’s not pretend Ty’s a saint or anything though, we all know he stands to benefit greatly from this experience.  We also lucked out, because our instructor, Pern, is now one of our best friends.  She’s shared all sorts of interesting information with us and she invited us over for dinner next week.  We are excited! A REAL Thai friend! She even invited us to stay at her apartment, but we respectfully declined.  She has no idea what Fay is capable of once the sun goes down.

Fay: Speaking of Fay, she’s still working on those teeth. She’s got 4 solid ones now, and 2 more trying to pop out. Lately, she’s been behaving really well during the day, and really not so well during the night. She is very good at getting the general public to fall in love with her.  As her physical development continues, so does the pain and stress associated with it.  She’s had some pretty big falls, but somehow confidence continues to grow. She also knows how to get exactly what we wants, whether it’s the undying attention of the locals, or leftover crumbs hiding under our table at the restaurant. 

A Point of Friction: The current discussion in our household is how often to leave a diaper on Fay.  Due to the current climate and lesser quality diapers, Fay is more susceptible to diaper rash. She’s also refusing to do her little bathroom trick many of you know about. Lucky for Fay, Sloane is a very kind and caring parent. Fay is allowed to roam free throughout the apartment, resulting in multiple clean ups a day. Ty is less forgiving. He would rather deal with diaper rash than Fay’s excrement on the floor.