Friday, 3 July 2009

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page"

That is a quote from St Augustine that I have started to think of as my own little catch phrase. In my life I’ve been lucky to travel a lot and at the moment all I want is to keep reading those other pages and seeing the rest of the world when I can.

If you followed my ‘Marianne Goes East’ blog then you know that I’ve recently been traveling around Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Australia. Those blog posts have been imported to my new site now so feel free to have a look if you haven’t already!

I loved writing about what I was up to while traveling all over the world so I’ve decided to keep up with this whole online writing gig and set up a permanent blog – Filling the Pages.

This blog won’t always be about my travels. As much as I’d like to continue traveling non-stop my bank balance won’t allow it, so I’ll be somewhat stationary for a little bit until I can afford my next big jump which is probably going to be a year in Australia.

So here it goes. Let’s hope my life and thoughts are interesting enough to keep reading about!

I’ll write about what I’m up to (at the moment that would be visiting old school friends and my parents in the USA),traveling that I do myself, and any other news about the world and traveling that I decide to put here.

Since I can’t always do my own traveling, what I would LOVE is to get your travel stories! So if you have been abroad and had some crazy experience, tell me about it! Check out the ‘Contact Me’ tab for more information.

Thanks for reading, tell your friends, and keep checking back for more!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Australia cont'd

I've had some issues with Internet connectivity lately so here goes the very delayed last entry to my traveling blog. Since I left Australia I was back in London for two weeks, doing some work for a quick bank account boost, and I'm currently in the States visiting friends and family for a few weeks.

Here it goes:

So after leaving Sydney I headed up to Byron Bay with the Wills. We got off the bus after what ended up being a pretty sleepless night for me and arrived to several backpacker staff with their vans trying to draw us to their hostels. It worked; Will, Will and I were too tired to do any deciding ourselves, so we followed a blond Canadian named Eric to his van and he took us to Aquarius hostel. 

We checked in to the nicest dorm I've ever stayed in and picked beds on the top floor of our duplex style room where we met Katie, another Canadian who had also just arrived. 
Our first day in Byron was spent watching the rain POUR down like I've never seen before. We realized that this may go on, so we found out about bus trips to a place called Nimbin - a hippie town that hasn't moved on since about 1968. We took a very psychedelic bus tour to the town listening to Pink Floyd, The Doors and other 'free love' bands to arrive in a multi-coloured tie-dye town. Walking down the main street was an exercise in turning down one offer after another for weed, brownies, more weed, get the idea. I took a tour of the Nimbin Museum whose design concept was something along the lines of 'here's some stuff I found on the street/at the flea market/in my cellar.' There was stuff EVERYWHERE, and none of it seemed to make any sort of sense. Hippie heaven. At the end, before exiting, we met a 50-something year old woman rushing off yelling "just wait 15 minutes guys, I'll be back with the cookies soon, I just have to pick them up from my house." This wasn't just a nice lady who baked things for visitors. She made her money making tourists feel like they were on a Grateful Dead tour, or a character in Ken Kesey's acid charged life. On the way home our bus driver pointed out all the 'beautiful shades of green' in the countryside and took us through the mud back to our Byron home. Where it was still raining. 

Unfortunately the rain continued so after meeting the backpacker staff and we spent our nights exploring Byron Bay nightlife with them and spending most of our days watching the rain come down with two days of sun that we spent on the beach and walking to the lighthouse - the Easternmost point of mainland Australia. 

After a few days I decided I needed to make a move up north if I wanted to see more of the country. One problem. All that rain? Causes problems. Like flooding. In both directions. 
Nobody, myself included, could get in or (more importantly) OUT of Byron for a few days. 
I embraced my fate and paid at the reception for more nights at Aquarius. At least I could hang out here with people I liked, and I got free dinner every night, even if it was the same stuff over and over again... free is free. Plus we entertained ourselves with pub quiz nights and poker tournaments.

For all the less-than-ideal weather, I had an amazing time in Byron Bay thanks to the Wills, Katie and the Aquarius staff. After deciding that it was time for me to leave I realized that my time was now quite short, so instead of heading up north I headed back to Sydney and the twins. Since the highway was still flooded I took a flight from the small airport inland that was still accessible down to Sydney airport where Joh met me to take me back to another few days of home comforts. Mike and Lisa were still around so I spent my last few days seeing them, taking a day trip to the Blue Mountains, and going to the Sydney Aquarium where I saw a platypus! They'd been hiding when we went to the Sydney Zoo in my first week, so I was glad to check off that last Australian animal from my list after kangaroo, wallaby and koala among others. 

I also cooked a meal for Nad, Sal, Joh and Lisa that went down well, I think? 

I loved Australia, a sentiment perhaps not expressed well enough in this shortened version of my time there, but I have decided to save up as quickly as possible for a return trip on a one year work-holiday visa. 

So that's it! I took a flight from Sydney back to Bangkok where I spent a day doing some last minute shopping and sharing my stories with new travelers experiencing their first nights abroad on Koh San Road. Then it was back to the airport to travel back to London and home. 

Seven and a half months later, a term of teaching and an amazing backpacker experience through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and finally Australia and I'm back where I started. Back in the Foster home in Crouch End, London. Dreaming of my next adventure. 

I've had a great time writing this blog and plan on setting up a more permanent URL to continue life as a blogger, so watch this space for a final update and a name URL address. 

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sending me all those great letters and packages. I write for you. :)

"The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page." - St Augustine. 

Friday, 29 May 2009

This Strange Western World....

I arrived at Bangkok airport on May 12 to find out that my parents lovely next door neighbor, Betsy, had managed to get me upgraded on my British Airways flight to Sydney! So I went from being a poor backpacker living in dirty guesthouses to walking in to the Business Class lounge with all the other richer travelers. I felt slightly out of place with my clothes that I'd been wearing for the last week of partying and my bare feet, but hey, they still let me in!

After a long flight where I watched Milk, Happy Go Lucky, The Reader and Frost/Nixon in the World Traveler Plus section of my Bangkok to Sydney plane I arrived in this strange place, where people spoke English, and signs were in English, and people weren't bowing to greet each other....I didn't know what to do. I decided to put my sandals on since I was now the only barefoot person in the place, and it was FREEZING!!! Okay, not freezing maybe, but that's how it felt after months of wallowing around in oppressive heat. 

I got through immigration, found my backpack and went through the crazy strict Australian quarantine to wait to be met by a complete stranger, a friend of my godfather's who I knew very little about. After a few minutes I was met by two identical twins, Nad and Sal who took me in a real car! It wasn't a tuk tuk, or a songthaew, or a Bangkok taxi or anything. A REAL car! Weird. 

Then they drove me back to a real house! Where I met Joh, Nad's girlfriend, and India, they're lovable Golden Labrador. It was all very....normal. I haven't had normal since I left London back in mid-October, so it was all quite a shock. I napped in a double bed with a duvet and everything! Then when I got up, I watched TV on this HUGE widescreen and was reminded of the joys of cable. 

After that, Sal took me to a mall! Like the ones I go to in the States, with a food court and everything, where I was overwhelmed by choices of food and I found myself wanting ANYTHING but Thai food! There was a Thai stand, but I was surprised to find how little I wanted to go near it. However, to ease myself in to all this normal food, I did have an Indian curry. Baby steps. 

After my re-introduction to the Western way of life, Joh took me on a quick driving tour of Sydney where the sight of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House really made me realize where I was. Australia!! We met Nad for a drink and some dinner at the Opera House bar sitting outside under a heat lamp with the lights of the Harbour Bridge behind us. Not bad. 

I spent the next few days seeing some of the sights with Will and Will, my friends from Koh Pha Ngan, my good friend Lisa from my days as a Thai English teacher who now works as a nanny here in Oz, and Mike, an Irish guy who I ran in to several times on my travels through Laos and Cambodia, now living and working in Oz himself on a one year visa. 

I had lunch with Nad and Sal in Darling Harbour, where I also watched fireworks on jet skis with Mike and some friends. I went to The Rocks market with Lisa after an AMAZING buffet lunch with her in the revolving restaurant in the Sydney Tower where I was able to look over all of the city on a perfectly clear day. Oh yea, and I ate barbequed kangaroo. Never thought I'd say THAT sentence. I saw Manly Beach and the surrounding area with Nad and Joh, and went to the Taronga Zoo with the Wills. 

I also experienced nightlife being back in a city. My first night out was with the Wills. I hadn't quite adjusted to wearing shoes at that point, and I in fact didn't really own any except some unimpressive sandals. My friend Bella had given me her sandals that were slightly nicer, so I wore those but since they were the closest thing to shoes I'd worn in quite some time they immediately started to hurt. I carried them around, putting them on to get in the door of bars and then promptly taking them off again. I got some looks for walking around Sydney barefoot, but not much I was going to do about it. I bought a pair of nice warm suede boots the next day, don't worry. 

After about a week of this city life, I joined the Wills on an overnight bus up north to Byron Bay. I planned to go there for a few days then head up to try to see Frasier Island, the Whitsundays and whatever else I had time for. My plans changed slightly once we got there thanks to Mother Nature, but that's a story for my next entry!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Koh Pha Ngan - A Bermuda triangle of Fridays and Saturdays

I have survived another ten nights on Koh Pha Ngan. Somehow.

Claudia and I took a bus and an evening ferry over to the island where we met two other English girls, Claire and Laura, on their way to Koh Tao via Koh Pha Ngan for one night.

Since the full moon was on the same night as last month, Claudia and I assumed that the half moon party - basically the same as full moon except in the jungle.. would also be the same day, giving us one night to rest before starting the party. However once we got to the island we quickly found out that in fact the half moon party was that night, so there would be no rest for us. Skipping the half moon party was not an option since we had yet to make it to one.

So we booked into the same place we stayed last month - Rin Beach Resort and got a cheaper deal since we're getting further into low season now which was a nice surprise. After some dinner at the Lucky Crab where Claudia and I shared our favourite green curry we headed back to our balconies via the liquor store where we bought ingredients for our own buckets.

The only way to drink alcohol on Koh Pha Ngan is in bucket form. It's a rare sight to see a glass of gin & tonic, because why get a glass when you can get a whole bucket for about 4 pounds?! A bucket consists of one of those half size bottles of the alcohol of your choice (ours was vodka) and then whatever mixers you like (our choice was M-150 or Red Bull and a bottle of Sprite). If you're drinking these buckets on your own and you have a normal capacity for alcohol you can very easily get through two or three of these, or four or five if you're a man perhaps. If you're sharing, you can start to lose count, or if you're Claudia and you have an amazing capacity for vodka and M-150 you can go through six all by yourself. Claudia's a real trooper.

After sharing a bucket between the three of us we hopped on the back of some taxi motorbikes and headed off to the jungle where we came across a party almost exclusively lit by UV lights going strong. I'm not sure how long we lasted, but long enough anyway before we realized it was time for us to get home. On the way out I ran into Chris - the bartender of Outback bar who I met last month when I was here and whose job I considered taking at one point. The drive to and from half moon is pretty hair raising - Koh Pha Ngan hills are not something to be taken lightly, so I sat in the taxi and held on to Chris while he held on to the back bars, and Claudia found room on the roof since the inside was full. I have no idea how she survived, but I'm so glad she did.

After that night you'd think we'd have a night or two off, but the thing about Koh Pha Ngan is that it possesses this weird kind of energy that somehow makes going out every single night surprisingly easy. We often described it to people as this Bermuda Triangle, or Twilight Zone, where every night was a Friday night, and everyday was a Saturday spent recovering from the night before and getting ready for that nights festivities.

We spent most of our days in Lazyhouse watching films, or occasionally in Utopia watching Friends which they play all day long. Lazyhouse and Utopia are owned by the same guy who has great taste in good British food, so despite how expensive it was I had some delicious home comforts including a Sunday roast the day after full moon. It even had a Yorkshire pudding. Amazing.

Then each evening we headed down to Cactus Bar where Woody the Scot worked. We met Woody last month as well and since we quickly became his regulars again we got a nice discount on our vodka & Red Bull buckets. What a nice guy.

One day just to mix it up, Claudia and I rented a motorbike and drove to the other side of the island, up the coast and cutting across the middle over a mountain to visit Sara and Caroline. Sara is Claudia's friend from school and both of them joined us down at Rin Beach for the last few days around full moon. The ride was pretty terrifying but I'm pretty proud of myself for making it and for not completely having a break down since the paved hills average a 20% incline and the unpaved roads have huge ravines in them caused by the water running down. But we made it there and back, then headed straight to Woody's for a drink.

The good thing about being friends with the bartender (other than the cheap drinks) was that we could sit at the bar facing the beach for hours without being bothered and we got to watch all the Cactus fireboys do their thing each night. The Cactus fireboys are all young Thai guys who make a living by playing with fire, and doing it very well. After they started recognizing us they tried to get us involved and I once had to hold a stick of fire while another guy blew alcohol/kerosene at it to create an enormous fireball. I gave it back after one blow because I value my eyebrows and my unscarred skin.

A few days before full moon we were also joined by Will and Will, two English boys that Claudia had met in Chang Mai while I was in Koh Phi Phi with Emily. They were two guys traveling on their gap year before uni and were a great addition to the group. We also reunited with Bella and Lucy who we last saw on Koh Lanta, along with Lucy's sister and friend who were over on holiday.

By the time full moon finally rolled around we had a pretty big group, with a few additional characters that we met on the island along with a few more faces from the past, mostly from Koh Phi Phi.

The actual night was a great time as expected. My favourite part might have been when me and some of the girls climbed up to Drop In bar's balcony and entertained outselves by throwing ice cubes at unsuspecting people below. I know, I know, immature, but don't pretend that you're not laughing too.

The next day we had our Sunday roast at Lazyhouse and I went around to Woody, Chris. Ay (the bartender at Reggae bar who I talked to about being a teacher) and the Thai guy who ran the art gallery (I still feel bad for forgetting his name since he remembered my name after I'd been gone for a month...terrible) to say my goodbyes.

It was pretty difficult to leave this time, and I actually made one of the Wills walk back down to the beach with me to see it one more time because I couldn't get to bed at about 1am. This was my last big party in Thailand and I don't know when I'll be back.

I've been in SE Asia for almost exactly seven months now, six of which have been in Thailand and while I don't want to stay here forever, it still feels strange to leave and go back to a world I feel like I haven't lived in for so long.

But the big unexpected surprise is that about four hours after I've written this blog I'll be getting on a plane to....Sydney!!!

I'm a pretty lucky girl and I have some amazing people for godparents who have made it possible for me to go to Oz for about three weeks! It's not a huge amount of time and I won't get to see everything, but it'll be an amazing chance to see a new country and a place I've always wanted to go. I'll be arriving in Sydney on Wednesday morning and have no plans from there except to hopefully meet up with Will and Will again, plus Lisa, who you may remember from my teaching days. Lisa now works as an au pair in Sydney and is going to be a tourist with me this coming weekend. Thanks to all the people I've met traveling and to the connections I have through friends and family, I actually know quite a few people in Oz and I can't wait to see some of them while seeing as much of the country as I can.

So there it is! My final post about Thailand. For now. :)

Next time I write here I'll be in the Southern hemisphere for the first time, and will have landed on my fifth continent!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Th Thai mafia, illegal work and visa runs...

So I successfully completed three nights of being a promotions girl for Reggae bar. While it was nice to get the small income (can't complain when you're getting free alcohol all night plus 300Baht and you're only paying 200Baht for your bed...) I really enjoyed the chance to get to meet so many different people. Holding a pack of flyers in your hand is a great excuse to talk to complete strangers. The Tiger Bar and Reggae Bar promoters were a great group of people, almost exclusively Brits interestingly enough, and we definitely knew how to have fun. I got to watch the sunrise after my first night of work and then sit on the curbside commiserating with other over tired staff the next day. Then I got to see what influence the Thai mafia/police (same thing...) have around here on my second night, then on my last night I was reminded that my job was actually illegal. Technically.

On most/all of the Thai islands, the place is controlled by the Thai mafia. The only reason bars, especially on the beach, party until the sun comes up is because they pay off the police enough to keep them from shutting down the music. Unfortunately, sometimes things don't go to plan. Someone doesn't get their money, or someone elses causes a problem and people get angry. A few days before my first day of work a stabbing occurred at one of the beach bars. The story differs, some people say the guy survived, some insist he's dead, some say it was a fight between two white guys, others say a Thai bar staff member was involved. Either way, the police were not happy about it. After a few days of uncooperation, the police decided they were going to starve out the information that they apparently think is being kept by some barstaff. So on my second night, all the bars on the island got the call that they had to shut down at 1am or there woul be trouble. Most Thai people don't like trouble, in fact they really go out of their way to avoid it, so by 1am the island went dark despite the many many angry football fans who were waiting to watch the semi final game at 1:30am. It was a nil-nil game anyway; at least they didn't have to miss any epic history making match. After walking to the beach just to briefly observe the shocked tourists standing around still trying to order alcohol, I headed home for a proper nights sleep.

Our third night out, the same call went out - 1am shut down. We started work at 7pm - an hour earlier than usual, however Claudia and I showed up at 7:20, unaware of the time change, grabbed our flyers then ran off to sit down for dinner... Very good work ethic, I know. After a yummy green curry we set out to actually start promoting, only to be quickly shut down. A strange looking Thai man had come around taking photos of the white promotion staff, then shortly after that our manager came around taking away our flyers and saying "Immigration police, go go go, come back in one hour." So we walked off around the corner, found the Tiger Bar staff and joined them at their bar to wait it out and share travel stories.
After our hour waiting period I wandered back to find the immigration police had decided that Reggae Bar wasn't such a bad place and they would in fact be spending the whole night there. Hmm.. I walked up to the bar, was very generously still given my full wages, then told to hang around outside the bar and discreetly 'promote' Reggae Bar without the flyers for awhile. That didnt have to last very long since a curfew was already set. This time it seems the cops relented and allowed one of the beach bars to keep their big screens running without sound so as not to upset the football hooligans two nights in a row. After watching what seemed like the longest game ever with some fellow staff at the beach, I made it home in time to sleep for about three hours before an early wake up and a boat ride to the mainland.

Claudia and I made the ferry, then got into a minivan to drive down to Hat Yai where we hired a private taxi to drive us down aross the Malaysian border and back again. Got to love those visa runs. So now we have one night in Hat Yai before heading to Koh Pha Ngan once again for full moon number three. Hey why not, right?

Then, my very big news is that I may be headed Down Under after all! Will keep you updated...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Living in Paradise

The group split up again temporarily and Emily and I headed down to Koh Phi Phi while Claudia stayed behind to meet up one more time with our old travel buddy Calvin before he headed back to Canada and the real world again.

We spent four lovely nights on one of the nicest islands I've seen. Our guesthouse was situated on a beautiful beach in a protected bay with white sand and blue waters. Not bad.

The tides in the bay are amazing; I suppose because the level of the sand is so even the tides appear absolutely enormous. Around midday there is often only a few feet of beach, but by the middle of the night you can walk out almost 100 feet before you hit any water at all.

We spent most of the time being beach bums during the day and checking out the bars at night. We managed to run into Bella, a friend of Emily and Claudia's from home and her friend Lucy who were traveling around the world and celebrating Bella's 23rd birthday on the island which was a great reason to celebrate!

On our last day there the four of us went on a boat trip to explore the other beaches and the second island of Koh Phi Phi which has, among it's features, the beach used in the movie "The Beach." We headed out and although the tide was pretty strong, Lucy and I were determined to go check out the famous beach. It was a pretty tiring swim from the boat and then a rather dangerous climb up and over some rocks on a very wobbly bamboo ladder, but we made it nonetheless. It would probably have been the most beautiful beach I'd ever seen if it weren't for the hundred other people there thinking the same thing. The sand was soft and pure white and the water amazingly clear.

After that and some more snorkeling stops we hit Monkey Bay, a secluded beach inhabited by..monkeys! How did you know?? The four of us were the first ones to get on our kayaks and land on the beach. As we started to walk towards these monkeys I picked up a little plastic toy mobile phone thinking 'oh cute, the monkey's have toys.' Then these 'cute' monkeys starting approaching a full on sprint...and growling... I RAN back into the water which turned out to be a good choice since they can't swim and therefore couldn't get near us. Unfortunately Emily ran the other way and so after I chucked the plastic phone at them to get them away from Bella and myself they turned on poor Emily and one of them managed to sink it's teeth into her knee before she could hit them away and run to safety. A little traumatic. She is now safe and sound back in England and halfway through a course of Rabies injections. Thanks Thailand. I skipped over this in my last post, but while we were in Pai, Emily also got her hand almost eaten off by a baby elephant. Thai animals and Emily Foot - maybe not such a good idea apparently.

After that we reunited with Claudia who had one night out with me in Phi Phi before we headed to Koh Lanta for some serious peace and quiet. Lanta is a beautiful island but thanks to low season it is really really quiet. Almost eerily so. I enjoyed my time with the girls but this place wasn't for me. After three nights Claudia and I are now back in Koh Phi Phi! Our bank accounts are feeling very pressured, so to give them a little rest we have become one of those annoying people who stop you in the street with a flyer and try to get you to come to their bar. Yup. I'm a bar flyer girl. Hey it pays and covers my accomodation and most of my food/extra costs each day while we do it, so it doesn't hurt. Last night was our first night and I actually enjoyed meeting all the other travellers like us who needed a bit of extra cash and an excuse to stay on this island just a bit longer.

After this our trip may be coming to an end sooner than I would like. Money being the main driving factor of course. I was thinking about the idea of going home today, and while it seems strange, I think I am getting close to achieving what I wanted out of this experience. There's still a small hope that Claudia and I will make it to Vietnam, but barring that happening, it looks like a couple of weeks to make some last memories on the islands before a flight back to London town. Hopefully I will then be making it Stateside to see mum and dad and my other American loves for a few weeks before getting back to London to try and ride out this recession!

Meanwhile, back to the beach for a few hours before it's time to hand out those flyers!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

It was always you Thailand..

So after my tour of Laos and Cambodia I headed back into the familiar Land of Smiles. It was nice to be in a country where I didn't have to learn the language or customs as they were already old familiars to me.

The group split up a little due to various forms of travel. Matt and I took a very long bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok. Actually I think it ended up being three buses? Four? Five? I lost count. But eventually we got to Khao San Road where we met up with Claudia and Calvin who had flown in from Phnom Penh.
There we also found Emily, Claudia's friend from home who came to join us for a few weeks and we had one night in the big city before we said a tearful goodbye to the boys and the girls headed to Koh Pha Ngan for a week to join the infamous Full Moon Party. This is the same party I went to for my New Years Eve, so my time on Koh Pha Ngan was "same same, but different" (don't ask, it's a Thai phrase, I don't know why they say it, but there you have it).

Our group became pretty huge after we met up with my friends from London, George, Sophie and Claudia, on top of meeting up with a couple - Graeme and Donna who we had briefly seen in Luang Prabang, and the five people they had also befriended on the island. On top of this Juliet had two friends from home meeting her, one of them brought a boyfriend and another friend in tow, AND Juliet's friend from Chang Rai plus a friend joined us too so it was quite the crowd.

We spent a week in Koh Pha Ngan and it was pretty interesting watching the island go from relatively quiet to completely overrun by the time the full moon hit. Unlike New Years, this time we all managed to stay on the beach until the sun had risen which was quite a sight to see, although not all of us remember it...

I enjoyed beign on the island for longer and getting to know some people. I befriended a group of Thai guys who work at an art gallery there and who welcomed me into their studio to hang out, listen to guitar and have a few drinks each night when I was walking home from whatever bar we had been in. Koh Pha Ngan is a strange island and I'm not sure I could stay there for too long, but I'm happy I got to know it a bit better this time.

The next day was reserved for being as lazy as possible before Emily, Claudia and I said goodbye and made our way up to Chang Mai for Songkran from April 13th - 15th. Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration; it's also celebrated in Cambodia and Laos I believe. It was essentially a three day long water fight on the streets. We reunited with Calvin who had been doing some volunteering work in the hilltribes outside of Chang Rai, and every day we went down to the streets armed with our super soakers ready for action. We parked ourselves near a backpacker corner of the city where the bars blasted music and people slowly drove down the streets in pick up trucks with enormous barrels of ICE water on the backs to soak unsuspecting pedestrians. The most fun was probably watching the Thai ladyboys strutting down the streets in their heels, hands in the air, getting drenched and loving it.

After three days of this we were exhausted. Emily, Claudia and I went to Pai, a village I visited in December (click here for the post) . My one day there was spent on rented motorbikes exploring around the various natural hotsprings and waterfalls. The village was significantly quieter than it had been in December, most likely because it was not a holiday weekend and it is summer now and Pai is a big tourist spot for Southern Thais to come in the winter so that they can feel the cold...I know, it's strange, we don't get it, but feeling cold is a novelty here. But it still had the feeling of a sleepy hippie town. After that I unfortunately had to leave to go to Myanmar...

The fun thing about visas is that they expire... A very long bus ride and a quick walk across the boarder and back again and I had a brand new visa, plus a new fun stamp on my passport, so everyone wins, especially the Burmese who are 500 Baht richer for every person like me. Rip off if you ask me....

After meeting the girls back in Chang Mai we headed down south for some more beachy goodness!