First I've just got to say that Lynette and I have cracked our heads on more things during this trip than in our whole lives previously. In India and Nepal the doorways were so low. One night on the trek I missed the sign above the door inside the outhouse that read "Watch Your Head" because there was no light inside. I had to relieve myself in pitch blackness then cracked my head on the doorway on the way out. I had a painful bump the size of a Nepali dollar for days. And let me tell you that's a big bump. And they put shelves in odd places, like directly over the bathroom sink. Lynette bent over to spit out her toothpaste and knocked herself silly on the edge of the shelf. Here in Thailand they have really low rooflines. Their building code, if they even have one, must not account for the head height of foreigners. I was just walking with Lynette out to see the beach and gashed my head on a low hanging corner of a roof. Now I'm sitting here with a bag of quickly melting ice on my head to hopefully keep the swelling down. Most people are short in Asia, as you may expect. And we feel like giants. I couldn't find a shirt that fit me from Malaysia to Thailand, and Lynette is an Extra Extra Large in Thailand T-shirts!! Doesn't do much for your self image.
When we arrived in Thailand a few weeks ago I was delighted to find that "Hello" in Thai is pronounced "Sa-wa-dee-crap" and "Thank you" is pronounced "Cor-poon-crap," so I got to say "crap" at the end of everything. And without offending anyone even. The males pretty much put "crap" at the end of everything to identify they are male, as the women put "Ka" at the end. Of course when I said it I pronounced it with a hardy and clear "CRAP" at the end. But the locals didn't respond the way I thought they would. I'd say "hello" and get no "hello" back, "thank you" and no Thai, "your welcome." Thailand is supposed to be so friendly, The Land of Smiles they call it. But these people were just downright rude. Later however I found out that its spelled "crap" but pronounced "cop" with a very faint "p." Most of the time sounding to me very much the same as the female "Ka." So who knows what I was actually saying all along. No wonder they gave me such the cold shoulder. It doesn't help that their pronunciation of things involves the slightest variations to mean different things. For instance, a guide was demonstrating that "Ma" means horse, "Ma" means dog, and "Ma" means even something else, I forget what. To Lynette and I the three words sounded exactly the same. But he said there were very subtle differences in the tone of how he said it. They must have a very finely honed sense of hearing to detect those subtle differences. So even now with my correct pronunciation of the "crap" at the end of things I might be saying something much different than I intend.
As Thailand is famous for their Thai massages, Lynette and I had to indulge. Here we are getting our first of several so far. The Thai massage is a bit different than a traditional massage, perhaps a bit more painful, especially for someone with bad flexibility such as myself. Some say its like doing yoga without the effort because the therapist bends your limbs in some unusual positions to stretch your muscles. I have real problems when they get to the calves. The women laugh when I winse in pain but don't let up on the pressure.
They have a hairy fruit here called a rambutan. Check it out below. Doesn't it look like something out of the Aliens movie? Not just on the outside with the long tenacle-like hairs but also on the inside with the stark white slimey egg like center. Very tastey though. :-)
Another delicacy they have here in Thailand are the insects. We walked by some vendors with metal trays full of various fried bugs, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and even cockroaches. Felt like a scene from Fear Factor. And for some reason God only knows, I got it in my head that I wanted to try a bug. I guess "When in Rome..." maybe. So during a tour in Chiang Mai our guide suggested, for a beginner, to try one of these awful looking things, the bamboo worm:
We definitely got out the camera for this.
Here's the moment of decision. "Should I really go through with this?"
Well I did it. I popped it in my mouth expecting some horrible bitter explosion of bug juices. But I was surprised that it wasn't that bad. Just a bit crunchy, the juices probably all cooked out in the frier. Thank goodness it wasn't a fresh one. I actually almost enjoyed it. I could imagine sitting in front of the tube snacking on a bag full. Would need some salt though.
Speaking of food, we took a Thai cooking class a few days ago. It was really fun. We each made Pad Thai, Green Curry Chicken, Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Hot and Sour Prawn Soup, Fried Spring Rolls, and Sticky Rice with Mangos and Coconut Milk. After making each single portion dish we were able to eat our creation. And they actually turned out pretty good. But by the end of the day-long course we were thoroughly stuffed. Of course we'll probably never remember how to make all the dishes especially by the time we get back home. Fortunately they gave us a cook book with all those meals plus more. So we'll make Thai for everyone when we get back! Here's some photos:
We've discovered that in Eastern countries (at least all the ones we've visited so far) they serve drinks in bags. Of course the cup is also widely used, but the locals often use bags instead. We thought this was kind of odd and a few days ago got our first chance to get ones ourselves at a local food market in Chiang Mai. They are tied really tightly around the top with a rubber band so you don't have to worry about spillage while holding it. But setting it down can be an issue. Here Lynette is enjoying an ice coffee:
I'm more of a pineapple shake kind of guy:
The other day we went on a hill tribe tour. We wanted to experience a more rural Thailand and a less modernized area but doing it on one of these organized tours somehow seemed strange to me. Its not like on TV where the travel host goes out to some remote rarely touched jungle village society. I mean busses of tourists visit these people every day. So much so that the tribes moved "for the tourists" from their previous location 3 hours away to a closer 1 hour away from town. Don't get me wrong, I mean I love the fact that these people are able to make a living off the curiosity of the foreign visitor but it sure does take the authenticity out of the experience. However, considering the difficulties involved in finding and then getting to a remote village we did the tour. After the drive out into the country to one "village" you pass a few cinder block houses that while they look a bit primitive hardly appear "tribal." Then you go up a dirt driveway into a large field with a few long rows of bamboo and thatch huts, each filled with various handmade wares for sale, such as scarves and wooden trinkets. And each hut had the same stuff. I feel bad for the poor shmuck in the back. By the time a tourist gets back there, if they haven't bought something already, then they're probably so sick of seeing the same stuff that they sure aren't going to by something at that point. Some villages were more real and lived in than others. Some actually had bamboo houses, but there again the front porches had all been converted into rough store fronts.
In some villages women sit and tend their merchandise, and as you walk by they ask you to buy something. In others, hordes of children, and some women, run up and surround you with hand fulls of bracelets and bags. They sound like zombies, pitifully moaning out, "ten baaaht...ten baaaht" (baht = thai currency) And God help you if you actually do buy something from one of them as I did. Then they all know you're weak and they swarm closer, more aggressively beckoning you to buy, buy. I felt bad that these kids had to work the tourists instead of being out playing somewhere, so I bought a bracelet from one girl. then ten seconds later the same girl was amongst the crowd trying to sell me another. I jokingly said, "Hey, I already bought one from you!" She smiled, but kept on trying. Eventually I took the bracelet I bought and joked around by trying to sell it back to them saying, "10 baht...10 baht?" They laughed. I didn't make a sale but that got them to move on to the next tourist, for a while.
Here's Lynette being overwhelmed by the young touts.
On the tour at one village we got to meet Long Neck Karen. I'm not sure which one she was but she was one of the women with long necks. You've probably seen them sometime on a National Geographic show or something. They use the the metal rings to elongate their necks. According to our guide those rings were originally used long ago to protect the women from tiger attacks as the tigers would usually go for the throat. But over time they instead became a thing of status and beauty. Contrary to belief, using the rings does not destroy the muscular strength of the women's necks, so when you remove the rings their heads do not flop over. They can remove them but only do so on rare occasions in order to add another ring. We saw a photo of them without the rings. Pretty freaky.
Here's a sight for you. This is actually a CLEAN towel. I wrote before about the stained towels we've gotten at hotels and guest houses along the way. Well here's a perfect example. We can tell its clean, it smells like detergent, but its just badly stained. I just still can't get over thinking I'm drying my face in someones fresh butt wipings. I mean look at those brown blotches!! (ignore the love handle)
Check out this cool bug. Its body is flat and paper thin. It almost looked like the marks on its back were painted on. -- I didn't eat this one.
Right now we are on the island of Koh Samui in south Thailand. We plan to be here for 6 more days then fly back to Bangkok for a flight to Cambodia. Can't believe Thailand is almost over. We hit our 4 month mark on May 7th. We are 1/3 through the trip. Its hard to believe its only been 4 months with all the places we've gone so far. Long way to go but we are still loving it. No signs of stopping!