Making my way through Asia (and grad school) one adventurous step at a time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Adventures in Night Bazaars

Before I talk about my day, I thought I'd include some pictures of my modes of transportation in Chiang Mai. If I'm not walking, I'm most often taking a Seong Taew (Red Cab), a tuk tuk, or catching a ride on the back of a friend's motorbike (with a helmet, of course!)

Tonight, my friends and I took a Seong Taew to the Night Bazaar. We browsed through all the Thai touristy trinkets you can dream of, on a hot breezy night, surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds and geckos. In fact, I can hear a gecko now, but I'm not sure if s/he's in my apartment or on the outside of my screen door. I don't mind if s/he's inside though, since they are lovely harmless little things that eat bugs. Hooray for lizards!

Ah, I wasn't intending to type about lizards, I just got sidetracked. Back to the Bazaar: I was looking for some small table lamps to light up a dark corner of my apartment, and a skirt. (Students at the university here have to wear a uniform. Fortunately, grad students are exempt, but we are expected to wear skirts to class.) I found both...and spent a grand total of $12. I found a lot of other great things too, but I didn't buy 'em. I'm learning to shop from a list!

I'm finding it a little strange living on my own. I know that sounds odd, since I haven't had room mates for most of the last decade, but I've always had good friends close by. I spend a lot of time alone, but so far it hasn't bothered me. In some ways, it's good since it forces me to go out and do things in the community...and do my homework. I thought I would watch a lot of TV, especially before I got my computer, but the only English channels I get are Fox News and Aljazeera. So, I watch Fox for entertainment (it kind of gives me horror-movie chills), Aljazeera for news, and the French channel for documentaries (and a sitcom from Quebec that has French subtitles, so the rest of the francophone world can understand what they're saying!)

Bon Soir!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adventures in Getting Settled

I can't believe that I'm already feeling at least slightly settled now! After my exciting arrival on the first night, the subsequent days have passed much more rationally! I'm sorry, there still aren't any pictures - but there will be soon, I promise. I did want to mention a few items of interest before I forget - or before they become normal, and therefore no longer interesting.

I've moved into my new apartment, and am starting to get settled in. It's awfully beige, but a little TLC in the decor department should help. It's also airy and bright, which is nice. My university is within walking distance, as is a Carrefour department store , so I've been there often. (Almost daily, actually, since it's where I need to go to catch transportation into the city proper.) One evening, I was shopping for a mop and bucket - so you can forget about images of me strolling through exotic markets buying teak and silk trinkets - and suddenly, things got very still. I looked up from the bucket I was examining, and realized everyone had frozen in their tracks. Then I remembered; every evening, the national anthem is played at 6pm. Everyone within earshot stops what they're doing, stands quietly while the anthem plays, then does a little bow at the end of the anthem and continues on their respective ways.

In the Carrefour complex, there is also a McDonald's...that has a Sweet Chili Sauce dispenser next to the Ketchup dispenser, AND a spinach pie on the menu instead of an apple pie. Oh, and their breakfast sandwiches come on hamburger buns, not English muffins. The tragic irony: Korea now stocks English muffins. Thailand does not. Happily, there are a ton of local eateries around, so McDonald's will never be high on my dining list. (I will get a spinach pie at some point when I have my camera with me though - purely for your benefit, dear reader). Local meals are absolutely delicious, and delightfully inexpensive (standard price for most meals is between 75 - 90 cents). The interesting thing about Thai cuisine is that it doesn't actually taste any better if you pay more for it. It's usually just ambiance and fancy decor you pay for at pricier places - the food's the same. Lately, I've taking to going to a nearby restaurant, pointing at some random item on the menu, and waiting to be surprised. Last night, I wound up with crackly pork and kale on rice: very tasty, not so healthy.

That's all for now. I'm sure there will be more later, along with some pictures.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adventures on My First Night in Chiang Mai...

For all those who have been wondering about my first night in Chiang are the details!

Catticus did very well on the trains and flight - I was really impressed with her. She was pretty scared, but handled herself well.

It's funny - my biggest stresses came from worrying about what problems I could face before getting to Chiang Mai (Cat freaking out, cat being too heavy to take onboard, cat not having the right vaccines) and spent the entire, turbulent, unpleasant flight telling myself, "by 1am, you'll be tucked in bed and can start fresh tomorrow". HA!!! I really don't know if you want to know what I was doing at 1am!!

Our flight was late, Catticus had to clear customs, and then the customs officer and I had to run around the airport looking for change for 1000 bhat (the import fee was 100 bhat - about $3). By this time, it was 12:45, the airport officially closes at 11:30, and there was nobody from the guest house there to meet me. Since I was so much later than the other passengers, I guessed they had figured I wasn't on the plane and left. I called and called the number for the guest house, and there was no answer, so there I was with the customs officer and 4 immigration officers trying to figure out what to do with me. We tried calling taxis, and even tried the possibility of sharing a ride with the woman from the information desk. In the end (close your eyes for this part Mom, and thank you for praying hard!) one of the immigration officers dropped me off at the guest house...on his motorbike. There I was, exactly when I told myself I'd be safely tucked into bed, with one arm around an immigraion officer, trying to keep my luggage tag from flapping in his face, the other arm clinging to the cat carrier, as he got me safely (with 2 stops at police boxes to ask for directions) to my guest house. ... which, despite the e-mail confirmations, had forgotten I was coming. So, the security guard at the guest house stood outside the managers bedroom window calling softly and repeatedly until the manager woke up and let me into a room.

Today, I was thinking about the only people who go out in the mid-day sun: mad dogs, Englishmen...and people with no toilet paper. I went for a short walk around the neighbourhood looking for necessities, and since it's Songkran, young people and children constantly approached me with buckets of water, said, "I'm sorry," then poured the water all over me, smiled broadly, and wished me a Happy Songkran. It was actually very refreshing, and lots of fun. :-) However, after that, it was the heatesty heat of the afternoon, so I went back to my room, stuck a cold cloth on my head and slept for a few hours.

I'm meeting my faculty advisor's wife tomorrow morning, and she's going to show me around the university and the surrounding area.