The abridged version for Jose---who, by the way, I have connected with via Skype and webcam. It's my new favorite toy and I love seeing his sexy face and bald head on my computer from across the globe. Everyone should get Skype.
Jose, shall I do bullets? Yeah? Here goes.
(Since the last time...)
- Headed to Vang Vieng, Laos where we booked a caving, kayaking, trekking tour. They told us to wear flip-flops...they broke because the mudd (and cow shit) swallowed them so we were barefoot most the time. We slipped and slid our way through dark caves barefoot. We braved a few mini rapids in a kayak which was heaps of fun. The bars here played FRIENDS and Simpsons (yes, in English) non-stop. Also, their menu's were VERY interesting and hilarious--I'll post a picture soon.
- Made our way to Vientiane, Laos--the capital. Learned all about UXO (unexploded ordinances) through a very eye-opening and moving exhibit/organization called C.O.P.E. The bombs that USA dropped during the Vietnam war still litter Laos and about 80 million are left unexploded and possibly armed--making many aspects of life very dangerous for these people. Enjoyed a few drinks along the Mekong river at sunset. Braved the local bus.
- Back to Thailand (Chaing Mai) via an overnight (13 hour) bus. Ugh. Sucked. Hardly slept at all. But at least we had seats. Some people stood for hours on end. It was an experience.
- After a few days in CM, we loaded another "regular"bus (we laugh in the face of regular buses) and took a 4 hour (Beautiful) drive to Pai (where I now sit). We rented a SCOOTER. A PINK scooter. AND we had SEXY helmets (no worries...pics in a few days! These are blackmail pics...and I will give them free). We are IN LOVE with this place. We spent a few hours zooming around on our scooter (yes, only 1. You don't actually think I would let Rach drive, do you?!) exploring...hills, mountains, rice fields, people offering us opium (we think), waterfalls, canyons. It was nothing short of amazing. Today, we rode an elephant (my moral explantion of this to follow below)! And, it was freaking AMAZING!! Her name is Padwade---we got to feed her and ride bareback on her...then she took us to the water and threw us off. She SHOOK us off like we were flys. We won't soon (or EVER) forget this experience!
- Rach starts school on Monday---which means I need a job. Play time is almost over (well, kinda. I'm excited to teach in a foreign country!).
And my wordy version for anyone else that wishes to continue (mommy and daddy...?!) :)
The rest of Laos was great. We spent 2 days in Vang Vieng which has a reputation for being a "party place"--drugs, alcohol and young people being crazy. We wanted to check it out anyways. It was a cute enough place--gorgeous scenary right on the river. The bars that lined the main strip all played FRIENDS and Simpsons which we found hilarious (ok, ok...so we gave in and lounged to FREINDS a few times). The first night, we walked into a deserted looking bar a bit away from the rest---mainly (okay, ONLY) b/c as we were walking by, 2 ADORABLE twin thai boys literally grabbed on to us and started swinging on us. Must have known I had SUCKER written on me. We went in and were just gonna lounge and share a drink. We ordered a "mixed rum bucket" because it was cheap and sounded good. Perhaps your seasoned drinker would know this drink would come in a (very large) bucket...but we were none the wiser. DUH!! Oops. Good thing we like to share! There were a few locals next to us who we started to mingle with---and through them got to try a few shots of their locally made rice whiskey. Good, strong stuff! We got to know the owner of the place a bit, Addy--he beat me in a game of pool and practiced his English on us for a bit. We wound up making him some CD's (music can make or break these places!) the next day---he thanked us with...another bucket. Thanks Addy. We headed out (ánother bucket' came AFTER this) for our kayaking, caving, trekking trip expecting a nice little day adventure. Boy were we right! The woman assured us that wearing sandals (reefs) was the way to go. Okay. It took us about 2 minutes into the trek (guides dictionary: TREK--walking and/or wading through deep, slippery mud and cow poo so we can laugh at people who were stupid enough to wear sandals) to realize this was NOT the way to go! We "trekked"over/around rice fields which was actually kind of great...especially after Rach totally slipped and covered herself in mud (haha...cow poo). By this point, we were both barefoot walking through who-knows-what trying not to fall into the Rice. Every now and then we looked up at the scenary, but for the most part, the scenary consisted of where our next step would be. BUT, we were cracking up the whole time. When we got to the other side, we were relieved. Stupid us. Next? CAVES!! The only light we had was the one attatched to our heads---and, as we would discover, these don't do much good if your ass down most the time. The caves were crazy. And, we were BAREFOOT. Our guide says "isokayisokay" as we looked questionably at our barefeet, at him, at the makeshift ladder (with exposed nailes) in front of us, at the mudd and slippery rocks ahead. Well, if isokay, then isokay. Off we go. Rach, me and 2 irish girls (also with sandal issues) took up the rear. We had our own laughing party, taking turns laughing at who ever fell next. Every now and then, it was a really good fall---you know, one that causes you to slide down a few feet, get completely COVERED in mudd, and make a loud "thud/slpash" when you land in the muddy puddle at the bottom--thus resulting in the applause of fellow (clean) cavers. Hey, at least we got a good lunch and would get to clean off while kayaking! Ry, you would be proud of my kayaking! So the rapids weren't big (grade 1) but they were still RAPIDS!!! And I did it :)! We didn't even fall!! The tour wasn't everything that we hoped it would be (I hate organized tours!) but we definitely got a good laugh...or 1000 good laughs. If you are wondering where the "party" reputation comes in, it has to do with all the make-shift bars that line the river. Foreigners go tubing down river, stopping at the bars along the way. And, when you see a picture of the menu from a regular bar in this place, you'll understand more (but think drugs...on the menu)! Our next stop was Vientiane (the capital). We went to a place called Buddha Park which was full of larger-than-life Buddha (and other) statues. It was beautiful! Also visited the oldest wat, the main stupa (representing Buddhism and Lao soverginity), and a Revolutinary War monument (known as the vertical runway b/c it was made with cement dontated from the US for a new airport). Had some good food and enjoyed the views/sunset from the Mekong river. This is where we visited COPE and learned all about UXO. (If you want to learn more about this, email me---I'm very moved by it all and would love to talk about it!). Our trip to Laos came to a close and we took a 2.5 hour bus across the boarder to Thailand (stopping by the bus-load to sort out passport/visa stuff which, other than the heat, was easy as). There is a bridge contecting the 2 countries (the Friendship Bridge built recently) and as we crossed it, our driver had to change the side he was driving on. In Laos, they drive on the right (like us) and in Thailand, on the left. It was crazy thinking how much concentration that must take to switch back and forth like that! In order to get back to Chaing Mai, we had to take a 13 hour over-night bus. This was quite the experience! We decided to go for the cheaper option (we didn't need VIP!). Opps. The bus stopped what felt like every 10 mintues to pick people up or drop them off. And there were people standing in the isles nearly the whole journey (mind you, not the SAME people the entire time!)---and just like that my leg room was gone! Not to mention that the roads were incredibly windey and bumpy...so even if we wanted to sleep, there was something about being THROWN back and forth that kinda of prevented the zzzz from taking over. But another Thai experience that we won't soon forget! A few relaxng days in Chaing Mai before heading here, to Pai. The bus journey here was great! The scenary was amazing and though it's only 122 km from CM, it took over 4 hours (that should tell you a little about the landscape). It didn't take long for us to fall in love. Everything is beautiful around here---and the town is so layed back (if not very hippy-ish). We are staying in a "bungalow" :). Yesterday, we rented a scooter so we could explore the surrounding areas (Pai is very small). They gave us a PINK scooter!!! How'd they know that was my favorite color?!!! And to go with it, we got sexy green helmets. I'm sorry, I don't care who you are, there ain't NO way to make this look hot!! haha. I wasn't sure what to expect when renting this here scooter---I don't have an ïnternational drving license" and have never driven one of these things (or it's been a LONG time). Well. Apparently, they just wanted to see my passport. Didn't even make us wear helmets (no, that was the mom in me that decided we would look better with these goofy helmets then with smashed heads!). Didn't even give us a lesson (nope, my pride took a break and allowed me to ask some girly tourist for a lesson). Didn't even require insurance (nope, for ONCE in my life I was ALL OVER buying that optional insurance). Just passport, keys, off you go. Haha. They looked easy. haha. But they really looked easy. haha. HOW THE HELL DO PEOPLE RIDE THESE THINGS WITH BABIES ON THEIR HIPS?! Okay, so I got the hang of it...and by today, I was all over the scooter driving---but I wish I had a video of us riding our hot pink scooter down the left side of the road for the first few mintues. Please jsut picture it. Then multiple whatever you pictured by about 10. That was me and rach on this scooter for the first few mintues!! Once we got comfy though, it was AMAZING!! We explored everything around here and I felt like I was in a movie (so what if the movie was Dumb and Dumber). The scenary was amazing and we were so...free! We loved every mintue. While exploring, we passed a place that came recommened by a friend--"Joy's elephant riding". Elephant riding is a big thing here---from day 1 I would have loved to do one of those elephant riding tours---but morally, I couldn't bring myself to fall into the tourist trap. Most places treat the elephants like crap and over work them...just so they can make a buck. As much as I thought it would be an awesome experience, I didn't want to support it. So when I heard about this place...and then we passed it, I had to check it out. This woman, Joy, has 1 elephant that she rescued. She keeps her during the day and brings her to the jungle at night (not sure how she gets her back...!). It's so obvious how much she loves this thing. She only allows her to do 2 rides per day---enough to pay to feed her. When we stopped by, Joy introduced us to Padwade (the elephant that we are now in love with) and gave us a huge bag of fruit (from her garden and trees) to feed her. We loved it and made a reservation for today. Not sure of our Mahoot's name (the guy in command of this massive creature) but he was awesome! It was just me, him and Rach right on the back (not on one of those seats they use at zoos) of Padwade. Then, mahoot got off and led her from the floor--it was CRAZY! You could feel the strength of this thing--and swaying back and forth was a bit more scary then I had imagined! He led us right down to the water...where Padwade would get to "play"! haha. SANUK!!!! (Thai for Fun). The whole while, Mahoot was standing back laughing and taking pics. We were so unsuspecting (I was thinking a little spray of water from the trunk)...a few grumbles/grunts from mahoot, and padwade was sitting in the river. Still unsuspecting but holding on a little tighter. Smiling away (the pictures outline this fabulously...I'll post them ASAP). A few more grunts and BAM....Padwade is LAYING sideways in the water and we are soaked!!! All good times. We got situatied back on Padwade (which was A LOT of work!) just in time for more grunts (not to mention curious grins from mahoot). This time?! Padwade is SHAKING us off her as if we were flys!!! We did our best to hang on for a bit...but trying to hang on to a 2 ton animal who has nothing to hold on to...while she is shaking like crazy...is near impossible! We went FLYING into the water!!! We were LOVING it!! We continued to play in the water for a bit longer before making our way back---got to feed her some more and fell in love even more. More in love with her, more in love with Pai. A perfect end to a perfect trip (of a trip that has really just begun...!).
Love and kisses....