As my time in Chiang Rai grew short, I kept myself off the computer and in conversations or sightseeing. So as you can imagine, this update is going to be quite a long recap of my remaining days in Chiang Rai (from Friday to Monday night back in Bangkok). It's also being posted a bit late, but what I've discovered about leaving Thailand for Vietnam is that it is incredibly hard to type on the computer while traveling on the buses--moments in my travel where I've found the best time to spend a few hours and type up a few posts--because it is much bumpier and more crowded on the buses here which is something, I guess, I took for granted while in Thailand. Anyway, I just felt the need to explain that the next few posts might be a bit longer and the days will be blocked together. Also, the internet in places we've been since leaving Thailand is pretty crappy, so I cannot do it any other way.
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Despite only a few days left in north Thailand with Rachie, there was still a whole weekend ahead of us, but Christa, Deirdre, and I still needed to get back to Chiang Rai. Rachel and Nate were not ready to leave Chiang Mai because little Tipsuda was still in recovery, so we made our way to the bus stop Friday morning in order to enjoy nearly a full day with Brady and Zach in Chiang Rai.
After the long bus ride (and another chance to type up the last Dandygram from my adventures in Chiang Mai), we were greeted by Brady and Zach at the bus stop in Chiang Rai. We dumped our goodies and gifts from all the shopping in Chiang Mai at the house, and Christa, Brady, and I went straight to a rental place to get some scooters. With two sets of stylish wheels now ours for a few days, we rode them around for a quite while to get some wind in our hair to cool off. Brady had a great idea to visit a pool at one of the local hotels, and oddly enough, it was probably the first time I had been swimming in an incredibly long time. Being in a place like Southeast Asia, even the luke warm water felt completely refreshing.
We later got word from Nate and Rachel saying they would be headed back that night, so with wet shorts and suits, we rode back to the house and made plans for dinner together. What we didn't know is that over dinner and two bottles of 100 Piper whiskey later, we would create a new game called "That's What You Did!" Now with six motorbikes and each of us hungry for intimately local Thai food, the gang of "Freedom Riders" cruised around the lake next to Rachel and Nate's house (the same one from a few days before when practicing motorbike turns and accelerating) to their favorite restaurant that serves food fresh from the lake.
Our decision to go out to eat that night wasn't necessarily a bad one, but there had just been one of the three biggest Buddhist holidays that day, so many places were closed. As you might expect, their favorite restaurant was closed, but we managed to find another one just around the lake where we settled into a table on the front patio.
We enjoyed some very tasty food, and for the first time ever, I ate fish off of the bones with head and tail still attached. It was incredible, but there were definitely a few items I tried that I didn't really know what they were (or liked). I think I was able to momentarily convince Deirdre that one dish were bugs.
As we got settled into our table and ordered our first bottle of whiskey, we immediately began our routine of saying the joke, "That's what she said" (A joke widely attributed to Michael Scott in NBC's The Office). It had become so commonly used among our group that you sometimes really think about what you are saying before you say it, but it still doesn't help because every time you say something that could be easily twisted into something a women might say between the sheets or after sex or about something sexual, somebody will add it to the end of your statement, story, or comment. It's truly a funny thing.
A week into our stay, our group had become pretty insightful and intuitive with the way we used the joke, so Rachel and Brady started talking over dinner about how to establish a game that could be something like "That's What She Said." We all brainstormed over a round of 100 Piper in soda water with Sprite, and here's what we came up with:
This game is probably best played over dinner with a small group of people (5-10, let's say). To set it up, you must send away each person one at a time, and while they're away, the remaining members of the group decide on two things about the absent person. First, they must decide on a physical mannerism that is commonly done by that person (like scratching the beard, adjusting the glasses, tilting the head to the side, or a certain hand gesture while talking). Then, the group must decide on a verbal mannerism that is commonly said or talked about by the absent person (like talking about politics, getting everyone's attention for a grand story, or saying a specific phrase like "so sick" or "hey guys," etc.). You get the idea.
With everyone sent away one at a time and the remaining members choosing the two mannerisms, everyone is then part of the game with two things about themselves that they do or say that now everyone is going to be observant of throughout the dinner. And now it gets interesting . . .
As the meal progressed that night, the seven of us were then very cognizant--both about our own quirks but also of others--because whenever anyone would perform their mannerism--either physical or verbal, the person who noticed would be obligated to throw their glass up and say "Cheers to __(player)__!" depending on who just did what.
The best part of the game followed because you could never say what it was the person just did--physical or verbal--that you're drinking to, but the person who just did their quirk could then try to guess. However, every wrong guess required THEM to take a sip of their drink. As you can tell, it's no wonder why we went through two bottles of whiskey in no time at all. It was a fun game that got us laughing incredibly hard, and I swear, I woke up the following day with very soar abdominal muscles! As we ate and drank, some guessed theirs very quickly but others had no clue as we ended the game and paid the check. I definitely suggest getting a game going with some close friends or family some time, but just know it could go south very fast (that's what she said) unless you choose harmless characteristics/mannerisms/quirks.
It was an early night following our little dinner party and celebration for Deirdre's birthday because the next day (Saturday), we were heading to the Resource Center early for three hours of English lessons.
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Saturday morning's English lessons with Deirdre have really taken flight. This particular Saturday was structured a bit differently than last week's; instead of doing two-hour blocks with each level all at once, Deirdre and Zach arranged to have Level 1 students arrive at 9am for an hour lesson, then Level 2 students come at 10am for an hour, and then finally have Level 3 students come at 11am for a final hour of instruction. This was a more practical way to do it because Nate and Deirdre (as well as myself and Christa this week) could have better one-on-one time with the students during each hour as well as gauge their progress better. However, after three hours of English lessons, we were drained and hungry, so we rode the motorbikes back into Chiang Rai meeting Brady at the local golf course to get American-style chicken burgers and fries while we hit some balls. Great way to spend lunch anywhere, but it was relaxing after three hours with 6-15 year olds.
With full stomachs and finally feeling recouped from morning's work, we were all now in full party-planning mode. Saturday night was to be the official birthday party for Deirdre and also have a chance to get other falangs over to Nate and Rachel's house for a night of games, food, and drinks. We still needed many supplies, cake, food, and drinks, so we hit the remaining balls at the course, divided up the tasks and money, and got on our way to make everything come together for a night with friends. Deirdre, Christa, and I were tasked to get the beer and liquor, and on motorbikes without baskets, it can be a tricky ride back.
We were all back to the house, showered, and getting food prepared with time to spare. As guests started to show up, we made numerous introductions and heard many stories about life in Chiang Rai. As the night progressed, we started playing games like Apples to Apples, Mafia, Guesstures, and believe it or not, TWISTER! We sang a very LOUD rendition of the Birthday Song to Deirdre and another great night with great people. Here's proof!
Partying until midnight or 1am by Chiang Rai standards is late, but with great people and games continuing late into the night, it's hard to know when to call it quits and let it all catch up. Needless to say, Sunday morning was a VERRRRY late morning for us all. By the time we were all up, the consensus among Rachie, Deirdre, Nate, Christa, and I was that we were to go to La Meridien in Chiang Rai for brunch. Yes, you read that right . . . a La Meridien IS in Chiang Rai, and it's about 12 minutes from where Nate and Rachel live. As well, it was where they went for Valentine's Day, so it was incredible to experience such a special place for them and to taste the magnificent food choices. Interestingly enough, that Sunday was the last brunch they'll be serving until August when their tourism picks up. According to the one of the staff members, there were only seven guest/rooms being vacated in the entire hotel. Regardless, the chance to experience 5-star dining (quite similar to a fancy Mother's Day brunch) at a very low price on global standards seemed to good to pass up. Here are some of the pictorial highlights:
After brunch, we made our way back to the house, Christa and I jumped on our motorbikes to meet Brady near the Resource Center and visit the waterfall. This was by far one of the best places to see in all of Chiang Rai.
It was a beautiful ride to the fall. Once we rode a few kilometers, the weather cooled and shade started covering the road.
According to Christa and Brady, there had been a 7-foot snake laying on the road and soaking up the heat from the pavement. I'll take their word for it because I think I was busy trying to take the above picture to notice the serpent. Eh, probably best. Once we arrived into the park at the base of the trail leading up to the waterfall, we parked our bikes and took a few minutes, asking other tourists where the path to the waterfall was. We eventually found it and started to make our 1 kilometer trek up to the waterfall.
It was a fairly rigorous hike up, and had we prepared better, we probably wouldn't have worn flip-flops. I have to say, the investment in a new pair of Rainbow flops before I left was a very, very wise investment. After about an hour hike, we started to hear rushing water and could nearly feel the mist from the fall . . .
Few words can describe this scene, but I'll try . . . amazing, epic, and quite possibly majestic. Anyway, it was simply breath-taking and has remained the best part of my time in north Thailand. Here are some of the highlights of our time spent swimming at the base of the waterfall, getting completely refreshed in the coldest water I've felt since being in Thailand (but still warm by American standards), and finally, a few pics with the self-timer in an attempt to capture our disbelief in the amazement of being in such a setting. As well, there's a few shots of us getting completely behind the fall.
We decided to leave before we made arrangements to live by the waterfall forever and made our way back down the path (a much faster hike I might add). We hopped on the motorbikes and headed home, and once there, we gathered a few more--leaving Zach, Rachie, and Nate behind--and headed into town for dinner, a last night at the night bazaar, and had the last few last drinks at the Peace House. It was truly a great (and EXTREMELY late) last night in Chiang Rai, for the next day, we were to leave Chiang Mai later in the evening for Bangkok to meet Elliott and Ruben to fly out the next morning for Hanoi, Vietnam.
Next up on The Dandygram: Arriving in Ha Noi, Bus Ride to Ha Long Bay, and the Three Day Cruise.