Staying with the Locals

March 8
Today we were up at a decent time and headed to our homestay.  The drive was about two and a half hours and it started to rain while we were driving.  As a result, we stopped to put a tarp over the bags so that they wouldn’t get too wet.  

After getting settled, the group went out for a walk to check out the rubber tree.  I didn’t go as I wasn’t feeling good but it seems a rubbery tree is similar to a maple syrup tree.  There is a sap that they collect off the tree that is turned into rubber.  They saw pineapples and a cashew tree.

Due to the way this home stay was setup, the girls all stayed in one room with mattresses on the floor and mosquito nets.  One of the guys chose to sleep in a hammock outside the girl’s room and the other found somewhere else in the house to sleep, maybe one of the actual bedrooms they had.

Supper was provided by the family we were staying with.  It was served family style on the floor.   It included:
  • White rice
  • Chicken curry – not very spicy
  • A chicken and seafood stir-fry
  • Vegetables and meat
  • Hard boiled eggs
After we had a chance to digest, they showed us how to make banana’s wrapped in sticky rice.  Due to the time required, they became part of breakfast the next day. I never did get the name of it.
  • Cook sticky rice, coconut cream and sugar
  • Place on a banana leaf
  • Spread rice mixture out
  • Place banana on the rice mixture
  • Use leaf to wrap the rice around the banana
  • Fold leaf to make a tight bundle
  • Steam for approximately an hour
  • Cool for many hours before eating
My attempt
From there, some people chose to play cards and others did some reading.  It was a relaxing and nice evening for everyone.

Lots of Travelling

March 6
Our journey on the train was good and I slept on and off throughout the journey.  The bunks weren’t that big but I was okay.  I did keep my purse with me as I didn’t trust it out with my bag, just in case.  
On the sleeper car once the beds were made up.
We arrived around 8 am which was 1.5 hours beyond our scheduled time.  They call it “rubber” time as time is flexible.  We got off and had some breakfast and then onto our trucks for the ride to the park we were spending the night at.  
View off our deck.
 We arrived and I changed and had a swim.   It was very refreshing!  From there, I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the loungers on our front steps.  It was tempting to bring a mosquito net outside and sleep there.  Thankfully, the temperatures cooled off so sleeping at night was easier.
I could spend all day here!
Loungers on the deck
March 7
Off on a boat tour today.  We did stop at a 7-11 on our way to the lake and most of us grabbed some toilet paper and water.  We continued to the lake and everyone stopped to use the washroom first.  When we came out, there was a group of Muslim ladies outside who stopped us and asked if we would take a picture with them.  That was fun and a different experience for most of us.

Off to the river and onto the longboats.  We rode for about an hour until we got to an island and we hiked to an inner lake which took about half an hour.  It was a hard trek and one member decided to stay behind (70+ year old lady); it was uphill on rough terrain.
Steep uphill climb

Once we arrived and got back down the hill, we got onto a raft to go to a cave.  We didn’t have very far to go but the raft did sink down a bit into the water and my feet got wet.  We then had to climb up to get to the cave.  Inside the cave it was quite warm which seems odd as a person is used to caves being cool.
Cruisin, could have used some water shoes

Into the cave, who is afraid of the dark?
Then back to the raft and a hike back to the long tail boat.  It was a ten minute ride to our lunch stop where we had a family style lunch of steam rice, deep fried fish, a stir fry and a green curry.  There was also dessert consisting of a banana wrapped in coconut cream in a banana leaf, a banana fritter and a coconut leaf wrapped with sticky rice.  

After lunch we had free time.  Some people went for a swim; some went out on a canoe and some of us just relaxed and read or visited.  I did dangle my feet in the water but my kindle and I just relaxed for the most part. 

At three, we got back on the boat and headed back to the mainland. It started to rain and most of us donned the rain gear they had given us when we started out for the day.  We stopped to check out some large, mossy rocks but due to the rain, the majority of us had put our cameras away.  

From there, back to where we were staying to relax, eat and find out what is on the agenda for the next day.

Relaxation Over, The Tour Begins

March 4
Typically the tours start in the evening with the day reserved for people to arrive, get settled and relax for a bit.  I prefer getting there a few days earlier so I am ready and rested before the tour, one main reason is to acclimatize to the time zone change.

Met my tour group and the tour leader went through the information we needed to know.  As this was my first time taking a tour, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We were giving little booklets with information about where we will be each day, some local words, and some history.  After, most of us decided to go across the street to get some food.

March 5
Today was a long tail boat ride and a visit to some temples.
There were a lot of houses right along the canal; many that looked quite run down.  At home, only the fancy houses are on the river as they are more expensive.

At one point, we stopped as we had a loaf of bread and there were a bunch of fish.  Amazing how fast they came to the boat to get some food!  One of the members of our group was trying to catch a fish; we aren’t sure why but he wasn’t able to.

From there, it was off to check out Wat Po.  It is the third largest reclining Budda in Thailand.  The Budda is completely covered in gold leaf and has to be re-covered every year as it tarnishes. 

The Reclining Budda is 43 meters (141 feet) long and 15 meters (49 feet) tall.  There are 108 mother of pearl squares in the feet of the Budda.

This picture doesn't do it justice
You cannot tell how small and ornate this truly was
From there, we wandered around the rest of the Wat and then those of us that wanted to went back to the hotel.  Some of the others decided to go check out other things before we headed out on an 8 pm train.  

These statues were everywhere.  Apparently the boats came from China empty so these were put in for weight.
Our tour guide tried to get us all a cab but for some reason, she was having a hard time so I ended up in a tuk tuk to get to the train station.  I get what people don’t like about them; they tend to dart in and out of traffic and you get fumes in your face.   There were three of us stuffed in and we had to hold our luggage to make sure it didn’t fall out when taking corners.  
Squishy tuk tuk!
Got to the station, found the group and left our luggage with our guide while we wandered around and found snacks for the ride and the night.  We did end up leaving on time but we will see if we got to our destination on time.  We did have to stop for a bit to add a new/additional engine.

Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore – March 2012

I was able to book about five weeks off from work and headed to Thailand and area.  Due to language and trying to get around in a crowded place, I decided that taking a tour would be a lot easier.  The original tour I was going to do was to start in Bangkok, went north to Chaing Mai and then head back south and ends up in Singapore.  Unfortunately, this tour was cancelled but I was able to put two tours together to make basically the same trip and pay the same price.   

Getting there was a long process.  I flew to Vancouver late at night as I wouldn’t be able to start my next leg until the AM.  I knew I would have to stay awake and entertain myself so the later I got to Vancouver, the better in my opinion.   As I was flying on points, I didn’t have the best options for how I was routed.  I had quite a few hours to kill in Vancouver so I found some food and then found a place to bunk down.  Many people were having naps, but as I was travelling alone, I didn’t feel comfortable doing that.  Eventually I was able to get checked in for my flight to San Francisco and continue my journey.  Once I got to San Francisco, I was off to Tokyo and then to Bangkok.   I arrived at my hotel at 1:30 AM, tried the Wi-Fi but no luck so I went to bed.

When I woke up the next day, I found food; the pool and internet so I could let everyone at home know I arrived.  Spend the next days just relaxing by pool and wandering outside on Khoason Road to check out the shops and food.   As I knew I would be back in Bangkok again, I didn’t do much for shopping at this point as no sense carting it all around.  I had a night scheduled here at the end so I
would shop then.

One of my favourite things to do was to go out and get a shake.  I stopped at one cart and went back to it the next day and the vendor remembered me and my order.  I thought that was pretty impressive with the amount of tourists that wander through the area on a regular basis.
Typical foot traffic

One of many shake stands