Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bangkok and Pai with my Mother

The only thing that pried me away from the amazing place I'd found with Wanderlust Hostel in Koh Phangan was the prospect of meeting my mother in Bangkok. I've met travelers who have not been home or seen family in years and they seem fine with that but that is not me! Back home my sister is my best friend and I'm extremely close with my mother and father and stepmother so being away for so long has been tough. I'm not sure how I succeeded but I managed to convince my mother to join me for two weeks in Thailand and as her visit approached I was more and more excited. Does it make me a terrible daughter if I was also really excited to see how she handled the crowds, the language and lack of any english on signs, the first time when  a Thai person would tell her some food was not spicy when it was and the bathrooms with bumguns and no toilet paper? Probably.

I got to Bangkok a few nights before her and I walked around a lot, went to the nearby night market every night but I barely did any sightseeing. The nerd that I am, the highlight of my days alone in Bangkok were when I found an online meetup for boardgaming and spent 11 hours playing games with locals and boardgame cafe hopping with them. After 6 months I was pretty deprived of gaming and I can even try and claim it as a cultural experience too because by the end of the night I had learned numbers in Thai. My lameness may have also been a good thing because the others at the hostel seemed to have suffered from the infamous Khaosan Rd. One guy had his passport stolen, another had his passport, wallet, phone and likely dignity stolen and the biggest tragedy of all was one poor girl who had lost her phone, her money, then missed her non refundable flight back to London, then while spending a few more days in Bangkok she was robbed twice more and for a second time drunkenly missed her flight back to London.

My mother arrived on November 16th and since it had been so long since we'd seen each other I was not sure I'd be recognized so I made sure to stand next to the taxi drivers holding a sign that read "Mom". She claimed to have recognized me but I'm pretty sure it was the sign that did it. It was amazing and surreal seeing my mom standing there in Bangkok and I was so glad to have her there but her first 24 (36?) hours there were rough. We exited the airport and she was crushed by the heat, then since the Airport Rail Link that I  had now mastered was closed, she was subjected to the joys of catching an airport taxi in Asia which took several tries. I had given my mother a few options of places we could stay and instead she sent me a link of the exact hostel I would have loved to stay at but had assumed she would hate. We booked it, checked into the hostel and as I had expected I loved it. Also as expected, the hated it. The Overstay is this fantastic hostel that may be a bit grungy but has a great vibe and collection of people and is the kind of place that would be great to just hang out. Unless you are looking for a perfectly clean place that has a/c blasting everywhere and is quiet, then like my mother you would be complaining and miserable to. The daughter laughing and saying I told you so probably didn't help her mood. The next day we wandered around Bangkok and Khaosan Rd but she was so miserable in Bangkok that when we checked the bus prices to Pai for the next day she asked if it was possible to leave that night. We got tickets, sped back to the hostel, furiously packed and somehow made it back in time to catch the overnight bus which was 12+ hours of solid sleep for me and another 12 hours of miserableness and carsickness for her.

Just in case

Getting our feet eaten at a fish spa. 

Once we arrived in Pai the culture shock and not so fun experiences stopped for my mother because we were finally in beautiful Pai. After the heat and crowds and concrete jungle in Bangkok, Pai was like a paradise for us since it was so tiny you could walk everywhere in town, it was cooler or at night even cold, and there was beautiful scenery and views everywhere. Our first two nights were at the Pai Circus school where I learned a bit more Poi and some firestaff (still no fire) and not only did my mum stay at the Circus school too but she even tried a few of the activities, slacklined, and one night she hung out late with all the young hippies and held her own. My mother and I really wanted to see the surrounding area but the fact that every person at the hostel was covered in bandages from motorbikes wasnt making us feel too confident. Somehow miraculously we found a taxi that would take us around for 1000bht, then 2 french girls overheard us and asked to join in. Then a third girl, Vie, overheard us and also joined in bringing the cost to 200bht per person. The hilarious part was Vie had rented a bike that morning and we had seen her driving and that had been the final straw in our decision to not to drive a bike. A minute after she passed us she crashed and turned around. That day we saw the Pai Grand Canyon, we visited thw land split (not too impressive), saw the waterfall which was beautiful and swam in its icy waters, and ended the day at the sai ngam/secret hot springs which at 20bht entry was much more preferable to the slightly better one that was 300bht! The entire ride I sat in the back of the pickup truck with Vie and the views were beautiful but the steep ups and downs of the roads would have been terrifying on a bike.

My mother rocking at the slackline

When we got back to the Circus I was greeted by the pleasant surprise that my friend Tyer had now checked in. To me the Circus School was a fun and funky place but for Tyer it seemed he had found the spot he belonged the most in the world. I've never had that but seeing Tyer experience it I hope to god I do someday. The 3 of us ventured out to the main street to see the daily night market and it was a colourful mixture of artisan handicrafts and more importantly, delicious foods. Tyer would see a colourful sweater, I would see khaosoi salad, he would see a gem necklace, I would see bacon wrapped mushrooms. The only thing I wish I hadn't seen was the bug stall. I've avoided trying them so far because I didn't want to buy a whole bowl of them but then as we're watching some poor tourist who is about to try them he offers me some. So I pick up a silkworm, we cheers, then down it. He offered me a fat beetle which I said hell no to so we settled on trying crickets together. The silkworm was okay (can't believe I can say that) but the cricket was all legs and crunch and felt like it never left my teeth. To rid myself of the terrible cricket taste I treated myself to even more street food.

Pai Grand Canyon

Stunning view from te Pai Circus School

Yeah...I ate that

After 2 days of being a trooper and putting up with staying at the circus my mother opted for getting our own cute little bungalow away from the crazyness. We spent the rest of our time there getting thai massages and one night we even searched out the Purple Monkey hostel when we heard they had poutine and caesars. Sadly the poutine stops after 5 but that was the best damn caesar ever.

Our last day in Pai we decided to have a nice lazy day tubing down the river. We get in the tubes and then are immediately separated, then launched into the rocks, escape the rocks, then were launched into spiky bushes and spent the next five minutes de-thorning everything. It was chaotic but hilarious, especially when you add in my mothers reactions. The group eventually became myself, my mother, Luke, and Connor and miles back were the rest. While talking together Luke, the super sweet South African guy found out I wanted to learn to ride a motorbike but was too scared so after tubing he made it his goal to teach me. After tubing he drove around a bit and we visited the waterslide waterfall where you climb up, look down and go "Oh crap I have to slide down THAT?" but it was actually a blast to go down it. The water in the shallow pool below was Canadian cold so I was okay but poor Luke being from South Africa was shivering to death and I swear he was turning blue. Despite seeming nearly hypothermic and me being fine he still insisted I be the first to use his towel. Then the scary part comes. He pulls the bike over and says 'Your turn'. It was terrifying to me but he was an awesome teacher and sat on the back so if I messed anything up he could adjust it. When I think of how many tourists are thrown on a bike by the bike shops and are told 'this is gas, this is brake' and then start driving I can't help but feel incredibly lucky that I had Luke to teach me. The hills in Pai are insane so I wasn't up for braving it all the way so we thankfully switched after a while and drove to the white buddha to watch the sunset. Then my mother and I ended the day yet again at the night market. I think night markets are like sunsets, you can never see too many.

Lesson learned: If you are a terrible and nervous driver like myself but you still stupidly want to try riding a bike 1) have someone actually properly teach you, 2) do it before your medical insurance expires! (Dec 20th - Happy Birthday to me!)

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