Monday, December 27, 2010

Fire! Fire!

Our good friends 'M' and 'J' arrived from Australia last week and after meeting them at the airport, we went to their hotel...the luxurious Holiday Inn. 'M' and I were standing outside and noticed a large wall of mist emanating from the side of the building, from a few stories high. We figure it's like those similarly used to cool down coffee shops and restaurants.

Shortly after the parking lot attendant starts blowing his whistle, directing cars away from a certain area. Sirens start blaring...from an ambulance, exiting the hospital directly across the road, which hurtles into the hotel car park and from a fire engine, which has over shot the hotel entrance and now needs to reverse in the busy street.

"It's a fire drill!" one of the management staff informs us, saying that all of the guest have been alerted.

Back home I've worked in offices and shops that have legally mandatory, regular fire drills. But ours never involve actual emergency services attending. Pre-nominated fire wardens (employees) have specified tasks...counting heads, ensuring allocated areas have been evacuated etc. Then we all take our merry time, returning to our offices.

So, I was surprised to see the fire truck not only arrive, but to engage the stabilising legs and set the cherry picker (AKA Skylift F32HDT) in motion.
Spray of mist in the background

Friday, December 24, 2010

Visa Run Day 9. The Home Stretch

We've been back in Chiang Mai for a week now. It took a couple of days to recoup and catch up on some sleep. The last day of the trip went fast and without incident. It was warmer and dryer as we rode closer to Chiang Mai. Blue sky and sunshine even appeared for a couple of hours. Our seat saver (wad of sponge foam) meant we didn't have to make as many stops.
I wonder how old these are?
Would we do it all again? Probably not...well not me, not this way, not on a 125 cc Honda Wave. Are we glad we did it? Of course! I can safely say that now, because I'm writing this from the comfort of my lounge chair, back in our apartment ;)

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flowers for Mum

Friday, December 17, 2010

Visa Run Day 7-8. Udon Thani to Loei to Uttaradit

Udon Thani is big. Bigger than I'd expected. Big enough to have it's own airport and appears to be a thriving centre for business and industry. This would explain a male dominated hotel dining room at breakfast and the availability of single beds ONLY, at the SiriGrand.

While we were in Laos we invested in a wad of sponge foam and tape it to our scooter seat. This will be our butt saviour over the next three days.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Visa Run Day 6. Unexpected Visitors In Udon Thani

This morning we took it easy and generally watched TV and vegged out in the hotel room, the next three days will be hectic enough.

While out of the balcony (yes, again) I see a truck with a tank on the back. The driver is scooping up fish in a net and placing them into basket, while a food stall owners waits patiently.
These fish are well and truly alive and flipping about. The stall owner pays and the fish monger adds ice from the esky to cool down the water in the tank. A few hours later the fish are ready for sale, char grilled and impaled on split wood skewers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Visa Run Day 5. Vientiene, Laos (applying for the visa)

At 8.00 am I line up outside the Thai Consulate entrance with fellow visa applicants. The gates rattle open shortly after 8.30 am and we walk quickly to collect our number ticket. I’m 18th. Many of us haven’t completed the actual visa application and sit down to do so. The first 20 or so numbers are called so quickly, we don’t hear them...because we’re all busy, writing and gluing on photos.

No problem, I stand in line and those around me numbered higher happily let me jump ahead. By the time I head over to the payment building, the ticket machine is dispensing number 160. I exit the consulate at 9.35 am. All very straight forward and painless.

Stray meets me outside and takes me to a cafe he discovered a little earlier, just around the corner. Brugel’s Bakery is new, modern and owned/run by a young, half Thai, Laotian man. He has a good head for business, offering free computer use and WiFi, and complementary visa applications that the unscrupulous try to flog for 20 Baht outside of the consulate. In a month or so he’ll have a 400 Baht room to rent and if the standard of the cafe is any indication, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there.

Looking out to the street from the alfresco area

Monday, December 13, 2010

Visa Run Day 4. Vientiane, Laos

Declining Hotel Hell’s offer to mind our bike, for double the price of the lock up facility, we head towards Friendship Bridge. A quick passport check and stamp later, we purchase a 15 Baht bus ticket for the ride across. For some reason we are ushered away from the bus and into a private minivan?

The Laos visa took only 20 minutes: complete the form, attach two photos and pay about 1300 baht. We were approached by a taxi driver who offered us a trip into Vientiane for 150 Baht each, very reasonable for such a long distance, so we take it. The young driver shows us the Thai Consulate and then takes us to a hotel. It’s old, big and comfortable, but could do with a good scrub and renovating in parts. The rooms on the road side share a balcony that runs the whole length of the building, which makes for great people watching over the next few days.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Visa Run Day 3. Loei to Nong Khai

Before leaving Loei we stop to buy a new map, as ours has nearly reached it's limits. The gas station employee suggests we take another path to Nong Khai, up to Chiang Khan and south east, along the Mekong river. (video - Chiang Khan)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visa Run Day 2. Uttaradit to Loei

It turns out that the route to Loei, plotted out yesterday, is a pleasant change. Quieter (not too quiet) roads, cooler in the shade of the hills and much more scenic. The video isn't very interesting, it's hard to get the camera out at just the right time. 
It’s nice to be off the main highway where the shoulder of the road is officially the motorbike (bicycle, tuk tuk or any other homemade contraption, motorised or not) lane. Overtaking on the inside feels unnatural and dangerous, and it’s illegal in Australia, so often we go around the outside...the normal way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Visa Run Day 1. Chiang Mai to Uttaradit

When we arrived in Uttaradit this afternoon, Stray said he felt like a Labradoodle, the way everyone would do a double take when they saw us. But first, I’ll go back to this morning, when we left Chiang Mai.

We’d being weighing up our mode of transport for quite some time before going to Laos for my Visa and decided to hire a bike...not a road bike, more like a scooter, a 125 cc Honda Wave.

As we secure our overnight size bag to the front basket, ‘S’, one of the hotel staff (who speaks only Thai) made it quite clear that we are nuts. She alternates between laughing and frowning, and throws in a few ‘mai dee’s’...not good! We assure her we’ll be on the go slow, taking a few days to reach the border. It does occur to us that we may be making a big mistake, but guess that going such distances in Thailand is not the norm, as they are in Australia.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Off to Laos!

We're off to Laos for a week or so, to organise my Education visa and to have a look at rural Thailand and Vientiane. I expect updates will be few, but before we go, I'd like to leave you with this.

What can I say...small things amuse small minds. IT WAS MUCH LOUDER THAN THIS.

My quiet Sunday morning was interrupted by Mount Vesuvius, out on the balcony... I have no idea, but it's not mine. Obviously someone a few storeys down below, in the laundry, was a trifle heavy handed with the soap powder...I've been meaning to clean out there anyway. The joys of high rise living are new to me and an endless source of amusement and wonder.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Monday, December 6, 2010

Royal Flora Ratchaphruek

Yesterday we headed out to Royal Flora Ratchaphruek. We were oblivious to the free entry and planned celebrations for the King's birthday, therefore, didn't realise that most of Chiang Mai would be accompanying us.
Ratchaphruek is the national flower of Thailand, AKA, (Cassia fistula L.) or Golden Shower Tree. From what I've read, this immaculately manicured garden park started out as a flower festival in 2006. Amongst the gardens stands the Lanna style Ho Kham Royal Pavilion (behind me in the distance - above). And a little bit closer, below.

Friday, December 3, 2010

#3 You know you've left home when...

You know you've left home when...
  • it's a battle to find double bed sheets and blankets without cartoon characters on them...we settled for an electric blue Hawaiian print. Très chic!
  • he asks the waitress if the soup is 'hot and spicy?' to which she replies 'THANK YOU'.
  • your lunch date points out that it's NOT alright to shove CD's and people wearing old fashioned aeroplane goggles??? down the toilet...she's bitterly disappointed.