Wat Phra Singh reflected in an early morning puddle — Chiang Mai, Thailand

Observations From Northern Thailand

Bottled and treated rainwater is the cheapest drinkable water for sale in Thailand, though it all too often has the taste of the cheap plastic it is bottled in.

An Elvis impersonator in a mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand
An Elvis impersonator in a mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand

For some reason when you enter Thailand by land they only issue a 15 day visa. We rushed back from the trek to get to Laos, but were very happy to see that I had counted days wrong. This extra two days allowed us to bike around Chang Mai and do our meditation retreat.

The Thai national anthem seems to be played every day at 8am, as we had to stop in our tracks at the Chang Mai bus terminal when it came over the loudspeaker. The same thing happened waiting in the Bangkok train station a week earlier.

After being buying the last two tickets for our bus ride to Chang Kong, Carrie and my seats were not together. We asked our respective seat mates very politely if they would mind trading and they both refused.

After contemplating the pros and cons of urinating in a plastic bottle in a room in the back of the bus as I reached mission critical, I was happy to find that the room I was considering using for cover also housed a real toilet. Crisis averted. File that one under too much information.

Buddha statue at Wat Umong, Thailand
Wat Umong is home to this controversial Buddha statue — note the starving look with full ribs and veins showing.

One the bus ride to Chang Kong I managed to get the seat that squeaked non-stop when I leaned back. It didn’t help that the bus had no shocks.

It wouldn’t be a hotel in the third world if it didn’t at least have a few ants running up the walls.

People just don’t understand the concept of vegetarian. Carrie asked for something with no meat at the monastery and the woman replied, “no meat. Only egg and pork.”

Apparently the world of used book selling in Chang Mai is cut throat, as the American owner of the biggest one in town told us a story about how he had death threats and is constantly at war with a local shop owner. He had to get the corrupt police on his side to keep in business.

I must say that I really am going to miss riding two wheelers when we get home.

We were woken up at 7am every morning in Chang Mai by the staff knocking at neighbors’ doors to get them ready to go trekking.

Novice monks at Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Novice monks at Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand

What I can only assume was an army of birds all pooped on me while walking out of our hotel in Chang Mai. There was enough poo to get my arms, shoulders and head while still leaving some to splatter the ground. Gross!

I saw a foreigner walking around with a Yankees hat that had a British flag sewn onto it. Is he embarrassed to be an American or proud to be a Brit?

An ATM security guard was passing the night away by weaving a fishing net that hung down from the light post.

The only reason we even checked out Wat Umong was due to a recommendation of a girl I was on the same college dorm floor as. We got back in touch after she found my blog while researching Sadhana Forest, where she will be volunteering at this September.

I saw a monk with two giant and not particularly peaceful tattoos at the Wat Umong monastery.

If a Vietnamese monk quits being a monk he is shamed by his family and community and can never return home.

I was going to shave my head completely the night before our meditation retreat, but thought against it lest I be mistaken for a poser monk.

I can’t believe that there are less than two months left in the trip. It seems like just yesterday we were freezing in London.


One of the many things that kept us awake and laughing during our night at the local village on our jungle trek was a cat in heat who meow’ed loud and often…especially when it thought the two-stringed instrument Mr. Ton was playing was another cat and would reply to every chord played.

tarantula Karen Shan village
The tarantula in our room at the Karen Shan village after our second day of trekking

The British guy in our group was trying to light a campfire unsuccessfully when a local woman came over and got it pumping in less than two minutes.

The French people on our trip kept getting leeches all over them. I got lucky and only had to flick a few off of my shoes.

There were ant highways all over the place. Literally, thousands of them walking across the path, up trees, everywhere…and always in line.

After schlepping them around for six months, I’m finally glad I bought GoreTex shoes for this trip.

I asked Mr. Ton, our guide who has been guiding for more than 20 years, if he had ever had a couple fighting like that. He said no, he often has to wait for them to kiss but never to fight.

Leaving the waterfall provided one final adventure, as my flip flop broke and I had no choice but to take a plastic bag and tie it around my foot so that I could walk the 15 minutes back to the truck through the jungle.

Finally, another shoutout to my Mom, whose generous gift towards Carrie and my trip helped fund the jungle trek, cooking class and a zip lining trek above the jungles in northern Laos that I will go into next time.