Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bangkok Birthday

So I’m sitting here having breakfast and thinking, wow, today’s my birthday. Where does the time go? I remember being excited every year about what kind of cake I would get. I mean, my mom always made me a banana cake, my absolute favorite, but it was in the shape of something different every year. I think my absolute favorite was the panda bear cake. It was totally cool. It actually sat up so it was a tall and it had little brown paws and a little brown and white face. It was such a cool cake I didn’t want to cut into it. But hey, it was banana cake, so I got over that fast and dug in. There’s just nothing better than my mom’s banana cake. I think that was also the year, I got my snoopy electric toothbrush. What a birthday!

As a lot of you know, the Traveling Hillbilly LOVES birthdays. I think they are something to be celebrated and embraced, not be afraid of. I think this love of birthdays stems from my childhood. Birthdays were always such a special thing growing up. Whenever it was your birthday, the whole family got together to celebrate and you were made to feel so special that day. I have some great birthday memories, not just my own but those of other family members as well. Birthdays were always a good time.

So I sit here, excited that it is my birthday, but also a little sad. There will be no banana cake made lovingly by mom, no big family celebration. But don’t feel too bad for the Traveling Hillbilly. I mean I am in Bangkok after all. I’m sure the Traveling Hillbilly will find something exciting to do in this big city. Actually I’m hoping to go to The Dome tonight. It’s a restaurant and bar on top of the State Tower so it has amazing views of the city. Sounds like a great place to start the birthday celebration.

You know what? I just realized it’s actually only my Bangkok Birthday. It’s still 5pm on the 31st in Los Angeles. So due to the time difference, my real birthday won’t be until tomorrow here. Hhhhhmmmm, it seems like I may have to celebrate again tomorrow. The Traveling Hillbilly likes this idea of the 2 day birthday!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How's the Food & Other Quick Observations.

MJ wants to know how the food in Thailand is. It's awesome. After some pretty hairy experiences in China, I was a little nervous about the food here, but it's delicious. The cocktails are great too. Just tonight I had a Spicy Lip! It was chili-infused vodka, with lime and lemongrass. Hhhhmmmm. Who knew I even liked lemongrass? As a lot of you know, the Traveling Hillbilly likes cocktails straight up, not all those fancy sweet drinks that have become so popular, but there have been some interesting and spicy options here, so I just had to give them a try. Other random things to note:

1) The weather in Chiang Mai was perfect. It was like being in Hawaii.
2) The fruit is amazing! I don't normally like pineapple, but the pineapple here is great. Plus there's this one fruit that I have no idea what it is but it's delicious! I've had fruit everyday.
3) Traditional Thai massage? I highly recommend! The Traveling Hillbilly had the first one yesterday and it was fabulous. Clothing is a must when getting a real Thai massage. Given the great prices, it just may have to be a daily ritual. How can you beat a One Hour Thai Massage and 45 Minute Facial for under $30 US? And that's at a nice spa.
4) The Traveling Hillbilly actually went 2 days in Chiang Mai without seeing a McDonald's! Of course did see a Starbuck's the first day.
5) There are a lot less American tourist here, but a lot of German's, Aussie's and Brits. I guess the 18 hour flight scares a lot of Americans off.
6) As anticipated, it's much warmer and more humid in Bangkok. Plus I expect it will be more expensive. Oh and saw a McDonald's, a KFC and a Pizza Hut within an hour of arriving!
The Traveling Hillbilly just arrived in this bustling city today so more observations on this city to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Elephants & Tigers, Oh My!

As mentioned in the last posting, the Traveling Hillbilly went on an elephant trek through the jungle. Now I was excited by this idea, but figured the description was probably a little over-blown and that it would be pretty touristy. But this adventure totally exceeded the TravelingHillbilly's expectations! I mean we were literally on the back of elephant riding (albeit, very slowly) through the jungle. It was amazing. The path was basically a little stream that ran through the jungle. I can’t believe that thess big huge elephants make their way through this little stream, over rocks and logs so gracefully. Then just when I thought we were almost back at the elephant camp, we took a detour. The guide steered the elephant toward the river and we actually trekked through the river back to the camp. The whole time I was on this journey, I kept saying to myself, whoever would have thought that this hillbilly would be riding on the back of an elephant through the jungles of Thailand? It was truly awesome!

But the day was not over. After the magical elephant ride, it was time to raft down the river. Again this was in true Thai style. We had our little straw hats on just like you see on the folks in the rice paddies. And we actually floated down the river on a little bamboo raft. It was just poles of bamboo strung together. The Traveling Hillbilly felt just like Huckleberry Finn! As we floated down the river, we had several elephant sightings!

I know this all sounds very touristy but it felt like the Traveling Hillbilly was on an African safari. Okay, so there weren’t really any tigers, but it was truly a magical and very memorable experience.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where did my weekend go?

Eighteen hours on a plane? Are you kidding me? Unfortunately, no the 18 hours is not a joke. The non-stop flight from LA to Bangkok is 17 hours and 53 minutes. The Traveling Hillbilly was in for a long and painful flight. With the long flight, plus the time difference, the odd thing was the Traveling Hillbilly left LA on a Friday night and got to Thailand and it was already Sunday. Where did my weekend go?

I have to admit though, the flight was not nearly as bad as anticipated. There were plenty of on- demand TV shows and movies to watch, as well as some really fun games. Plus Thai Airways kept us well fed and the service was excellent! I would highly recommend Thai Airways for any future travel plans to Asia.

After almost eighteen hours, we finally hit land again. Yeah! Unfortunately Bangkok was not the final destination for this first leg of the trip. After going through customs, which took all of 5 minutes, it was time to catch another plane to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is in the northern part of Thailand and is the 2nd largest city, next to Bangkok, although still much smaller than Bangkok.

We arrived yesterday, exhausted but truly excited about the adventures to come. The Traveling Hillbilly was very excited to arrive at the hotel, Rachamankha. It's a small boutique hotel and is true Thai style. It only has like 25 rooms and is set up in square with a beautiful courtyard and pool in the center. It's unlike any place this hillbilly has stayed before. As tempting as it was to just check in and go to sleep, we decided it was best to power through and spend the day sightseeing. We wanted to get on Thai time as soon as possible.

We walked around the old town area and down by the river. We wandered through several outdoor markets and finally stopped for a drink right on the river. With the long plane ride and all the walking, the legs finally gave out and we took a Singtao (basically a small covered pickup with the bench seats in the back) to get back to the hotel. We finally called it a night around 8pm. Boy did that bed feel good. The hillbilly was asleep about 10 minutes after the head hit the pillow.

The Traveling Hillbilly got up early this morning and decided to jump in the pool and do some laps. What a great way to start the morning. After a few laps, I met my friends for breakfast, which was actually excellent! After breakfast, we headed off on foot to see some temples. There are over 700 temples in this city, so there's no way to see them all.

After seeing a few temples, it started to rain. We decided it would be a good day to go over to see the new Mandarin Oriental hotel and have a drink. Since the Mandarin Oriental is on the complete opposite side of town, we hired a car/driver to show us around the city and take us over to the hotel. It cost us a whole $30 dollars for almost four hours! What a bargain.

We stopped at a silk factory, a silver factory and a pottery factory. All were very touristy places, but still great to see. As for the Mandarin Oriental, I can't even do it justice. People laughed when they were building the place. They thought there was no way such it would do well in Chiang Mai. But this Traveling Hillbilly was in awe! They did an amazing job on this place. You cross a moat to get into the place and they take you around the compound in a horse drawn carriage. It is truly over the top. It kind of reminded of Venice, Italy. Not that it looks anything like Venice, but when I was in Venice I kept thinking this seem like Disneyland. It is just so over the top, that you think it can't be real. It seems like a fantasy place created by Disney. That is how I felt about this hotel. You can't even call it a hotel. It's a world all it's own. I can't even begin to describe how beautiful it is. I'll post some pictures soon. I know they won't do it justice, but hope they'll give you some idea of how amazing the place is.

Tonight, it's off to the night market and some dinner along the river. Tomorrow is the big elephant safari and river rafting adventure. I'm very excited, but also nervous about tomorrow. As a lot of you know, this Traveling Hillbilly is afraid of heights. Now horseback riding is one thing, but riding on an elephant is quite another. Hopefully I'll have some interesting stories to share.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let the Birthday Celebrations Begin!

The birthday is still almost two weeks away, but The Traveling Hillbilly got the first birthday present! And what a present it was. Two of the Traveling Hillbilly's best friends went in on a new ipod Shuffle, personalized just for The Traveling Hillbilly. This hillbilly didn't even know you could have ipod's "engraved." The best part of the gift though, was the music they downloaded on the ipod. The first song? "One Night in Bangkok" of course, in celebration of the upcoming trip to Thailand. That was followed by hours of great tunes, each one with special meaning. The final song, was a fabulous birthday tune. While the Traveling Hillbilly loved the gift, I was most touched by the time, effort and thought that went into it. These are two friends who really know this hillbilly and put a lot of love into this. It is truly a special gift and I'll treasure it always. I can't wait to run through the streets of Bangkok, listening to the tunes and thinking about how lucky I am to have such great friends.

Don't you just love those birthdays that last the whole month long?!

Posts from the Traveling Hillbilly's Thailand adventure coming soooooooon!