Saturday, January 26, 2008


Aaron and I on the tuk-tuk going back to Thailand.
Some young monks.
A Lao public service announcement!
Some Lao and/or Thai men crossing the friendship bridge.

The next day, Heather and Aaron and I decided to head for the border and go to Laos. I was excited to go back to Vientiene, the capital of Laos. I’d been there once before, but due to a delayed flight, only got to spent part of a day there. We went up to Nong Khai, a small city along the border where there’s the Friendship Bridge that connects Thailand and Laos. According to the guidebook, it’s on the 2nd bridge to cross the Mekong. Going through Customs took quite a while. First we had to wait for close to an hour on the Thai side and then about an hour to get our Lao visas. Once we finally got into the country, we got a tuk-tuk (a 3-wheeled covered go-cart, basically) and got going to Vientiene. We only had a few hours, so we quickly embarked on a walking tour of the center of the city. In such a short time, we managed to see quite a bit, including a market, the US embassy, four wats, a bunch of Buddhist monks, and the Mekong, as well as eat some lunch and have some ice cream. The last time I was in Laos, I really really liked it and after being back again, I can’t wait to return! I think that Laos today must be what Thailand was like 20 or 30 years ago…really laid back, friendly, and warm.

The next day, we had to say goodbye to Gecko Villa and head back to Bangkok. I had a 2 AM flight on the 11th back to Seoul and when I arrived, it was snowing…quite a change from the 80 degree weather in Thailand! I’m going back to SE Asia this summer and am so excited to see some of the same things I saw this trip as well as new stuff!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Udon Thani

The sunset from Gecko Villa.
Part of the archeological dig at Ban Chiang, complete with skeletons!
Aza & Heather enjoying the pool at Gecko.
Me by a Buddha at Phu Phrabat.
"Thai Buddhisim definietly has an element of disco!"--Heather P.

The next day, January 5th, we made our way to Udon Thani. As the crow flies, it’s directly east of Chiang Mai, but there are only direct flights there from Chiang Mai every other day and not on the day we wanted to arrive, so we ended up flying to Bangkok and then to Udon Thani. On the way there, we met up with Aaron, another SIS teacher who was coming to Gecko Villa with us. Gecko Villa ( is owned by a westerner but run by a Thai family, Ten and Ann. They have 2 sets of twins, all boys, two of whom are 18 and go to boarding school in Udon Thani and two of whom are 10. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet the kids. Gecko Villa is out in the middle of farms, about a 20 minute walk from the nearest village and about an hour away from Udon Thani. Because it’s fairly remote, the family cooks all your meals and will drive you around to the sights. It’s a pretty fantastic place to stay the next time you’re in Thailand!

The first full day we were there, we were all pretty tired and jet-lagged, so besides walking to town, we mostly hung around the pool, read, and napped. The weather was pretty fantastic…lots of sun, but not too hot. That day the other two people staying with us, Azarea and Chandler, arrived.

The next day we went to the town of Ban Chiang, about 50 km east of Udon Thani. There was an ancient civilization in that area and artifacts dating back 5600 years have been found there. There’s a small museum with some pottery in it. There’s not that much there now because it’s closed for renovations, but it will open fairly soon. We also walked around the town and found a wat with a dig, so got to see some pots and skeletons still in the dirt, which was cool.

The next day, we went to Phu Phrabat Historical Park, which has all sorts of cool rocks left over from when glaciers moved over Thailand, and cave paintings. We spent about 3 hours wandering around. Next, we went to Wat Changtom, which is nearby. There are a ton of Buddhas and little shrines all over the place there. I don’t know that much about Buddhism anymore, so I didn’t understand a lot of what I was looking at, but it was still really interesting!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas Break, Part II

Drinking some tea after getting my $6 massage!
A memorial set up for the Princess, in Chiang Mai's main square.
Inside a wat, looking at the Buddha.

I flew back to Korea on Dec. 31st, arriving on the 1st at around 5:00 pm. I made it back to my apartment, spent less than 24 hours there, and then went back to the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok. I got to Bangkok at about 1:00 am, spent the night in the airport hotel, and then flew to Chiang Mai the next day. This was my 2nd visit to SE Asia. About 10 years ago, I went on a trip with Linfield to SE Asia and absolutely loved it. I was curious to see if SE Asia was as different and interesting as I remembered it being and it is! Chiang Mai is a city with a bunch of backpackers and a really cool vibe. A couple hours after arriving at my hotel, I was getting a Thai massage and getting ready to go out for Mexican food! The massage was an hour long and cost about $6! It’s amazing how much easier it is to travel in Thailand than it is in Korea. There’s just a lot more English and international food. I’m not a huge meat eater and there are very few vegetarian options in Korea, but there are a ton in Thailand. After dinner, I wandered around Chiang Mai with Heather and Chandler, two SIS teachers, and we found the Night Market. If you need anything knock off, Thailand is a great country to visit! You can get backpacks, shoes, clothes, electronics, anything you want with the label you want at a fraction of the actual price! Thai silk is also a big thing and I got some nice things there.

The next day, I went to get a facial ($15, as opposed to $60 or $70 in the US) and then went to the Blue Diamond restaurant for lunch. This is an amazing restaurant with a 20 page menu and a ton of vegetarian and organic options. They even have 2 full pages of avocado dishes, which made my day! Avocado is crazy expensive in Korea, so I don’t really buy it here.

After lunch, Heather and I went on the Lonely Planet walking tour of Chiang Mai. We got to see some wats (Buddhist temples), monks, a museum on the history of Chiang Mai, and some Mormon missionaries! After the walking tour, we went for a swim in the hotel pool and then out to another great dinner before hitting the night market one last time.

It was an interesting time to be in Thailand because the Princess (the King’s sister) died the day we got there. Thais love their royal family (hence the fact that it’s illegal to have the movie, The King and I in Thailand…they think it’s unfavorable to that king) and the government had proclaimed 15 days of official mourning for her, including asking Thais to wear black. I have to admit that I didn’t see a whole lot of black, but there were pictures of the Princess all over the place. Also, the King turns 80 this year, so there were a ton of pictures and banners and flags and whatnot for him. The Thais really love him. Apparently he’s devoted quite a bit of time to traveling around visiting the poor and whatnot. Another thing I saw a bunch of people wearing were pink or yellow (his favorite colors) polo shirts with the King’s logo on them. Also, for some reason the rabbit is his symbol (I don’t know why), so there were lots of shirts with fluffy bunnies on them!

Friday, January 11, 2008


Fran, me, and Pat at El Camino in Fremont, December 29th, 2007.
Happy 2008! I’ve had a great end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 so far and I hope you have too!

The last day of school at SIS was on December 21st, so on the 22nd, I flew to Seattle. Due to the wacky international date line, I left at 5 pm on the 22nd and get in at 10 am on the 22nd! Unfortunately I had caught quite a cold a few days before leaving and my tonsils were so swollen that all the air that got trapped in my ear canal during the flight couldn’t get out, so landing was pretty darn uncomfortable. But once I landed, I picked up a rental car and headed down I-5 to Portland, where my parents met me. I had wondered if it would feel strange to be back in the US, but it felt just about the same, like I’d never even left!

I stayed home for about 8 days and my sister was home for a few of those days. It was fantastic to be home and see my family and Oliver, my cat! It was also really nice to be in a place where I could understand everything that was being said and I could drive…it’s amazing how heavy things become when I have to carry them on the subway! I had bought a bunch of stuff online between August and December, so it was almost like having 2 Christmases! I also bought a bunch of toiletries stuff that are either hard to find in Korea or ridiculously expensive. Needless to say, my suitcases were pretty darn heavy by the time I was ready to head back!

After being at home, I drove up to Seattle and spent two nights there. I had the chance to see a couple of friends from Kamiak, which was fun, and to see my friend Abby, which was awesome. I also managed to walk around Green Lake twice and do yet more shopping! It was wonderful to be home and a little tough to come back. Luckily, I had a trip to Thailand to look forward too, which I’ll write more about later!