Northern Thailand

Feb 10-25, 2019

Chiang Mai

We arrived into Chiang Mai at our so cute homestay. It was the first time we had a little kitchen in a month! It’s crazy the little things that you get excited over.

We took to the streets to explore. So so so so hot. And the air quality was still the pits – I was beginning to wonder when the air quality was going to get better. After 12 days in Myanmar where it seemed like I was choking on the air, I was craving some fresh ocean breezes. Sadly, we were still landlocked and were to be for another month until we saw the ocean again.

We decided to buy masks given how tragic the air quality was. It’s not any cooler behind a mask, let me tell you.

Chiang Mai is a town that, IMHO, is set for tourists. There’s tourist things everywhere. It also has some pretty incredible temples located right in town which we visited.

The next day, I THOUGHT we had to leave for the Chai Lai Orchid which is a place where we were visiting elephants. We packed everything up (on my order), and we were waiting for the bus to pick us up until the people at the homestay said to us “But you stay one more night!” I finally clued in that we were a day ahead of ourselves. Thank goodness it was Valentine’s day otherwise I’m sure would have hear more from Luc about my grave mistake.

We decided to find a fish spa to pamper our feet. OMG, the fish eating your feet is almost unbearable with the feeling it gives you. I ADORE my feet being tickled and touched but man oh man this was almost too much! Eventually it got better. You just had to power through the feeling for about 3 mins. Later on we headed to the massive night market and wandered around, bought a wet bag that I’d been eyeing up since I say the MM Families in Koh Tao, and also a couple of shirts. Starting to get a bit tired of all the markets that are everywhere. It seems like the market is always a place to “see” in the top 10 things to see in “name the place”.

Chai Lai Orchid

The next morning was the actual day to leave so we packed up (again) and waited for our red truck to bring us to the elephants.

We arrived and I asked if the one day tour could be split into 2 half days which ended up not being an issue. So we immediately got to head to the elephants and feel them. The elephants are like no other animal I’ve ever been near. It’s almost like they are communicating with you on an emotional level. There’s this intense draw to be with them, near them, and it’s almost like they are giving you their love. I can’t really explain it but it seemed like all negative emotions I might have been carrying, just melted away when I was near them.

We did a little walk through the forest where Luc and Vivi rode on one of them bareback. The mahout (elephant’s person) said that it’s ok, as long as it’s not for very long and you’re not on a big heavy metal seat.

After that we went in the water with them. The babies are adorable. Again a truly special experience bathing them and connecting with them. It was fun to watch them play around.

After that we hopped into the back of a truck and headed to the rafting point where we were able to raft down a river with a guide at the front. The scenery was spectacular. The only thing that was a little lame is that you rafted past elephants that were still being saddled up with heavy metal seats where multiple people were riding them. It’s hard to believe that this is still being done even though it’s widely considered poor practice.

The next morning we had breakfast and hopped into the back of a truck again and headed to where we were to do a half day hike. The hike was challenging but beautiful! We got to swim in two different waterfalls and lunch was prepared for us. Our guide made bamboo sticky rice over the fire. So delish! We walked through a  hill tribe where we got to watch them weave and learned a bit about our guides family.

The next day we spent the morning chilling out at the restaurant that is there overlooking the river. The elephants stroll past, there are rafts that float back and it’s just to calm. Chai Lai Orchid is such a special place for me. It’s a place that rehabilitates elephants and gives them a better life but it also is a place where women who have been involved in sex trafficking are able to come and get out of that world, learn English, and train in the restaurant industry to gain further skills. This organization is called Daughter’s Rising. I felt so good being here not only because of the surroundings but also because I felt a little like I was giving back by spending my dollars at this place. You can volunteer here and even take home stray dogs that end up here. I was sad to say good bye but hopefully I’ll be back one day.

We drove like a bat out of hell back to Chiang Mai. Not sure but the driver we had was driving like a maniac. I have such a hard time telling people who drive like this to slow down. I feel like an old lady but I just get so anxious when they are weaving in and out of traffic, pedal to the metal and screeching to a halt. Luc, correct me if I’m exaggerating.

We stayed for 2 more days in Chiang Mai. One day was a planning day, where we’re going next, buying plane and bus tickets, applying for Vietnam visas, and then we got massages…… and Luc got a haircut! FINALLY!!

We had been lugging Vivi’s car seat around with us wherever we go and we’ve used it only a handful of times. Luc and Vivi have been trying to strategically forget it places. I’m getting a bit tired of carrying it but never using it. We’ve been riding on boats, busses, back of trucks, cars without seatbelts, airplanes, rafts, and I can count on one hand, how many times we’ve used it. So I got on a Chiang Mai mom’s group and gave away the car seat. So long and thank you car seat for protecting my little girl.

We stayed at this place in the middle of town that was the smallest place we’ve ever stayed. There was literally 3 beds and just enough room for our bags on the floor. It’s the only place we didn’t get toilet paper and it wasn’t included. Say what?? Luc said the guy could sell the toilet paper on the side and make a fortune. We went to yet another night market and ate street food (it just happened to be sushi on the street).

Chiang Rai

We took a 6 hour bus ride to Chiang Rai and checked into our homestay. Although, the guy who owns the homestay didn’t work out that we would be there so we got a room that was tragic. The bed sheet had cigarette holes in it, no AC and it was just dingy. The next day we moved into the room we were supposed to have. We still didn’t have AC but the bed was much nicer as was the bathroom. The nice thing about this place was that the pool was the focal point of the place so it was easy to chat with other people about where they were from and where they were going. Thailand has soooo many French tourists. We made some jokes about there was probably no one left if France because they were all there! But what luck – we speak French so it was easy to make quick friends!

We explored Chiang Rai in the heat, and visited a hill tribe museum where we learned about hill tribes and the opium epidemic that raged in Laos not that long ago (2012 was when they started to put an end to it). We had hamburgers for lunch and walked through a beautiful flower garden.

I remember the place where we went for my birthday. Luc had gone for a run and spotted it and the food was delicious. I had yet another burger for dinner. These two are starting to make fun of my burger and French fry love. I think already by this time I was starting to get sick of noodles and rice. This became a bone of contention between me and Luc for 2 reasons:

  1. He doesn’t like to spend a lot of money – ever. Many arguments and comments about me spending more than he did on food mostly was beginning to really tear at me. I had spent the last 5 years saving my money for this trip, I’m going to spend it how I want. What I ended up doing was contributing $100 of my own money to make him shut up for a while about me buying western food (always more expensive) and cocktails (they don’t have wine and the beer is like kokanee – gross!).
  2. Street food is always way less expensive so he wanted us to eat this all the time. And it wasn’t good enough that it was sushi on the street, it had to be authentic. This also became a “thing” that we fought about. So many comments and issues about food and money that I just didn’t know would be such a problem travelling.


We’ve always, for the last 15 years, had arguments around food. It’s the most problematic issue in our marriage hands down. Travelling just exasperated this issue. It’s not until we get to Dalat, Vietnam where it comes to a head. More later.

We moved after 3 days into Chiang Rai centre. We had great hopes of meeting up with the MM family but they were all really sick and it turned out that Vivi also got quite sick there with a fever so we never ended up seeing all of them (Luc met up with Cam to go to a night market one night). We visited the clock and did a little meet up at a hostel with live music.

It’s always so disconcerting with your kid gets sick in a foreign country especially when it’s a fever. So we stayed home and just rested while we tried to control the fever. The next day the fever had broken but she was still experiencing issues with the toilet so we tried to wait until we thought she was better before heading out to the White Temple.

The White Temple was pretty incredible to see. It’s stunning and fairly new I think. It’s a little on the bizarre side too.

We went to the hospital after that. Reason being is that I wanted to get Vivi checked and get some antibiotics if she needed it before we left for Laos the next day and we wouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital if she got sick again.

The hospital was AMAZING! So quick, clean, spoke English, and we got the drugs right there so no need to go to a pharmacy. It was a better experience then going to the hospital in Switzerland for my kidney stone. We were able to pay, it was so cheap, and out in a flash. I felt a lot better about leaving the next day to go on a boat ride for two days.

REFLECTION:

  • Thailand is beautiful and set up for travellers. It’s fairly easy to get around Thailand and most people speak English. Getting money out of ATM’s was impossible for us (and we are later finding out it’s hard in Bali as well) not sure why. We have Visa and MC and they both don’t work. Also, in Thailand, not many places take credit card to pay for things (restaurant, shopping, etc…), it’s few and far between so we always needed to go to a bank to get money out.
  • We’re learning more and more about each other… The hot is really taking a toll on me and Vivi. Luc seems almost unfazed. For me and her it’s just becomes so intense that it’s hard to even see straight. There sweat pouring out of my face and it doesn’t stop which is nothing like I’ve ever experienced and it’s so uncomfortable.
  • I’m super surprised by the air quality here. I couldn’t imagine living here full time given this. It also makes me so grateful for living on the West Coast of Canada.
  • I love watching Vivi as she learns, explores, and meets new people. She’s such a great little backpacker and super resilient. She tries new foods, new things, and is absolutely fearless.
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Southern Thailand

January 9-30, 2019

Relationship Renewal

I’m not going to sugar coat this: it took a while to change my mindset about Switzerland. I haven’t yet posted the raw feelings about what I went through in Switzerland as I’m not ready yet, but what I will say is that I felt like I had some depression surface and it was a very rough time in my relationship with Luc. Because of this, I think Luc might have hoped that a switch was flipped when we hit Thailand. Paradise right? Yeah that didn’t happen.

I remember standing in the airport after a crazy time change with about 1 hour of sleep and 10 hours of flying, Luc saying to me “why are you always so negative?” talk about a trigger moment. I was ready to catch the next flight back to Canada and away from him as fast as I possibly could.

After finally arriving at the first fancy hotel, we had it out beside the pool. What a sight – us basically yelling at each other in the most beautiful place we had seen in a while. Him flabbergasted why I wasn’t finally in a good mood and me yearning for him to just try to understand and accept me but totally being reactive and defensive.

I think those 2 days was so crucial for our relationship to finally try to find our relationship and love again through the crap and bullshit of the past 3 months. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all crap and bullshit. We had an amazing experience while I was emotionally very low. I look back now and wonder how did we experience so many cool things when I really felt depressed, alone and low.

From this point on, we spent time getting to know each other again and new things began to crop up that I didn’t know about Luc and him, me. As I move through our trip I will expose those things as they become more and more apparent. There was an article I read that was really interesting. What I got from it was that long term travel with your partner actually has you get to know things about them that you didn’t know or it wasn’t in your face enough to notice. This is so accurate. Traveling presents many different challenges that you don’t get in every day life: being scared (or not), spending money, eating new foods, experiencing new things, being tired, hot, parenting kids who haven’t been through this experience either. It’s challenging to say the least.

So 2 glorious days at the hotel on points helped us to reform our bonds again and start again just the 3 of us.

Bangkok

After lounging in the pool, we headed to Bangkok to explore. You will hear this for the next 3 months until we get to Bali but Bangkok was my first experience of HOT. We had grand ambitions to do learning time with Vivi in the morning and then set out in the afternoon to explore. WRONG. It’s minuscule cooler in the morning so we learned hard the first day to do it opposite from this point forward.

Everything was scary for me. Tuk tuks, walking on the street, worrying about getting my purse stolen from passing scooters, getting ripped off, street food. I was well outside my comfort zone these first few days (weeks). Luc on the other hand was LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Which killed me. How can one person be so afraid and the other want more of everything. I’ve said it before but we are the epitome of Ying and Yang.

He was ready to sample every single food on the street and I was trying to get back to restaurants for fear of food poisoning. I’ve been sick so many times in the past in Asian countries that I’m jaded. So this was a bone of contention that didn’t stop for about 2 months until I said enough was enough. More on that later.

We went to a few temples in Bangkok, Khao San Road, out to the Amphawa Floating Market and the Maeklong train market (See Luc and Vivi’s C’est La Vie! Video), we did an amazing cooking class (See Luc and Vivi’s C’est La Vie! Video), we hired a boat to take us down the river, and saw the reclining buddha and Wat Pho.

After 4 days in Bangkok I had had my fair share. It’s smelly, noisy and busy. It’s also incredibly unique, different and special. I don’t need to visit Bangkok again.

Koh Tao

We took our first double decker bus to Koh Toa which I think was 12 hours. What an experience of smelly noisiness. Hoped on a boat and met Mossy Mermaid and family! We were introduced to this family from my best friend and mutual friend back home. The MM Fam as 6 kids in total and Vivi was in absolute heaven playing with them and talking in English. It had been a while since she got to play with kids in English.

We made another fail and didn’t do enough research on where we were staying and booked 4 nights in the centre of Koh Toa where you need a taxi to take you anywhere you want to go which is about $12 one way. Or a scooter but we weren’t scooter people yet and I heard learning on Koh Toa was a recipe for disaster. So we would walk to the MM fam daily to hang out with them while Luc and a few of them learned to Scuba dive.

We had a blast swimming, playing in the pool, watching movies and the moms got to do mom things. I got some much needed girl time and empathy from Shelby. It had been so long since I got some face time with another woman. Luc got some much needed guy time with Cam and we even poked fun at their bromance.

Eventually we moved closer to them and we rented a boat and went snorkeling around the island for the morning with them. We forms some close blonds and can’t wait to visit them in Tofino when we get back.

Ao Nang

We took another all day bus to the other side of Southern Thailand. We debated if we wanted to stay at Railay Beach, Krabi or Ao Nang and in the end Ao Nang won due to price. I quite liked this place. It’s like a seaside town with a beach vibe. Very touristy. Here you can buy a ticket to Railay Beach for the day which is what we did.

But first we booked a Kayak and explored with a guide through the mangrove trees and watched monkeys watching us. Of course no double kayaking trip is complete without me and Luc yelling at each other. We never learn to not get doubles.

The next day we spent a day at Railay Beach. White sandy beaches, beautiful Karsts, and PEOPLE. It was hot, busy and a lot of people. I’m sure glad we went to see it as it was beautiful walking around and witnessing the penis shrines (you read that right) – and one day is enough for me.

Koh Lanta

After that we headed to the island of Koh Lanta. We booked this place beside the beach with a great pool! The room itself presented some cockroaches, a lizard, and a massive wasp in our bathroom. The thing that was AMAZING about Koh Lanta was meeting some French people with some kids around the same age as Vivi that we became fast friends with. We ate dinner together and played in the pool.

We had our first experience of Trash Hero. Trash Hero is an organization around the world that organizes beach and city cleanups by volunteers. We decided to walk to the beach for the clean-up but gave up about half way as it was way too hot! Us and the French hitchhiked (they had done it before on Koh Lanta) to the beach and then we had a lovely lunch. Then we got down and dirty and started the clean-up. It’s incredible how much garbage was hiding in the foliage of the beach. Vivi got some motor oil on her but I had my DoTerra Essential Oils so doused her with lemon and watched it cut the grease easy peasy.

We also paid for a crappy experience which should have been a lot better than it was but because of the waves, it was tragic. We were supposed to boat out to 3 different snorkeling places. In the end we went to 2 and they were basically in the exact same spot. I think we got forgotten for pickup because after calling someone got us and when we got on the boat everyone was already on board. They had all been given seasick pills too but they neglected to give them to us. Because we were last, we had to sit at the very back and I got soaked from the waves splashing in and on me. People started puking. I ended up putting on my mask because the salt water was killing my eyes. On the way back it was worse and took even longer to get back. It was one of those moments when you wonder if these might be the last people you see in your life.

We said goodbye to our new friends after about 6 days on Koh Lanta to head back to Krabi by bus for one night before taking off to Myanmar.

I loved the southern side of Thailand because of the ocean. I would come back here in a heartbeat and spend more time on the islands exploring. We made some great friends during this time that I’m really grateful for. I feel like this was a time that we were getting our traveling legs, reuniting as a family, discovering what was scary and trying to deal with the heat. We were newbies during this time in our travels for sure.

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