A Travellerspoint blog

A weekend in Jinan

Well, I was going to visit Leigh in his town Linyi, but I found out he lied to me about having "soooo much cleaning to do" on Friday night. He was actually on a date with some Chinese woman. Fine, but why lie? So he is dead to me now.

I went to Jinan instead and toured around "the city of springs". So, here we go!

Five Dragon Pool Park. This is the natural colour of the water apparently. It comes from deep below the city.

This is my annoying neighbour. He has gotten permission to set up a DJ booth outside of my bank???? It's very loud and very annoying. Everytime I want to make a withdrawal I have to walk through his stupid rave.

I took a boat ride around Da Ming Lake, just like the princesses and princes did in all the previous dynasties.

Boat tour
I paid 70 yuan just to see these bubbles. Baotu Spring used to be a geyser but now it's just some bubbles which may or may not be mechanically produced. Not worth it.
This is Wang Chi spring. It was the place the prince would bathe. Now, no one does.

Wang Chi Spring
Yet another spring. Black Tiger Spring comes out of three Tiger heads. It is possible to swim here, but I forgot my bathing suit that day.

The boat I was on
It was full.
As it always is in China.
Just an old mosque, not very interesting inside.
Our boat went up and down two small locks.
This is thousand buddha mountain. But I didn't see many buddhas. They are supposed to be carved into the rocks hundreds of years ago, but all I saw were newly installed sculptures.
A bridge on the boat ride.
The view from the top of the mountain.
Crowded boat
Willow trees everywhere
Top of the mountain
Breakfast of "tofu nar" before the big hike.

Posted by baixing 17:42 Archived in China Tagged jinan shandong Comments (0)

Relaxing Xuzhou Trip

I spent the weekend auditing the Hyatt Regency in Xuzhou and then on Sunday I had time to circumnavigate a large lake.
There was a quite obviously artificial beach at one end and lots of old people swimming long distances from the swimming club nearby.
My hotel was that big tall one to the right of the photo.
I had to order takeout to do my audit, so I ate it at the beach for lunch.
That is some sort of opera house.

Posted by baixing 17:36 Archived in China Tagged jiangsu xuzhou Comments (0)

Darien Lake twice for Smashing Pumpkins and Beck

I managed to go to two concerts this summer at Darien Lake. It was great fun. Once by myself (Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher) and once with my mom (Beck and Cage the Elephant)


Posted by baixing 16:19 Archived in USA Tagged lake new york buffalo darien Comments (0)

Adirondacks with Dave

I'm too lazy to write a whole story so here are the photos.


Posted by baixing 16:03 Archived in USA Tagged mount washington adirondacks Comments (0)

Dai Temple

I just moved to Tai'An and had no job. My recruiter hired too many people and I was the last to show up. So, she gave all of my classes away. I was effectively placed in a holding cell, which is my boss' extra apartment. It was beautiful with a huge kitchen, but I was bored. I did one restaurant review with Jerry, my temporary roommate. He didn't have a job either until Oct. 8, when he moved to the medical college in town. I was supposed to be working at Shandong Economic and Finance University, but that job was given away to someone else also.

Anywho, in the morning, I got myself a new SIM card and phone number (with data plan!!!) so that I could use the share bikes and Chinese Uber. Maybe even a couple of maps every once in a while. I had nothing to do all day so I walked the 6 km down to the temple. I spent the rest of the afternoon poking around at really old statues and tombs, which reminded me of Athens.


Posted by baixing 15:50 Comments (0)

A chilly weekend at Jingpo Lake

View Jilin 2018-2019 & Laos and Thailand, 2019 on baixing's travel map.

March 1, 2019

I took the train in the evening after class to Mudanjiang and arrived at 4 a.m. It was super early and I had no idea where to catch the bus to the lake, so I hailed a cab and he brought me to the bus station. I waited there for an hour in an ATM and then had some congee and vegetables for breakfast in the bus station cafeteria.

The bus left at 7:30 a.m. and then I had to switch buses in another city and then eventually arrived in the park at 9 or 10 a.m. It was nice because the bus driver dropped me off pretty much exactly at the water falls. But it was cold, so I put on another pair of jeans over top of the jeans I was already wearing in the bathroom. It was hard to move my legs or climb up any stairs then, but at least I was warm. The falls had frozen completely over and it was really cool to see. I heard that it's magnificent in the summer/fall season but it would also be way too busy at that time, so I think I actually preferred going to Jingpo Lake in the winter.


From there I walked about 5km to the actual lake, which was completely frozen as well. The waves had frozen in the midst of crashing upon the beach. It was almost completely abandoned.

I asked an idle bus driver if there were any hotels open. He brought me to the four star hotel, which was the only one open at the time, or so he claimed. It was nice anyway. They gave me a room for 400 yuan which normally went for 1000 or more. I had a nice foresty view and slept a lot. I tried to stay up for the sunset but it proved impossible. I had had a tough week, couch surfing and trying to figure out what to do with my apartment which was falling down into the ground due to an exploded sewage pipeline. It was nice to finally relax and catch up on sleep.


March 2, 2019
The next day I went back to Mudanjiang where I got a cheap little room beside the RT Mart, snoozed, drank wine, ate fruit and snacks and finished typing up my Thailand and Laos blog.

March 3, 2019
I took my time getting ready in the morning and went for an early lunch at a Korean restaurant recommended on TripAdvisor. I had some great kimchi tofu stew and strolled over to the train station. I had a fast train home and couch surfed again at my student Kelsey's house.


Posted by baixing 23:33 Archived in China Tagged mudanjiang jingpo_hu Comments (3)

February 20-22, 2019, Ayutthaya, Thailand

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Liz and I had a nice Chinese breakfast of rice and garlic pork. The milk tea was especially great with steamed milk piled high on top. I saw her off at the sky train station nearby.
Meanwhile, I went back to nap until checkout time. I messaged Pim, the lady I had met in Ayutthaya and she was ready to meet me at the train station whenever I got there, which was maybe 2:30 p.m.

She picked me up in her cousin's car with her mom and aunt. They seemed to know everyone in town and somehow got all our tickets for free. She showed me the museum with lots of gold stuff that was hidden in the temples when the Burmese attacked 300+ years ago. Her cousin spoke English very well and helped me understand everything. She used to work at some pretty posh hotels in Bangkok for many years.

Then we went to the Portuguese village. Back in the day, people from different countries lived in little ghettos on both sides of the river. There are some ruins of a graveyard and a church that was flooded about eight years ago.


Then we went to go look at a buddhist retreat that Pim's aunt helped build. It must be a peaceful place to come and contemplate absolutely nothing.

We saw the sunset at another temple and it was definitely the most beautiful out of the four temples I had visited in Ayutthaya. We also tried to pick up some paperwork at a government office for Pim's visa to study tourism in Spain. It didn't happen though. She wasn't optimistic about it, explaining that Thai bureaucracy is awful. Believe me lady, I know.
I was very grateful for them taking the time to be so kind to me. After they brought me to my hostel to checkin, I bought them all dinner of barbecue fish and hot pot. The fish was soooo sweet and delicious, it was scooped right out of the river that same day. I was really happy to have spent the afternoon with all of them.
February 21, 2019
At this point I was mentally ready to go back home. My boss had already sent me my work schedule and explained the premise of the courses I'd be teaching on Monday. I was too exhausted to go anywhere else. I decided I'd get my teeth cleaned and hair cut. It was really easy to do this and the dentist spoke English, so it was better than doing it in China.

The hairstylist didn't speak English but that was fine anyway.
On my way home, I bought three huge bags of Thai tea, so I could make the classic drink at home. I met a Peruvian lady and we had lunch together near our hostel. She had just gotten to Thailand, so she was very excited. I was at the end of my trip and tired. It was an interesting lunch to say the least.

The rest of the night was spent chatting with an Irish guy who had Aspberger's syndrome, by my own diagnosis. We watched the sun disappear behind the pollution and went on his scooter out for dinner. I bought a slurpee and filled it with whiskey. Later we had more whiskey sodas on the roof with a couple of Germans. And I learned all about Irish history.

February 22, 2019

I was not motivated at all anymore, but I needed to go out and find a sock thingy to make Thai tea with. I found a small one in the market and then also found some more rain boots just like the ones I had lost the week before. I had some ice dessert thingy and chicken rice and went back home.
I was tempted to get a manicure or a massage but I was down to my last few hundred baht so I didn't. After a nap, I woke up at 6 or 7 p.m. in time to make a plan to go with Darren to a floating market near his house the next day.

February 23, 2019
I left as early as possible on the train back to Bangkok, but it didn't end up being that early. By the time we got to the market, it was no longer floating. Anyway, we had huge cups of chrysanthemum tea and lunch by the canal. large_IMG_20190223_141151.jpg

We rented bikes and went around the island. There was a park on the other side, so we biked around, climbed up the bird observation tower and hurried back to the ferry. I had to pick up my passport that I had left as a deposit for the bike by 5 p.m. and it was probably 4:15 p.m. So I was a little stressed getting back there. We ended up meeting two ladies from Ottawa who were also hurrying back to pick up their passports, so it was all OK in the end, and we made it back with about five minutes to spare. Phew.

We took the ferry back and I bought a bunch of food at the market for the long trip back home to China.
Then we went for a quick, cool swim and Darren was nice enough to buy me a taxi to the airport. I had a plan to sleep for a few hours at a hostel but it was not good when I got there, so I just cancelled the reservation and slept at the airport in a massage chair.

Posted by baixing 07:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthaya Comments (0)

February 12-19, 2019, Bangkok, Thailand

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It was time to go back to Bangkok. At 9 a.m. we got on a small boat which brought us to a bigger boat and then we finally left at 10:30 because some douchebag was late. We got the good seats at the back of the boat that time though. Then, we were shunted onto a nice van where we met a weird Australian professor getting dental work done in Malaysia. I wasn't too sure about that, if you're a big fancy professor why don't you have a dental plan in Australia? Anyway, the van brought us to Hat Yai train station, where we quickly bought tickets and fruit for dinner, a little apprehensive of the ongoing political violence.

I had been reading about the terrorist attacks in the south of Thailand lately. People and even monks had been killed every day. When we arrived back in Bangkok we went back to Loftel Station to see our favourite front desk clerk, Troy.

February 13, 2019
We dropped our bags off and I think we took a nap. We went for an early dinner at Varassa which was about an hour walk from our hostel. I wasn't too impressed, but the restaurant was clean and at least I had a pretty good curry and bael juice/tea.
February 14, 2019
My parents booked a tour which went to the bridge over the river Kwai and Erawan Park, but left very early in the morning. I had a plan to meet with Darren of the former Travel Rants website. We had been colleagues from before when I worked at TravelPod and I always wanted to meet the man behind all the rants. So finally, our travel paths crossed and it worked out. The only thing is I forgot it was Valentine's Day. A little awkward. We met at the mall and then grabbed some fish balls and hot dogs and proceeded to a little park. It had a really nice long rectangular lake which I thought was beautiful and serious cyclists seemed to agree. They made many laps around the oval while we got drenched in the sprinkler next to our bench.
Then, we went to Lumphini park to have peanuts and beer and before I knew it, it was time for Darren to go back to work.

He was doing software testing for an American company, so he worked at night. I went back and took a nap and my parents probably came back at 8 or 9 p.m. and then they went to bed too.

February 15, 2019
We wanted to see a Thai dance show, so we bought the expensive tickets for the Hanuman thing at the royal theatre. In the day, we went to buy some stuff at the supermarket we saw the night before. On the way back, we stopped at the Bangkokian museum, which was really nice and a breezy way to spend the morning.
We walked over to the theatre and had some street noodles with bright pink sour soup. We also picked up some steam buns for dessert and ate them while watching people do tai chi in the park.
The show was pretty good, but the subtitles died in the middle of it. Twice. And no one moved a finger to try and fix them. So, I got up and asked for a refund. I was surprised they gave it to me, I was expecting a partial refund. 2400 baht was too much to pay for broken subtitles. We went home a little disappointed but also glad we saw a small part of the show for free.

February 16, 2019
We went to Chatuchak market in the morning, where I bought a huge bag of purple sweet potato chips and mom finally got her coconut ice cream.
It was way too hot and crowded, so we bought some fruit and ate it in the adjoining park instead. We were exhausted so we went back to the hostel and had another nap. We walked slowly to Sky View 360 where we were having mom's second birthday dinner. Ha. Reiko and Masao were supposed to meet us there, but they didn't see us until the last second. We had gone down two floors to get some drinks before dinner and the hostess failed to tell them we were already there.
Then we had an overpriced meal as we rotated around the city. Of course Reiko didn't like the meal. I guess it was too expensive but you know what? You don't go to these kinds of places for the food.
I also learned that she never takes the subway. But I couldn't for the life of me ascertain why, and she wasn't going to make the effort to translate it for me.

February 17, 2019
We took the first train of the day to Ayutthaya. Reiko and Masao surprised me when they actually showed up at 5:30 a.m. for departure time. They followed us around the rest of the day. We invited them, but didn't think they'd actually come because their hotel was so far away. But then, Reiko announced she would not ride a bicycle. Ugh. So we had to lumber around in the extreme heat all because of her. Shouldn't have invited them. Again.
The ruins were really great, I thought. They reminded me a bit of Angkor Wat. But alas, we really needed a bike to get around the huge area.
We had some really cheap and sad noodles for lunch and of course Reiko loved that meal. I bought some rubber boots and then we met a Canadian lady who sent us on a wild goose chase to a non existent floating market. After we gave up looking for it, I bought a pineapple and a slushee and all was right with the world again.

Mom and dad sat down at a hostel which had a clear sign saying that the restaurant was closed. They ordered two pops anyway. When I came back from the store I was bewildered about why they would do that, and then I sat down with them anyway, completely spent. I put my boots down beside me and then forgot them there. It started drizzling a little bit and it was so long since I'd seen the rain, I guess I just panicked. It's too bad, those were nice boots for five dollars.

While we were waiting for the train back to Bangkok, some students asked us to do a tourism survey. After I finished, we exchanged details and the students invited me to come back after my parents went back home. Of course I agreed. It seemed like forever until our train made it back to Bangkok. We watched as Reiko repeatedly readjusted her reclining seat. "There's always a problem isn't there?" my mom said. I sighed and knew that she finally understood my pain.

Once back in Bangkok, we bought some street food, including papaya salad and went straight to bed. Troy even gave us some ice and plates without us asking for it. Whatta guy, that Troy.

February 18, 2019
It was mom's birthday and therefore, time for them to go. Our dorm roommate had already left and woke us all up in the process. He couldn't pack up the night before, of course, he had to make a huge racket with his plastic bags and tent he had erected around his bed. Ugh.

I left my parents at Makkasan station confident they could make it back home on their own. For me, I wasn't sure what to do for the rest of the five days I had left. I sat down in the metro mall and dcided to check in to my hostel and meet Liz the following day. She had an overnight layover in Bangkok, so I tried to plan something for us to do. I wanted to save a few baht, therefore my hostel was shitty. Only 107 baht doesn't get you much, so I can't complain.

It was a Monday and that meant all the air conditioned museums were closed. I decided to go to a temple with amazing murals downtown. There happened to be a service in progress, so I sat down with everyone else and closed my eyes. I know you won't believe me but I had an out of body experience. I felt like my body was floating in an endless abyss and my consciousness was completely somewhere else. That chanting stuff really works. Or else the heat and dehydration were getting to me. One or the other.
Another thing open on Mondays was the golden mountain. A strange collapsed stupa that had been rebuilt as a mountain many times over in the last 200 years. I climbed to the top to see Bangkok all around but it didn't compare to the tower a few days before.

I went to another temple. This time it was the one the king had been ordained as a monk at. Pretty interesting I guess.

At that point I was starving. I found another slurpee and an onigiri and a riverside park. All was well for the day.

I went home, picked up some curry in a bag on the way, but then found out there was no kitchen at the hostel. Even though a shared kitchen was clearly stated on booking.com. I ate my curry out of the bag. The guy at the front desk told me to buy a bowl at 7-11. I was lucky I had my own spoon.

February 19, 2019

I waited most of the morning for Liz to message me about the plans for that night. I got up very slowly and ate another bowl of the amazing soup just outside the hostel that I had the day before. It had bean noodles along with blood cubes, pork and chicken feet. This time I noticed the woman making the soup remembered I didn't like chicken feet, so my soup was chicken feet free. What service.

I went over to the canal part of Bangkok to see the "artist house", but I wasn't feeling it, so I took a quick bus over to examine the royal barges.
I was pretty lucky I thought, because a team of about 15 artists were refurbishing the fleet. They were hand gluing small pieces of coloured mirrors and gold leaf onto the dazzling vessels. I didn't want to think about how many hours of labour it would take to complete that project.

I made it back in time to catch Liz at the airport online, she was just getting ready to board. We made a plan to meet at the light rail station and then go up to the top of Baiyoke tower. It was really busy up there because there was a full moon and also a Buddhist holiday. We chatted and went around the revolving observation deck probably four or more times.
After coming down, we tried to find somewhere to eat and have a few drinks. The street food was too expensive around there and I wasn't that hungry anyway, so I decided to wait until we got to the blues club. Turns out it was closed because of the same Buddhist holiday that caused the tower to be full of Asian ladies dolled up in ill-fitting dresses they must have bought on Taobao.

So then we wandered around hungry. Liz was sure we'd find some bar open somewhere, but I wasn't. Last time I was in Bangkok there was an election and the same thing happened to me. No drinking anywhere, period. But of course, I let her have her dream. I followed her around until midnight. Finally she gave up and we bought snacks at 7-11 instead. We walked back to my hostel and went straight to bed. It was a nice night for a walk anyway.

Posted by baixing 07:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

February 9-11, 2019, Koh Lipe, Thailand

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We bought tickets to go way south in Thailand to Koh Lipe, so we had to leave at 6 a.m. that morning to get to the boat on time. I was attempting to get away from some of the crowds by going closer to the muslim terrorist attacks. In the end it didn't help, but we had a good time on average. First we took a bus to Pak Bara and then a speed boat to the island.

We arrived at around lunch time and went directly to the beach with our snacks and drinks. It was very pretty and there were noticeably fewer tourists, especially the dirty old men one usually finds on these islands. We swam there for a bit and then had a light dinner up the hill. A little kitten sat with me while we waited for our meal to be prepared.

We also watched the sunset with some crazy Aussies on the same beach later.
That night, we stayed at a hostel with no air conditioning and the smell of sewage wafting through the window at two minute intervals. There was the sound of a machine and then we would smell a wave of putrid disgustingness. I don't know what was going on, but I couldn't spend another night there. I didn't sleep more than two hours that night.

February 10, 2019

That morning, my brain was totally fried. The hostel owner wanted to give us our refund for the second night, but I was too tired. I couldn't remember if I actually put it in my wallet or not. I was going crazy and felt like I might have been tricked. There happened to be a 1000 baht bill on top of the others in my wallet, so I assumed it was right and he didn't trick me, but when I tried to add up all our expenses, it didn't make sense. I was just too tired. On top of it, my parents had "no idea" how much money we had spent.

Anyway, they had already found another hotel for us, so we dropped off our bags and went to another beach for the day. Finally, we went through all of our expenses and realized that everything was fine and I probably didn't get conned out of 35 dollars. It's not a small amount, and it made me so frustrated that the general atmosphere of Thailand is just trickery all the time. It's so bad, that I started to mistrust everyone. On top of that, their fake smiles made me feel even sicker to my stomach. Ugh. I was done with Thailand at that point. We spent the rest of the day in the shade but I went to bed feeling sick while mom and dad had street food satay for dinner. I had a low fever and stomach cramps as well as a headache and who knows what else. Probably as a result of inhaling all that fecal matter and not sleeping all night.

February 11, 2019

I felt a little better in the morning, so we went to Sunrise Beach for the whole day. Mom and I jumped in the waves for hours, until I saw a huge fish and had to get out.

I didn't put on enough sunscreen, so I got badly burned like every other big dumb idiot waddling around the Andaman coast. We went out for dinner but it was full so we walked around waiting for 8 p.m. when I figured most people would be done. We grabbed some delicious sausages and sat down by a strange sign. A whole lot of people were taking pictures with it, so I took one too in the same style. It's blurry because an amateur took it for me.
Anyway, dinner was fantastic. We had some beers and curries and mom had more satay with vegetables. 850 baht. Crazy. Not as expensive as Bo.Lan, but honestly it was better. I didn't sleep very well again because of the massive sunburns on my thighs. I couldn't sleep on my side and my back hurt if I tried to lay on my back. Awful.

Posted by baixing 05:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged koh lipe Comments (0)

February 7-8, 2019, Ao Nang, Thailand

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Mom decided she'd be OK to continue on to Railay beach, so we took a fancy bus to Krabi. I sat with a really happy Italian guy who had just started his one year trip around the world. Mom and dad had to chase some Russians out of some seats. They had their bags all over the place and there were no seats left on the bus.
One hour into the bus ride I had to pee really bad. I figured I wasn't the only one, so I asked the bus driver to stop. He didn't really want to, but a bunch more people asked and then he finally did. He was yelling at us to run and go faster the whole time. Ugh.

Then, when we arrived he dropped us off 1.5 km outside of the town of course. So instead of buying another ticket from these jerks, we walked to the pier.

I had bought some breakfast but we didn't eat it on the bus. We found a little park and had a picnic before overloading the boat to Railay beach. They kept shoving more and more people on the boat, it was so terrible. It was the worst boat ride of my life, hands down. And I have been on a good many boats in my life, I tell you what.

Then on Railay, I thought we could possibly walk to the rock climber/hippy part of the island. It was not that easy. Mom sent me to go scout it out, but I thought it would've been too difficult with her ankle so swollen. There wasn't even a door to get into the hotel. Just a crappy bamboo ladder perched on top of the wall that surrounded the whole place. Every time you wanted to leave, or go home, you'd have to climb over the wall. It's easy for rock climbers but probably not for an old lady with a swollen ankle. Clearly they were trying to keep the masses out of there as part of their marketing scheme.
So I went back and we tried to find another place to stay. After climbing up and down the steep stairs to five or six places, we just gave up. We went for a swim while dad had a coconut and then hopped a boat to Ao Nang. Railay beach was really overhyped and way too expensive. I am noticing an overhyped and overpriced trend in Thailand, aren't you? Do not recommend.
Once in Ao Nang, after a normally loaded boat ride, we quickly found a cheap small hotel, which my mom was overly excited about because of the towels folded like elephants and two normal sized windows. We went to find a restaurant on Trip Advisor, but found it was closed. So, we settled on pork and sticky rice with coconut water and Thai whiskey.
February 8, 2019

We didn't do much all day besides sleep on the beach. Dad brought us some smoothies and we walked around looking for lunch. Finally we settled on cheap pad thai and dad got shrimp cakes. The waiter at the restaurant told dad to come back for dinner in a kind of whisper that is normally reserved for selling prostitutes, so that was a little more than weird to me. After that, we got more smoothies and watched the sunset on the same beach.
The red colours were really beautiful and we amused ourselves by watching stray dogs run off with people's shoes while they took hundreds of selfies in front of the sun. We laughed and didn't help them when they found one of their shoes was missing. One poor little boy even got yelled at for five minutes straight by his ignorant parents for losing his shoe. Then his dad found it all the way down the beach in the middle of a pack of dogs.

Mom and Dad went to watch a fire show at some overpriced bar that night and I went to bed early. I've seen poi before, it's not my thing, thanks.

Posted by baixing 05:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged ao nang Comments (2)

February 6, 2019, Surat Thani, Thailand

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Our train left in the morning at 8 a.m. so we made a coffee in the lobby and just walked over to the station. Our ticket said "special express", but so was our last train and the meals were crazy expensive that time. This time, we made sure we had enough snacks for the eight hour journey. It turned out that this time we really did have special tickets. They made us coffee and gave us a little lunch. What a surprise. Living the high life in Thailand.
The train ride was uneventful. We were about an hour and a half late for our scheduled arrival time, which gave me tons of time to catch up on my journal. We pre-booked a place near the train station that was easy to find, so we went over there and tried to figure out what was wrong with my mom's swollen ankle by emailing Rachelle, the doctor I met in Vientiane. We had our extra food for dinner in our room.

Posted by baixing 04:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged suratthani Comments (0)

February 4-5, 2019, Bangkok

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We stayed in the room as long as possible and then walked back to the train station. We stopped at the flower market first.
And then we stopped at another regular market and had a bunch of stuff for lunch. I had a nice crepe with some peanut mixture inside of it and something like a red bean samosa with Thai iced tea. Mom cried because her parents had a hard life just like these people in the market probably also did. I figured it was about time for her Asian culture shock breakdown to begin and there it was.
We got to the train station early, but just in time to see a platoon of women soldiers waiting for their train. They seemed happier than another platoon of male soldiers I saw later in the trip. When we got on the train, some rude French people stole dad's seat and even though we had a ticket, they wouldn't move or look at our ticket until their tour guide told them they were in the wrong seats. Ugh.

We met a nice Chinese guy named Quinn who had been doing the work/travel thing in New Zealand for the past couple years.

February 5, 2019
After freezing on the upper bunk again overnight, he followed us to our hostel and managed to convince the front desk guy to let him use the wifi in the lobby until his flight to Vietnam left in 12 hours. Weird. However, we were not tired so we went to see the temples and things in the main tourist area of Bangkok.

It was blazingly hot and miserable. I had already been to the main sites 11 years ago, so I just waited at the exits until my parents were done. We took the water taxi to the various spots. They are all concentrated in a relatively small area of the city.
It was nice at Wat Pho, because there was a little park with a working water fountain and a nice pond to stroll around. I sat there with my journal for a while and wondered what it would be like to be a tour guide, sitting here and waiting for my customers to stroll around glittery temples every day, meanwhile making pennies an hour.

The Royal Palace was crazy busy and by the time we found the entrance, mom and dad realized they couldn't get in. Dad didn't have full pants on and mom wasn't allowed to use her shawl to cover her shoulders. The price was a little steep also, so we just went back home and it was only 2 p.m. when we got there. It's really great to get such an early start to the day.
It was perfect timing to check back into Loftel Station hostel. I also called Bo.Lan restaurant to try and get a table. I had booked one earlier for Jan. 30, but my mom made me cancel it so we could go to the flower festival. They told me they were booked up until March 5, but a few minutes after I got off the phone, I received an email saying they had a cancellation. I was not really in the mood for it because the whole day had been kind of confusing and annoying to me, especially the water taxi system of transportation. It was overloaded and even more confusing than the ticket booth for the Royal Palace. So I was grumpy even after downing an entire strawberry slurpee on the walk back home. However, I knew this would probably be our only chance to have a Michelin star meal anywhere in Thailand, let alone Asia, so I tried to make myself more optimistic, but this was in vain. The subway system was overloaded that day as well. It took 20 minutes just to buy our tokens. The trains weren't even as full as I've seen them in Beijing. There just weren't enough token machines. Unacceptable. So the grumpy came back.

Now I want to explain Bo.Lan. We had already watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix all about this place. It seemed like the owners put a lot of effort into their dishes and ingredients. Even the sugar was hand made. So, OK, sounds good to me. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the whole thing came off as extremely overhyped. If I had been alone I would've turned right around as soon as I saw the 4.50 dollar charge for filtered water. What. You sell your restaurant as organic and sustainable etc. etc. but then punish people for drinking unbottled water? I went in against all my instincts and stayed. I had brought my parents all the way here, so we couldn't back out now. They were so excited and it would be so wrong to try and get them to follow my stupid principles. Gut feelings though, aren't baseless.

Anyway, we went into the kitchen to try a beautiful mangosteen and some of that handmade sugar with toasted coconut and rice. We met Dylan, the chef on the TV show too. That was a little weird. I'd rather not. Something felt like he was Mickey Mouse at a meet and greet. I'm not complaining about this place, it WAS really really delicious and awesome. Everything was well prepared and extremely fresh with top quality ingredients for sure. You can definitely taste the care and work they put into their meals. I just didn't get the feeling that the meal was a piece of art as it usually is at these places, and therefore not worth the high price tag. I felt that the dishes were not really planned to fit together. I was expected to put everything together myself. The meal was served family style and they put a bunch of food in front of us but I didn't know what it was. That's what I pay the chef for, darling. I want the chef to put together unfamiliar flavours on my plate for me because he or she is the expert, not me. I felt like the tastes were just jumbled up in my mouth together like a bag of miscellaneous leftovers some roommate from another planet left in the fridge. That roommate told me I could have it, but didn't explain what it was, where she got it or even with what utensil I should eat it with. The servers made a feeble attempt at explanations, but when they brought it all out Asian family style, it just became a big mess.

I have a lot of experience with Asian food, and I know this is the traditional way to eat in this part of the world, but when I spend more than 150 dollars per person, I want the chef to plan out a specific taste experience. I don't want to be the one responsible for creating the tastes myself. Cooking really is art and I want to experience someone's art that they have crafted over years of training and dedication to the craft. I don't want a jumble of stuff I happen to put on my inexperienced plate.

I think the way they present the meal, although it is in the traditional way, really hides the talent of the chefs. All the work they put into the meal is negated by an inexperienced person such as myself plating it out on my own. In other words, even though a restaurant can charge 150 dollars doesn't mean they should. I would happily pay this price for a nicely plated meal but in family style, I just don't think it's worth it.

On top of this, the air conditioning was on so high that it was dripping on my mom. So much for "sustainability" AND I could not for the life of me turn on the sink in the bathroom because the tap was shaped LIKE A SQUIRREL. ALSO, the cheap looking art on the wall, a woodburnt style portrait of a midriff baring Thai woman put another cheesy element into the mix. THEN at the end of the meal we were brought back out into the lobby again for a small dessert. They put some perfectly good peanut brittle under a glass dome full of temple incense??? I mean come on, that's lame. The peanut brittle just tasted burnt and inedible after that. Blech.


Posted by baixing 03:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

February 1-3, 2019, Chiang Mai

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It was too early to check in to our hotel in Chiang Mai when we got there, so we strolled into town slowly. We stopped at a little cafe for breakfast. A nice lady was running it.
We even found new glasses for dad because he managed to stomp on them the night before on the train somehow. They had a cute little dog in the shop that we played with while he looked for the new frames.

When we got to the hotel, it was still a little early, so we had lunch at another cafe with some nice juice and things. Then the room was ready and we all had showers and I made a fruit salad out of mangosteen, jack fruit, papaya and mango. Then we took a nap because it was too hot to go out again.
The festival had some really cheap show on a little stage, so we watched that for a while.
We had a bunch of street food for dinner and ate omelettes and pad thai with a man who looked and talked like Bill Clinton and his wife. I think the festival was nice and cool at night. It was probably the least busy time to see the flowers in the park as well.

Later, we found the main stage just in time to see the two Miss Flower Festivals crowned. Lucky us. There were separate contests for Thai women and foreign women, so that was interesting. We also saw the electrical wiring catch fire outside the public washrooms. Yikes.

February 2, 2019

On Saturday, there was the big parade. It was a dream come true for my mom. She was very excited to see the colourful floats, which were mostly comprised of natural elements like shells and of course flowers. We found a nice place to sit and I just watched from under my umbrella as the strong sunlight beat down on us relentlessly.

I was amazed to see some of the performers walking in bare feet along the parade route. They must have had first degree burns on their black soles after five minutes of walking on that tarry asphalt. I was also really happy to see that even native Americans were well represented in the parade. They led a red, white and blue marching band down the street in faux chintzy headdresses, neon face paint and sparkly leather regalia.

Oh and after half the parade had gone by, the marshalls let a bunch of cars go down the street, thus making uninformed tourists believe it was over, and thus completely ruining the festive atmosphere of the whole thing.

We went back home for a little lunch and another short nap, then headed out to see some temples, including the ruin of a giant Khmer style stupa. That was nice to walk around, even though a couple of drunk or mentally impaired Americans were screaming a conversation at the top of their lungs as they were standing right next to each other. I really liked the elephants that were carved into the sides of a lot of these temples.
After that three or four hour tour, I think we deserved a nice massage, so we headed over to the ex-con massage centre. There were seven branches all over the city and these strong women provided a really nice experience. They washed our feet, massaged our whole bodies in what I would say was a light Thai style, as well as daubing our skin with hot herbs at the end. All this took two hours and cost about 35 dollars. Amazing.
My masseuse was really funny and she made me laugh a lot. Especially when she jumped on my back and made my tongue and eyes stick out, similar to a flattened frog run over by a car. I couldn't get this image out of my head and I laughed until I almost peed my pants. She spoke almost zero English, so she had no clue why I was doing that, but she laughed along anyway. So fun. I think these massage places are a great way to rehabilitate criminals who need a useful skill after they get out of jail.

At night, I tried to get my mom to try some overpriced durian, but she couldn't get it past her nose. Earlier in the day she bought a durian popsicle and barely finished eating that too.

February 3, 2019

My parents really wanted to see silk being made, so they took a tuk tuk all by themselves to the edge of the city. I stayed in town to visit the museums, which were all very well done, but quite similar to each other. I really enjoyed the museum about the founding of Chiang Mai, because it was a full body immersive experience. It really felt like travelling back in time as each room contained a different environment, such as rice fields and mountains etc. So that was a relaxing and also informative day.
When I got back, I took a nap while my parents went to go see the flowers one last time. Then we were too tired for dinner, so we ate a bunch of snacks in the room and went back to bed.

Posted by baixing 03:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiang mai Comments (0)

January 28-31, 2019, Bangkok, Thailand

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It was travel day to Bangkok. I had a late breakfast of red curry because Liz told me I had to and then slowly packed up and left.
The same ferry man took me back to the other side of the river. I think he was surprised to see me again. I hoped he wouldn't tip the boat over out of spite from me running away the day before. I caught a horrible mini van and then an equallyhorrible bus to Bangkok.
The border crossing was very easy. There was no visa to purchase any longer. Last time I went to Thailand, I think it was 20 dollars. I had some green herbal soup to eat and then we arrived at probably 4 a.m. I found the hostel I booked very easily across the street from the railway station.

January 29, 2019

I slept for a few hours and paid for early checkin. The hostel was near Chinatown, so I wandered around the river area there for a while. I felt very claustrophobic and lost, until I found a Chinese shrine with lots of red lanterns. It gave me a sense of relief and peace for just a moment. I walked around until I got really tired.
For lunch, I went to a nearby vegan restaurant which was full, so I sat with a group of women who were au pairs in Australia.
It was interesting talking to them because I had no idea that it was a thing westerners did in other western countries. It seemed like a pretty shitty life though. The parents give them a small salary and they eat and sleep in the family's house. Sometimes they are expected to cook and clean as well. One woman said that the mother she worked for stayed home all day and just stared at her. Yikes.

January 30, 2019

My parents' flight was delayed for a day because of a major snowstorm. They had a hotel in Cambridge for the night. So, I just stayed in Chinatown for the day again. I followed the tour in my guidebook, I think it was Insight Bangkok. I wandered around lost among a bunch of junk for sale.

There was a gold shop with a small museum on the top floor,
a temple with a live crocodile and lots more other temples.

The Chinese temple was really crowded because of Chinese New Year coming up. I went back home for dinner and had overpriced pad thai near the station.

January 31, 2019

I woke up crazy early in the morning, took a shower and dressed but forgot to look at the flight status of my parents' plane. I picked up some Thai iced tea for everyone and breakfast for myself, but then realized this detail when I got to the airport train station. Luckily there was a screen with the arrival times on it. Unluckily, the screen suddenly turned off before it showed me the flight coming in from Paris I was looking for. I tried to get help from a janitor, but a nice English speaking lady saw me and checked the flight status for me on her phone. It had definitely left Paris, but there was no guarantee they'd be actually on it until I checked my own email when I got to the airport. Who knows if they made their connection with all the delays and everything right? I found the exit they were coming out of and waited there for a couple hours. Finally, they saw me and we went back to the hostel to store our bags for the day.

I thought they'd want to take a nap or something, but they weren't tired, so we walked around crazy Chinatown like I did the day before.

Our train didn't leave until 7 p.m., so we had a leisurely dinner also at the same place I was the night before, right next to the station. We boarded our train on time and this horrible passive aggressive woman was in the bed beside me. She tricked my dad into putting her bag up on the rack for her.


"Two months in Asia is a long time you know," she said humbly bragging. Yeah lady, everyone here is also on a two month vacation, you're not special. Also we managed to do it with a smaller bag than you. Did you have some problems with that? I thought in my own head, gloating to myself. I found out she was a doctor's secretary back in Ottawa, so that explained everything about her. She just spends all day every day bullshitting and covering her ass. Gross.

Sleeping on trains in Thailand is not very good. The lights are on 24/7 and the air conditioning is cranked. On top of that, the blanket they give you is very thin and not warm enough. The bottom bunks however, are cozy and dark, but I was suffering on the top.

Posted by baixing 03:11 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

January 26-27, 2019, Don Khong, Laos

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I was relieved the two Koreans didn't follow me to the next island like I thought they might. I might have been called upon to be some kind of mediator over who knows what problem may have come up overnight.

The ticket I bought included transfers to Don Khong, or so I thought.

Once I got to the dock after a boat, bus and broken motorcycle ride, the ferry man wanted more money. No way, I demanded the money that I already paid for the ferry back. He gave it to me, but when he realized how serious I was about walking, he suddenly dropped his extra fee. Not today scam man. You get nothing from me. NOTHING. And so, I just grabbed a giant beer and two donuts and started off beside the river.

I knew there was a bridge somewhere around there, and I was determined to find it. I walked through countless brilliant green rice fields, even in the driest of dry seasons. I took a lot of rice photos for Jeremy again, he says he doesn't need anymore now. Haha.
I walked until finally I saw the big giant bridge. It was at that point that my audiobook came to an end and a Kathleen Edwards album began to play. I sang at the top of my lungs all the way across. I had never been so happy to see any concrete structure in my life before.
As soon as I got across, I waved down a nice looking old German man on a scooter. He told me he was a photojournalist taking photos of obscure temples for some magazine. I was surprised anyone could still make money doing that. I promised him a beer at dinner, but he wouldn't let me buy it for him. I chowed down on fish curry and never saw him again.

I had a real nice room with an actual spring mattress that night, so I went to bed pretty early after drinking a couple of Lao Lao mojitos with an Italian woman from Bologna.

January 27, 2019
I saw Rosanna the Italian woman again in the morning and we both had tickets to buy in opposite directions. The hotel owner seemed to try to buy me a train ticket to Bangkok, but he said it was full. Hmmm. OK, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He sold me an overpriced bus ticket, but there was nothing I could do about it. Rosanna got hers to Tha Kaek and we were done doing business for the day. At first she was going to rent a bike with me but then she changed her mind when the wind picked up a little bit. It was better that way because the roads were real bad and she seemed like she'd probably give up after a few kilometres anyway.

So, I took off by myself. I stopped to pick up some palm sugar, but didn't see anyone actually making it. I guess I was too late in the day, or it was the wrong season for that.

Then, there was the long hot drive to Wat Phu Khao Kaew, built on top of some Khmer ruins. Even though it was hot, lots of women were in the fields planting rice. Their husbands were inexplicably elsewhere. I guessed getting drunk at the corner store.

Tons of children ran after me shouting HELLO in Lao as I tried to navigate the badly eroded red soil track. Eventually, I got to the temple and it was nice, but not really worth the long, bumpy ride. I walked down to the river and took a little dip in my clothes. I'm not sure if it was appropriate to do but I left quickly after that, and it felt great, so whatever.


I got back to the main intersection on the island and could not find an ice cream. There was super dark beer, however. So, I had one of those while plotting my next step.


I saw a couple on bikes going to the same temple, but then they decided not to go the whole way because of the aforementioned roads. They came back before I finished my beer. I went back to town and found the historical museum shuttered. So, I went in search of a "Buddha cave". Did not find it, but I did manage to get hopelessly lost in the not so thick forest beside the road for a few hours. I knew I would be OK though, because for some reason my GPS was working at that time. It hadn't worked for the whole trip. After losing the track, I only panicked a little while I walked through the bush with the sun behind me. It infuriated me because I could hear children laughing and playing, but was completely at a loss as to how to get closer to them. The trees seemed to close in on me and I shouted HELLO in Lao. The kids ran away. I didn't know the word for help, but it didn't matter. Eventually, I found another trail which came out near my bike and I cycled back to town relieved.

I stopped on the side of the road for some kind of spicy noodles with cabbage and a slushie. Everyone else eating at the shack laughed when I couldn't eat the bitter tamarind they happily chewed on. The slushie however, was sent from heaven, exactly what I needed after that hot day. I had enough exhausting adventure, so I went to bed at 7 p.m. and called it a day.

Posted by baixing 02:51 Archived in Laos Tagged khong don Comments (0)

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