A Paint By Number Journey Thru Chiang Mai & Luang Prabang

I know, I know. This is beyond tardy.  It has taken me a year and a day to post about mine and Stephanie’s jaunt to the beautiful cities of Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang back in February, but I am finally getting around to doing it.  Holy moly, I can’t believe it’s been that long.  Shame on me!!!

This time, instead of doing my typical posty post about the entire vaca, what we ate, who we ate with and at what time, I’m going to chronicle my favorite moments of the trip. So buckle up peeps!

1. Our 16 Hour Train Ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Instead of flying directly to Chiang Mai, we flew into Bangkok and opted to indulge in the journey of getting to Chiang Mai.  And what reeks more of wanderlusting travel than the huff and puff of a locomotive train? We stocked up on snacks, including  an accidental choosing of PICKLED mango on Miss Stephanie Anne’s part, ordered a surprisingly delicious dinner on board, got our train bunks turned down by the train maid, tucked ourselves in with a good book (50 Shades of Grey anyone?), and then buckled ourselves into bed for the night.  At least I did in my coffin of a top bunk. We rolled into Chiang Mai bright and early the next morning.

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  2. Our guest house in Chiang Mai ~ Finlay’s Cottage.

Steph and I hadn’t booked a place for our first night in Chiang Mai, and since we were meeting Abby for a night we asked her to book us 1 night at Finlay’s Cottage, the place where she was staying.  We loved this place so much that we ended up cancelling our previous reservations and it ended up being our home base for our entire stay in Chiang Mai, both before and after Laos. We loved it that much! The man and woman who run the guest house are a couple of unlikely friends, but are somehow fantastically hilarious. The woman helped us book all our day trips, got us a great tuk tuk driver, made us delicious breakfasts every morning, woke us up to make sure we ate our breakfasts every morning, cancelled our prior reservations for us and made great sarcastic conversation with us when necessary.  The man is from Australia and just never returned, and the woman lived on Koh Phi Phi for 37 years as a masseuse, but when the tsunami hit she broke nearly all her bones and chose to relocate up north, and has been there ever since. They were top NOTCH!

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3. Thai Cooking Class With Beery.

I love cooking but it’s something that I just don’t really have the patience or timing for.  I like to think of myself as more of a “throw together whatever I have kinda chef” and it always works.  I’ve always wanted to take a cooking class in Thailand since I saw MayMay took one on her trip! I figured Steph and Abby were the perfect people to do this with since they are both chef masters.  We signed up for a wonderful cooking class at Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School and had a fabulously flamboyant instructor named Beery, who was just the cherry on top! It was boot camp in the most fun way possible.  We started with a trip to the local market, then went to the school’s garden to smell the herbs and plants native to Thai cuisine that we’d be cooking with, and then got down to cooking!  I made Pad See Ew (because it reminds me of Jessie), Kow Soi Curry and curry paste (the native curry to Chiang Mai which came recommended by MayMay), and Mango sticky rice.

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4. When I Discovered That Friendship Is Hoisting Your Friend Atop An Elephant.

We went on an all-day Mahout elephant trekking course through the jungle, atop the most gorgeous and friendly and massive animal in the world. We learned key commands to “drive” them, fed them endless amounts of sugar cane and bananas, struggled to hoist ourselves atop their massive bodies, struggled yet again to steer our still hormonal lady thru a jungle trek, squealed with glee whilst sliding down her trunk, and then took the most glorious bath in the world with her even though it was filled with piles of shit, I’m sure.  This is my favorite photo from the trip. I really made an ass out of myself, but at least I know who’s got me from all angles as I migrate through this world of ours.

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5. Taking This Photo For National Geographic While Sitting In Tiger Pee.

We didn’t really take it for National Geographic, but we might as well have.  We spent an afternoon at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai posing with a 3 month old tiger, a 5 month old tiger, and then this full grown tiger. We even saw this guy snap at someone.  OPEN WIDE and guard your life!

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6. Getting Annoyed By Chinese Tourists While Trying to Observe the Long Neck Karan Tribe.

The Long Neck Karan tribe native to Chiang Mai is a bit of a circus detour, but I really wanted to see it since this tribe is the one thing that I’ve always remembered since going to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! as a child.  We went, it was awkward and fascinating, and then we got annoyed by the Chinese tourists that always come in loud like they own the place with zero respect.

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7. When Steph Walked Like An Ajumma Up The Massive Stairway to Wat Doi Suthep.

The greatest Wat (temple) in Chiang Mai is Wat Doi Suthep, and it’s located at the tippy top of a massive mountain.  To get there you have to take a tuk tuk, to a red jeep and then walk up the insane stairway.  Here is Steph getting back to her Korean roots en route to the top.

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8. Riding In The Back Of A Pick Up Truck While Crossing The Laos Border.

We decided to take the slow boat journey from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang.  This consisted of a 7 hour minibus to the border, where our small group was greeted by a pick up truck, and we were instructed to hop into the bed of it and stand. Obediently we did so.  FEELIN LIKE A CHOLA.

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9. A Dramatic Reading Of 50 Shades of Grey In French In The Middle Of Nowhere, Laos.

We spent the night in creepy cabins in the middle of nowhere Laos as we awaited our boat ride along the Mekong the next morning.  Our fellow companions were a Swiss couple and our newly made travel companion, French lassie Audrey. Their common language was French, and having never heard of the epic 50 Shades of Grey before, our new friend decided to translate the novel for his lady.  It was oh so sexy.

10. The Sweetest Sendoff From Adorable Laotian Babies As We Set Off On The Mekong.

We woke up bright and early and were escorted to our private boat for our Mekong River cruise.  Our escort service couldn’t have been any more adorable if it tried.  Heart. Melt.

11. Our First Laotian Meal Of Various Flavors Of….Buffalo Jerky.

Steph, Audrey and I set out to try our first Laotian meal since arriving in Luang Prabang.  We turned down a sleepy road in the early-to-sleep city, and perused a menu of our selected restaurant.  There were so many oddly named items, so we took it upon ourselves to order the ones that stood out the most to us.  I believe mine was called “Day Meat Smashed Style”. Basically, we all got variously flavored versions of buffalo jerky.  Needless to say, we were not impressed and stuck to baguettes from the street food vendors for the remainder of our stay in Luang Prabang.

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12.  This Pleasant Lady And Her Amazing Baguettes.

This woman had such a pleasant aura about her, and call me a weirdo, but I loved watching her make her sandwiches. She was so calm, and her sandwiches were so amazing. They were massive and I scarfed them DOWN.  I always got her chicken, brie, tomato, avocado, lettuce and cucumber sandwich and boy did it satisfy.  I also loved that she was one of the only street food stands that had all of her food covered and away from the flies.  Sanitation!!!

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13. Meeting A 16 Year Old Monk Who Loves to Speak English With Foreigners.

We were making our way up to Wat Chom Si atop Pousi Hill just before sunset when we met this friendly monk, Bee.  He is 16 years old and was so sweet and friendly.  He told us about how he loves studying English and hopes to one day travel to America, and loves hanging out on that walk up to the top because so many foreigners come through and it gives him a chance to practice his English.  It was so refreshing to meet someone as young and eager as him to learn and practice, especially after working with Korean students who a lot of the time can care less about learning English. We exchanged information and are now Facebook friends! 🙂

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14. Taking This Glorious Photo Atop Pousi Hill.

Audrey was traveling by herself, and was a lovely addition to our stay in Luang Prabang.  Im so glad we got this awesome photo of the three of us!

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15. Going to Kuang Si Waterfall And Doing A Boob Flop Rope Jump.

We made the journey out to Kuang Si Waterfall with Audrey and 5 Germans that we met.  It was a gorgeous hike in, and once there we got to swim in the springs, and if we wanted, jump from the rope hanging from the tree.  I of course wanted to do it, but was deathly scared once I got up onto the tree.  It was SO slippery, and I was trembling as I used the wooden stick to grab the swinging rope to clutch between my shaking hands. I was a ball of nerves!  Klutzy McKlutz over here.  Well, I didn’t hold high enough on the rope, and when I swung I barely swung and BOOB FLOPPED flat into the water so hard that my top came off under water.  FAIL. But awesome.  This is the face I made upon emerging and confirming my breasts were still in tact.

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16. Observing A Man In a Diaper Walk Down The Street Carrying A Machete.

As the heading says, a man with deathly leather colored skin traipsed down the street wearing nothing but a sheet-like diaper, while carrying nothing but a machete.  I felt safe.

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17. Temple Hopping And Bicycle Riding.

One thing I always try to do while traveling is spend a day with a map in hand and my tuchous on a bicycle seat.  It’s so whimsical and I think the best way to see a city.  Luang Prabang is probably one of the best cities to do this in because it’s so small and quaint.  So, we spent a day temple hopping, monk spotting and drink sipping on our bikes, and it was a beautiful, hot and sweaty day!

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18. Bargaining My Face Off At The Most Colorful Night Market I’ve Ever Been To.

I LOVE night marketing while I travel, and the market in Luang Prabang exceeded my expectations.  It was by far my favorite night market I’ve ever been to.  The colors were so bright everywhere I turned, and the handmade items being sold were so fun and vibrant and unique.  I bargained like it was my job and ended up snagging a pretty awesome travel bag for a sweet deal.  I love this photo I took, and every time I look at it I just want to pop back there!

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19. Meeting New Friends At The All Vegetarian Buffet At The Night Market.

While Instagramming, Steph stumbled upon a guy’s posting of this all vegetarian buffet just off of the night market.  There was a massive spread of food that you put on a plate and then a guy heated it all up for you in a wok.  It was for something outrageous like $5, and was so delicious! We pulled up a seat with everyone else and nommed down on our food. We met some fascinating friends from France, Argentina and Mauritius that we spent the rest of our last evening with.  It’s moments like this when I realize why I love traveling.

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20. Sitting In The Back Of Our Second Pick Up Truck Crossing The Thailand Border.

We did it once, and we did it twice.  Southeast Asia seems to follow Mexico’s lead when it comes to border crossing, because I’ve never felt more illegal in my life.  Sometimes it feels good to live life on the edge.  At least we had a stamp in our passeporto.

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21. Stumbling Upon This Awesome Art Shop In Chiang Mai.

On our last day in Chiang Mai, we randomly stumbled into this art studio/shop filled with a man’s artwork strewn about with every life and travel quote imaginable.  We spent a wild amount of time wandering and finding the perfect purchases for ourselves and our parents.  We both chose pieces for our parents with quotes about our own need to wander the world, and how no matter where we are they’re always in our hearts.

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22.  These Young Boys Getting Massages In Bangkok.

Because they were such babies and they looked so funny and adorable getting a group massage.  I couldn’t help myself.  They were 18 years old.  BABIES!

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23. These Gangnam Style Sandals On Khaosan Rd.

Well, because there would be no better send off back to Koko than to see Psy displayed on some footwear.

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Well, there you have it.  Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang in a somewhat brief pictoral nutshell.  I hope you enjoyed despite my tardiness! Better late than never!!

ByeBye, HeyHey ~ Off You Go To “A Whole New World”

I can’t believe I am even writing this post.  It actually pisses me off that I’m making myself do this.  However, I’ve come to use this blog space of mine to pay a little love to the people near and far who I want to give a big virtual hug to no matter where we both reside in the world at any present moment at any present time on any day of dire significance.

This one is dedicated to my beautiful Stephanie Anne Heyduck, who has become one of the nearest and dearest to my heart during this last year and a half in Korea.  It makes me really sad that her time here has expired, but that’s what comes with the expat territory.  Those who we become so close with weave in and out of our lives and that’s that.  I guess it’s what we indirectly signed up for in choosing a lifestyle fueled by wanderlust; bonding together with others who also thrive on that same passion to wander and move about this glorious globe to explore and conquer.

As we’ve cuddled, danced and traveled our way through an ever-growing friendship, it’s always been apparent to me that Steph is totally one of those people who is unbelievably wise beyond her 25 years.   Whether it be in matters of the heart or the world, she always manages to have the wild child in check with the mature adult who’s got their head screwed on straight.   She’s also one of those people that just knows something about everything, no matter the topic.  I only know a few of those kinds of people and she’s one of them.  It always kind of amazes me and I’m just like WHA?!  Where you come from?!  She’s a special one, and I love her dearly.

Now for a little journey thru some of my fave highlights of the past year and a half frolicking thru the far East together 🙂

The first time I met Steph was when Jeanette and Carmen were visiting.  It was maybe my 3rd week living in Seoul, and Jeanette and Steph realized they had practically matching tattoos.  Friends.Seoulmates.WHAT.

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Here’s the first time Steph, Katie, Abby and I officially became a foursome after each others hearts.  We hiked to the top of Namsan Tower and then struggled to take this photo in the geographical center of Seoul! Many of my “I’m so happy I’m in Korea moments” have been spent with these ladies, and they’ll all always hold one of the most special places in my little Korean heart.

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She introduced me to one of my favorite Korean foods, Shabu Shabu, in the Ying Yang pot, one freezing cold night after shopping our butts off in Myeong-dong. Nom.

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We’ve had some shenanigans, and this was one random night out on the town while everyone else got down on a bus filled with soju.  Hey, we all make mistakes. She dragged me, she loves me despite it 😉

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We got money hungry at the Trick Eye Museum. AKA the most fun museum EVER!

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Then we got ballsy and decided to eat some live octopus together for the first time.  Actually not so bad and kinda fun.

Somewhere around this time we decided we’d bare it all and get naked with each other at the jjimjilbang.  We did, and it was weird for like 2 minutes, and then it was awesome, and then we went again, and we became obsessed even though we didn’t do it as often as we thought we would.  But still.  It brought us as close as 2 naked platonic girlfriends can get.  Both in and outside of our sexy jjimjilbang attire.

Her family came to visit, got us smashed to pieces during her mom’s first date with soju, and then Papa Heyduck did a sorority pose in this photo with us all.

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There were a couple girls nights in.  This may have been what they started out looking like.

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And then the aftermath to the tune of some Disney movies and Twilight and makkoli and soju.

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Then we took on a bit of traveling together.  First came that unforgettable typhoon of a trip to Japan where we rode bikes around Kyoto…

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Got our plans “horribly” rearranged by an unexpected typhoon…

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And then relocated ourselves to the nearest karaoke room where Steph gave us this private show (before I inevitably hogged the mic).  Adele or Celine perhaps? The sake won’t allow me to remember.  Whatever the song, her voice sang it magically.  From this moment on we became noraebang obsessed.

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Shortly after, we went to go Barack the vote together.  We were VERY excited to make our voices heard.

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And after he won the election, the two of us rented out the VIP room at a local noraebang in Itaewon (because it was the only one available), drank ourselves silly on a Wednesday night, and sang our Disney hearts wild for 2 hours because we were so happy for our man Barry.  One of my all time fave Steph & Dani moments to date. “I can show you the worldddddddd……”

Of course by far one of my favorite things everrrrr that we’ve done was going to Thailand and Laos together this past February.  You don’t really know someone til you either live or travel with them, and we traveled really really well together.  We had such an amazing time playing with elephants and tigers, cooking exotic cuisine, crossing the border like a coupla Mexican cholas in the back of one too many pick-up trucks, and meeting lovely French lassies and gorgeous Argentinian men along the way. (I have majorly slacked in posting about that trip, but it will be coming soon, I promise. Eeeep!)

Needless to say, friendship is nothin if you’re not there to help hoist your friend’s fat ass up on top of a hormonal elephant…

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Or sit down next to each other in some tiger pee to get those one-in-a-million shots in life!

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Tonight after Abby and I had to fight back premature tears while saying bye to Steph at our 2nd to last dinner together, we were talking about when we first signed up to move our lives to Korea.  We had envisioned living amongst a new culture, with new foods, new experiences, new travels, a new language to make up the white noise in our background, and we knew we’d make friends abroad.  But, we both made the connection that neither of us had really put much thought into the relationships we were going to build and who would soon become our family whilst carrying on our new lives.  I guess you don’t really plan or think about those types of things because they’re organic and happen as they will. With the ending of year one a slew of great loves left, but Stephanie is my first great girlfriend who’s been there since the beginning, to leave Korea, and that’s a killer. Great girlfriends are not easy to find, and she is just one of those friends that I am so lucky to have snatched up.

To wrap it all up, I love you Stepaneeeeee, and I’m gonna miss you, like, times 10 million to the max.  But, I know we are both wanderers and this is just a BIG “see ya later”.  My time spent in Korea would never have been quite the same without you in it, and I hope this next chapter of your life is a lot less (kimchi) smelly, but just as fulfilling as the past 2 years have been.  I love you to infinity and beyondddddddd.

<3,

Dani