#1 Laos, Jan. 16, 2007

Dear Everybody,

“On The Road Again,—Just Can’t Wait to Get On The Road Again—-” Yes, I’m still enjoying it although the air travel itself is a pain these days, as you know. Leaving home on Tuesday morning, and after 36 hours of travel, I finally arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Thursday morning. These days I check my backpack on the airplanes because of new regulations, and MIRACLE, it managed to accompany me on all four flights!

I am on my way to Laos, but stopped in Chiang Mai, Thailand to visit my friend, David, and his new, much younger Thai wife, Fern. I hadn’t realized how common this old/young, Westerner/Thai combo is until I went along with David to his ex-pat group activities, and observed quite a number of these couples, some with babies. It seems that oodles of 65 year old men head to Southeast Asia to marry Thai women in their 20’s and 30’s. Love apparently conquers all, even language barriers!

Fern has her own massage/beauty business and before I left I had the BEST manicure and pedicure that I have ever had. Yes, the ‘n’ on this activity for me is low, but still—my nails are gorgeous. Fern has a 14 year old daughter, Looket.

While Fern was busy with her business, David and I saw a few of the Chiang Mai sights. When I was in the taxi coming from the airport, I could see that Chiang Mai had changed hughly since I had last been here which, when I calculated, turned out to be about 18 years ago! In those days it was a sleepy little town consisting mostly of Buddhist temples (wats) and wooden houses. Now multi-storied apartment buildings are chock a block with the wats; the traffic is murderous, the noise, awful, and the air pollution pretty bad on the day I arrived, but it improved on subsequent days.

Nevertheless, I spent many lovely hours (including breakfast) on David’s rooftop garden, replete with beautiful flowering plants, a cactus garden, and hanging orchids. I could see six wats from the rooftop garden—one was directly across the street. And breakfast included freshly squeezed orange juice and farm fresh (brown) eggs.

One of the activities David and I participated in was a bridge game with a number of ex-pat club members. It was held in a most magnificent home of one of the ex-pats who was also a crack bridge player. I managed OK although the jet lag wasn’t helpful on this, the first post-trip day. The time difference is 14 hours.

We had lovely food with Thai beer in several restaurants, and I realized that the blue silk scarf that I brought along for ‘dressing up’ (consists of tying on a silk scarf over a black tee shirt and black jeans) was one that I had bought in Chiang Mai 18 years ago!

One day David and I visited a botanical display quite far out of town, situated on a big area that would take several visits to completely see. They had pavilions on cacti, soil less growing, rain forest, rubber plantation, and the highlight which was the orchid pavilion. Wow! I can see if one lived in the appropriate climate how one could really get into this! I saw water buffalo, rice growing, ducks splashing, a lotus pond, etc. It got quite hot at midday (90 degrees F.) but nights and early mornings almost required long sleeves.

The Thai are very gracious people with lots of hands-together-under-the-chin greetings and always, the removal of shoes—even in some restaurants. In fact, I had to remove my shoes to come into this Internet establishment (although now I’m in Laos). When David invited me to give him my clothes that needed laundering which he would put in with the business laundry being done, he later reported that Fern had been somewhat off put that I had included my undies, as “Thai ladies always wash out their own.” David said he put mine into the washer anyway, and later I retrieved them off the clothesline. No harm done, I hope!

I got my Laos visa while in Chiang Mai and bought yet another airline ticket which I used today to fly to Luang Prabang, Laos. When I got here about 5:00 PM, there was a scarcity of rooms in Guest Houses, so it took some walking about (and some nervousness) until I finally found ONE room in the Sackarinh Guest House, thank goodness! Actually I can only have this one for two nights, but I can probably find something else if I look early in the day.

 

 

Luang Prabang is the second largest city in Laos (about 25,000!) and is really just a sleepy little town with lots of backpackers. I shall look forward to exploring it tomorrow. Stay tuned—-

Carol

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