Friday, April 25, 2014

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has been a really great trip. We did, ate, and bought a lot more than I expected. I got flights for this trip about 6 months ago after my aunt, uncle, and cousin moved here. I wanted this to be a longer trip (more than 4 days) so I booked it for the Easter holiday. But then they moved to China in January so I asked around to see if anyone else wanted to go. One of my college friends, Diana, is working in India and wanted to come too. One of her friends from church was also in the area so she showed us around for a few days. This was awesome since she knows the city and can speak Thai.

I went to work Wednesday morning and left for the airport slightly before lunch. It is a pain going to the airport from work via MTR since I have to transfer so many times. The flight was slightly early. They served a large snack. One of the choices was dim sum! Wish I took a picture of it.

The Chiang Mai airport is pretty small. There are a couple of booths with taxi service and you just tell them where you want to go and they call a taxi for you. No harassment or haggling with taxi drivers.

We started at the Eco Resort which is a cheap resort with a mix of dorm rooms, shared bathrooms, and single rooms. We got a double with shared bathroom. There is a really nice pool right outside our room, which is where I found my friend and her friend when I got to the hotel. I swam with them for a little bit and then we ate some snacks (mango sticky rice and papaya salad) that they got earlier in the day. After this, we went to the night market where we tried the feet cleaning fish, looked at a ton of trinkets, had fruit juice, got a full body Thai massage, and ate more food.

The 2nd day we got off to a slow start. I got up, went swimming, had breakfast, and chilled by the pool. Then we went for noodles, another market, followed by more shopping, ice skating at a fancy mall, and ate some really good roadside food.

Friday, we went on a road trip to a nearby park with a waterfall. There were 5 of us and we drove 3 motorbikes to the park, stopping on the way to get food. We picnicked after we got there. The three other girls have been in Chiang Mai for a while and they said that when they first started coming to this place, there were maybe 2 or 3 other Thai families. Now they have people manning the gates and trails. There wasn't a lot of water at the waterfall and we climbed up and down the rocks. There were a lot of other people and even some tourists. We all got soaked. I didn't bring my phone so will upload pictures later when I get photos from my friend. After this we rested and then had a BBQ buffet for dinner followed my karaoke. The karaoke rooms all had different themes. We chose the Ant Room.

On Saturday, we went to do a cooking class. The class was even more in depth than the one I did in Guilin. We got to choose from different dishes. I made green curry paste, green curry with chicken, pad thai, papaya salad, tom yum soup, and banana in coconut milk. We made and ate the pad thai and papaya salad first. Afterwards we were extremely full. The class was a lot of fun and the food was great. We even got a small cookbook with the recipes after. These cooking classes are really fun.

After that, we walked around the old city and found three Saturday walking street, which is another market. We ended the day with a trip out to a mall with a Big C, which is like a Walmart. We missed an over/underpass on the way back and went really far before getting off the highway and going back again.

On Sunday, we went to a 3D art museum, which is like the Alive museum we went to in Seoul, except that it is a lot bigger. Then we tried to find the Sunday walking street, which is yet another market but found out that it starts later in the day. So my friend went back to the hotel while I walked around the city some more. We finally tried the little place near our hotel that does pad thai for dinner.

We didn't much Monday morning and I got to the airport early to see my friend off. Trying to catch up on blogging! Will do the Seoul ones soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seoul, Part 1

Back from my first trip to South Korea. Seoul is a very modern city. I'll start by writing about my flight. I left on a Wednesday afternoon on Ethiopian Airlines. I spent the whole time at the airport being conflicted about whether or not I should eat a meal at the airport. Every time I go, I want to eat at fried chicken at Popeye's. But I usually end up gawking at the prices and walk away. I ended up getting a drink and muffin at Starbucks because I was worried that there wouldn't be food on the plane. I noticed the large amount of Hong Kong and Korean people at the waiting area when I finally got to the terminal. There even seemed to be a tour group. And indeed, the flight wasn't very full when we got on. In fact, I don't even think the first class/business class area was ever occupied. Anyway, everything was normal and they even served a meal.

I got to Seoul at around 8pm and walked around the airport and got money, something to drink, and found my way to the subway station. They had two different trains, one of which is an express train. This express train was not part of the research I did on how to get to the airport so I didn't take it. There weren't a lot of people around on a weekday night so it took me a while to figure out if I was entering the right gate. The train from the airport was really fancy and had blinking lights that show you where you are along the line. I had to transfer to another line and this second one was much busier and definitely not as new as the airport line. By the time I got to the station where Yalu and friends where staying, it was around 10pm. I saw a Dunkin Donuts as I was getting out of the station and they had the cutest donuts! I got this bear one.

I got to the hotel and the hotel guy was just showing me where the huge bunch of MIT kids went for dinner when I saw Mike coming down the street. So I had a nice Korean BBQ dinner with them where they basically took up the entire restaurant. The restaurant stayed open late for them because their flight was late.

The next day, they went on tours and I went around Seoul on my own. I was pretty lazy and didn't managed to get up until 10am. This is happens every time I travel on my own. I had a nice breakfast at a cafe across the street that roasts their own coffee. You can basically expect free wifi at every cafe.

Then I took the subway near this big park where the N Seoul Tower is. There is a cable car where you can take it to the top of the hill where the tower is located. But the cable car is kind of big and it didn't seem like you would have very good views if you were crammed in with other people. There weren't a lot of people when I went but I chose to hike up instead. There are many very well kept trails within the park. Many of them have concrete and stone stairs. Trees and flowers are starting to bloom.

View of the city:

N Seoul Tower:

Art pieces using cans and other recyclable material:

On the way down I took a small trail and it took me forever to find the nearest subway station after getting out of the park.

I was pretty tired after walking around all day and got back to the hotel just as the MIT gang was leaving for dinner. I found dinner around the area and read a book for the rest of the night.