Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tigers, Markets, and life in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Walking Street has so much stuff!

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Walking Street

The "Fingernail" Dance at the Chiang Mai Cultural Center

New friends having dinner at the Chiang Mai Cultural Center

Tiger Kingdom! Just another day in Chiang Mai...

Hello from Chiang Mai!

Everything is still great here!  I've only been here a few days but already I have seen so much.  I have some pictures up on my picassa page.  So far I've uploaded some shots of just around Chiang Mai, Tiger Kingdom, and the Sunday night market.  - http://picasaweb.google.com/AndieVaughn 

Saturday night about 9 of us went to the Night Bazar.  This was really cool - it was kind of like Chinatown with knock-off goods everywhere and lots of people trying to get a good deal.  I didn't buy anything, but I was definitely glad I went.  After shopping and a delicious and cheap dinner, our group went out for a few hours and then came back to the hotel and went swimming.  I've already made some great friends and although everyone is really, really different, the group is interesting and fun.  

Sunday I went to Tiger Kingdom with 4 other girls.  We took a tuktuk out to this place that is kind of like a zoo, but it only has lions and tigers.  We paid to sit in the cage and "play" with the lion cubs.  This was really cool although even when those things are tiny they are pretty scary - their teeth were still intimidating.  After this, we got to go into the tiger cage.  I was peer pressured into this one. . . the entire time I was in the cage with the 2 tigers and 4 Thai handlers I could only hear Siegfried screaming as Roy got attacked by their pet tiger.  One of the Thai men kept taking my camera and telling me to get down next to the tiger- he would say "You touch! You touch for photo!"  No way.  Anyway, the afternoon went by quickly and those girls and I got to be good friends.

I have a roommate now too... her name is Jen and she is from Ottowa.  She rolled in with as much luggage as I did so I liked her immediately.  We get along really well and I'm glad she is my roommate- we are pretty similar.  The funny thing is though is that I am almost the youngest person here.  I thought there would be more recent college grads here but there is only 3 of us.  Most of the people are about 26 or so.  One guy is in his 40's.  I guess it doesn't really matter, but I just thought it was kind of surprising.

Sunday night was the best part of the day.  We went to the Sunday night market down the street from the hotel.  This was about a mile of the best stuff I've ever seen.  It was tons of little carts with umbrellas above them and lights strung around with Thai people selling handmade goods.  I bought so much stuff!  It was so much fun and the entire atmosphere is hard to even describe.  I loved the market.  It was way better than the Night Bazar.  

Yesterday was our first day of class.  We have an American teacher and two Thai ladies helping.  Yesterday was mostly Thai cultural lessons and language help.  Besides class every day, during the next three weeks we'll spend about 6 days in Thai schools working on learning to teach English.  The class is going to be pretty fun I think...there are only 19 of us here and we've already gotten to know each other so the class is fun.  Last night the program arranged for us to have dinner at the Chiang Mai Cultural Center where we ate traditional northern Thai food (fried chicken, fried bananas, sticky rice, chili, etc) and watch dances done by (according to the brochure) "actual mountain people.  Not village people dressed as mountain people." Haha.  It was really interesting and I enjoyed this too.  Unfortunately, although the food is good, it is catching up to all of our stomachs and most of us haven't felt super great in a couple days.  I guess that is what I get for eating pad thai and fried chicken for 5 days straight.  Tonight I am meeting up with my friend Landon who lives here and I'm bringing some people from the program.  We are planning a trip to Pai this weekend!  

Miss you all!  

Saturday, July 25, 2009

First days in Chiang Mai

Hi all,

I just wanted to give you all a quick update now that I am settled in Chiang Mai.  I got here Friday afternoon after an uneventful flight on Thai Airways from Bangkok.  I took a taxi from the airport and got to my hotel.  The hotel isn't that great- it is right inside the moat or "old city" so I like the location though.  I called my friend who is living here and she picked me up on her motorbike.  I even got to wear a hot pink helmet as she showed me around the city.  Pretty adventurous for me haha.  Chiang Mai is really cool- its kind of quaint and adorable but there is a lot going on.  We had dinner at a nice restaurant looking out over the river.  Everything here is super super cheap though.  Today I ate a pretty good lunch for only a dollar.  Anyway, after my motorbike tour of the city with Landon and dinner I was really tired - I'm still pretty jetlagged- so she dropped me off at the hotel.  Our program person sent me a message saying that another girl in the program was here too- so I went up to her room to say hi.  She was really nice and we got along well- she is from Indiana.  It was great to meet someone and we chatted for awhile.  After that, I called Northwest lost luggage place in Bangkok and after much language difficulty I finally figured out that my bags were indeed on their way to Bangkok from Tokyo and were supposed to be on a plane to Chiang Mai this morning.  I got up early and had breakfast with my new friend Katie at the hotel, then went with a bellman to the airport.  I was pretty skeptical about getting my bags, but they were actually there!  YAY!  I found the bellman again and he picked up another person in my program.  So I made another friend in the van- Mark.  He will be in Seoul with me doing the same orientation and everything.  There should be about 15 more members coming either today or tomorrow- I still don't have a roommate.  

Today, my new friends and I went to a cheap, cheap lunch and walked around.  We went to a temple that had a 40 foot tall Buddha in it and a monk that never moved - it was possibly a wax statue, but we weren't sure haha.  We spent the afternoon exploring then came back to the hotel and went to the pool for a couple hours.  I'm across the street at the coffee shop now and am leaving in a few minutes to go back and we are all going to go to dinner then go shopping at the night bazar and try and find a fun place to go out.  Tomorrow we are planning to go to "Tiger Kingdom" haha and then we are working on planning some excursions.  We are going to try and spend most weekends trekking around or visiting other places.  I think during the week we'll get to see so much of Chiang Mai - and we all want to get to see as much as we can.  

Anyway, I'll be here for at least 3 weeks and then I think we are going to spend the last week maybe in Bangkok or on the beaches in the south before we all head to Korea.  I'm having a great time though and I have luggage now so that is fantastic. Anyway, I hope you all are having a great weekend! Stay in touch!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hello from Bangkok!

Hello from Bangkok!

 I finally arrived!  I just got to my little hotel room and it is clean, but really different than an American airport hotel.  I am exhausted, but I made it in one piece.   Unfortunately, my luggage did not make it and is currently still on the ground in Atlanta thanks to the cuckoo lady who checked my bags in yesterday and put the wrong date on them.  Supposedly, my bags will take the same flight to Bangkok tomorrow night and get to Chiang Mai some time on Saturday.  Keep your fingers crossed for me because I only have one change of clothes and no toiletries right now.

 I left Atlanta on July 22nd on a 2:20 PM Northwest flight to Tokyo.   I’ve never been on a double deck plane before, but I got first class and was on the upper deck so that was really cool.  I essentially flew across the world on a cruise ship- it was the most spacious plane I’d ever seen.  It definitely made the 13 hours easier.  When I boarded I was still a teary eyed mess from saying good-bye to Mom and Dad, but I got settled in my seat and the flight attendant brought me champagne which I downed to take away some of my anxiety and celebrate the start of my new adventure.  However, since I was seated in an exit row, for the peace of mind of those around me I got an emotional grip and had to stop with the free alcohol. I ordered my dinner (shrimp scampi and beef tenderloin), watched some movies and was fine until somewhere over northern Canada when I had a minor freak-out – as in, I’m completely alone on an airplane headed to Tokyo right now what in the heck am I doing.  I decided to pop some Tylenol PM and go to sleep, and I got a good six hours which was nice.  It was daylight the entire flight, but everyone had their shades down so it was easy to rest  I also didn’t have anyone sitting next to me so I got to spread out.

I got to Tokyo at 5PM July 23rd local time.  I went through security and then headed to my gate.  I got business class on my Bangkok flight too.  The flight was uneventful except for some scary turbulence somewhere over Vietnam and the large black man sitting next to me who ate an entire bag of pork rinds during the flight.  Gross.   

So now, here I am in the early morning hours of July 24th at my airport hotel in Bangkok with no luggage.  I leave for Chiang Mai about lunch time local time tomorrow/today.  Then I am going to have dinner and drinks with one of my sorority sisters who has been living in Chiang Mai since she graduated last May.  That will be fun and it will be so great to see a familiar face. 

 Anyway, I will try and keep everyone posted on what I’m doing, but I’m going to try not to use my computer much until I get my adaptor in my luggage.  I can’t charge it right now so battery time is precious.

Anyway, I’m here and everything is good so far!!  I'm going to finally get some good sleep.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Welcome to my life!  For the next year, I plan on keeping all of you informed of my adventures as I conquer South Korea.  

I have some goals I hope to accomplish during the next year that are very important to me so here they are in no particular order:

*Try anything once.  I don't have to like it, but I must try it.
*See the Great Wall of China
*Go to a Cherry Blossom Festival
*Visit Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Japan, and Singapore
*Ride an elephant
*Make new and lifelong friends
*Do not wallow
*Buy something really unnecessary from an interesting marketplace
*Constantly explore South Korea- do not sit inside.  (Refer back to do not wallow)
*Learn to roll with things 
*To take in as many new experiences that can possibly fit into one year
*Stay in touch with all my friends and family
*Learn about Korean culture and appreciate it
*Learn to be a teacher. A patient, dedicated teacher