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Saturday, January 03, 2004


In Hanoi Now
Hanoi, Vietnam

Happy New Year everybody! We're in Vietnam now, in the bustling city of Hanoi. Traffic here is nuts, it's noisy and loud... and the food is awesome. It always goes back to food with us, doesn't it?

We're in the process of saying goodbye to our current tour group and meeting our new one, which we're joining to travel with down to Saigon. In fact, the others are waiting for me now, so I have to make this brief; just wanted to pop online to let you know where we are. Apparently Internet access is spotty throughout Vietnam, so we're going to try to have to update the site in the next few days while we're in Hanoi. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


Leaving Thailand
Vientiane, Laos

When I last wrote, we were just about to leave Bangkok. It's been more than a week already, and now we're already about to leave Laos. The train ride to Chiang Mai was very comfortable. We were in the 2nd class sleepers, which are by far the most comfortable we've ever been on a train. The carriage was very new, and in the evening, the attendants change the seats into a bed, and lower the upper bunk. They also set them up with clean sheets, pillow cases and blankets. We even have our own privacy curtains too. We were all quite thrilled and most of us slept well except for Angie, whose water bottle somehow leaked in the middle of the night and she ended up with a wet bed (no problem of course, she just moved in and shared Lindsay's bed). The bottom bunks were quite large, enough for two to share.

We arrived in Chiang Mai by about 7:30am and headed off to our guesthouse. The People's Place was located near the main road in town so it was convenient to walk around, and especially to the night market. Jenny, Lindsay, Nat, Ange, Holly and myself ate at the guesthouse as we were being picked up for our cooking class at 9:45am. The others went out for breakfast then Winston went on a cycling tour.

The cooking class was a ton of fun. The Chiang Mai Cooking School is well set up, and there were 19 of us students that day. After learning how to make panaeng curry paste, we got to make our own paste. It took us a good 20mins to chop up our fresh ingredients and pound everything into a paste. I was being brave since I usually eat medium 'hot' stuff so I added 5 red chillis to my paste. When it was time for us to taste our paste, OH DEAR!!! It was so spicy! I ended up just using half the paste for my curry dish. We each had our own cutting board, knives, granite mortal and stove to prepare and cook. We made panaeng pork curry, chiangmai chicken curry, fish with chilli sauce and sweet and sour stirfry vegetables. It was a ton of fun, and we enjoyed eating too!

We returned back to the guesthouse and joined the others to go to Doi Suthep, a temple up on a hill several kms outside of the city. It was a windy road getting up there, and I was getting pretty car sick while Winston fell asleep in the front seat. The view from the top was quite nice, though it was a bit hazy down below. The legend of this wat is that a white elephant carrying buddha's relics walked up here and died on the spot. It was seen as an auspicious sign. We sat in on the evening ceremonial prayers of the monks; it was very calming while they chanted.

Back in town, we walked over to the foodcourt by the night market and chowed on fun stuff. Winston and I shared chicken satay, meatball noodle soup and hainanese chicken rice (though they just call it steam chicken over there). Afterwards, everyone took off in different directions shopping at the night market. There were so many things for sale, and the crafts were very vibrant. I bought a few things and walked back with Jacqui, Lisa and Holly. It's too bad that we can't carry too much; there were too many nice things to buy.

We had breakfast at the guesthouse, and then got a ride to the bus station. There were boarded an AC bus to ChiangRai. It was a comfortable 3 hours' ride. At Chiang Rai, we had lunch at the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant, which is run by the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). We had yummy rice cooked in pineapple and fried fish cakes. After lunch, there was time to browse through the Hilltribe Museum upstairs where we learnt about the lifestyles of the six major Hilltribes in the northern region.

In the afternoon, we went to Chiang Khong in the back of two taxi trucks (called many names including jumbo, song thongs, tuk tuk). It took us about 2 hours. We spent the night at Ruanthai Sopaphan Resort, a wonderful guesthouse overlooking the Mekong River (Laos was just across the river). The three Jets and I went for a walk along the one street of Chiang Khong and picked up snacks and fruits for our boat ride the following day. Dinner was fun; we shared five different dishes and wished each other Merry Christmas. At night, Winston played the keyboard and some of us tried to sing Christmas carols but we weren't very good since no one know enough words other than the choruses. It was still fun though.

In the morning, we got a ride to the border port and got stamped for departure from Thailand. I have to go now to dinner, so the next time I blog, it'll be about Laos, a beautiful country with lovely people and landscape.

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