AES’EA – Tapping Out

Ahh, another lazy morning. I love summer vacation. We both naturally woke up early, but spent a few hours just watching TV/browsing the internet. Finally, our hunger outweighed our laziness, so we got dressed and walked down to the lobby for a buffet breakfast. In particular, I’ve found that everything passionfruit flavored is simply the best. Tangy, sweet, and with small black seeds that burst with tartness when crushed. It’s like nature’s candy.

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This isn’t even my final course!

We unfortunately just missed the early van down to town, so we spent a few more hours exploring the resort. It had a number of interesting and fun facilities to enjoy, such as a outdoor fitness center, a putting green, and a boxing bag. Unfortunately, most of them were in some state of minor disrepair, rendering using them difficult or impossible.

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I hereby claim this area in the pursuit of time wasting.
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Ethan is “bad” at darts. And yes this is an archery target.

Finally the second van came, we hopped in, and rode down to town in blessed silence. We found ourselves hungry once we arrived, so we found a nice place for dinner. Both Ethan and I asked for our dishes to be made spicy, and for once truly regretted our decision. Ethan limped over the finish line, whereas I was unable to keep eating and had to give up.

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So delicious, but so unbelievably spicy. I wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t

From there we went to meet up with some friends we made in Bangkok. They showed us around to a couple of local bars, all of which were pretty cool and nice, but seemed to be underpopulated as it was still early in the evening. At our final stop before we went back for the night we went to a nice hotel bar where the bartender (a friend of our friends) made us each a tom yum flavored cocktail. We were all very dubious about basing a alcoholic drink off of the spicy and citrusy thai soup, but were all very pleasantly surprised to find it both delicious and an accurate homage to the dish.

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Garnished with mint, chili pepper, and galangal. I doubt I’ll ever have another drink like it again.

At this point it was getting very near 10pm, the departure time for the last van back up to our resort. Ethan and I said quick goodbyes and jogged off to towards the pickup location, making it there with a few minutes to spare.

AES’EA – Final Destination

Today we bid Bangkok goodbye and headed off to our last stop, in Chiang Mai. We navigated a Bangkok airport successfully (somehow) and made it to our gate with just enough time for breakfast and some coffee.

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Airport lines, the international equalizer
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Let’s talk about bread (a little bit, little bit)

The flight wasn’t long, but the seats were clearly designed for the average Thai-sized person. I was mildly uncomfortable, and Ethan was doubly so. After we jumped off of the plane we got into a taxi and rode up to our resort. Forty minutes of driving up into the mountains with a very talkative driver later, we arrived at our beautiful destination for the next four nights, the Panviman Resort.

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The place seems like it was built for weddings/honeymoons
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The main dining room is one large balcony, with 270 degree views

As we are want to do, we immediately settled in and ordered drinks by the pool. Unfortunately, we seem to be here in the off season, and half of the resort was unmanned. Instead of finding a bar attendant by the pool, we found a drink menu and a phone to call the front desk. Regardless, we ordered our drinks and stretched out while waiting for them. The drinks were delicious and reasonably priced, and gone all too quickly.

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The wonderful view from the poolside
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…and that same view five minutes later as it started heavily raining

We finished up as it started to get dark. After relaxing in our room for a while we went back to the lobby for dinner. I got green curry, while Ethan got massaman curry.

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Rice served with a dunce cap..? IDK

We were happy to have it be an early night, so we headed back to our room and fell asleep.

AES’EA – Exquisite Detail

Today was our last day in Bangkok, so we knew we had to actually get out and see the tourist-y parts of the city. It feels a little bit like box checking (which I usually try to stay away from), but so far we’ve only seen things within a twenty minute walk from our hotel. So at least I can agree with the results of being touristy, if not the rationale behind why. We ordered brunch room service and headed down to the river to get a boat towards the Grand Palace.

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It’s got an egg in it, therefore it is breakfast
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The boat was about the same price as a taxi for a party of two, but faster for the same distance of travel, assuming you arrive at the dock at the right time.

We peeked around the Grand Palace a bit but decided not to pay the 500 Baht entry fee to see the inner parts. It wasn’t so much that the price was high (it’s not), but that there were so many other temples on our list of things to see that we may as well continue onwards.

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All of the buildings were heavily ornamented with regal, golden spikes

We wandered back outside and into a heavily populated market square packed with street vendors selling both food and souvenirs. I got a passionfruit gelato popsicle while Ethan opted for a bottle of pomegranate juice. All through these types of areas I keep wondering how street merchant regulation works in Thailand – do people have to get a permit in order to sell goods here, or anywhere else in the city? If so, how is it enforced? If not, why isn’t everyone moving towards the areas with higher foot traffic? I should do more research, both about Bangkok and at home for cities like NYC and SF.

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The blurriness of the photo represents the chaos of modern life. It also represents my inability to take a stable photo of moving people.

Happily munching away at our fruity cold refreshments, we walked back to the street and continued to the next stop at Wat Pho. Here we paid the (much) relatively cheaper entry price of 100 Baht to see the whole temple.

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The Reclining Buddha. This statue was absolutely massive – notice the people in the bottom right corner for scale. Even more impressively, the detail throughout was impeccable, and the whole thing was in excellent shape. 
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Just to prove the point, here are the Reclining Buddha’s feet. I’m not sure quite what they’re made of, but it’s extremely pretty and light reflective.
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Up close you can tell that the hundreds of triangular roofs are all mosaics, both on their tops and sides. It’s mind-boggling to think about how much effort went into designing and building all of it.
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Here’s an even better look. The attention to detail continues fractally inwards.

We walked around for another half hour or so, but eventually were worn out and decided to start back towards the hotel. We didn’t know enough history to appreciate the differences between the different temples, and so felt that we saw enough from the one and a half that we visited. Moreover, we were quite hot at this point and longed to be back in the hotel pool. It didn’t help that visiting the temples required wearing long pants instead of shorts, which by this point were soaked with sweat. We started heading back, stopping along the way to grab a few more bites of fresh fruit and anything cold.

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Coconut ice cream! Coconut here is a much more mild flavor than what I remember from home, which I don’t mind at all. It makes me wonder if coconut flavored things from the US are artificially enhanced or strengthened, like the difference between a banana and banana flavored things.

After walking about halfway back, we became unsure of our exact location, and so hopped in a cab for the rest of the ride. We reached the hotel, changed into swimsuits, and hopped in the pool. We became hungry after a few hours, and decided to walk back out of the hotel towards a small open air restaurant not far away that we had passed on our earlier ventures.

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Shrimp pad thai and green fanta. The pad thai was quite good, but nowhere near what we got at May Kaidee. There were three fruit flavors in the fanta, and unless you’re already familiar your first three guesses will all be wrong.

We had a few more hours to kill before we could reasonably go to bed, so on the way back we once again stopped in the little hole in the wall where we had lunch yesterday. Right as we got in and ordered it began to torrentially rain again, so we settled in for a while and slowly sipped our wonderfully delicious drinks.

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On left, Ethan’s butterbeer, and on right my iced latte. Both mild, both cold, both delicious.

With the rain slightly thinning out, we paid and continued walking back towards the hotel. Our final stop for the night was a massage shop where we each purchased an hour long leg massage. Mine was heavenly, complete with stress release caused by mild pressure-based pain. Relaxed and de-stressed, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed a few more snacks from 7-11, and holed up for the night. Tomorrow, Chiang Mai!

 

AES’EA – (Even Cheaper) Street Food is Best Food

Our past couple days emboldened us, so we decided this day to venture out along the street and see what there was to see, and to eat!

Our first stop was a small, literal hole in the wall. We ate and drank slowly while watching the Thai national volleyball team compete on TV.

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Fried pork with rice and an egg, plus Thai iced tea. I’m a fan of putting fried eggs on everything.

From there we continued onwards to a department store. The prices were a little lower than the US equivalent but not much so. We were mostly happy just happy to have air conditioning.

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It feels just a little weird to see American chains literally everywhere

We decided not to buy anything and continued walking, eventually passing the fairly impressive State Tower. I found out later that the bar at on the 64th floor was featured in the highly cultured blockbuster The Hangover 2.

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The view from the top is really stunning at night. The drinks are a bit pricy though.

It was getting hot at this point so we stopped for another tea. I got kiwi and found it delightfully tart, while Ethan’s Apple yoghurt tea was smoother and sweeter.

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Only the beginning of our steady stream of iced drinks

We were happy with our travels at this point, and so walked back to the hotel to reward ourselves with more time in the pool. We ate an early dinner at the hotel restaurant, now quite tired; it’s probably the heat.

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Our break from Thai cuisine, wonderful that it may be. Both the pizza and (Ethan tells me) the steak burger were pretty good, but not nearly as cheap as their Thai food

Despite doing relatively little (compared to our New Zealand leg of the trip) we were fairly tired, so we settled in for an early night.

AES’EA – Thai Tablespoon

Today was an exciting day! We woke up late and headed straight to the pool. After lounging around and swimming for a couple hours we headed back to our room, changed and showered, and went to the lobby for lunch.

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Green curry with rice. It had weird pea-shaped vegetables in it that exploded when you ate them. I didn’t mind the sensation, but Ethan couldn’t stand it

We negotiated a cab to our main event of the day – a vegetarian Thai cooking class! The cab ride took around forty minutes, during which we learned that drivers don’t really fully obey any traffic laws. Finally, we made it to our destination, Mai Kaydee vegetarian and vegan restaurant, making it just in the nick of time.

The class itself was extremely fun and really fast paced. Unlike western cooking, Thai cuisine seems to require ingredients to be added to the wok as quickly as possible; the longest wait time between steps (excluding pre-boiling some vegetables) was a couple minutes. One particular step in one recipe called for dried chili to be added, cooked at high heat for five seconds, then to remove the wok from heat entirely. I had an amazing time and was quite full by the end of the lesson. For anyone who travels to Bangkok or Chaing Mai (where they have another location), you need to make sure your plans include Mai Kaydee’s Thai cooking lesson!

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Pumpkin and Cashew humus, served with cucumber slices. Despite only being an appetizer, this one was actually my favorite dish of the day. I could eat it by the tub.
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Spring rolls with peanut sauce
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Green papaya and carrot salad, with fresh lime juice
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Our cooking stations, ready for the hot dishes. Things are about to get messy!
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Tom Yum soup with tofu. I’m usually not a fan of tofu but I really don’t mind it in spicier dishes. Something about the spiciness distracts me from the tofu’s texture which I usually find disconcerting
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Even I am edible! But that, dear children, is called cannibalism, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.

 

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On left, pad thai with rice noodles. On right, massaman curry with white potato. I was nearing full at this point, but that didn’t stop me from finishing both dishes and nearly licking the plate and bowl clean.
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Desert time! Sweet sticky rice with coconut milk and fresh mango, topped with coconut shavings

Bellies happy and all too full, we tagged along with our classmates towards a semi-touristy street that was jam-packed with people. Once there, we each got a half our foot and back massage and a double-sized rice beer, all for 250 baht. It was heavenly.

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The street is alive with the sound of people! Also weird wooden toys that make a frog croaking noise when you rub them with a stick.

From there we continued on to a few bars, all selling cheap drinks made doubly so by happy hour deals. Heads Up (if you’re unfamiliar, think reverse charades) seems to be the great uniter across countries; we played around an hour of the game at our second bar stop. It was a really fun time overall, only marred by infrequent torrential downpours that stopped as quickly as they started. We eventually negotiated our way home, despite our cab driver trying to scam us for more than the fair fare, and passed out in our hotel.

 

AES’EA – The Wild Outdoors

Upon waking up we received the best present of all: our luggage had returned! Cancel the panic shopping for clothes and toiletries. We showered and changed into fresh clothes, and treated ourselves to a room service breakfast.

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My pick – bread with a side of bread
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The panoramic view from our hotel window, served with a side of humidity

After so many days hiking, flying, and dealing with luggage stress, we thought long and hard on our plans for the day and decided on doing nothing. We visited the pool, had lunch in the lobby of the hotel, and went to a nearby Seven Eleven to get basic supplies and weird Asian snacks.

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Now this is how you vacation
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I got soft shell crab, while Ethan got a fried whole bass. They were served with a very small amount of chilis in oil that was thin but unbelievably potent
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Our selection of snacks from 7-11. The shrimp chips were oddly addicting, and the green tea kit kat was very strange and not that sweet.

The weirdest part of shopping in another country are the relative price differences. Our nice meal in the lobby of our hotel ran us each around four hundred baht (around $12), but a small bottle of sunscreen cost four hundred and fifty baht. It makes sense, as the demand for sunscreen here is clearly much lower, but it’s still weird to experience in practice.

At lunch a head waiter told us about a wine event they were having later that night – six hundred baht for a seemingly unlimited amount of four Australian wines and a buffet of bite sized dishes. It was all delicious and we certainly got our money’s worth by the end.

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Chardonnay and seared bass with an orange fennel salad
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Cabernet Sauvignon, a corn dog, and a beef pie with a sweet salsa
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Shiraz and macadamia-crusted lamb 
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For desert, chocolate and raspberry cake bites, and a vanilla pudding slice

We were surprisingly full after a couple hours of eating and drinking our way through the event. That, combined with the remnants of jet lag, conspired to put us to bed just after 9PM.

 

AES’EA – 404 Luggage Not Found

Today began at around 4AM, when Ethan and I woke up from our nap on the floor of the Aukland Airport. We arrived last night at around 1AM, planning to get all of our checking in and security passing done immediately, but found the airport basically closed down for the night. We found a secluded corner near our checkin area and passed out on the floor. We woke up as the airport started to fill (by New Zealand standards) with the first wave of early morning travelers. We pulled ourselves together and checked in to our Melbourne flight.

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Empty airports give me a strong Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 vibe. The barriers (in my imagination) clearly support human weight.

We were greeted by an unfriendly surprise at the checkin booth – our checked bag was not paid for, and it would cost $150 plus $25 per kilogram over 15kg. Still sleepy from just having woken up, we swapped the heaviest parts of our luggage into our backpacks and paid the extra cost. We made it through security without a hitch and went to go grab breakfast. I got the “Frenchest Toast” which was more American than French and a bit expensive though expectedly so for airport food.

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Frenchest toast! Bacon! Maple Syrup! Bananas! Murica!

The flight to Melbourne was uneventful but a little cramped. We went through a second round of security in Melbourne, which required filling on an unused customs form. Now a bit hungry again for an early lunch, we decided to use our few hours in Australia in the best possible way – MOAR SUSHI.

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The best part about Australia might just be its sushi

We waited for about an hour and jumped on our flight to Bangkok. The flight ran for about nine hours, which left a lot of time to kill. I read a large chunk of “Boy Kings”, an internal view of the rise of Facebook, played half a game of Civilization, and watched “Hail, Caesar”. The movie was… interesting, to say the least. Quite strange and not all that good, really. Glad to be able to say that I saw it, I suppose.

We got off the plane in Bangkok and walked straight into a wall of humidity. Finally we were back in the northern hemisphere, and with that came the heat of summer. After spending just under two weeks in New Zealand, the sheer number of people in the Bangkok airport was a bit disconcerting. We quickly went through immigration and customs and went to go get our luggage.

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This was $52. The exchange rate here is awesome….

Just one problem. Our luggage was nowhere to be found. We walked around the luggage carousel a few times, but no luck. It was approaching 9PM at this point, which felt like 2AM because of our time change. Giving up, we reported our lost luggage to an official and headed out in a cab. Our hotel was about thirty minutes away which ran us around $15; we handed over the cash and headed up to our room, all too ready to hit the pillow and pass out. Tomorrow, the thrilling conclusion?