Last week it was breakfast in Hanoi, this week it’s in the greeeeen hills of Mai Chau. Vietnam was not my favorite place. Though nothing really went wrong during my time there, nothing really blew me away either and I moved through the country much quicker than originally expected. One of the few places that stood out to me though was the district of Mai Chau, about 160 km from Hanoi, mainly because it looked like this.
When I think of Vietnam, I think of jungly karst mountains, bright green rice fields, and nón lá (traditional, conical hats). It sounds cliché, but it’s also real – as this picture proves.
I’ve never been a big breakfast person, so Asian breakfasts of rice, noodles and fish have been pretty easy to get used to. This was my breakfast after arriving in Hanoi after a month of Indian curries and chapatis, and was exactly what I had in mind for my first meal in Vietnam.
Coming from the land of evergreen trees and snow-capped mountains, it still amazes me that I now live in place with tropical flowers and fruits growing year round effortlessly.
I’ve posted before about how I love the designs, patterns and intricate details of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. You never know where to look because there are so many buildings, colors, paintings and decorations completely surrounding you. What makes everything more incredible is that you can tell many things were painstakingly done by hand – and still are – like tiling a roof in the middle of a hot day.
Can you spot the shopkeeper?
After living in Northern Thailand for a while chances are you’ll get used to (and bored of) visa runs to the Thai-Burmese border at Mae Sai. There’s really not much there to hold your interest too long – on either side of the border – and while I hate the feeling of just wanting to sit and wait for the bus back, after one or two trips you’ve pretty much seen it all. Markets stalls, more market stalls, and more market stalls selling dried goods, cheap clothes, electronics and fake watches.
So I’ve made a game of wandering around killing time called, ‘Spot the Shopkeeper’. Do you see the two in the photos above?
My view for the evening
You know when you’re trying to capture something with your camera and it just isn’t working? Whether it’s a thing, place, person, event, moment – whatever – sometimes you can’t get it quite right.
That’s what I felt this past weekend during Songkran (the Thai New Year). Between my camera, photography skills, timing and craziness, none of the shots were able to even show a fraction of the holiday and energy surrounding Chiang Mai. I felt the same when I did a camel trek in Jaisalmer, India.
“I’m riding a camel! In the desert! In India! I want to remember this forever!” Snap, snap, snap.
Yet almost all the pictures turned out disappointing, a dull representation of the actual moment. While it’s nothing special, this photo has always stuck in my mind. Maybe because, really, that’s all there was. A camel, a young boy leading it, and hot desert. This is exactly what I saw for a couple hours…and I was actually able to get it on camera.
Tha Pae Boxing Stadium in Chiang Mai
After a year and a half living in Thailand I finally made it to a Muay Thai fight. It was one of those things that I didn’t really care too much to do, and knew I could go practically any time I wanted (there are several stadiums in Chiang Mai with regular fights each week), so there was never any push to actually buy a ticket.
The verdict? Mediocre.
I’m glad I went but overall the fights, audience and atmosphere didn’t have the energy or excitement that I was anticipating. The stadium I went to is a training center, so you’re definitely not seeing the best of the best, but while I didn’t have high expectations, the whole evening was still kind of dull. Maybe there should have been more beer involved.
In Chiang Mai there are fights almost every night of the week with tickets ranging from about 400B – 1000B ($12 – $33). You can either buy tickets at the stadiums beforehand or at the time of the event, and many guesthouses, tour agencies and rental shops can also get you hooked up.
If this picture looks a little blurry and off center it’s because that’s how I was feeling at the moment
This was taken in a crowded songthaew (a Thai shared taxi made by adding a roof onto the bed of a pick up truck) headed back to Chiang Mai from Mae Hong Son. Mae Hong Son is a town and province about six hours away from Chiang Mai. To get there you have to survive – and I’m not using this term lightly – 1864 curves in the road through mountainous jungle. Between the twists and turns, hills, questionable drivers and unpredictable oncoming traffic, it’s enough to make those with even the strongest of stomachs start to feel a little queasy…
Thailand is lacking when it comes to baked goods. Very seriously lacking.
Best part about visa runs to Laos? Croissants.
And Beer Lao…