Calling all faithful blog followers, I’m back! And I must apologize for the delay. I’ve had “write a blog post” on both my mental and actual to-do-list for a few days now, but I didn’t realize it has been almost 2 weeks since I wrote, no wonder some of you have been hounding me. I’m gonna make up for it though… There’s been a lot happening the past 2 weeks.
When I last left off, we were blowing off a little steam in Bangkok, undoing 10 months of tight-ass backpacker behavior by making a few expensive purchases… What good is all the blood sweat and tears that went into saving our travel money if you can’t spend big occasionally? So we toasted to our lack of responsibility, lack of mortgage or ankle-biters from the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel in Bangkok, over a $60 bottle of Chilean wine. Panoramic views of Bangkok by night, my boy sitting across the candlelit table from me snapping away photos of everything before us on his new favourite toy… Not a bad way to spend our last night in Bangkok!
When the wine was all finished we headed downstairs and couldn’t resist the buffet dinner at the 5-star restaurant on the ground floor… Oh yeah we went there. $50 per person (we were tempted to spurge the extra $20 for the all-you-can-drink wine buffet but thought that was a bit excessive… It’s one or the other, not both!). Made to order steaks, roast duck, and a huge spread of cakes and pastries were just a few of my main indulgences… We rolled outta that place, satisfied and exhausted. Money well spent.
I love the hustle and bustle and diversity of Bangkok, the amazing food and how much there is to see and do… But I must admit I was missing Chiang-Mai and couldn’t wait to get “home”. So we decided to head home a couple of days early, and immediately moved into our new condo apartment. Our first few days were spent pimping the place out, buying all the necessities and of course a few impromptu purchases of art and new pillows… This place felt like home the first time we stepped foot inside, and now it feels even more so.
So with the condo lease signed, the job secured, all we had left on the seemingly never-ending to-do-list was to buy a scooter and do a quick visa run to Laos so we could get work permits. The timing could not have been better, as our 3-month tourist visa was about to expire anyway. The helpful staff at SEE TEFL had kindly taken care of all the paperwork for our non-immigrant B visa, which we needed to be allowed to live and work in Thailand. And as luck would have it, a few friends from our TEFL course were also in the same boat with their impending Laos visa run, so we all booked the same bus bound for Vientiane. Road trip homies!
We arrived earlier than expected in Laos’ capital city of Vientiane, so we rushed to make the Thai Embassy in enough time to submit our paperwork before the 11am cut-off. Luckily we made it, and after handing over our money, passports and mountains of paperwork, we had the afternoon to explore before returning the following day to collect our passports with the all important Thailand stamp of approval.
After a quick check through our Lonely Planet guidebooks, we chose to dine at the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant close to our accommodation and Brett & I swiftly took charge at ordering our favourite cuisine for the group. Nobody was disappointed – the Indian food is quite good at this joint. I highly recommend a visit or two (we certainly went back the next morning!)
Later we dragged our full bellies through the National History Musuem to get a greater understanding of Laos’ culture and history. We wandered through dusty rooms filled with artifacts and war memorabilia, and we got a taste of how much the Vietnam War affected Laos… But it wasn’t until we took a walk to the COPE Visitor Centre that I really felt and understood the magnitude of how utterly devastating this war was to this country. (See the blog post below for the full story of what I learnt at COPE that day!)
Anyway so after having my brain fed on information about Laos’ history, we decided to get our tummies fed and try Laos most famous export… Beer Laos.
Beer Laos is made from rice (what else, in an Asian country!) and tastes bloody amazing. We pulled up a table along the river and watched the sunset, all 5 of us taking that first delicious mouthful of golden nectar at the same time to watch each other’s faces. Of course many more beers had to follow – We were only in Laos for one night, only one night to sample this country’s national beer… It was the right thing to do!
I woke up hangover free (yeah yeah), packed up and headed to the Thai Embassy to collect our passports and hit the road again. I’d foolishly tried to google a good bus company to travel to/from Chiang-Mai – Vientiane and had been disturbed to find numerous reports about how utterly horrifying the bus trip is, “spend the money and fly, it’s not worth your life” and had been careful to select the “safer” bus company for our trip over to Laos. Unfortunately on our way home the safe bus was booked out, and only the bus company with numerous (and recent) reports of fatal accidents and drunk bus drivers was left, and we weren’t keen but had no option – we boarded “The Death Bus”, popped a valium and hoped for the best. Sorry Mum.
Obviously we survived the Death Bus (high fives all round) and made it back to our homes safe and sound. God, did it feel good to be back and know all the visa runs and interstate trips were done – I’m honestly just really loving having a home and feeling at home and settled after so long on the road.
We even ticked off our final to-do item this week, and purchased our first scooter – a Honda Wave 125cc, Thailand’s favourite bike. We did a lot of hunting around before settling on this beast, and with a 10, 000 baht discount off the asking price, we know we didn’t get quite “local prices” but we sure did beat the over-priced farang price. $540 aus dollars… It does the job!
So we’ve purchased the bike just in time for me to start my first day of Kindergarten teaching, which I found out 2 days before my first class that they are in fact Pre-Kindy – meaning preschool, 2-3 years old. How the hell am I supposed to teach these Thai kids English, when they’re still only learning their native language? I guess time will tell!