Friday, September 30, 2011

150 days traveling!

Well, I cant believe it but I have now been traveling for 150 days and it's just about over. Honestly, could keep going for another six months quite happily. In one week we fly out to Hong Kong for three nights then it's the long plane trip home. Fittingly we are flying Air New Zealnd which will be yammies first experience of NZ culture apart from me of course :)

We have managed to get out of the hotel. I made a call to Avis and they were great. They had an office at Chiang Mai airport so organized for us to leave the car at the hotel and they wouldpick it up when the water had receeded enough to get it out and they gave us another one which we picked up at the airport.

The hotel had organized a truck to pick us up at the hotel and shuttle us across the flooded streets, then a minivan took us to the airport for no charge. I had been for a walk this morning and had contemplated trying with the car but so pleased we didnt as the water was very very high and we would have got swamped.

These pics are all roads not the river!

Now we are returning to Bangkok the focus of the next six days for me is kick starting my life again in New Zealand on my return. More on that later.

In the meantime I am trying to figure out how long I (and Yammie later) need to work before we can travel to another destination.

It's all pretty damn exciting really!

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Surrounded by flooding!

Well, our trip today to Chiang Rai is not going to happen because we can't get our car out currently from our hotel as we are surrounded by water on all sides. The river has burst it's banks in a number of places and basically much of inner Chiang Mai is underwater including roads, homes and businesses.

I have just been for a walk and waded through thick brown river water to try and see whether we had a route we could take to get the car out. The problem is that it is a little car and not a four wheel drive. Looking at the local map there was one possibility apart from the two main roads which are completely underwater. Unfortunately wandering down the third option it was apparent that although part were not underwater, other parts of the road were deep with water but worse, for the locals, Manu of the homes were flooded too.

The thing is that maybe three streets away from the river is fine but because our hotel (holiday inn) is situated right next to the river it has made coming and going by car inaccessible. In saying that, Thai people seem to just get on with life with a smile and a laugh. Shops that are very nearly flooded are open, stalls on the side of the road are serving food and big trucks are dropping people off at work. See pictures below.

So, hopefully the river may have gone down just enough tomorrow so we can head off. We may cancel the Chiang Rai leg of the journey and head straight back to Bangkok but we will see how we go.

As I said to Yammie - the main thing is that we are okay. I had a huge breakfast this morning so I'm good for a couple of days. Haha.

We are lucky - we are just passing through. It is the locals with flooded homes and businesses I feel for.

Anyway, we will see what happens with the river in the next 24 hours.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.

Days 146-148 Chiang Mai flooding

So, after returning to Bangkok on Sunday from up north we stopped in to NZImmigration on Monday to drop off three more pieces of information they required. I am going to leave any comments on this for nowand will return to the topic when we have yammies passport back.

On Tuesday we ooed and ahhed about coming to Chiang Mai or not just in case we were asked for more information, but as we don't have any more information to give we decided to come anyway. We left at about midday and struck heavy rain and some nasty flooding on the way up which has caused much destruction to farmland.

I also managed to get a speeding ticket on the way out of Bangkok along the tollway. I was going more than a little bit too fast, but with Yammie beside me and a few broad smiles we negotiated the fine down to 200 bhat :) ... Yay!

As it was nearly 800 km's it was great to share the driving with my man who is doing a great job and really takes on board my constant suggestions (read nagging :))

Arriving at about 9.00pm we checked in then wandered down the road for some noodles before retiring early as it had been a big driving day.

Today the rain had obviously moved north as the river here has burst it's banks with much of the houses and businesses close to the river flooded. We actually unwittingly were in the middle of it as we were heading back to the hotel from looking at the Noi Su Thep Temple which was very impressive and had to cross the river to get to our hotel which is right on the riverside. We ended up driving through some deep brown river water that was fast flooding the streets. Thankfully our little car made it through nd we didn't get lost. I did say a quiet prayer as the water got quite deep and although I wasn't scared for our safety I did have visions of the car stalling and it would not have been a pretty site.

Below - flooding in Chiang Mai

(outside our hotel) - on the other side of the river much more severe.

Homes and businesses and roads flooded..

Tomorrow we are heading to Chiang Rai. :)

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Days 143-144 Party Time

So, I had an amazing night last night....and no it wasn't because the all blacks and warriors won, but because i have been part of yet another amazing cultural experience, and after all, this blogs all about me :)

While you guys were all watching the rugby, we were out preparing for a small party which was part of the families farewell and best wishes for Yam and me. We spent the day tootling around the markets picking up fresh produce for the occasion and at around 7.00pm members of the village started arriving until there were about 30 people here. I was actually quite nervous as it was obvious that for part of it Yammie and I were going to be centre of attention :), so after out preparations, it was time for a quick shower then I put on my best clothes - my blue t shirt and jeans and sat patiently on the mat while people arrived. Initially our job was to make sure everyone had a drink. The men sat on one side and the women sat on the other side preparing the string wristbands for the small ceremonial part of proceedings.

Yammie and I then knelt on one of the mats and had some beautiful silk draped over us while individual people came up and offered prayers of good luck and such. After each person had done their thing we bowed in the Buddhist way and payed our respects to the person. At the same time that the string was put on our wrists there were two or three people touching our arms at the same time.

It was then time for some awesome food - everything centers around food in Thailand and we took a back seat and cleared plates, etc while the men smoked and drank a little more and the women chatted and chewed tobacco leaves.

By 10.00pm (which is very very late here) most people had left and there was just really Yammie and me and a couple of his friends who left shortly after.

I fell into bed exhausted but very happy and again so very touched by the family and the communities celebration and acceptance of our relationship.

The photo above is Khun Mere and Kun Paw (Yammies parents)

Tey ... Yammies very cute and naughty nephew

All in all yet another amazing night!

Today, we head back to Bangkok.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Days 139-142 Lao, Chai Wan plus we got it!

So, yesterday we got a call from our immigration guy who said that nzimmigration wanted to do a phone interview with both of us. This meant we finally had some traction!

Anyway, long story short, we got it! They have granted Yammie a four month visitor visa to New Zealand which means we can follow our plans ... Yay!!!!! Tomorrow (Sunday) we have to head back to Bankgok and on Monday pop in to the I migration office with two pieces of paperwork and hopefully we can pick up his passport at the same time.

Meanwhile, here in Chai Wan, I wanted to do something nice for yams parents as they have shown me such kindness and hospitality so we organized to take them to Lao for a days outing. When we arrived at the friendship bridge border crossing I had to get two pieces of paperwork - first a re entry permit for Thailand for my visa, and secondly a visa at the border for Lao. I managed to het these, but yams parents don't have passports so they needed paperwork as well. The whole set up at the border is disorganized chaos with people everywhere either trying to get themselves sorted and other people trying to "help" you. It really was just ridiculous. Anyway, after waiting a huge amount of time in the heat with yams little nephew as well it was decided that we would go down a couple of towns that border the Mekong and find a ferry or boat crossing as we also could not take the car for some reason.

Looking across the Mekong River to Lao...

We did find a spot but it was maybe not an "official" crossing so with a decent level of frustration we went to Ngong Khai instead and had a great meal and a wander through the markets. We will save the Lao trip for next year when we come back and we can organize a couple of nights over there.

With news of yesterday about the visa, we are having a bit of a party here tonight with a number of the families friends coming over.

Tomorrow, we head back to Bangkok, Monday go to immigration, then Tuesday head to Chiang Mai for a few days, then back to Bangkok at the end of the week with a week left to organize ourselves before getting on a plane and heading home. I am both happy and excited about seeing my family and friends again and very sad at leaving. I have now been on the road for around five months with three of those months here in Thailand. I have experienced so much - from being a "tourist" in tourist spots, to experiencing what is the true Thailand away from the bars, beaches and throngs of falang.

I can honestly say that because of all the amazing life experiences that I have had that I will arrive back in New Zealand a different man to the one that left. I will not take for granted any of the abundant things that my life has given me. I will talk more on that on my return.

Plus of course, how often do you leave for a holiday with one bag and arrive home with one bag and a man ... :)

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Days 137-138 Chai Wan

So, the last couple of days I have been helping out on the farm. This morning we tore down an old partially falling down concrete outhouse style building with sledgehammer. We then moved the Bits of concrete with a home made wheelbarrow to the front of the driveway which had become bogged down with all the mud. Then after putting the concrete pieces down in the tracks Khun Paw (yams dad) smashed them up further until they were embedded. Essentially home made gravel. Now Khun Paw and Tawan (yams older brother) are strong men used to a lifetime of hard physical work and I was just so in awe of their hard work and resourcefulness. Nothing is wasted. From the food you eat, to theresources used on the farm to make stuff, or the way everyone pitches in with all of the different jobs.

I played my part and felt very much like the soft city boy that I am but was pleased to at least be an extra pair of hands. I am now on my third shirt for the day. :) I also managed to get multiple bee sting bites on my arm when I was weeding a part of the garden. After my initial fright and worry that they were some exotic buzzy thing like the one I got stung by in Malaysia, yam rubbed on some magic ointment and all was good.

After that we went fishing with home made bamboo fishing rods. I managed to catch a couple of little fish which we threw back.

There has also been a lot of rain with thunder and lightning. When it rains it truly pours and is a great chance to fill up the water tank out the back with the rainwater from the roof, as wells number of other pots dotted around.

Last night as the rain was pouring down and yammie was sitting with his folks chatting away and laughing with his little nephew, for the first time in nearly five months on the road I had a moment of really missing New Zealand, my friends and of course my family.

We are hoping for some news on the visa front today or tomorrow, then we can head to Chiang Mai on Saturday, but as with anything in Thailand, the dates and times are fluid :)

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.

I'm back!

 Somehow I managed to log back in after a mere 8 years away from the site! I have so much to say, and so much to add, however, just logging ...