We started our travels with our Australian friends, Adrian and Eloise, whom we met while trekking in Nepal. It was friendship-at-first-sight when they asked us if we knew how to play a game called euchre! We knew things were going to be good in SE Asia when we got freely upgraded to first-class for our flight into Bangkok (sorry Adrian ;). Taking a taxi into the city, we were surprised by how orderly things were compared to India and Nepal, e.g., we were on a real highway with lanes and the drivers actually stayed in the lanes
. Our first stop was Bangkokīs infamous Khao San Road, the heart of the backpacker district, which is utter madness. Crowded 24/7 with tourists, locals, street vendors, performers, artists, people passed out in the gutters, and our favorite, food carts selling an enormous array of glorious treats, including spring rolls, pad thai, barbecued meats, crepes, papaya salad, curries, and more. Susie was overjoyed to discover Thaisī love of exotic fruits, with fruit stands and fruit shakes available on every corner. People watching on Khao San is as good as it gets, and one night, we found ourselves doing just that until 5 in the morning, when we first witnessed Bangkokīs notorious ladies-of-the-night and ladyboys-of-the-night. We spent our days wandering the city, seeing markets and temples. Our visit luckily coincided with the birthday of Thailandīs King, whom locals are utterly obsessed with, which brought with it fireworks, floating lanterns, and one hell of a traffic jam!
From Bangkok, we headed north to Chiang Mai, an ancient walled and moated city cum university town. Itīs well known for its incredible temples. We got to see heaps of them, touring around as first-time motorbikers, which ended up becoming an addiction for us in Asia.
Our final stop was the most authentic and memorable
. Thanks to our friends, Matt and Nat, from Hawaii, we were able to visit Natīs family in Mae Tha Chang, where she grew up. Mae Tha Chang is a small village in northern Thailand comprised of Lahoun people who distinguish themselves from Thais in both language and culture. We were picked up at the bus stop in the nearest town by Natīs nephew, Jakkapong (the only local we met who spoke any English), who Matt assured us would know who we were, being the only white people in town. We were warmly welcomed by Natīs family into their beautiful home. They fed us unbelievably well and showed us a day in their life, taking us to their fields, where we gathered and fished our nightīs meal, and on a tour of the village. Natīs parents generously gave us traditional Lahoun outfits, which the locals got a kick out of when they saw us dressed like them. We promised them we would visit again and we look forward to it.
Southeast Asia captured our hearts and our stomachs! To date, itīs our favorite travel region (though Jay insists his favorite country in the world is still NZ, while Thailand has usurped NZ for Susie). We visited four countries over two months, going from big cities to small villages, from mystic mountains to tropical beaches, and from temple to old temple to ancient temple.