Land of Thai
We were sad to leave Cambodia, but we were excited to go to Thailand. Chiang Mai was our first stop, after a layover in Bangkok.
Little did we know, it would be off to a rocky start…
We flew with AirAsia from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai, with a 3 and half hour layover in Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport (DMK). That only left us with ample time to have lunch and explore the airport. In my opinion, it’s a whole lot better than KLIA LCCT (Kuala Lumpur International Airport Low Cost Carrier Terminal, or rather, KLIA2) – so much more food options and shops. Although, the WiFi at DMK is SHITHOUSE. Don’t bother trying, trust me.
I don’t know how it all began… it could have been that pina colada at the Irish pub on Pub Street, Siem Reap, or that weird chicken apple baguette I had on the flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Or heck, it could have been that McDonald’s meal during the layover. We’ll never know the real culprit.
While we were waiting for the boarding for our Chiang Mai plane to begin, I was lying on the floor trying to grab a couple of winks…when suddenly, my tummy began to rumble and grumble like an angry T-Rex. I felt like absolute crap – pun intended. I had visited the loo an hour prior, and thought it would be just a short bout of the runs. How wrong, I was.
My tummy would not stop being an angry T-Rex. This wasn’t good…not at all. We boarded the plane, and I settled into my seat. I thought to myself if I could survive this 1 hour flight, I should be right. In my mind, I chanted “Sit still and don’t move”. Amineh wanted to talk to me, and I couldn’t take it. I told her not to talk until we landed, as I was trying not to vomit or whatsoever.
I barely survived the 1 hour flight, and upon embarking at Chiang Mai International Airport, I was desperate to find the bathroom. But no, we had to go through the baggage claim first. I knew I had to keep on moving…fast. Once when we got to the baggage claim, I told Amineh and Haley to just get my bag as I had to get to the bathroom. I ran for my dear life, trying to hold my butt in. I found some relief in the loo…then my tummy had other ideas.
I knew right there and then that I had gotten hit by food poisoning. Being ill in another country isn’t nice at all, and I was yearning for my familiar yet so comfortable PJs and bed, and for someone to bring me hot chicken soup.
We then got to our accommodation, which was at Aoi Garden Home. It’s pretty much a hostel, with basic amenities. The host and staff there were lovely, albeit for one who came off as sleazy. Errr. Our room was alright…although it only had fans and we were visited by mosquitos. Lovely.
All I wanted to do was lay on my bed and slowly die.
I didn’t care much for dinner, as I wasn’t too interested in eating. A friend told me to get some Eno, which is supposed to help your stomach to settle. I found that it did the trick…after a couple of visits to the bathroom. I did something I never thought I would do again after being weaned off nappies/diapers…I SHAT MY PANTS. Awkward. Lucky for me, no one else was home. Amineh and Haley had go to get some dinner, and to get water and Eno for me.
Haley got hit by food poisoning not long after she got back to the hostel, and later that night, Amineh joined us. They think it was from that dinner they had not long after arriving at the hostel, as they said it did not taste too nice and quite rubbery.
All three of us were feeling like we were on our deathbeds. A great start to our Thailand trip…!
The next day, I was feeling slightly better and I wanted to go to the nearest 7/11 to get more water and Eno for all of us. Amineh was still feeling like shit, but she decided to tag along. Off we went…really slowly. We decided to flag down a tuktuk driver to take us to the 7/11, as Amineh did not think she had the energy to walk all the way there. She was feeling very drowsy, and the tuktuk dude waved about this nasal smeller thingy, and said something like it helping…we had no idea what he was on about.
He dropped us off, and said that he would wait for us. No worries. In we went. I was hit by the relief of air conditioning…such a bliss. Amineh started feeling worse, and told me to go and grab drinks and other stuff we needed. Okay then…so, I started to walk towards the drinks aisle…then my gut instincts told me to look around. There Amineh was…falling to the floor in a slow motion.
I was at a complete loss. I had no idea what I was supposed to do.
WHY DID I NOT GET FIRST AID TRAINING?!!?!?
What happened next is pretty much vague, but the staff at 7/11 helped, as it was pretty obvious the guy was trained in first aid. He held Amineh up, and one of the chicks waved a small conditioner which looked like one of those Tiger balms under her nose to keep her conscious. Some kind of Thai remedy for those who have fainted…? No idea. An old lady – European looking – came to our help, and grabbed a cold bottle of water and started applying some water to Amineh’s knees and arms. I was bewildered. I felt like shit because I wasn’t doing anything – just feeling completely lost. One of the staff called for an ambulance, and it rocked up in less than 10 minutes. Very impressive.
I had to go with Amineh into the ambulance, and the paramedic told me to sit up at the front. On the way to the ambulance, I passed the tuktuk driver, and he told me not to worry as the ride fee would be waived. I thanked him, the 7/11 and the old woman staff profusely.
As I sat in the ambulance, I started crying. I was completely freaking out. We were taken to Chiang Mai University Hospital, and we were taken straight into the ER, and a doctor and nurse came to us. This was one of the rare moments where I completely HATED being deaf. I was worried about how the heck would I communicate with them. Everyone started talking to me in either English or Thai, and I started crying again. One of the doctors came up to me and spoke slowly, reminding me that everything will be okay. Okay then.
I told them that Amineh and I are deaf. Silence. The doctor asked me if I could speak. No. Lipread? I’m so-so. Can you read and write? Yes. Okay, goody then!
They got some paper and pen so we could communicate. They asked me questions and I answered the best I could. Amineh woke up some time later, and as the nurse was about to insert the IV drip into her hand, she signed PENICILLIN. I realised that she was telling me that she was allergic to penicillin. I told the doctor and nurse to stop and gave them the new information. I told Amineh to keep signing to me, so I could convey all information to the doctor/nurse.
Everything was happening so fast and all at once, and my brain was going at 500km an hour, which didn’t allow me to make decisions rationally, so I took my sweet time to ensure I was doing the right thing. I thought long and hard about how the shit would I let Haley and Amineh’s partner know. YIKES, INTERNATIONAL ROAMING. Thank you Optus! I sent off a few messages to Ryan, and my mother so she could let Haley know via Facebook. I also texted Amineh’s mother, after finding her number in Amineh’s phone.
We were there for at least 4 hours, and I was getting real hungry as I hadn’t eaten for more than 24 hours and Amineh was getting hungry too. I asked someone for the directions to the cafeteria, so I went off on my merry way in search for some food.
I was surprised at the layout of the hospital – it instantly reminded me of that hospital in The Impossible, a movie about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hitting Thailand. The hospital has an open-space layout, and it wasn’t as squeaky clean as you would expect a hospital to be. It’s not 100% sterilised either… I’m surprised we didn’t catch any weird diseases. The cafeteria was disappointing, as we only wanted Western food, as we didn’t want to get sick again. I found some muffins which looked edible enough, and it consisted of fibre which we needed. I also grabbed some water, and a sports drink.
The nurse then came up to us, and told me that I had to go and see the cashier and the pharmacist for Amineh. We suddenly started feeling nervous – especially for how much the hospital bill would be. Inside my head, I was imagining being slapped with a $10,000 bill. To our complete surprise, she was billed 1600 baht, which amounted to approximately AUD$55. She was given a whole bag full of tablets and whatnot – a lethal cocktail, I would say 😛
Amineh was given the all clear to go home and rest up, so we walked out of the hospital…into the pretty Chiang Mai sunshine.
We walked to the nearest 7/11 to get some water and food…and Amineh was saying that she was too embarrassed to go back to that particular 7/11. Heh…I don’t think we’ll look at a 7/11 the same way ever again. We then flagged down one of those red buses to take us back to our hostel.
Image courtesy of http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/
Those red buses are called songthaews, and is a very convenient way of getting around Chiang Mai – not to mention VERY CHEAP! A whole lot cheaper than tuktuks and taxis. There’s literally a million of those around – you won’t have a difficult time flagging one down. What’s awesome about them is that you can tell them where you want to go, and they’ll take you there. No specific bus routes like you would find in such a modern city like Sydney, Toronto, etc.
A flat rate charge is usually around 30 baht (AUD$1), but if you want it to take you further than its usual route, then the charge will go up…slightly.
Anyway, back to the food poisoning saga! As we got back to our hostel, Haley was still resting up and we were all in a dire need of a good night’s rest so we could begin exploring the beautiful Chiang Mai.
My mother told Haley that she would like for all of us to move to a better hotel with air conditioning so that we could recover properly and get some proper sleep without being attacked by mosquitos. We took upon the suggestion, and booked a couple of nights at Sira Boutique Hotel, which is located right in the heart of Chiang Mai. We were able to score a sweet deal through Agoda.com.
The next day, I went up to the hostel staff to notify them that we would be moving accommodation, and see if we could get a refund. Denied, but they allowed us to check out. We didn’t care too much about losing money, as our health came first.
Sira is a cute boutique hotel, and the staff there are pretty nice. It’s in a close proximity to most temples, restaurants and markets. The two disappointing things about the hotel was that we kept on being woke up at 6am every morning by ultra strong incense smells, and the restaurant only being open for breakfast. Other than that, it was a comfortable stay and I can’t fault it. The bathroom was strange though… the shower was in the spa, and there was no shower head holder thingy, so we either sat in the spa washing ourselves with the shower head. Pretty awkward.
We were lucky to be in Chiang Mai for its famous Walk St Sunday Markets. By George, it’s bloody amazing. Best market I’ve ever visited thus far! I got myself a pretty sweet loot – mainly presents for kids 😉
There were heaps of things we wanted to do, but for Amineh and I, our budgets did not allow room for activities such as Flight of Gibbon, the Elephant Nature Park – nevertheless, I’ll go back and do Chiang Mai properly…without getting deathly ill…!!!
We all got inked at Deja Vu Tattoos – and our tattoos were done bamboo style, which was heaps cool and a lot less painful than the traditional needle machine (or whatever you call it). I got WANDERLUST tattooed onto my right calf, just below the back of my knee. It only cost me 1500 baht – a real bargain, and the dude did a pretty good job. I’m rather chuffed with it!
Photo to come later – I can’t be arsed uploading all photos from my iPhone at this very moment 😉
We visited the Chiang Mai Zoo, and we only spent approximately 2 hours there. It was pretty much a disappointment, as half of the animals there were not available for us to see. The elephants there were during their musth period, which can cause them to become extremely sexually aggressive and violent if they are not kept chained up. It pained me to see them chained up in such small enclosures.
The first elephant I came across at the zoo was trying to break away from the chains, and he looked very depressed. He had those things on his tusks – I don’t know what it was.
There was a snow dome, and we decided to pay the 150 baht fee to go in and check it out, as we wanted to cool down from the heat. A fantastic decision that was! We were given jackets and boots, and shown the way to the snow dome. Everything was made out of ice – no actual snow but! There was a cool ice slide, where we could go down in a tube. The dome was kept at -7 degrees Celsius. There was an igloo, and we went inside it. I can now say that I’ve been inside an igloo!
Overall, the Chiang Mai Zoo is alright – if you’re THAT into zoos, then you could go and check it out. It’s not a MUST see, so don’t be too disappointed if you miss out on visiting the zoo. Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is 100 times better, although I’d love to visit Singapore and San Diego Zoo as apparently they’re in the world’s top 10 zoos.
Our stay at Sira was drawing to a close, and we all wanted to swim. We decided to extend our stay in Chiang Mai for another two nights, so we booked a family room at the Rainforest Boutique Hotel. Now, that was a lot better than Sira and consisted of two swimming pools. They have a restaurant, which is pretty nice although their breakfast buffet could be better.
While in Chiang Mai, we’ve found a couple of gems for cafes and restaurants. There’s a Coffee Club, where we frequented for our first few days after recovering from food poisoning. Loco Elvis’ is a Mexican/American restaurant with a pretty cool atmosphere, and their meals were delicious although a tad spicy. Possibly one of the best Mexican food I’ve had in ages. Best out of all, there’s the Blue Diamond Cafe which is a short stroll from Sira. It specialises in vegan, raw and organic food – and my goodness, their meals are absolutely delicious! Actually I could go for some of their food right now… 🙁
The day before leaving Chiang Mai, we were discussing on how to catch a train to Bangkok, and how to get tickets. I decided to have a look on Skyscanner, and found flights to Bangkok for only $31 each with AirAsia! This was a sick find, especially at the last minute, so we booked our flight, and found a hotel to stay at for one night in Bangkok.
We decided on Galleria 10 Bangkok, as it would be our last chance for a comfortable hotel room before beginning our journey back to Australia. Fantastic hotel, that one. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by bellboys and and they carried in our luggage, and we checked in. We were then shown to our room by the manager, who was very attentive and lovely. Our room was very modern, and the beds very comfortable. The bathroom is pretty ace, especially the shower having two different heads – one normal, and another one like rainwater. We were given welcome icecreams upon our arrival – YUM!
The hotel is in a fantastic location – so close to markets, restaurants and shops. There’s the Terminal 21 shopping centre, which has quickly become one of my favourite shopping centres. Each floor has a different theme/city, and the shopping centre is almost like an airport, but each floor takes you to a different city. Amazing.
We decided to explore the markets, and bumped into an American couple – one who is a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults) and he said he would take us to meet Deaf people who were working at market stalls. I think we met like 20 Deaf Thai people that night! Pretty awesome, I would say!
The next day, we headed over to Bangkok’s main train station where we were to buy our tickets for the Bangkok – Butterworth (Penang, Malaysia) train. The tickets were just under 1200 baht (AUD$ 39~) each, and the train was scheduled to leave at 2.45pm. We were allocated seats in the 2nd class sleeper, as that was the only class available.
The train trip itself was pretty much uneventual, although quite comfortable. I didn’t get much sleep though, as I don’t sleep well in a moving vehicle – be it trains, cars, planes, etc. Although, I would highly recommend catching the Bangkok-Butterworth train when you’re in Southeast Asia – especially for gorgeous sunset and sunrise, and the beautiful Thai countryside. Seats are converted into beds, and there’s a bed stored up above over two seats, which is converted into a bunk. There’s a dining car and food service – their meals don’t look too appealling, but they’re edible. Unfortunately I decided to play it safe by going the vegetarian path…only to have my meals look like they have crinkled brains. Not pretty. Should have chosen the green chicken curry – although Haley didn’t want hers, so I relished it like there was no tomorrow 😉
Next up…Penang, Malaysia!
Photos will be uploaded and inserted into this post within the next 24 hours.