Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Asia Backpacking Adventure: Part 1

When we moved to Japan we made a list of all the places we wanted to see before we left. Well, we only have about six months left here and Chris leaves for his fall tour soon and I'm starting school, so we realized we really only have this summer to check everything off our list. Thus began the planning for our summer trip to see as many places in Asia as we could!

My amazing husband has been working on our itinerary since early spring.  He begins with making a list of the places we want to go, then he figures out how we will get from place to place, next he books our amazing (but always a good deal) hotels, and finally he finds things to do when we are in each place and makes the necessary reservations.  This is how I contribute to the trip planning... usually our conversation goes like this, "Stephanie, do you want to go _____?" Me: "Sure!" or "Stephanie, do you want to do ______ while we are in _____?" Me: "Sure!"  That is pretty much how I contribute.  I'll even tell you a secret which I should be embarrassed to admit... he even does my packing. I really just ask the night before we leave what time I need to be ready in the morning.

One thing Chris is famous for is insisting on that we only take carry-ons when we travel. He hates to pay for checked baggage and he feels like it's a waste of time to wait for baggage that could possibly get lost.  Therefore, we only take backpacks.  This is what we left the house with on Tuesday morning:

On our trip we went to five cities in three countries in twelve days.  Because of the extreme amount of pictures I took, I will be kind and break-up our trip into three parts.  This spring we really got into the show "Amazing Race." The entire time during our trip Chris would add commentary like we were contestants on the show. It was pretty hilarious!

When we left Sasebo we flew to spend only one night in Bangkok. We went to Bangkok last spring so we really only enjoyed the hotel pool and ate some delicious food. We needed to get to Bangkok, though, because it was a direct flight from Fukuoka (our local airport) and that is where we needed to catch our train to our first destination... Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Chris quickly found out while researching that overnight train rides are inexpensive compared to a hotel (and plane ticket) and you don't waste a day traveling.  We boarded our train in Bangkok at 6pm and arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning around 9am.
Getting ready to board our train...

Inside the train...

Thai dinner aboard the train...
 This train didn't have sleeper cabins like most do, where you are in a room with about four complete strangers.  Instead, the seats in the aisle turned into beds and each bed had a curtain. There was a top and bottom bunk on both sides with the aisle in the middle. Chris and I both had a top bunk.
Chris in his top bunk getting ready for bed.

Like I said earlier... Chris finds amazing hotels for us with even better deals.  This time he booked a boutique hotel where each guest had their own suite complete with a patio and an outdoor rain shower.  The grounds were beautiful and the staff was super friendly!
Looking out of our suite on the court yard area of the hotel

The patio area of our room.

Chiang Mai is famous for its markets... night markets, flower markets, food markets and, weekend markets.  Chris was great and took me to all of them!
Night market

Thai curry in the food markets

Fresh vegetables

Delicious exotic fruits... the hairy ones are rambutan and the spiky ones in the back are dragon fruit. Both are delicious!

Lychee... I just love the colors!

24-hour flower market... just in case you need to buy flowers at 3am!

Beautiful roses for super cheap!
On our first full day in Chiang Mai we did one of my most favorite things from the whole trip. We took a Thai cooking class.  This is going to sound silly, but since we have moved to Japan I have developed a love for Thai food.  We have an amazing place here that I go to at least three times a month.  Chris booked this class for us because he thought I would enjoy learning how to cook my favorite foods and he was right!  We got to cook a six course meal and after each course, we would sit down and try what we prepared. We on purpose chose different dishes to cook so we could try each other's! 

 Here's a few of us cooking in action:

Eating my favorite dish: Pad Thai!!

Making spring rolls...

... and the finished result!

Mixing the ingredients for my papaya salad
Here's the pictures of what we cooked:
Spicy Soup with Sweet Basil and Chicken Coconut Soup

Pad Thai and Fried Big Noodles

Papaya Salad and Deep Fried Spring Rolls

Sweet and Sour Vegetables and Chicken with Cashew Nut

Banana in Coconut Milk and Sticky Rice with Mango

The most interesting part of the whole day was learning to make curry.  It has a TON of ingredients, which you have to mash and blend together into a paste using a mortar and pestle, then you cook it with even more ingredients...
The ingredients need to make the curry paste

The finished paste

All the different curries that our class made... I love the colors of all of them!

Our finished curry dishes: massaman curry and red curry with pineapple
On our final full day in Chiang Mai we went zip lining!  Chris and I did this in Hawaii and we loved it, so we were looking forward to do it again.  We had a super fun group and our guides were hilarious! Our course had 34 ropes.
Getting ready to go on our adventure!

Chris showing off...

Me, I always held on with at least one hand. :) I'm a rule follower!

On one of the final courses, they let us go together... I was a little nervous.

As you can tell by my face in this picture!!

Our fun group we did the ropes with!

On our final night, we were exhausted but we wanted to see the three famous temples in Chiang Mai.  It was getting late and we didn't want to spend time walking around (and possibly getting lost) so we went right outside our hotel and found a tut-tut driver (a super cheap way to get around the town) and asked him to take us to all three.  After we agreed on a price, his wife jumped in and we were off...
Our fun driver, Rung, and his super sweet wife, Nice. They would drive us to each temple, explain a little about it, and wait for us to look around. 

Wat Chedi Luang.  I thought the elephants holding it up were interesting

In front of Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chedi Luang
We had an amazing time of the first leg of our trip!  Next we boarded a plane for Koh Samui, Thailand...
Sorry about all the pictures. Believe me, this is the edited version!!