Two weekends ago I was lucky enough to travel to Chieng Khan in Loei province (near the Thai-Laos border) with KKU’s International Relations division. I met Master’s and Ph.D. students from across Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Our first stop was Tai Dam village, where we learned about the villagers’ belief in ghosts. Once in Chieng Khan, we participated in Pha Sat Loi Kror which is a ritual that is meant to let the bad luck out of our lives . We all received a homemade krathong, which was made of banana leaves.
Once the candle and incense were lit, we let it go on the Mekong River while making a wish. That evening we walked through the Chieng Khan night market, which was the calmest market I’ve been to in Thailand. I felt at ease just being able to take my time and not have to push myself through the crowds. Later, we gathered for a cultural night where we all performed something from our culture. For our performance, we decided to teach everyone two iconic American wedding/party dances: the Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle. After demonstrating the first few steps, everyone had a blast trying it along with us! Sunday morning we woke up at 5:30am to give alms to the monks which was a very unique experience. In the afternoon, we visited Ban Phor Pieng Pho Ploen which specialized in traditional medicine. They provided us with teas that complement our element (earth, wind, water, or fire), which corresponds with the month you were born. My element was fire which apparently means I’m hot-tempered (accurate, right?) so the tea was a mix of jasmine and pandan leaves to help restore my inner calm. We also each took home a small jar of herbal incense that we made from a variety of spices and oils, and it ended up smelling a lot like Vaseline! I had so much fun on this trip (did I mention it was FREE?!) meeting people from all around this part of the world and adding more and more experiences I can share with everyone back home.
For my birthday weekend, I traveled to Bangkok and Kanchanaburi. In the morning we walked around Lumpini Park, which was a nice sea of green within the hustle and bustle of the city.
From there we took a bus to Chinatown. The streets were narrow and crowded, and I was surprised to find out that Bangkok’s Chinatown is not cheap! As a result, my only purchase was a pair of 100 baht sunglasses. We planned on going to the Bangkok Corrections Museum, only to find out that it was closed/might be in the process of re-location or renovation. After taking a bus going in the wrong direction, we finally made it back to our hostel. In the evening we hit up Patpong in the Silom district, which was the happening place to be, even on a Thursday night! We wandered around the local market and then ate dinner at KFC where I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had good coleslaw! The next day we took a van to Kanchanaburi which is about 2.5 hours west of Bangkok. Although I was a bit irritated after being harassed by taxi drivers and ticket sellers at the bus station and the fact that the van was an hour late, all was better once we ate some morning glory and fried rice for lunch. It was another 2-hour bus ride to Erawan National Park which was our final destination. Once we entered the park I suddenly felt so at ease. The craziness of Bangkok was replaced with the calm of the mountains and fresh air from the forest. Camping was cheap (only 150 baht) and our tent was set-up right along the river! The main advantage of camping overnight was beating the crowds the next morning. Around 8:15am we started the hike up to the 7th tiered waterfall at a leisurely pace. The hike up was beautiful and serene. I’ve never seen tiered waterfalls like this before and it took my breath away. The waterfall ponds had fish in them that would nibble on your skin (fish pedicure, anyone?). I was a bit freaked out at first, but in the end, I found it hard to keep from laughing because it tickled so much! We swam at the 7th tier and were greeted by some monkeys who apparently had no fear in stealing people’s bags and rummaging through them. That being said, we took turns standing guard to avoid being their next victim. Kanchanaburi is definitely on my list of favorite places I’ve been to so far and I hope to go back and explore the many other national parks in the area.