Today was relatively uneventful in that we spent the afternoon and early evening flying from Siem Reap to Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We tried to sleep in but after going to sleep so early the last two nights, we couldn't sleep much past 8:30. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and relaxed most of the morning. After packing, we took another tuk tuk to the airport. We had a minor panic attack thinking we left our money in the safe and had the driver turn around only to find it 30 seconds later and we were back on our way.
Our flight was smooth and we arrived in Bangkok about an hour later. We managed passport control and customs fairly easily. The Bangkok airport is huge! There are airlines from all over the world: Egypt, Turkey, Vietnam, China, Dubai, and others. We had to recheck in on AsiaAir and check our bags. AsiaAir charges per kilo for checked bags and they don't allow carry ons. It's twice as expensive to pay when you arrive so luckily Keely paid before leaving Siem Reap.
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 8:30 PM and easily found a taxi and exchanged money. We arrived at our hotel for the next four nights, Siripanna, and were greeted with cool rice tea. After dropping our stuff off in our room, we took a tuk tuk to the Sunday Night Walking Market in downtown Chiang Mai. There were lots of vendors selling everything from food to scarves to carvings in wood and soap. Keely found a great scarf and bargained a good price for it. The tuk tuks are much different here than Siem Reap. In Siem Reap, it was a trailer on a moped and they went very slow. Here, they are a three wheeled vehicle that race around town and they are very loud.
Since today was relatively light, we thought we'd share some of our cultural observations from our first stop in Cambodia.
- Most of the tourists are from Japan, Korea and Vietnam and they all have an iPhone or iPad.
- There are several US tourists here, but almost all are in their 50s and 60s.
- There are volleyball courts everywhere! Our guide said it is more common than soccer because it requires fewer people to play.
- Mopeds are their version of pickup trucks and are customized to carry passengers, cargo, cattle, chickens, vegetables and fruit and people.90% of the cars are a Toyota Camry. The rest are Toyota Corrollas. The Lexus SUV is also very popular.
- An entire family can fit on a moped. We saw up to 5 people on at once ranging from toddlers to grandparents. Only the driver wears a helmet. Kids ride in front or behind the driver, depending on size and they all have great balance.
- Traffic signals are optional. The motto is "go slow and people will go around you." No one ever seems to get angry when people make a left turn into oncoming traffic, red lights are ignored, etc. We posted a video that doesn't even begin to show the chaos.
- Fuel can be purchased at gas stations but is more commonly sold in empty liter liquor bottles to avoid tax.
- Cambodia has its own currency. Most prices are in US dollars however change is given in the Cambodian currency so exact change is ideal.
- Trash collection is available but a paid service so most burn or bury their garbage. As a result, plastic bags and other trash are common in the streets, green spaces, rivers and even the temples.
- Weddings are common during the "cool" months of December, January and February when temperatures are only in the mid to upper 90s. They seem to be on any day of the week, and they are very large. Our tour guide invited 600 people to the final celebration because they invite all of their relative's friends and are typically 2 days long.
- The Cambodian people are extremely friendly and nice. Most speak enough English to communicate, though it is primarily the Australian dialect. Most people in Siem Reap work in the tourism industry and are very grateful for the tourists. We received multiple "thank yous" upon our departure for visiting their country.
Tomorrow we are taking a full day cooking class where we will learn to buy produce at the market and turn it into several Thai dishes. We're looking forward to coming home with some new recipes!
Kevin & Keely