adventures in Thailand


Back in Pai and Chiang Mai, my old stomping grounds

It feels so good to be back in Pai where I lived for 18 months, starting July 2011. I walked into RELAX massage, which my dear friend Tiew owns, and the moment one of the masseuses saw me she came over and gave me a big, warm, heart-felt hug. Then we went to find May, my best friend from RELAX, and she, too, greeted me with the warmest of hugs. A great home coming.

fresh ginger and cassava along with bags of passion fruit.

fresh ginger and cassava along with bags of passion fruit.

mts. in the distance as we round one of the 762 curves on the road to Pai.

mts. in the distance as we round one of the 762 curves on the road to Pai.

view from the mini-van with pine trees in foreground.

view from the mini-van with pine trees in foreground.

On Sunday I’ll check into Bueng Pai Farm, the place I call Heaven on Earth. But to save a bit of money, I’m spending the weekend in town. Didn’t have a reservation but the place where I was hoping to stay had a bungalow available. It’s a double, not single, so it costs an outrageous $13 instead of $10 a night. The reason I chose Mr. Jan’s Guest house is that it’s a large property with dozens of tall trees providing shade and wonderful gardens throughout. Hard to believe I’m in the middle of town. I can hear a rooster crowing occasionally (hopefully not at 6 a.m.).  [Addendum next morning: No rooster woke me though I can hear it crowing in the distance now.]

The 3 hour drive here was as breathtaking as ever—-beautiful mountain vistas, soaring pine trees at the top elevations, and hair-raising curves. In town one can buy a t-shirt emblazoned with “Chiang Mai to Pai–762 curves.” Though I didn’t count, no doubt it’s true. Unfortunately there was a person in the mini-van who suffered from terrible car-sickness even before we started climbing the treacherous mountain road. Luckily I was in the front seat next to the driver and the vomiting took place a couple rows back. Still disturbing.  [I know, TMI.]

We made a rest stop at a place that features fresh produce where I enjoyed a strawberry shake. If I can figure out the technology, the blog will include a couple photos from there. [ADDENDUM: Figured out how to insert them but not in the proper spot. Oh well.]

an upper berth on the overnight train. mine was below.

an upper berth on the overnight train. mine was below.

fresh strawberries at our rest stop

fresh strawberries at our rest stop

Tonight I’ve been invited to Ing Doi Guesthouse for dinner. That’s where I stayed for my first 6 weeks in Pai in 2011. My friend Dianna’s son and daughter-in-law own it along with a larger, more basic Yawning Fields bungalow colony. Mink, her daughter-in-law, is a terrific cook so I’m looking forward to dinner and our reunion. If I have the energy, I’ll go hear live music at a coffee house in town that’s about 5 minutes from my guest house.

ADDENDUM, Next morning: Dinner was fantastic and it was great seeing Dianna, her family and two guys I know who come to Ing Doi every winter, one from the UK and the other from Wisconsin. On the walk home I decided to forego music in favor of a massage. I was going to wait until Saturday but my back and shoulders cried out to stop at RELAX massage. May gave me the best massage I’ve had so far. Decided on an oil back massage and she soothed my sore muscles from my feet to my neck. May has incredibly large and strong hands–perfect for a deep massage. An oil massage is similar to a Swedish massage. Today I’ll get a Thai massage–no oil and wearing loose clothing that they provide. FYI, an hour oil massage costs $7 (plus a $3 tip since she gave me extra time) and a Thai massage costs $5.


Backtracking to my stay in Chiang Mai….

After the group tour left for Bangkok, I took the overnight train on Tuesday to Chiang Mai. I love traveling that way—it was my 4th time, twice in first class (when a lower berth was unavailable) and twice in second class. To my surprise, the car had individual berths on either side of an aisle with red satin privacy curtains. I had expected a small compartment with 4 berths (first class has only 2). Despite the set-up I slept well and arrived in CM at 8:15 a.m., right on schedule.

My two nights in CM were spent at my favorite guest house, TriGong. Adam makes me feel like part of his family. Didn’t do much in CM except spend an hour-and-a-half in the dentist’s chair while he worked on my new crown and enjoy a fabulous two-hour massage. I did buy a new top upon arrival since I needed something to wear while my dirty laundry was washed and folded. Sure wish I could find someone to do a load of wash for $1.50 in Woodstock!


Today I plan to see a couple more friends and then meet Dianna for lunch. It’s in the mid–80s during the day but chilly overnight. I’m waiting for the room to warm up a bit before taking a shower and washing my hair.

Oh yes, other activities in Chiang Mai included going to my favorite hairdresser for self-care (or self-indulgence?) The shampoo person washed/massaged my head for a full 15 minutes and then took another 5 to add conditioner and rinse. What luxury! While she worked on my head, another young woman started my no-polish manicure. Though I skipped a pedicure at my first visit, the next day I returned and now have red toenails (necessary here in Thailand with my sandals).

One more thing about staying at Mr. Jan’s Guesthouse. The mattress is the typical Thai one—-made from the fibers of coconut husks. Thus it’s extremely firm. Some would say hard. Fortunately, I like a firm mattress but it did take 10-15 minutes to get used to last night. Slept great until 8:30 a.m.

As always, your comments are always appreciated. Love hearing from my friends.






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Awakening to Venus (or 9 beds in 8 towns in 22 days)

AWAKENING TO VENUS seems appropriate for this blog because this morning at 5 a.m. the bright planet greeted me through my second floor bedroom window on Cape Cod. It was so bright that for a moment it appeared to be the moon. Then I remembered seeing a half-moon two nights ago as it rose on the other side of the house. What appeared through my window was big, but not that big, I thought.

Tonight’s shining beacon in the dark sky had to be a planet unless a UFO was hovering over Long Pond in Marston’s Mills. Truthfully, my first thought (for only a second or two) was a possible UFO. (Apologies to the non-believers and scientists reading this.)

CAPE COD, you said? Yes. The past two nights have been spent in bed #9 in town #8 during my month-long East Coast visit to the USA. Wandering around so much since arriving in NYC on October 1 has provided plenty of opportunities to see many relatives and friends. And, naturally, complete an analysis of a variety of mattresses. 🙂

Growing up with parents from Massachusetts’ north shore (Newburyport and Amesbury),every summer the Silbey Clan migrated north for two months at Salisbury Beach (the last Mass. beach before New Hampshire). Thus, Cape Cod remained a mystery to us although we did venture to Rockport, Gloucester and the Swan Boats in Boston Garden each year. Finally made it to the Cape in my late forties. After decades in the Newburyport/Salisbury Beach area, the Cape appeared underwhelming to me.

All that changed three years ago, July 2009, when Ray and Alison Partridge hosted me for the first time. My dear cousin Karen married into the Partridge family. For years she and her husband Rob regaled me with tales of his parents’  legendary hospitality. They told the truth: it’s difficult to imagine a better host and hostess or a more lovely home in which to stay. (Let me know if you want details about the beautifully decorated home with great art and mementos from their world travels.)

The two nights on the Cape followed four nights with Rob and Karen Partridge in a Boston suburb. My stay with the younger Partridge family couldn’t have been better and it was “just what the doctor ordered.” Prior to arriving in their home, my itinerary resembled a whirlwind as I jumped from place to place to see relatives and friends. The four nights with Rob and Karen provided a respite and sufficient time to recharge my travel batteries.

9 beds in 8 towns/cities in 22 days is the latest count, a new record for me. One more new bed will be added next week in Woodstock, one in Seattle on November 1 and #12 in Taipei, Taiwan on November 7. Other venues, in chronological order, include New York’s Greenwich Village, Germantown, Maryland, Rockville, Maryland, Mamaroneck, NY, historic Cooper Inn in Lake Hill, NY, Woodstock, NY, Manhattan, NYC, Needham, Massachusetts and Marston Mills, Cape Cod.

Whew, I’m tired just reading this. Are you? Hopefully you’ll recognize that one reason for the six-week absence on this blog is my grueling travel itinerary. Oh, and I forgot to mention three beds prior to my October 1 arrival in the USA. These include two nights of CouchSurfing in Chiang Mai, Thailand (my first surfing instead of hosting), two nights in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh and five nights in Siem Reap, the town closest to incredible Angkor Wat.

Hopefully the last sentence will whet your appetite for a missing blog about the last week of September in Cambodia. I promise to write that within a week. Best of all, my Russian friend’s terrific photographs from our time together will supplement my words if you go to her link. To be continued…


Rip-off in CM: Tricycle Saga and more

TRICYCLE  Some of you might know that in mid-November I bought an adult tricycle in Chiang Mai and paid for it in full. In December when the trucking company went to pick it up the shop owner said it had already been picked up in September (unlikely since it wasn’t purchased until November).

This has been an ongoing saga filled with frustration. Upon my return to Thailand in early May I visited the bike shop and explained the problem. Came back the following week with the receipt and Adam, the guest house owner where I stay who translated. The owner said I had to have an original receipt, mine was only a photocopy. Of course the trucking company had lost the receipt from 7 months ago.

So Wednesday afternoon I went back to the shop and a nice young woman (much nicer than the owner) listened to my problem again. She phoned the owner who maintained that without an original receipt there could be no proper proof. Thus, I went to the tourist police.

The Tourist Police visit was equally frustrating although they were very nice and there was a terrific translator. At first they said “tough luck” using more polite words. Then after about 45 minutes the police officer called the bike shop owner. He came back saying that the owner remembered ordering it for me and then it was picked up. LIE #2: there was a white trike on display which I purchased, they adjusted the seat, added lights, reflectors, etc.  (LIE #1 was that it had been picked up.)

Bottom line per police: I must show up at the shop with the truck driver and Mink, my friend in Pai, who contracted the trucking company. The chances of us all being in CM at the same time are fairly miniscule. So, most likely, I’m out nearly $200. It really irritates me since if I were Thai and not falang (Westerner) I doubt this would happen.

iPad adventure was equally frustrating. I took my iPad with the shattered screen to the Apple Store and found out they couldn’t fix it. However, the sales clerk did tell me at the other, larger mall there’s a non-authorized Mac place that might fix it. Let’s hope so. Will go there next week on my way to Chiang Rai.

Chiang Rai is on my schedule because by July 30 I must leave and re-enter Thailand on a “visa run.” Every three months this occurs even though my visa is good for a year. My tentative plans are to take an early morning mini-bus from Pai to CM, spend 4-5 hours there, and then catch the big bus to Chiang Rai. I’m hoping that breaking up the trip in two segments will make it more bearable. Each bus segment is around 3 hours long.

Then one night at a guesthouse in CR where I’ve stayed previously. Next a morning bus to Mae Sai, the Thai border town with Burma, which takes about 1.5 hours. Will spend a couple of hours in Burma and return to CR where the excitement begins. On Monday-Tuesday nights, July 30-31, I’ll stay at an Akha (hill tribe) village about 20 miles outside of CR. My recent CouchSurfing guests stayed there and loved it. Their photos of a nearby waterfall were spectacular. If I like it, maybe I’ll stay a third night.  No doubt there’ll be a future blog entry about the Akha village.

Well, friends, this is the fourth blog in July–a new record. Feedback is welcomed.