My Thai-cation in Chiang Rai

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10 points for Gryffindor if you can spot me in this picture.

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Language department pic!

The school I work at here in Thailand is kind of dope.  Mostly because my boss/landlord/Thai mom P’nga makes it dope.  She makes sure us foreigners are always happy and taken care of, with plenty of time off to travel and do what we really came here to do.  She knows what’s up.

So in December my dope school gave teachers 4 days off to go on a fully-paid trip to Chiang Rai together.  That’s right, I got to see Chiang Rai for free with a group of about 78 Thai people.  The total body count is 80 if you add in Steve & I, the only farang present.

I’ve seen a lot during my time here in Thailand.  But I have mainly been seeing what other western tourists see, and this trip gave me a chance to experience vacation like a Thai.  And I wish to god that I had more pictures because it was hilarious.

UPDATE – Since writing this post I’ve discovered the gold mine that is Facebook albums posted by everyone else on the trip.  So I have plenty of pictures.

You know how Asian tour groups are stereotyped for taking an absurd amount of pictures (not trying to offend anyone here)?  Well it’s TRUE.  It’s definitely not a bad thing, after the amount of full-blown random photo shoots that I’ve seen in public out East, I no longer have any shame about taking selfies in public.  The best travel advice I can give: take the damn picture, the photograph will last longer than the embarrassment.

So here are a few of the stops on our little 4-day photography binge:

  1. Singha Theme Park

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If you’ve been to Thailand, you know Singha beer.  It’s half a step above Leo, and about 3 full steps above Chang.  There are a total of 5 beers we drink in Thailand, here they are ranked:

  • Leo – old faithful, tasty & affordable
  • Singha – makes you feel classier for the extra couple baht, and the bottle is prettier, but not so tasty
  • Beer Laos – what they serve at boosie clubs in the Sukhumvit of Bangkok, still doesn’t taste better than Leo and stabs my wallet everytime I’m out
  • Tiger – NOT a Thai beer, they drink this everywhere in Southeast Asia, I can’t even review it because I’ve only had it once
  • Chang – the lowest of the low, only good for making an easily identifiable Thailand-themed beer tank top

I digress.  Singha Theme park is owned by the Singha beverage company, but I did not see a drop of beer for miles.  Granted we were rushed as we got there right before sunset, but all I saw were pretty rolling green hills, and this giant Singha statue that seemed the subject of everyone’s selfie.  Such a tease.

2) A cabbage patch

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I shit you not, after getting lunch & seeing some hill tribes, all 80 of us piled into 8 vans to drive 200 feet and stop for half an hour at this random cabbage patch to take pictures.

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Count the selfies being taken in this picture.

3) Tea fields

No, we didn’t do any tea tasting or anything here.  The only tea I tasted was the green tea latte I ordered at the café.  We took pictures and took a snack break.

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4) The Myanmar Border – unsure where, all I know is that there were hill tribes

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We stopped at some random place where you could see Myanmar.  There were military barracks, and a helipad left from when the king came to visit, so I have a feeling it was important.  Due to the language barrier, I’ll never really know where I went

There were Northern Thai hill tribe people selling things there, which was cool to see.  They were chewing this gross betelnut that stained their teeth red, which weirdly kind of made me excited for my upcoming Myanmar trip, as that’s what they chew there.

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5) The King’s project

Disclaimer – all weird names are exactly how they were explained to me by my Thai boss.  We stopped here, but all we really did was eat lunch.  Apparently we were supposed to sit through some hour-long talk explaining his project, but it didn’t happen for some reason.  Thank god, sitting through an hour of listening to someone talk about an agricultural project would have bored me to tears, throw in the fact that it would be in a language I can’t even speak and I’d be dead.

6) The Queen’s Project

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In true Thai fashion, of course we dedicated one entire day of our 4-day vacation to the royal family.  All we saw was this flower garden that was apparently designed/paid for/visited/I don’t freaking know by the queen.  It was actually really pretty.  Bonus – they had macadamia nut butter at the gift shop, something I haven’t even seen at Trader Joe’s yet.

BONUS BONUS – I haggled for a Northern Thai wallet and my boss did as well, and guess who got the lower price!!!! She was laughing about it all the way to the next stop, as I could hear her retelling the story to my Thai coworkers.  The “farang juhn” (poor foreigner) got a better price than her.

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These are actual pictures of my co-workers from the trip.  2 of about 7,000.

7) A strawberry field – I think?

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Some random field.  There was celery there, which was EXCITING because I have yet to see celery elsewhere in Thailand.  There were actually a lot of fruits/veggies/other things that I haven’t seen elsewhere in Thailand – gorgeous bright purple potatoes, AVOCADOS, and tea.  The avocados are a big deal people, those mofos are 100 baht/pop at Tesco supermarket in the big city in my province.  I bought 5 avocados for 50 baht, and am still hoarding the unripened ones in my fridge.

6) An orange grove

Yet another picturesque stop.  Are you starting to see a trend yet?

7) A hotel we weren’t staying at the made a nice background for a group picture

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8) The Golden Triangle

This is where the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet.  I’m happy we made a pit-stop here, because I don’t know if I would’ve made it here otherwise.

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9) The White Temple

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AKA Wat Rong Khun.  Hey look, something you guys might recognize!  The infamous white temple is a famous art exhibit in Chiang Rai.  I have so many pictures I want to share from it that I’ll do another separate post about it.

Other Highlights:

  • The old retired guy teachers
    • …getting completely hammered. I don’t know why teachers who already retired there, but they were.  And they were drunk pretty much the whole time.  Nothing says “work” like falling asleep during a staff meeting.

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  • The old retired guy teachers
    • Forcing my co-American Steve to sing Jingle Bell Rock on stage during our staff “New Year’s Eve” celebration. 3 of them(drunk obvi) even got up there and were doing some synchronized back-up dancing.  It was like Mean Girls, Chiang Rai edition.
    • Side note – it seemed I was the only female who consumed a drop of alcohol this entire trip. Proud to represent my country.
  • Avocados
    • I can’t stress it enough. Avocado toast for dinnuhhh TONIGHT.
  • Waking up at 6AM to “see fog” on a mountain

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  • My new tea kettle
    • For LOOSE LEAF TEA! They sold a ton of tea in the north, but almost all of it was loose-leaf.  Sometimes I’ll see tea in the markets where I live in Dan Chang, but it’s always loose-leaf.  Now I can buy tea without trekking to Bangkok!
  • This bed
    • Our first night, we stayed at some random campground-type place. I got to share this “4-bed room” with my boss and 2 older teachers.  Up close & personal.

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  • Weather below 80 degrees
    • It was ACTUALLY cold here, as in 50ish during the day and 40ish at night. It actually felt like December for 5 minutes.
  • These purple potatoes.
    • Like I said, the produce up North was on POINT.  I even saw black beans.

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Sticky rice made with rice berry & peanuts.  I’m not even a sticky rice person & I was drooling.
  • Squeezing into a tuk-tuk after going to a club in Chiang Rai with 4 coworkers

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So there you have it.  My teacher-cation with my school.  So lucky to stumble onto this free trip, definitely something I’ll never experience again.

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On the right, the paparazzi coming at me at a temple.  On the left, the paparazzi.
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