Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls, Because You Will Get Lost Repeatedly

Yesterday, Phil and I used our day off to hit the Mae Sapok Waterfall (nam-tok mesa-pohk; น้ำตกแม่สะป๊อก). Except first we hit a few potholes, and then we hit the sign for the Mae Sapok Waterfall, and then we didn't hit the Mae Sapok Waterfall, we hit a mini-waterfall, because if experience has taught us anything, is that we are terrible at finding waterfalls. Last week we tried to find this same waterfall and instead ended up at the Mae Wang Waterfall, where my camera died capturing Phil walking across a narrow bamboo bridge. It's an accurate depiction of how this feat made my stomach feel.

Image taken in-camera, no Photoshop applied.
Well, this week we decided we'd do it right. We followed Marco's directions to a tee, and then came to a sign that said in Roman characters (in addition to a thousand Thai ones): MAE SAPOK WATERFALL. We registered that it was in 500m, but failed to register the arrow pointing right. So we turned left.

Friday, December 13, 2013

We're Alive!

Saawaatdee kha(p) from Mae Mut Garden! It's been exactly a week since we arrived in Thailand, and so much has happened in the past six days that there are a dozen different ways this post could go. After two days on planes and in airports, we took a fourteen-hour train ride from Bangkok up to Chiang Mai, and stayed there for a few days. We'll write about Chiang Mai in a bit--this is what we're up to right now.

On Monday, Marco picked us up in Chiang Mai, along with his Italian cousin Bruno, and together we filled the car with a babble of English, Italian, and broken Romance languages. We've figured out a haphazard system of triangulation using Phil's Spanish, my French, and Bruno's iPhone app for English. (Marco is fluent in English and Thai, like his wife Nok, and eventually their baby Serena). It's worked well enough for Bruno to give me a refresher course on how to ride a motorcycle!

Marco and Nok's farm is in Mae Wang, about an hour southwest of the city. The loud city advertisements and traffic evaporated after the highway, along with any trace of English. On the train up from Bangkok, we had a sense of the green giants around us, but it's nothing like being nestled in the crook of a mountain range. Everywhere we look it's just mountains, going endlessly back like a hall of increasingly foggy mirrors. We wake up every morning to dew on our shoes and the village loudspeaker announcing the news through the mist.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Are Not in Thailand Yet

But on Friday, we will be.

The San Francisco airport is boring, we're so surprised. Except the art, the art we appreciate. But not the lack of beds. Note to SFO: install more beds. We are halfway through our six (6!) hour layover. Then we go to Beijing, where another multi-hour layover awaits us (which due to indecipherable time zones, I cannot decipher the exact number of hours thereof). I will use this layover to introduce our endeavor.

Phil and I are going to Thailand to volunteer on organic farms, learning about permaculture and sustainability in a warmer climate than rainy Portland, Oregon. The umbrella organization is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which is like a dating website for farms. Farms post info about themselves, what they grow, whether they like long walks on the beach, and when they're available to host volunteers (aka WWOOFers). We've lined up dates well into May, and at sixty-day intervals (or so) we'll abide by our tourist visas and take a sojourn through one of the neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Our flight is scheduled to land in Bangkok on Friday morning. Then we're running errands, like getting Thai cell phones, picking up emergency malaria medication, and buying train tickets to Chiang Mai. The plan is to scoot on up north right away on an overnight train and stay in Chiang Mai for a few days--ostensibly to give our Japanese Encephalitis (a truly nasty brain infection; I encourage you to look it up) vaccines a chance to kick in. But mostly it is to see beautiful Chiang Mai for a bit before taking the bus down to the Mae Wang province, where we will be staying for the first month.

Fingers crossed it all goes according to plan! More or less.

PS: A note on the title of the blog. Since Thai doesn't include the syllable ph, which inconveniently pops up in both of our names, we've decided to make it easy on our hosts by picking travel pseudonyms. We could've gone way out there, and been like, Amelie and Don (Quixote), but instead we made our own names into funny words: Step and Pil. It is an apt metaphor for how we will likely blunder our way through the sub-continent. And SEA stands for South East Asia. Tada!