One of my favourite things to do in Asia is visit local markets whether they be food, clothing, souvenirs, marriage of birds. There is something wonderful about wandering through local markets. It's a glimpse of local life, it's trying local foods and sometimes it involves locals trying to scam you- but for the most part it is a pleasant experience.
Finding the unique and bizarre has become a kind of side quest during my travels. My general philosophy has been, If it looks different and interesting, I must know more! This sort of side mantra has served me well. There's a boat that travels from Northern Thailand to China? Hell yeah, I'll go. Kunming has a bird market? Sounds kind of interesting, I wouldn't mind checking that out. Every weekend older parents flock to Green Park and look for future mates for their unmarried children by sharing photos, posting signs and looking through catalogs? Say Whaaaaat?!
Let me tell you, arriving by boat in the middle of nowhere when it is pitch-black outside is completely different from landing at an airport. Unlike ports in North America, in China docking your boat or ship involves a buddy system of sorts. There is usually one dock and 4-5 ships trying to unload. Instead of waiting for their turn (this is kind of a foreign concept here), they dock against one another. When we arrived in Guan Lei, we were boat number 4 and docking against a freighter was a bumpy experience.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly a slow boat, but it was a boat! My mind had drifted from the bumpy bus ride through the mountains and dirt roads of Northern Thailand. Most of the locals I had spoken to in Chiang Mai were confused when I asked them about the boat that sailed from Chiang Saen to China. While some travelers would have taken that as a sign that the boat was just a myth, I took it as a sign that if the boat did exist, it would be a unique experience. My mind was racing. For 5 hours I sat in my seat and thought about what the boat would be like. Would there be a lot of travelers? Is it running or was I wasting time and money traveling to Chiang Saen only to find out that the boat was a myth. The possibilities were endless and I thrived on them. My quest to know was almost as thrilling as the idea of traveling to China by boat.
Looking for the Mongolian Embassy in Bangkok was like walking through a maze, especially when you add in the fact that I had no clue where I was going. But once I found the Embassy, things were surprisingly easy. I rang the buzzer, stated that I wanted to apply for a visa, filled out a form and was told to come back three days later. In a way, it was almost too easy.
*Note: Sorry guys, but the above photo is about as masculine as this post is going to get. You may want to leave and turn on ESPN! When the cats I'm watching woke me up at 5 a.m. today I decided it would be a good day to go out. I had stayed in most of yesterday trying to catch up on some writing and emails and I thought I might go crazy dealing with their mood swings. Yes, cats have mood swings. One minute they're resting, the next minute they're reenacting Jason Statham's Death Race.
My trek to Thailand was a long one. After a 14hr flight from LA to Hong Kong, a 10hr layover and then a 2.5 yr flight to Bangkok, I was bagged. The directions to the hostel (NapPark) seemed straightforward, but in the end, I was lost and needed a local to guide me. Sad, I know. Once I did arrive and checked in, the plan was sleep, however, Rolf -one of my male roomies thought otherwise.