Yesterday morning was a bit of a blur. Our alarm went off at 5:15 AM. Sounds early to most, but for the people of Luang Prabang, this is a daily occurrence. One of the most famous sites to see here is the giving of alms to the monks. Every morning, the monks line up and walk around the city where all of the villagers are kneeled down with bowls of sticky rice and some other treats. Each person puts a small amount of rice into each monks pot along with whatever other treats they have. This is how the monks are fed every day. It's really an amazing site to see how the community pulls together an how spiritually involved each person is. You can see here that religions isn't something you must do, but something that is part of your life and something you live. It really was a wonderful thing to see.
After, Dave and I decided to venture to the top of the mountain (hill) in the center of the city to try and see whatever we could of the Wat on top (it was only 6 and the Wat didn't open until 8, not to mention there weren't any monks guarding it since they were all getting their alms). Needless to say, we couldn't make it all the way to the top since we didn't have a ticket and couldn't go through the gate, but we took some great pictures of what we could see and then high-tailed it out of there before the monks got home. Back to the hotel for a nap, some internet and breakfast (great french bread for me and banana pancake that literally took 35 minutes to make on their camp-stove for Dave) and then we got into our tuk-tuk and headed to the airport. Thank goodness the travel agent told us to get there 1.5 hours early. I don't' know how we would have ever gotten through security with the whole 2 flights that were leaving that day checking in. Not to mention that we were the only flight sitting in the international terminal. To top it off, we were delayed 30 minutes too. But, minus the weird body smells on the plane, the flight was non-eventful and we made it on Laos Airlines for our second time. Actually, the airline really wasn't that bad. Small planes, but they serve food (if you dare) and drinks and the bags come out quick. So, we landed in Thailand. Ahhhhhh Thailand. Now, I have thoroughly enjoyed every place we have been on this trip. We have seen and done amazing things and experiencing all of the other cultures has been something I will always remember. However, when we stepped out of the baggage collection area and there was a Dairy Queen staring me in my face, a sort of Euphoria came over me. Not that I want to eat DQ (which I don't), but it was a feeling of comfort and normalcy which we haven't experienced in quite some time. Plus, we soon discovered after we got in our brand new pickup truck that there are actually road lanes. Yes, road lanes is what now gets us excited. And people driving on the correct side of the road (sometimes) following (sometimes) the traffic lights that are around. Plus, as we soon discovered, one of the things that Dave was apparently missing on the trip was the smell of smog in the air. We definitely got that here.
We soon got to our hotel, the Chiang Mai Thai House and was very excited. There was a beautiful pool in the front which was well maintained and a nice patio in the front for the restaurant. The people have been very friendly here as well. We were shown our room which had not yet been completely transformed into a King bed (was still 2 twins, but fixed immediately) and was pleasantly surprised to find a nice, large clean room with a bathroom which had a shower separated from the toilet by a curtain. Plus, the location was great. Halfway between the old town and the night market. Life was good and Dave was very happy. It was already 3 and even though we were eating dinner at 7:30, we were starving, so we headed down to the hotel restaurant for our first lunch of Pad Thai (there will be many more to follow). Delicious! So fresh and tasty. We were very happy. We decided to wonder around our area for a bit before we had to get ready for dinner, so we started walking and bumped into this very nice lady who gave us a ton of advice on the town and then offered to drive us around the next day. We originally said yes, but then after some discussions, we decided that we didn't want to end up like the movie "Taken" and sent the lady a nice email politely declining her invitation. We walked into the old town for a little, passing a boots and a Starbucks along the way, as well as a large market (where for once we did not purchase anything) and then headed back to get ready for the evening. We took our first Thai tuk-tuk over to the Riverside Bar and Restaurant to meet up with my friend Kristen King and her friend Heidi who also happened to be in Chiang Mai. Of course, in typical Dave and Carrie fashion, it was a huge Buddhist holiday and this restaurant was closed. So, we waited for the 2 of them to arrive and wandered down the street to the Gallery for dinner (where Hillary Clinton has visited). This was a great restaurant where you walk through a beautiful gallery to get to the outside patio. We all ordered drinks and then got some shrimp pancakes and medium-dried beef to share. The pancakes were good, but Dave and I discovered our new favorite Thai food, dried beef. All thoughts of becoming vegetarian from our first 4 weeks of this trip have been thrown out the door. Dave and I then split some Pad See Ew (YUM!) and a coconut chicken curry with crunchy noodles which were both really good. Total, with our meals and theirs, plus 6 bottles of beer and one wine was less than $45. Not too shabby. Although our dinner companions were tired, we all decided to head over to the night market where Dave and I did a great job helping them spend their own money (sorry Kristen). This turned out great for us though since we definitely did our share of buying later in the trip. We had a great time and decided to say our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel. Big day tomorrow! The next day we headed to the hotel restaurant for our breakfast of fresh Thai fruit (papaya, pineapple, banana, watermelon, dragonfruit), fresh yogurt and granola. Delicious. Then around 9, the tuk-tuk driver the hotel arranged for us arrived and we headed out for our day. We started out by spending the first 1.5 hours trying to find money. For some reason, our ATM stopped working and the bank couldn't tell us why. So, we ended up changing AMEX travelers checks which took at least 45 minutes, but no worries, we were about to head out for the greatest day ever!