Let’s start with some low key visa stuff.
This is going to be very interesting.
Well, basically when I came to Thailand in October I had what is called a non-immigrant B visa. And that allowed me to be in the country for 90 days. And the process to extend that involves first applying for a work permit and then taking that work permit to Nan immigration and getting your visa extended.
But to get the work permit you have to first go to the hospital, get checked for syphilis, and then also take all your paperwork and forms all over Phrae getting them signed by various government agents.
And I knew this. But not from my own experiences, but from Charlotte, Kim and Alex who had been going about doing these things for months. And Alex had to take an extra trip to Chiang Mai to do more paperwork.
So I knew this wasn’t a quick process.
And my visa expires on January 15th and I swear it wasn’t until January 9th before teacher Jane in the office was like “teacha we go to hospital”
At one point I remember her bringing in some papers for me. And teacher Rodel was there and he straight up was like “I though they already did this for you!” I’m like “this isn’t my fault! Thepnaree is not on top of their shit!”
Anyway. This led to a series of very upsetting days (that were always cloudy days ironically) where I would be told in the middle of class that during my breaks (which I value as very important and necessary free time) I would be taken all over Phrae as to get this whole visa thing processed as quickly as possible. And these trips also usually included like some unappetizing lunch of pink soup with fishy noodles or something!
It was enough to actually change my whole mind about Thailand. One particularly long Friday, when they had just given me no breaks, I finally started thinking like. “I’m done with this.” And I was. I decided those days that I don’t want to extend my contract. I can’t work at Thepnaree any longer than this semester. It’s a downward spiral when you start of that because you’re looking around at all the countries you want to visit and all the backpacking you want to do and it’s enough to make you say…”enough“.
So the moral of the story is that I got my visa extended.
On January 14th.
This is such typical Thai situation. There seems to never be any plan. I don’t know whether to appreciate it or abhor it.
I got to take the day off of school, drive to Nan with teacher Jane in the pouring rain. And thank the good lord above that there wasn’t any problems.
Well actually there was one problem.
And that is that they informed me that I have 1 set of free pages in my passport…so I need a new passport.
And this was just the segue into talking about my most recent trip to my very favorite city of Chiang Mai to get a passport which I turned into a mini vacation for myself.
So the shit thing about the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai is that it is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
So I had to take the day off of school, and because it was already Thursday I decided to also take Friday off and make a long weekend of it.
And because the only available appoint was at 8am on Thursday morning I ended up on the bus Wednesday night right after school.
And so this is a story of how Brenna got her solo travel confidence back.
So, it’s a Wednesday night and I’m tired and getting off the Greenbus in Chiang Mai. And the feeling that I get when I get to Chiang Mai every time is like I am arriving back in my hometown. I understand this place. I’m excited about this place. I fucking love Chiang Mai, that’s all there is to it.
And for those who are counting…this is trip number six since I arrived in October.
And I know I said I wouldn’t come back. But if you remember my New Year experience then you’ll remember that Chiang Mai just turned itself around for me.
This time I had booked a hostel on Kim’s recommendation called Thailandwow 2. —write this name down. It rocks.
So, I took the song tao to Tha Pae (which is the east gate) because it’s like the only place I know how to get song taos too, and it’s also where everything is. And luckily our hostel was right there.
Thailandwow 2 falls under my criteria for a good hostel because it does have–in fact–a hammock. So first impression: sold.
And then I was greeted by my new favorite Thai girl named Kwan. And she was asking where I was coming from, and when I said “Phrae” she’s like “Oh your friend Emily was here”. Because apparently she thinks all teachers know each other…and we do. My friend Emily had just quit her teaching job and was passing through on her way to Pai for a couple days. And while I was chatting with Kwan another one of my friends PJ showed up. Him and his wife had to leave their job because her stepdad is sick. So I got to say a quick goodbye to them.
Then I went to sleep almost immediately after a quick chat with my roommates, a skinny British couple.
Next morning: I am up at the crack of dawn to go the embassy. Where I end up meeting an old couple from Minnesota! I was like “I’m from Minnesota!” and he’s like “you look like a midwestern girl” and I’m like…”thank you?”
And because this place is run by Americans…I was in and out in about 20 minutes. Gotta love efficiency. I got an appointment to go back and actually pick up the new passport in another two weeks…so Chiang Mai trip 7?
Anyway. I was in the hilarious situation of having taken 2 full days off school for this errand and being done before school even would have started on Thursday. But I am not the one to not make the most of a situation!
First of all, I had some errands that I had to do. Firstly, I had to get a coffee at the hostel and finally do a proper henna tattoo on my hand. I miss feeling like I have some beautiful art on my hands.
Then I had to take a stroll into the Old City, get a Thai Massage at my favorite place, and then get myself some lunch at my new favorite place Amrita Garden.
Then, because I had time, I decided to walk all the way to the Maya mall because I needed to buy a new laptop.
And at this point my shoes finally died. I had these sandals I had bought the first week in Phrae that was absolutely in love with…but my love kind of destroyed them. And finally the flap at the bottom of my left shoe had come lose and was dragging on the ground every time I picked up my feet. So I was walking around Chiang Mai like *clomp* *scrape* *clomp* *scrape*…and that had to be finished. I ended up having to buy some cheap temporary flip flops on the walk so I could even make it to the mall to get better shoes.
I ended up at this Mac reseller because apparently there are not Mac stores in Thailand. But they aren’t used computers. They are just bought and then resold. So anyway I didn’t get the newest version of the macbook pro because they don’t have a USB port! How am I supposed to use a computer like that?
Anyway after I finished buying the computer they put it in the most obnoxiously huge bag with a big Mac logo on it and I’m like…”I’m going to get mugged for sure carrying this around”.
Luckily, the only other thing I had to do was go into the mall, buy shoes, and then buy the swag Rimping grocery store completely out of hummus. (They only had 3 containers…so I’m not insane). Then I got a song tao to bring all my booty back to the hostel.
And this is why I love this hostel. Because it has this big communal area, and so after I got home, I decided to sit and read out there and because I looked like a total loner…a nice group adopted me. That’s how I ended up spending the night with a bunch of brits and some Germans.
It was a mellow night. I went to this part of the Night Bazar I had never been to and spent 100 baht on the worst bowl of Khao Soy I had ever eaten. I don’t care if it’s organic…if it’s flavorless how can you serve this in Thailand? (more in the camp of ‘Chiang Mai does not make proper Khao Soy’)
The next morning I got myself some breakfast, the nice British couple in my room had left. Then me and this one British girl Louise did a trade. She was a hairstylist and I was in desperate need of a haircut so she cut my hair in exchange for a henna tattoo.
After that a group of us went to check out the flower festival and get some lunch. Louise and her friend Elliot were traveling together for a few months in Southeast Asia and they were from Bristol. Then there was another British girl names Maria who was traveling alone. And a German guy named Felix who only had like 3 weeks in Thailand, and his English was pretty great but I’m pretty sure he was still confused by us.
I left my new friends after lunch because Charlotte had just got to Chiang Mai and I was going to go be moral support while she got a sak yant tattoo!
Those are the buddhist blessing tats. Usually they are done by a monk but this one was in like a shop and it was done by ajarn…which I guess is like half a monk.
So we had to first buy some cigarettes as part of the offering to the ajarn. (I guess he really likes cigarettes). We get to the shop and we are looking though the book of tattoos and most of them are like the big pieces. There are big buddha figures, tigers, mantras. Charlotte wants something really simple like on her wrist and I’m like…fuck girl all of these are cray.
But she finds kind of a simple one and she’s like “okay I’ll get this one”. And we go up and the ajarn is like “yeah no you can’t have it on your wrist”. I mean, he doesn’t actually say that because he doesn’t speak English…but that’s the gist of what is translated to us. Because she picked this design which we are pretty sure means like the 5 qualities of Buddha and you can’t let buddha drop below your waist.
So then Charlotte had to decide if she wanted something different…or to put that somewhere else. And they suggest the back. Which (and I don’t want to be biased) but I thought was way prettier. Because it’s this symmetrical design and I love symmetrical images put on the median of someone’s body. I mean as a body artist I really like the harmony in that. But I couldn’t be interfering in Charlotte’s tattoo. But to my relief she decided to do it on her back.
And it seemed pretty painful.
I got to pay Charlotte back for holding my hand during my whole Ranch tattoo by holding her hand during the whole monk tattoo. And he does it with the traditional bamboo sticks. It was fun to watch. And it turned out so beautiful.
And then Charlotte went to do a bit of shopping and I went back to the hostel. And this when the rest of the crew arrived.
See this weekend was also Kim’s last weekend in Thailand!
She was missing the boyfriend, and really miserable at her school, so she decided to dip early and leave all of us in Phrae to feel incomplete. So, I thought that this weekend in Chiang Mai was gonna be me, Kim, Char and Alex. But Friday morning Kate (the other really nice girl at the hostel) says “Oh your friends come” and shows me the list of people staying this night: Kim, Char, Alex, Emily, Emma, Caitlin, Melissa, Jackie, Courtney…Jesus.
I’m like “oh wow, yes my friends”.
And when I got back to the hostel Courtney had just arrived. Courtney is the one who lives in Lampang and is Kim’s twin (not literally). I absolutely love spending time with her. She has the best sense of humor and never seems to be worried about anything.
But then people started arriving and I got to witness first hand the difference between traveling with these people and traveling alone. And suddenly it’s like this huge group of girls all sitting around together…and we talk loudly. And everyone’s excited to see each other…but suddenly I couldn’t really talk with all the new people I had meant.
I remember having a conversation with Louise the girl I had just met and suddenly the group is like waiting on me cause they wanna go to dinner. And I’m like “oh sorry!” So that sucked. These huge groups are really not that approachable.
Then I had to transition from Brenna’s solo backpacker weekend to Brenna’s weekend with OEG people. And after a bit of grumpiness I remembered that I really freaking love all these people. I mean I’m not going to be best friends with every single one of them…but we are some badass ladies…and Alex. He’s a good sport.
We got some drinks and ended up at Zoe, the very very popular backpacker bar. I didn’t make it too long cause I was super tired.
The next day was mostly Char, Alex and I. Kim and Emily went to go get sak yant tattoos. They did it with the actual monk…but I don’t think it was a particularly spiritual experience for them either. The other girls were around, but it is pretty difficult to keep a big group together.
Char and I got fish pedicures!
Alex and I went to a pool. Then I came back and took a nap. Charlotte and Alex went to the night market and when I woke up a little bit later I was supposed to meet them there. But I had a headache at that point, so I took seat in a chair in the common area and didn’t end up getting up. I was talking with my friend Miguel I had met during the solo part of the trip. He had been sick to his stomach and hanging at the hostel for a few days.
I also met a Welsh guy named Yaz who was such a hoot and had just been in India. And made me really want to go to India. And I was drinking water and my headache was going away when Alex and Char came back from the market. And Yaz joined us on our quest for some really good burgers. And we ended up at Rock Me burger (the one from way back at orientation). And I got honey mustard!
Why does food make me so happy? And particularly condiments?
This night was equally chill. Though I did end up meeting up with the group at Spicy this night club I had always known about but never been to. And let me tell you…that place sucks. It’s just a bunch of farangs standing around with really loud music playing.
I opted instead to go back to the hostel, buy a magnum bar and end up sitting next to some Norwegian guy who was hating on rainbows! Granted, I brought up the rainbow conversation. Because I was talking about how beautiful rainbows were and how amazing that it’s something that happens in nature and Yaz was there like “yes definitely, go rainbows” and this mofo was like “well some rainbows aren’t that cool”. We are both like…”what the hell? it’s a rainbow! It’s just like automatically amazing.”
Kim left very, very early in the A.M. and it makes me sad still thinking about it. She was such an amazing part of my experience here. And Phrae doesn’t feel the same. It’s like part of it is missing.
Sunday, we woke up, I ate some hummus and falafel for breakfast, bought some good peanut butter, and caught the bus home in time for Zumba. Much to the excitement of the ladies, who had missed me.
Feels really nice to be home.