Tuesday 6 November – Bus from Chiang Mai to Mai Sai
I finally arrived at 01:20 at the Chiang Mai train station – 5 hours late and after 16.5 hours on the train. Exhausted. It was easy to get to the Poi De Ping Hotel from the train station. A driver drove myself and 6 other people to their places. Mine was about 5 minutes away and the drive cost THB100. One of the staff was waiting for me to arrive.
I did a bit of computer work, had a shower and slept for a bit before waking up at 06:30 to call the Green Bus to see if their early buses to Mae Sai were free, but they only spoke Thai on the message. Went back to sleep after realising I’d just have to get the 12:00 midday bus.
When I woke up and had a shower, one of the staff members took me to the bus station – a 2-minute drive on his motorbike – to get my ticket. I paid THB234 (under AU$8) for a VIP back seat 5B. The staff memeber drove me back and I looked around the area for something to eat, but there wasn’t anything. I ended up leaving earlier to get something to eat at the bus station. I ordered noodles with bean shoots, garlic and chilli for THB30. Not that exciting, but okay. I also bought some snacks at the shops and the 7-11 over the road. I realised when walking back to the station that there was a market down one of the side streets, which would have been fun to explore.
The bus left pretty much on the dot of 12:30. The bus was full and I should have got a seat in front of where I was as their seats reclined more and the head rests could be positioned properly. The bus was quite good with a Western toilet on board. The air conditioning was pretty cold, but I always have extra layers for travel. One of the ladies came around with sweet snacks (not vegan), bread and water.
We stopped at 15:15 for 10 minutes in Chang Rai where I went to the bathroom and bought a red bean pao (Chinese bun) for THB10. Just after Chang Rai there was a police check where a police officer came on board the bus. He looked at my passport and everyone else’s IDs on board. There was a (maybe) Chinese lady behind me who didn’t speak Thai or English and didn’t have any ID. She was taken off the bus – not forcefully – and then we continued on the journey. I was worried about what would happen to her. I asked Holly in Bangkok (who works for a luxury travel company) about it and she said the lady would need to show her ID within 24 hours or be fined or deported. Serious stuff the closer to the Myannmar (Burma) border we get.
I was on the bus to Mae Sai to stay a few nights and cross the Thai/Burma border and back to get an additional 15 days on my passport for Thailand. As I had crossed by land (train) originally I only had a 15-day visa instead of the 30-day visa you get if you fly in. I had looked at all the various ways to border cross and thought that spending a few nights in Mae Sai would be a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle for awhile.
We arrived at the Mae Sai bus station just after 17:00 (we were scheduled to arrive at 17:10), which was pretty impressive. I got a motorbike for THB100 to take me to Khunnam Rimtarn Resort. It was great to breathe in the clean (country) air. After all the Bangkok taxi dramas I had not only written down the address and phone number and taken a photo of the address written in Thai, but I had also taken a photo of the actual map with the hotel on it. It took awhile to find and we drove down a lot of side streets but finally arrived. This looks like a great place for me to be for a while. I maybe able to finally relax here. The bungalow I was staying in looked over a pond with the mountains touching the clouds in the background.
The place was very quiet. Not much English is spoken. My WIFI was set up with the router being moved pretty much opposite my room in the dining area. Very fast WIFI. I will be able to get a lot of work done here. No one was around and it seemed like I was the only guest. If I got scared easily this place would freak me out. It was definitely a great place to shoot a horror movie. I ordered dinner for THB40:
Wednesday 7 November – Mae Sai market
There was a bit of a mix up about my breakfast today. I was meant to organise something when I woke up. I went to the reception to ask for breakfast and one of the sons of the owner organised nasi goreng (fried rice) for me. I walked back to my room and only a few minutes later a young lady bought me some noodles and greens (kway teo), which was great.
About 15 minutes after I’d finished my meal, the receptionist told me my food was ready and would be THB50. The rice had egg in it and I said I wouldn’t eat it but if they could make one without egg I would have it later for lunch. I think we all understood each other in the end but it took awhile.
Here's the view from the back of my room:
I went to the market just down the road on the back of a motorbike with one of the owner’s sons. It started raining when I arrived but it was only a short walk back. Here's a temple:
Nothing too exciting there other than some fruit and snacks. I spent about THB80 on various fruit and some more on snacks at a small shop on the walk back home.
On my way past the reception, I said I would have my dinner at 18:30 tonight. Just a bit later, my meal arrived for me to eat. I said that I wanted it for 18:30 so they brought it back for me later. It was good and THB70:
Thursday 8 November – Myanmar border crossing, Temples & Longneck Tribe
Today I was going to cross the Myanmar order to get my passport stamped, explore the area for a few hours and then get another 15 days on my Thailand visa for the rest of my stay here. Breakfast today was noodles and vegetables in a broth with peanuts floating around. Massive serving for THB50:
I left on a bike with one of the sons at 11:00
We arrived 30 minutes later at a restaurant where a lady spoke English and told me how to get through the Tachilek border. I walked up to the bridge and into the crossing area. No dramas at all – especially when all the guards tell you that you’re beautiful.
I'm an Alien. You can get up to 14 days here.
I paid THB150 for an hour tour of areas in Tachilek on a tuk-tuk. They drive on the other side of the road here. We drove first to Phra Jow La Keng Buddhist Temple:
Here's some of the places you can visit from the driver:
Then to Ta Chi Leik Shwe Da go (Shwedagon) Pagoda where I paid THB10 for flowers from the lady on the right. My tour guide is on the left.
I offered the flowers to a Buddha statue on my day of birth Tuesday.
I remembered later that it’s really Thursday so whatever was meant to happen didn’t I guess. My guide showed me around and I got some photos.
Isn't the Pagoda and the day beautiful?
I then bought some supposedly hand-painted cards from her for THB200 – such a sucker for these ladies. At least I can send these to my family and friends instead of postcards. I was quite taken aback by the visual below. The beauty of the area and the scenery below with all the rubbish in front:
There was a lot of Buddha statues in another area as well:
Then the tuk-tuk driver drove me near the Regina Hotel golf club
To Regina Hill Tribal Village
Where I paid THB140 (which seemed ridiculous but it’s only AU$4.50) to see the Karen people of the Regina Hill Long Neck tribe . I walked around and got some photos of the area:
Some photos of the people who wear the rings around their neck as a symbol of wealth - the more you have, the weatlthier you are.
Here's the view from the top:
The ladies weave some lovely goods that you're pressured to buy as soon as you walk up the steps.
Here's a video I took:
I felt obliged to buy a scarf that I hope my Mum will like. We then drove back to the entry point, as it was an hour already on the tuk-tuk.
I walked back over the bridge
had my passport stamped for another 15 days in Thailand. Walked around in the market area for a bit before I went back to the restaurant. The Khunnam Rimtarn Resort staff member then drove me to the bus station to get my Green Bus ticket for tomorrow back to Chiang Mai. I wanted to get the 09:45 bus but as it was booked out I had to get the 08:15 instead.
We drove back home - and he wouldn’t accept any money from me - around 15:00 and I had lunch for THB40:
Computer work for the rest of the night and dinner at 19:00 for THB40:
Friday 9 November – Bus from Mai Sai to Chiang Mai
Woke up early and walked over to get my breakfast a bit after 07:00. The young lass was just finishing cooking my meal of stir fried vegetables:
The owner’s son drove me to the bus station, which only took 10 minutes. Wouldn’t accept any money from me – just to come again next year. The Green Bus was scheduled to leave at 08:15. Arrived at the station at 08:10 and left pretty soon after. Here's what a traditional toilet looks like at the bus station. This one is raised from the floor:
When the bus left there were snacks (not vegan) and water handed out. We stopped for a police check at about 08:30 where our IDs were checked. There was a sniffer dog who went into the bag compartment underneath. I had to get off the bus and open my bag due to the food I had in there. Wasn’t a worry and gave the dog a lot of pats but I remembered my Mum saying something about the bag I borrowed and that it may contain traces of drugs due to the owner of said bag. Not the case.
30 minutes later there was another police check, this time no dogs. We arrived on time just before 13:00 in Chiang Mai. I got a tuk-tuk for THB150 to my place Grace Boutique Hotel. Not sure if I’ll stay in this place for the 6 nights I’ve booked. Had issues with the WIFI and I’m right next to the lobby area. Plus as with a lot of the budget places I stay in, the staff always try to sell you tours all the time. I’m not interested.
Walked around for a while, the map I have is pretty bad. There’s so many little side streets and lanes (Sois.) Found a veg place Tien Sieng Veg Foods on Prapokklao Road opposite Soi2 (lane 2). Here's their menu board:
I ordered from the bain-marie rice with kang kong, mushrooms and young jackfruit for THB30 (under AU$1)
Two takeaway bags at THB20 each for pumpkin and beans
Some raw rolls (THB25) and a tofu and seaweed snack for THB20. Good meal.
I asked the girls to show me where we are on the map and even they can’t work it out. Walked back down some different roads. Spoke to a local guy at an intersection for a while, he’s lived in Chiang Mai all of his life. People in Bangkok said that Chiang Mai is cold and for me to buy a jacket. It’s not cold at all.
Had a Thai massage at Kad Klang Vieng Plaza pretty close to where I’m staying. A loft of stretching and twisting involved. When I walked back I couldn’t find the key and it’s not it the room. I must have lost it, which is really bizarre for me, as I never lose things. Worked on the computer, had takeaway and wasted a few hours watching the Rock of Ages movie.
Saturday 10 November – Exploring Chiang Mai
Slept in and stayed in most of the day focused on various computer work. Found the door key in my diary planner. Good, thought I was losing my mind. I have come to the realisation that I just will not be able to fit everything in that I'd like to do. I have to be in Surabaya, Indonesia for a vegan event just before Christmas and I want to stay with Irene in Magelang for a bit before that. I'm just not going to be able to travel to the four countries I want to - Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia - in that time. Unfortunately Cambodia will have to wait until next time as will other things I want to do in the other countries. Three countries in just over a month. Can it be done?
Late afternoon I walked to Mun Muang Road where I found the AUM Vegetarian Restaurant near the Tha Phae gate. I would come back here for dinner. Walked down this road and the side streets that run parallel to the moat and one of the 3 walls surrounding Chiang Mai.
Found a great street Ratchamanka with the Juicy 4 U restaurant I had read about in Lonely Planet. There were also other healthy restaurants, massage, acupuncture and two second-hand book stores. I hadn’t had room to fit any books in my backpack so I finally bought a couple of books to read. I’d only been ready my Lonely Planet guide since August. I bought Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory and Tina Fey’s Bossypants at Lost Books.
Walked back and had dinner at AUM Vegetarian Restaurant with a great upstairs area, good range of food with no MSG. I ordered a carrot juice THB50 as they were out of fresh coconuts. Also fried pumpkin, mushroom, tofu, hairy (!) basil leaves and brown – really red – rice THB50:
They had an extensive menu with a lot of stir-fried dishes, a lot of tofu, nori rolls and even and all-day breakfast – but not that great for vegans. I ate here and then walked home.
Sunday 11 November – Juicy 4 U & Beetroot Stories
Walked though the markets on the other side of the Tha Phae gate on Chaiyaphum Road. Very hot day. I found a great juice place at the markets and ordered a coconut and banana juice for THB30 – yum. Found a stationery store by following my instincts and walked around for a few hours along the Chaiyaphum Road moat
and down to Kantam corner:
Here's Wat Saimoonmuang:
I then walked to Juicy 4 U for lunch: a whole wheat grain sandwich. For THB95 (just over AU$3) you could choose up to 10 fillings. I chose lettuce, cucumber, tomato, bean sprouts, beetroot, carrot, spinach, tofu, raisins and avocado:
I ended up meeting and having lunch with Mark from Melbourne who is in Chiang Mai for a month. Had a great chat and he may come to the Elephant Nature Park with me on Tuesday. Walked back through the market to get another juice, this time coconut and passionfruit. Pity she’s only here on Sundays.
Caught up on some computer work and then walked to the walking market.
Bought some black sesame pancakes THB10:
Went to dinner at Kad Klang Vieng Plaza at Beetroot Stories Vegetarian Café. Nee the owner learned about farming from the women farmers in her family – her mother and grandmother. They use local, organic and sustainable growers for all the food. The place isn’t fully vegan, but there are a lot of veg options. I ordered the Tom Khahet - mushrooms in coconut milk soup served with Thai herbs THB70:
Monday 12 November – BaMOMboo Café & Gap’s House
Caught up on some computer work and then walked around trying to find some vegan places listed on Happy Cow.I wanted to find Ban Duang Dee a restaurant behind the temple (wat) of the same name. Couldn’t find it and the people I asked had no idea either. However I did find May Kaidee’s. Also couldn’t find Healthy Veggie that I had tried to find the other day as well.
Here's a temple:
There was a park with a lot of yellow flags/lights:
There are many temples, everywhere you look
This one is Wat Phanohn:
They had a great recycling station:
Walked back to BaMOMboo Café, a place I had walked past before who advertised a tofu burger.
The café was part of Recreational Sports Medicine (RSM) International School Company. I had the tofu burger with ginger dressing and organic vegetables from their garden for THB80:
I think my photo is pretty impressive.
Here's another temple:
Went home to do some computer work before heading out at 19:00 around a few corners to Gap’s House a great restaurant, guesthouse and cooking school. I would love to stay here but they don’t book accommodation – it’s first in first served basis with no knowing how long people will stay for! That’s ridiculous for my organisational mind.
Every night except Sunday they have a THB90 buffet
Here's what I had:
They have a great sign about not putting too much on your plate.
Tuesday 13 November – Mai Kaidee’s & Muay Thai
Computer work in the morning then I walked a different way to Tien Sieng Vegetarian Foods where I ordered a plate of noodles for THB20:
Headed to Mungkala acupuncturist I had seen yesterday on Ratchamanka Street. Saw Mon Beauty and Barber and got my arms waxed for THB250 (just over AU$8.) They also had Ringing in their shop – little insects eating something that looks like popcorn.
This is meant to bring good luck to your business. I had never seen this before:
Mungkala was closed until 14:00 so I walked around and had a juice at Juicy 4 U. They also had Ringing, which means “like the bells of luck.” Isn’t it true that once your eyes are opened to something that you see it everywhere. I ordered a banana, coconut and ginger smoothie with soy milk for THB60 – which sounded amazing. It was.
I walked down Moon Mueang Road past the Tha Phae Gate
and found Green Bamboo Massage, a massage school that gave massages. For THB200 (approx AU$6.50) I had a 50-minute massage for my shoulders, back and head. It was pretty impressive. I also like the fact that even though I had ordered the shoulders, back and head massage, other parts of the body were not forgotten.
Later on that night I met Mark and his friend Carolyn just out the front of where I was staying. We walked down Ratpakinai Road to May Kaidee’s. We ordered Vegetarian Spring Rolls, not fried:
Mark ordered Shitake Mushroom with Glass Noodles baked in olive oil:
Carolyn ordered the Yum Ma Kua – lemon eggplant salad with cashew nut and spicy juice:
I ordered the vegetarian fish made from seitan with seaweed and coconut milk. We all ordered Black Sticky Rice with banana and mango for dessert. The total of all of our meals was THB410 (just over AU$13.)
Then we walked up to the Kalare Boxing Arena, behind the Kalare Night Bazaar. They have muay thai matches every Tuesday and Friday nights from 21:00 to 24:00.
Mark and Carolyn went back to where they were staying and I followed my nose in the direction of the Tiger Balm to the arena. I paid THB400 for the fights, a free bottle of water and an escort to my special seat.
It was about 20:00 and we were in the midst of the second match with Graipeht vs Jongrak in the 60kg division. Jongrak won. Then Hongugoen vs Phaitong.
Hongugoen seemed like he was a teacher of muay thai as there were a lot of (Western) people cheering him on.
He fell through the stage boundaries a few times.
It was quite entertaining. Phaitong won this match.
Next up were two young boys weighing 45kg, Lannatai vs Phetbandon. It was a good fight for two young boys. Throughout the bouts the young commentator who spoke in English amused us with his dialogue and his interaction with the older Thai-speaking commentator. There was a lot of tiger balm and deep heat and a hell of a lot of stretching; along with a healthy dose of advice, constructive criticism or just yelling at the fighters by some of the Thai crowd.
Next up were some more young guys also 50kg, Wultideat vs Captaindom where Wultideat won. The last battle was in the 62kg division with Kanit vs Slawut. Kanit won. It was really great to be amidst the excitement of the matches and watching the locals interacting. I paid THB60 to get back and arrived just after midnight. It was a great night.
Wednesday 14 November – Taste From Heaven, Acupuncture & Gap’s House
I need to buy some new thongs (flip flops) today:
This is the main aim and acupuncture. I walked over the moat to Taste From Heaven on Thaphae Road where Mark, Carolyn and I had walked past last night. They had a really great menu. I ordered Fresh Spring Roll – rice paper wrap with lettuce, carrot, bean sprouts, cucumber, sweet basil, red cabbage and tofu with homemade tamarind sauce for THB60:
Along with a coconut shake THB50 and a Cinnamon and Caramel vegan cake for THB65:
I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn’t had cake for awhile. Some of the proceeds for the restaurant go to Elephant Nature Park where I’m going tomorrow. They have vegan and vegetarian cooking classes, a lot of quotes on their menu along with a list of famous veg people and they sell their curry mixes in bulk.
I walked quickly to Ratchamanka Street for my acupuncture appointment at Mungkala and just made it on time for my 12 midday appointment. I’ve been having some pain in my left knee and wanted to get it fixed. This started just when I arrived in Koh Tao and I think it’s from carrying my backpack. The initial appointment was THB200 plus THB500 for the actual acupuncture. Total is approximately AU$24. The acupuncturist said to get another appointment in the next few days, hopefully somewhere in Laos, my next country to visit.
Next up, I walked to the Than Phae market near the Tha Phae gate to get my thongs. For THB100 I bought a pretty fuchsia pair with flowers that going just great with the pink flowery dress I’m wearing today.
I know that a few of my friends would say to me “too much pink!” My tattoo says transcend meaning to go above and beyond. It's an inspirational message to myself to always do better than I have. That's my own writing/font.
I went to Tien Sieng to get takeaway for late lunch after THB20:
I walked back and worked on my blog until about 19:00 when I walked around a few corners to Gap’s House for buffet dinner THB100:
When I got back home I packed up and was ready for the morning and to leave.
Thursday 15 November – Elephant Nature Park
Started a new journal book today. I was picked up at 08:30 by Narissa from Elephant Nature Park with 7 other people. We drove in a mini van about 65 km to the park. We watched a really great documentary The Elephant’s Hope from Tristan and Vanessa the stars of Animal Planet show Caught in the Moment.
When we arrived at the park, we fed the elephants fruit
Pic by Billie:
Here's the supply section:
Here's the view from the feeding area:
We walked around and met various elephant herd families.
There are over 30 elephants here and some water buffalo:
One of the girls, Billie asked me about my shoes. I said a friend runs a store called The Chocolate Shoebox in Seattle in the USA where she sells vegan shoes and vegan chocolate. I got them from there. Billie is also vegan, from the UK and travelling solo like me. Pity we hadn’t met earlier as we got on famously.
We walked over to the area where there was a baby boy
Another female who helps look after the young one:
This baby male elephant was only a month old.
Everyone was very enamoured by him. Who wouldn't be?
He was shy and couldn't work out why everyone was fascinated by him.
And here's a video:
This cat is definitely not impressed:
Then we helped the elephants by giving them a drink of water:
Pic by Billie:
Here's the Safety Rules:
We had lunch at midday – a great buffet of all vegetarian and mostly vegan food.
Here's what I had:
A lot of people work here and there’s a lot of volunteers. They get about 40 volunteers each week. Not only are there elephants, but there’s also a dog rescue area where 300 dogs live. Various dogs wandered around, interacting with elephants and humans. Some of them didn’t like to be touched so these dogs had a red ribbon around their necks so everyone would know.
After lunch, we changed into our water gear as we were getting to wash the elephants! This is done everyday and straight after the elephants throw mud or dirt all over themselves as protection from the heat and Sun.
This was a pretty amazing experience.
This gal would rather wash herself:
There were a lot of people to help out:
After getting clean it's time to get dirty all over again:
Dirt is good. Mud is even better:
Many of the elephants have been rescued from circuses or from street busking – as in the elephants perform tricks on busy streets to get money for their keepers. Luckily I hadn’t seen this in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, both busy and chaotic cities. Amidst the chaos, these elephants walk in and out of the intense traffic. Elephants pick up the vibrations with their feets so I’m sure this would be an extremely overwhelming experience for them.
Some of the elephants have stepped on landmines in Myanmar (Burma) so they have bits of their feet missing. Some have had bones broken years ago that over time have fused into awkward positions for them - like the elephant on the right.
Some of their feet look like this (photo by Billie):
None of them are on any kind of pain medication, which is quite ridiculous. But I guess they’ve been trained to not express the pain they are feeling. Here's the elephants all walking back from their baths:
Pic by Billie:
Here's the view:
We then looked at the clinic where we saw one of the elephants getting her infected foot cleaned.
Billie, my new vegan friend, is a vet nurse so she was excited about this and the possibility of volunteering here at some stage. Here's an elephant's tooth with my guitar pick on it to show the enormous size:
Here's the whiteboard info about elephant anatomy, biology and behaviour:
And their characteristics:
There were a lot of times where the elephants were eating and people would mingle around to get photos. The females were calm but some of the males could be aggressive so we were told to be careful at certain times. The main thing I liked about Elephant Nature Park is that they don’t offer rides to tourists or get the elephants to do any tricks. Unlike all the other elephant places that the place I was staying at tried to force me into visiting. This seems like the best way to see rescued elephants and if you have time, to volunteer.
We then watched a documentary about the lovely lady Lek Chailert who started Elephant Nature Park. It was a story about how she rescued one of the baby boys, Hope, after his mother died. Hope is quite a star at the elephant park and acts like it a great deal as well. Lek ended up buying Hope from the small village to spare him from be “broken” – a horrible way to make the elephants submissive so they will do whatever the handlers want them to do. Some of the footage was really horrible and horrific with men poking, prodding and tormenting these baby elephants until they are completely submissive. Equally bad was seeing sons mimic their fathers’ atrocious behaviour.
Luckily, the mood was lightened by one of the rescue dogs who jumped up onto the projector screen, trying to chase one of the dogs on the screen. It was excessively amusing and happened various times when other dogs and especially chickens would appear magically for him to play with.
I love this photo of the elephant smiling at me:
What a view:
And one last photo of the elephant herd:
We left about 16:00 to be driven back to our accommodation. Billie was literally two doors down from where I had been staying in Chiang Mai. Pity we were both going our separate ways in the morning as it would have been great to travel around with her. Billie will fortunately be heading to Australia soon so we will catch up in Brisbane when I return home in February.
When we were driving on the main street, I saw Markus and David who I’d been diving with in Koh Tao – small word, especially for travellers. I was driven to my new place, Baan Thai Resort & Spawhere I would stay the night before flying to Laos in the morning. It was a lovely old teak Thai place. I planned to leave yesterday but as the Elephant Nature Park tours were sold out then, I stayed an extra night so I could see the elephants.
I had dinner at One-D’s pub next door. I ordered a Pineapple and melon juice shake without millk THB49 and stir fry with water morning glory without oyster sauce THB59:
The pub played MOR-type songs sung by Thai girls. I was in bed early. Such a great day.
Friday 16 November – Chiang Mai to Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse, Laos
I woke up early and left at 06:15 to be at the airport by 06:30. I caught a taxi for THB150. Got there on time and straight onto the plane. Left at 07:15 and arrived on time around 08:30 in Ubon Ratchathani.
I had to walk out of the airport area to get a cab or a bike. It took me awhile to work this out. I was wondering why no one would pick me up. Caught a motorbike for THB100 and it only took about 10 minutes to get to the bus station. I bought a bus ticket from Ubon Ratchtani to cross over to Pakse in Laos where I would get off at the Laos border to get my visa and then get back on the bus and drive through to Pakse.
I had takeaway friend rice with no meat or egg for THB 40
Caught the 09:30 bus which would take about 3 hours. I had the front seat A1. In about 90 minutes we were at the border where I paid THB 1300 (approx AU$30) for my Laos visa. I filled in the paperwork and went to another counter to pick up my passport. It was a bit chaotic, people were yelling out for their passports and there was no real organisational process followed. I finally got my stamped passport back.
I waled over to Phong Savanh Bank over the road from the visa area and changed my Thai Baht to Laos Kip. On the bus door there was a sign saying they would only allow 15 minutes to get our visa but we were there for at least 30 minutes.
Walked to departures, through an underground tunnel, got the Laos stamp and the bus met us on the other side. They also drive on the other side of the road here. Met a German couple - the Gemans are everywhere – and some friendly Thais. Overall it was a painless process.