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A Tale of Two Hostels: Jumping Between Baan Mek and Two Gals and the Pig in Chiang Mai

I’m sitting in the lobby of Two Gals and The Pig, a hostel I am staying with in Chiang Mai, when a Thai woman appears in the doorway, “Ok, she is there now”, getting up, I leave my belongings on the table and run next door, sit down at a table, and proceed to book a room for six nights next week.

Since 2010 whenever I visit Chiang Mai I stay at a guesthouse in the old city. It’s clean and affordable, and the people have always been pleasant; and then one morning I slept in, my phone was on silent and then died, and my friends were looking for me because I was suppose to meet them, and my guesthouse denied ever seeing me and told them I didn’t exist, and they went into a panic thinking something bad had happened to me, but eventually figured out my room number and woke me up. It was a harrowing 90 minutes for them, and a confusing way to wake up for me, and it solidified the doubts I was having about continuing my stay with Gap’s House.

Two days later I checked out of the guesthouse, much to the owner’s surprise, and moved myself to Nimman – an area a short songtheow ride from the old city – and booked a room with Baan Mek, a hostel just off Nimman soi 15. The main floor is narrow and filled with natural light, they have a lobby area with a couple tables and chairs, and atrium with a long table that stretches across its length, which has plenty of outlets and chairs. The rooms look like Japanese sleeping pods; maybe 6ft long and 5ft wide, there is roughly 2.5ft of standing space, the beds are China-hard (the equivalent of sleeping on wood), and the wifi is good. A comfortable and quiet option, until a horde of Chinese tourists arrived, keeping me up until almost 4:00 a.m. – making me question my choice in hostels.

After two nights of no sleep I decided to check out a night early and move to the hostel next door, Two Gals and the Pig, as I needed to be up at 6:00 a.m. and desperately wanted to sleep for more than two or three hours.

A brand new hostel, Two Gals and the Pig is white and fresh and light. The rooms are similar in size to the sleeping pods at Baanmek, but the beds are Thai-hard (they have a little ‘give’), and everything is brand new. Sure, there are still kinks, but the staff are friendly and eager, and not tainted by years of serving annoying backpackers; wifi is good, and while the walls are thin, there is little noise and sleep comes a little easier.

Unfortunately it’s November, and many hotels and hostels are booked due to Loy Krathong, an annual festival which pays tribute to the goddess of water, forcing me to switch hostels occasionally; six nights in one, two nights in another, five more nights in one, one more night in the other.

The relationship between Baan Mek and Two Gals and the Pig is uncommonly friendly; as I ventured to Baan Mek to check out a night early, the owner from Two Gals and the Pig was there talking with the manager from Baan Mek, it was not a secret that I was going next door, yet they still refunded me for one night despite my saying I was happy to still pay for it; and just before I left the staff at Baan Mek assured me that I was more than welcome to come work in their atrium at any time.

A few nights later, as I was figuring out where to sleep for my last week, I walked next door to Baan Mek, but as the manager was not there, I was told to come back. A few hours later a Thai woman appeared in the doorway, “Ok, she is there now”, getting up, I leave my belongings on the table and run next door, sit down at a table, and proceed to book a room for six nights, I then return to Two Gals and the Pig to book a room for my last night in Thailand.

I generally do not bounce from one hostel to another, and definitely not between ones which are next door to each other, but both places are comfortable, affordable, and in an area of Nimman that I love.

Did I Have A Thai Massage with A Happy Ending?

As I sat on a low square faux-leather stool sipping tea from a tiny ceramic cup, a masseuse leaned forward and cupped my left breast, giving it a little squeeze and smiling to herself; I sat, unmoving on the stool, sipping my tea. Did I just have a Thai massage with a happy ending?

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The Chiang Mai Chicken Trifecta

My fingers are sticky and wet, and I can feel juice slowly trickling from the corner of my mouth to my chin; looking around I notice I’m not the only person who decided to eat with my hands, and I feel a sense of relief; I tend to worry about displaying bad manners when eating in a foreign country.

I’m sitting at a small blue metal table with rust spots scattered on the top, the blue plastic stool I’m sitting on seems sturdy enough and I make a mental note to not move around too much; nobody wants to be the farang (foreigner) who breaks a plastic stool. When the chicken is placed in front of me, there are no utensils in sight, but I notice another table eating chicken with their hands, so I decided to do the same.

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Markets: A Glimpse into the Culture and Traditions of Myanmar

It’s early morning and I’ve just walked through a gauntlet of souvenir stalls, locals setting up their wares and getting ready for the onslaught of tourists to hit. At first I was reluctant, I’m not interested in shopping, I want to get a glimpse of local life and culture; and while souvenir hawkers represent a small sliver of a community’s culture, this is not what I had in mind.

Spotting a temple in the distance, I decide to slap a smile on my face, and in my nicest Canadian tone, I greet each local as I pass their stall, ‘Mingalaba‘, and give a gentle nod of my head. Most return my smile and greeting, and thankfully, only a few try to sell me something.

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Sunday Snapshot: Québec City, Canada

I’m going to my second home for this week’s Sunday Snapshot. Welcome to Québec City!

Over the past couple years I’ve spent a lot of time in Québec City, even moving into an apartment in the old city. Ah, I freaking love this city, the European feel, the history, the architecture, the croissants and chocolat chaud. All of it was delicious, and being an anglophone was never an issue. Sure, there was a language barrier, but visiting Québec is like visiting any other place where the main language is not English.

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Watching the Sunset and Rise on Inle Lake

The boat chugged to a stop as we reached Inle Lake and I started cursing myself: I should have known something was up when the guide I had hired told me she wasn’t going with us, leaving me in the boat with a Burmese boy as ‘captain’. Unlike the guide I thought I had hired, my young boat captain only spoke Burmese.

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Sunday Snapshot: Colombo, Sri Lanka

This Sunday I’m taking the snapshot series to one of my most challenging travel destinations, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

As soon as I stepped into Sri Ponnambalawaneswaram Kovil, I felt as though I was stepping into a Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie. Made of South Indian granite the inside of the temple was cool and dark, the only light coming from small windows towards the roof of the temple, and the flicker of candles set about the various shrines. Photographs were not permitted, so I took my time walking around the temple, admiring the intricate hand carved stone, and the Hindu shrines.

I’d love to go back with a sketchbook and pencil, and spend an afternoon inside the temple trying to capture a little of its beauty.

Big Boob Adventures in Myanmar (Burma)

Tourism, mass tourism, is a relatively new concept in Myanmar (Burma). Gone are the days of dead bodies laying in the streets of Yangon, and rolling black-outs that seemed to last for days on end. Life in Myanmar is evolving – and hopefully after the elections this month, the country will continue to grow.

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