Monday, November 27, 2006


Since I didn't take any pictures, you'll have to imagine it. We pull up to a market about 10 km out of town. From the distance you can sort of hear a buzzing sound and when we round the corner, there it is. I would guess around 300 motorbikes all lined up, people milling about, revving this engine and that engine, exhaust wafting out the edges of the building and 3 americans with eyes wide open and insecure looks on their faces. We came to buy motorbikes. Fortunately, we were with Boom, a friend of a friend. Boom is a petit thai woman, who speaks english perfectly accept for her british accent. Boom doesn't necessarily know much about the honda dream or the suzuki crash, but it is safe to say that she know more than we do. She certainly knows more about how the market works and explained that the prices you see are only the starting point, but not to expect to bargain down too much.
Megan was the first to find a bike she loved. She test rode it. I test rode it. Boom negotiated a good price (around 19,000 baht ~500 dollars). Jeff found a sweet ride for 14,000 baht. Now it was up to me. For some reason, I was stuck on getting a 125cc bike (sort of the top end for engine size around here) while Jeff and megan settled for 110 cc. There is a price jump and a significant decrease in number of bikes available when buying a 125cc. I test rode a few. One made a weird clicking sound, another had bad transmission, another stalled frequently. There was one that seemed just right. It was built in 2546 (that is thai calendar for 3 years ago), has 10,000 km on it and seemed zippy. The front brakes didn't work too well but that can be fixed cheaply (about 6 dollars for new brakes it turns out), so I took the plunge and just bought it. We were able to bargain down the price 1000 baht (30 dollars) -yippee- and payed 24,000 for it. I took it to the Honda dealer, they told me it was still under warranty- yippee- gave it a free tune up, changed the oil and now I sure hope it will run well for the year.

So now I am officially here. We have a home, I have a motorbike, I have a membership at the climbing wall, I can count to one million in Thai, and I have had a stomach bug. In fact, just now I'm feeling even more committed because as I write this, I'm on Skype with Verizon Wireless trying to disconnect my US cell phone. So far I have been on the line 20 minutes trying to do this. Why does it take so long? For all the hassle of trying to figure out the cell phone over here, it does seem like the systems are way easier with much less need for crazy call centers.

As it turns out, Jeff took some photos with his new fancy cell phone. Pretty hot.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

A place to live

House shopping was a bit tiring. From what we could gather, the way to rent an apartment or house here is to walk around a neighborhood we might want to live in and if we see a phone number (we can at least recognize numbers if not any other writing) and the front, then it is probably for rent. Since we have our handy dandy cell phones (I still have no idea when they might stop working) we can call the number from right there and hope that the person on the other end speaks some english. In this fashion we found a few homes and condos and became depressed at the quality. After days of this, I saw a phone number on a fence post (no, I didn't want to live on a fence post) and called it. This turned out to be a real estate agent named Nid who took us to a house that was under construction but probably 3000 square feet (too big) and another way out in the country side that was built by a scottish man. This was an awesome house, but the daily commute would have been about 1/2 hour. However, it would be the perfect place for a writer looking for a secluded beautiful place in the country side. If anyone wants to give up their day job and write, let me know. So the real estate agent thing didn't work.
After some frustration, Megan and plopped ourselves down in a wawee coffee (kind of like starbucks but much more thai), drank something that tasted like a meted frappacino, got way too cracked out on coffee and opened a local publication for expats called City LIfe. We found an add for something that seemed too good to be true called the number and found the cutest house in Chiang Mai. It is in the old part of town, down a quite secluded street, owned by an english teacher named Suwy, and cost about 200 dollars per month.

Here is a photo of our kitchen. Yeah it is simple, but this is the way it works. When we looked at places, none of them had kitchens. People simply eat out for every meal. At first this sounds cool, but sometimes, I just want to scramble up some eggs for breakfast.

In order to cook, we needed to buy a wok and some ingredients. So we took a trip to the day market and had an adventures buying some goods. Here are some photos of said market, I like how this lady is surrounded by vegetables. She must climb in at 8 am and not leave until 5. She looks quite at home in her vegies.

So today we go motorcycle shopping at some used motorcycle market. We hear we can get a pretty nice ride for around 500 dollars. Hopefully this is the case. The good news is that there are cheap mechanics everywhere, the bad news is that I have no idea how to look at the motorcycles around here and tell if they are good or bad. We have a thai woman coming with us which is helpful. Hopefully we end up with something sweet.

Oh yeah, and I got sick about 5 days ago which is fine. I knew it was going to happen and I might as well get it out of the way.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Skype Number


Through the miracles of modern technology one can call this number from any phone and talk to me in Thailand. If I'm not online (which I probably won't be) you can leave a voice mail that I will get next time I get online. Try it, it will be fun to here your voice.

Another option is to go to, download the client software and call me (my skype name is mabalick) using your computer. This works well too and allows me to video conference with you. Once I get an apartment I can give you a tour of it using my camera. The catch is that we have to be online at the same time to chat (obviously) and with a 15 hour time difference, this might take some orchestration, but can be done for sure.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I think I got a cell phone in Thailand

There are experiences when you travel that can frustrate you, but while in the midst of them you have to remember that this is why you chose to live overseas- to experience new things and to feel like a gumby.
On our first day here, Megan, Jeff and I went cell phone shopping. After asking around we figured the best place to buy them is at the mall. The mall is a masterpiece of American Culture plopped right down into the middle of Thai bedlam: Sizzler, KFC, McDonalds, Mr. Bun, and 65 cell phone stores. How do you choose which store to go to when the options abound? You go to the one place that looks like it might speak english, of course. We went to the DTAC store (DTAC is one of three telecommunications companies in Thailand), found a woman who spoke some english and spent the next 1 1/2 hours trying to figure out what we were buying. We chose some phones- that part was easy- but then had to pick out a SIM card and a plan. We had heard that there was a plan that allowed me and Megan to talk for free so we asked the woman if this is possible and in response we heard the word "buffet." Buffet? No we don't all you can eat, we just want to talk to each other and then pay whatever it costs for everyone else. "Promotion Buffet!" O.k.... so if we get promotion buffet, then we are good to go. We understood that we had to buy a 300 Baht (Baht is the thai currency) card to activate it. O.k.... I think we should do that? The phones came out of the wrappers, the SIM cards were inserted into the phones and then special numbers were called to activate Promotion Buffet. Great. We were all done. We were grabbing our bags to leave and then I thought to ask how we regenerate our 300 Baht. "No, you don't have 300 baht at all," was the response. " It costs you 300 Baht per month just to activate Promotion Buffet." So now I understood that we had to pay 300 baht per month to talk to megan for free and that I still had to put more money into the account in order to talk to anyone else. I just got a big smile from the sales person in response. Smiles are great, but they aren't too helpful when trying to figure things out. At this point I had to remind myself that I am the one who doesn't speak any Thai, that I am the one who can't make any sense out of the Thai Smile Happy Promotion cell phone programs and that this woman is doing better with me than I would do with her if the roles were reversed.
We left, understanding only that I can make a cell phone call, and I figure I will continue to make cell phone calls until my phone doesn't work anymore and then I will go to the DTAC office and ask how to make it work. It isn't really my style to not understand the subtleties of how something works, but I think I'm going to have to get used to it while I'm over here.

Obviously my life has changed quite a bit since the last post. I seem to remember that Smith was cold, then it got hot, then it rained and we climbed a lot. We traveled back up to Seattle for a few days, packed out lives up into a duffel bag and then jumped an airplane for Thailand. We sat on airplanes for about 30 hours total and arrived in Chaing Mai feeling tired and excited about what is to come. After eating some delicious thai food, we went and got one hour foot massages (for 5 dollars) and then fell fast asleep. The next day we got cell phones (I think) and started searching for apartments. I won't go into too much detail, but most "apartments" are 5 meter by 8 meter boxes with windows at one end and no kitchen. The good news: they cost around 125 dollars per month. The bad news: from what we can tell, this style apartment is pretty much all there is. We checked out a lot of apartments and seem to find the same wherever we go. I'm sure we haven't seen everything yet, but hopefully we can find something a little more livable then a box. On Tuesday, we are going apartment (or maybe house) hunting with Josh who speaks thai and understands how it all works. Perhaps I'll know more by then.

We also met a bunch of great climber/ ex- peace corp/ nice folks at a party last night. It seems like we will make some great friends here and have plenty of people to hang out with.

In short, I am super excited to be here, Thailand is hot, cell phone plans are confusing, don't ride bicycles in Thailand at night time on busy streets when you don't have a light on your bicycle (it took us literally 15 minutes to cross a street- and that was probably one of the most dangerous things I have ever done in my life), the people here are great, and life is good.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

It got even colder at Smith

8 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. It sort of froze everything.

Fortunately, we stayed on our friends' floor those two nights... not that the van wouldn't have kept us warm, but going to the bathroom in the middle of the night wouldn't have been too enjoyable. However, it was generally sunny during the day so the temps would warm up a little. In fact, I think I may have taken off my down coat when I climbed yesterday, but only while I was climbing.
Then the clouds moved in. We heard the pitter-patter of rain on the van last night which encouraged us to sleep in until 9, read harry potter out loud, watch an episode of Alias, and finally break camp at 12:30. That pretty much turned today into a rest day. I went for a jog around Smith (stared at the backbone of the monkey in awe) and here I am in front of a computer at the local Yerba Mate cafe, Santiagos. What sucks is that the forecast for the next week or so is "mostly cloudy with a chance of rain." This is the fall smith that we know so well: wear your down, climb on cold rock, send lots of projects because the rock is super tacky, use heater packs in your chalk bag, hope it doesn't rain or snow, and admit that summer really is over.

That would be a major bummer if we weren't headed to Thailand in 2 weeks!

Below are some links to photos from last weekend. We had a large posse from Seattle come down and siege trout creek. Now... I have to admit that I am currently not so fond of crack climbing, but I had a good old time hanging out with the folks for a weekend. Tim even has some photos of me taking a few falls on Latest Rage at smith. I was trying to get used to falling again, and heh, I might as well have tim take pictures while I do it.

  • Tim Matsui's photos

  • Andreas' photos

  • That's about it for now. Hopefully the weather stays climbable.