Saturday, February 28, 2009

Well Wouldn't You Know It

You never know when the battery on your camera is going to crap out.

I was minding my own. Dropping off laundry at the cheapest place I've seen (7000 kip per kilo). Where inside the house I get invited to sit down with Ban and his guest for a little birthday celebration.
What it really looks like at first is a bunch of dudes sitting around (on the floor), singing Lao karoke, drinking a bunch of BeerLao and eating some food that's on a cirular ratan 'coffee table'.
But at second glance it's a bunch of dudes sitting around singing, drinking, eating and celebrating Ban's birthday.

I mean how can I say no when I'm being invited in to eat and drink. And these guys were on the last bottle of a case of big BeerLao bottles, and half way through my stay one of their ladies brought in another case. And by case I mean plastic milk carton looking thing with 12 big bottles of beer.

After about 15 minutes or so of listening to Lao karoke I was looking for the exit and made a break, I rustled everyone together for a group pic and sure enough my battery was dead. Oh well, the memory will remain. But when I go to leave I see that one of the guys took off with my flip-flops.

So I settle back in on the floor for a couple more glass fulls of BeerLao, some exclent grilled Buffalo, sauteed veggies and 'hot-pot' chicken broth/chicken chunks thing complete with feet.
But then some more people started to come including the ladies and one of the youngens was sent out for some "Spy' wine coolers for the hens. Classic.
Guys sitting around drinking beer, eating and singing. And the ladies gossiping around over on the couches. Sounds pretty universal to me.


Goyea Deeow

Thailand had/has street food everywhere. On every street there seems to be someone with a cart full of ingrediants and a wok set over a burner blasting on ultra-high. They whip up fried-rice, pad-thai, sauteed veggies, cheaply, quickly and semi-healthaly. (They use a lot of oil. One might say too much oil.)

But here in Laos, there aren't as many street vendors (street markets aside). And in neither spot are there "Stir-friers". But. What they do have is noodle soup. They have it like it's nobody's business.

I rode around the other night on my bike looking for some stir-fried. But instead found like 10 soup places in a matter of 45 minutes.

Granted it is pretty, well, really good. Fresh noddles. Fresh greens. Roasted garlic. Good chicken broth. (I think it's usually chicken, but sometimes I'm not so sure what kind of stock it is) And some meat on top of it. Garnished with a big chunk of lime, some scallions and a bit of lemongrass stalk cut up. And then you toss in some oily chili paste, a bit of soy-sauce, sugar, maybe some fish sauce if you're really feeling Lao. Basically condiments aboud at these places.

Oh, as an aside. I had Goyea Deeow at this one spot the other day they also gave out some peanut sauce (think satay sauce) and a bowl full of raw veggies to dip in the sauce. Wholy crap talk about good. The place was in an alley and totally funky. And for some reason, even though the satay sauce came from a plastic tup sitting on the rickety bench that served as a table, it was warm...that was very peculier.

Any way.
Some places give you a pretty good handful of noodles. But I had to have three bowls after my ride today to even get close to being full. It's hard to imagine having one bowl and thinking, "Dang. I'm full up. Won't need to eat again till dinner time, six hours from now."

Even though it's really good, and I love noodles like tweens love Uggs, I just can't eat it every meal. I think once a day will suffice, and the search for cheap stir-fry will continue.

Oh blog

How I neglect you.

I'd like to say that it's due to the spotty internet here in LPB. Or due to the high cost of internet: 6000 kip an hour!!!! (that's like 75 cents....) Or due to all the training, sleeping and eating I've been doing. (there are still a bunch of hours in the day)

Actually I'm having a pretty good week of running and biking up here in Laos. The weather is perfect. But yesterday and today the air quality has plumeted. It's the time of year when there's a lot of burning going on and no rain to flush out the skies. But there looks like there is a chance of some precipt in the next couple of days.

Had a pretty sweet 110 k's on the bike this morning. Waved to a bajillion kids and yelled "Sawbadee". I thought that the main (only?) road out of town and down to Vientiane would be loaded with cars, busses and trucks. But it was acually pretty quite.

I'll upload some pics once I get to a comp that'll read my camera....In Thailand perhaps?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wholy mind trip

So after three days of traveling, six buses, six tuk-tuks and a song-taw I made it to laos. Tuk-tuks are miserable inventions too I might add. They seem cute and foreign and authentic the first time you see them, but the drivers are always hassling you and they're overpriced to boot.

But what really mixed me up was not really knowing what the exchange rate for the Laos Kip was. I was just getting comfortable with the Baht at a 30/1 ratio. Everything is divisible my 3 (or so) and that math was going pretty well.
I think I checked yesterday online to find out what the Kip:Dollar conversion was but I must have forgotten.
I thought I recalled something like 6000:1 from three years ago when I was here. So I was going with that.
Still a multiple of three so I thought I could work with that.

I finally made it to the tourista area from the bus station and before that from the Friendship Bridge, which sounds more glamorous than it is by the way. Then I spent like an hour and a half wandering around looking for a cheapish guesthouse. Most of them were either full or started at like 150,000 kip.

I happened to walk by a closed money exchange shop and the exchange is 8380:1 or so. 8000! Nothing is divisible by 8! So all evening I've been struggling to figure out how much things cost in both dollars and baht. Man it's a struggle I tell you.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oh lord stuck in Loie again

So it turns out it's really hard to order Isan (that's the region) Thai food without an English menu, only being able to speak limited Thai and with Thai staff that speak no English. And there's a table full of middle-aged Thai guys getting drunk at 3 on a Saturday afternoon that only know how to say, "Oh, Hello!.....Oh!" and then a whole bunch of Thai gibberish.

I went down the street and settled for a shiska-bob and some rice. The latter was actually really hard to get. There were like 20 food stalls on this closed street and most of them didn't have rice (hard to belive I know) and the one that I found that did was very confused when I only wanted rice from them. Fried rice? Pepper rice? Rice with chicken? Mai! Mai! Just rice. I did finally get it though. Stupid Farang.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oh, and the training.

So I'll have to do more of a formal page on the swimming pools here in Chiang Mai. But the short of it is that there are plenty of them. Two 50 meter pools that I've found. One of which is at the 700 year sports complex, which was built for the S.E. Asia games held here in the early '90s. But there are at least 6 other pools that I know of. Four of which I've seen.

Currently I'm swimming at the pool at the Physical Education College's sport complex. (which is only a couple minutes away by bike or run) The pool is pretty nice, clean, but wicked cold. None of the pools are heated, and this one happens to have a big open air roof over it, so it gets very little sun. But it's only 30 baht, despite the sign that says for members and Thai people only. I'm neither.

And there are plenty of lovely (steep) hills to ride through. Since Chiang Mai is a pretty big town there is a fair amount of traffic 'till you get deeper into the country. But never the less the roads are in good condition and there's flatter farm land to roll through that breaks up the hill ridding.
(this is a shot of the traffic waiting at a light to cross the 'superhighway')

So far good running has proven to be the toughest thing to find. Running through the city is abysmal. Way too many street crossing and traffic etc. The best bet close to town is to do loops around the big stadium that also happens to be at the Phys Ed grounds. Boring yes. But the smell of squid grilling keeps you from staying in one place.

To be fair I've that on the edge of town by Doi Suthep there are trails to run on. I know there's a lot of mtb biking the comes down the mountain. But w/o a motorbike the trails are neither easy to find nor very accessible.

Who wants a sunburn?

Yes you do! Yeah! Oh, who's gonna get sunburn? Come and get it! Here boy!

I've been pretty good abut buttering up with the sunscreen. But it was cloudy yesterday morning. I was only gonna ride for like 90 minutes. Plus I've got a pretty good base for a white boy right?

Well. Yeah. Except that I didn't ride in the morning, the clouds lifted about half way into my ride. (can't you get burnt through overcast skies anyway?) My ride ended up being 120 minutes. And then I ran for another 30 min in the direct sun.

Plus I made the wise decision to wear my tri kit....which I haven't really worn yet since being here. Here's the result:

Roti Mataba!

Wow this stuff is good. I don't know about you. But I've never really seen 'roti' before. Much less roti packed with curried chicken. It's basically fried dough or sorts. The sweet stuff is all over the place. And by all over the place I mean at all the street food vendor locales plus there are guys pushing carts around ready to make an instant roti.

Roti is a pretty thin dough that gets oil fried on a big shallow pan. The sweet stuff usually has banana in it, sometimes with the addition of an egg, and then is covered with condensed milk and chocolate sauce, or no chocolate and sugar. (just dough with milk and sugar seemed to be a popular option with the Thais too)

Don't get me wrong. This stuff is amazing. It probably scores abut a two on the health factor. (that would be the banana rising it from a 1) And since it's not deep fried it seems to be not so bad for you. But if I said that I'd be lying.

Well Mataba is the Roti dough filled with amazing Muslim curried chicken. I had to have two. Again, not the highest scoring of health foods. But can i say that my three hour a.m. bike ride negated the oil? I'd like to.