Finding a wifi extender in Thailand

Every time that I’ve needed something in Thailand it seems like my internet searches always lead me to the same place, a forum called ThaiVisa.com. Monday was no exception. When our internet signal still had problems after talking to the management we decided to get a wifi extender. This meant that we needed to find an electronics store in Chiang Mai. I read this thread and while it wasn’t exactly a wifi extender that they were talking about I thought that it was similar enough that I would be able to find what I was looking for.

Funny story, whenever I find something on ThaiVisa.com it’s usually a post that’s 2-3 years old. While I’m an optimist my boyfriend isn’t really. When we were looking for razor blades I spent the whole drive hoping that he wouldn’t ask me how old the post was, because I knew that he wouldn’t want to bother if he found out it was from 2013. After we found the razorblades I admitted this to him. He told me that he was wondering how old the post was but forgot to ask! Good thing I got lucky and the shop was still around!

Entrance to Icon. Not me in the photo!
Entrance to Icon. Not me in the photo!

Finding Icon was a little tricky, it’s moved to a building next door to it’s location on google maps. Either that or because of the streets you have to follow a circuitous route to get to the entrance. Luckily there were some signs posted on the nearby buildings and we were able to find it. There is even some scooter parking right outside the entrance, a definite plus.

Pretty dark in here but I tried to take a photo for you anyway!
Pretty dark in here but I tried to take a photo for you anyway!

Inside Icon is a collection of smaller shops sharing space in a large open floor. We weren’t sure how to navigate the store, but eventually we found some wifi routers. We started talking to the salesperson and tried to explain what we were looking for. As we talked I managed to spot one on a shelf which made things a lot easier! It was twice as expensive as one you can buy on Amazon.com back home, but with shipping it probably would have been the same price. Plus shipping from the US would take up to 30 days and we really needed it as soon as possible!

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For dinner we went to Birds of Paradise again. The fried fish with chili sauce was good, but not as good as the fish with three sauces dish. They also have lots of drinks and Western food that we should try sometime.

After dinner we picked up some beer at the 7-11 across the street and talked about living in Thailand. Overall it’s a lot different than we all thought it would be! Definitely easier than I was expecting. I’m having a lot of fun and I’m glad we decided to take a chance and come to Thailand!

Taking our scooter into the mountains of Chiang Mai

Yesterday we went up to Huai^ dtung tao^ on our scooters. It was a fun ride! We finally escaped the city and got to see some of the more rural villages.

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We stopped at this look out point to take in the epic view. Unfortunately my iPhone just didn’t have the capability to capture the full majesty of it. The mountains off in the distance created these varied blue shadows that looked awesome in person. You will have to use your imagination!

Looks dark but it really wasn't that day, it's just the contrast. I will have to try and fix it in Photoshop/
Looks dark but it really wasn’t that day, it’s just the contrast. I will have to try and fix it in Photoshop/

After riding around for a while we stopped at this Strawberry themed cafe. The hot chocolates and mocha we ordered in the restaurant were good, but I would recommend skipping the strawberry sodas and strawberry wine. The wine tastes a little like rubbing alcohol and the sodas taste exactly like strawberry jam. Below is the view from the outdoor cafe.

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We managed to go around the whole mountain in about three hours, not too bad! I know the guys had a lot of fun taking out their scooters.  We will definitely be back to check out more of the stops along the way next time.

What we did our first week in Chiang Mai

Today is Sunday and it has been exactly one week since we arrived in Chiang Mai. A lot has happened already! Unfortunately our internet has been down for the past few days, but after talking to the apartment manager it seems to be back and much better than before.

On Wednesday night we went to the Chubby Cat Cafe. It’s a business where you pay to meet with other people and play boardgames. Sort of like a social club. It was 30 baht per hour for each person, since we stayed for two hours we ended up paying 120 baht, or about $4 USD. Not too bad! It was a lot of fun and we met quite a few people. There were about half expats and half Thai people playing. The majority of people spoke English most of the time, but we overheard some conversations in Thai. First we played Age of War a couple of times, then we played a game called Shadow Hunters. I didn’t really know the rules so I didn’t play that well but it was still fun.

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On Thursday after Thai class we took our scooters up into the nearby mountains to the Monthathan Falls Nature Trail. It was nice to get out of the city. Plus it was a lot cooler up there! This photo is one of the first waterfalls that we saw. It was right next to the parking lot.

We decided to go on hike to see some of the other waterfalls. I’m not sure of the name of the trail, but there was a warning that only young and healthy people should go on this hike. Far from the leisurely stroll that we were expecting! Half of the trail was steep uneven steps, and quite a few of the boards were coming loose! We managed to get through it but I think it was a little too hard for me. There were some spectacular waterfalls a long the way so if you’re athletic it’s definitely worth checking out.

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On Friday we didn’t do much of anything, we were too exhausted from the rest of the week! I think we spent a lot of time in bed watching shows on my laptop.

Saturday was fun, we went to another boardgame meet up. This one was at the Merkatto Cafe, a meerkat themed coffee shop. Since this was a cafe and not a social club you don’t have to pay anything to play, they just asked that you buy some drinks. We saw a lot of the same people that we met at the Chubby Cat Cafe there. We played Alhambra, then Red Planet. Unfortunately my back hurt a bit so we left kind of early, but I still had a good time!

Today was also an action packed one but I managed to get a little sunburned and I’m not feeling great right now. I will have to update another time.

Transitioning from vacation to long term living

Today was the first day we used both scooters to commute to class. It went really well! My boyfriend says that we are riding smoothly and that whatever I’m doing on the bike is good, he feels stable and in control :). I just try to stay parallel to the bike at all times. It’s actually harder than you’d think, I have to anticipate turns and sometimes when he stops suddenly our helmets bump, but I’m getting better at preventing that.

During the first part of our Thai class the teacher decided not to use air conditioning. I was baking! At one point I literally thought that I had a fever. Needless to say it was hard to pay attention. I think that’s why I felt like today was the hardest one so far, and that’s also probably why I’m so tired now.

After class we took the scooters to check out this place called the Chubby Cat Cafe. It doesn’t actually have food but we might go to a boardgame meet up later tonight so we thought it was worth it to scout out the location. We were still hungry for lunch though so we decided to find a place nearby.

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About one block from the Chubby Cat Cafe is a noodle restaurant that is delicious! I wish I wrote down the name of it but I didn’t think about that until we were home. Maybe I will have the opportunity when we go back tonight. I ordered the Seafood bowl with squid, scallops, and prawns. It was also really spicy, but after that crazy spicy noodle bowl that I had in Bangkok I feel like I can handle anything.

Then we came home to do some laundry and watched one of the shows that I have on my laptop. It’s interesting to live long term in a foreign country for the first time. You start “wasting” your time on some of the things that you used to do in your down time back home. While we were in Bangkok we did multiple things per day and I never had any time to browse the internet or watch something on my computer. You can’t live like that all the time though, plus now we have chores like doing the laundry and making dinner to contend with.

Settling in to life in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Today was the second day of our Thai class, and it was just as packed as the first day!

I know the general format of the class now. First we review the tones and sounds of the language, then do a little review. After that we head to the computer lab to introduce ourselves to the next chapter on our own. Then to wrap up we go back to the classroom to cover the new chapter as a group.

It seems to work well! I am picking up a lot and it takes me until the end of class to get really exhausted.

When class was over we made our way downtown for some lunch and to check out the scooters again. As I said in my last post Chiang Mai is not very walkable and after spending way too much on a tuk tuk to get us to class this morning we were both ready to find some wheels. Since I can’t ride a motorcycle we decided to get a bigger scooter and to ride together. It seems in keeping with what the locals do and I think that it will be much safer that way.

I actually left the guys to check out the scooters at this point. It was hard to get a Song tau to drive me back to the apartment by myself, but I finally managed to find someone that would drive me for 60 baht. Way too much! But hopefully it is the last time I will pay for a song tau for a while.

I did my Thai homework for a while then my boyfriend came home with a brand new scooter! Apparently it’s never been used before which I think was a real stroke of luck. It means that it’s never been in an accident which makes it safer than one that has, plus it looks really cool!

We went on a test drive today and it was awesome to feel the wind in my hair. I will have to work on leaning the right way, I did go out once with my boyfriend when we were still in the states but it’s still something that I have to think about. It will be nice when it becomes ingrained.

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For dinner we tried this place called Birds of Paradise. I read a recommendation on tripadvisor.com to get the fried fish with three sauces and it was just delicious. I couldn’t really identify the three sauces, but it reminded me of unagi or really good teriyaki. Plus the fish was cut up into manageable pieces, unlike some other times that we’ve ordered Sea bass and had to pick through the bones to get at the meat. The chicken basil and chicken in red curry were also quite good and much more affordable. I think that we will definitely be back for more.

Learning Thai at Chiang Mai University

This morning we went to our first class at the Thai Language Institute at Chiang Mai University!

We actually don’t have a good method of getting around yet. To get to the Language Institute on campus we had to walk the entire way, which took fifty minutes, plus we had to skip breakfast! First because we didn’t have time to sit down, and second because most of the shops were closed at eight in the morning. There were a few booths selling fried eggs over rice but I didn’t see a single restaurant that was open. I think that Chiang Mai takes a while to wake up in the morning.

Walking sucked. I normally don’t mind walking but Chiang Mai doesn’t have great sidewalks. It’s often hard to find a crosswalk and there are times when you just end up climbing over some obstacle. Sometimes there isn’t a sidewalk at all and you’re just walking along the road hoping that the drivers see you. Anyway we definitely need to find a better method of getting around.

The language class itself was great, I felt like the teacher gave us a lot of individual attention and also gave us a lot of good tips. The first thing we did was go over the five tones in Thai, mid, high, low, rising, and falling. Then we went over the sounds of Thai. The teacher had a lot of tips on how to position your lips, tongue and teeth to make various sounds.

Next we introduced ourselves to the other students, telling everyone how long we had been in Thailand, and how much Thai we knew. Most of the class didn’t speak Thai, and the time that everyone had been in Thailand ranged from about two weeks to five months. There were a good spread of ages in the classroom though there were a lot of people from San Francisco, California. One woman was from New Jersey, while there were also people from France, Australia, and Austria.

Then we learned to ask everyone their name. My name is easy apparently, Helen is all said in one tone. My boyfriend’s name is said with a low tone, while his brother’s is a high tone. All of our names didn’t need much modification but Trevor, Val, and Jill’s names are all really hard to say in Thai. I guess that names that end in a “l” are hard to say in Thai.

We took a fifteen minute break and kind of hung out around the student cafeteria. There was a small cafe open and the boyfriend got a mango smoothie that was not very good. It tasted like the mangoes were still green.

After that we all went to the computer lab and went on the learning website. We went through the introduction, which covered the sounds of the language, and the first lesson which had some important phrases like what is your name? Or what country are you from?

We then went back to the classroom and learned to ask whether someone is tired, hungry, fun, etc. They all used the same form of Kun hiu mai ka? I use ka because I am female, but men are supposed to say krap. In order to respond you basically repeat the same phrase without mai. You can also use maak maak to mean very, or nit nuoi for a little bit. We also learned how to say beautiful, which is just general, or handsome which is for men only.

Thai seems like an easy language to learn but there a few things that we don’t have in English. There are no tenses, nouns and verbs don’t have to agree, and there are no articles. One of the things that I noticed is that as a female I generally speak a lot more formally and politely. I also have a slightly different vocabulary. Another female only thing is that I can use my “nickname” instead of saying dichan, which is more formal way of saying I. Essentially I speak about myself in the third person. Men have a different casual word for I.

I’m sure there was more but by the end of class I was tired and hiu maak maak.

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We walked to the gate of the university and caught a Sŏrng tăa ou to Tha Phae, the eastern gate of the city. Chiang Mai just so happens to be surrounded by a moat and what remains of an old city wall.

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Near the wall we went to this place called Arunrai, which had some tasty northern Thai cuisine. I finally had a chance to try the Kao Soi, which is a northern dish consisting of tasty coconut milk based curry soup with egg noodles and topped with some fried noodles. I know it sounds like so many noodles, but it was really good! I ordered it more to see what the quintessential north Thai dish was, rather than thinking I’d like it, but I actually think that I would get it again. The curry itself had more of an Indian flavor than most of the other curries I’ve had in Thailand so far. I love Indian food so this was no problem for me, but it might be for someone that prefers they taste of Thai curry.

Next we looked at renting a scooter. The boyfriend and I are thinking about getting one that can hold both of us. I don’t have any experience with a motorcycle or scooter and I think that Thailand is a pretty dangerous place to drive around, even if you’re outside of Bangkok. He’s got a lot more experience but learning to drive on the left side of the road will be a big challenge. Sharing a scooter will help us get around and I think it’s a good compromise.

His brother found one that he liked an rented it on the spot. He told us it was pretty crazy the way everyone else was driving, and that driving on the left side was weird, but he made it back to the apartment in one place which we were both thankful for.

Now we’re hanging around the apartment relaxing before we get some dinner. It’s been a long day!

Loving our long term apartment in Chiang Mai

This morning we took an early flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The trip itself was really easy, especially since we are now somewhat familiar with Suvarnabhumi airport.

We were surprised to find out that they even include a small snack for a measly one hour flight! Very different from back home. I didn’t really like the sandwich though.

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The view from outside our window.
The view from outside our window.

We are staying at the Flora Guesthouse for the next month. We were all surprised and pleased with our new apartment. There weren’t any pictures on the website, which was actually down for a long time when we were considering the place! It all paid off however, and I think that we will be very happy here for the next month.

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For lunch we went to the Passionate cafe. The service was really slow and they forgot one of the dishes that we ordered, but the spring rolls were Singaporean and really interesting.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the campus looking for the location of our class tomorrow. It actually wasn’t the right information but it did help us get our bearings. It was way too much walking though, we need to find a better way to get around.

For dinner we tried out this delivery service called foodpanda.co.th. It was pricey for eating out in Thailand but it was delivered right to our door, very convenient! It was actually an Italian place called Da Stefano. Pretty good for Western food. We will have to save it for an extra tiring day.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, our first day of Thai class!