Couch surfing dilemma
I thought I'd try my hand in couch surfing only this time solo.
So, before leaving Joe's house and after careful reviewing of profiles, I put in 3 requests for couch surfing in Chiang Mai. Two responded, the best two.
Carol was a single and retired mom originally from Michigan but has lived all over, including Fiji which is where she adopted her daughter. Oddly enough her daughter is currently living in Portland Oregon, working at a Beaverton Starbucks and attending PCC and soon transferring to PSU. Carol lives in a community that has a swimming pool, spa, award winning restaurant, tennis court and other perks. She also owns 2 sugar gliders, cute little creatures that have always fascinated me! I've never seen one but I've heard stories about them and I want some! But I know ill never actually own them, I'm to busy. The down side was that Carol lived just far enough out of town that transportation to and from her place would cost me more then a single night in a dorm room. She claimed around $400 baht max! Dorm rooms around here are going for $100 baht!
But the sugar gliders...!?
The second response came from Ralph, an English man married to Kat, a Thai lady. They had just built a house together and both retired. Ralph loves traveling and meeting new, mostly young travelers and has just re opened his home to couch surfers. He used to work in a field where he helped the not as fortunate youth and he was given an award from prince Charles for the work he did. He was also trained as a cook in the U.K. and enjoys working out, singing at a pub on wed. nights and can be persuaded at times (so his profile stated) to take guests out into the town/ city because "I do know where the spots are."
His wife Cat is more on the quite side. She speaks good English but still struggles a little. She's an avid gardener and recently planted several water lilies in their backyard pond... that is their entire backyard.
They only lived a $20 baht song tail ride away from town.
I read both descriptions and email acceptance letters to Joe to see if I could get some help. No help. So I emailed them both back inquiring about the amount of money in transportation it would cost me to and from their places. Ralph and Cat ended up to be my pick and yes because of the transport cost but ALSO because he offered to pick me up from the bus station at 7am! This told me he was a generous man and I knew I would feel comfortable with them. I wanted a warm greeting into possibly my last Thailand destination.
That's exactly what I got! I really hit the jackpot when I picked Ralph and Cat to host me and I made sure to tell them that.
They picked me up in front of a 7/11 in front of the bus station. Everything was wet from a good rain that had hit the city and cooled things down. We went to a store that was pretty much the Thai version of Costco. We shopped and I chatted with them (mostly Ralph) getting to know them.
When we left "costco" they told me we were going to a French market in the woods. I didn't understand what they were talking about until we actually DROVE into the woods on a dirt path way. A French baker and other French people he knows have put together this every Saturday market. The baker makes crates full of different croissants (Ham & cheese, plain, chocolate, almond) and loafs of bread and other small pastries all sold at great prices! They have free coffee to drink, there's a pottery stand with some beautiful pots and a man selling fresh squeezed/pressed juices. Papaya leaf, ginger, and rosella where a few of his flavors. We arrived right as it opened.
We bought some croissants and headed home for breakfast. We had a plate full of fruit, pineapple, mango and Papaya with a croissant and tea/coffee. Ralph told me each morning he and Kat wake up around 5:30/6am and go for a 5 mile bike ride and then walk a loop in their neighborhood. Then they come back, water their plants and have breakfast (usually fruit) together before starting their day.
Kat brought out a container with an already cut into fruit that looked all to familiar to me.... durian! I laughed and told them I wasn't a fan of the mushy, smelly fruit but I'd heard you could get used to it. So I gave it another shot. I took a piece and then I took a deep breath as I brought it close to my face. You know, it wasn't as bad this time but I limited myself to only that piece.
After breakfast Ralph took me on his motorbike to a wat on the hill in his area. It wasn't a heavily visited area so it had little tourist visitation. Monks lived here and the biggest Buddha temple I had seen up close, in person was here as well. There was some pretty in depth drawings high up on the wall of the temple that Ralph thought I'd be into. I was too after closer look at each of them. They had some very in depth meaning to them.
When we returned back to the house Kat and her daughter wine (just graduated high school) had lunch waiting for us. Then Ralph and I ran off again to locate my Crossfit box. I got him a little interested in it as well. We found it but it was closed for the day and it was a ways from his house. I was going to need to figure out my transportation if I wanted to go there.
I received a mini tour of the outside city before he arrived to the mote and brick wall that surrounds the old city. Ralph helped me find "Nice Kitchen" a Thai and healthy western foods eatery that Joe told me about. He knew the owners, "bicycle mike" (an American) whose married to Hon, a Thai lady. Mike was in the states getting some Medicare work done but I got to meet Hon. Turned out Ralph new her too. Small world. Ralph left me there in the old city and went to his gym, agreeing to meet me at 5 outside a museum and the 3 kings statue in the old city where he'd pick me up and head home.
I explored a portion of the old city, booked my cooking class and I also looked into hostels in the area incase I decided to move into town. The majority of them were $100 baht ($3.08usd) for one person.
Ralph picked me up at 5pm as promised and we went home only to be greeted by more fruit on a platter to share with the family. There's never a shortage, my kind of place!
I went on an evening walk with Ralph and Kat, something they do each night. I took my refreshing cold shower when I got home while Ralph made homemade pasta for dinner followed by homemade dried durian! It was actually good! I didn't even taste durian, really. It was more of just a light salty taste. And I NEVER thought id ever hear myself say that durian was good.
Ralph and I wrapped up the night watching the movie "closer" with Jude law, Natalie Portman, and Julia Roberts.
My first day couch surfing solo was amazing! They greeted me with huge open arms and made me really want to return the favor to a traveler when I return home. They are truly a family that goes that extra mile to make someone feel comfortable in their city.