Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Conrad Writes about Christmas

Hello all!
I usually don't write mass messages, but since many of you have been asking about my Christmas, I have decided to address you all.
This Christmas break, our family went to Chiang Mai , Thailand . This is because every year our Reimer Grandparents go there to live during the cold Canadian months. To get there, we drove across the Thai-Lao border and into Udon Thani, a large Thai town. From there, we took a short flight straight to Chiang Mai. (We flew nok air (nok means 'bird' in Thai) and they have really cool planes, painted all over to look like a colourful bird!)
Chiang Mai used to be the capital of an ancient country. It has a run-down brick wall (about a meter and a half thick and 2 meters high) and a wide moat encircling the center of town (called 'the Ancient City ). Very touristy, full of restaurants and shops.
Back to the story. When we arrived we were warmly met by our Grandparents and my Aunt. But for some reason, Dad's bag was nowhere to be found. We asked about it at the nok air desk, and finally left them our phone number. After supper at a salad restaurant, we returned to see if the bag had turned up. Sure enough, it was there, and the bag that used to be sitting in it's place was gone. Turns out someone had mistaken Dad's bag for their own.
After that fiasco, we drove to our Grandparents house. (It's not really their house, they watch over and live in someone else's house while the owners are away. Apparently it is comforting to know that your house is being kept nice, and no-one is going to be breaking in with these foster owners living in it. (The next house that the Grandparents will be living in will be a mansion!)).
Along the way, the car's headlights picked up a sad sight. A small elephant was being led down the dark streets by it's Mahout (elephant caretaker). On it's back was a bushel of bananas. The reason that this is a sad sight is because these elephants are not treated well. They live in cramped conditions, usually in a junkyard, with foul water and smoggy air. On top of that, there are sometimes the odd pack of stray dogs. If that's not bad enough, the pads on the elephant's feet are not made for walking on cement.
Soon the elephant was just a large dark shape moving behind us as the car drove down the street away from it.The home that the Grandparents were living in this year was good, because there was room for all seven of us. Erik and I slept in a bunk bed-- and our room even had a TV in it. This was great, because Erik and I brought our PS2 along.
The days till Christmas ticked away, as we passed the time reading, playing games, puzzling over jigsaws, PS2, and doing a few touristy things around the Ancient City . One tour we did, the tour guide had a funny accent. When he was telling us about the river, it sounded like 'liver'. And when he told us about the horse carriages that we were going to go on, and he called them 'hot carry'. This was very amusing, and we made a couple of jokes about it. Like: "Well, here we are by the beautiful liver. I can't wait to go an the hot curries! I hear that's next!".The tour went like this: First we got on a boat and watched a short movie on the history of Chiang Mai (in Thai) then we sailed upstream a bit before we turned around and went downstream. We got off the boat and into horse carriages (hot carry, haha!). The horses were very small, but very energetic-- ours couldn't wait to get going! We visited a museum, and then we saw some ruins (made of the same old bricks are the Ancient City wall).After that, we got back on the boat and sailed back to the original place that we got on it. Along the way, they served refreshments (of tamarind, lemon grass, and ginger juice. Yuck!) with some fresh fruit- watermelon and pineapple. Pretty good!
A few days later, it was suddenly Christmas Eve!For Christmas I got:

  • A Winnipeg Jets Hawerchuk hockey jersey (which I am wearing now!)
  • An orange toque (thanks Dad)
  • Lego (the new skeleton vs. knights theme) note to self:awesome!
  • New pajamas (Grandma makes new ones for Erik and I each year.(apparently skulls are in in Canada !))
  • A webcam (sweet! I'll send a picture of me through it)
  • A soccer ball (prayers answered! Wishes come true! My old one broke.) :'(
  • Salt & Vinegar Chips (my favourite!)
  • Lord of the Rings Return of the King PS2 game (cool- a little violent)
  • Is that everything? I think so.

Naturally, Christmas day was devoted to playing with the new things that you have just received.

Was it boxing day, or the day after that we went on the road trip to the north of Thailand ? I can't remember. Anyway, we went on a road trip to the north of Thailand . Along the way, we stopped at a pie restaurant for... uh... red meat. No, for pie! It was good pie. Then we drove a bit more (a lot more) until we arrived at a large garden. The funny thing was, we were driving along this almost deserted mountain road, then suddenly we crested the rise, and there were people everywhere! We were forced to park faaar away from the garden entrance! The garden itself was very nice (lots of pretty flowers) if you check out of blog there are probably some funny (or humiliating) pictures of our family with big flowers beside our heads!We had a quick lunch there, before blasting out of there farther north.

Oh, did l mention that the whole road trip we had this sweet van? Oh, well then: The whole road trip we had this sweet van. Really big, and shiny silver.

When we arrived at our destination (a small border town called Mae Sai) we went straight to the hotel and dropped off our bags. Then we walked to a restaurant by the Burmese border. From the restaurant, we could see the short bridge that ran over into Burma . The idea was to watch the illegal immigrants secretly crossing the border. That didn't happen, because the wind was coming up off the water and freezing us. So we moved inside the restaurant. The soup that we ordered was too spicy, so we had too much heat, right after too much cold! I thought that was funny. After that, we went back to the hotel, where we talked a bit, then went to sleep.

The next morning, we shipped out, back on the road. This time we went to a school for orphans that MCC had helped sponsor. We had a quick tour, then drove to an opium museum. How interesting was the opium museum? It surprised me when l found out that the answer was: very interesting! It had all kinds of motion sensors- walk into a room, and the room lights up, and a movie starts to play. You could even choose to have Thai or English. Very impressive. It seems that the Queen Mother of Thailand made the museum to educate people on the impacts of opium.

After the museum, we drove back toward Chiang Mai. It sounds simple, but I feel that I should express how long it took. At least five hours. I know, it sounds not too bad, but it was through the mountains- and we had done it all before, just yesterday. In my opinion, ten hours of the same thing during a 24 hour period is too much. Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, we had a quick dinner, before sleeping.

The next day (our last full day) went by quickly. The grown ups went out shopping (again) while Erik and I stayed home with Grandpa and watched 'Luthur', a film about Martin Luthur and how he started the Reformed Church. This movie is very inspiring- I highly recommend it. For supper we went to the Pizza Company and ate, well, pizza!

The next day, we packed our bags and headed for the airport. Another hour and a half later, and we were once again in Udon Thani. To get back to the border (an hour away) we took a van (very similar to the one we rented for the road trip). At the border we were astonished to find cars parked everywhere, and long lines to get to Laos . It seems that everyone wanted to go to Laos for New Years. It took us quite a while to make it over the border. Once across, we took another van to our house.

So here I am, back in Laos. I would much appreciate a reply, to find out how your Christmas was!