This does not mean that I did not find my time to have a little fun and experience the culture, however. Me and my roommates, James and Jason, purposefully went a day and a half early with that goal in mind. The very first thing we did was go to the local Night Market and find a place to rent motorbikes. Surprisingly it didn't take a drivers license, a passport, or really any documentation to rent them; just 2000 Thai Baht (about $80 USD) for a deposit. All of this despite having never driven a motorbike before and given about as much instruction as "here is how you start, and here is how you stop". After nearly running straight into a parked van upon existing the rental place, it was virtually smooth sailing after that as we were zooming in and out of traffic at about 35 mph as we cruised around the city.
The next day, already equipped with our motorbikes, we took to the surrounding mountains of Chiang Mai and just meandered through long, empty, steep, and winding roads. True bliss. In the mountains we visited a Buddhist temple, ate Pad Thai, and had coffee that was grown and made in this random village we happened to stumble upon. Once back to our hotel, we took a nap, and then got ready for another adventure that night: spectating some Muay Thai fights.
For those that do not know what Muay Thai is, it can basically be described as an intense version of kick boxing that is extremely popular in Thailand, and is one of the most brutal forms of martial arts in the world. I have heard rumors of fighters training by kicking metal poles to create micro-fractures in their shins, so that when it heals it would actually make their shins thicker and stronger! I was excited. The bout card included 7 fights: one of which was a female fight, one a "special fight", one the main event, and one an international fight with one guy being from France. It. Was. AWESOME! The highlight was the "special fight", which turned out to be around 8 aspiring fighters in the ring, all blindfolded, going crazy to the tune of "Gangnam Style". It was hilarious watching these guys walk around the ring throwing hay-makers at the air, or fighting the corner thinking it was a person. Most of the fights were really good, with 3 of them ending by way of knockout (two were actually knockouts to the body!). And that ended our day of fun.
The rest of the trip was spent in and out of different sessions. Most of the sessions I did not get much out of, with a few even upsetting me, however there were a few that were practical and left the attendees with some good takeaway that will be applicable to the classroom. The best part of the conference was just meeting tons of other people doing the exact same thing as you from all over Asia. All in all, a good trip. Now time to buckle down for the last few weeks of the semester.
Call of the Wild
Lady making soap flowers at the Night Market