My Adventure into Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak is the largest market in Thailand and the largest weekend market in the world.  According to Wikipedia it has 15,000 stores and an average of 200,000 visitors.  The idea of going to the largest market in the world was a bit intimidating.  I was worried I’d get overwhelmed or claustrophobic.

But a nice girl in my hostel named Sophie was going to the market this morning and turns out it’s sort of on the way to the airport I needed to be at later in the day.  So I followed Sophie from Portugal as she showed me how to navigate the sky train.  I had to pack up all my belongings quickly so I could bring my big backpack with us.

We got off at the stop for the market and there were already hoards of people leaving the train station to go to the market.  We followed the crowd and entered the market.  She was on the hunt for a cute new years outfit and I didn’t really want to buy anything, so we split up and set a meeting place and time.

Me and Sophie in the background

Me and Sophie in the background

I watched a guy cut coconuts for drinks for a while.  He kept hollering while he chopped and the Thai people would smile at him.  I mozied around and found a $3 watch so I would know what time it was.  And a couple hours later this watch is full of condensation… not my best purchase.

Get a tattoo in the busy market!

Get a tattoo in the busy market!

I found an area with artists displaying their paintings and stepped into a nice cool little bar to grab a beer.  I was over the push and shove with my backpack in the crowded market.  So I sat back and enjoyed my Singha.

Yummy food at the Market

Yummy food at the Market

Me and my Singha at the cool little bar.

Me and my Singha at the cool little bar.

After my beer I tried to find Sophie, but she never showed up at our spot.  So after 15 minutes, I headed to the street to find a cab or something to take me to the airport.  Luckily the guy at my hostel had written the name of the airport down in Thai for me so I had a little piece of paper to just show the drivers.  I finally found a nice cab driver and I was relieved he had AC in his car.

Now I’m at the airport waiting for my flight to Chiang Mai where I plan to spend time with Diana for new years and she’s going to take me to the Elephant Nature Park and Pai!

Spanish Constitution Day

Fountain on Plaza de Colon
               December 6th is Dia de la Constitucion in Spain.  They don’t have fireworks like in the USA, but they do like to party all day!  After Nicole and I took our siesta naps, we got ready for a walk about the area of Madrid called La Castellana.
                Very close to our hotel we came across Plaza de Colon with a bunch of large block sculptures for Christopher Columbus.  There was a long line of familes on the sidewalk waiting to ride the open top Christmas lights tour buses. 
Children playing the lights around the Christopher Columbus monument
                During December in Madrid all the streets are decorated with Christmas lights in different colors and patterns.  It’s very beautiful and helped me distinguish different squares and streets.  We walked past designer clothing stores and window shopped a while, before we headed to Chueca which is the gay district.
                A friend of mine had told me it was her favorite area, but when we arrived in the main square for Chueca, decked out in rainbow lights, it was very quiet and desolate.  Perhaps it was too early in the evening, or maybe the hot spots were hidden off on the side streets.  But we were not impressed, so we headed over to the streets around Puerta del Sol where we found crowds of people strolling through the lively streets, with tapas bars one after another.
Chueca – Gay District
                We hopped around the bars and wove our way through the streets enjoying the sights and sounds, snacking on tapas and sipping on vino.  We walked down one street lined with outdoor tables and were invited by a group of four guys to join them.  One of them spoke good English, but they spent most of the time speaking to Nicole in Spanish, while I sat quietly enjoying my drinks.
                They explained the holiday and how they celebrate it, which mainly entails drinking all day.  They were all but one married, they just wanted good company.  The unmarried single guy was actually Ukranian and his family had moved to Spain when he was in high school.  He spoke a little English and we tried to talk, but he usually didn’t understand what I was saying. 
Me at a bar, sitting next to a pig leg.  They have Jamon on display at all the bars!
                Eventually, we all decided to move on and find a new bar.  They joked about running out on the check.  I kept telling them jokingly to let me go first since if that was the plan… but they were good guys and paid the check before we left. 
                We wandered the streets, joking and making fun of people dressed in strange costumes.  There were a lot of people in wigs to celebrate the holiday.  We eventually picked a jazz bar to walk into.  It was super crowded and the band was about to start.  There weren’t any available tables, but Nicole and I decided to stand by the bar and stay for the music and we said good bye to the guys. 
Jazz Club in Madrid
                The live jazz band was good and the female lead singer was singing and American jazz song in English, but would occasionally mispronounce a word or say it funny.  It was interesting to listen to her sing and I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the song the audience actually understood.  We finished our wine, enjoyed the music, and decided to head back towards the hotel. 
                But of course, we had to finish the night with churros and hot chocolate.  We found a crowded 24 hours churros shop and went in.  Nicole ordered 3 churros and a hot chocolate.  We dipped pieces of the fried dough into the Spanish hot chocolate, which is thicker than and not quite as sweet as American hot chocolate.  When we finished the churros, Nicole said that you’re supposed to drink the hot chocolate. 


                I didn’t believe her, I wanted to drink it, but I thought it was a trick.  So I sat, looking around to see if anyone else was drinking it.  I finally saw someone else take a sip, so I drank the whole thing!  Nicole didn’t want it, but I love chocolate!  It was very yummy and the perfect treat before bed.

Megan’s Roman Holiday

We checked in at the Yellow Hostel and were greeted with free drink tickets for the hostel bar.  I ended up playing beer pong in the basement with the hostel staff late into the night.  An international game of beer pong, with people from every end of the world was a warm welcome to the international community in Rome.  

Beer Pong at the Yellow Hostel

I made friends with a bartender from Pennsylvania.  He gave me his life story in a nutshell.  He came to Rome while backpacking and never left.  He ended up marrying a Roman and they had 2 kids and 2 dogs.  I asked if he had learned much Italian and he laughed.  He had given up trying to become fluent in Italian and his wife knew English perfectly, so they just spoke English at home.  Everyone speaks English in Rome!  For the most part…

I woke up early and headed straight for the Colosseum.  I had a gypsy insist on helping me purchase my metro ticket.  I offered her a Euro penny but she declined… Immediately after I walked away a cop yelled at the gypsies to get away from the ticket machines.

Colosseum in the morning

The Colosseum in the morning light was gorgeous!  The sun kept peaking through the columns in different angles and it looked so peaceful and serene.  In the morning light I could see a sort of light mist or smog in the air.  I’m leaning towards it being smog, but who knows.

I decided to buy a ticket to go into the Colosseum, because then you can also go into the Roman Forum across the street.  The size and deteriorated condition of the Colosseum are very apparent as you walk around.  But also, as I stood at the end of the oval, looking down into the rooms that would be below the sandy fighting area, I had tears come to my eyes.  I stood there imaging the hundreds of people, tigers, bears, and other creatures that had been forced to fight for their lives here. 

How many living creatures died in the sandy center stage of this arena?  We will never know.
There are a bunch of black cats living at the Colosseum.
I walked over to the Roman Forum and tried to figure out the cryptic map they provide you with when you walk in.  It’s useless…  So I just started walking. 
Turns out the Roman Forum is very big!  I covered a third of it before I gave up and exited to go search out some lunch and take a siesta. 
Arena inside the Roman Forum
The Pines of Rome with the Colosseum in the distance.
After my siesta, I got back on the metro and went up to the Trevi Fountain.  I was very excited to see this fountain.  It looks so beautiful in all the pictures I’d seen.  I walked around a corner and heard the sound of a lot of people talking… Turns out Trevi Fountain is a hot spot!
Square near metro stop for Trevi Fountain
Trattoria on my way to Trevi.  Scooter parking only!
It was so crowded.  I tried to get up close and take pictures without anyone’s head in my way.  I had to fight the crowd to the front…  What a circus?!
Me and the Trevi Fountain
I quickly headed on my way to the Pantheon.  This building is very old and the dome is bigger than the one at the Vatican.  The outside of the building looks very dirty and worn out with little dents and holes in the stone. 
But the inside is beautiful, with a big hole in the center of the dome to let light in.  It also lets water in, so there are cones around the center of the floor where there are little holes in the marble to let the water drain. 
Birds flying past the hole in the dome of the Pantheon
I rested on the front steps of the Pantheon and stared at one of the many Egyptian obelisks in Rome.  I thought about Cleopatra for a while and then headed off to the Piazza Navona.
The Piazza Navona is a very large square… but it’s actually shaped like a rectangle.  There was a sort of Christmas festival setup with retail stalls everywhere.  Off to one side is a bright carasel, busy with happy children.  In the center is a beautiful fountain with another obelisk in the center.  There’s a lot to do and see at this square, but I was running out of steam and the sun was setting.
Piazza Navona
I headed down a busy main street towards the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument.  This monument is quite impressive in size and at night they have it lit up beautifully.  I walked around taking pictures, but feeling the energy drain from my legs.
Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
So I continued towards the Colisseum which was the closest metro stop at that point.  Of course, I had to take some night shots of the Colisseum and then I headed back to the hostel. 
Roman ruins
Colosseum and the moon
I ran into Nicole at the hostel bar.  It was almost dinner time and she wanted to go eat somewhere later.  I explained that my legs were jelly and I needed to rest.  I passed out in my top bunk for two hours.  I finally threw myself out of bed, but I felt like crap.
So luckily Nicole agreed that we could just go to the restaurant across the street where my beer pong partner from the night before worked.  We got him as our waiter and we were able to get to know him a bit better.  He was from the Ukraine, but had lived in Rome with his parents most of his life.  At the moment he was studying at a university in Rome and working and partying all at the same time. 
After dinner, Nicole headed out to find nightlife in Rome and I headed back to my bunk to pass out.  Nicole ended up getting her dance on and I got a very deserved good night sleep in preparation for our journey to France the next day. 

A Very Full Day in Venice, Part 2: Bar Crawling

I woke up from my nap to see my Canadian roommate adjusting things in his pack.  I gruffly asked, with a sleepy voice, how was the church?
He went on to explain that the view from the tower at the church was amazing… and I expressed my regret for missing it, but really I wouldn’t have made it up the stairs. This wouldn’t be the first day on this trip that I overexerted myself.
The hostel we were staying in had a community dinner for 4 euros, but it didn’t start until late, European dinner time, 8pm or so.  We had 2 hours to kill, so I asked if he wanted to grab a drink.  We headed out into the alleys of Venice with no particular destination in mind.
We turned a corner and ran into my friend Nicole from the US crossing the bridge.  Nicole was travelling with me for the first week of my trip, but we had different styles of touring so we spent our days apart.
Nicole! I screamed, laughing at how excited I was to run into someone I knew in Venice.
She joined our hunt for a drink and we found a popular bar, with my favorite, Venetian Spritzers.  We threw back a couple drinks while sitting at a table.  We were talking in English in a room full of Italian conversation.  A girl walked by with a handful of drinks, turned her head, and said, “Americans? That’s odd.”  Then she just walked away.
I thought it was a bit rude the way she said it, so I mumbled to my friends, “You’re odd..”
But later she stopped by and we talked for a minute, she was a bit too eager to brag about her journey of couch surfing through all of Europe.  She told me she hated Croatia and loved Bosnia.  I began to get annoyed with her, but luckily her Italian host decided it was time to go.
We headed back to our family dinner at the hostel.  It was a yummy creamy pasta with veggies and olives mixed in.  They made it vegetarian just for me!
During dinner, there is all the red wine you can drink!  So we all got toasted and made new friends with a girl from Mexico and a guy from Columbia (both solo travelers).  Nicole wanted to play pool in Venice, so we talked to the hostel manager and he sent us off towards the train station in search of a billiards hall.
We walked down a main street past the train station in very jolly moods from the wine.  The wine was keeping the bite of the cold night air subdued.  As we were walking, Jose was going on and on about how much gelato he had eaten that day.  Then, as we passed a gelato stand, he made me get some with him, because I had told him I hadn’t had any in Italy yet.
It was cold out, but I ate the gelato and I had to admit I enjoyed it.


Me and Veronica from Mexico with the Italian bartender.
We kept walking and Nicole started asking people in broken Italian where the billiards hall was.  She used the hand motion of shooting a pool stick to help.  One person made us turn around and told us we passed it.  Another person said there were no billiards clubs… Eventually we went into a tiny little bar to have a drink and warm up.  The bartender was very friendly and posed in a picture with us.  But still no billiards.
He sent us towards the Rialto Bridge, in search of at least some lively night life.  We found our way to the fish market by the bridge and low and behold there were drunk people singing and dancing in front of a little open bar on a plaza.  The bar looked like a walk-up snack bar, but  they served alcohol and played loud music.  They had free peanuts scattered on top of barrels for customers to pick at.  The stone sidewalk was covered in shells.


Bar Crawl Group on Rialto Bridge
We enjoyed our new-found hot spot and proceeded to have a few more drinks.  We met people from France and Italy that spoke English.  I definitely have a bunch of blurry pictures from this bar with all the new friends.


Very nice couple from France!
A very large, but cute black dog wandered up to us, begging for peanuts.  He was so cute!  We gave him a couple.  There was no sign of his owner, but hey it’s Venice.  Dogs do whatever they want here.
After hanging there for a while, I popped my head around a corner and discovered another bar, with even more people hanging out all over the sidewalk.  So I yelled at my group from the hostel and we headed over.  This bar was crowded with Venetian university students.  Luckily, they all knew English well enough from school.
We finally decided it was time to go when a young drunk college kid started talking about Castro and Cuba and honestly he lost me…  I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but he wanted me to pass a message to Obama.  I explained I wasn’t on speaking terms with the President and we decided to leave.

Please give me a peanut!

It was a brisk walk through the quiet alleys of Venice on the way back.  It truly is a beautiful city to walk around at night.  Also, it seems quite safe to do so.  We snuck into the hostel and all slipped quietly into our beds.