Monthly Archives: October 2014

Bye Chiang Mai, Oh Hi Chiang Rai

I arrived in Chiang Rai after a quick three-hour bus ride, direct from Chiang Mai.

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Leaving Chiang Mai Bus Station

Leaving the other friends I’d made in Chiang Mai, I felt really sad, as we’d all got on so well; however, now it was time to go to our own placements, in areas all over the North of Thailand, and therefore everyone had their own adventures to now embark upon.

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The Journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang rai

However, another girl from the programme, Emma, was on the same bus, and had already moved to Chiang Rai, where she took me back to where she was living, so I could see if that’d suit my needs for accommodation too.

The property was basically a block of about 12 “apartments”, split between two levels. Each apartment is basically a double bed, wardrobe, fan, and an attached toilet / shower room. This seems quite the norm for Thai living, with no need for a kitchen, seeing as the option of eating out is so wonderfully cheap.

After seeing Emma’s room, I called the landlord, who quickly zipped over on his moped, from across town, where I’ve heard he also has another business owning a little noodle shop. He showed me the room next to hers, and I agreed to take it right there and then. At only 2600 Thai Baht per month, from what I can tell, this was a pretty good deal.

So that was the first hurdle jumped, the next was to make it look a little less clinical, and a little more like home.

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After showering, and unpacking we both took a walk to the city’s night bazaar; much smaller than that of Chiang Mai, however still charming in its own right, with musical performances taking place each night, and a large food court where you can eat anything from worms to sushi, to Pad Thai. Passing perhaps on the worms, it’s a great place to come and eat for cheap, however I wouldn’t want to every night, due to the canteen style seating and the sometimes oppressive local music.

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Tasty Selection of Treats (!)

Over the next few days, I tried to get myself as settled as possible, and also discovering the local things on offer, including lots of nice cafes where I’d like to wile away the hours, drinking iced coffees.

One place we visited was near to the Kok River, called Chivet Thamma Da. It was simply beautiful. I’d first heard about it from another blog I follow, called 8 Miles From Home. I saw the pictures on this blog when still back in England, and knew I needed to visit.

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Chivet Thamma Da is a beautiful old house situated on the riverbank. Part of it is also a day spa, however we just visited the coffee house part. We walked in, and were greeted warmly, and taken to the back of the house, which opened up to a beautiful garden. Lanterns, birdcages, and flowers decorated the split-level garden. We sat, and were instantly in love with this place. There was a piano against a wall and framed pictures hanging. The menu was extensive and looked fabulous, however a little on the pricey side, but this is to be expected with somewhere so lovely, and certainly different from the norm. The house reminded me of the one from The Notebook, when Noah buys it and does it all up for Ally. It was just so romantic, with old wartime music playing in the corner, and swings hanging from the trees by the river.

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We both shared a piece of amazing banoffee pie, and possibly a white chocolate cake too, which were both so incredibly good.

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I’d certainly recommend this place to anyone who visits Chiang Rai, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so, seeing as it’s ranked at number two, on Trip Advisor’s list of best restaurants in Chiang Rai.

The next few days consisted of more settling, and nesting, in which I bought a little bicycle too, for me to get around the City more efficiently. This can be done on foot, as it a relatively small place, however having a bike does make it that little bit easier.

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I’ve joined a gym at the Pinmann Inn, where I also use their outdoor saltwater pool. The bike ride is really easy from my apartment to the pool, and makes the half hour walk seem a lot more inviting when it turns into a ten minute cycle ride.

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My Local Pool 

On Saturday the 25th October, I woke up with a slightly sore head from the night before (we visited Coconuts Bar in town; a new favourite bar of mine now).

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Journey Home 

Before coming to Thailand, I’d heard online about the Lanna Yi Peng Festival. It’s a festival celebrated in Thailand, and certain parts of Burma and Laos. Translated, Yi means “two” and Peng means “full moon day”. The festival is in celebration of the full moon day, in the second month, according to the Lanna Lunar calendar. (Remembering Lanna refers to the Northern area of Thailand, which was once a Kingdom until the 18th centaury). AND BREATHE.

As I was saying, I woke up, thinking I really couldn’t be bothered to travel down to Chiang Mai, and bed was far more appealing; however I dragged myself up and got on a bus, after telling myself not to be such a lazy hung over fool. I can honestly say that going, and visiting the festival, was in the top ten best decisions of my life.

To celebrate this festival, swarms of people descend upon the University grounds in Chiang Mai. In the evening, prayers are said by the Buddhist Monks, whilst spectators from the other side of the riverbank release a few lanterns. The prayers last a couple of hours, paying homage to Buddha, and are all said in Thai. This bit was difficult to enjoy, as the crowds were so thick and intense, and you couldn’t see the ceremony, for all the people. However, what came next made it all worth the wait.

In excess of 10,000 paper lanterns, (Kohm Loi) were released at once into the sky. Words just cannot describe how wonderful it was. It just was one of those moments that was so humbling, and I just stood there in awe of being such a small and insignificant part of this incredible world.

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Luckily, I heard about this event online, as it being the original and Buddhist celebration. There is also a more tourists-friendly version, where the prayers are spoken in English, and a meal is included, however I hear that this is as much as $100USD, whereas the one I saw was free.   The ticketed one takes place on Thursday 6th November.

The festival certainly made me miss Julien, as it was such a romantic and beautiful sight, and I wished so much that he could have been there to see it with me. However, I then realised how intensely hot and sweaty I was, and as a result, maybe a little stinky too, so perhaps it was for the best that he was in London.

Now I am back in Chiang Rai, and have been into the school where I start working as a Kindergarten teacher on Monday. I am so incredibly happy right now, and so excited to get into the school and start working. I feel so lucky to have been able to make this dream of moving abroad and getting this job, working alongside GVI, come true, and can only hope it continues to be so wonderful.

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Miss Tim, Myself and Miss Chay; Kindergarten Teachers

The Move to Thailand. First Stop…Chiang Mai

The day had finally arrived. After talking about it continuously since February, it was at last the day that I was off to Thailand.

Julien took me to Heathrow bright and early on the Tuesday morning, where I checked in my bags, before we had a final Café Rouge Breakfast together.

So that was it; living In Julien’s pocket had come to a momentary end, and I was out, conquering the world alone.

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My flight was to Mumbai, where I had a couple of hours in the airport, before flying to Bangkok, and then getting a connecting flight to Chiang Mai.

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I reached Chiang Mai, and grabbed a TukTuk to the Eco Resort, and instantly took a sleep for around 5 hours.

When I woke up, I had two new roommates in the form of Pooja, from Dubai, and Alex, from the UK. We went to dinner in a local restaurant, and then went with Molly, another girl from the same organisation; GVI to the night Bazaar.

After we had all just arrived, everyone felt pretty sleepy, so we decided to head home for a relatively early one.

The next day, we woke up, ate some food, and lay by the pool again and slowly started to get out the hotel and see things. At first, we took a trip to the large shopping mall, in an attempt to sort out various phones and SIM cards, with the hope that we’d all be set up with a Thai number soon.

It was interesting to see the mall, of which I hadn’t quite known what to expect of. However it was scarily like home, with shops ranging from H&M, to Topshop, and even a Marks and Spencer. These shops aren’t really prevalent outside of the mall, so it was a surprise to see them in there; so different to the hustle and bustle of the chaotic streets outside.

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Leaving here, we got a TukTuk to the old town of Chiang Mai, a square in the heart of the city.  We walked around the perimeter until we got to Thapae Gate, which is historically, the main entrance to the old city.

Whilst walking towards this, it was startling to see how many tours there were, offering trips to take you to the Tiger Temple. These are those God-Awful places that offer the tigers “a sanctuary”; however from what, I am not exactly sure. The tigers are chained around the neck, and more likely than not, are heavily sedated in order to keep them docile, so that tourists can pose with the animals, for their new Facebook profile pictures. A recent report observed that these beautiful animals were put on public display, each day between 1pm and 4pm, with no shade and under direct sunlight with temperatures often reaching 40 degrees Celsius. However, even with this knowledge, every tour guide claims that their visit to the Tiger Temple is not like that, and that theirs are different, which unfortunately still lures many travellers into these trips.

Anyway, we walked into the Old City, stopping to look at the odd market stall here and there. We eventually reached one of Chiang Mai’s many Buddhist Temples, this one being The Relic of the Lord Buddha and Arahants, at Wat Phan Tao. We entered, being respectful of the culture and religion trying to remember the rules ranging from no shoes, to lowering your head so you are always lower than an image of Buddha.

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Outside we met some monks, who invited me to hit the big gong, otherwise known as the singing bowl. We visited a couple more of the temples, however it was soon time to head home, before our night in Chiang Mai.

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We ate dinner, another variation of noodle and rice dishes, in the Bazaar area, quickly scoffing this down so that we could get good seats for the start of the Cabaret Show; or the Lady Boy show if you prefer.

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We sat through a good 1.5 hours of the show, each act astounding us all even more at how these beautiful women were actually men. However, the put on a wonderful performance, even if they are a bit cheeky at asking for 200 Baht per head (rather a lot by Thai standards).

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The next day, Pooja, Alex and myself woke up to take a taxi to the temple on the hill that overlooks Chiang Mai, by the name of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. When arriving back at the hostel room the night before, we’d discovered a new roommate, Amy, from America, so we brought her along with us for the days outings.

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The taxi took us up many a winding turn, to the top of the large mountain. From here, we climbed the 309 steps to the temple.

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Thankfully, if you are slightly older or have trouble tackling that many stairs, especially in the heat, there is an option of a cable car.   However, always in the pursuit of a better bottom, we opted for the stairs, and with little breath, reached the top. We paid our 30Baht, and entered through the grand gates.

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Taking our shoes off, just at the temple doorway, we climbed just a couple more steps and entered the courtyard. It was simply breath taking. Words, or even pictures cannot justify the intricate design and architecture that is involved. The gold reaches from symbols of Buddha, to rooftops, to parasols. It is everywhere. The image of Buddha is on nearly every surface you look at, and the smell of incense rushes up your nose. You hear the chimes of the bells as Monks pray. The only downside is the hoards of tourists everywhere you turn. However, I am included in that category, so I guess I can’t really talk.

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We then walked round the outskirts of the temple, overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, however due to being so high up it was hard to see the city in any detail.

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10698627_10154766063125541_7744298025192200311_nIMG_6261 We descended the steps, where we met our taxi driver once more, who drove us back down the mountain, and into the town. Along with two Buddhist Monks and a very small child.

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After some orientation that evening, and the following day, regarding the teaching projects we would all be embarking on shortly, the whole group of Global Vision International teachers and staff, went for a collective meal at a restaurant named Khum Khantoke. We here experienced authentic Lanna style dining, and dances, which are typical of the Northern parts of Thailand.

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We had so much amazing food, from traditionally cooked chicken and rice, to curry pastes and banana fritters. This was followed by a series of performances and traditional dances, offset with lanterns being released into the sky. It was a really beautiful experience, even though it was for the sake of the diners and tourists, the colours, costumes and music were just wonderful.

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And with that, it was to bed, and to finish up with a couple more days of training and Thai language classes, before making my way North, to the city of Chiang Rai, which is to be my home for the foreseeable future.

Tying up loose ends, and getting ready to move to Thailand

Unfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve last written. I could find my excuses about how I’ve been getting ready to go abroad and make the big move to Thailand, however in all honesty it’s mainly down to laziness and possibly a lack in inspiration over the past few weeks.

I’ve had a lovely month or so living back with my parents in Dorset, in the South of England. I’ve mainly been spending quality time with them, trying to adapt my lifestyle away from the bright lights of living freely in the city, to once again having family meals, quiet nights in and weekly viewings of University Challenge.

Thankfully, I’ve not been experiencing the stress and worry too badly that I guess I may have “supposed” to be feeling before a huge move like this. However, I think this is down to me having this as a pipeline dream for so long now, and with the talk of this particular experience being going around since February I guess I am as ready as ever to just get on that plane and go.

In my final week of living in England, Julien came down to Dorset to visit and to stay with my family for a few days. I met him at the local train station after his long journey travelling through every single small town imaginable between Clapham Junction and Dorchester.

From here, I took him back to my village where he was plied with my mum’s finest cooking, her “posh” quiche and home made blackberry and apple crumble. Luckily, we managed to finish this just in time, as about ten minutes after we cleared our plates the whole village experienced an entire power cut. I know I wanted to show him the rural life, however I didn’t mean for it to be quite so extreme. So with that, I took him up to the village pub, where we enjoyed a candle lit pint, before heading home to bed.

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In the morning, I’m pleased to say the electricity was back on, so after a specially made brioche breakfast, we clambered into my tiny Renault Clio and headed off to show Julien the sights of the Jurassic Coast.

We followed the coastal road from my house, to the small town of Bridport. Here, my intention was to look around all the quaint market stalls with Julien, however thanks to the sudden thunder storm and seemingly torrential rain that morning, there was only one hardy stall owner out that day, who unfortunately was only selling garish black t-shirts with holographic wolves on them.

When the heavens opened once again, we took cover in a placed named the Soul Shine Café, in South Street. The Soul Shine Café is a lovely juice bar / café with a truly lovey feel to it. You can choose from a wide range of juices and smoothie blends to reboot yourself, whether it be to give your immune system a boost, or more often than not, to replenish your body after the much dreaded hangover.

After this, and with the lack of any actual market on market day, I drove us both further along to coast, to the very edge of West Dorset, to the lovely little harboured town of Lyme Regis. We parked up one of the very steep roads, and walked down next to the river that leads down to an old mill. From there, we followed the winding little streets down towards the main high street, stopping off at galleries and gift shops on the way. We also visited what has to be one of my favourite bookshops I’ve ever visited; The Sanctuary Second-Hand Bookshop. I don’t know why, and I never really buy anything from there, however the feeling I get when in there is just that of pure calm, ironically so as it is a crowded, dusty and cluttered bookshop, which can only remind me of the Weasley’s home from the Harry Potter books.

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After looking around, we attempted to walk along the sea front, with the plan to end up at the cob. However, once we walked around the corner and on to the promenade, the wind from the day’s storm was so strong, it blast us far too hard, that my glasses were moved from my face. We both agreed that Julien didn’t really need to see the cob that badly, and with that we went in search of some lunch.

Unfortunately, the rain continued to pour and we decided that a trip to the cinema was in order for the remainder of the afternoon.

The next day it was time to leave Dorset, and to head to Julien’s family in Bodmin, Cornwall.

We spent a lovely three days down there, visiting an incredibly beautiful old harboured town called Fowey, and escaping from the stressful city.

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Whilst we were down there, Julien’s niece Scarlett was turning six, so had a birthday party, with some of her little friends. Julien and I had bee pre warned that our role was to be party entertainers, and there’s no denying tat I went there dreading what the day would hold. Luckily however, all the kids were so lovely and excitable, ad we managed to keep them fully entertained for the whole three hours.

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My favourite part of this had to be when the only little boy attending the birthday party as a guest, was a little five year old named Matthew, who arrived with flowers for Scarlett, wearing a tie and shirt, hair gelled, and I’m pretty sure he was also doused in aftershave. It was just too nice.

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Exhausted we headed back to Dorset to say goodbye to my parents, before returning to London to say goodbye to my friends, where I consumed a couple too many “goodbye” cocktails with my nearest and dearest friends.

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The next day was my last day in London, in the UK, and indeed with Julien. He didn’t tell me what his plans were and just said to not wear my scruffy rain mac and to dress a bit nicer than usual.

So at lunchtime he took me to Liverpool Street, and walked me to the Heron Tower. Instantly, I squealed with excitement, and the realisation that he had decided to take me to Sushi Samba for dinner. We do eat out a lot, however Sushi Samba is one of those places where, if you’re anything like me, it is a special occasion to go somewhere so nice.

IMG_6043 We got in one of the glass lifts, and whizzed up to the 38th floor in a matter of seconds. We walked in, and had our bags and coats taken, and were shown to our table, right by the window looking over all of east London. Unfortunately the weather was awful, and we couldn’t see a great deal, however it was still exciting none the less.

We had lots of sushi to start with, followed by incredible gyoza, and not being able to hold back we then ordered the most wonderful blackened cod, with some lamb also.

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I can honestly say it was one of the most magnificent meals I’ve ever had, so if you’re ever feeling particularly like a millionaire, I’d highly recommend it.

After this, Julien took me to his friends work, telling me the second part of the surprise was coming up, however wouldn’t tell me anything else. We got to Universal Records, and met his friend, Steph, who handed me an envelope. Inside were two tickets to see Ed Sheeran that night at The O2.

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Feeling incredibly excited, we went to grab the train over to North Greenwich, and walked from the station to the venue. We grabbed some drinks and took our seats, which were great, and close to the stage. At 8.30 on the dot, on came Ed, and played an insanely good set.

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I was in awe of the way this guy, all by himself, could occupy such a huge stage, all alone, and build up pieces of songs slowly, using a foot pedal, until he was creating the entire song, backing vocals and all.

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On a huge high, we took the boat back along them Thames, to Waterloo, where we got the train to Julien’s.

And then to bed…tomorrow I’d be flying to start my new life abroad in Thailand.