I arrived in Chiang Rai after a quick three-hour bus ride, direct from Chiang Mai.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We both shared a piece of amazing banoffee pie, and possibly a white chocolate cake too, which were both so incredibly good.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.