Tag Archives: travel

Unlikely Paradises in Unlikely Places

Tiree. Never heard of it. Apparently it’s some tiny little island five hours from the coast of Oban, Scotland.  Admittedly it wouldn’t be somewhere I’d choose to spend a two week holiday if I hadn’t met and fallen head over heels for a strange, exotic Scotsman who I’d met when traveling Bali.

So after a little gentle persuasion and many Google searches to see how true the idea of a tropical island in Scotland actually is, I decided to say “screw it” and spent two weeks on the Isle of Tiree.

Said Scotsman came and met me on the mainland, and drove us to Oban, where we caught the 7am ferry through the inner Hebrides and to the most outter Island, Tiree. 

    
The journey was five hours, and was bloody miserable.  The weather was particularly bad on this day, and the ferry’s captain even came on the tannoy to warn us the incoming winds were so dire, they may not be able to dock at Tiree, and instead turn round and do another five hours back to Oban.  “Great” I thought.  Ten hours on a bloody cold ferry that smelt vaguely of the cooked breakfast coming up from the deck below.

Poking around at some luke warm baked beans, and tasting the local cuisine of potato scones (which I later learnt when done properly are actually v nice and up there with the humble crumpet in ratings of tasty treats), myself and Sam felt it was time for some sleep.

We swayed our way up the stairs like two drunk men coming out of a branch of Ladbrokes after the Grand National, as the boat ran over waves aggressively.  The mist and the fog was so thick I couldn’t make out any of the surrounding islands, said to be beautiful and breathtaking.  So with lack of things do to and severe lethargy I curled up into the foetal position on a cold fake leather seat, trying to huddle myself warm.  

The boat was full of those cheery types you see that actively try and peruse holidays that are damp, outdoorsy, and freezing, as they sit there in their The North Face or Jack Wolfskin jackets, cheeks rosey from all the wind and cold weather they’ve exposed themselves to over the years, grinning mildly at the thought of hiking over a bog and swimming through a marsh in Baltic conditions, only to build a shelter out of cow turd in order to spot a rare bird before going back to their homes in the Cotswolds.  

These types kept leaving the “lounge area” to get out their binoculars on the deck and see what they could see through the gale force winds and and lashing rain. That’s fine. They can do that. But for heavens sake would it kill them to shut the damn door behind them?? Recognising my internal anger rising, and wanting to keep poised and calm and not a total bitch, I gently walked over the the open door and shut it, so that the howling winds would stay outside, and hopefully I could have some sleep.  However, returning to Sam, (who was contently curled in his own foetal position, breathing heavily and looking v peaceful) I found that in my 30 second absence a little old lady with a Peter Storm waterproof and heavy duty walking boots had taken my place, leaving me with no room for a lay down and a snooze.

Again, taking a deep breath and and smiling to myself, I rose above it, and took myself back downstairs to buy a cup of tea to warm me up.  I spent the remainder of that journey clutching onto that tea, trying to make it last as long as possible and to keep my body temperature just above freezing, whilst eating my “Mutiny Slice” and trying to think of jokes surrounded said boat bought snack.

After 5 hours, on came the tannoy announcement, like the voice of God himself telling us we had reached Tiree, and as the predicted storm hadn’t hit just yet, we were able to dock and to access the island – hurrah!

I woke up Sam and we sleepily headed back to the car deck, where we switched that heating on full pelt, sitting and warming up, waiting to be beckoned off the boat by a ferry staff member.

  
  
We left the boat, and drove the short distance to Sam’s brothers house. The rest of the day was spent napping, sitting by a log fire and listening to the howling winds.

I’m happy to say that all my melodrama and misery was probably mainly due to the fact that I was tired and cold; as my trip to Tiree turned out to be two amazing weeks.

So, to the set the scene, Scottish Sam, has an older brother, Marti, who runs a small business on Tiree, with his wife Iona.  The business is called Blackhouse Watersports, and together they offer lessons in surfing and kite surfing, as well as equipment rental for both sports, as well as kayaking and bike hire.

My plan was to spend a couple of weeks on Tiree, getting to know the family and then on top of that enjoying the delights of a small island with the population of less that 1,000.

During this time, Blackhouse Watersports were also running a Surf and Yoga retreat, meaning there were a good few beginners who I could join in with when learning to surf, in attempt to disguise how terrible I actually am.

But before I even managed to join in a surf class and hide myself, Sam was asking me if I fancied going, just me him, and his ten year old nephew, at one of the beaches; Crossapol.

   
The weather was howling, the air had an edge of ice to it, and all I wanted to do was lay on a sofa and eat disgusting amounts of cheese on toast on my own.  But hey, if I’m getting myself into a relationship with a guy who lives, breathes and would quite possibly eat surf if he could, I must endeavour to be really optimistic about it.  Must keep telling self; today freezing nipples off in bitterly cold Atlantic Ocean, tomorrow perhaps catching waves in Costa Rica.  Sure.

    
Sam got out out the car, easily gliding himself into his perfectly fitting wetsuit, fresh from the internet. I was thrown an old wetsuit, handed down through previous ex girlfriends as if some Olympic torch that must keep burning. I jumped out of my clothes, trying to be as enthusiastic as possible, wondering how my ass may look in this wetsuit compared to its previous owners. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about that part.  What became more of an issue was how I was looking just trying to get the damned thing on.  

The legs seemed to be ok; it was when we got to the arse / hips vicinity things started to go down hill.  My new boyfriend had to hold the folded up material, as I proceeded to jump into it, hoping with each extra bit of force, a butt cheek would slither its way slightly further into the wetsuit.  He then tried to help with my arms, and they slowly went in through the holes, and needed peeling up towards my shoulders.  At one point halfway, I was stuck, arms outstretched and crossed over, rather similar to a straight jacket, with the zip still wide open at the back, with my two ass cheeks being pushing up and together rather like an ass cleavage, if you will, with the wetsuit doing a great job of acting like a Wonderbra for the buttocks.

       

   

  

  After more struggles and unntractive groanings, and mental notes to go on v quick blitz diet, I was finally in the wetsuit. And it fit! Hurrah!! Thoughts of having to swap said wetsuit for XL men’s suit gladly diminished quickly, and I picked up a surfboard, thrust it under my arm, pretended to myself I looked like some kind of surf chic pro, and strutted my foamed neoprene bottom down to the sea.

And cor blimey I was awful. Thankfully though the sea temperature was actually quite bearable on the majority of my body, and my wetsuit was the thickest you can buy, or so I believe.  It was just when the water went in my ears, I got flashbacks of drinking Slush Puppies too fast as a child and in turn getting awful brain freeze.  However this just felt like somebody had just taken a Slush Puppy and poured it directly into my ears.

After an hour or so of frantically trying to get up on the board, and instead just falling off repeatedly, I thanked Sam for all his teaching help (which in all honesty was really useful, I just so happen to have all the grace of Bambi having done a tab of acid)  and let him enjoy some time with his nephew, who was absolutely owning this whole surfing thing, as I returned the car, and gracefully (NOT) removed my wetsuit in the privacy of myself and a very cheery Boarder Collie I found in the car park.

      

      Over the next few days, the winds started to drop and the sun began to shine a little more.  Some of the guests from the Surf and Yoga retreat went swimming by the pier and collected a whole load of mussels to bring back for our dinner that night.

    

  

  

  

    Myself, Marti, Iona and Sam, and the River Cottage chef, also called Sam, who was responsible for all the amazing food served at the retreat, spent the afternoon sat in the sun, cleaning the muscles and putting them in fresh water to purge them for the evenings supper.  After an hour and a half yoga session, we returned to the accommodation, Island House,  where the mussels had been cooked up in a bloody delicious white white and cream sauce, with fresh bread to dip in, heaps of butter and of course heaps of wine. 

It was also (my) Sam’s 30th birthday, so his parents came down to the house, along with the nieces and nephew, and we all ate, laughed and drank, until it was time to watch the incredible sunset at the back of the house, over the lake, as swans (quite possibly were ducks but poetic license etc) and their cygnets glided through the glass like water, and a little otter rose its silly little head, and then disappeared again without a trace.

   
      

   

    

    

    

   

After some awesome views, everyone decided to call it a night, bar myself and Sam, who instead grabbed a bottle of wine and a half finished bottle of whisky and head to the beach, where Sam built a massive bonfire, and we got stupidly drunk and talked absolute rubbish until the early hours.  This also led to setting my bag on fire, and not noticing this for a good few minutes.

   
      

    

   

The thing about Tiree is that it hardly ever gets dark in the Summer.  In fact, it has even coined the nickname of “The Sunshine Isle” as it is so far north, it shares the same latitude as Southern Alaska.  So it wasn’t until about 2am it finally felt like bedtime, and then unfortunately you want to get up again at about 6 because of the glorious sunshine. However, when it shines there, it really shines, and I managed to achieve one of the best tans of my life, without even trying.

      

        

  

  

  

  I spent the next few days trying more surfing, going on long walks around the many beautiful white sanded beaches, one of which I was dive bombed at due to angry gulls protecting freshly layed eggs (fair play), and sitting at more campfires on the beaches, drinking port and appreciating the beauty of not being in a God damned city.

      

             
      

    

      

   

Regardless of my first miserable impressions, I loved my two weeks there. I loved the beauty and the simplistic way of life; the fact there were no high streets trying to tempt me out of my money, only one pub and a very basic petrol station to fill up at.

   
        Blackhouse Watersports are running a fantastic business with huts at both Gott Bay and Balevullin to cater for different water activities.  We spent the majority of the time down at Balevullin, as a shed has been recently contructed there, creating such a nice focal point to spend the day at the beach at.   Its natural materials means it just sits, perfectly blending into place by the sand dunes, and importantly means that there’s some privacy for when I next get into my wetsuit, and don’t want to display the Wonderbra-for-the-Butt idea to the whole island.

    
Most importantly though, Blackhouse Watersports is a great way for the kids to become more active and to get involved in sports, with free board rental to all children there.  The business is an incredible asset to the island, and this combined with about a million and one other reasons, is why I have decided to call it my new home as of next week…

    

Bintang-alanging in Bali

As the boat ploughed along through the ocean, from Gili T back to the mainland of Bali, I was hit with more waves of euphoria. Sitting upon the top deck and looking down; random fish would jump up alongside the boat; almost chasing or trying to keep up with the speed. I felt like after swimming with the sea turtle and having such a great week; the joy of seeing fish skip alongside me, with the sea spray slapping me in the face; life couldn’t get much better.

  
The boat made a stop at the mainland to off load all passengers; whilst Abbey and myself stayed on board. The boat then made the quick trip, half an hour across the water to Nusa Lembongan.

  
We got off and onto a smaller boat; which then drove us up through the shallows and onto the mangrove beach.

   

From here a small truck came and took us to our accommodation; the Yoga Shack.

 
We dumped our stuff and whizzed off to the beach to watch the sunset and enjoy fresh fruit juices in the dusky haze.

 

  

 We already knew we’d fallen in love with this island; it was such a welcome change for it to be so chilled and relaxed; compared to the never ending pumping music of Gili T.

The next day we woke up early and went on a snorkelling trip on a local boat to see manta rays and untouched coral.

It was amazing. Unfortunately I can’t upload any underwater photos yet as my laptop has given up the ghost; but me managed to spot and swim with these huge ghost like manta rays which were just so stunning on so many levels. Although we knew they were entirely harmless they still manage to make you realise how insignificantly tiny you are when you get to see these wonderful creatures in their natural environment; and how we get to see a tiny part of this planet; with all these other worlds taking place under water.

 
The next few days were filled with yoga and healthy eating and lots of healthy juices.

We both took a surfing lesson which was incredibly difficult for me; someone who seriously lacks balance; but was at the same time incredibly awesome.

I managed to stand up a few times; and I knew my pop up was weak; but it made me so exhilirated just to ride a wave.  It was fair to say Abbey was significantly better though. 

   
  

 

The following days were more about relaxation than any more activity; as we hired a moped and drove to a couple of resorts on the island; where we were able to enjoy beautiful beach views, infinity pools and cocktails.

   
  

   

  
 

Before we knew it our few days were already up as we begrudgingly said our goodbyes to the island and the wonderful Andrea who runs the Yoga Shack.

We boarded a fast boat back to the mainland; where we had a hostel booked in Seninyak.

   

On the Sunday , Abbey had bought me (as a birthday present) an all you can eat and all you can drink brunch at the W hotel. It was amazing. I have no words that can describe nor do justice to the amount of food that was at the brunch.

There were stations upon stations offering foods; from oysters and crab claws, to a hog roast, to sushi, to Yorkshire puddings.
When we arrived we were greeted in my favourite fashion; by having a glass of prosecco thrust into our hands; and those glasses were never empty for the three and a half hours spent there.

   
     

We stuffed out faces in a disgusting fashion, really taking advantage of the whole all you can eat aspect.

 

a before and after portrait, quite aaccurately summing up the two looks we had that day

 
We nearly got matching tattoos of carrots but thankfully decided not to; before moving onto another bar further down the beach to watch the sunset.

   
  

 

Sadly, Abbey then had to board a flight back to her new life in Perth, Australia.

I spent the rest of the week hanging out with some people from Scotland and Wales who were all fully awesome and provided lots of laughs and good fun nights out in Kuta.

   
         

I’m so glad I decided to add the holiday on to my trip; I feel I fully deserved it especially after having to have had my stay in Chiang Rai tarnished by someone I thought was a good friend unfortunately showing their true colours as a vile person. This and Pai have certainly made me feel myself again and I feel on top of the world.

I now am currently about to board a flight back to Bangkok for a long weekend with good friends before the next chapter of my life in the UK and it feels good. ❤️ ✈️

Two Old Sillies on the Gili’s

Abbey and I boarded the little boat, sat on the roof, and kicked back with a Bintang Beer each, as we quipped through the waves, music blaring out from the boat and massive smiles on our faces.

We got off the boat, after about two hours of beers and sun, and walked straight to our hostel on Gili Trawangan.  There are three islands altogether making up the Gilis’; Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan.
We were staying in the simply named “Gili Hostel”; and plonked our bags down and headed for a wander down to the local reggae bar; Sama Sama.

Here we sat and enjoyed a cocktail and some food with two other people that were in our room; before heading back again to wash up for our first night on the island.


The next day we woke up and went for breakfast. It was the morning of my 26th birthday. For years now I’d dreamt of swimming with a sea turtle; and having lived in Fiji I would have thought I’d have achieved this by now. However, unfortunately, due to the Chinese and their black market, sea turtles, amongst other creatures, are becoming increasingly rare.

So after eating, Marco said he’d come snorkelling with me in the persuit of one.

On the first snorkel we didn’t see much; just some fish and some dead coral; however over the next few days we persisted and my dream came true.


We paid a guy we had met in a bar to take us snorkelling on his boat with a few other holiday makers. He guaranteed me 100% he would show me a sea turtle. And he did not dispoint.

We did a few jumps into the ocean that day, and already by the first we had spotted the turtle. The only thing being; it was about 20 metres below us on the ocean floor and unless you had some serious free diving skill, it wasn’t that easy to get to.

We saw a couple of these and most of the people on the boat trip appeared to get a little bored after a few of hours of seeing turtles on the floor.  As everyone was making their way back to the boat, I saw the turtle moving a bit more, and noticed it was swimming up towards me.  I thrust my GoPro camera into the hands of the local guy, and I swam towards the turtle. I swam along side it, and held its shell for about one minute, before it delved back down again to the depths.  It was the most amazing one minute of my life, and I think I will go as bold as saying that that resulted in the best day of my life. It was so magnificent and beautiful, and I feel so lucky that I managed to get so close to such an amazing creature in its own habitat.



The rest of the time of the island mainly revolved around eating, drinking and more snorekeling, however after the sea turtle experience the rest of the swimming seemed so tame.




I had a great time here and met some awesome people; who all contributed to me having the most relaxed and care free, fun packed birthday to date. 




I received no cards nor presents, yet got hoards of love sent to me from friends and family all over the world; so what more could I really want?

Next stop; R&R at the Yoga Shack, Nusa Lambongan.  Leaving the party behind in exchange for some good healing vibes. For now at least.


The most romantic night of my life

So after writing the previous post, my plan was to have an early night and wake up at 3am for my flight to Denpasar, Bali. However, instead I laid awake, thinking of all the exciting times I had ahead with my best buddy. So I left the hotel and travelled to DMK airport, Bangkok, where I boarded my flight. IMG_1101 IMG_1105 When I arrived at Denpasar airport, I took a taxi to my accommodation which I had booked previously online at Bookings.com. I just wanted to go somewhere that was cheap, and had a swimming pool that I could use, whilst I waited for my friend to arrive. So I found this cute place online called Alam Puri Art Museum and Villa. It was only £10 a night each so we thought “perfect”, and booked it.

I arrived at the hotel and was immediately blown away. The place was like a dream. It was a collection of little private villas, all situated so that you wouldn’t even know anyone else was staying there.

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The architecture was incredible, massively playing on the Hindu roots of the country. I felt as though I’d been transported to Hampi, India, with the stone statues of Ganesh, covered in a wet moss and offerings to the various Hindu Gods laid around the gardens. I was led into my villa, which had its own private splash pool and seating area. I then took the stairs up to my SUITE. Suite. Not room.

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There was a massive four-poster bed with white linen, and white drapes surrounding it. A huge television in a beautifully carved wooden cabinet. The bathroom was a neutrally tiled room, with an enormous stone bathtub that could easily fit four people in it. After squealing in total delight and running round opening all the cupboards, I thanked the guys that had helped me with my bags and changed into my bikini. I went to the large communal pool, where I sunbathed, ate a salad and had a cocktail.

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When the sun had disappeared behind a building and I was in the shade, I returned to my room, where I treated myself to a bubble bath, and basically swam around in sheer delight and joy; blasting out my favourite songs from my laptop and just feeling so incredibly joyful. I spent the entire day alone and being thoroughly lazy and indulgent but I didn’t care. I was in paradise and it was amazing.

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At about 10pm I hear a knock on my door, and in walks one of my best friends in the world; Abbey. She goes through the same range of emotions as I; squealing with awe and shock of such an amazing place.

The place was totally designed for and catered towards couples, so I do wonder if the staff thought Abbey and I were gay, but oh well; its 2015.

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We ordered a bottle of wine from room service, ran ourselves another massive bubble bath, donned our bikinis, and sat there feeling totally in our element, whilst watching Fifty Shades of Grey on my laptop. We then spent the rest of the evening rolling around on the humongous bed and laughing at what a treat this was – £10 each. That was it. God I love Asia.

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I woke up in the middle of the night, rolled over and couldn’t even see Abbey. The bed was that big. I almost had to shout out to ask where she was. “Top left hand corner!”

In the morning I woke up lazily with the sun creeping through the double doors and onto the white linen.  Abbey had got up first so I woke alone, and stretched out all to myself. I do love Abbey but I definitely had the thoughts of how lovely it would have been to wake up with someone special there. Unfortunately I am not in love with anyone right now, so Abbey will have to do.

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Abbey’s romantic yet creepy photography

We went to the restaurant where we had a great breakfast (all included in the price) before a car met us and took us to the port so we could catch a boat to the Gili Islands.

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We were sad to leave our little spot of luxury; however it was time to get back to it and be the grubby little backpackers that we are at heart. So typical Kate and Abbey style, we boarded that boat with a bag full of Bintang beers, sat on the top deck, and toasted the next two weeks of stupidity and laughs.

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Let’s get Bintang-ed.

The Life of Pai

I’d heard before leaving; that on the journey from Chiang Mai to Pai, there were over 700 winds and bends; as the town itself is situated in the mountains. This wasn’t a lie. I would usually go and back this with photos as proof, however I spent the whole time concentrating on not being sick, so didn’t manage to take any.

I got off the bus feeling nauseous, and rather un-fresh, however spent the evening writing my previous blog post and taking it easy.

I woke up the next day with the feeling of nausea in my chest and stomach still, so just quietly took a wander around town and then had a sleep. This was pretty much how I spent my first two days in Pai. On my third night I was feeling a lot fresher, and up to drinking and socialising.

The hostel I was staying at, Pai Circus School, was the perfect place to meet fellow travellers. I’d walked past many other guesthouses and hostels on my wanderings and not one of them seemed to have the same sociable vibe as this one did. The bar / reception area is all open, looking out onto the grass where there’s a tightrope, surrounded by people practising their hula hooping, fire throwing and juggling. If you’re not interested in the circus antics, there is a large seating area with music, and a pool table, where people sit and have drinks.

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Jack Daniels…the Hoola Hooping Pooch. Kinda.

After getting talking to a few people from a variety of countries around the globe, mainly being the UK, the US and Australia, a group of us made our descent down the old dirt track, through the paddy fields, across an old bamboo bridge and to a quaint little live music venue called Edible Jazz. Groups of travellers gathered on bamboo elevated seating areas and drank cocktails whilst listening to a variety of musicians perform covers from your standard jazz music to artists such as Tracey Chapman. It was a really cool and chilled out vibe, and I sat there chatting away I felt flooded with the warm tingly feeling of total content-ness. I’d found a slice of paradise. Yes it was a town FULL of farang backpackers, but they were generally all the kind that were all there for the same reasons, and full of love and smiles.

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I saw a guy who I’d met in Chiang Mai the weekend just gone, so went to sit with him, and from there started talking to a guy and girl from England who I ended up sticking with for basically the rest of my time in Pai. What I love about travelling is that you are forced to shake all the inhibitions and insecurities, which you would hold on to when at home. I would never go and plonk myself down in a pub garden in London with random people without fear of being judged. Unless of course I’d been drinking far too much prosecco. Maybe we all should though, as it’s how you end up meeting the most loveable and awesome people.

We stayed out for a few hours longer and then we headed back to the little huts of our hostel and so to bed.

I’ll skip talking about the next day as I had clearly eaten something bad and was suffering with some pretty gnarly food poisoning.

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A creepy lizard

The next morning I was feeling much better, and already it was my last day. A group of us all hired mopeds and we decided to go exploring. We got a map and noted some waterfalls and a canyon and sped off. Unfortunately, with it being dry season, the waterfall was totally dry. So we went up to the canyon instead.

We walked across a couple of the thin ridges, however at midday and having become very dehydrated due to yesterday’s food poisoning I started to feel a bit dizzy so chose to sit that one out.

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We went to a strawberry picking farm and had some strawberry shakes and sat in the sun.

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Cheery little strawberries…

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After this we seemed to have exhausted most the things highlighted around the town on this map. Sam and I decided to keep driving for a bit, having paid for a day’s rent of the bike, so just followed some small back roads in the countryside.

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It was really pretty and nice to just drive aimlessly with the wind and bugs smacking in my face.

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We stopped off at a small river, which had bamboo huts along the banks. We paid 60 baht and lay on our bellies as we fed the fish swimming downstream. What we thought would be a relatively boring activity turned out to be more fun when the fish turned out to be pretty aggressive and fought each other for the food. We shared a large Leo, sat and chatted in the sun a bit more and then made our way back to the hostel.

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Sam feeding the fish

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After a few drinks with a large group at the hostel, we made our way back to town, where we all got in trucks to take us to a full moon party. Thailand is renowned for its full moon parties, however that’s more down south; specifically Koh Phangan. This was by no means on the same scale, however we had fun, and it was where all the friends I’d made were. Some of the guys from the circus school had come down and were spinning fire, as a bunch of us looked on; madly impressed at how they can do that without setting themselves on fire.

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The next day was mine and Lucy’s last, so we spent the day by the pool with everyone, sunbathing and chatting about how much we’d fallen in love with Pai and didn’t want to leave. It’s such a cool little place, and although I didn’t really done much whilst there, it had a wonderful atmosphere and is a great place to meet a bunch of amazing and similar minded people.

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With heavy hearts we boarded the last bus back to Chiang Mai, and took the 700 turns to the city.

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I felt so sad. I’d met such a great group of people; however I guess that’s the thing with traveling. Hopefully I will see some again when I get back to the UK.

I stayed in a cheap hotel, which was beautifully decorated downstairs, however it was seem by the time the decorators reached the floor I was on, that got tired and gave up. However it was somewhere clean and walking distance to the old town, so I took myself out for dinner to an amazing Burmese restaurant called The Swan, before walking back to my room to binge watch House of Cards and take it easy.

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The next day I woke up in time to catch my flight to Bangkok; when I realised I was a day behind what I thought; as it occurred to me I would be spending not one but two nights in a crumby hotel next to the airport.

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When I arrived I went for a walk around the area. There is nothing but a large food market for the locals living in the vicinity. The things I saw were even more stomach churning than at the food markets in Chiang Rai.

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Apart from the standard worms and duck heads, this market also had some frogs, stomach up, with their entrails out and bound around their stiff bodies. All garnished with a fresh lettuce leaf obviously.

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The sight of that churned my stomach, so I found a supermarket where I bought some cheese and wine, and retreated to my hotel room to once again binge on Netflix.

Today I have spent the day by the hotel pool, and unfortunately resigning myself to eat a fish burger from McDonalds, as I am pretty stuck for options here.

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Tomorrow I end my solitary confinement as I fly to Bali to meet my very best buddy from school, who is now living in Australia. So that promises a few weeks of stupidity and fun before I say goodbye until I don’t know when.

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SUCH an idiot

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I shouldn’t really complain about this place; seeing as I have this massive white double bed all to myself; but I’m waaaaaay more excited about bunking up with my best mate; and spending some more weeks roughing it, the way I like it. 🙂

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Good-Bai Chiang Rai. Hello World.

I’ve met some amazing people in Chiang Rai. I’ve made friends that I will 100% keep for life. As a whole, I’ve been extremely happy here.

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When I arrived I was in a relationship. Unfortunately that relationship didn’t work, as we both realised that our lives were going in separate directions. It was sad however I think we could both see it coming. It was easier to move on knowing it wasn’t a loss of love; instead the realisation that there was no future between us.

I then became involved with one of my friends I had made in Chiang Rai. It is not my story to tell so I shan’t go into detail, however certain issues surrounding addiction reared their ugly heads, which a couple of weeks ago resulted in a situation which meant I could no longer be around that person, and didn’t feel safe.

So with the school term coming to an end the week just gone, I took the opportunity to leave school and Chiang Rai, spending a month doing a bit of soul cleansing and solo backpacking; getting away from negative influences in my life.

I was meant to stay in Chiang Rai for the month of March, just signing in every morning at 7am and returning again to sign out in the afternoon. Such a pointless idea, however they were still going to pay us for that month. The recent developments revolving my love life, combined with this knowledge meant I jumped at the chance to swiftly be able to leave town.   I handed in my notice, sacrificed my pay, and worked my final week in Kindergarten.

Having this radical change was a shock to me, and I suddenly felt myself completely not ready and terrified about leaving my little kids.

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Maxing and Relaxing after a 3 hour Nap

I had to finish testing them all for the final exams in English, and then awarding them with appropriate grades etc. After this was done I was able to have some fun with them and just play silly games.

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On Friday I went to The Big C (a large shop just outside of town) and bought the kids all sorts of sweets and fizzy drinks and other such naughty things so we could have a little party.

Fuelling them with sugar on a Friday afternoon, just before home time; I can guarantee the parents would not have been very impressed, but we had to celebrate. They all went nuts when they saw I’d got them cake, and all kinds of crisps and chocolate.

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A Series of Photos I call “My Spirit Animal”

So we sat on the floor and we watched cartoons and sang nursery rhymes until it was 4pm and time to go home. I gave each one a massive hug and inevitably broke down in tears, thinking what will come of all these amazing children I’ve spent the last few months with every day?

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Yes teaching and living in Thailand has been very hard at times; having to make way for big differences in standards of teaching and general cultural rules. But for every time I woke up and thought about how I couldn’t be bothered to deal with the politics and the bitchieness that happens all too often between Thai staff, I would think of those little kids, and how amazing it is to every morning have them running up to me and hugging me in mass and getting shouted “I love you” at you on a daily basis.

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My Morning Greeting

So with plenty of sobs and cuddles from the Thai and Filipino teachers, I took my backpack full of my current worldly possessions and headed off to the bus station to meet my friends for a last goodbye weekend in Chiang Mai.

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We spent the last two days together; myself, John James, Alice, Grant, Emma, Bethel, Felicita, Cailin, Molly, Hannah and Antonia, eating all the amazing food which wasn’t ever available up in Chiang Rai. (Seriously; try being a vegetarian in a country where they think vegetarian just means anything but pork. I’ve eaten noodle soup every day since November).

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Gal Pals For Life ❤

We all went for breakfast this morning at an amazing place called Good Morning Chiang Mai; where I had a croissant stuffed with scrambled egg and grated cheese; I’ve never been happier to eat something so basic.

When I returned from the toilet there was a notebook and some handmade organic soap on my seat. They’d all written me a personal message, which was just the loveliest thing ever. I feel so lucky to be so far from home yet have the most amazingly caring and wonderful souls surrounding me. There’s so much love in the world; it’s amazing to think all these random people all shoved into a situation side by side can form such strong and lasting bonds. It really touched me deeply.

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After saying our goodbyes, I wandered off to the bus station. I was suddenly overwhelmed with this feeling of total freedom. I was on the road again. I know everyone back home sees my Facebook and thinks my life is just a big old holiday, but I have been working really hard, and living in a small town such as Chiang Rai, you are somewhat restricted when it comes to freedom.

In my head, I started singing Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”; feeling free and proud to have achieved what I have on this trip. I feel as though I have bettered myself in more ways than one. I’ve tried to take on principles surrounding positivity, and more feelings of self-love. However don’t get me wrong; I’m still filled with moments of self-doubt and anxiety; but I feel I’m slowly learning to recognise what you should prioritise in life to fill yourself with happiness, rather than negative doubt.   Very slowly. But its happening.

As well as these philosophical improvements, I’ve also given up meat since the beginning of December (my favourite meal would have to be an absolutely massive, juicy sirloin steak, and Saturday’s are known to me and my friends back home as “Bacon Sandwich Day”); and have given up a ten-year DISGUSTING habit of smoking. (Sorry Dad). Its weird how I’d inhale that crap on and off for a decade, and now when I am next to someone smoking it repulses me. You can smell the stench on them and it’s utterly vile. I know I won’t go back to that. I guess I’ve finally grown up.

As I write this, I’m sat in a circus school and resort, in the small town of Pai; situated in the Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand. It’s renowned for being a hippy town, and although I’ve yet to explore, I can certainly say it’s living up to that. I’m sat with a Chang beer, whilst surrounded by dreadlocked travellers, practising fire juggling and tightrope walking. I know I won’t get dreads but am quite interested in juggling with fire to be honest.

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I finally feel free and at peace. I’ve got no one negative around me; I look around to mountains, forests and fire pits.

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Home for now

The accommodation is basic. I’m staying in a triangular hut, with holes in the floor and the roof. I’m living in fear that a snake will rear its head through the gap in the bamboo floorboards. Yet I’m insanely happy.

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Elephants, Near Death Experiences and some VERY Small Swimming Trunks

Last weekend, I had to briefly pop into the school on the Sunday, to introduce myself to the Kindergarten children’s parents. This mainly involved smiling, having my photo taken on what seemed like a hundred mother’s smart phones, and listening to a massive presentation all in Thai. Needless to say, when I was finally released to enjoy my Sunday, I was more than a little over the moon.

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Meeting The Parents

I met up with my friends Johan and Conor, and a guy we’d met the previous night at the bar, called Jack. We decided to do something constructive with our day, so split between two mopeds; we all went on a mini adventure.

We drove out of the city, towards the direction of the prison, where slowly the buildings depleted until you could see no more, and instead it was just the luscious green hills of the forest and the dazzling blue sky.

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At one part in the road, we saw massive poops, and realised we were near an elephant camp. Unfortunately, I’d hoped that they would have been looked after and free, however they were chained and tourists were paying to ride on them. I found myself having a moral debate with each side of my brain, as I fundamentally do not agree with animals being treated in this way, however their trunks kept reaching out for the table full of food, so I decided to compromise with my two opposing opinions, and bought them some bamboo to chew on. This was until one elephant got a little too excited, and we couldn’t tell which end of the elephant was the trunk; we decided to swiftly leave the camp.

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Back on the mopeds we jumped, and across the River Kok again. We started to drive deeper into the forest and further up the hills, as the mountain roads started to bend more frequently and suddenly. We ascended a rather steep mountain in particular, where poor old John had to jump off the back of Johan’s moped and walk, as it was simply too steep for the weight of two grown men.

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When we finally reached the summit of this hill we descended straight down the other side; which still confuses me a little as to why we didn’t approach it from another way.

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Anyway, we drove through a very desolate and quiet village, and through a tea plantation, over some rather rocky terrain until we eventually heard the gush of Hauy Keaw Waterfall. From here we demounted the bikes, and started climbing the hill from which the waterfall was coming. We were looking for a kind of rock pool that would be situated half way between the top and the bottom of the waterfall, where we could have a swim.

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Tea Plantations

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After climbing quite steep and slippery surfaces, we eventually reached a rock pool. “Great” we thought. However upon closer inspection, we realised that we needed to cross a homemade bamboo bridge, over falling water and jagged rocks, in order to reach the access point to the rock pool. Adding to this, the bamboo was rotten.

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THE Bridge

Johan, who used to be in the military, jumped over this with seemingly no problems. I was right behind him, so naturally it was my turn to go next. I was hugely uncomfortable about this, however, in the presence of three men, and being the only girl, there was no way I would be a stereotype and chicken out. Oh no. Of course I was going to cross the rotten bamboo bridge that was definitely not safe at all. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as I was crossing, the rotten bamboo decided to give way under my weight, and snap. My leg went straight through, and fortunately I feel like my life was saved due to my bottom being big enough to not follow it through.

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The Aftermath 

Too much cheese and wine in my diet proved to me a very good thing after all.

I stayed here, in shock for a little bit, waiting for the rest of the bamboo to slowly give way, and for me to drop to the rocks beneath me; however it didn’t, and I shakily decided to make my way back to the safety of Conor and Jack.

After we all laughed about how I could have died and how much of a downer that would have been to everyone else’s trip; we decided to descend again, where we found the safety of a rock pool that was flat, and easy to enter, and offered no threat of amputation or death.

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The Swede with his VERY short swimmers

Here we met a family of locals who had come for a late afternoon swim; and although there was the ever-impending language barrier afoot, we had the best time just being big kids and all splashing each other with water.

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New Friends

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With that, we dragged our damp bodies back onto the bikes, and started the journey home, back to the city, before starting work the next day.

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This city may be small, but it’s surrounded by surprises.

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