06.19.16 a weekend in Bangkok

I cannot believe how fast our weekend in Bangkok sprung up!! I remember thinking how far away it seemed this weekend was and now it is here. As well, it is a little bittersweet because that means that I have been in Thailand longer than I have left.

Friday at 5 we got picked up and met one of our guides pat at the airport. Before our flight we were able to go to the Bangkok airways lounge, which had a small buffet with snack and some drinks. Of course, I spent my hour in the lounge trying ever single option the buffet offered while most people stuck to a small bag of popcorn, an water, and maybe a coffee.

On my first plate I grabbed what was supposed to be Thai shortbread, some sort of coconut thing, and then this blue jelly thing. I think it’s sad to say the weird blue jelly was the best thing on that plate. The two other things were absolutely horrible. The Thai shortbread tasted like straight up chalk… salty chalk. The coconut thing was covered in this salty, kind of slimy, white liquid, and after trying that I didn’t really care enough to finish any more of it. Thinking of eating it just gave me the chills. That was the worst thing I ate in Thailand.

The next plate I grabbed some sticky rice that was wrapped up in a leaf. After taking a bite and seeing something black and hard I gave up on it again. The next thing I grabbed, my friends told me was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. After taking a bite I realized why they were laughing so hard. It was a spinach sandwich thing that I really don’t know why I thought was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because the sign clearly said spinach. Fortunately, this was actually delicious. It was basically spinach and artichoke dip between two slices of bread… yum!

On the airplane, although I was more than full, I was still sad to find out the program coordinators didn’t request a vegetarian meal for me but it obviously wasn’t really a big deal at all. I was able to get a cup of orange juice and a cup of coffee. Of course it is only my luck that as soon as I want coffee the plane hits massive turbulence causing hot coffee to spill all over my lap. I am not quite sure why but for some reason I was laughing and smiling. It is honestly funny that something like this happened to me because that is just my kind of luck. If anyone was going to get coffee spilled on him or her it was going to be me. I should have been a little more concerned but instead all I could do was laugh. The best part was that I still had about two sips of coffee left. The better part was I had to drink it black and I actually liked it, so maybe now I can start drinking coffee with less milk.

Once we landed in Bangkok, we got in a van and drove about 30-45 minutes into the city to our Ibis hotel. Unfortunately this one did not have our rooms ready so we had to go to another Ibis hotel in the city. Everything definitely happens for a reason because this new hotel was in a way better location than the other one, super close to tons of shops and restaurants.

Even though it was pretty late, my friends and I ventured down the street to where the night market area was so we could buy some loose pants to wear to the Grand Palace the next day since they are very strict about what you wear and leggings are not allowed.

Seeing the hustle and the bustle of the city at night was super awesome. All the lights and the sounds of taxis, and just life going on around us was great. It’s that sort of thing that makes me want to live in a big city for a couple years of my life.

On our way back, we got stuck in the inevitable rainstorm; however, since were just going to go to bed, we decided to brave the storm, and get soaked. Soaked is merely an understatement. Every piece of clothing I had on was drenched, and I was dripping. But as per usual, I was soaking wet with a smile on my face because how can you not be happy after doing so many awesome things in the course of one day?

IMG_4017The next day we were going to be touring a couple of temples. We started our day at the grand palace. Immediately when you walked in you felt as though you were walking into the Magic Kingdom in Disney world. You had to wait in a line to get in and then the whole crowd of people walked into the area where the actual temples were or went to the museum first.

Our small group did the museum first which was relatively interesting. It was all of the king’s treasures so there were things in there that were given as gifts from other countries such as swords, jewels, and bowls. As well, there was an exhibit showing the evolution of Thai money. Seeing this exhibit truly showed how arbitrary the concept of money is. I mean for crying out loud, back in the good old days they used what looked like a pebble as money. Who decides what holds value and what doesn’t?

My favorite part of the museum was the display of swords. I kind of feel like an eight year old boy saying that but they were definitely the most interesting. If there was a gift shop in the end where I could have bought a plastic version of one, I would have bought one right then and there, no hesitation.

IMG_4029After the museum we entered the temple area of the grand palace and let me tell you, grand is merely an understatement. There were multiple buildings on the actual sight with the most beautiful detailing on the sides. I really like how some of the colors used for painting the exterior was different than the colors you would see on the temples in Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai it seems as though the temples are richer in color on the exterior while in Bangkok you see more pastel colors. As well, we passed structures that were completely golden which was absolutely incredible

IMG_4052While I was taking pictures of the building, all the sudden I hear some saying excuse me miss, as best as they could. After I looked over I saw a man waving a camera. I walked over to him and asked if he wanted me to take a picture of him and his friend when he responded that he wanted to know if he could take a picture with me. After that, the other friend wanted his picture taken with me too. Even right now, a little over a week later, I am still confused as to why they wanted a picture with me. I am a pretty standard looking western person. There is nothing about me that they would have never seen before and it’s not like they wanted a picture with everyone in our group… just me.

After this, we proceeded to the main attraction of the grand palace: the emerald Buddha. I was honestly expecting to see a massive Buddha statue that was emerald, but it was just a little tiny guy, on top of a huge shrine. You can tell how sacred this Buddha is because when you go in you are not allowed to take pictures. As well, because the Buddha is so high up, they are making sure no one can have their head higher than the Buddha.

The dress code of the grand palace is also far more strict. You need to be covered from the shoulders down to the ankles and are not allowed to wear leggings. A couple girls in our group had to rent a maxi wrap skirt in order to be allowed in.

While we were walking out of the grand palace another women waved their camera and asked if I could take a photo of here. This time she actually just wanted her photo taken. So I quickly took her photo and walked over to put my shoes back on. As I was putting my shoes on she came running back to me and I assumed that the photo I took was blurry and she wanted me to take another. Nope. She came to ask if someone who appeared to be a younger sister could have his or her photo taken with me.

IMG_4176.jpgOf course I said yes, and the dad whipped out his phone and took a couple of pictures. As I said before I really am not sure why. All I can think of is that if one day I happen to be famous they will have something valuable.

After we finished up at the grand palace, we grabbed some waters because we were dripping sweat at this point and walked to Wat Pho to see the reclining Buddha. It’s crazy how even though it wasn’t sunny out it was still extremely hot, and the fact we had to wear a t shirt and pants didn’t really help.

Wat Pho was also super beautiful. The buildings were painted with similar structures and designs as the Grand Palace. The reclining Buddha is absolutely incredible! It is so massive you have to wonder how it got there in the first place. It was super cool and I am happy I got to see it!

We then walked down to a dock where we were going to take a boat to the other side of the river for another temple tour. Before getting on the boat we ate at a restaurant right next door. I got stir-fried greens with rice, which was really good! I have been loving eating stir-fried kale or morning glory over some rice with a little bit of chili sauce.

Because in our initial itinerary it said we had a boat tour, I thought we were going to be riding in this super rocky boat for a while; however, fortunately and unfortunately it was a less than 3 minute ride. The fortunate part is I avoided getting boat sick, the unfortunate part is that are boat tour was kind of lame.

The temple on the other side though was nice though! We were once again fortunate to receive another blessing from a monk. I will gladly take all the blessings I can get because I need as many good vibes and good luck as possible. As you can probably imagine, this bracelet is also never coming off.

Because we had so much time after, our coordinator Pat took us to a Thai accessory market. We had about an hour to roam here; however, my friends and I weren’t really in the mood to shop so we walked until we found a coffee shop, which just so happened to be Starbucks.

I tried their double chocolate, green tea Frappuccino and the green tea, almond croissant. Oh my god was this croissant good. The Frappuccino was good too but the croissant was honestly life changing. That sounds really stupid of me to say but I will only get over how good it was once I find the equivalent in the US.

Once we got picked up, we drove back to the hotel and had the rest of the evening to do as we pleased. I took a much-needed nap until around the time I wanted to eat dinner.

For dinner, we tried a Middle Eastern food restaurant a little bit down the street from us. I simply decided to get naan bread and hummus. The meal also came with a small tray of other dipping sauces. Mixing a little bit of all the sauces with the hummus and then dipping the naan in was so good! I am not ashamed to say that when the naan ran out I continued to finish eating the rest of the hummus with my spoon.

After, we spent the rest of the evening walking around the area by the hotel, taking in the beauty of Bangkok at night.

The next morning, we were going to see one more temple, and then spend a couple hours in a mall. For them temple, we went to see the golden Buddha. We started out going through another museum and then walked up a series of stairs where the actual temple was. I loved how as soon as you entered you had to take you shoes off so for the museum and everything I got to be barefoot, which is one of my favorite things. The view from the top of the temple was my favorite part! You got to catch of glimpse of the skyline of Bangkok. There is one building that is super eye-catching (and my favorite) because toward the top there is a section that looks as though it was made out of Legos, and looks slightly out of place.

The golden Buddha itself was absolutely beautiful too! However still, my favorite part about this temple had to be the view.

Once we were all finished up here in both temples, we drove over to the mall. I have to say I was kind of upset that one of our activities was to just spend like 3 hours at a mall. As well, I’m kind of shocked part of our trip wasn’t to go to the floating markets. Yes, the mall is cool and all but I can go to a mall anywhere. The only difference was this mall was HUGE. I spent my time eating. I got to enjoy a small green tea cone from dairy queen, which was pretty cool, but otherwise being at the mall was just average.

After our time at the mall was over we headed back to the airport to board our flight back to Chiang Mai. Overall I can say I really enjoyed Bangkok! I wish our trip was a little bit better arranged so we could have done more but oh well, I guess that means I will need to go back, and that is not a bad thing at all!

I definitely prefer Chiang Mai to Bangkok because everything there is so manageable. Maybe if I spent more time in Bangkok and did more my opinion would be a little bit different, but for now, Chiang Mai is the winner. On a side note, cheers to you if you’ve actually made it this far in the post… YOU are the real mvp.

I hope you all have a wonderful day! Wishing you all peace!

Hannah

06.17.16 3rd week of classes at CMU

IMG_3919.jpgBefore I even begin, I need to apologize for taking so long to actually write up these posts. I don’t really know what happened. So if details are a little sparse that’s why. The good news is that it means I won’t be writing a novel about 2 days. Better late than never.

IMG_3902The most exciting part of this week was my Wednesday (the 15th of June). This day we had a cultural field trip to the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chai Mongkhon. Here, we were fortunate enough to be able to receive a blessing from a monk, which was super awesome. At the end of the blessing the monk tied a simple white bracelet onto our arms symbolizing good luck… lets just say I’m never taking it off.IMG_3942.JPG

IMG_3933.JPGAfter, we were able to let a couple of fish into the river which we were taught is done because those fish are ones people do not eat because they are good luck or something like that. It was pretty interesting and cool to take part in a tradition that local people were coming to the temple to do.

Once we got back to our hotel and we got stuck in a monsoon like rainstorm on our way back from the market after grabbing dinner. The good news is that, from what I have experience, rainstorms, regardless how intense they are, are over in 30-45 minutes. The one thing I noticed was how quickly the vendors can fully waterproof their entire stand. Literally within probably 2 minutes extra tarps were put up and whatever was needed to keep everything the vendor had dry.

The other nice thing about rain, is if you look carefully, you can usually find a rainbow, and it was today I saw the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. Never before have I seen a rainbow where every sing ROYGBIV color was present. You could clearly see the difference between the blue, indigo, and violet sections, which I feel usually blend. Every color was so vibrant it truly took my breath away.

The best part about rain storms in Thailand though has to be that wherever you end up getting stuck there is either an incredible restaurant or a little spa place. Fortunately for us today, we found ourselves in a place offering 30-minute foot massages for 100 baht. Not only were we able to be pampered and relax a bit, but also once we were done it was nice and sunny again. It doesn’t get much better than that, now does it?

Thursday after class, for dinner we decided to go to an actual restaurant. There is this one vegetarian restaurant called taste of heaven that ever time we pass it is always full of people, so we figured we needed to give it a try. I decided to try a tofu burger, because for some reason I had never thought to put a slab of seasoned tofu on a burger as the patty part. I’m glad I finally was shown this idea because it was delicious and I will definitely be doing something similar again soon.

It was sort of nice to be served and sit in air conditioning, even though it was a little more expensive. The food was also worth every penny, if not more than we paid. I will never get tired of all the incredible food here.

The rest basically consisted of more of the same, which is always a good thing; there is just not really any sense in me writing about it because it is all stuff you have read about in my blogs before.

Anyways, have an absolutely wonderful day!!

Peace,

Hannah

06.11.16 blowing leaf bubbles and trekking in the jungles of Thailand

By far, this was my favorite day of my trip so far. Everything about today was more than beautiful. We got picked up from the hotel at 8:30 and drove about an hour to a local market, where our guide gave us showed us and explained some of the things the locals like to eat.

IMG_4245First we came up to a stand where for 20 or 40 baht you could fill up a bag with various water bugs, some the size of my pinky finger… too bad I wasn’t in the mood for a snack yet.

IMG_4251As we continued, we got to a section where there was meat and seafood, fresh for purchase (although I’m not sure what category insects fall in). We were looking at one stand that sold what I think was bee larvae, which we learned later tastes great in eggs, chicken intestines, and something floating around in a bag of nearly black water. While I was trying to take a picture of the bee’s nest and larvae things one of the things in the black water bags moved and I’m still convinced it was a live snack. I can’t really tell you for sure though because I ran away too fast to unfortunately get a closer look.

As we continued we passed stands that were perfect for picky meat eaters because you could purchase any part of the chicken that was your favorite. Oh yah, if your picky with what part of the chicken, or any animal you want to eat head to market in chiang mai so you can take your pick between liver, intestine, foot, or regular meat. Yummy…

Then we passed a stand that had fish sitting on a table, some still catching their last breaths. I’m not going to lie, I do have a 10 second video on my phone of a fish gasping for air, which may be a little messed up, especially since I’m a vegetarian, but oh well, I can’t say I’m ashamed.

The part that shook me up was when all the sudden our guide said look down and I saw what look like a laundry basket full of live fish swimming around. If you know me or read my blog about white-water rafting you know I hate fish and basically any critter that lives in the water. So similar to the snake scenario, I didn’t look long enough to be able to tell you what kind of fish they actually were. In fact, I straight up ran out of that section of the market, which our guide find pretty funny.

Right before we left I bought myself a little waffle snack thing for 10 baht, because obviously, seeing all the those bugs, swimming creatures, and chicken parts made me hungry again… okay maybe that wasn’t why I was hungry, maybe it was just breakfast time and this was all my stomach could handle after seeing these things.
IMG_4284We drove then drove the last thirty minutes into the jungle and then got out to begin our trek. We started down a dirt path that slowly took us into the jungle up the mountain. By the time we made it through the first little section of forest area my breath had been take from me. All the sudden we saw a clearing of trees and you could tell we were actually going up the mountain. After a little bit further, we were no longer completely surrounded by trees but surrounded by mountains and the most beautiful shades of green.IMG_4307

Our guide was absolutely incredible because every time we passed an edible plant or something we would casually point it out. Plus he spoke excellent English and was super funny. At one point he stopped next to a bamboo tree and started to shake it. After nothing had happened for a bit we asked him what he was trying to do and he said he saw a rats nest and was trying to shake them out. Thank god it didn’t work. Another point he stopped at a plant to show us some caterpillars. Right before moving on he said he had to stop looking at them because the caterpillars made him hungry. The very hungry caterpillar or very hungry hiking guide, we will never know.

Once we had reached the area were we were no longer surrounded by trees we stopped for a quick snack and water break and had time to take in the beauty of the green plants, brownish-orange dirt road, and the mountains.

IMG_4393That place we stopped on is most definitely my idea of a perfect place. Anywhere I am surrounded by lush greens and mountains is my happy place. In fact, if I ever go missing, that is where you can find me living in a hut, growing a banana tree and some other plants, alive and thriving.

We continued through the trails and every time I thought my surrounding were beautiful I was proven wrong my and even more gorgeous landscape. It truly felt like I was walking on a trail with a green screen in front of me.

On this trek was one of the first times I truly felt like I was somewhere far, far away. I felt as though I was truly IN and seeing Thailand because the nature is the one thing you can’t pick up and move somewhere else. These landscapes and different natural elements are truly unique to this country. You build things anywhere but you can’t pick up and take a mountain or forest back to the US.

IMG_4447.jpgEventually we got to the point where we were walking through a hill tribe area. We saw women hand weaving bags and scarfs, and a couple ladies selling hand made bracelets. After seeing how beautiful their craft was I had to buy something, and seeing their reaction was worth even more than the bracelet I bought because they were so thankful.

It was cute seeing both dogs and chickens causally running around the village area. The best part was when we passed by a group of little kids playing and as soon as they saw us they stopped, starting waving, and screaming hello, which, appeared to be the only English word they knew. They had the biggest smiles on their faces, which is an image I will never forget. Seeing other people smiling and expressing joy makes me feel happier than anything I could buy because it actually gives lasting happiness.

IMG_4434.JPGThen we passed one plant, which helped inspire the title for this piece. If you broke the stem of the leaf properly, it created a sappy bubble wand, which you could carefully blow bubbles through. How cool is that? So like the title says, there I was chilling in a jungle on a mountain blowing some super jazzy leaf bubbles.

We then got to the area where the eco kitchen was, where we would be eating lunch. We had yellow curry, rice, and some stir fry vegetables. This was probably the best food I had so far, probably because everything was so fresh. All of the food was so flavorful and absolutely delicious.

After we finished eating, the guide asked if we wanted to do another small hike and we all agreed to go. Once again, the scenery was incredible. The best part of this was we passed a variety of different mango trees. Of course, I had to ask if we were allowed to eat a piece and the guide said if we wanted to we could, it just may not taste super good because they may not be ripe.

IMG_4481.JPGObviously I had to pick the fruit to try. The first one was a green mango, which tasted similar to an unripe pear, so I only had a couple of bites. It just felt so cool to think that I was walking in a jungle and casually grabbed a mango off a tree to eat as a snack for my walk. The next mango was a super mini one. This one was surprisingly ripe and super delicious because the mango flavor was more concentrated and the texture was a little softer. Delicious!!

Eventually the second part of the hike was over and we got back in our van and drove to the temple Wat Chiang Dao, which had a cave we were supposed to explore. Once we got there the guide explained and showed us how some of the architecture of the temple was inspired by the Myanmar people and it was super beautiful and definitely different from the other temples we have seen. Then we got to the part where the cave was.

I thought we were going to just go into a small cave; however, instead of walking up a flight of stairs, we walked what I think was 750 meters into this cave that also had statues inside, acting as another part of the temple. I have never been in a cave like this before so it was super awesome to experience this!! As well, we saw bats inside which was pretty cool. The stalagmite structures were incredible and it was just a overall a neat experience!

Since the cave part was closing soon, we finished up and got in our van for the approximately hour and a half ride back to our hotel. I slept the whole time and had the most glorious, nap ever.

Like I said at the beginning, this was definitely the highlight of my trip so far because I was completely blown away by how incredibly beautiful everything was. Absolutely outstanding. If you go to Thailand, you need to go trekking in the jungles and mountains.. why would you not want to do something that leaves you lost for words?

 

Anyways, to quote my sixth grade graduation song, I wish you well my friends!!

Have a great day!!!

 

Hannah

06.10.16 Tuk tuks, squat toilets, and monk chats

I am officially covered in mosquito bites. It is at the point where I don’t even care if I put on bug spray because I will still be itchy from how many I already have. I would try to count but there is not point because there are too many. That being said, I’m not even really mad about it; it’s just kind of an inconvenience.

Thursday after I finished writing my post for the second week of classes at CMU, my friends and I left the coffee shop we were writing in once it closed around 6 and went to the market to grab a bite for dinner. I was excited that I was able to find shrimp wonton soup on the menus, because I was in the mood for soup. Once my food was brought to me I was surprised when the lady told me 80 baht. The menu had said forty so I was unsure if I misread it or if the menu was just wrong.

IMG_4168After she set down two big bowls of soup I realized that it was my fault and I had really just messed up my Thai so instead of asking for one I guess I asked for two. Instead of fighting it I just handed over the money and actually ended up finishing both so I guess it all worked out.

The good thing was at least I managed to get the word for shrimp correct so at least my meal was vegetarian because like I wrote about earlier, it is very easy to say a word with a wrong tone or pronounce something wrong and get something completely different, or even end up with blood in your soup.

After, even though I was full, there was a strong, magnetic like attraction between the crepe stand and me, so I ended up also enjoying a delicious banana-nutella crepe.

IMG_4210Once we were all done eating we realized it was only just hitting 7pm and none of us were ready to head back to the hotel and call it a day, we simply just dropped off our bags and then head back out to walk around the city. When we finally got back out of the hotel again there was a tuk tuk sitting across the street waiting to take people so we decided to hop in to go where we wanted and also got to check “ride in a tuk tuk” off our Thailand bucket lists. The tuk tuk was super fun, although I really have no need to take one again since they are a tad more expensive than the red truck.

The most memorable thing about this night was I finally had my first squat toilet experience, which was interesting, but honestly not bad at all! If you don’t know what it is, it is basically a glorified whole in the ground. The only thing I found a little strange was that to use the bathroom, I had to pay 5 baht. Something about paying to use a toilet that is a whole in the ground just isn’t right, but there were no other bathrooms around so what else are you supposed to do… plus at the end of the day it was only 5 baht.

Friday for our Buddhist philosophy class we had arranged to go to the monk chat program at wat suan dok. After being dropped off, we waited in the monk chat and meditation lesson building until a monk was available to chat with us, which only took 20 minutes. It is a really neat program because our monk explained that he is part of the is program so he can practice his English.

He was a student at the university at Wat Suan Dok studying Buddhism and English in his third year, and he has been a monk for the last 9 years. We only talked about Buddhism related stuff for about 20 minutes but the rest of the time we just spent having what felt like judgment free conversation learning about meditation and calming our minds. Everyone there was so friendly and treated us really well. The head monk chat monk gave us great thanks and wished us peace and happiness in our hearts, which I thought was a really kind thing to wish a person when you are saying goodbye, most likely something I’m going to try to start doing.

IMG_4197After, we had a little bit of time to relax before we went to this restaurant called el Diablo’s, which apparently had the best Mexican food in town. I ordered a bean and rice burrito and it lived up to every expectation I had… plus after two weeks it was kind of nice to change up the cuisine a little bit. After, we ventured around a little longer near Thae Pae gate, because that is where the restaurant was near, and eventually made our way back to the hotel to get a good rest before our trekking excursion that was booked for us for Saturday!

Sorry to be writing this so late and kind of out of order, I guess I lost track of time and forgot to make time to write until after white- water rafting.

Hope your day brings you peace and happiness!

 

Hannah

06.12.16 unexpected swims in the jungle

What a day (so far)!! I woke up at 8:30 and got into a van to go for a two-hour drive into the jungle for my first white-water rafting experience! During the days leading up to I was quite honestly a bit worried because there are a lot of things involved in white water rafting that completely terrify me because it involves water. Even before we booked the excursion I was a little hesitant and tried coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t but I just told myself I had to do it. As well, I found out white water rafting was a little more intense than I had assumed. Sitting here now after, I can definitely say it was fun and I would do it again.

So, on the adventure.

Once we arrived we ate lunch, which was curry, rice, fruit, and a couple of other things I didn’t pay enough attention to because they were meat dishes. The food was awesome but not as good as the food from yesterday while we were trekking.

After, we got our life jackets and helmets and then had a quick little briefing where we learned the paddle commands and basically what to do if you fall in. My first wrong assumption of the day was that you simply sit in the raft and go down the river and the river guide kind of steers you. Nope, you are paddling the whole time basically. My second wrong assumption was that you sit in the raft and are better secured to the raft. Nope. You sit kind of on the edge with your feet lodged in a little raft crevasse and there’s a little rope on the raft, that if you are me, you hold on to for dear life.

Into the raft and down the river we went following about 6 other rafts of people. The water was kind of pleasant at first and the rapids were occasional and not super intense. Of course though, I screamed when we wend in every single one. The funniest thing is when you get stuck on a rock you have to kind of jump on the raft which feels like bouncing in a bounce- house, so of course I could help my die laughing every single time, which for our group was often because almost every set of rapids had us stuck on a rock.

The scenery was incredible. There is no way to properly explain the feeling of going down a river surrounded by trees and mountains. It was more beautiful than words, and in this situation, being scared for my life in the process is the cherry on the cake of the memory.

About halfway through we reached the point where the really big sets of rapids were one after another. You knew you were about to go through something intense and crazy when you started seeing the workers with cameras trying to capture your reaction.

These rapids had our boat stuck between rocks nearly completely sideways and then finally as we were unstuck, dropping down quickly. There were some points where we would be stuck on a rock in a rapid and water would nearly fill our entire raft, which was somewhat pleasant, somewhat refreshing, but most definitely the closest to being in the water I wanted to be. Even when we weren’t going through huge rapids I had a constant death grip on the rope and any other part of the raft I could latch on to.

Eventually we reached a point where the water was still, so we had a chance to just relax for a bit before the rest of the journey.

I was completely shocked when people were getting out of the raft and going for a swim in the brown, ambiguous lake. In fact, I was the only person who didn’t get out of their raft. During my relaxing float I still had a death grip on the rope because there was a good chance someone was going to flip my boat into the water, forcing me in. I made it clear that I was not a fan of the water and wanted absolutely nothing to do with going in. I already have a fear of fish and fish like creatures and I don’t like being in water that isn’t clear so why would I ever want to be in this brown water where only god knows what kind of strange river monster critter beings are. I had a lovely time floating. It was very peaceful I could have fallen asleep.

After all the boats had re-gathered, we started down the river again to an even bigger strand of rapids. As we were going through a set of rapids, I looked down at the current the raft was about to go through and all of the sudden my body became much more slippery and I flew into the disgusting water I wanted nothing to do with.

My third wrong assumption. If I fall out I’ll quickly be able to fling myself back into the boat before I realize I’m in the water. Nope. Not when you’re in the rapid.

So there I am, I would say floating but that sounds too pleasant. I was in the water going down the river through a little rapidy area low key, yet high key freaking out in a panic. As I’m floating under the pretty bridge I look up and see the workers recording me on their go pro camera and I just keep floating down the river because I had no idea what to do. At that point I thought I would just float until my raft caught up to me but then the workers started yelling and pointing to swim to the side where I ended up sitting on a slimy rock in the water completely caught off guard, and seconds away from full on panic.

The emergency kayak came over to make sure I was okay because I guess I looked like I was really struggling and then my raft came over and saved me. Getting onto the raft from the rock was simple; however made challenging because my whole body was shaking. After about a minute in the boat calming down, we continued down the rest of the way.

Honestly, if anyone were going to fall in it would be me because I am just unlucky like that, and I said that numerous times before. So I guess I kind of knew it was coming and it was more of a when rather than an if.

For being one of worst things that could have happened in my mind I’m not really sure why I was laughing after or how I can say I would gladly go white water rafting again, but Thailand has seemed to be having that kind of effect on me.

The entire journey was super fun!! I am still laughing about falling in to the river and floating away but then again, now I have another fun trivia fact about myself, I fell off a raft and floated through rapids in the middle of the jungle… That’s kind of interesting I guess.

As the rapid areas slowly went away, we came closer and closer to the end.

My fourth wrong assumptions, we would only be out for about an hour because it is only a 10 km trip. Nope. We were on the water for probably 3 hours and every second was incredible. Whether I was blown away by the beauty of where I was, or adrenaline coursing through my veins going through the rapids it was absolutely wonderful.

After having our post-rafting snack, we got back in our van and drove the 2 hours home. After about 10 minutes I was passed on and didn’t wake back up until basically we were at the hotel, which was nice. Now I am sitting in the hotel waiting to go to the Sunday night market to explore and eat some more incredible food.

Have an absolutely wonderful day!!!

 

Peace

Hannah

06.09.16 Second week of classes at CMU

It’s crazy to think my 2nd week of classes in Chiang Mai has just finished! It’s even crazier to think that I am now about halfway done the program. Where did the time go? Although, when I look back and think about how much I have done THIS far, I am pretty satisfied. As I write these blogs I don’t really have an outline of what I am going to write or about how long things are going to be so fair warning, this may be a long one.

Waking up Monday morning I was a little bit scared for Thai class because I hadn’t practiced too much over the weekend, so I though I forgot what I learned. It turns out after a quick refresher in the beginning of class I was good to go! It is satisfying to say that learning Thai does seem to be getting easier, although it is still very challenging. The most strange part of this class though was when we learned how to ask for blood in our soup. My professor was completely serious too. She said she prefers it with blood cause it has a much better flavor. On the other hand, I was completely nauseous and if she mentioned it one more time I would have ran to the bathroom to throw up. I think the problem was that I was thinking there was a slight chance I could have already eaten blood soup because how was I supposed to know the difference and how was I supposed to know that was even a possibility? Even writing this now and reflecting I find myself a little sick to my stomach.

For Monday’s lunch I decided to have Khaw Soy, which is basically crispy and soft noodles in a curry. The curry was amazing; the only problem was it was SO spicy. It was baffling to think that there were people adding extra heaping amounts of chili powder to it to increase the spice. I on the other had, had to go buy myself a coconut smoothie to soothe my mouth and throat so I could actually finish my meal. Both were amazing.

IMG_4104.JPGFor Buddhist Philosophy, my teacher took us to the temple Wat Suandok, which also happens to be a university specializing in Buddhist studies. It is also rather interesting because it is about half regular students and half monks studying here. While our professor was showing us around and showing us the uniforms for the regular students, I learned that the general uniform is pretty standard, the only thing that changes is the shirt buttons, pins and belt buckles students wear depending on what university they go to.

The temple was very beautiful! My favorite part was how from the parking lot there was a beautiful view of the mountains in the background, with the temple in the fore ground!

Later that day we took another venture around the old city; however, instead of going right towards Thae Pae gate, we took a left to see what we would find. We ended up turning down one of the main roads and then making a right down a smaller road when we saw a sign for a vegetarian restaurant. This ended up taking us almost through a residential area, and the vegetarian food was simply a stand in front of someone’s house. Because we wanted to sit down to eat something we continued. It was really neat seeing people come home from their days or whatever they were up to and listen to them having conversations I couldn’t understand. What a strange concept: eavesdropping but not being able to understand a word someone is saying.

Eventually we made it back out and realized we were only about a block from where we had made the right into the square. Just before we left the old city square area, we realized we had were passing a place one of our friends was telling us about with terracotta statues, so we decided to take a quick stroll around.

Apparently the grounds are being turned into a gastropub and I think a coffee bar. Once it is all finished up this place is going to be awesome! It has a wall around it and is filled with plants and statues so you completely forget about the hustle and bustle going on outside. Once we realized there wasn’t much more for us to see or do here, we continued on to the Chiang Mai gate Market where I decided to try and avocado mango smoothie and boy it was delicious!!

After, we continued strolling around new slightly different areas until we ended up back at the hotel. I love seeing this small city at night. I love the way the lights of buildings and cars reflect into the water of the moat. I love how the smells of delicious foods from street vendors are always present and you can smell the shift in different flavors as you pass down a street. I love how this city never fails to make me smile and my heart happy.

Tuesday was great because during our break in Thai class, said my entire coffee order in Thai. Now that’s a pretty cool trick or interesting fact to be able to say about yourself… I can order coffee in Thai. I was feeling pretty good about myself because I had actually learned something and was able to apply this knew knowledge.

In Buddhist philosophy today, we went to the temple Wat santi tam where we were able to meet with one of our professors monk friends, who ended up giving us a quick tour and then sat down and talked with us for about an hour.

In this temple, they have a museum room with relics of various monks and meditations masters. The museum even apparently had a relic from the Buddha himself, which is pretty amazing!

After when we were talking with the monk, it was super neat to be able to hear some of his stories, as well as learn a lot from his outlook on life. Something that is definitely going to stick with me for a while is when he said “If you are suffering or angry it is because you created it, if you are happy or feeling joy it is because you created it.” Maybe it’s silly, maybe it’s not but I think it is so true; we can interpret situations however we want and if we want to look at it positively and be happy then we can, if we want to be miserable then we can. We are in control of how we feel, no one else.

So, after that I was super blissed out, the rest of the day I took a quick walk to the market for another mango-avocado smoothie, 2 spring rolls and a samosa, which I enjoyed in the hotel while editing photos, uploading photos, writing, and most importantly, smiling. I ended up going to bed around 9:30 and falling asleep probably by 11. What a nice day!

Wednesday we had our first class cultural field trip for Thai class. Our professor took us to the Thai market that David and Pat took us to when we had to try and find various fruits. We had the morning to look around and explore and use some of our knew Thai words and phrases. Because it was hot out and we were stuck in our uniforms I was covered in sweat by the time the van came to take us back to school. I know it’s kind of disgusting to admit to but this was probably the most sweaty I has been the entire trip. It was hot and humid and I was stuck in a uniform that did not breathe one bit. I am not sure if it is fortunate or not but everyone else was the same way so I was not the only sweaty American.

Once we got back to school, I had some sticky rice and a Thai tea for lunch and then headed on up to Buddhist Philosophy class.

Today we actually stayed on campus and chatted about the Buddhist perception of time, and talked about ego. Buddhists believe that your mind has two parts: your eo and then your true self. Your ego is what prevents you from being your true self, or seeing things just as they are rather than your perception of things. After talking back and forth with the professor and the other two girls, I was taken back when the professor said I have a very low ego. I took this as a major compliment because basically the professor was saying I make little judgment on the world and simply just see things and take them in as they are. What a kind thing to say about someone.

IMG_3797In my opinion the best compliments a person can receive is when their attitude is complimented. For example, someone complimenting a person’s smile or laugh, or in this case, the way you perceive things, and your attitudes about them because at the end of the day, what else really matters.IMG_3821

Once we got back, we decided to check off walking around the entire moat and Old City walls from our bucket list. Before we started walking, we grabbed smoothies and I chose dragon fruit, which had a subtly sweet yet earthy flavor. As we were walking there were various tents with chairs set up. Once we reached a tent that had a small buffet outside with the centerpiece of two pig heads, I had to ask what was going on. Apparently in was a celebration for the city’s birthday so later there was going to be some dancing and other sort of events.

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The walk eventually took us an hour and forty minutes, which is pretty good because it did not feel that long at all! As well, it was nice to get a much better orientation and sense of where everything is. I also learned that there are a couple temples on the opposite end of square that I would love to be able to take a closer look at.

IMG_3824Once we were back at the Chiang Mai gate market it was time to eat dinner and I found myself in another mood to want to try a whole bunch of different things. First I got what was listed as vegetarian Turkish pizza. It basically came out as almost a quesadilla filled with spinach, mushrooms, onions, and something else. It was so delicious!! Then, I continued on to have another samosa and a vegetarian noodle soup. It was refreshing to finally have a soup that I knew for sure wasn’t going to have meat in it and was something I didn’t need to make a special request for.

IMG_3836After that my friends and I were finally full so we took the quick walk back to the hotel and went to bed a little bit earlier.

Today was a good day!

Thai class went well again and I actually got something else a little more interesting for lunch because the special was fried rice with shrimp! I had this with a cappuccino and then went on to our highly anticipated Buddhist Philosophy class, because we were going to be trying a device that simulates the deepest level of meditation. The device does work a little differently on everyone depending on the way his or her brain works; however, we were all excited to give it a go.

I decided to go first because I as just super curious. The device uses flashing LCD lights, which apparently trigger various functions in your brain such as creativity, calmness, alertness, and then your subconscious. The whole time my eyes were close and the lights were going I was super jittery and hyper focused. I was following the blinking lights around in my head and noticed every single change whether it was 7 spinning blinking circles, 4 spinning squares, circles moving vertically and horizontally, or a honeycomb of circles moving all at once. Even though it was supposed to make me calm and relaxed, I found myself unable to focus because there was so much happening at once and changing every so often.

After comparing results with the other girls in the class and my teacher, apparently I was the only one this happened to, everyone else had various levels of calms because I think the lights focused them. The professor said next time he would change mine up a bit so that hopefully I was able to experience the complete zen feeling.

Even after it was over and we were walking to our red truck for the way home I still felt a sense of hyper-focus. For example I noticed every single sound around me and everything I say seemed extra clear. I could hear the sound of my feet brushing against the road, every bird in the trees, every car horn, the wind in the trees, etc. I felt like I could see every single leaf on the tree and every brick on building even far away. Eventually I mellowed out a bit more but I am very happy with my experience and am excited to try it again next week.

The best part was as lights took certain patterns it triggered so many great memories that seemed super simple or like things I wouldn’t remember. It was also curious how certain people kept showing up in my memories and people who I thought would did not. The whole time I just felt super happy and even now writing this I still am.

Tomorrow for Thai class we are going back to what suan dok for a monk chat program the temple and university runs. I am excited to hear what the monk has to say and learn from their insights on life.

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

06.05.16 Tigers, Markets, and Zip lines, Oh my!

June 5th… what and eventful and memorable day! We started out the day being picked up at 9 to go over to the Chiang Mai Tiger Kingdom to get up close and personal with some tigers.

We had scheduled our transportation through the tour desk in our lobby and thought we were going to have a simple red truck van pick us up and take us. To our surprise, a private air-conditioned van was going to be our transportation, which was actually a really nice surprise. While we were driving, we were all a little shocked when at one point the van reached just about 140km/hr but the cars around were all going similar so I guess it wasn’t too crazy.IMG_3689.JPG

The tiger kingdom was different than I expected probably because it was nicer than I had expected. All three of us decided to book the package that included getting to go in the big and small tiger cages. Once we were called we got brought back to the space where all the tiger enclosures were, which basically was like a zoo but only for tigers.

IMG_3652.JPGWe started with the small tiger, which really wasn’t small at all even though they were about a year old. There were four tigers in the space and the trainers had you go to each tiger so you could pet them and take pictures with them. It was super cool after to be able to say I had leftover tiger fur strands on my hand, because how many people can say that? When you pet the tiger the fur is soft similar to any other cat. For some reason I was sort of expecting it to be a little more wiry. When you pet or tough the tigers you can only touch them from about half way down because otherwise you may irritate them, which was a little bit scary.

One thing I really liked was that they let you bring your own cameras in with you and there is no pressure to purchase a professional photographers pictures.., probably because you are already spending enough money.IMG_3672.JPG

After about 20- 30 minutes in there, it was time to go into the big cat enclosure. There were three big tigers in here, and it was exciting to be able to be next to such a large, yet beautiful animal. For one of the photos, the trainer told us to basically lay on the tiger, which caught us all off guard. As soon as I started to put my head on the tiger, it shifted its position a bit, which scared me a little. However, once it was situated I got right back close to it again to give it love.

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my face when the tiger moved

Once again, after about 20 minutes our time was up and we were allowed to spend time walking around the grounds to see the rest of the tigers, just from outside the cages. We got to see the Giant tiger, a white tiger, and a newborn tiger.

IMG_3752.JPGAll I can say is that if there was a cashier in front of the door to get into the new born tiger area it would have been game over and I would have whipped out whatever money it took for me to go in there to play with that little tiger because it was so cute. The little guy was so playful. It is probably a good thing I didn’t go in there because I would most likely be in Thai jail right now for trying to steal a baby tiger.

Once we had our fix, we got back in our car and drove about 30 minutes back to our hotel.

We had about 2 hours here until we got picked up for our zip lining adventure so we got a little bit of lunch near by and then relaxed for a bit.

I tried an iced Thai green tea, an orange smoothie, and then a bread stuffed with tofu and mushrooms. The green tea was awesome because it tasted very similar to matcha, which I love. The orange smoothie came out basically like a slushy made with fresh squeezed orange juice. The bread was basically a small baguette with a slice in it like a hot dog, which was then stuffed with a garlicy, tofu-mushroom mixture, which was super tasty. Better yet, all of it cost only 80 baht! It was crazy to think that my two friends and I all ate for less than 6 dollars!

When we got back to the hotel we got to rest for just a little bit more until the second van came to pic us up. This time there was a total of 5 of us for the zip lining adventure. This zip lining excursion included zip lining, sort of high-ropes things, and abseiling, which I was super excited to try!

We drove the same way we did to the Tiger kingdom, but instead continued about another 20 minutes up a very winding road into the jungle. Once we got there, all the workers were super friendly, hilarious, and spoke awesome English! We quickly got our gear on and headed over to where our course started. Because I had my go pro camera with me, it just so happened that on some of their helmets they have go-pro mounts on them, so they let me hook my go-pro to the helmet mount, which allowed me to get some super cool shots!

IMG_4041I loved how half the zip lines we went on were super long, versus just one long one at the end. It was also nice that in between there were various sky-bridges, and rope related things to mix it up. On one of them I had to stop since I was about to pee laughing because one of the workers was bouncing the rope bridge. Still, I am not really sure what about it was SO funny, but I just could not stop laughing. I guess I was simply filled with pure, genuine joy.

Once we had our first abseiling experience. Of course then the workers changed the order so I was first. As well, none of us really new what abseiling was; all I knew for sure was it involved dropping from one level to the next, I just thought you’d be almost rappelling or lowered at a medium paced.

Nope.

Once I was dangled I the air, I was dropped the first half of the 15 meters, then had to undo one of the hooks and was then dropped the rest of the distance… talk about an adrenaline rush. The free fall was kind of awesome and kind of addicting because I couldn’t wait for the second one. The funny kind of scary part was that after I had made the first half of the drop and unhooked myself the instructor at the top screamed wrong hook. At that point I basically accepted any injuries that were going to occur because there was nothing I could do about it anymore. Then I realized he was messing with me.

The scenery around the whole place was awesome because you really felt like you were in the jungle. At one point you could actually peak through a little bit of the mountains and see a little bit of the city, which was absolutely beautiful. The very last thing was the last abseiling experience. Of course, I had to be the first one to make the 40-meter drop. Similar to the last one, I dropped the first 20 meters and then the last 20 after unhooking myself. This one was awesome because you really felt the adrenaline rush of the free-fall. The cool part was that on the second fall, you sort of were going a bit more head first because you were hooked on from you back.

After during the walk back we passed a super beautiful waterfall and then enjoyed a free breakfast. To our surprise as well, we also received free shirts! On the way home we all couldn’t stop talking about how amazing this excursion was, as well as how happy we were we chose one where you did more than just zip line. If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai and want to go zip lining, Eagle track zip lining is the way to go!! Tours can be booked through Viator.com, but we were able to book the tour through our hotel.

Once back at the hotel, we were surprising not tired yet, so started walking towards the Thae Pae gate to get ready to start exploring the Sunday market. Once we go there, it began to sprinkle, and the grey sky only meant one thing. It was about to storm… Thailand style.

At first it wasn’t so bad but after we walked 10 steps in the pouring rain and were practically soaked, it was time to run into the nearest shop. At one point while we were walking through the market in the monsoon, I found myself smiling, which resulted in me laughing because I had no idea why I could be so happy in the pouring rain, but after such a great day, how could you not be happy?IMG_4054

Luckily for us, we were right near the Wawee coffee shop, somewhere all of us wanted to try! So, we were able to seek shelter inside while also enjoying a delicious coffee! In traditional Chiang Mai fashion, the storm was over in about 30-45 minutes, which was basically the time it took for us to finish our drinks.

Once the rain was basically calmed, we went back outside in search of trying some new foods. By the time I had walked up and back through the extensive market, I was able to try a fried sandwich stuffed with crab, a big chunk of a large crab you had to eat off the shell this spoon, and mussel balls, which were my favorite. I didn’t have enough courage to try the freshly grilled squid on the stick yet because there were a lot of tentacle pieces, but I tasted a small piece that was less intimidating.

Once we were full, we walked back to our hotel and contemplated getting foot massages from the place next door. Instead we just went back to our rooms to get our rest before another long week of school. I know I’ve said this before, but one of the best feelings is going to bed with sore feet because you know you made the most out of your day. While I was falling asleep I found myself reflecting on how incredible to weekend was and how fortunate I was to be able to experience all of these incredible things. How can I not be anything but completely overjoyed?

Anyways, I hope you all have incredible days!!! My blogs will probably be a little less frequent this week, but once again, we shall see.

Peace!

Hannah