02.02.17 The Universal Language of the Cappuccino

So for those of you who don’t know, I went on a solo-backpacking trip through Europe over the course of 11 days over my Thanksgiving break. I had the absolute blessing of being able to travel to 8 countries, 7 of them new to me. Out of the man lessons I learned, one thing that stood out to me is 1. If there was a universal language the word ‘cappuccino’ would be in it. 2. Whenever I feel awkward and don’t know what to do with myself I find myself in the nearest coffee shop ordering a cappuccino.

Now, some of you might say, Hannah, aren’t you vegan? How did you drink cappuccinos? To that I would like to respond with when you are by yourself and menus are written in a Cyrillic or Greek alphabet you have to make the call to either try to figure out a way to explain no dairy or eggs, or you can just go for it. In this situation, I just went for it. I will say that throughout the whole time; however, I never found myself feeling like I really missed these dairy products I was consuming, which was reassuring to me.

 

Okay so now we begin my journey through Europe: one Cappuccino at a time.

 

Sofia, Bulgaria

Long story short, when I got to my hostel I was told that I needed to stay at the sister hostel just a short walk away. Fortunately this walk helped orient me in this new city and also showed me where the main shopping and eating street, ‘Vitosha’, is After getting to the hostel, and being shown my room, I had one of my first chances to take my backpack that I had been carrying around for literally past 24 hours off. I can’t lie, from here I fell asleep in my bed and didn’t wake up till about 4am the next day (thanks jetlag).

img_0111So the next morning I made it my mission to start my day off with a cappuccino from one of the cute cafes on Vitosha street, which I could enjoy sitting in one of the outside, covered patios. I never would have been able to predict how intimidating it is to walk into a café and order a coffee from places where the signs are completely foreign. Seriously. The first café I went into I got embarrassed when the lady told me I had to pay with cash, and left. So now, not only am I on a hunt for coffee, but also an atm. Long story short I found and atm and eventually built up to enter a café that wasn’t that crowded and also allowed me to sit outside.

So basically I walk into this café, take a deep breath, look the man behind the counter in the eyes and say cappuccino please. This is when I had my first inkling that ‘cappuccino’ was going to be a go to of mine. So I grab my drink and head outside to people watch in the covered patio situated outside on the main street.

As I am sipping my beverage watching the average person go about their day-to-day life I sort of remember that I haven’t had this much dairy in one sitting since august. There is a good chance that in oh lets say 15 minutes I will be up running from this café to find the closest bathroom. I guess that was my price to pay for going against my vegan ways for a couple of days. Long story short I was fine and was able to enjoy this delicious cappuccino before a long day of walking, site seeing, and getting a sample of Bulgarian culture.

Athens, Greece

My time in Athens was very short, quite literally 24 hours, but I believe I made it extremely worthwhile. In my taxi from the airport to my hostel, I was fortunate enough to have a driver that gave me a whole bunch of tips and things to try during my time here. He told me I had to the coffee shop chain ‘Coffee Island’ and try a local special called a Cappuccino Freddo. So that beverage became my coffee mission for Athens.img_7330

When you are walking on the street up to the Acropolis, there is a road called Makrigianni. Here you will find a whole bunch of restaurants and shops. The Coffee Island I went to was here, basically right across from the Acropolis metro stop.

So this cappuccino is an iced drink. Instead of milk that blends in easily, the espresso is topped with a very thick, sweet cream. The cream is almost the consistency of a custard and tastes absolutely incredible. Definitely the kind of drink you would save for a dessert or if you are really in need of a sweet kick but 100% worth it.

I walked with my drink down to a bench next to Hadrian’s Arch and the temple of Zeus and enjoyed this refreshing yet decadent beverage whilst once again, people watching and reflecting on all this things I was able to do thus far on my trip.

Paris, France

The tale of the voyage of the cappuccino continues. It was here that I began the ‘lets order a cappuccino because I don’t know what else to do trend. It was started out in the Paris airport. As I walked through the baggage claim exit, I was expecting my passport to be stamped and it just so happened that no one did. So I quickly texted my dear mother and asked if I should be worried. As I waited for a response my café raider seemed to have turned on because I instantly saw a Relay café where I had my first cappuccino in Paris. This cappuccino was honestly nothing too special, but like I said before, stay tuned for a trend to follow. I guess you could say this beverage was also necessary because I was meeting a friend who was studying abroad in France that night and needed any little extra boost of caffeine I could get.

On to the next morning.

img_0390Before my trip I had joked with my family that my Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a Pain-aux-chococolat and a cappuccino. Being that today was Thanksgiving, that was my mission. That morning I was meeting my friend at the Notre Dame so I left a little bit early so I could stop in at a patisserie on my way to the metro station from my hostel. I conveniently passed the café ‘AM Martinho’ so I popped in for my desired Thanksgiving meal and the opportunity to test my French.

I was able to successfully avoid embarrassment and ordered my breakfast in French. Feeling like a champion, I walked out of the café and proceeded to the metro, sipping what tasted like victory, or a cappuccino. Happy Thanksgiving to me.

The next morning was bye-bye to France and hello Croatia for me. In typical Hannah fashion, I arrived to the airport very early. But as you can probably guess, that means one more cappuccino and two more pastries for Hannah. I should probably apologize to the French people for being the reason why they need to restock their espresso bars and pastry shelf but hey, it had to be done.

Zagreb, Croatia

I got to Zagreb around 4 and made it to my hostel around 6. I spent 2 nights in Croatia However, my time was mainly spent in the evenings because I took morning bus trips to both Ljubljana and Graz (stay tuned).img_0658

The next morning I was taking the bus to Graz Austria just for the morning and afternoon. My first cappuccino experience occurred at the Bus station where I happily arrived early to enjoy a delicious pastry and cappuccino at the café called Dubravica. In my opinion, what better way to pass time than indulging? Luckily I was doing more than enough walking everyday to make up for it. Heck, even if I wasn’t I would still have no regrets. No pastry or Cappuccino left behind.

As you can imagine, the next morning followed the same way. I left my hostel a little extra early and sampled a different pastry and yet another cappuccino.

Graz, Austria

img_7944img_7932What a beautiful little city. My morning started out with me finding my way from the Bus station to where the town square area was. I immediately saw to a hill/ mountain you could go to the top and found drawn to it like a magnet. After my climb it was time for a reward, which was my lunch. I walked around the square and considered many tasty options I chose to sit outside at the café/ restaurant AUER, situated right in the square surrounded my many shops with gorgeous architecture and detailing, as well plenty of people for to fancy my people watching obsession. With it I enjoyed a delicious little sandwich, which it is possible may have even been vegan.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

This was my favorite stop; however also the shortest stop my entire trip. This city was quite literally something from my dreams and honestly, I wasn’t going to go because the bus left at 7 am and I would return around 3:30. But like I said 100% worth it.

The walk from the bus station to the old city area was quick and easy. I roamed around for a little bit getting a lay of the land while also making quick decisions as to what I wanted to do with my short time here. After finding myself in constant awe from the beauty of the town during my walk around I found a café situated on a street where there was what appeared to be a little flea marketimg_8077.

Prior to entering the café I walked into a convenience sized grocery store where for literally about 2 Euros I walked out with two different pastries. Then I proceeded into the shop, ordered my cappuccino, and enjoyed it outside with my pastries, watching the locals interact in this charming town.

While I was at the bus station, I got a little bit hungry again because I took another hike up a mountain to see a castle. At the bus station, my choice of food was McDonalds, however I wasn’t really upset because I quite enjoy trying seeing how it differs from in America. You can probably predict the next sentence, so yes, I did order a cappuccino with my meal. The funny part about this one is that I had planned to eat my meal on the bus back to Zagreb.

Unfortunately the spot where I was supposed to catch my bus from wasn’t necessarily clear so here I am carrying my backpack, purse, a salad, a bag with a pastry, and a coffee back and forth along the length of the bus terminal looking for a bus that said to Zagreb. After a couple laps up and back I eventually got on my bus but I could only imagine how silly I looked thinking what would happen if I missed my bus while holding on to this McDonald’s for dear life, while also making sure I don’t lose my bus ticket.

Once on the bus though, I was able to take a deep breath again and sip this McDonald’s coffee in a state of bliss.

Warsaw, Poland

I arrived at my hostel in Warsaw around 8pm and honestly I was exhausted so I basically went straight to bed. The next morning I wanted to find breakfast at a local coffee shop. I took a walk through the old town area and told myself I had to pick place before I arrived back at my hostel. I passed several Costa Coffees and Café Neros, however, I really wanted to go to a place that wasn’t a chain.

img_8188I found myself in a small café called café trackt ordering a tasty almond flavored pastry in addition to my cappuccino. It was much colder here so I enjoyed my breakfast in the warmth of the café. After this, I took another walk through the old town, venturing a little further this time and got myself lunch. After this I walked and checked in to the hostel I would be staying at for this night.

img_0990At this point, I was at this awkward time where it wasn’t really appropriate to eat dinner yet I had done enough walking so I decided gee, I better try one of the chains. Into the next café nero I went and honestly I may as well have just gone to dinner. I ordered a medium cappuccino and this huge slice of apple pie with a meringue on top. I can not begin to explain how good it was but I also laugh at myself because I was avoiding eating dinner early yet here I am ordering a slice of decadent pie probably bigger that my face. But like I said this was a voyage of the cappuccino/ no pastry left behind mission. It had to happen.

The next morning I successfully took the polish metro to the airport and rewarded myself with not just a cappuccino but a mocha cappuccino. Yes, a Mocha cappuccino. I would like to say I was stepping out of my comfort zone but really this was one of those machines where you simply press the button of what you want and your beverage is dispensed because I was in a convenience store. Poland you were so good to me.

Riga, Latvia

Alright so my final stop, you can only imagine what happens here. This was my last chance to leave no pasty and no cappuccino behind. How American of me. Indulge, Indulge, Indulge.

The first cappuccino I drank here is kind of a funny story but also not at all. I was following my screen-shot on my phone of the directions from the hostel website and ultimately ended up walking the completely wrong direction for about 5 minutes. My intuition started to kick in and I ended up turning around. However, about 2 blocs before I got back to where I started my phone had died. I’m not going to lie I began to worry a little bit. So what do I do?

Fortunately the bus stop I was supposed to get off at was a mall, which happened to have a costa coffee at. I had a feeling that they would most likely have an outlet and I would be able to recharge my phone. So in I went, found a seat near an outlet and let my phone begin charging as I specifically ordered a large cappuccino. Yes, I ordered a large. I figured my the time I finished it I would not only know where I was going, but also be more calm. Fortunately I figured it out and was able to not only enjoy the rest of my day in Riga, but also fall in love with the city.

img_1104The next morning would be last morning waking up in Europe. I new I needed to wake up an extra hour early so I could get one last coffee shop visit in. Into another Costa Coffee I went and got myself a caramel macchiato a slice of cake and a muffin. If you were wandering if the barista looked at me like I was crazy, you thought correctly. But, no shame in my game. This ended up being the best piece of cake I have consumed in my entire 20 years of existence plain and simple, no questions asked. I was also able to save the muffin I ordered for the airplane, which ended up being perfect!

Is it ironic to say that my over-caffeinated, over sugared self left that café feeling bittersweet? My cappuccino voyage had come to an end and let me tell you, absolutely no pastry was left behind. So if you’re ever feeling lost or like no one understands you, simply walk into a coffee shop and say cappuccino, you’ll be quite surprised.

If you want to read more, hopefully I will have the rest of the blogs about the places I visited up within the next week!

Have a glorious day!

Hannah xx

10.03.16 When life give you lemons go to Vermont

Okay so that title has basically little or nothing to do with my story for today. Long story short basically on Friday I realized I was completely free on Sunday( today) so I should drive to Montreal to see the city. I ended up sleeping in about two hours too late to make the trip worth it so I had to make a spur of the moment destination change.

After waking up a little late I was slightly demotivated to actually go but after having not the best day yesterday I was really in the mood to just get away and get in my car and drive somewhere.

After playing around on google maps for the first 30 minutes of being awake, I realized that Lake George, NY was only a 5 hour drive, which would be perfect because that made up the time that I had slept in for. Basically, because this was a short drive I would still have the same amount of time to relax and explore.

Of course though, as soon as I reached Albany area I thought, hmmmm may as well just go to Vermont right? So I had a little spur of the moment change of plans and spent my afternoon surrounded my nature and fall colors.

As soon as I got out of Albany and passed Troy, NY, I started making mental notes of places where I would be able to pull over and go out into the woods. Once I crossed the state line into Vermont I basically just drove until I found a spot where I was allowed to park and also would be able to explore.

Fortunately I passed a little parking sign where a couple of trails began in what ended up being Woodford, VT, which allowed be to walk into the National Forest a bit and ultimately find a spot near the water where I could chill and let my brain unwind.

This whole process is so important for me because it truly allows be to take a step back and remember all the things that make me so giddily happy and passionate. It was the perfect trip because it reminded me that everything that had made me upset the day before truly wasn’t worth it because there is so much more to this life and this world then stupid nonsense. Sitting on a series of rocks by the water I was so full of peace and so content the 5.5-hour drive there and back was so worth it.

On my way home the last thing I wanted to do was attempt to grab a coffee somewhere from a local shop. I eventually fond this cute little drive through coffee shop right once you enter back into New York called Lumber Jacks and tried their specialty latte made with maple syrup. I was even happier to find out that they offered almond or soymilk to be put into your drink, which was nice because I didn’t have to turn around and keep searching. I need to post a little life update thing on here soon because I don’t think I’ve actually posted since my trip to Thailand. But for now, long story short, I have done the best job I can to eat a vegan diet for the past month. But I am very excited to potentially do some blogs about vegan eating on a college budget and whatnot.

Anyways, my day ended up being absolutely excellent and I’m happy I decided to use the just get in the car and drive tactic to solve my problems because otherwise I probably would have had a crummy day.

I wish you all well!!! Peace

Hannah

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