11.26.2016 Zagreb Croatia

Okay, so I have taken yet another hiatus from finishing these posts. To be honest I didn’t really realize how fast this semester was flying by until right about now, as I have less than a week of classes less this semester. That doesn’t really excuse my lack of writing but I think I just kept telling myself I had more time and well, now here I am.

So let me take you back nearly six months to the time I spent in Zagreb, Croatia.

This one is a slightly more complicated because I really only was in Croatia for evening time, so unlike the others, there was no daytime exploring happening and I can’t say I ventured too far but I absolutely LOVED my time there. Seriously, I have completely fallen in love with this little city!

So back to the start.

I arrived in Croatia a little bit before dinnertime. First off, I had sort of forgotten that they do not use the Euro here so I made sure to stop at an ATM in the airport and get a little bit of the local currency.

I had read online that my best bet to getting into the city was to take this shuttle to the main bus station, which was only a short walk or metro ride to where I needed to go.

There wasn’t really any place to pay before hand so I approached the bus sort of looked at the man and made sure this would take me where I needed to go, which he responded yes. At this point I had still yet to pay for the transit, nor did I know how much it would cost. But, I continued on the bus and plopped myself down in a chair. After everyone who would fit on the bus for the given departure time was loaded on, the driver started towards the back of the bus appearing as though he was checking tickets and I sort of had a little panic because there wasn’t one other English person on the bus, everyone seemed to be speaking Croatian, so I really wasn’t sure what the driver was checking until he had got to me. I had then found out that this was when I was supposed to pay. Unfortunately I don’t really remember how much it exactly cost me but I want to say it was between 20 and 40 Kuna each way.

So as the bus is going it makes its first stop and I start to realize that I am actually not 100% sure what my stop exactly is. I knew it was the main bus station area but I didn’t really know after how many stops this would occur and I seem to always have this persistent sense of self-doubt in me.

Eventually I got to the station, which was pretty obviously identifiable. As I am typing this I am trying to look for some sort of picture so I can better describe it to you but I really can’t find one. All I can say is just trust your instinct, you’ll know.

Once I got off the bus I technically had these screenshots of maps of Zagreb, as well as directions. However, as soon as I got out of the station I had this gut feeling that the directions were leading me in the wrong direction. So I followed my gut and honestly prayed that my instinct was going to take me in take me to the correct place (spoiler alert for my worried mom probably reading this: it worked out).

Basically when you get out of the bus station you walk towards the underpass and cross the metro tracks. And make a left. Once you make a left you will be sort of on a road where the metro acts as the boulevard in the middle of the road, you’ll want to follow this until you reach a cute little series of green areas. At this point I was following my screenshots of the maps on my phone; however, the screenshots were too zoomed out to include what the street names were so I was just kind of following I guess you could say ‘regionally’ where it seemed like I needed to go.

Basically once I got to the green area between buildings I made a right and followed it what I think was three or four blocks, or however many was till you reached the end of it. After I made a left and walked for about another block and then a right which took me right to the main, old city square (this was where my hostel was located).

A little mid way disclaimer, I am sorry if there directions don’t really make sense. I sort of needed to make a game time decision and I sort of memorized my location based on visual references rather that streets. So don’t necessarily take my word if you are trying to use these directions. But a quick tidbit of advice that is if you are lost follow a metro line because those are usually the main areas where people will go and or will lead you to where people go.

So once I got to the main square, I had this idea of where my hostel (main square Zagreb) was based on where it was located on my map screenshot. However, little did I know was that some of the buildings had two floors, SO I did not conveniently run into it like I thought I would. Fortunately I looked up in the air at the right time and saw ‘Main Square Zagreb’ on a glass window about 2 or 3 stories up. This led me to a sign where I was which brought me to a staircase that took me straight to my hostel.

Oh my gosh was this hostel absolutely perfect and I would 100% recommend staying here! The staff was extremely accommodating and helpful to me, and also spoke great English, which was nice after a long day of travel and I guess what you could technically consider lost (but I didn’t feel lost). The man at the front desk gave me a map and marked some recommendations for food and also helped orient me to where the bus station was, which allowed me to visibly see what path I took, which was comforting because it was actually rather simple. As well, he also pointed out where everything was in the hostel.

My dorm room was super cool. All the beds were aligned on the wall opposite to the door and were situated in a way, which made each bed its individual cubby. As well everyone had his or her own locker, which was nice. I just really enjoyed how I could have my own little space with whatever I wanted right next to me, and didn’t have to feel like I was bothering others.

After I situated my stuff and took some deep breaths, I followed the front deskman’s advice for dinner. As I walked out of the hostel (to the outside) I took a left and basically followed it to where I found my restaurant for dinner. Along this road there are plenty of options for dinner I just sort of kept walking until I built enough courage to finally enter one of the restaurants.

I eventually found myself in a place called Village Tavern and was able to sit in a little covered, seated area outside, which had a heat lamp near by. This was nice because I was in a place where I could also people watch as I enjoyed my meal. I decided to try a soup (I think it was mushroom) to start, followed by a risotto as my main. The food was really great and the menu was in English, which was nice because sometimes after a long day of travel having something that is arguably convenient is really nice. After my meal I decided I would walk around a bit and explore. As I walked back the way I came I decided to explore other little streets that seemed interesting because I figured if I realize there is nothing interesting that way it is easy enough to just turn around and go back the way you could say I now know.

I got to see the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and take a quick peak inside. What an impressive cathedral! This thing is huge and the closer you get the more and more intricate detail you continue to notice. The archway over the main door you enter is absolutely breathtaking, there are so many tiny little carving, and it truly is absolutely incredible! I then continued left if you are looking at the road from the church which conveniently brought me into the actual main square area.

To try to give you a better idea of where I was in relation to where my hostel was, basically this main square is surrounded by buildings, my hostel is on an upper floor on one of the sides of the square, to get to dinner I went left through the underpass and followed the road, the square is on the opposite side. So basically from my hostel you can have a view of either the area I was for dinner on one side, and the other view is the main square.

I took a lap around the main square, enjoying everything it had to offer and eventually made my way back inside because now, it was safe to say I was pretty tired.

The next day I had planned to take a morning bus trip to Graz, Austria, which departed from the same main bus station I had arrived at and was already familiar with. So it kind of worked out that I was forced to figure it out the day before because I knew exactly where I was going this time.

I made sure I got there early enough so I could find my terminal and also have enough time to get a pastry and cappuccino. Everyone at the station was extremely helpful because instead of guessing where I needed to go, I straight up just walked to a ticket counter and asked which terminal my bus would leave from. I was not going to push my luck with this one.

I’ll write more about my time in Austria in another post but now I’ll bring you back to my final evening in Zagreb. I got home, once again, around dinner time and chose to walk around a bit before calling it a day, as it was a pretty tiring, long day of walking. I walked around the same streets as I did the night before taking in any little details I had missed the first time, truly. For dinner I just went to a simple walk up place that sold pizza basically right across from the cathedral right on the corner to the road that brought me back to my hostel.

The next morning I had planned a decently early morning bus ride to Ljubljana, Slovenia before I left for Poland. Although this had me up around 5:30 in the morning to catch a 7am bus ride I am so thankful I did it. Who would have thought walking around a town between 6 and 7 in the morning would seal the deal and literally cause me to fall in love with it.

Let me bring you into my world for a second.

There is something special about this time of day because only a few people’s days have started. The sky was still dark so all the lights set up for winter happened to still be illuminated. In fact, the park that I follow to get to the bus station had all of its trees and pathways covered in white lights which at this time of day with so few people out felt like a fairy tale. This feeling was very similar to my magical Eiffel tour feeling because indeed, the lights surrounding the pathway I was taking were glittering. I actually could have seriously cried in this moment, everything was so perfect.

After coming back form Ljubljana I stayed at the bus station and caught the next bus back to the airport, which was extremely easy to find because there terminal to get to the airport is in its own little area.

So that was my time untraditional time spent in Zagreb! Yes it was a little on the unconventional side but I tried my best to make it work and make the most of it and I am more than satisfied with my takeaway from the experience. My heart will always remember the magic of this beautiful little city.

Have a great day!

xxHannah

04.22.17 Tast of Niagara Falls

This past Saturday I had the luxury of being able to eat out three times. So this may not have been the best thing for me but I was happy to have been able to revisit one of my favorite places in the area, as well as try out some new restaurants.

First off, I am very proud to say that this summer I will be interning at Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls doing Event Planning and Marketing. Because of that, on Saturday I had my first day of job training. Little did I know that at the end they were going to treat us to lunch. We went to a place called 3rd street retreat, which has been open for I think a little over a year now.

I was very excited to try it as I had heard a lot of good things about it. Thank god I went there with my work because I would have got totally lost if I had tried to find it myself. This restaurant is neatly tucked out of the way under an apartment building. Don’t let that deter you from coming to this hidden gem, I was shocked at how cute the interior of this restaurant is, as well as how amazing the menu was! Seriously, I think I am going to make a goal for myself to eat through the entire menu before I graduate. I don’t think there was one item on the menu I didn’t want to try. On top of that they have daily specials and the prices are extremely reasonable. There menu features all day breakfast and a vast variety of sandwiches as well as salads and a few other things.

For my lunch I chose one of there specials: fish tacos. As I ate I thought of my Dad who says if he doesn’t know what to order he always chooses fish tacos if available. Today I was thankful for these words of wisdom because by entrée was incredible! The fish tacos featured breaded haddock, a spicy slaw, and some sort of pineappleish salsa.

As my training finished, I found myself back in my car with a slue of messages from my friends asking if I wanted to go to the silo because it had just opened for the season. Even though I had just ate, the silo is simply one of those restaurants I can’t say no to. The Silo is a seasonal restaurant in Lewiston, NY that was made famous by Man vs. Food for its Haystack sandwich.

This sandwich is one of those things that when I explain probably never makes sense why I am so in love with them, so if you are reading this and are still skeptical you will just have to trust me and try one.

Basically it is shredded sort of beef with mozzarella cheese and I think a little mayo topped with the haystack variety of potato chips. The best part, in my opinion, is the Silo also makes a vegetarian version, which tastes exactly the same (Go Silo!!). There is also something special about enjoying this sandwich with the waterfront view of the river, outside on a nice spring, summer, or autumn day with great company. The best part? If you still have room after you meal there is an ice cream place right next door, which features a variety of sundaes and more ice cream flavors than you could have even imagined existed.

I would be 100% lying if I said I didn’t get ice cream after. Too be honest, I really don’t think I was even hungry anymore, actually, I know wasn’t hungry. There was simply just this sensation inside of me that made me feel as though I needed it. Like this gravitational pull to the ice cream place, I like to believe that in that moment there was a similar dependency between the shop, and me like in that moment we both just simply needed each other.

Okay so enough about that, on to the next one.

Probably a week ago or so, a friend had mentioned to us that there is a taco place (Colosso taco) in Niagara Falls that is opened 24/7. I’m not going to get into details about how we ended up there, but we were excited to eat at a 24/7 place that wasn’t McDonalds.

To be honest, I can’t necessarily say I was 100% impressed. Compared to chains, I wouldn’t say that this place was anything special and the prices also weren’t necessarily brilliant. That being said the prices were decent and the food was good, just not great—especially compared to the food I had tried earlier.

I decided to try the Chicken tender taco, which as I said, was good but not great. I think next time I’ll just go to mighty taco if it is open and I am in need of a taco.

It was an exciting day of trying and getting to eat at all sorts of different restaurants in the Niagara Falls region. As well school year comes to a close I look forward to being able to try more local places and share with you which ones are my favorites!

Have a great day!

xxHannah

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

06.05.16 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.

IMG_3747.JPG
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

06.04.16

I know I just posted earlier, but I really wanted to take the time to write again about all the fun I had tonight.

IMG_3985.jpgAround 7 we headed over to the Chiang Mai Gate market to find places we wanted to try for dinner. I told myself I needed to try something that wasn’t pad thai or noodle soup so when I stumbled upon a place selling sushi for 5 baht a roll I new I found the winner.

The rolls being made were a little different than the ones you would usually find and they were super good! I am a little biased though because anything that has to do with sushi is right up my alley. Better yet, the rolls were being made and put out fresh. I tried 8 different roll for a total of 40 baht. It’s crazy to think that usually in the states this would cost me close to 7 dollars! I also decided to buy myself one of the strawberry Fantas because I remembered my mom sending me a picture of how at Epcot in Disney world in the place where you could sample different coca-cola’s from around the world, this was one.

A similar trend continued throughout the night with me trying a variety of food. The next thing I tried for 20 baht was egg on a stick with crab. What it basically was like was a flat omelet with some crabsticks that they simple rolled around a stick. Honestly I never thought to ever put egg on a stick before but it was awesome!!IMG_3986

After, I found myself at a spring roll stand and got the fresh kind with the soft kind of noodle wrapping versus a fried, crunchy one. I actually find myself preferring the soft ones to the fried ones because I like the texture of exterior. They are addicting.

While walking and browsing the stands there was a lady giving samples of coffee that I think had coconut in it. Anyone who knows me knows I will never reject a free sample and have no shame taking one so I grabbed the coffee and tasted it. After the second gulp I tasted something large and slimy and thought it was an actual piece of coconut. After pulling it out of my mouth and saw it on my finger I realized it was one of the super large flies that are everywhere at night. IMG_4001After that realization I ended up launching the fly. The only good part about this was that the lady working the stand and everyone around me found it absolutely hilarious, and honestly how could I not laugh at myself either…. Yes I was trying different things, but this was a little too adventurous.

Once we were done our shopping and browsing I bumped into an old man selling fresh coconut ice cream from a cart he was pulling for 10 baht. This was one thing I was told I needed to try so I jumped on the opportunity. I was not expecting the ice cream to be this rich, and surprisingly not super sweet. The small dish I had was the absolute perfect amount. It tasted as though he literally blended up a coconut with ice and then served it…. Yum!!!

So that was just a little bit of my adventure from tonight! I love trying different things here because everything is different!! I’m hoping to do the same tomorrow at the Sunday market; however, with foods that are a little more adventurous.

I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store from me! Good night! Have a beautiful day!!!

Hannah

06.03.16 First week of classes at Chiang Mai University

My first week of classes at Chiang Mai University has officially been completed!!! To refresh, I am studying Thai Language and Buddhist Philosophy while I am here. I have classes every weekday from 9:30-12 and then from 1 to 4 or 3:30 depending on the day. So far, it has been a bit of a challenge but great!

IMG_3891On Wednesday we were picked up from our hotel around 9:30/10 to head to the University for our orientation and campus tour. The campus is huge, but the language institute (the part of campus we are studying in) is super interesting and the staff is amazing! After needing a tramcar to give us the campus I decided that 1. I couldn’t imagine going to a school full-time this big and 2. I won’t be venturing on campus much further than the building next door where the cafeteria is because I will definitely get lost and can’t afford to miss class here.

After our tour, we were treated to a welcome lunch at a buffet near by. It was quite interesting going to a buffet instead of a traditional restaurant; however, the food was still pretty good! The only problem was that there were very few options that didn’t have meat in them. I have to say, before I came here I thought being a vegetarian was going to be more convenient for me, but it has only been the opposite this far.

Once we finished eating, we were driven back to campus to wear the uniform store was. After the lady sized me and I tried on the uniform that best fit, I was a little shocked to see I was wearing a 2XL. It’s a little bit crazy to think what would be about a medium in the United States was a 2XL here. As well, I was a little shocked to realize I had to spend 800 baht on only 2 uniforms; however, there was no way around that.

We then walked back to the language institute where we had our first lesson in Thai. The first thing we learned in Thai was how there are 5 different tones a word can have. So, the same word can potentially have 5 very different meanings if said with different inflection. At first I found this a bit difficult, but caught on sort of quickly. The hardest part about today was that you may learn a whole list of words and feel pretty good about yourself because you can pronounce them right; but if you don’t say them with the right tone it means nothing at all.

IMG_3907Once class was over we went back to our hotel where we had about an hour to put something a little bit nicer on for another complimentary meal. We were brought to this restaurant where they also did a traditional Thai music and dance show. The food was served family style and refilled on the table as soon as something was finished. Because I was the only vegetarian, I was lucky enough to have about a whole 7 dishes to myself to nibble on throughout the night.

During the very last performance by the dancers, the invited anyone from the audience who wanted to join on stage to take part in a very simple dance where you basically walk in a circle and move your hands into different positions. A couple of girls from our group, including me, got on stage to partake in the dance which ended up being super fun.

On the way back, our red truck van dropped us off near the temple Wat Chedi Laung, where there was a festival occurring. The only problem was during the ride over it begun raining and by the time the car arrived it was full on down pouring. Two other girls and I still decided to get out and go because we weren’t ready to be done exploring for the night. After getting out of the car, we quickly got onto the sidewalk where there was a tiny covering to figure out our action plan.

IMG_3911The ground had a decent covering of water, and on top of that there were large puddles everywhere so my suede material shoes were going to get ruined. Me being me, chose to take my shoes off and put them in my purse which I wrapped in a plastic bag so the wouldn’t get messed up. So yes, for the rest of the night I walked around Chiang Mai barefoot and it caused me no problems.

We decided our game plan was to run across the street to where there was a small restaurant and wait there until the rain cleared which was bound to be soon. In the time it took to cross the street I was completely soaked. Fortunately though during this time of the year in Thailand, even when you are soaking wet after the rain, even during the nighttime, you don’t get cold. As well, after about 30 minutes in the restaurant, the rain cleared.

It was also nice that we stayed because our two friends who are in the internship program were also able to meet up with us for part of the festival. We walked about two storefronts down to where the temple was.

The rain came almost as a blessing in disguise because all the lights and candles were reflecting into the newly formed puddles on the ground, which was super beautiful. The temples are beautiful at day time; however, there was something even more intriguing about being there while it was dark.

IMG_3922As well, because it was a festival, around the perimeter of the grounds there were various food vendors and a stage where traditional Thai dancing was happening. After we had our fix, we went separate ways and went back to our hotel for a good night of sleep before our first full day of classes. Even though I was completely soaked, I wouldn’t have had it any other way… the day was excellent and I had so much joy in my heart.

Thai language class this morning did nothing but frustrate me. Yes, it was very interesting to learn and I enjoyed doing it, but I could feel my brain aching at 12 when class was over. I had to seriously focus the whole time otherwise I would miss something important. The problem with that is I already struggle to focus all my attention into one thing for even a short period of time, so having to sit there for 2.5 hours using 120% of my focus was challenging. I can easily admit that this is by far the hardest class I have taken yet.

To make matters worse, all I was looking forward to after class was eating. The problem was after we were showed the big cafeteria and expected to eat there, we slowly found out that the menus were only in Thai. There was no place where I could understand anything the restaurant was serving so I didn’t even know what to try to ask for. Even after we were told what each place sort of had, none of the food workers spoke English so I was left telling the lady who showed us around to just order me whatever as long as it was vegetarian. The problem with this is that because I didn’t know what had been ordered for me, I didn’t know which meal was mine once it was ready until the lady pointed to the food and then pointed to me. I ended up eating white rice with sautéed mixed vegetables, which was pretty good.

IMG_3926The best part of lunch and my day so far was when I was able to finally try Thai Tea because it is so tasty. It comes out this orange color it is kind of milky, but also has a flavor I don’t really know how to describe. I ended up walking with this back to where the classroom where my first Buddhist Philosophy class was.

I was pretty excited for this because I had always wanted to take a class of this subject matter. It was an even bigger sigh of relief to find out my professor was American so he spoke perfect English. He is super knowledgeable about the subject because he just so happened to be a Buddhist monk for ten years. I was excited when I found out he wanted to take us around to various temples so we could have more hands on learning. I was even more excited when he told us our first little field trip was tomorrow. I absolutely love this because I will probably end up learning much more than I would in the classroom.

Once classes were over we went back to our hotel, changed out of our hot uniforms and then went to actually explore the area by the Thae Pae Gate and hopefully find dinner. Eventually we found ourselves near the German Beer Garden we ate at the first day, but instead at a little restaurant called the wall, which served some super tasty Thai food. Because by this point I was so hungry, after I devoured my meal I found myself still not completely full yet.

On the way back once we passed through the market at the Chiang Mai Gate, I stopped at the famous Pa’s smoothie shop and got a custom smoothie for 20 baht. I wasn’t sure what fruits to mix so I simply asked for something with banana. The cute old lady ended up throwing together banana, pineapple, and plum with some ice and a little bit of water to help the blender run. Once again I was baffled by the fact that for less that a dollar I had a delicious smoothie that was only made of fruit.

I was able to enjoy this for the rest of the walk until we got into the hotel. I spent the rest of the night editing my pictures (which I will finally be able to add to the posts) and writing and then went to bed.

This morning (Friday) I had a larger breakfast so I would stay full longer throughout the day, just in case lunch was going to be a struggle again. I also took two bananas from the buffet in as an emergency snack.

Fortunately though, Thai class was a little bit easier and hopefully as I catch on more it will keep becoming easier. During our break halfway through class, I treated myself to a Cappuccino to get a chance of scenery and perk me up a bit.

For lunch today, we stayed in the Language institute area where there are only about 4 stands to get something and just about all of them have some English. I found myself ordering Pad Thai again and the workers thought it was weird I didn’t want any meat cooked into it. By now you can probably guess what I am about to say next, but just in case you can’t, it was delicious! It is exciting to know that when I get home I will be able to make this for myself because I am definitely going to miss it.IMG_3122
I was excited to finish lunch because that meant it was time for Buddhist Philosophy and we would be taking a trip to a temple. The temple we visited today was about halfway up the mountain and called Wat Palad located right in the jungle. You wouldn’t really know about this one unless you were Thai or had a Thai guide because it is not visible from the street.

Before getting there, our teacher stopped for us at a lookout point on Doi Suthep because it was a super clear day outside and you could see the whole city. The view was absolutely incredibleIMG_3148

When we got to the temple area we had to drive down a tiny little dirt road to actually get there. I am so happy I decided to take this class because this was the most beautiful temple I saw so far! It is nudged right into the jungle on the mountain so not only is the architecture incredible, but the scenery is as well. The whole environment was so peaceful, yet so breathtaking.

IMG_3200After our professor gave us a tour he gave us a quick lesson and I actually feel as though I learned so much more than I would have if we sat in our closet of a classroom. After seeing our excitement, I think our professor was even more willing to take us around to show us even more of these lesser know, yet beautiful temples we wouldn’t see otherwise.

Once we finished up for the day, we were lucky enough to be given a ride back to our hotel area where we were able to finally catch some time in the sun trying to get a bit more of a tan. It is just about 6pm now and I am happy to say I have had the most wonderful first week here in Thailand!!! The country is beautiful in all aspects from the food, the people, the language, the ideals, and the culture. I cannot wait to see what the next three weeks have in store for me!

I may be changing the structure of my blog posts so it’s less of a diary entry but we shall see what actually happens. As well, I will be trying to make at least one video from my GoPro footage a week and then probably another from my weekend excursions. As well, I hope to get on a better schedule with editing my pictures so that you can actually see what I am talking about in these posts.

For most of the people reading this, Good morning and have a wonderful Friday!!! For anyone else, have a great night!!

 

Hannah