11.26.2016 Four hours in Graz, Austria

Where do I begin, while I was in the planning process of this trip I was messing around like crazy with how I could see as many places as possible for cheap and ultimately stumbled upon the website buscroatia, because I was initially looking to see a town or two on the coast.

Ultimately, I realized that this bus company would not only take you to places in Croatia, but also towns in countries near by. After more searching I found the Graz, Austria was basically a 3 ish hour bus ride AND, the round trip ticket was in my opinion cheap. So I went for it kind of having this idea of what to expect but also at the same time having no clue.

The morning of the 26th I walked myself to the bus station to catch my bus that left between 8:30 and 9:30. Like I said, it was around a 3 ish hour ride, which I thought was very reasonable.

The bus first cut the corner through Slovenia, and then crossed the border again into Austria. Almost immediately after crossing the border, our bus made a little pit stop where we could use the bathroom and get a snack if needed. I noticed that in order to use the bathroom you needed to pay 50 cents, which I wasn’t about, so I just figured I’d hold it.

Well I guess I jinxed myself because I went upstairs to buy a little snack. While I was eating my soft pretzel I ate a little bit of mayo (mind you I am still really not used to dairy) and within five minutes I found myself sick to my stomach. In that moment I knew I was going to throw up and needed to get to a toilet basically as fast as possible. So here I am trying to not to make a scene speed walking down the stairs, to the restroom and trying to get the pocket change out as soon as possible. I’m still not really sure why this happened now, because I had been eating dairy in bigger quantities previously on the trip but oh well. Here I was, somewhere in Austria throwing up in a rest stop bathroom… sorry if that is too much information.

The rest of the trip I was absolutely fine but for some reason that mayo just wanted to do me dirty.

Alright so once we finally arrived I had a really good idea of where I was going, but I had the same problem with the fact that the screenshots of maps I had on my phone didn’t exactly have the street names on them.

Basically as I walked out of the bus station, I proceeded straight to where I had saw there was supposed to be a river, as well as the old city. This was a good frame of reference because I knew if I was walking in this direction for more than 15-20 minutes and didn’t hit water I would have to turn around.

After walking for probably 15 minutes I noticed the steeples of a church peeking through the tops of building, so I headed in that direction. Another tip for you, if you ever feel like you may be lost in a city just look for tall churches or landmarks and they will probably help bring you to the right direction. This literally could have worked in every single city I visited this trip and in fact was how I went about my walking tour or Riga, I just followed buildings that looked interesting… but you can read about that later.

Okay. So once I got to these steeples I saw a little bridge to cross the river and Voila! I had reached the old city.

Immediately, I noticed this staircase going up a huge hill/mountain, which appeared to have some sort of castle on top of it. As I got closer and closer I knew I wanted to go up, I just didn’t know exactly how to go about it. For example, was it free, did I need to pay, if I needed to pay where did I pay, what ACTUALLY was at the top, etc. I ended up noticing the entrance to the staircase and just decided to go for it.

This climb was definitely far more stairs than it appeared because I didn’t really realize the sort of winded left and right up the mountain. The good thing about this is now I had absolutely no shame in eating two pastries for breakfast that morning. As well, as you can probably image the view was outstanding the entire time.

As I was walking up I became very oriented with where I would later walk around, as well as which direction I had come from. I noticed all the brightly colored building topped with rusty orange colored roofs and the many steeples of huge churches. I noticed the somewhat hilly landscape, which was well accompanied with just the perfect amount of fog kissing the tops of the hills. There was something oddly mesmerizing yet so dizzying at the same time in regards to the way all the rust colored roofs lined up and created shapes that could only be seen from the air.

When you reach the top the first thing you will see is a little bell tower and then signs pointing out where the couple of restaurants were, as well as a couple other landmarks atop the hill. I took a little walk around appreciating the variety of views and the architecture of the different buildings up here. After a bit I headed down because I wanted to see the main square area, and also make sure I would have plenty of time to get back to the bus.

I walked back down the stairs and proceeded left, if your back is facing the steps you just came from. This is another instance where following the metro tracks, or just the people at this point, will take you to where you want to go, also it kind of helped that I could see the square from here. I took a lap around looking for a place to maybe grab a coffee, but also admired not only the architecture, but also the way building were decorated.

Buildings were brightly colored, but some of them were also finished with intricate designs on them, which I found extremely beautiful, as well as interesting. It is interesting to see how place to place the architecture seems generally similar, yet each place has their own unique take in regards to color choice as well as subtle design differences.

I wound up at this cute little coffee shop called AUER where I treated myself to a cappuccino and small sandwich, which I had the luxury of eating outside facing the square, so I could people watch a bit.

After taking my time eating and enjoying watching the hustle and bustle of square, I started back for the bus station, because my biggest fear was missing my bus.

Well, typical Hannah fashion I was there was too early. The only really cool part was the bus station happened to have a little grocery store in it so I took a little walk around and ended up buying a juice. I am very proud to say that I successfully used a self-checkout that was not in English. I carried my juice and receipt out like one of those trophies you get after a soccer season as a child that you don’t realize until years later your parents paid for. Needless to say, imagine the five-year-old smiling ear to ear holding up this new trophy as their newest prized possession, that was me with a two euro juice.

I took a quick walk over to where the bus was supposed to pick me up from and got on shortly after. The one really nice thing about this bus station was that it was super easy to navigate, as well as be able to tell where you needed to go with only a little bit of the necessary self doubt.

I have to say it was a great day spent in Graz, Austria. I would 100% recommend coming here for a day or weekend trip!

Anyways, have a great day!

Xx Hannah

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

11.23.2016 24 hours in Athens

Alright, so the next stop on my little European adventure is Athens, Greece. Originally, Athens was just a side thought for me. I hadn’t originally planned to go here so that is why I only spent literally 24 hours here. Originally I had planned to fly straight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Paris France on the 23rd; however, me being me, I decided to mess around with flights a little bit and from what I found, it was legitimately cheaper for me to leave Sofia a day early and go to Athens, and then fly from Athens to Paris the next day. So as you can tell from me writing this post, I booked it.

My flight arrived into Athens at 12pm. My instructions to my hostel said that I was to get on the metro to get into the city and then get off at Syntagma square. Simple enough right? So I followed the signs for the train out of the airport, which was very clearly marked and easy to follow. When I got to the ticket booth the lady said something, which I could not understand; and then basically said, take bus.

I’m not going to lie, I had a little mini internal panic when I heard take bus. I know I sound like a complete chicken when I say this but there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to figure out taking a bus into the city. So I walked back into the arrivals area to try to figure out what to possibly do next.

The Athens airport is a little bit far from the city so I really was trying not to take a taxi, but with my chicken self that was really the only option for me. For the taxis, you basically just wait in a cue and then once you reach the front you get in the next cab. The taxis from the airport had a flat rate of 38 Euros one way, which I’m not going to lie is pretty pricey (my cab ultimately cost me 42 Euros… Gulp)

With that being said, my cab drive was super awesome! He gave me a lot of great recommendations of things to try in the city, which I actually ended up doing!

I stayed at the hostel called Dioskouros and for paying no more than 12 dollars to stay there for the night it was perfect! Location wise, it was basically a street back from the Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Zeus Ruins.

When I checked in there was another women in the dorm who was actually Greek herself who helped me out a lot in regards to navigating the city and more things to do.

My first stop of the day was the Acropolis. I was told to make a right out of our building and then a left once I reached the street with all the shops and restaurants, and then follow that until you basically run into it. And so I did until I saw an entrance.

When you get to the entrance you can either pay 10 Euros for just the acropolis hills or 30 Euros for a ticket that includes everything. I paid for the 30 Euro ticket because I thought to myself, well if I’m only going to be here for a day, better just see all of it. My advice, don’t buy the 30 Euro ticket, just purchase the 10. I could never find formal entrances to any of these extra things I paid for and my ticket was never checked again granting me special entrance to somewhere else. The 10 Euro one would have been just fine. Oh well, at least now I know.

Immediately upon entering you see ruins of different things from so long ago. The walk up is literally incredible because you literally feel as though you are stepping way back in time. As you walk up the hills the sites keep getting more grand. As well, the view as your are walking up (as well as from the top) is so incredible. After a fair bit of walking, but a very entertaining walk, you reach the top of the acropolis where you will see the Parthenon, the Old Temple of Athena, and the Erechtheum. I probably spent a good hour just marveling at all the columns and just the pure architectural magnificence of it all.

On top of all that, there is an absolutely brilliant, panoramic view of the city of Athens. Truly outstanding. I could have spent all day up here just taking it all in. But, as you read earlier In this post, I barely have a day in this city so once I had my fix it was time to keep going.

Now this is the part where I sort of search for the other things I paid for but never really found.

On the way down I followed signs to the Agora which brought be down a beautiful set streets. I stopped frequently because there were all of these adorable little cats everywhere that I just couldn’t resist.

As I was walking down the hill I had a moment of genuine happiness thinking to myself, wow Hannah you really did it, you made it. I never expected this trip to bring along such feelings of empowerment. In this moment I truly felt unstoppable. Oh what a great feeling. My whole body was filled with bliss and I just kept thinking to myself, you really did it, you’re here standing next to the Acropolis. Nothing like the feeling of having a dream and making it come true.

This is more than a moment I will remember, but truly a feeling I will remember. Even writing this now I’m not sure how to explain the feeling but I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt that way in my life.

Okay so eventually I ran into another set of ruins which I think was the Agora, but I simply just admired from the outside (partially because I was getting hungry). I then continued back up the huge hill toward the back entrance to the acropolis, and then back down to the street where I came in on, just a little further up.

As I was walking down the street to find lunch I came across a cute place that smelled very good, so I walked on in. I ordered myself a Greek Salad Sandwich and then once I finished, ordered a piece of Baklava to go.

Funny story about the Baklava. Every time I have ever had it I really don’t like it, yet it feels like everyone around me is always urging me to try it and eat it. So, my thought was alright Hannah, get a piece of Baklava so next time someone offers you some you can say something snobbish like, Oh I only eat Baklava when I’m in Athens…. What a fun thing to be able to say. Well, I took a bite out of that Baklava and it literally tasted so good. You see, now I’m in a pickle because I kind of want to see if I like the ones my family tries to make just as much, but at the same time, I really don’t want to spoil this association with Baklava.

I enjoyed this as I wandered down streets covered in shops and restaurants. I also tried one of the coffees the taxi driver recommended to me. I don’t remember the name unfortunately but I think the shop was called coffee island  and the drink is basically an iced cappuccino but the foam is like a very sweet, think whipped cream. Wow is this good! The cream is definitely very decadent but of so delicious and a very tasty treat! I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get home without all this amazing coffee. After a little bit of exploring in the Plaka area, crossed the street over to where the Hadrian’s Arch is.

I walked around here for a little bit and ultimately chose to not enter the Temple of Zeus ruin because I felt as though I saw enough from the outside.

After this I looked up at the sky and noticed the sun was starting to set. While I was getting lunch, I had wifi so I was able to quickly check some messages and noticed my friend who was in Athens last spring had messaged me and suggested to go to the highest point in Athens and watch the sunset from there. After reading it I had no idea what he was talking about and honestly wasn’t going to do it cause I figured I’d be able to watch the sunset from anywhere in the city.

Well, for some reason once I saw the color of the clouds in the sky starting to change from bright white to slightly more golden and pink hues, a spark ignited inside me and I became a women on a mission to find the best spot to watch the sunset.

I walked up the street to get to the Acropolis and started walking up those hills to see if I was high enough to see the sunset. From this point I was able to see it a bit, but not fully as though I had imagined I would have been able to. So I walked down and kept walking.

On the street you would take to get to the entrance of the Acropolis, if you keep walking you will get to the point where the road comes to and end and it looks like a round about with probably a lot of tour busses. It also looks like you aren’t allowed to go any further.

Well I decided to continue anyways because I realized there was a nice little path that take you all the way up the other huge hill you will see from the ground when you are in Athens. I think at the top of this hill is also what was said to be Socrates’s prison.

Never before have I ran so fast up a huge hill to make sure I didn’t miss the sunset. Running up this hill, quite literally chasing the sun, I know it sounds stupid, but I felt like I was Hercules going the distance. Here I am, running uphill on this path, yet smiling ear to ear.

The view from the top of this hill is one of those views that brings a person so much hope… the kind of view that makes you feel like anything is possible. From up here you can see the acropolis, a panoramic view of the city, and also the water. The sky was painted with all sorts of shades of blues and golden yellows. It truly looked like something that came straight out of a movie, only I’m fortunate enough that this in no movie but that life I am living. What a blessing and what a brilliant reminder of what our beautiful world is capable of. Once again, bliss.

As the sky started to darken a little more, I started my way back down the hill and back toward my hostel. I eventually got back around probably 7pm, had a shower, and then went to bed.

So here’s the part where it really sinks in that you are paying 12 Euros a night to stay somewhere. The shower that I used was one of the kinds that detach from the wall so you can move it around. The problem was that there was no place on the wall to attach it to. What I ended up doing was balancing it over the nozzles for hot and cold water, which caused me to ultimately shower kneeling.

One thing I have definitely learned from this trip is I surely do not need a lot of luxury in my life because this was just fine for me. Like I said, this hostel was perfect for everything I needed it for, what works for me doesn’t have to work for everyone else.

After a busy day, I fell asleep easy and woke around 9am to go on a mission to find Greek olives and see Syntagma square. Out of my hostel, I walked straight to the main road and then made a left.

It was pretty easy getting here because you can quite literally follow the street signs and then you’ll run into it (basically just walk straight).

I’m not going to lie, I thought that this square was gong to have a little bit more to it, so I didn’t really spend a long time here. I did, however, walk up and down the one street that had a whole bunch of trendy shops.

On my way back to my hostel to check out, I stopped into a juice bar, which appears to be a chain here, nova gea for a cappuccino and a juice, which was good. I then walked back to the area I was the day before with all of the shops because I knew at least one of them had these olives in a bag. When I got there I bought three different kinds. I will say though, I am a little upset that this was all I was able to find for Greek Olives. I kind of hoped I’d find a little stand with fresher olives but oh well, this is better than nothing!

After I walked back to a walk up restaurant on the road to the acropolis to get a falafel pita, which I ate on a bench right next to the Temple of Zeus. I had a couple of cats come and sit next to me, which I think I would be the only person who actually enjoyed that.

Once back in the hostel I asked the lady at checkout what the best way to get back to the airport was and she told me the Metro. Although hesitant, I went with it and walked back to Syntagma Square to where I would catch the metro to the airport.

I was very happy when it all worked out! I am the biggest chicken in the whole world when it comes to taking public transport so when I say that taking the metro into the airport was easy you can believe me. It cost me 10 Euros (much better than 42) and took me directly into the airport on the last stop.

I am so very thankful that I chose to spend a day in Greece! What a great place! I cannot wait to go back and explore the rest of the country.

As far as do’s and don’ts go, I would say do try to see the sunset from the highest point in Athens and don’t pay for the 30 Euro Acropolis ticket, just do the 10 Euro one.

Alright, hope you have a great day!

 

Hannah

11.22.2016 Sofia, Bulgaria: the start of my journey

On November 20th the start of my mini European journey began in Sofia, Bulgaria. It has been a little bit over 10 years since I had last been to Europe so this was a major thrill for me! The first thing I did once I got to Sofia was check in to my hostel… or at least attempt to.

So, as soon as I arrived the gate to the hostel was opened because people were in and out making deliveries. So I just proceeded up and into the building thinking that things would be laid out plain, simple, and easy to find. Let me tell you, it really wasn’t—at least for me. On the website there are no specific directions on what bells to ring or what doors to go through so honestly when I arrived here I was walking around this building for at least 20-30 minutes trying to find something that seemed like an entrance. I learned later, that when you come, usually the front gate is locked and you have to ring up (unless you have the key). Then someone will come, let you up, and check you in.

So, until then, I am trying to ask these workers who speak no English, where the entrance to the hotel is so I could check in and as you can probably imagine, none of them understood.

I’m not sure if this was the right thing to do but I decided that freaking out was the worst thing I could do so may as well go walk around outside for a little bit. Fortunately for me, all the luggage I had was a medium sized purse and a backpack so I didn’t look that stupid walking around. I eventually made it to where the German Christmas Market was and then walked back the way I came (take in mind I have no map at this point so I don’t really know where I’m going.

Anyways I walked back to my hostel and I am so thankful that this time, it just so happened another person who was staying there was walking in. This allowed me to get in easily and took a lot of stress off my plate. It turned out that for the first night I would be staying at the sister hostel, called The House, which was just down the street. This hostel was awesome, and similarly, in another awesome location just off the main shopping street Vitosha, which means it is also an easy walk to all of the main sites.

If you plan on coming to Sofia anytime soon, I would definitely recommend staying a block or so off this street because it puts you very close to many shops, cafes, and restaurants and all the tourist attractions are basically within what felt like only a 0 minute walk.

Well, my day basically ended as soon as I entered my hotel room around 3pm because within 10 minutes of sitting in my bed I fell asleep. Call me boring but nothing is fun when you are exhausted.

The next day I woke up around 8:40 am so that I would have time to shower and get something to eat before having to head back to Guest house 32 to check in again at 12. For my breakfast I decided I would basically walk up and down the Vitosha street until I built up enough courage to go in somewhere. I made my first attempt in this one cute café when I realized I could not pay with my card and needed Bulgarian currency. Stupid me though, did not convert any money to Bulgarian because for some reason I thought I read that using a card or Euros would be fine everywhere. Nope. IF you are going to Bulgaria do yourself a favor and get some of the currency so you don’t end up like me at an ATM withdrawing only one days worth of cash.

After my ATM stop, I was embarrassed to go back to that same café so I walked up into this store Rois, which sold fruit and nuts and got myself a medium sized bag of roasted walnuts. Let me tell you, I am not really a fan of salted nuts but these were absolutely incredible.

One of the challenging things about the language barrier for me here was that even though the language both looks and sounds completely unfamiliar, the people do not so there is still a small part of my brain thinking I’m going to here a hello when really the most familiar thing I overheard was some French. Another struggle I faced was when I would try to ask someone something or order something, people would come up to me and speak completely Bulgarian in fast sentences, which then caused me to have to explain I spoke English.

So I then continued along the road again until I reached the café Shortcut, so I could hopefully get a quick coffee and sit outside. If there is one thing I have learned it is that if there was some sort of universal language, the word ‘cappuccino’ would be in the dictionary. As usual, the man behind the counter started speaking only Bulgarian when I looked at him and said cappuccino. Immediately he knew what I wanted and made it. I then took my drink and enjoyed it outside.

This cappuccino was incredible. Plain and simple. This is going to be one of those flavors that I remember forever. I ended up sitting here, eating my nuts, savoring the flavor of my cappuccino, and taking in the sights and sounds until about 12:00pm when I went back to my first hotel to check out, so I could check into Guest House 32. I was very impressed when I finally got in and was showed my room! The staff was very friendly and my room was perfect for everything I needed!

After I was checked in my goal was to go and see some of the sites, such as the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. I walked out of the hostel to Vitosha street and proceeded in the direction of City hall. I eventually reached an intersection where to the left is a huge column looking statue with a golden angel on top. Here I made a right. This road would apparently bring me to the Russian Orthodox Church (and many other things). As I was walking, I noticed I had passed the park with the German Christmas market in it, which helped to orient me.

I kept walking and eventually ran right into the church. It was so beautiful! The outside had these beautiful golden domes. The inside was painted so beautifully I wished I could have take a picture however, we were not allowed. The church is not that big so it didn’t really take a long time to tour.

Once I finished, I walked through a little park area to the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. This Cathedral is huge so by this point, you can see exactly where you need to go, it doesn’t really matter how you get there.

This cathedral is absolutely breathtaking. It is so architecturally brilliant from the exterior, you would think it would be hard for the inside to compare. Nope, the inside is just as or possibly even more beautiful. The inside is painted from ceiling to floor with these brilliantly detailed murals—and like I said this cathedral is huge so these paintings are no joke. I think I must have lucked out with the time of day I chose to visit because along the right side all of this light was coming in creating the most spectacular green glow. I could have stayed in here for hours just staring and feeling so tranquil I literally had to force myself up to leave. Even once I was out I took another lap around the building just taking in the enormity and the beauty.

One thing to note is that you can take pictures inside this cathedral; you will just have to pay 10 lev for a photo pass.

After I was finished here, I walked around the area a little bit longer and then headed back in the direction of the Christmas market. I sat on the exterior for a little bit in the park just taking time to myself to journal and reflect. What a blessing it was to be able to say I was able to just casually sit in a park in Sofia, Bulgaria and Journal.

After I walked through the Christmas market to try to get a little snack for lunch time and ended up getting these sliced potato things. I don’t really know what exactly they were called because I honestly just walked to a stand and pointed at something since there was no hope for me trying to read the menu. Fortunately it was delicious!

After I made my way back to my hotel to take a little nap and rest my feet for a bit. It’s crazy how you don’t really realize how much walking you’ve done all before 3:30 until you find yourself stretching in your hotel room. Okay so my little nap is a bit of a lie. I ended up sleeping until about 6:45 and left the hotel again around 7 to see the monuments lit up at night.

Again, I was completely blown away by the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. If you think it is brilliant during the day I urge you to see it again at night. Seriously. You would think that because it was dark you’d be able to see less but for some reason the way the lights illuminate all the crevasses and created all these intricate little shadows it seems as though you can almost see more.

Once again, I had to force myself away, back the way I came so I could go and get dinner. I went into this restaurant called CORSO, which is basically right across from the Russian Orthodox Church. I went here because I noticed the menu had English on it and I saw something that said vegetarian options. For most of the options on the menu, this place did not really fit my budget; however, one of the vegetarian options was significantly cheaper than the others so it ended up being perfect for me!

I ordered the Eggplant bayildi, stuffed with Ratatouille and quinoa, which also had tomato sauce. When the waiter brought out my meal I think I quite literally drooled. I’m not kidding. This thing looked so good I could not wait to eat it. If this thing were to look as good as it tasted they would need to find a way to make it look even tastier. Did that make sense? Probably not—lets just say it tasted so good I was ready to order a second.

Instead I went for the dessert of the day, which was some sort of cake with mascarpone nuts, biscuit, and all sorts of deliciousness. Once again, delicious. If you are coming to Sofia I cannot recommend this restaurant more! All the waiters spoke good English so I didn’t feel awkward ordering. As well, they have sections of their menu where it lists Bulgarian dishes, which is awesome!

Once I got the bill I made my way back to my hotel and went to bed. By this time it was about 9:45 and I was honestly impressed with myself for making it out this late. My flight to Athens the next morning (or in about 20 minutes as I write this now) is scheduled for 10:40am so I planned on leaving my hotel at around 7am to make sure I could find a taxi and get to the airport early enough.

I was able to easily find a taxi on the end of Vitosha street (opposite the end where city hall is) and it cost me 20 euros (which I think was probably too much) to get to the airport.

I am so happy I got to visit Sofia—what a great city! I was genuinely surprised at how not touristy the town was! There was no trouble at all seeing the landmarks and it was crazy how you really did not overhear a lot of English at all!

As far as dos and don’t go I would say don’t think you will be able to get away with just using a credit/debit card. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way and will not make the same mistake again.

One thing I 100% do recommend to do if you go to Sofia is to walk the monuments at night. What would recommend is to walk down Vitosha street towards city hall. I am not sure what the exact street is but you’ll make a right when you see a huge statue of what looked like some sort of angel on top of a column on your left. You will end up walking between two beautiful, grand buildings. This street will ultimately bring you to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral nad the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral.

This is ultimately the same route I took during the day time; however, I would definitely recommend it for walking around at night because it truly is well lit, which is good if you are a little bit hesitant about going out by yourself at night.

As well, besides my little difficulty finding the entrance to my hostel at first, I would still definitely recommend it! The location was absolutely perfect and the inside was well kept and everything that I could have hoped for! I would definitely stay here again, and or recommend it to a friend!

If you are considering Sofia, Bulgaria as a destination stop on your next trip definitely just go for it! In my opinion, it makes the perfect destination for any day-weekend length trip!

Hope you all have a great day!

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