Words can’t describe how much happier I am in Thailand. Lesson learned? Can’t lump Asia into one unit and categorically rule it out. Our Nimman neighborhood in Chiang Mai is so sweet and hip, and there’s a view of the mountains from everywhere including my room. The city itself is very quiet, according to Google only a population 100,000 (just a little different than the 7 million in Hanoi). It’s filled with expats and digital nomads and probably because of that, has a lot of Western touches. I just love it so much.
- THE FOOD IS AMAZING. Pad Thai, Pad See Yu, Fried Rice, Pad Krapaw, Som Tum, Khao Soi, list goes on and on.
And you can get any of those dishes for $1.50 (aka may as well order two at a time). Chiang Mai is filled with restaurants and cafes, and we’ve already been bombarded with recommendations. Thank goodness it’s only a month because I don’t think this level of consumption for me is sustainable.
- Important food note: ‘Thai spicy’ is verrrryyy spicy and they often don’t serve it to tourists even if you ask. I, on the other hand, have learned how to say ‘no chili’ in Thai. This girl can’t handle the heat.
- Currency is the baht (1 dollar ~ 30 baht), language is Thai, official animal is the elephant, main ‘religion’ is Buddhism
- Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country to not have been colonized. At the time of colonization, it served as a buffer between the British ruled areas and French ruled areas. Another theory is that they have the fewest resources.
- Along those lines, they drive on the left side of the road (I found out by opening the taxi driver’s door). This is not because they were ruled by Britain, but that they were major traders with the Brits.
- Not really supposed to flush toilet paper down the toilet because the pipes are too weak. Not for nothing, but I’m pretty sure I’m sending bigger stuff down there than a few sheets of toilet paper (TMI??)
- On a similar note, because we have to trash toilet paper, Thailand embraces the ‘bum gun’, a small sprayer fixed next to the toilet seat. I haven’t quite figured out the physics of it yet.
- Heads and feet have to be used carefully here. It’s considered very rude to touch people’s heads and also to put your feet up on things. If in the presence of a monk, you shouldn’t show him the bottom of your feet in any way, sit with feet flat on the ground.
- Language is all symbols. The Thai alphabet is made of 44 consonants and 15 vowel that combine into about 28 forms. Some consonants are beginning consonants (ones that would start words) and some are final consonants. The Thai language uses no punctuation, instead there are spaces between sentences and the words are mushed together like hashtags. How do you know where the words start and stop? The consonants.
- My favorite fun fact? The word for ‘5’ in Thai is ‘ha’ so people text ‘5555’ when they mean ‘hahaha’
- Thailand has the best taxi system so far: Red Cars. They are red pickup trucks with covered beds and benches. Can transport up to twelve people at a time for cheap (30 baht ~ 1 dollar a ride in the old city). Brilliant!
- The old city of Chiang Mai alone has ~36 temples, just look at google maps and find all the ‘wat’s.
Hang on tight, this was a full one-
- Brunch with friends at Rustic and Blue, a very Western café a block away. I got gluten free French toast drizzled with passionfruit glaze, served with fresh mango and banana. You can imagine my excitement to have a somewhat normal meal in a place that looked like it could be in America. Call me uncultured, but sometimes you just need to be reminded you’re still on Earth.
- Grocery shopping! One of my actual favorite things to do when I first arrive. Found peanut butter so we gooooood.
- City welcome put on by the Remote Year city team (in our workspace, The Brick)
- Dinner at the same place from the night before…won’t be the last time I’m there either.
- Visit Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market. Unlike in Hanoi where I refused to eat anything off the street because it seemed dirty, ALL of this food looked good (minus the scorpions, crickets, gator, etc). Complete with coconut ice cream that you could get served between two slices of white sandwich bread.
- Workout in the apartments, we got a gym! Not great, but it’ll do.
- Thai Language Class (where I learned there’s no way I can fake my way through this language) and work
- Dinner at the University Market. Chiang Mai University is one of the most popular in Thailand for their nice campus and access to nature. On either ends of the campus are huge markets filled with clothing vendors and food stalls. Pro tip: order dishes with a side of rice, they’ll be cheaper than with no rice.
- Workspace this month is nice but the bathrooms are outside and I’ve already seen too many unwanted guests in the stalls. May be a café workspace kind of month.
- Long morning walk with Dawn, another Remote, to explore the Chiang Mai temples. As mentioned above, there are soooo many temples. Everywhere you turn, there’s another, bigger and better than the last.
- Started at Wat Phra Singh, a little outside the old city. It had the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen
- Wound our way through the old town, marked by the square moat that runs all the way around
- Wandered through quiet neighborhoods, which is weird to say when talking about the city center. Stopped for fresh smoothies at a lady’s lemonade-stand look-alike. Biggest smoothie of my life, just saying.
- Ended at my favorite of the day: Wat Chedi Luang. This was really a combination of 4 or 5. Hard to describe the temples, but if visiting, make sure you wear shoes that slide on and off easily because you have to take them off often and be sure to cover shoulders and knees (for women).
- Workspace of the day: Pai Yan Yai Coffee. My supervisor and I had a pow-ow together over free Wi-Fi and drinks. I love my supervisor, just saying. We have a great relationship and I’m learning a lot from being by her side.
- Dinner at J-Yai Organic Vegetables accompanied by deep talks.
- Host Women’s World Cup watch party at 2am. Good game and good fun.
- I’m taking the lead on our Positive Impact project this month! It’s one I’m pretty excited about. We are working with the
Wildflower Home, a temporary shelter for women in crisis.
- Will share more details about the organization later, but we got to go on site for the first time this week.
- We met the Sister in charge of the home, chatted with some other volunteers, got a tour of the facilities, and did a combination of gardening, teaching English, and organizing their store.
- In summary, there are about 10 women and 15 kids that live at the home now, with a nearly completed new house that can hold 25 women. They are aiming to be totally self-sustainable, using electricity from donated solar panels and eating food that they’ve grown in their garden. Very impressive organization started in 2008.
- Fav memories of the visit: teaching Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes in English to a group of women, and having them teach us in Thai. And playing with the kids in the front yard.
- Hoping to visit a few more times this month as well as fundraise for the expansion of their daycare. Stay tuned!
- Flight to Phuket, an island in the very South of Thailand. It was a two hour too turbulent flight, then a two hour bus ride to the Air Bnb but soooo worth it! Met up with Simone, Tim, and two of Simone’s hometown friends there.
- Arrive first, meet the host, and get settled in the cozy villa, complete with a lovely salt water pool. We stayed in Rawei, at the southern tip of the island. Would recommend!
- Asked the host for how to see the sunset. Instead of telling me, she showed me on her motorbike! Took a tour from Windmill Point to Promthep Cape to Nai Harn beach and back. It was epic. She was sweet too, married to an Australian, and living off being a Bnb host.
- Dinner in the small beach town and passed out early.
- Morning stroll down to Rawei Beach, about 25 min from apartment. The weather was perfffect, 90 and sunny but breezy.
- The water here is STUNNING, straight up felt like I was staring at Google images of Phuket. The colors of the water mixed with the colorful long boats filling the shores make for beautiful pictures.
- Walk along the coast with Simone and the girls, stop for some Pad Thai at a little beach hut overlooking the ocean #whatislife
- Work poolside
- Sunset walk to Nai Harn beach, not without a golden hour photoshoot
- Mexican (yes, in Thailand) dinner before heading home for more work
- After much deliberation, decide to island hop off the southern tip. Great decision.
- Walked back to Rawei Beach and negotiated a 2,500 baht day trip with a private long boat for the five of us. This concept is pretty common, there are a bunch of guys and long boats along the shore ready to take you from island to island for the day.
- First stop: Banana Beach on Koh He. Spent time in and out of the perfectly blue, very warm water and relaxing in the sand. Was crowded but not too bad, found our little spot.
- Somehow attracted a little boy who didn’t leave my side the entire two hours we were there. Couldn’t speak a single word to each other, but he seemed entertained just my jumping around me and poking me.
- Second stop: Koh Bon. We wished we’d gone here sooner because we were 5 of 15 people on the island, not including the restaurant staff that made us a great meal. Seriously, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Highly recommend.
- Our boat driver for the day was named Aib. He grew up in Phuket and had been water taxiing for about 40 years (and he was young, so definitely started young). Taught himself English with the tourists that came through.
- Make our way back to villa and jump in the pool before a nice siesta.
- Early morning up and out to catch an 8:30 ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi Island. They arrange a stopover trip on your way to Krabi so guests can spend the day on the islands.
- Check out Phi Phi Island (yes, pronounced pee-pee), pretty touristy so not my fav but still pinch me beautiful
- Hike to Viewpoints 1, 2, and 3, only about 30 minutes each way but kind of difficult in the heat/sun. SOO worth it, viewpoint 2 had great view of the two beaches on either side of the island
- Ferry to Krabi (about 2 hours), then taxi to our cute bnb in Ao Nang. Ao Nang is a popular beach about 30 minutes from Krabi downtown. Minus being very dehydrated by the end, it was a nice day.
- Dinner at a local restaurant that felt like someone’s home, where I learned that Massaman Soup is maybe my new favorite thing ever. Very good.
- Watch (alone… at a quiet restaurant… but hey, whatever it takes) the Women’s US National Team win the World Cup. Back to back champs, baby.
I am in a lot better place mentally than in Hanoi, but always being mindful not to overdo it! The first few days in a place can be a lot as you’re overloaded with information and things to do for the month. Embracing that I may not get to see everything makes it a bit easier to enjoy the things I do get to see! I can always come back.
Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July weekend! Mine was definitely one to remember.