Friday Photo of the Day – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chaing Mai, Thailand

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My Friday photo of the day is an ode to fascinating Thailand. I adored my time in Thailand especially the colours, stunning scenery & incredible flavours.

 

This was taken on a hot humid day in December 2014 when my Thai Massage classmates went on a group expedition to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. We were such a varied bunch of people but each person bought their own charm & spirit to the class. I am always impressed with the amazing people I meet on my travels. It restores my faith in humanity & humbles me to appreciate how large this world is & how many incredible people inhabit it. I am encouraged to travel more, meet more people & appreciate human nature.

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Bitches be meditating

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In my quest for inner peace & happiness I have signed up for a Buddhist meditation retreat via Monk Chat. This is an overnight retreat featuring teachings of Buddhism, meditations & hopefully the tools to reach enlightenment. A bargain at 500b/£10 including transport to the meditation centre, overnight stay, dinner, breakfast & lunch.

We arrived at the meditation centre before 4pm & changed into our white clothes. I, like many others, opted to buy the fetching white ensemble from them – a white tshirt & white fisherman’s pants. Grand at 300b/£6.

Our accommodation was a basic, spacious (by my standards), 2 bed room, en suite. Same sex roomies – some couples had to be sleep in separate rooms for the night.

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Our teacher, Phra KK spoke to us about meditation & taught us the different methods: sitting, standing, walking, lying, & with beads. We chanted & paid respect to Buddah. It was a very calming experience. But then…  the horror when it dawned on me that it was a silent retreat! Surrounded by all these pals-to-be & great stories to be heard but no. It is not meant to be *sigh*

It wasn’t too bad, I survived! Although I was one of the few on the speaking spectrum whereas others were being really strict & didn’t say a word. I struggled to communicate via facial expressions, as I tend to, without looking like a caricature of myself. And I discovered that I have a rather sour meditation face, which is a great worry for me! I don’t look like a friendly mute which is a shame. It is clearly not for me.

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We finished at 9.30pm & I was exhausted from all the mindfulness. Despite my wish to fall asleep instantly, I didn’t manage to until well after midnight. I owe the sleep bank some hours.

At 5am in the morning Phra KK sounded the bell to wake us & again at 5.30am to call us to chanting & meditation practice. I’m not sure if I’m meditating right, but I find it soothing & helpful to clear my mind so I’m content that I’m feeling better & more mindful.

I had to leave the retreat early for a Skype interview – there is no wifi at the retreat so don’t bother taking your laptop. You won’t have much time to use it anyway. I recommend to take toilet roll as supplies in the toilets were low to non-existent.

Overall it was lovely speaking to the monks & getting an insight into their lives & their tips to mindfulness. If you are interested in doing this overnight meditation retreat I have posted the link below.

Links

http://www.monkchat.net

Chiang Mai

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There are places I feel an instant connection with & there are places I dislike. Chiang Mai falls into the former category. It is endearing & has the hustle & bustle of city life along with the balance of easy access to peaceful country life.

I could easily see myself coming back to live here for a few months in the future. It has a low cost of living with low rent (so I hear) & meals for around £1 – sure you couldn’t beat it!

The locals are friendly and approachable. They have much better english than I have Thai. If I were to come back I would definitely work on improving my Thai.

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The temples are so beautiful & scattered throughout the city. It’s so calming to bask in the beauty of them. FYI ensure your shoulders & knees are covered & take off your shoesies before you enter.

There are many markets in Chiang Mai. For me they get a bit ‘groundhog day’, so I’m sure if you only get to one it will be selling the same goods as the others. Haggling is expected & worth a try.

The street food is so delicious & cheap. I am really going to miss this! I expect I will recoil in horror when I get charged more than £1 for a meal when I get home.

Massages are around 250b/£5! The first one I got was a bit jabby, however I will persevere & have more massages before I go – I’m such a trooper!

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The cookery courses are so much fun! I went to the Thai Kitchen Centre Cookery School (800b/£16 for a half day). I cooked chicken satay, pad thai, and made massaman curry paste then the curry. It was so delicious & I’m looking forward to using the recipe book from the school when I get home! I would recommend doing a full day so you can go the market & have time to get to know your fellow students & have a bit of craic.

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I even got my hair dyed here (unfortunately the price was western 3500b/£70). Have you ever had 6 people put foils on to your hair then 3 people dry it with hairdryers while the colourist supervised?? I have!

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I went to the cinema to see Interstellar (120b/£2.30). In Thailand right after the trailers a video of the King is played & everyone stands up for the national anthem to pay respect to the King.

I’m going on an overnight Buddist Meditation Retreat tomorrow, be prepared for a blog on my quest for enlightenment!

Links

http://www.thaikitchencentre.com

http://www.newyorknewyorkstudio.com

Battered, bruised & a fully fledged Thai Massage Therapist!

After 2 weeks of intense training I am a Thai Massage Therapist!

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My body has taken a beating from being practiced on, poked, prodded, jabbed & stretched. It is astonishingly exhausting getting a 3 hour Thai massage every day!

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I researched a lot of massage schools & Baan Hom Samunphrai Herbal Health Centre & School seemed ideal for what I wanted. It is a gorgeous hidden gem some 20 mins from Chiang Mai old town. It is a charming, rustic, peaceful retreat. They offer overnight stays to extended stays spanning months as well as an array of training courses from Thai Massage, Reflexology, womb lifting, acupressure & herbal workshops. I opted for the 80hr live in Thai Massage course (26,200baht/£510) to add another string to my Sports Rehabilitation bow.

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A typical day starts at 7am with Rasidaton (chanting, paying respect & Thai yoga). Breakfast is served 8am – 9am & at 9am we start training. We generally get taught a massage sequence & practice on each other with help from Homprang & her assistants. We train from 9am – 4pm with a 1 hour lunch break at 12pm. We are encouraged to practice in the evening again but we are all normally too tired to….

I found the course quite tough as there was a lot to remember: the sequence, my exact hand position, foot position & posture, the pressure I have to apply etc. When we would practice a new part of the routine it seemed daunting but it all came together & I was confident & happy by the last few days of the course.

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We spent a day making herbal compresses & doing herbal compress massage with them. I really loved this & it’s not something I would ever have opted for previously. Compared to the strong & stretchy Thai massage that I had been getting daily the herbal compress was a hot, soothing delight! I will definitely go for a herbal compress massage in the future!

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I’m sure many interesting characters have graced this place in search for relaxation, peace & solace. They have many returning guests which is a testament to their hospitality. Everyone on the course I took part in felt that they would return at some point, myself included!

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The meals are delicious traditional home cooked Thai dishes. To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what I was eating half the time although that didn’t stop me from tucking in! On the subject of food I am sadly being feasted upon by mosquitos. I am convinced I will contract Dengue fever. They just can’t get enough of this exotic treat. If I knew bug language I would post signs on my legs saying ‘These are not beautiful white lilies, they are private fleshy property’. I am permanently slathered in Tiger Balm. I am in a world of visually disturbing, itchy pain.

I have gorgeous pics I will upload in a few days – not of my legs 🙂

Links

http://www.homprang.com

Hey Thailand! Here I am!

I have arrived in Thailand!

I am of course ridiculous & decided that I needed a new Chanel lipstick for my month of backpacking in Thailand. I know. I was rolling my eyes at myself when I was walking towards the till in duty free. I’m sure that was a lovely sight for the anxious cashier.

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When I arrived in Bangkok I opted on taking public transport to my hostel rather than the easy-way-out taxi – mainly due to it being rush hour & my massive dislike of sitting in traffic. The public transport was very straightforward, frequent & easy to navigate. I was pleased despite not being accustomed to the weight of my backpack yet!

I stayed at the Saphai Pae hostel. It was clean & spacious with a well laid out big bathroom block. I stayed in an 8 bed dorm on the female only floor. The staff were helpful & I would stay there again. After my well deserved shower I went for a wander about the area then went to bed. It was pure bliss to lie horizontal on a bed & stretch out. I was in heaven!

The next morning, after breakfast, I went to Hua Lampong train station to get a ticket for the overnight train to Chiang Mai for my Thai massage course. You can’t buy these tickets online & they sell out quickly so I was risking them being sold out. Luckily there were 4 seats left in the 2nd class air conditioned carriages. I opted for seat 15 as the other seats were very low numbers indicating they were near the toilet which might be a bit smelly & have through traffic all night with people using them. The only seat available that wasn’t near the toilets was an upper bunk. The upper bunks are slightly narrower than the bottom bunks but this didn’t really bother me. The ticket was 791b & would leave Bangkok at 6.10pm & arrive in Chiang Mai at 8.10am the following day.

I wandered around Bangkok & had some street food of gyoza for 50b (£1). I went to MBK & Siam centre to browse – I bought a few things I ‘needed’ but I didn’t go crazy because everything I buy I have to carry on my back.

I arrived at the station 45 mins early & my train was already being boarded. We took off at 6.10pm & an hour later a lady came around & started converting the seats into bunks. I was delighted! Another lady came around with a menu for dinner but I wasn’t very hungry. She seemed a bit offended that I didn’t order anything….

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The bunks on the train with their curtains closed

When I climbed into my bunk I fell straight to sleep – I’m not sure how as everyone was talking so loudly. I woke up a few hours later & read for a while, then I noticed a cockroach walk down the wall & under my mattress! Oh the horror! I was determined to go back to sleep so I put my earphones in (so the cockroach wouldn’t be able to burrow into my ears if he had the inclination, obviously) & anxiously fell asleep. At around 7am the lady came back to convert the bunks back to seats. I was massively jealous of the people in the bunks that she left until 8am. It seems that I have become obsessed with lying down.

I heard that transport is rarely on time in Thailand so I was surprised when we arrived bang on time! This was the last stop so everyone left the train & there was the usual hub bub in the train station of taxi & tuk tuk drivers, hostel owners, confused sleepy backpackers etc. I slipped into a nearby cafe to escape the bustle & enjoy a coffee. When relative calm resumed I found a tuk tuk driver & haggled him down to 200b for my trip to Baan Hom Samunphrai – Thai Massage School Herbal Retreat Centre. It was a bumpy 20 minute drive out of the city over a bridge, past the tamarind hedge to my home & haven for the following 2 weeks.

Links

Saphai Pae Hostel, Bangkok http://www.saphaipae.com

Baan Hom Samunphrai, Chiang Mai http://www.homprang.com