Friday, 27 February 2015

for the factory tours, the hill tribe & the H'Mong Lodge

We had the morning free to do as we pleased but some of us decided to join Raht who took us on a tour to some of the factories. 

We visited a silk, silver, lacquer and ceramic factory, each giving us a demonstration before roaming there sales rooms. A beautiful silk cotton blend scarf may have made it's way into my handbag! I was a little surprised to be honest at the cost of some of the silver, which was much more than I would pay from a jewellery shop back home.

We returned back to the hotel with some time to wander and have lunch before heading off to our next stop. The previous day we had heard that the Princess of Thailand would be arriving and staying at our hotel. Apparently she was in town to present Graduate Certificates at a local university and stays at the same hotel as we did as there is a royal suite on the top floor.

Police and Security had been making their presence known and the hotel staff were busy scrubbing every nook and cranny and replacing all the flowers in the foyer. We were also informed that she is not well so would have her own doctor with her as well as an ambulance on standby in the carpark. 

As we were getting ready to leave red carpet was being laid and entries were being blocked off. Sadly we left before she actually arrived so there was no photo opportunity. 

So we left Chiang Mai heading for H'Mong Village Hill Tribe, stopping along the way at a butterfly sanctuary and orchid farm along the way. 

Arriving up at the Hill Tribe Village we wandered around a little. I felt a little weird to be honest, like we were there gawking at these people and their houses, but they greeted us with smiles and allowed us to take photos. {Raht told us that Thai people always smile, even if they are angry with you, they get angry with a smile, so I am not sure how these Hill Tribe people were really feeling about us being there}

Game of volleyball anyone?

Some of the land they farm and grow different vegetables etc to sell at the markets

Some of the children just arriving home from school

We were not there long before heading partly back down the hill to our accommodation for the night, the H'Mong Lodge. We had a little free time before dinner so I took the opportunity to wander the grounds snapping photos before settling in to do some blog reading and writing. 

The Lodge is so very peaceful with no sounds but that of the nature surrounding you. I was a little sad that we didn't have the time to settle in and use the amazing pool, as the climate here is a little cooler than it was down south.

A bloggers life is tough when this is your office!

We met for an included buffet dinner, which was probably one of the best dinners we had on the whole trip. 

After dinner we were entertained by some of the local Hill Tribe people with dancing, singing, instrument playing and games. The show only went for about half an hour and thankfully we were given a sheet of paper explaining what each of the 8 performances were about as I would have had no idea otherwise. 

Audience participation!

Linking up with Grace from With Some Grace for FYBF!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

to listen, watch and reflect..

I stare at the lines on the blank page, twisting the blue ballpoint pen through my fingers. It has to be blue, not black - I don't like black pens. I am a bit funny like that - set in my ways.

Every now and then I look up to take in the scene around me, the hundreds of people who line the coastline, couples old and young, families, friends, all enjoying the serenity of this paradise.

One thing I notice is from where I sit I see no one like one else alone {unless you count the little Thai lady walking up and down the beach selling corn on the cob - what is it with these people and corn on a cob!?}

A young couple move in and sit down in front of me, he sits first before taking off his shoes and offering them to her to sit on so as to not dirty her tiny white shorts.

I sit with my headphones in trying to drown out the noise. Mostly country music occupies my playlist - songs about love, loss and life, over and over again. I wonder if I could write songs what the song of my life would be.

I close my eyes, enjoy the breeze across my face, take in the air - deep into my lungs, and try to clear my thoughts, sift through the chaos.... searching.

For some reason writing that word brings a lump to my throat....searching....but what am I searching for?

Tonight I've come here for the same reason as many others, to watch the sunset. It's been a while since I've had an unobstructed view of a sunset, and never have I seen it set over the ocean.

In the next hour or so it will be gone for another day. We'll be another day older. Another day further away from something and another day closer to something we don't even know yet. 

A man walks up and stands in front of me to take a photo of the same view. The same view many many people are looking at. I'm staring at him immediately and feel bad. His prosthetic leg cannot be ignored, I instantly wonder what happened to him, has it changed him, has it stopped him doing things he's always wanted to do? 

I guess we all have a story to tell.

The sun is fading fast now, it's like the ocean is sucking it into its grasp. Like no matter how hard it tries it cannot be stopped. The colours are so strong.

And just like that, as Hunter Hayes sings 'Wanted' in my ears, the sun disappears over the horizon.

I, like many others, pack up and move on from the beach. I wander the street looking for somewhere to have dinner, not really because I am hungry but because it is 'dinner time'. I find a Thai/Italian restaurant and ask for a table for one, "only for one?", the waitress asks with her cute Thai accent. She shows me to a table in the corner.

A different waitress brings me the menus and asks, "only one?", I nod and she scoops up the cutlery opposite me, leaving it obvious that there will definitely only be one here tonight.

I order a beer. I never order beer at home. I never eat out at a restaurant by myself either. I guess that's what this trip is about really. Doing things I would never do at home. I order and eat my meal in silence. Stroll back to my accommodation, back to my room. 

When I revealed my plans for this year people asked why. I am still yet to sort through the many 'whys' that fill my head and articulate it. But I do know that it was more than that I just wanted to, it's that I needed to. I am thankful that I am in a position to be able to do this. I know that at times I have concerns that I have done the wrong thing, but I also know that it's the right thing. And after only such a short time away, I already know I cannot go back to my life the way it was. 

{taking a little diversion from blogging about my tour for this reflection and linking up with Ann from Help! I'm Stuck! for Things I know, and A Brit and a Southerner for Weekend Wanderlust}

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

for the cooking class, the night market & the lady boy show

Master Chef here I come!! 

I wasn't sure how I'd go today as I am not exactly known for my culinary skills, and Thai food is never my first choice when it comes to dining out, but I was a little excited to give it a go! That's what this trip is all about after all.

Pom and her little husband (whose name I didn't quite catch) met us at our hotel and drove is to the local food market! A feast for the eyes and senses, everything and anything was on offer. 

Pom and her husband

The local market

Pom walked us around showing us different traditional ingredients, explaining there properties and uses before giving us time to explore while she shopped for our cooking class.

We were then driven to her house which has the perfect set up and would give the MKR kitchen a run for its money I think. 

We watched her complete each dish with ease before heading back to our own workstations to enjoy our creations, and given that I am still here to write about it I must have done ok! 

First course to cook was actually our dessert, Banana Pudding, as it needed time to cook in the steamer and then cool. Because apparently you are meant to eat cooked dessert at room temperature!

Setting that aside, we then made chicken and coconut soup, which we were then allowed to eat straight away.

Followed by Pork Mince Salad and Pad Thai. 

Almost looks edible right?

Everything was delicious, even if I do say so myself. We were also given a cookbook to take home with many other recipes included. I am not sure I'll be holding a Thai inspired dinner parties anytime soon, but I had a great time! 

If you happen to find yourself in Chiang Mai, do yourself a favour and go check out Pom and her kitchen and have a lesson, you won't regret it. Check out her website Cooking @ home.

We were chauffeured back to the hotel with a few hours until our next commitment, which was spent, collecting my washing and laying by the pool (again!)

Night markets are a big thing in these parts and the biggest ones in Chiang Mai were within walking distance of our hotel. Raht showed us a few of the main parts and then left us to explore on our own. I tagged along with the Aussie Mum and Daughter as we weaved up and down and in and out of the many many stalls each selling something a little different but a lot the same. 

As we strolled down on lane of stalls a small group of school children came running up to me and the lead boy ranted something at me that I could obviously not understand, I made it clear that I was sorry but I didn't know what he was saying, he shook his head in obvious disappointment and lead the group away. A lady at a nearby stall must have sensed the 'what the...' look on my face and explained that he was asking if I would go to his school and teach English! Seriously!! Is it tattooed on my forehead!? 

We had been told by a man we met earlier by the pool of a lady boy cabaret show at the night markets and our curiosity got the better of us, so we wandered down for a look. We were told to get there early as it packs out very quickly, sure enough we followed this warning and ended up front table! 

It was all harmless good fun and I was in awe of some of the costumes they were wearing and how in shape they were.... But sad when a lady boy looks better in a leotard than an actually lady {I do not actually own a leotard but you get my drift}. Co-ordination and dancing in heels left a lot to be desired, especially when said heels were broken, but what they lacked in that department they more than made up for in enthusiasm and smiles. 

Another big but great day!

{Linking up with Ms Mystery Case for Worth Casing Wednesday and Brown Paper Packages for Wednesday Wanderlust!}