Monthly Archives: January 2013

Living at Wat Doi Saket

Greetings! ūüôā

Today begins Day 2 of my week at Wat Doi Saket, a decently large temple complex about a half an hour east of Chiang Mai (for those of you who like maps as much as me, click here). ¬†The Wat Doi Saket project is the flagship program of Atma Seva, so I’m following in the footsteps of other volunteers that have come through the wat. ¬†Most volunteers come for a month or two (or more) to teach English, but I’m only here for a week to get a taste of the experience before heading off to a remote hill tribe somewhere north of here.

Things out in Doi Saket are much quieter than Chiang Mai. ¬†Well, maybe quieter isn’t the right word. ¬†Calmer, less frenzied. ¬†I guess this makes sense since my fellow companions at the wat are about 120 monks! ¬†I’m adjusting to the sounds of the wat, which include incessant chirping, honking (what sound DOES a boar make?), the Thai chatter of teenage novice monks, and animal sounds of an unknown origin outside my window ~3am. ¬†It’s quite fun!

The wat and surrounding grounds are beautiful, at every time of the day. ¬†I’m doing my best to get out and explore whenever I can. ¬†It’s amazing how different the same statue or monument looks at day break, noon and after dark. ¬†My favorite so far is the giant buddha:

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One giant buddha, Wat Doi Saket.

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The giant Buddha at sunset.

It’s really hard to snap a picture that really encapsulates just how huge this thing is. ¬†Just trust me when I say that it’s HUGE.

Besides wandering around and taking pictures of shiny things, I’ve also started some work. ¬†Looks like my Chiang Mai honeymoon week is over. ¬†Whomp. Dave and I went over a broad outline of my time here and some of the goals we hope to accomplish in the next four months. ¬†I can’t really complain, though, since our work session was held at an adorable little open air cafe over an iced latte and green tea. ¬†To give you a sense of how trusting and safe it is out here, we left our laptops on the cafe table while we took a quick drive down the street to pick up some lunch. ¬†I was a little hesitant at first, but Dave is friendly with the woman who owns the shop and assured me that they wouldn’t go anywhere (and they didn’t!) ¬†Back in the states, I barely trust my laptop alone in Starbucks if I have to run to the restroom ten feet away. ¬†I can already tell that readjusting to that when I go home is going to be tough.

Anyways, it’s a new day over here in Thailand, so I should be out exploring. ¬†I’ve been debating how badly I need a shower since the idea of washing in cold water doesn’t sound too tempting on this chilly, cloudy morning. ¬†Yesterday it was “invigorating,” today it just sounds straight up cold and unpleasant.

I’ll leave you with one last picture that I took the other day at the “mini zoo” up the hill…

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Peacock at the Wat Doi Saket mini zoo! Still loving my new 20x zoom camera.

Happy Tuesday!

Until next time,

‚̧ J

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An eventful day!

Well, I think yesterday takes the cake for most eventful day in Thailand thus far. ¬†I managed to sleep in until 7:15am, quite the accomplishment since my first morning I woke up around 6:30 and day 2 around 6:45 (today I even made it to a little after 8am! I’m improving!)

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My lovely accommodations in the Sunshine Guest House, home til Sunday.

I hung around my room for a little bit before heading over to Dave’s girlfriend Nid’s place to meet up with the gang around 10. ¬†Of course, being chronically early and certainly not adjusted to “Thai time” yet, I arrived around 9:45 and took a few laps. ¬†I made my first successful solo purchase in 7 Eleven, managed to make it rain baht all over the floor, and enjoyed a breakfast of dried seaweed and water before returning to Dave and Nid’s closer to 10.

We met up with Katherine, Alexis, Stu, another volunteer who does work with Atma Seva from time to time, and another American named Scott who just arrived two weeks ago. ¬†After chowing down on some delicious chocolate croissants, courtesy of Stu, we headed out for the day, planning on making a loop from Chiang Mai around through Mae Rim, a nearby district in the hills, and back to the city. ¬†The first 1/3 of the trip was great, incredible lush, green forest, relatively empty roads compared to downtown Chiang Mai which is complete chaos. ¬†Things were going great until Dave and I (on his motorcycle) and Katherine and Scott (on her motorbike) stopped at the top of a hill to wait for Stu and Alexis. ¬†They were suddenly nowhere in sight after we’d all been following each other at a pretty close distance. ¬†After about 30 seconds of wondering, Dave’s phone rings. Ut oh. It’s Stu, informing us that they crashed after being forced to swerve by a songtaew, or Thai version of shared taxi, that made an unexpected turn. ¬†We raced back to them and found the Thai ambulance already at the scene, cleaning out their wounds and bandaging them up. ¬†Luckily, nobody was seriously injured and an awesome bystander who witnessed the whole thing actually managed to chase the songtaew, which fled the scene, up the road and bring him back!! ¬†That guy was our new best friend. ¬†While they were getting patched up, another local kept translating for us what was going on and how we needed to wait “just few minutes!” for the driver to return. ¬†All things considered, it was pretty lucky that the crash happened literally two minutes down the road from the clinic where the ambulance is housed and that no one sustained injuries worse than some gnarly scrapes and bruises (thank you, helmets.)

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Alexis getting patched up by Thai EMTs.. and still she manages a smile!

Needless to say, this was not how we expected our day would turn out. ¬†Dave’s words as we eventually continued on our way, “I’m having a really hard time selling you on the whole idea of learning how to drive a motorbike…!” Um, yes. ¬†In three days, this is the second crash I’ve seen (although I’m told by others, like Katherine, that in her entire six months here, these are the only two she’s seen as well.) ¬†I also managed to give myself my first “tourist tattoo” or leg burn from leaning against the exhaust pipe of the motorcycle. ¬†Oww/oops.

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My new “tattoo”… really just an afterthought to the rest of the day’s events!

So yeah, right now I don’t have such a great feeling about these two wheeled beasts. ¬†I must say, I was pretty impressed by the Thai emergency service. ¬†Not only were they efficient, but we didn’t have to pay them a thing. ¬†They got the contact info for the songtaew driver and he’s responsible for any charges, no questions asked, no forms to file, no waiting for claims to process. ¬†I also managed to get a saline soaked gauze pad taped onto my burn while we were waiting, free of charge! Katherine got some iodine for a cut on her leg as well. ¬†In America, we’d be out thousands of dollars for that little visit from the ambulance. ¬†I’m still amazed how easy the whole process was and it reminds me of how ridiculously inefficient/cost in-effective our US system can be. ¬†Annnnyways, I’m just happy that everyone was okay in the end and made it back to Chiang Mai in one piece. ¬†What a crazy day.

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The scene of the accident. The stand to the left is where all emergency care was administered. The EMTs were there for maybe 15 minutes tops.

Stay tuned for more updates from Wat Doi Saket, the temple I’ll be living at next week!

‚̧ J

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Sa wat dee ka! Hello!

Greetings from Thailand!

Great success! ¬†I arrived in Chiang Mai safe and sound on Tuesday night, which to me just felt like the end of one really long Monday thanks to the 12 hour time difference. ¬†I’m still working on completely reversing my circadian rhythm with limited success (day 2 of waking before 7 am!), but I’m sure it’ll get better with time. ¬†Everything has been wonderful so far! ¬†Here are some highlights:

  1. Some wonderful soul at Korean Airlines decided to put me in business/prestige class.  Yeah, that meant one of these.  Hands down the best flight of my life, probably ever, unless I become rich and famous.
  2. Arriving in Chiang Mai to be greeted by the Atma Seva¬†team, the group of people with whom I’ll be working for the next four months. (Read more about Atma Seva here!)¬†It was such a great feeling to have a whole welcome party waiting for me when I exited baggage claim. ¬†We threw my bags in the back of the pick up truck and headed to an adorable outdoor restaurant/bar for spicy noodles and beer. ¬†We were half successful in this goal. ¬†Upon arrival, we were informed that the chef was “too drunk” to cook us dinner, and instead happily settled for some Beer Leo and french fries (guess he wasn’t too drunk for the deep frier?)
  3. Eating my first ever Thai pad thai.  For breakfast.  The freshness of the flavors was devine.

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    Breakfast ūüôā My first (of many) pad thai in Thailand!

  4. Exploring Wat Palad, a lesser known wat, or temple, halfway up the mountain to Wat Doi Suthep, a more popular sight.  I had my first chance to go to town with my new digital camera at Wat Palad and there was certainly no shortage of incredible statues, scenery and wildlife to photograph.

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    The grounds at Wat Palad

  5. Watching Thai natives drive.  Wow.  In the words of Dave, traffic laws here are really more like guidelines- no one will bother you if you have three people, an entire family, an entire family plus a chicken, or an entire family with their livestock and personal possessions precariously balanced on the back of a motorbike.  Quite the scene.
  6. My first one hour Thai massage for 170 baht, or about $5-6.  Yes, please!

After a full day of exploring, Katherine (one of the other on-site interns) and I had a lengthy dinner at sit down Japanese restaurant. ¬†Quite the adventure. ¬†The best part involved the waitress explaining to us what each menu item was by pointing to her body, for example indicating that the item we had just pointed to was, in fact, cow tongue. ¬†Ooookay then, next! ¬†Cuisine adventures aside, it was great to have a chance to just sit and chat and get to talk about all kinds of ideas for the future, both Atma Seva’s and our own. ¬†I couldn’t be more excited to be here and I can’t wait to see what the next several months hold!!

‚̧ J

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Sitting, waiting, wishing.

Sitting: at Bradley International Airport, which is located in neither Hartford nor Springfield, despite the rather deceptive listing of “Bradley- Hartford/Springfield” listed on most airline websites. ¬†This has always been a minor pet peeve of mine. ¬†Although I suppose if they used the city, nay, relatively small town, the airport is actually located in, nobody would know where it is.

Waiting: for another… 42 minutes until I can board my tiny excuse of a plane that will take me just a hop, skip and jump away to Chicago, O’Hare. ¬†The whole “arrive two hours early” for an international flight is a bit generous, especially here in good old Windsor Locks. ¬†Not knowing whether that still applied even though my first leg is entirely domestic, I split the difference and arrived 90 minutes early. ¬†Hence my current entertainment of watching half-awake souls slowly trudge their way through the DD line. ¬†I’m holding out, hoping I’ll be rewarded with sleep on this first three hour flight.

Wishing: that I had thought ahead and chosen my seats on the Chicago –> Seoul leg of this trip rather than putting myself at the mercy of Korean Air, which I’m pretty sure has chosen to give me a middle seat. ¬†I’m going to see what I can do about this at the ticket counter in Chicago, but I’m not holding my breath. ¬†Oh well. ¬†My new memory foam travel pillow ($10, thanks Marshall’s!) combined with a meager, fitful four hours of sleep last night should be a recipe for nap time. ¬†If all else fails, I just bought a book for my new kindle, The Lifeboat, that I’m excited to start!

Anyways… next stop, Chicago –> Seoul, South Korea –> Chiang Mai, Thailand! ¬†Despite 27 hours of travel time, I’m actually quite lucky to have such a direct route. ¬†I’m so excited to finally be doing this, I can’t even explain. ¬†Next time I write it’ll be from Southeast Asia!!

Au revoir, America! ‚̧ J

(Disclaimer:¬†Please excuse any spelling/grammatical errors as I’m pretty sure I’m only 47% awake.)

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Wait for it….

Well hidey-ho! ¬†I’m now just over one week out from my departure for Thailand and man, am I getting itchy feet. ¬†This is due in no small part to the difficult adjustment that is returning to my childhood home in the suburbs after living independently in Boston for over a year. ¬†Going from a 40 hour work week and weekends spent exploring the bars of Boston with friends to spending ~24 hours a day in my house has been a rough transition to say the least. ¬†It’s always nice to visit, but there’s a limit on how much downtime I can handle before going crazy. ¬†On the bright side, I finally have enough time to workout as much as I want and am incredibly lucky have found a bikram yoga studio nearby which offers a 30 day trial for $30. ¬†I barely survived my first class (read: I saw stars. ¬†Lots of them. ¬†Despite what the website told me, skipping breakfast before class was NOT a good idea), but somehow I managed to drag my butt back for a second attempt and I’ve been hooked ever since. ¬†This has been the highlight of 2013 thus far. …

Anyways, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. ¬†I have what almost every working “young professional” wishes they could have: a winter break reminiscent of those golden college days. ¬†Sleep is nice, as is grocery shopping on my parents’ dime, but I miss my independence and am counting the minutes until I take off for Thailand. ¬†Thankfully my passport arrived back safely in the mail the other day, complete with a Thai double tourist entry visa! ¬†I never tire of flipping through my passport, being reminded of all the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit. ¬†I can’t wait to see how many more stamps I can add over the next five months and years to come… which brings me to the original intention of this post (hey, it’s me. superfluous stories are what this blog is all about, yo.)

I’ve been perusing many a travel blog over the past couple of weeks, and I keep running across various travel bucket lists. ¬†As one afflicted with a particularly insatiable case of wanderlust, I have quite the mental list, but have never put it formally in writing. ¬†With all my free time these days, I suppose there’s no time like the present. So here goes attempt #1, subject to (frequent) additions as I continue to be inspired…. After #1, these are in no particular order:

  1. Travel to all seven continents.  This is my #1 life goal. (North America, Europe, Australia and soon to be Asia down; Africa, South America and Antarctica to go!)
  2. See the temples of Angkor Wat.
  3. Watch the sunset in Santorini, Greece.
  4. Go to Kiribati, preferably before it sinks under rising oceans.
  5. Gorge myself on Italian food in Rome, Venice, Tuscany… really just take a foodie tour of Italy. ¬†And not care when I come home 10 lbs heavier.
  6. Actually tour Hobbiton. I’ve been lucky (erm, nerdy?) enough to visit several LotR filming locations in New Zealand, and while I’ve been to Mata Mata twice, I have yet to do the actual farm tour of the Hobbiton set. ¬†Next time I’m in NZ, it’s happening.
  7. See the pyramids in Egypt.
  8. Explore Machu Picchu.
  9. Travel solo for an extended period of time.
  10. Take a hot air balloon ride over a gorgeous landscape.
  11. Conquer my fear of scuba diving and dive an old shipwreck somewhere.
  12. Visit Petra, Jordan.
  13. Travel to all four countries of my ancestry (Ireland, check. Lithuania, Sweden and Poland to go!)
  14. Learn how to surf. Like, really learn how to surf. Not take a lesson or two. Become proficient.
  15. Fill up my whole passport with stamps before it expires. Actually have to apply for more pages (I didn’t know this was a thing until last week!)
  16. Visit at least one country that everyone thinks I’m crazy for doing so (I look to Miss Anna B for inspiration on this one.)
  17. See Niagara Falls.
  18. Go on a cruise! Especially to Alaska.
  19. Just visit Alaska in general.
  20. Walk on the Great Wall of China.
  21. Climb one legit mountain. (I don’t count my brave summits of Baldy, as awesome as those hikes were.)
  22. Climb Mt Whitney in a day.
  23. Go on a safari somewhere in Africa!
  24. Oktoberfest. ¬†‘Nuff said.
  25. Go skydiving.
  26. Visit all 50 U.S. states.
  27. Tour a vineyard and stomp grapes to make wine and then drink said wine. ūüôā
  28. Visit Paris with a significant other.
  29. Learn how to salsa from someone sexy (trick statement: anyone that is proficient enough in salsa to teach it is, by definition, sexy.)
  30. Ride a tuk tuk in Asia!
  31. Visit Russia. Buy one of these and take photos in front of prominent Russian landmarks wearing it.
  32. Drive the length of the PCH in California. (Somehow in my four years out there, I never managed to make it to Big Sur. That’s the one national park that I regret not visiting while at Pomona.)
  33. Tour Alcatraz.
  34. Watch the northern lights from one of those ice hotels.
  35. Become fluent in a second language.
  36. Actually do that thing where you throw a dart at a map and go wherever it lands. Unless it lands in the middle of the ocean (likely). ¬†Then I’d throw it again.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is a start (ideas? epic adventures I’ve neglected? please share!). If I could accomplishment everything on this list, I could die a very happy woman. ¬†This list ignores all of the items that I’ve already checked off my bucket list, but I’ll save those for another, more reminiscent¬†post someday. ¬†I’m going to try really, really hard to keep up with this blog once I land in Chiang Mai and actually have interesting adventures to report. ¬†I promise.

Until next time, ‚̧ J

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