June 2, 2014

with locals

It is amazing how things fall into place and certain things happen at exactly the right time, exactly when you need it. That was my experience using With Locals, an interesting new way to meet local people when you travel, or even when you are living somewhere, like me. The universe lined up to make it happen and right when I was feeling it was time to do something about my eating habits, I met some amazing new people that really inspired me to make a change and had a wonderful experience as well!

From first glance at their profile, I knew Bank and Mandy would be very interesting people for a dinner date, I was a bit apprehensive about going to someones home and making 'small talk' but we felt comfortable and had no problem enjoying their company! There apartment was very near to ours and easily reached by the BTS and immediately I loved the charm of their building (unlike our cookie cutter modern one.) We were warmly welcomed into their home and taken to the dreamy patio area I was so looking forward to chilling on! It is the patio of dreams, with an amazing view, all kinds of veggies, herbs and greenery growing around you and comfy chairs where hours of deep conversation can be had.



Bank was an amazing cook and everything we ate was spectacular! So fresh and unique, I got to try many dishes I have never had, even though I have lived in Thailand for 3 years. We had an amazing banana leaf salad that had so much flavor and great textures working together. Everything we ate was either from the local market or grown in their urban garden. It was such a pleasant evening learning from the master chef how to prepare some of the dishes and talking with both about their passions, permaculture and healthy eating. It was wonderful talking about these ideas with people who really do care about their food and who have so much knowledge to share. Both Bank and Mandy were so easy to talk to and conversation came easily, we felt like friends by the end of the evening (and I learned lots as well!)

I did not have a camera to do any of the food justice but the lovely Mandy sent me some snaps she took. We very much enjoyed the breezy evening with amazing food, great company and a wonderful experience using With Locals. I recommend anyone coming to Bangkok and looking for a more local and authentic experience to check out With Locals and visit Bank and Mandy's Dine Thai. I can't wait to try again on my next trip and am excited to spend a week on a permaculture farm in northern Thailand that our hosts told us all about. I may not believe in a 'god' but I sure do know the universe always gives you what you need. Many thanks to Bank and Mandy for the spectacular Thai meal and wonderful hospitality! 

 


Be sure to check out With Locals.com. And follow my daily adventures on instagram, twitter and facebook!
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April 29, 2014

The golden land

Myanmar (aka Burma) was a mysterious sounding country that recently opened its borders to independent travelers and just like every other backpacker coming through SE Asia at the moment, I decided I had to see what it was all about before the inevitable killer that is tourism turns it into something totally different (ahem, Thailand.)

I'll be honest, I didn't plan anything ahead of time for this trip. Literally, I booked one room the night we arrived and that was the extent of my planning. In hindsight this was a silly idea since I knew it would be the water festival and things would be busy and or not running normally and it was quite frustrating while we were there to have the constant "NO, its water festival!" bu excuse but now that it is all over, I wouldn't change a thing. We had an amazing week I will never forget even though things didn't go perfectly, one of the best and most annoying parts of travel.  I hate making plans only to change them last minute and love seeing where things take you in a new place and I will always remember this experience when I am going plan crazy in the future.

We flew to Yangon from Bangkok, a short 45 minute trip on Air Asia (more amazingly cheap tickets, paid for at my convenience at my neighborhood 7/11.) Make sure to get your visa before going, because as of April 2014 they do not issue tourist visas on arrival in Myanmar for most nationalities (there was a counter labeled for them at the Yangon airport though so check for your circumstances) I did do all this research and planning so it must count for something huh? I at least got there in an orderly fashion, a great improvement from my earlier traveling days (wait, I need a visa to enter Thailand?!)

Yangon is an interesting city, very multicultural and beginning to embrace the more modern lifestyle wholeheartedly. We went specifically to enjoy the water festival and Myanmar new year celebrations but got to see many of the popular spots as we walked around getting drenched by the locals, it was a nice way to keep cool in the scorching sun! There are many Indian and Burmese restaurants and bars around though the food was very oily but delicious, yet not good for people trying to eat a healthy diet. It is a vibrant, diverse city and big changes are happening there. Head out of the city though and it is a different world altogether.

A few interesting things to know before you go...
  • Red betel nut spit  is everywhere, watch out!
  • Almost everyone wears a 'longyi' a skirt like piece of fabric, both men and women wear. I would not advise women to wear shorts but I did (it was SO hot!) and then just covered up in my own new fashion accessory. There are some beautiful ones in the Scott Market and it is my favorite souvenir by far, I'll be rocking my longyi everywhere!
  • The people there make a 'kissing noise' to get someones attention at restaurant or bar, its pretty confusing at first (no they are not cat calling you!) and then it is awesome. Make the noise with your lips and you will get served right away!
  • This place is changing fast! We didn't notice too many foreigners (maybe just because we are so used to them in Bangkok, it paled in comparison) but many local people we talked to said the tourism was booming lately and more and more travelers were making a stop in Myanmar while in SE Asia. Go before it becomes just another tourist trap on the map.
  • We had some problems exchanging USD that were not perfectly crisp, though I read elsewhere this was no longer a problem. Just try to get the newest bills you can and know that no one except hotels will really accept USD, so some kyats are also useful to have. There are money changers all over the city (though many are closed during water festival so think ahead!) 
  • Hotels are just very expensive, everywhere. We stayed at a nice guesthouse with private rooms and shared bathrooms for 25 USD a night (which is expensive for what it is, in Asia.) It was nice enough and the staff was wonderful,  but you cannot compare what you would get in Thailand for that price, it will make you crazy. This could change as tourism picks up in the area and remember prices are higher and reservations are needed during the water festival.


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April 4, 2014

22 signs you have spent too much time in Thailand

Recently Huffington Post had an article circulating through my Facebook feed titled "21 Signs you have spent too much time in Thailand." After reading it became apparent this person meant "travelling in Thailand too long" but being an expat living in Thailand (coming up on 3 years!) is a very different story. It is well known I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with this country, yet somehow I am still here. I have found it difficult to write about my life in Thailand lately as I am quite settled and no one wants to hear about my teaching woes or dinner plans. But I always love a good remake and since I have decided to leave Thailand next year, from here on out it is all nostalgic feelings and remembering to enjoy it all before I head out onto my next adventure.

Since I have an affinity for lists to describe my feelings about a place when words are difficult to find, here is my version of 22 signs you have lived in Thailand too long.

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December 9, 2013

donate, save, toss.

Living abroad is never easy, from adjusting to the culture shock of a new land and trying to figure out the language to simple tasks like getting a bank account or finding bed sheets that fit, it is no small feat. Unless you decide to sell everything and just go (like I did back in 2009, just 2 suitcases and a smile!) it can be difficult to sort through your life in material goods and decide what to keep and what you can live without. With the help of pods you can keep everything important in your life when you move abroad but here is my way of sorting through the clutter that is life. When you are moving every few years, things add up and it is hard to let go but these are my tricks to prioritizing and keeping life simple.



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December 2, 2013

real talk

In my short time abroad, I have experienced some interesting events in the countries I have chosen to call home, from the bombing in South Korea near Seoul where I was living at the time to the floods of 2010 when we were forced out of our home for over 2 months. Now the city I live in is again making global headlines with the recent demonstrations and protests trying to overthrow the current government powers. Just another day in paradise.
Photo via JapanTimes
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November 26, 2013

longwinded

I have started about 10 posts since I have last written, all of them falling by the wayside to my busy life these days or being discarded for being terribly boring and vain, procrastinating to the fullest. I love writing but when I found myself dreading getting something down and forcing prose when there was none to be had, I knew I needed to take a break. Even still this post has taken weeks to compile and I still am not sure it is even worthy of publishing, . I am just another silly girl writing about her life, her own perspective about a topic that has been done and done well. Traveling and living in SE Asia is tired, I am tired of it, I know people are over reading about it and I am sick of writing about it. But here I am again, back for more like the masochist I am, not wanting to let my simple dream flicker away.

I moved to Thailand because it was the most exotic place I could think of when young and planning on running away from it all. It always just sounded like the most bizarre place I go could (yet now I know that to be so far from true and now the possibilities seem even more endless, there are so many places I have no idea about.) I remember when the name "Bangkok" conjured up visions of magical floating light, dense jungles full of friendly primates, and a mysterious underworld of things I couldn't even imagine. And that is mostly (kinda) true except reality is much bleaker with a lot more malls.

Now life here is so normal and even mundane, I can't seem find inspiration to write when my weekends are spent at different mega malls or drinking spots, working, shopping and living a life a bit too similar to what I left back home. Bangkok is so modern and can be so western compared to outside of the city or even Seoul, traveling away from the city is what people come here for, not to live in this wretchedly hot, smelly, polluted, crowded urban sprawl. Long teacher holidays are what get me up in the morning and I think I have found the only career which will allow me to have more than 2 months off a year, so I am doing something right. Yet when I see the hoards of foreigners from all over the world enjoying and subsequently ruining the perfect beaches and exploiting the smiles of the people here, I am disillusioned about the travel lifestyle and the habits we as humans deem responsible and kind. It is hard to escape the corruption of money, the destruction and consumption by people all over the world, hard to rise above it, but I sometimes think teaching might just be the one small way I can make a difference (that's so damn chiche but one can only do so much!) With all that is going on in the world today, sometimes it is hard to turn it all off and just live your life, which makes me a cynical person in real life and I am trying not to let that ruin one of the things I love doing.

It has been a long year and after a nice 8 month hiatus from being in the classroom, I am finally back and settled into my new class at my new school in Bangkok. I am enjoying working with kids again for the most part, though it continues to discourage me from wanting some of my own… My 4 years old students are so clever and energetic, always asking questions and falling over and wanting attention, they are exhausting but remind me of the innocence we all begin with.

Many people have asked why I decided to stay in Thailand, even though on many public occasions I despise this place, and the answer is not a simple one, not one I am sure I can even know myself. I live in the city here and that is now obviously the biggest reason for my discomfort. I am not a city girl, I grew up in the woods and though I wanted out more than anything, I am ready to move out of the city forever and lose myself in nature again. Unfortunately all of the opportunities in this third world country are in the city, there is a reason so many people migrate here. I need to pay off all of my student debt back in America before I can move on with my life at this point (no one really tells you how much of a burden those damn student loans are going to be!) and working my butt off and sending as much home every month is my only option at the moment. I am no stranger to hard work, and my years abroad I have been pretty lazy and enjoyed myself, all the time, so it is almost a nice change to be this busy. 

I am working 3 jobs at the moment, including after school tutoring 3 days a week with some awesome Japanese families (and I am now therefore addicted to green tea) and some classes on Saturdays on top of my 40 hour work week teaching Kindergarten at a decent International school in a Bangkok suburb. I am busy, exhausted, full of enthusiasm, thinking positively, all day, you have to be when you are in my line of work. I do find it funny how much routine makes us humans feel so comfortable.

Recently we moved into a new fancy condo, and I will be honest and tell you that it is kind of fulfilling one of my childhood dreams to live in a fancy apartment in the big city (though my original thought was New York, as American children don't tend to think outside the borders) and it still makes me giddy as I look out along the Bangkok skyline from my bed, thinking I have made it. Granted, it is 30 square meteres (I have no idea what that is in American terms, TINY is all that comes to mind) but it is a well designed box that allows us a walk in closet, bathtub, full kitchen (again not in American terms, there is no oven but there is a sink and stove top!) and sweet balcony with an amazing view from the 21st floor. The floor above us has TWO infinity pools and gyms and a perfect escape from the madness below. It is pretty dreamy and I never want to leave my house now. But I have to because I work so damn much. I can finally afford it but I have no time to enjoy it, life is bitch like that.

So anyway, here I am sitting on my couch, looking out on my view of the city, wishing it was the beach, reminding myself that life is precious and I am a lucky girl. Thank you to all of my friends and family and readers who have always been loyal, reading my ramblings with my travels over the years and I am sorry things are getting boring. Who knew I would settle down with a husband and teaching job in Thailand for this long, but it is happening and I even enjoy it half the time (the other half I am plotting my escape.) If you are looking for more, I am quite addicted to Instagram and it is the only thing I update regularly these days, make sure you follow me for more perfect beach sunsets, sure to come when my mom and I travel this new year!


I don't want this long winded post to make it sound like I am depressed or hating life, (not that you should care anyways) I am honestly content with how things are right now, I just find it curious that I have settled into a normal life again in a place I yearned to be so different. It is all sort of the same but totally different and I think that is what I will find about most places in the world, which is reassuring and disappointing all at the same time. 
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August 8, 2013

People around the world -- first edition: fresh eyes

I have been living and writing in Asia for almost three years now and looking back I have learned so much and am completely different than the wide eyed American girl I once was. Writing about my time here lately has made me feel like quite the narcissist plus I have noticed how cynical I am becoming about everything and haven't been writing like a good blogger should. I find backpackers really annoying, hate when my toilet doesn't have a bum gun next to it, have incorporated the Asian grunt into my vocabulary and am the biggest beach snob there is.  It really is crazy how even the madness of Thailand can become normal and mundane and make you into a grumpy old lady who just wants to stay in on a Friday night with her tea and kindle, away from the crowds. So it was the perfect time to experience all the excitement again with my two best friends and fresh eyes.

I sent my friends some questions when they got back to the land of the free and the insightful answers I received back were so interesting and inspiring that I decided to start a new feature on my blog, talking to friends and strangers I meet along this crazy journey, because really that is what traveling is all about. Connections, shared moments, memories, being together. The older (and wiser) I get, the more I realize these relationships are the most important part of life and are really what make life worth living. Corny sounding, I know, but so true. Nothing brings people closer together than experiencing the world together and I am beyond grateful I got to do so with such great company.

 So without further ado, the first edition of...

People around the world: Cameron

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