November 17, 2014

an ideal weekend in Bangkok

I have lived in Bangkok for 3 years now, in different places all over the city and it's weird how this crazy place actually feels like home now. I know which areas to go for the best shopping, the best street food, the best nightlife, I almost live like a local these days! My ideal weekend in Bangkok is a bit more off the beaten track in this well explored metropolis and there will be no khao san road or mega malls on this itinerary. I like to do as the locals do when I travel and with that in mind I have planned a spectacular weekend in this city I call home.



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October 20, 2014

pai love // part 1

I have been back in the mega city of Bangkok for a while now, after almost a month out of the hustle of things for summer holidays and I am still having a hard time readjusting back into the real world. I did something I have never done before and did a bit of solo traveling and life searching in a small town in northern thailand, close to the Burmese border, quite a famous place these days, a town called Pai, in Mae Hong Son province. Three hours by bus from Chiang Mai, this place is no secret any longer and it was a far cry from the hippy village it was once known as (and had been told for years I would absolutely love), and while I was disheartened by the surge of capitalism in this quaint rural countryside, there is still something magical about the air in Pai.



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October 13, 2014

houseboat.

The best part about living in Thailand and living a lifestyle that always puts travel first is the amazing little weekend trips that make the 9 to 5 grind all worth it! One of my favorite trips I have taken in Thailand was a 3 day weekend spent on a floating house, in a lake, in the woods about 3 hours from Bangkok.

Kanchanaburi is no stranger to tourists, with the famous bridge over the river Kwai, but it is a lovely little town to explore majestic waterfalls and relax away from the crowds. My friends organized a houseboat holiday over a long weekend and I was thrilled to be invited, but also a little nervous to spend 3 days on a boat with people I didn't know very well yet. I really had no idea what to expect, but I soon found out that I would be getting to know these people very well, very quickly.




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October 6, 2014

Yoga in Thailand

Recently I spent a month in Northern Thailand living on a permaculture farm as well as attending a yoga retreat in the mountains. It was a transforming experience and was just the motivation I needed to get my ass in gear and get really serious about yoga! Yoga is not just about the poses, or asanas, it is so much beyond that. Living intentionally is a a daily practice, something I will be working on for the remainder of my days. Some days it is easy to find peace and intention in my daily life, others I find it difficult to balance my urban lifestyle with living in the moment and connecting with all living beings.

Yoga is something that anyone can do, anywhere, but a lot of times in our commercial society, we think we have to have to spend a bunch of money on cute outfits and expensive classes. Yoga is about being your own teacher, finding your own path and learning to connect to your inner being with love and openness. The biggest thing I have learned since trying to change my life is that it all starts and ends with you and your energy, being with yourself and accepting you as you are. Studying in many different forms, from different teachers to books to websites, is the only way to truly discover your true self and joy.

Finding this passion inside myself has inspired me to make big life changes, including having a regular practice at a studio. I have done a lot of research and tried out a few places so I thought I would share my experience practicing yoga in Thailand. I am finally taking the plunge and enrolling in a yoga teacher certification course in Rishikesh in August 2015 so I will be exploring yoga in Thailand a lot more and updating as I go. Namaste!




Buying a yoga mat

If you are new to yoga or need just a short time use mat, often studios will let you borrow mats for a small fee. You can also find cheap mats at Watson's stores around Thailand. Daiso, a japanese 'dollar' store even has kids yoga mats for 60 baht!

Yoga Aum
If you are a more serious yogi and are looking for a lifetime mat, I suggest looking into a maduka. I have 2 now, the Prolite and travel mat, and love them both! They are the best investment I have ever made, since I am on my mat everyday, I wanted something that would age well with me. Yoga Aum is the official distributor or Manduka in Thailand and I bought my first one through them. My new mat I bought at Yoga elements, which was more convenient for me.


Yoga classes

Bangkok

Yogatique:  This newly opened studio on Sukhumvit 23 (a 10 minute walk from Asoke BTS) is a game changer in Bangkok and I am so happy to have found it! It is more than just a studio and this community is growing everyday. The owners are wonderful people who really care about people and have a passion for yoga, and it is very evident when you practice here. They have top of the line yoga mats available for free, have many fun and interesting events and classes such as Karma classes (pay what you can) and chocolate, wine yoga classes. There are many different, experienced teachers with various styles from Yin yoga to Reggae music class. It is a great studio and will continue to get better and better. They have great rates with a backpacker special of 1000 baht for a week of unlimited yoga as well as specials and packages. I am so happy here and actually love making the journey to this welcoming and warm space.

Yoga Elements: Often touted as the best yoga studio in the city, I started out at this studio before heading up to the retreat in Pai. They have a great new student package at 2,000 thb for 15 classes in 30 days. After that they have affordable packages and are pretty centrally located so that even though I live far out on the BTS, it is easy to get there several times a week, as it is just behind Central Chidlom on the 23rd floor with awesome views of the city. It is a bit smaller than I expected for being such a popular studio with one small studio and one larger one. They have many classes and the teachers are very great at guiding you through your practice in a restorative and invigorating way! I wouldn't call it the best yoga studio in the city, as the facilities are just okay, but the 90 minute classes are the best part of my week!

Community Yoga at K-Village  This is a great budget option and great way to get into yoga for beginners. I haven't gone much since I started paying for monthly packages and it looks as if it has gotten even better, with a dedicated indoor room at K Village upstairs, and really dedicated and interesting teachers. A great energy around this place, with positive and engaging people.

Absolute Yoga: This is the one you will see advertised everywhere, they have many studios around the city as well as a healthy food delivery service and a yoga sanctuary on a sunny Thai island. It is more of a fitness oriented studio, with many different classes but mostly specializing in hot yoga. This place does not appeal to me personally, but I will be trying it out at the end of my package, just to see. You can email them and they will send you a coupon for buy 1 get 2 free at 750 baht (only for your first time.)


There are new studios and yoga communities popping up every day in Bangkok, here are a few I have heard of and been told to check out but haven't had the time yet. Will check them out and update soon!

Divine Yoga: I called and they are kind of pricey, at about 4,000 baht for a month of unlimited classes. Located in Thonglor, the classes are taught in English as well as special classes in Thai and Japanese. They do not have any specials for newcomers but the studio looks amazing, with many different classes and a beautiful looking studio.

Ashtanga Yoga center of Bangkok: If you are interested in this style of yoga, this is the place to be in Bangkok. They have famous teachers from around the world and serious yogi's can study the traditional Mysore practice here. 600 baht for a drop in and other special package pricing. Get ready to sweat.

Soul Space: Another studio I was recommended by a friend but it far from my house. I am going to try the drop in class at 400 baht the next time I head over to the Silom area!

Chiang Mai
There are many studios in Chiang Mai and while I was there for a few days I tried a couple out, though I would only recommend one of them:

Namo Yoga - in the city center, near the Sunday walking street, this studio is a very good price for drop in and they have many different teachers and styles. Classes are twice daily, 90 minutes.


Yoga retreats

Xhale Yoga Retreat - I spent a week with Bhud here in Pai, one of my favorite weeks I have spent in Thailand. Bhud is an excellent teacher and I learned so much to deepen my practice from her classes. You have 2 yoga classes per day, 3 amazing vegan meals a day as well as meditation, chanting, breathing and philosophy. It is great for beginners or practiced yogis alike and you will learn so much about yourself during the silent morning session. A great price for what you get and a life changing experience that is priceless!




The best part of yoga is the wonderful energy of the community you meet! I am no expert, nor will I ever be, I am always learning. If anyone has any other retreats or studios they have tried, please let me know in the comments below, I would love to check out some new places from other well traveled yogis!


Yoga in Thailand - A Facebook community with lots of cool pictures, information and yoga centered in Thailand, a great resource!


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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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