Hiking the Tallest Mountain in Thailand – Doi Inthanon National Park ดอยอินทนนท์

Hiking the Tallest Mountain in Thailand – Doi Inthanon ดอยอินทนนท์

If the city of Chiang Mai gets too hot and congested, a good trip away is Doi Inthanon National Park. Driving, it’s about an hour south to the entrance of the park and quite a bit longer to reach the peak at 2,565 meters (8,415 ft).

Trekking up the mountain

Trekking up the mountain with students

Views from the top

Views from the top

Hiking into the clouds

Hiking into the clouds

In the clouds in Doi Inthanon

In the clouds at Doi Inthanon

Mountainous Doi Inthanon

Mountainous Doi Inthanon

Apart from hiking, Doi Inthanon has many other offerings…

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

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Enormous and unusual insects…IMG_0897IMG_0896IMG_0882IMG_0973
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A small praying mantis at our bungalow

A small praying mantis at our bungalow

The most incredible golden chrysalis I've ever seen

The most incredible golden chrysalis I’ve ever seen

Big beautiful blue butterflies

Big beautiful blue butterflies

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Different types of accommodation…

Basic bungalows

Basic bungalows

Indigenous Karen homestay

Indigenous Karen homestay

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A bit more upscale digs

A bit more upscale digs

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IMG_1249I’ve stayed in all types of rooms there – from the national park dorms with students, to Karen homestays on the ground of a bamboo hut with a tour group, to basic bungalows with friends, to slightly more upscale rooms with colleagues – each one gives a different experience of the park.

Of course there is wildlife…

Water buffalow

Water buffalo

Black Swan

Black Swan

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piglets

piglets

and the ubiquitous dogs and chickens

the ubiquitous dogs and chickens

and sometimes snakes that bit off a bit more than they could chew

sometimes a snake that bit off a bit more than it could chew











cows

cows














The topography is varied…

Mountainous

Mountainous

Mountainside with waterfalls

Mountainside with waterfalls

forests

tropical forests

more developed trails in the forest

more developed trails in the forest

wats

stupas on mountaintops

Terraced rice fields

Terraced  fields

Manicured areas

Manicured areas

Greenhouses for the Royal Project agriculture

Greenhouses for the Royal Project agriculture

Inside a greenhouse

Inside a greenhouse

Gorgeous nature…

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IMG_1264IMG_4702And the things that are quintessentially Thai…

Monks in a garden

A monk in a garden

Cute nature

Cute nature

Goofy products

Goofy items – Mr. Popcorn whiskey

Delicious coffee everywhere

Delicious coffee everywhere

Freshly roasted

Freshly roasted and served

Kanom (Thai snacks) wrapped in banana leaves

Kanom (Thai snacks) wrapped in banana leaves

Herding cows on a motorbike

Herding cows on a motorbike and with a bamboo stick

...and signs that make you wonder

Signs that make you wonder

It’s well worth a trip there. You will need a guide for hiking, and make sure to pack your coat – it’s significantly cooler than the city Chiang Mai.

Beautiful Doi Inthanon

Beautiful Doi Inthanon

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Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it possible that I was a Thai rice farmer in a past life? There is no way to know for sure. For some reason the sight of rice fields both delight and a remind me of something from long ago. I never tire of the verdant waves in their paddies: from the young pale green stalks, to the darker and taller plants, the whole growing season is gorgeous. Even when the rice is a hay-like colour at harvest time, it’s still absolutely beautiful.

Not only do I like to look at the rice, but planting it is also a joy. Stepping in the muddy water and feeling the squishy soil between my toes is remarkably soothing. It’s slippery, messy and fun.

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About two weeks ago at Panyaden School we planted rice for Mother’s Day (August 12 – the Queen’s birthday). It will be harvested on Father’s Day (December 5 – the King’s birthday).

The process involves taking a few stalks of rice seedlings and plugging them in the mushy mud. After a while with the sun beating down, stooping over, and being covered in mud could get very uncomfortable. As for me, our hour-long planting session wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Surprisingly, way up north in Chiang Mai far away from the sea, the rice paddies make homes for fish, frogs, and even crabs. We noticed fish and tadpoles swimming, and watched a few frogs jump to safety away from our feet.

There must be something about being muddy. I have always adored ceramics, and while in Colombia, the mud volcano topped the list of attractions of the senses.

Ahh, the visually captivating rice fields of Northern Thailand fill me with reverie. Planting rice feels so natural and a perfect way to be connected with the land, the people, and the culture. I’ll stay here with my daily doses of rice field views in the place that feels like home.

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Pictures that Captured 2013

Pictures that Captured 2013

2013 was a busy, fun-filled year. So many things were happening all the time that I didn’t blog very much at all. Here is a photo overview highlighting some memorable moments of 2013. It’s really a summary of what could have been about 20 blog posts organized chronologically for the year. Enjoy!

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into...

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into…

...this house.

…this house in the city.

My new backyard...

My new backyard…

kitchen

kitchen

and upstairs outside patio.

and upstairs outside patio

Moving into the city exchanged quiet solitude for active social life and lots more people visiting me at my home.

Visitors of all ages

Visitors of all ages

Seeking some of the quiet beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Seeking some of the tranquil beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

The weekend of 3 friend's birthdays started with Kate's 40th at The Four Seasons ooh laa laa

The weekend of 3 friend’s birthdays started with Kate’s 40th at The Four Seasons in Mae Rim. Ooh laa laa!

The celebrations continued with Rose's birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose...

The celebrations continued with Rose’s birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose Yoga Studio…

...and finished with Anthony's 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

…and finished with Anthony’s 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

Still teaching outside the city in nature at Panyaden School all day Monday – Friday, living in the city has helped balance out my former semi-reclusive life with a lot more time with friends.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe's backyard.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe’s backyard.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax by myself.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai gets too smoky and hot. This was one group of projects - making their own vehicle.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai got too smoky and hot. This was one group student of projects – making their own vehicles.

Friends of Panyaden (our school's PTA with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the 'sticky waterfalls'.

Friends of Panyaden (our school’s PTA, with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the ‘sticky waterfall’.

'The sticky waterfall' is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn't allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Pretty cool indeed.

‘The sticky waterfall’ is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn’t allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Very cool indeed.

Birthday flowers

An array of purple hues: birthday flowers, pretty lights, and lanna weaving.

Christophe and I went to Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

Christophe and I took a holiday in Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

To escape the smoke in the end of March, it was time to head south.

To escape the smoke of Northern Thailand in the end of March, it was time to head south.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Our bamboo beach hut

Our bamboo beach hut

and inside

Inside our bamboo bungalow

colorful crabs

colorful crabs

beautiful beaches

beautiful beaches

perplexing pirate ships

perplexing pirate ships

This is how cashew nuts grow. It's just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they're expensive.

This is how cashew nuts grow. It’s just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they’re expensive.

Caring for an injured hornbill

Caring for an injured hornbill

Thai style ceviche

Thai style ceviche

Cute girls on a swing

Cute girls on a swing

Our canine travel companion

Our canine travel companion

And the nightly beautiful sunset made me want to stay on that special place for a long time. Thai 'summer' school break was coming to an end, and almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to Chiang Mai.

And the nightly beautiful sunsets made me want to stay in that special place for a long time. Thai ‘summer’ school break was coming to an end, and after almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to the Chiang Mai heat of mid-April…

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is  armed and ready.

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is armed and ready.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Here are some of my ceramic pieces, glazed but not fired.

Rekindling an old passion, I took ceramic classes on the weekends. Here are some of my pieces, glazed but not fired.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

High tea with Alana at the Chedi

High tea with Alana at the Chedi. More food than we can eat.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Backyard blooming lotus

Backyard blooming lotus in June

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend's car.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend’s car. Don’t worry, he’ll fix it.

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai.

Wat Jed Yot

Wat Jed Yot

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On those sultry summer days, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

On those sultry summer days in July, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park

Kru Jeab captivating her K2 students at Panyaden.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters off the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

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Lovely Mon Chaem

Lovely Mon Chaem just north of Chiang Mai

One of the coolest insects I've ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

One of the coolest insects I’ve ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange, turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

Planting rice with Kru Neung on Thai Mother's Day, August 5th.

Planting rice with Kru Neung and our students on Thai Mother’s Day, August 5th.

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We will eventually eat this rice at school.

We will eventually eat this rice at school.

The green season is sure is beautiful. View from Panyaden.

The green season sure is lovely. View from Panyaden School.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful we thought we'd attract some more birds by building them houses.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful, we thought we’d attract some more birds by building them houses.

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

Detail of the silver wat

Detail of the silver wat in Chiang Mai.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Pong gets some wine

Pong gets some wine

Good thing I had the bridge the little kid didn't quite make it.

Good thing I had the bridge. The little kid didn’t quite make it.

October outside of Pai

October in the countryside outside of Pai

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Spirit house Samui

Spirit house Samui

Fantastic Thai massage in the most unlikely spot - on the beach in Ko Samui.

Fantastic Thai massage from Pi Niam in an unlikely spot – on the beach in Ko Samui.

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

The lovely new detail to my gate.

The lovely new detail to my gate.

A day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

An October day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Leading my students on a walking meditation.

Leading my students on a walking meditation at Panyaden

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Moths of unusal size at Doi Inthanon National Park.

Moths of unusal size

Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon trip

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Making Krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

In November we made krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Letting my Krathong go.

Letting my krathong go

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river for Loy Krathong

Kenny and I let off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai.

Letting off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai with Kenny.

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these - blog post coming soon).

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these – blog post coming soon).

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn't see him.

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn’t see him.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sara, and Balaram.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sarra, and Balaram.

Amazing insect

Amazing insect

'Iron chef' cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

‘Iron chef’ judges tasting our creations for the cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

Father's Day rice harvest, December 5th.

Father’s Day rice harvest with Kru Jan on December 5th.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Teachers and students raising money for the Philippines.

Teachers and students at Panyaden raising money for the Philippines by singing.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Yoga at Om Waters

Yoga at Om Waters

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat.

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat

Temple dogs

Temple dogs in sweaters

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas.

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao.

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao.

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao. Very chilly December 28th.

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Lots of love and gratitude to everyone who made 2013 such a wonderful year. Happy 2014!

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Local Swimming Hole and สนุก (Sanuk)

Local Swimming Hole and สนุก (Sanuk)

It’s no secret, Thailand is hot. Now we’re in the rainy season, but there is still plenty of sun to be had. My friends asked if I wanted to go swimming in a local spot 5 minutes away from where we teach. Why not?

Getting the rafts blown up

Jumping for joy into the water

Even though it was cloudy, being in the water was refreshing. We were the only ones there swimming. The only other person we spotted was a lone Thai fisherman in the distance. We figured it didn’t really advertise that you should swim here, but there didn’t seem to be any signs prohibiting it either.

Apart from this…

…the other fun was swimming across the reservoir, climbing up the wall…

…running and…

…jumping off the high wall. Nice form Tracey and Jessica!

There was a restaurant up on top so Andrew and I went to get a soda manao – soda water with lime, a favorite thirst quencher of mine.

Signs in Thailand can be hilarious at mastering the obvious.

Sometimes it’s just good to order something bizarre on the menu that sounds a little bit naughty. We had no idea what it would be.

Ruby Crystal Balls with Coconut Cream (or in phonetic Thai Tabtimkrob – I think, which doesn’t sound any better) Even after eating some, I really don’t know what the ruby crystal balls were made from. 555!

After trying mysterious snacks, showering off the quarry water, and heading to the city, it was time to relax again with a Thai massage – wonderful as always.

Next, it was time for a Mexican themed dinner at a Thai cafe, naturally. How much do I love Chiang Mai? So so so much!

Yao, our lovely chef, at Bird’s Nest Cafe

Rose and Rachel having conversations with hands

musical hats

guitars and cats

giggles with Rose

and smiles-o-plenty with Rachel and Matthew

It might look like it, but I’m not on holiday. I do work Monday through Friday from 7:30 – 4:00, I take Thai classes, yoga classes, workout, meditate regularly, sometimes volunteer, and I just started ceramics class. An important thing that I’ve learned from dhamma talks, yoga, mediation, and this incredible Buddhist country I live in is that it’s good to keep life in balance.

สนุก.

 

สนุก (Sanuk) is a significant Thai word that means fun. สนุกดี (sanuk dee) means to be fun or enjoyable, but literally translates to ‘fun good’. Fun is good. Maybe this is part of the reason Thai people smile so much – they’ve figured out work and play can both be fun and it’s essential to have a balance of both. Life cannot be in balance without a healthy dose of สนุก.

Cycling Around Rural Chiang Mai

Cycling Around Rural Chiang Mai

The beginning of April is not the best time to be in Chiang Mai. It’s scorching hot, and the fields and mountainsides are being burned so smoke fills the valley. My friend Rahul happened to be visiting at that time so we decided to get up a bit higher into the mountains where it was marginally cooler.

cycling in the Chiang Mai countryside

hot and smoky in April

We ended up cycling around in the heat of the day. We were joined by a woman named Erin who thought it would be a good idea to have a hat. She was correct. We got our custom fitted Thai gardener style hats.

Making adjustments so the hat could fit my head

New hats with their makers

Thai garden hat modeling…it was a short-lived career

My plan was to go to a cotton weaving village…

…but we ended up in a hill tribe village instead. The sellers were eager.

…and young, “Hello 10 baht.”

Even though we ended up in the wrong place, and the added 10 or so kilometers made us extremely sweaty, it was a nice little detour. There are several different hill tribes up in this region.

bag wrapped mango trees

After cycling in the heat of the day, a cave was a logical cool off spot.

The next morning it was time to climb to the wat on the hill in Chiang Dao.

On the way up to the wat on the hill

The smoky view heading up….

…with some good Buddhist advice along the way

view down, temple in Chiang Dao

We ended up at this woman’s orchid garden

Even though it was sweltering, the hot springs were right beside the river. Heat up and cool down.

Although I adore Chiang Mai city, it’s a refreshing change to get out to the Chiang Mai province countryside.

I Live Here

I Live Here

The other day, my friend Jean asked me for pictures of where I live. I realize I wrote that I planned on moving in, but have not posted pictures since I moved in my house. Here is where I live:

505 Easy Peacy – written by my Thai landlady

I live about 10 minutes outside the city, 15 minutes from the old city of Chiang Mai to the south near Hang Dong.

Nice kitchen

dining area

Guest room that has a brand new mattress and closet. Garden and rice field view. Come visit!!

Guest bathroom with tile floors that have a separating wall so the shower water doesn’t get all over the whole bathroom floor.

yoga/meditation room with view of rice field

Master bathroom with tile floors that have a separating wall so the shower water doesn’t get all over the whole bathroom floor – mentioned again as this is unusual in Thailand.

I didn’t like the stark white walls everywhere, so this was a temporary fix…

…but painting the wall and decorating made it better.

My favorite room in the house is the master bedroom, its purple decorative walls and rice field view…

…decorating to make it feel like my home

The fish pond in the front yard.

Entertaining Thai style in the front garden amongst the thai herbs, fan palm, plumeria, banana and mango trees.

Undoubtedly my favorite part of my house is the rice field view. Here are a few of the many pictures I’ve taken, as it’s a constantly changing landscape:

day after moving in view, Jan 7 before the rice was planted

Jan 29 sunset from my back porch

Egret in January

back when the rice was short I enjoyed watching the birds fishing Feb 5

Early February view from back porch

February 15 sunset view

The eventual greening of the rice and bird life make it a great place to sit and watch nature.

Everyday I wake up and feel fortunate that I live in this beautiful place. More gratitude to Thailand and its beauty.

Taking in the View

Taking in the View

I’m home from school and sick right now. Although I feel miserable physically, I’m rather content to take in the view from my back porch. It was very cool this morning (14C or 57F) and there was a misty fog that gave the rice fields an ethereal quality. I marveled at the white egret ‘fishing’ in the watery rice paddies. The smell of smoke from the slash and burn agriculture in the air is somehow soothing to the soul, though maybe not so good for air quality. Birdsong, crickets, wind blowing through the bamboo and banana trees, an occasional barking dog and plane flying in the distance fill my ears. I have lived in my house for a week and a half. I’m quite pleased to have a peaceful morning with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no need to rush. Even though my head hurts, it feels wonderful to be in the present moment. It’s odd how crappy I feel physically and peaceful I feel internally. Again, I’m so glad to be in Thailand.

Morning view from my back porch. Newly planted rice field, January 17, 2012

Evening view.

The Unsettlement of Settling In

The Unsettlement of Settling In

Moving into a new house can be stressful. Moving into a house out of town, in the countryside, by myself, in Thailand, when my only transportation is a bicycle (at least for the moment), is kind of isolating. Even though the house is furnished, I need to buy so much stuff. I don’t have pillows, sheets, cleaning supplies, food, or anything. I had the realtor drop me off at Big C to stock up on the basics. My favorite songthaew driver, named Mr. Neng, took me home with all my household goods. Today, she wasn’t there, but usually he drives with his little one year old daughter happily riding along with him. No such thing as a car seat in a songthaew, she just has a little spot with a blanket.

I cooked my first meal in my new house thinking that it would help if I listened to Fresh Air, like I often would when cooking dinner in Portland. The interview was about Portlandia. This made me homesick. I got the feeling something wasn’t right.

I was doubting my decision making and feeling like maybe I shouldn’t have moved here after all. What am I doing here anyway? The house is nice, but I’m feeling like now I’m just far away from where I need to go. I don’t want to drive. I do love it here, I’m just feeling very anxious. Everything from driving to snakes is making me nervous. Snakes and driving? I know it’s a weird combination, but there are snakes around as I live next to a rice field. Driving here has a whole different set of road rules and types of vehicles.

What a difference a day makes. I awoke the next day feeling immediately better when I looked outside and saw this:

View from my back porch. January 7, 2012. There will be rice planted soon.

The rice farmers are planting way out in the field.

View from the backyard

I cleaned inside, unpacked, my internet was installed, my washing machine was dropped off, I went sheet shopping (FYI decent sheets cost a bloody fortune here). A nice lady named Nok, a friend of my landlady who works in my neighborhood community, picked me up and showed me the back way in and out of my neighborhood. She was extremely friendly, had good English, and wants to make sure I’m comfortable in my new home. My tension started to ease.

Doing laundry here is a bit of a process. Since I haven’t done laundry in a machine in months, I thoroughly enjoyed it. First, the washing machine gets filled with a garden hose. When the grey water gets drained, it just comes out another hose, which I use to water the garden. It takes a while, but I found it soothing. I love my view and my garden which has some herbs, flowers, tons of medicinal plants, and fruit trees, and I look forward to planting some vegetables in the backyard.

My outdoor washing machine - filled with a garden hose. The grey water is used to water my garden.

View from my house on January 7th at sunset.

Feeling more settled, that night I called Mr. Neng to take me to Yoga Tree to watch a documentary film called Freedom Ahead about seed saving, self/community reliance, and permaculture around the world. Some places not faraway from here, The Panya Project and Pun Pun, were featured. I saw a bunch of people I knew there, and was invited to a party where I stayed until very late. I’m beginning to feel like I am starting to find a little bit of a community here.

After that late night, I went to yoga at Wild Rose the next morning, out to lunch with some new friends, then for a Thai massage, and Sunday Walking Street. I found some little lamps for my house and a dress. The woman didn’t have a mirror, and asked, “You have camera?” It was not a bad idea.

Good looks with the yoga top and dress at Sunday Walking Street. I bought the dress, which I usually wear without the yoga top underneath.

Tomorrow will be my first day back at school after the break. I’m feeling much more at home in my house, ready for working, and grateful that Mr. Neng, the songthaew driver, can take me to school. I think it’s all going to be OK.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day

It feels like the shift that soon will be my new life is happening. I am deciding on a house to live in today and have put a deposit on a car. With home and transportation it’s like I actually live here. I think it’s a home Ban Wang Tan with rice field view, and little garden, and a 1993 dark green Honda Civic.That’s how things roll these days.

Today was busy. I woke up early naturally as the light streamed in my room and Skyped with my family because it was still Christmas there. It was so nice to laugh with my sisters, Dory and Wendy.

I got my first haircut by someone besides myself in what must be at least 5 years. It was time. Mai cut it. I think it’s too short, as 2 centimeters tends to become 3 inches in the haircutting world. Chances are no one will even notice I got it cut. With the blow dry flip style I feel like I’m wearing a wig. It’s not a bad cut though and mai pen rai, hair grows. I love Mai, who said, “Thailand is no country for old men” love that! I hope it’s true. Mai is my boss’s wife. He is not an old man, but apparently Mai had plenty of proposals from older men back when she was single.

As I was talking with my boss outside Mai’s shop, I met a Mexican yoga teacher who just got back into town. I love Chiang Mai. I went back to my room to get my Nancy Chandler map, which is really an invaluable (don’t get me started on how confusing I think this word is) tool here in the city. It looks like vintage 1974, because it is, (though updated regularly), but it has all sorts of useful information right on the map, and only kick myself for not getting one sooner. I wanted to find a place to workout and a vegetarian place for lunch. I thought I’d try a vegan/raw food place. Unlike the rapid food service that comes with a smile in most places in Thailand, after 40 minutes in this tiny restaurant that only had 2 other customers I was told, “I haven’t even started yours get.” Really? You’re not doing the vegan/raw community any favors sir. I left hungry and slightly annoyed to meet with my realtor. Thankfully, there are fresh fruit juice stands everywhere, and I had a delicious passionfruit juice for 20 baht.

I went with my realtor to sign the contract and the put a deposit on the house. On the way, we looked at another house in a community where all the houses look the same, no view, no garden, no stove, and very hotel like house a bit closer to my school. No. I will move to my house with rice field view. It’s a small house 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, with some logical design. The kitchen, bathroom, and storage space all have practicality involved…and there is a garden with a fish pond, fruit trees, and a rice field view. Here it is:

fish pond at what will be my Thai house as of January 5

It is not letting me insert some photos. I will try inserting a gallery. Click on the images to make them larger.

the awesome western kitchen

The recently harvested rice fields, they will be planted again soon and look very pretty and green

I also wanted to move here because the landlady, Khun Watana, was delightful. She is Thai, but spends most of her time in LA and Costa Rica. Our conversation was in a tiny bit of Thai, a little Spanish, and mostly English. In the typical hospitable Thai fashion, she gave some food. Not only that but, being a natural medicine practitioner, she also gave me some Ayurvedic drops for my nose, which was stuffy, and a 5 minute session of the Gua sha ‘massage’ to remove toxins. My biggest fear of living in that house is driving, especially on Hang Dong Road. I know I will get used to it, but I think it will take a little bit of time. My realtor drove me back to Chiang Mai on some backs roads, which I was glad to know existed.

I got out of the car next to Grace Boutique, where I was staying, and noticed some beautiful art at this cute little art cafe place called Matoom Art Space. I met the wife of the artist, who was an amazing woman from Japan named Yoko, and her a cute baby. I fell in love with a few paintings with two people together happily and trees, lots of water symbolized, Buddhism and meditation too. The artist must be a Pisces. I explained that I would like to draw a partner into my life, and feel I should put art on the wall that represents the life I would like to create. I was thrilled to meet Tua, the artist. I found out he and Yoko are both Pisces. I knew they were kindred spirits and I wasn’t even surprised. Chiang Mai is a city full of Pisces. I loved them and their place and would like to spend time with Tua and Yoko again. I will. His art will grace the walls of my new house. I will make it a nice little place and draw in the person who should be there with me. I need to pursue my art, whether it be visual art or writing. Maybe I’ll also do my own art for the walls.

I love this city and am so glad I actually will have a place to call home here. I’m enjoying this Jazz music that is playing on the stereo here (“…we can fill the need with love in town…” – is that what I’m hearing now?) at Baby Dolls. Sometimes I need reminders of why I am here. I had so many of those magical moments today. Yes, despite occasional homesickness, the love affair with Thailand continues.

I had a dream about Yoyi, my Colombian ex-boyfriend, last night. I remember something about the warmth of his skin, and the grip of his hand. Because of this dream, little things have made me think of him throughout the day. The more I kept thinking about it, I think it was really just the hand letting go. I need another hand to feel as comfortable in my hand as his did, but I also need to feel comfortable with that person in heart and mind. I think I will have a boyfriend that lives in Chiang Mai city.

I just noticed the J&B bottle on the bar wall and thought of my mom. I have never ordered a J&B on the rocks with a twist, her favorite drink (as well as her initials) since she has passed. I drank one with her once, and hated it. My tastes may have changed a bit since then, so maybe I’ll try it again someday. I miss my mom, of course. As I’m thinking this, someone has started smoking near me. Cigarettes are horrible things and my tolerance for smoking has become less and less. Time to go.

2012 I hope you are the year of artistic resurgence, writing, creativity, learning Thai language, and a divine partnership.

My Obsession with Rice Fields

My Obsession with Rice Fields

One of the many reasons I wanted to return to Asia, is my obsession with rice fields. I remember while at university seeing a picture of terraced rice fields that my friend had in a collage. Something about this image struck a chord with my soul and I knew one day I would have to visit these surreal landscapes.

I did see rice terraces in Vietnam, Bali, and Nepal, back in year 2000. There are rice fields all over SE Asia and from Thailand, to Laos, to Cambodia, I never tire of seeing them. Their scent, the gentle way they undulate in the wind, the water fowl they attract, all delight me.

Here in northern Thailand, I work near Hang Dong outside of Chiang Mai. Everyday on my bike ride to work I ride past these rice fields. Over the few past months I have watched them transform from emerald green, to gold, and then be neatly cut for the harvest.

Here is a photo progression:

Early November


Later in November...

Rice harvest with Wat in the background


Late November...

These next few are an ode to Monet Asian style: not Haystacks, but Rice Stacks.

Rice stacks and Panyaden

Rice stacks and Doi Suthep

I looked at a house with the following view. The house itself felt more like a brick cabin refuge. It was small, dark, isolated, unfurnished, had small rooms with no closets, a tiny bathroom, a makeshift kitchen, no screens, and would be a perfect habitat for snakes and spiders. I had to pass on the house, but the view really sucked me in.

My favorite is looking at these 3 pictures of the rice fields with Panyaden in the background taken over about 3 months:

October 31


November 28


December 19

Seeing the rice fields on a daily basis constantly reminds me that I am in Asia. Their transitory nature reminds me that life is made of evanescent moments. Enjoy them while they last, because like everything else they are temporary.