Visaka Bucha Day วันวิสาขบูชา

Visaka Bucha Day วันวิสาขบูชา

Visaka Bucha Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha. It is said that all three events happened on the same day of the year – the full moon day of the sixth Indian lunar month of Visaka. This year it was celebrated on June 1.

Going to wian tian at Wat Chedi Luang

Going to wian tian at Wat Chedi Luang with my lotus flower, candle, and three sticks of incense.

If the idea of these three events happening on the same day sounds like a mythological mystery, try looking at it from a different point of view.

One of my students asked the monk Phra Ajarn Jiew why they were on the same day. His answer was enlightening. He explained that the Buddha was born as a man – Siddhartha. When he became a Buddha, it was like the birthday of the Buddha. When he reached enlightenment, it was like reaching nibbana, which is the ultimate state passing from one lifetime to the next. All three on the same day.

 

On the evening of Visaka Bucha I joined other Buddhists walking around the main shrine of Wat Chedi Luang three times, in honor of the triple gem of Buddhism: the Buddha, his teachings (dhamma), and the community of followers (sangha). This circumambulation is called wian tian.

Full moon and Wat Chedi Luang

Full moon and Wat Chedi Luang

Lighting the candles and incense and giving the flower offerings after wian tian.

Lighting the candles and incense and giving the flower offerings after wian tian.

The full moon and big tree at Wat Chedi Luang

The full moon and big tree at Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is significant to me because it’s where I celebrated my birthday 15 years ago by lighting off a komloy (paper lantern). It’s one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai and there is something definitively sacred about it.

Meanwhile, next door at Wat Phan Tao this magical scene unfolded.

Meanwhile, next door at Wat Phantao this magical scene unfolded.

At Wat Phantao a group of young monks sitting in meditation with candles lit on the water and all around them. (Sorry for the blurry pictures – they were taken with my iPod)

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

12 These pictures don’t really capture the magnificence…so let’s try a little video. So appreciative that I got to experience this celebration.

So appreciative that I got to experience this celebration. mo

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Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

After the smoky and hot season in Chiang Mai comes to an end each year, starts the magic of the rainy season. While those who ride motorbikes might find it slightly inconvenient, we all love how it cools things down. That said, my favourite part is that the frogs and toads begin their nighttime serenade.

This is my backyard:

backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the guest room

View of the backyard from the guest room

Right outside the kitchen lies...

Right outside the kitchen lies…

...the fish pond

…the fish pond. I mean, the fish and tadpole pond

This fish pond is actually home to hundreds, possibly thousands, of tadpoles. This time of year they start turning into the tiniest frogs and toads imaginable.

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime or  about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it's small...

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime, or about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it’s small. Very very small.

...so that gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

That gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

When I water the plants in my garden, I fear stepping on them as they are smaller than houseflies. Usually, they let me know they’re there and hop away. I’m pretty sure they are prey for the fish in my pond.

It’s funny to say it, especially after living in Portland, Oregon, but I welcome the rain. Ahh, cooler temperatures (this means going from highs being around 40C {104F} to highs around 34C {93F}. It also means seeing and hearing the baby frogs and toads.

Today, while I was at school, one of my students showed me a frog hanging out in a drain. She knew I would appreciate it. Anyone who grew up with me could tell you that frogs are one of my very favourite animals. I’m so glad I get to see and hear them on a daily basis.

The delights of living in the tropics. The wind is starting to blow and I hear some thunder in the distance right now…singing frogs are not far behind.

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

I am a lucky lady indeed because for my Christmas present, my whole family visited me in Thailand! Thankfully, everyone absolutely loved it.

Here are some highlights: After everyone had a day to combat their jet lag with a Thai massage, some delicious Thai food, and the city sites of Chiang Mai, a place we all were happy to visit was Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal loves the elephants.

Hal loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

I love the elephants.

I love the elephants.

The elephants love each other.

The elephants love each other.

Having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Wendy, Hal and Dory having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Playing Songkran with elephants.

Playing Songkran with elephants

Elephant Nature Park is a fabulous sanctuary for elephants in Chiang Mai Province where they are allowed to roam freely, and are never chained up. There is ‘no show and no ride’ as they told me on the phone, but one can enjoy spending time feeding and bathing the elephants.

After a delightful day with the elephants, we spent the night in Chiang Dao.

Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao

Walking back tot the room at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Walking back to the room at Yang Tone Farm Stay

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

When we returned back to Chiang Mai, we headed to Sunday Walking Street for a little bit of shopping and eating.

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

We had to visit Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn't quite the same without the students there.

We visited Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn’t quite the same without the students there.

The next day we hopped on a plane to Krabi and took a minibus straight to Klong Nin beach on Ko Lanta. Wendy and Dory were pretty excited to arrive, so Wendy composed a little song. FYI: chang is the Thai word for elephant.

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel...

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel…

...and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

…and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Then Dory orders a 'bucket' not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are

Then Dory orders a ‘New Year’s Eve bucket’ not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are…

...but we had to laugh about it anyway

…but we had to laugh about it anyway

On New Year's Day 2015 we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. It was the most touristy thing I've ever done in Thailand. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with boatloads of other people.

On New Year’s Day 2015, we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with literally boatloads of other people. It was the most touristy thing I’ve ever done in Thailand.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Selfie fail

Selfie partial fail

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Lovely

Lovely lady and beach

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Piña colada happy hour with Dad at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Piña colada happy hour with Dad and Wendy back at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Khun Pa was the best. We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Khun Pa was the best! We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Sadly, it was time to say farewell…but not without one last hearty laugh at the airport: Presenting Wendy in ‘Discovering the Blackpuccino’ at Black Canyon Coffee.

“Hmm, what should I order?”

Blackpuccino!

Blackpuccino? Blackpuccino!

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“A Blackpuccino! That’s it!”

“Hooray!”

“I love my Blackpuccino!”

“That Blackpuccino.”

I have never laughed so hard in an airport.

As is obvious from the photos, a great time was had by all.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

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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Top 10 Reasons I love Chiang Mai

Top 10 Reasons I Love Chiang Mai

It's true, I love Chiang Mai

It’s true, I love Chiang Mai

Now that I have lived in Chiang Mai for over two years, it’s nice to look back and realize that I still love it here. Although the chaos, smells, heat and traffic may not appeal to everyone, here are just a few of the reasons I love it here. This list is in no particular order.

1. Beauty is everywhere – both in nature and human made

Just a bunch of gorgeous orchids hanging in a parking lot.

Just a bunch of elegant orchids hanging in a parking lot.

An organic farm - part of The Royal Project - right in the middle of the city.

An organic farm – part of The Royal Project – right in the middle of the city.

A view of Panyaden School through rice fields.

A view of Panyaden School, where I work, through rice fields.

View from Panyaden School

View from Panyaden School

The lake at Huay Tung Tao

The lake at Huay Tung Tao

Waterfalls at Doi Inthanon

Waterfalls at Doi Inthanon

Infinity pools in the mountains - here at Verandah

Infinity pools in the mountains – here at Verandah

Lovely boutique hotels in the Old City

Lovely boutique hotels in the Old City

My local wat, a one minute walk from my house.

My local wat, a one minute walk from my house.

A lotus flower in my backyard.

A lotus flower in my backyard.

Also, it has a warm tropical climate year-round.

2. Massage and other types of wellness at an affordable price. Thai massage is available just about everywhere you look. It can cost as little as $5 per hour. You can upgrade a little, or a lot.

Pre-massage foot wash. This started off what a $6.00 an hour massage.

Pre-massage foot wash. This was the beginning of a 180 baht ($6.00) an hour massage.

3. Yoga

There are so many places to do yoga in Chiang Mai and loads of fantastic teachers. The three places I tend to go to regularly are Namo, Yoga Tree, and my favorite Wild Rose.

Yoga at Wild Rose

Yoga at Wild Rose

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Acro yoga at the park

Acro yoga at the park

 4. Delicious food

In Chiang Mai I regularly get my dinner from street vendors for around 30 baht (this is about $1 USD). There is Thai food everywhere, of course, but there is also cuisine from around the globe… it will cost a bit more than 30 baht. It’s super easy to be a vegetarian here.

Grtting gway tiao (noodle soup) with Alana at Chiang Mai Gate.

Getting late night gway tiao (noodle soup) with Alana at Chiang Mai Gate…

...after our afternoon tea at the Chedi

…after our afternoon tea at the Chedi

There is always an abundance of delicious fruit

There is always an abundance of delicious fruit

The best Thai iced tea I ever had

The best Thai iced tea I ever had

And thankfully there is gorgeous sushi that is less expensive here than any other country I've been.

And thankfully there is outstanding sushi that is less expensive here than any other country I’ve been.

5. Easy to be a farang here

It’s pretty easy to be a foreigner in Chiang Mai – there are oodles of foreigners here and plenty of things to do.

Perhaps wade in an inner tube at Huay Tung Tao

Perhaps wade in an inner tube at Huay Tung Tao

climb up the 'sticky waterfalls'

climb up the ‘sticky waterfalls’

Maybe get a massage at a spa

Maybe get a massage at a spa

Or go to Doi Inthanon National Park

Or go to Doi Inthanon National Park for a hike in the mountains

6. People are friendly

The way to react is with a smile.

Kru Neung and me planting rice

Kru Neung and me planting rice

7. There is always something new and happening in this ancient city

Galley openings - Lili Tan's work shown here at Sangdee Gallery

Galley openings – Lili Tan’s work shown here at Sangdee Gallery

Music festivals and environmental consciousness

Music festivals and environmental consciousness

Ceramics classes

Ceramics classes

Cute and functional art

Cute and functional art

Go find something new for your house in Baan Tawai

Go find something new for your house in Baan Tawai

You can see elephants in many places

You can see elephants in many places…hopefully they are being treated well

Go shopping for handicrafts in Bo Sang while on the way to Sam Kampaeng Hot Springs

Go shopping for handicrafts in Bo Sang on the way to Sam Kampaeng Hot Springs

8. Big city culture and small town safety and community

It’s nice to have something to do, but it’s also nice to go out and see people you know.

Especially if those people make you laugh

Especially if those people make you laugh

9. Buddhism and meditation

Buddhism is alive, well, and omnipresent in Chiang Mai.

Monk at Chiang Mai Gate market

Monk at Chiang Mai Gate market

The monk on his alms round right outside my house - excuse the screen

A monk on his alms round right outside my house – excuse the window screen

Even children know how to meditate

Even children know how to meditate

The Silver Wat off Wualai

The Silver Wat off Wualai St.

Wat Nantaram

Detail from Wat Nantaram

Make an offering at a wat

Making an offering at a Wat Jed Yot

10. Festivals

Thailand has some amazing festivals that are both fun and beautiful.

Yee Peng at Mae Jo University

Yee Peng at Mae Jo University

Loy Krathong dancers

Loy Krathong dancers

Floating away krathongs on Loy Krathong

Floating away krathongs on Loy Krathong at Panyaden

splashing water at Songkran

splashing water at Songkran

Sure there are more cosmopolitan cities with more to do, but for me Chiang Mai is just right.

Wrapping Up September

Wrapping Up September

September is usually the time of year where students head back to school, the days start getting shorter, and the weather starts getting cooler. Here in Thailand, we are finishing first semester of school, which started in May, it’s the rainy season, but still warm, and due to the proximity to the equator, the change of day length is hardly noticeable. I’ve managed to work hard, and balance that with a lot of laughs.

Still love the view from my porch in the rainy season, euphemistically known as ‘the green season’. You can see why here.

Getting final projects done at school, with portfolios, and report cards is always a substantial amount of work, but we also had a final presentation for the students to show their parents what they’ve learned over past semester.

One of the topics my students learned about was the environmental impact that humans have caused on Earth. They chose a topic that they felt passionate about, and presented their findings through art work and an informative poster. The students used mainly recycled materials to make their art and posters. They not only stated the problem, but researched and gave suggestions for potential solutions. We turned our classroom into an art gallery and invited parents and guests to come see their art opening, have Q and A with the artists, and enjoy some homemade refreshments.

Dolphin slaughter in Japan

Oil spills

Air pollution – note the different sources of pollution, the acid rain, and the dead flower

polluted beaches

polluted oceans

Kru Goy and I are very proud of them

This was only part of the subject matter they taught our adult guests, they also had PE, art, math, and music. Each class got 15 minutes for the students to teach the activity. It was like ‘speed teaching’.

In maths class, the students challenged the adults to see who could make the perimeter of a shape the quickest using wooden pegs, string, and measuring tape. Um… the students won, but our string was all tangled – unfair! It was good fun anyway.

In music class the students played a song, then taught the adults to play the same song on a variety of instruments.

I was too involved having fun doing the PE and art activities to take any photos.

At the end of the day it was time for cleaning the classroom Gangnam Style.

Cleaning Gangnam Style

Sadly, we are saying goodbye to two wonderful teachers. We sure will miss you Kru Claire and Kru Yuzu.

Kru Claire as the princess looking for her lost friend.

Kru Yuzu, playing the lost friend

Outside of school, yoga, ceramics, and Thai classes, I’ve managed to find time to have fun with friends in lovely Chiang Mai.

Getting coffee and croissants for 25 baht with Claire, Yuzu, and Jessica at ‘the farang farm’.

farang farm foliage

Enveloped in verdant hues – more evidence of the green season

As long as it’s not raining, Chiang Mai looks about the same at night all year long. Here are some pictures taken from the sweetest sidecar in the city – Christophe’s Aum Mobile. Their blurriness gives them an ethereal sense of movement that I feel represents Chiang Mai nighttime.

Songthaew driving around the moat

Christophe shopping late night at the flower market

Rose in the Aum Mobile. Seriously, look how beautiful that vehicle is! (Obviously, look how beautiful Rose is too:) While Christophe drives with Rose and me in the sidecar, both Thai people and foreigners smile.

Tuk tuk drivers and passengers giving us the thumbs up.

Christophe and Rose in the sweet side car near the moat.

laughing in the sidecar…

…as we drive the wrong way down one way street. Mai bpen rai it’s Thailand.

After a night of laughing and sidecar adventures, I love that the gardenias (ketawa) still smell so good the next morning.

Now September is done, we’ve had a full moon in Aries and it’s the beginning of a new month – new beginnings abound. Unlike teachers in other places, it’s now our holiday here. I have the majority of October off and tomorrow I am heading to a place I have wanted to go for about 15 years and that is Burma (or Myanmar). When I was here in 2000 I thought I’d visit there, but the political situation left much to be desired, so I didn’t. Burma still has a lot of restrictions on travel and modern conveniences: no ATMs, limited and slow internet, and I won’t have a cell phone.

I’m signing off for about 3 weeks, but will return with photos and stories-o-plenty. Enjoy October in all its autumnal glory.

108 Images – A Year in Pictures

108 Images – A Year in Pictures

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, here are 108,000 words.

I Made the Chiang Mai News!

I Made the Chiang Mai News!

OK, well sort of. My picture was in Chiang Mai Citylife magazine in an article about the benefits of laughing yoga. I attend many different kinds of yoga classes here, and occasionally I will go to laughter yoga class at Yoga Tree.

Here’s the picture and articlehttp://www.chiangmainews.com/ecmn/viewfa.php?id=3503

Yoga and laughing – two of my favorite things combined into one. Another reason I love Chiang Mai.

What is laughing yoga? It was started in India not that long ago, only in 1995, by a doctor interested in the health benefits of laughter. The laughter clubs caught on, and have been spreading across the world rapidly.

In the class, at first the laughter might be artificial, but your body doesn’t know the difference, you still receive the benefits. Soon, people start genuinely cracking up. Some of our exercises included being a chuckling clam, laughing lion, and a cackling kangaroo. My favorite though was when we all stood in a circle and shared something that irritates us and then we all laughed at our silly problems. Next, we shared something that scared us and we all guffawed at our fears. What a fantastic release!

Thanks Chiang Mai Citylife for writing the article. Special appreciations to  Shelley and Fla, who facilitate the class and make it very easy to laugh. I plan to giggle with you again soon.

Soaked and Smile Lines from Songkran

Soaked and Smile Lines from Songkran

Splash! Songkran is here! It’s Thai New Year and one of the funniest holidays I know.  Its origins are of cleansing Buddhas and paying respect to elders and monks. Now it’s more like the whole country is in a huge water fight and the center of it all is Chiang Mai.

Some friends of mine asked if I wanted to ‘play’ Songkran with a bunch of people. They had a truck (a purple truck :)) and would be driving around the moat with us throwing water and getting water thrown on us. There would be some adults and also some children. It sounded like the way to do things. It is the hottest time of year in Thailand and the end of the dry season – let the water throwing begin!

Preparing for Songkran in the back of the purple truck before we left

You can see us throwing water, but might not be able to tell there are not only several bins filled with water, but also a baby pool filled with water in the back.

Buckets, squirt guns of various sizes, and lots of water comprised our artillery. Our water had delicately scented flowers to keep with the cleansing tradition, despite the water guns.

We were prepared for the fun as we left and headed to the old city.

This cute little girl in the white dress was an indefatigable water thrower.

Songkran is a holiday for all ages.

I quickly realized that although people of all ages were participating, to my mind the best age to be would be somewhere around 10-12 years old. Luckily, we had some kids representing those ages in the truck. Songrkran is a good time, but it’s a better time when it’s spent with kids.

Best age for Songkran? 10-12.

Regardless of all the sitting in traffic and the water throwing, people were peaceful. My friend commented that in England people would be fighting. I agreed and added the US too. Can you imagine any US city with a big water fight and people not getting angry? I cannot. Here in Chiang Mai the only people I saw getting upset were the foreigners.

Songkran water shooting with smiles. It looks like it’s raining in these pictures. It isn’t. In fact it’s been very dry. All the water shown is from people throwing or squirting it.

Carefully pouring the motorcyclists going by, though not everyone is so careful

3 on a motorbike getting splashed on Songkran

Does it look dangerous? (I mean the water throwing on moving vehicles – 3 young people riding a motorbike without helmets is the norm here). Yes, well, I agree throwing water in the face of a motorcyclist is not a very wise idea. It happens, as do accidents, but the general vibe is one of fun.

As if there was a fire, people banded together to get water out of the moat.

It’s a crazy celebration, but all in good fun or sanuk the Thai word for fun.

The Fahrenheit forecast for the Songkran weekend. It was 88 at 10 am.

After riding around in the back of the truck and getting drenched for hours, even though the forecast was balmy, I actually got cold. I decided to ride inside the truck for a while, which was the only safe place to take pictures. This video shows a 25 second snippet of what was happening outside:

Most of the Songkran festivities fall within 3 days in the middle of April. Besides throwing water, it is also Buddhist cleansing ceremony. I poured jasmine flower infused water over my Buddha images and brought lotus flowers to a wat in Chiang Mai. Supposedly this will bring me luck for the ‘new year’. {FYI – the current year in Thailand is 2555, which began on January 1. The Buddha was born 543 before Christ, hence the calculation. I can write 2012 or 2555 as the date, but when dealing with the Thai government it’s 2555.}

Classic water throwing of Songkran

throwing moat water – keep your mouth closed

My friend Alana and I thoroughly soaked on the third day of Songkran.

…and Alana getting splashed with ice cold water

It’s good fun, but by the end of the third day, I was ready to be dry again. Overall, I laughed so hard, I’m sure I added more smile lines to my face.

สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ – sook san wan Songkran – Happy Songkran!