Quaint Fort Kochi

Quaint Fort Kochi

The bus from Munnar to Fort Kochi was much shorter than our previous bus trip…

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Super fast? Not really.

Super fast? Not really

Coffee beans drying on the side of the road

Coffee beans drying on the side of the road

…but I can’t say it was less eventful:

Thanks Lex for taking this video and cracking me up.

When arriving in Fort Kochi, we didn’t have a place to stay. I randomly picked somewhere that sounded nice from my guidebook while in the tuk tuk from the bus station. It’s safe to say that I chose well. Secret Garden was absolutely beautiful!

Secret Garden in Fort Kochi

Secret Garden in Fort Kochi

Lex drinking a poolside coffee

Lex enjoying a poolside coffee

Cooling off with a quick swim

Cooling off with a quick swim

We had no problem relaxing there for hours. In fact, we moved so little I asked Joseph, the lovely hotel manager, if we were the laziest guests ever. He said no, but I’m not so sure about that.

Strolling through town, we stumbled upon a cricket match

Later, while strolling through town, we stumbled upon a cricket match

I loved the enormous trees everywhere

I loved the enormous trees everywhere in Fort Kochi

 

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We met up with these boys...

We met up with these boys…

...who immediately befriended Lex

…who immediately befriended Lex

Sculpture park by the water

Painted living tree sculpture by the water

Chinese fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets

One of our best meals in Kerala - Fish with Kerala spices cooked in banana leaf, veg. curry, and fried okra.

One of our best meals in Kerala – fish with Kerala spices cooked in banana leaf, veg. curry, and fried okra

The next morning I had a yoga class here under the mango tree at Secret Garden

The next morning, I attended a yoga class here under the mango tree at Secret Garden

At breakfast we observed this guy doing some tree pruning

At breakfast we observed this guy pruning trees

Early that afternoon, unfortunately, it was time to say goodbye to Lex. We had had a fantastic few weeks together. I’m so grateful that he changed his plans and traveled with me. We’ve spoken about seeing each other again as soon as possible. He left for Canada, and the next day I would return to Thailand…but I still had a bit of time to explore.

Feeling a bit sad with Lex not there, I was pleased that this is the first person I met

Feeling a bit sad with Lex not there, I was pleased that this was the first person I met

Gorgeous sunset in Fort Kochi

Gorgeous sunset in Fort Kochi

with or without a filter

with or without a filter

at any angle

at any angle

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I enjoyed some aromatherapy at an oranic spice shop

Enjoying some aromatherapy at an organic spice shop

Secret Garden felt a little empty without Lex

Secret Garden felt a little empty without Lex

For my last morning in India, after yoga and breakfast, I cycled over to the another town called Mattancherry. There wasn’t much time to explore, or I’d miss my train. Plus, I wanted to do some last minute shopping, as well as receive an ayurvedic shirodhara treatment. I raced around and snapped these pictures while drenched in sweat.

Mattancherry was dripping in color. What a fun place to have a camera!

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IMG_2839IMG_2838IMG_2841IMG_2844IMG_2842IMG_2846IMG_2847IMG_2850IMG_2851IMG_2852IMG_2854IMG_2857With my hair soaked in oil from the shirodhara treatment, I boarded the train bound for Trivandrum. On trains in India there are sections for women only, which remedies the constant staring of men. I didn’t see one of these sections, but sat with a family instead. No hassles at all.

Bye for now India. Thanks for providing me with vibrant memories. I’m sure our paths will cross again someday in the not too distant future. Now it’s time to get back to Thailand just in time for Songkran!

 

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Happy New Year 2014 or 2557

Happy New Year 2014 or 2557

Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014 or is it 2557? Western year or Buddha year?

2014 started on a beach in the south of Thailand and this was my first glimpse of the new year:

Bonfires were welcome due to the chill in the air.

Bonfires were welcome due to the chill in the air.

Is it possible to have a Thai holiday without fireworks? I don't think it is.

Is it possible to have a Thai holiday without fireworks? I don’t think it is.

On January first, walking down the beach I stumbled upon this:

It looks like nothing...

It looks like nothing…

...until you look at it from another perspective. Maybe that will be a theme for 2014 - looking at things from different points of view.

…until you look at it from another perspective. Maybe that will be a theme for 2014 – looking at things from different points of view.

I couldn't believe how many perfect tiny sand dollars there were.

I couldn’t believe how many perfect tiny sand dollars there were.

This kind of beach beauty...

This kind of beach beauty…

...inspires sunset yoga.

…inspires sunset yoga.

A bungalow...

A bungalow…

...with a view

…with a view

Solar panels should get plenty of power in this sunshine,

Solar panels should get plenty of power in this sunshine.

Unfortunately, I got the worst food poisoning I have ever had in Asia and was out of commission for about two days. I just took it as a New Year’s detox. Thankfully, a new friend, Charlie brought me soda water and electrolyte beverages. When I emerged from my bungalow, there were loads of butterflies to watch.

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I heard chanting and wondered where the closest wat was. No wat, but rather blessing the opening of a new beach restaurant.

In my exhausted state, I thought I heard monks chanting from my bungalow and wondered where the closest wat was. There was no wat, but rather blessing the opening of a new beach restaurant.

Hibiscus upon walking up to the village

Hibiscus upon walking up to the village

Another butterfly plant

Another butterfly plant

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Butterflies, friendly dogs, and hammocks = happiness

Butterflies, friendly dogs, and hammocks = good medicine

Dan and Mila arrived just as I was getting better.

Dan and Mila arrived just as I was feeling better.

I met Dan on a beach in southern Thailand 14 years ago while playing frisbee in the water. We both lived in San Francisco, but wanted to move to Portland. After traveling in SE Asia, we both moved back to San Francisco. I then moved to Portland, and a few years later Dan did too. Now we’re back to how we met each other, on the beach in Thailand.

Dan continually sees the positive side to things, which makes it fun to spend time with him no matter how mundane the task. That said, some things are just fun, no matter how old you are…

...like a gigantic swing.

…like a gigantic swing

I could not stop laughing.

I could not stop laughing

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A new friend, Charlie, wanted to try it too.

Charlie wanted to try the enormous swing too.

Oh Thailand, I love you this much!

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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.

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.

La Infinita Amor

La Infinita Amor

Despite my tiredness, I went to yoga this morning: Vinyasa with Joseph at Wild Rose.

We meditated at first, which was just what I needed. Yoga was challenging for certain. We ended with a long period of meditation. Just as clearly as the abdominal chi release had brought about la infinita tristeza, this meditation brought about la infinita amor – infinite love, which also exists in the universe.

I do yoga and try to meditate often, but it’s difficult. Yoga I enjoy and it usually makes me feel good during and afterwards, but meditation is often still a struggle and the rewards aren’t as immediate or obvious.

In the ending meditation I had a visualization shaped like a Bodhi leaf – a symbol of the Buddha’s enlightenment – and I felt love and acceptance. Birth and rebirth. Everything was glowing. Everything is as it should be.

I try to not get attached to these moments because just like everything else they are temporary. Regardless, I feel like all this Buddhist meditation stuff might actually be working. Subtle shifts in consciousness are happening.

The Leisurely Pace of Chiang Khong

The Leisurely Pace of Chiang Khong

As I rode the rickety borrowed bike on the way back from my visa run for 10 minutes in Laos, in Chiang Khong the market was gearing up. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hungry at all, but I did see some tempting looking food.

I arrived at my guesthouse just before dark and ended up meeting a really interesting couple and sharing a beer with them. Lisa is Swedish, Jerry is Czech, but they both live in Melbourne, and are traveling around SE Asia where Jerry is learning new painting techniques. The 3 of us ended up spending the next few days together and laughed quite often.

The guesthouse was nice enough to lend us their bikes as we were interested in cycling around town. There were exactly 3 bikes, all in rather shoddy shape. Jerry ended up taking the one with no brakes, but had a little duck squeaky toy for a horn, so he could let people know he was coming.

We ended up roaming around town, mainly by the river. Lisa and I discovered a yoga studio and went for a class. The next day Jerry joined us.

We parted ways with them heading for Laos, and me heading back to Chiang Mai. This cruising around has been fun, but I need to find a job…quickly or else I will be making another border crossing before I know it. I have to say though, I wouldn’t mind coming back to Chiang Khong one little bit, it’s not a bad place to relax for a few days.