Chiang Mai

Reflections

A few years ago, I spent a fabulous day tramping around Dovedale in the Peak District of England. Along the 3 km route, we passed caves known as the Dove Holes, used the stepping stones to cross the river and meandered along the path until we reached Milldale, a village of beautiful stone cottages with gardens full of brighly-coloured flowers. It would be so lovely to live there! From there, we turned around and retraced our route and ended the day, back at one of my friend’s houses, with a BBQ and beers. It was such a great day out, not only for the green and glorious countryside, but I spent the day with some very good friends.

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Dovedale, UK

In Cyprus, my friend and I and my mum and dad visited the Paphos Archaeological Park. I love these kind of places, I’m fascinated with the history and this one didn’t disappoint. There were ruins galore, remains of beautiful mosaics, and an ancent amphitheatre. I was in my element. I remember it being so hot that day, but it was nice to get out into the countryside with three of my favourite people.

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Paphos Archaeological Park, Paphos, Cyprus

I arranged to meet my friend in Adu Dhabi and, one day, we took a trip to Dubai. We went up the Burj Khalifa, a real treat with phenomenal views for miles around. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and we were glad we did because the views became even more spectacular when the sun went down and the neon lights of the city came on. It was a trip to remember.

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Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Wat Po in Bangkok reminds me how much I love exploring my city. I love just going out, with my camera, and visiting my favourite places and there are plenty of new places that I find all the time. There is a never ending source of things to see.

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Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent seven weeks in New Zealand and at first I really didn’t want to be there. I had just come from Thailand and I missed everything about it, but thank God I got over that because I ended up having the best time there. I did so much and saw some wonderful things in that short space of time, including these Mirror Lakes. The water is so clear and still, it created some gorgeous reflections.

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Mirror Lakes, New Zealand

Whenever I used to go home, I always made the trip to Scotland to see my Nana, who is, sadly, no longer with us. This day, my mum and I had taken a trip to Edinburgh and we had lunch in the Halfway House. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Scotland, so I never really got to enjoy the city as an adult. It’s a beautiful place, and, although I wouldn’t choose to live there again, it’s nice to go back to my roots.

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Edinburgh’s Smallest Pub, Edinburgh, UK

New Zealand again, this time in Bluff. I’d rented a car, from Dunedin, and taken a road trip down to the south coast. It was New Zealand’s winter time, so I had the place, almost, to myself. I took the Bluff Heritage Trail, through wind-worn forests with brilliant views out to sea. I was also treated to a couple of seals playing in the surf. On the way back to Dunedin, I spent a very cold night in a little cottage in Owaka, so cold that I had to wear five layers, all under a blanket. Brrr! I can still feel the cold. It was in New Zealand that I acquired a love of walking and sightseeing.

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Bluff Heritage Trail, Bluff, New Zealand

In 2013, I graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor of Science with honours. I can’t tell you how proud I was! I wasn’t even going to go to the graduation ceremony, but a friend suggested I go, otherwise he thought I would regret it. I was glad I did. It was in Manchester and my mum came with me. The ceremony was a little nerve-wracking, but everyone there had all done something that was really worth this grand occasion. Afterwards, my mum and I took to the town and enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks in a Thai restaurant.

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Manchester, UK

Another day out in New Zealand and this day took me on a jaunt along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It was on a day when I was supposed to be going whale watching, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. So I wrapped up and went off in exploration of the local area, through farmland and forests, until I reached the black-pebbled beach, and sea. I did loads of other stuff in Kaikoura, like horse-riding, wine tasting, cave exploring and having a Thai meal in a restaurant that didn’t have a liquour license, but not to worry, I had two lovely bottles of wine in my hand that I had bought from the winery. How’s that for good luck?

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Kaikoura Peninsula, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whenever I’ve visited my rellys in Adelaide, they’ve taken me out and about to see stuff and we’ve gone to Granite Island a couple of times. It’s a small island next to Victor Harbour, small enough so you can walk around passed huge boulders, plants dancing in the sea breeze, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the cute fairy penguins which live there. It’s even better when you’ve got Ernie by your side telling you about all the different plants and animals there.

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Granite Island, Adelaide, Australia

I love going to Adelaide and the last time I went was for Christmas in 2014. I wanted to do some exercise, so my cousin suggested we hike up Mount Lofty. So, at 6.00am we started our day, along with my other cousin and his daughter, Amy. When we arrived at Mount Lofty, we stopped at this map which showed the different routes available to the top. I asked “Where are we?” Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign. She giggled “We are here!” I didn’t live that down for the next thirty minutes, she couldn’t stop laughing! It was a fabulous morning out in the sunshine, followed by a well deserved coffee afterwards.

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Mount Lofty, Adelaide, Australia

A few years back, I spent a month on Koh Tao with friends. One day, I said I was going to visit a resort called Mango Bay. The best and easiest way to get there is by boat, but I wanted to walk across the island and my friends jumped at the chance to come with me. It was such an arduous journey, slowly going up some very steep hills with nothing on our feet but flip-flops. When we finally made it to the top, dripping in sweat, we took a well deserved break at the Mountain Bar. The views from our vantage point made us forget how hard it was getting there.

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Views of Koh Tao, Thailand

Another day out in Adelaide with my two cousins, Scott and Craig. We walked along the Torrens River before heading back to the city through the botanical gardens. I love trees and this Eucalyptus camaldulensis, or river red gum, was worthy of a photo. It was thought to be living between 1,500 and 2000 years ago and it died when it was 500 years old! Imagine the things it has seen in its lifetime. We finished our walk at my favourite bar in Adelaide, The Austral, somewhere I try to visit whenever I’m in town.

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Ancient Tree, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Australia

Vachiratharn Waterfall is located in Doi Inthanon National Park, near to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand and I went there when I first came to Thailand in 2008. Throughout the day, I did bamboo rafting and stood on the highest point in Thailand. In the evening, the tour guide asked me out for a few drinks with him and his friends. We didn’t go anywhere fancy, just a little roadside bar, but we had such a fun night and it made me realise that, as a solo traveller, there may be times when you feel lost or lonely sometimes, and I certainly felt that throughout my travels, but things happen that always have a way of making you feel good again.

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Vachiratharn Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand

I like to be reminded of some of the things that I’ve done. I wish I had a photographic memory and remembered everything I have ever done, which is why I love to take so many photographs! 🙂

What makes you remember some of the things you’ve done? 🙂

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is beautiful – it is located, some 12 hours bus ride from Bangkok, among the highest mountains in Thailand. It is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand, having everything that Bangkok as (more or less), but cheaper than Bangkok and a much more relaxed atmosphere.

chiang mai location

When I first went to Chiang Mai I arrived around 3am and I had already found a hotel, that I planned to stay in- “Our House”, but the tuk-tuk man told me it was closed so he took me to prove that it was closed. I must admit I was a bit scared because it was pitch black and he was taking me down some very dark soi’s and I didn’t have a clue where I was. I was ready to practice some Muay Thai on him if he tried anything. But there was nothing to worry about because after he had showed me that the hotel was closed he took me to another one called “Plaza Inn”, which, despite appearances, was a lovely little place to stay, near to a good selection of restaurants, bars, and markets.

Plaza Inn
Plaza Inn

Today I was feeling very lost and lonely without my friends, especially Tri, who I had become very close to in a short space of time and spent most of the previous two months with.  So finding myself alone I felt pretty miserable as I walked around, but during lunch I decided that I would cheer myself up by booking myself onto a tour for the next day.

So the next morning at 8am I got myself ready for a tour to Doi Ithanon National Park. There was just me and two other people from China. The guy picked me up from my hotel and we drove to the first part of the  tour, which was an elephant ride. Me and said elephant had a slow walk through the forest and then splashed our way along a river, with a mahout sitting up front of course- I have no experience of controlling an elephant so didn’t think it wise to try.  The elephant kept putting his trunk back towards me because he knew that I had bought some bananas for him. I thought he was just being friendly but I soon realised that it wasn’t me he was interested in, just the bananas- he didn’t stop until they had all gone. Along the forest track there were little bamboo huts in case you wanted to buy some more bananas, so I thought it polite to oblige the animal who was carting me around in the heat of the day.

Elephant Trekking
Elephant Trekking

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The next part of the tour was bamboo rafting- literally a raft made from bamboo poles around twelve feet long, tied together with some sturdy rope. The others in my tour group were not interested in this bit so I was the only one on the raft and the guy, who was steering the thing like how you would steer a gondola but with a bamboo pole (am sure steering is not the right word but for one who knows nothing about sea or river faring vessels, that’s all I got!) every so often kept slapping the water with the pole and shouting crocodile! Hence I got very wet, even more so by a group of kids playing in the water who promptly chucked a load more water over me. In the end I thought sod this and retaliated, splashing water over the guy at the back of the raft, and over the boys in the water. It was actually really funny and had a lovely time rafting down the lazy river.  Afterwards I met up with my tour friends and our driver took us to a nice little restaurant where we had lunch of veggies and rice.

Bamboo Rafting
Bamboo Rafting

After lunch we made our way up into the surrounding mountains of Chiang Mai and arrived at Doi Ithanon, which is the highest point in Thailand, some 2521 metres above sea level. The drive up to the summit was off road and quite bumpy in the 4×4 but when we got to the top it was worth the pain, because it was so beautiful and had stunning views of Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside.

The Highest Point in Thailand
The Highest Point in Thailand
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Beautiful Countryside

At certain times during the year parts of this countryside are covered in beautifully coloured flowers. On the main road to the summit of Doi Inthanon stand two Chedis against each other; one called Naphamethinidon (นภเมทินีดล), meaning ‘by the strength of the land and air’, and the other, Naphaphonphumisiri (นภพลภูมิสิริ), meaning ‘being the strength of the air and the grace of the land’. These temples were built to honour the 60th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1987, and the 60th birthday anniversary of Queen Sirikit in 1992, respectively.

2 Chedis
2 Chedis
Floral Gardens
Floral Gardens

On the way back our guide, whose name was Aood, asked if I wanted to sample the local Thai culture with him and I thought why the hell not- again another random night in Thailand. So later on he picked me up from my hotel again at 7pm and we went to a little roadside bar where we had a few drinks with the locals. I even had an arm wrestle with one of them after I had told him that I had been doing Muay Thai boxing for the previous two months. Silly me thinking I could possibly win- he gave me a chance but he still won. I ended up having such a great couple of days in Chiang Mai, ending with a night out with Aood, and it made me realise that, as a solo traveller, you might feel lost or lonely sometimes, but things happen that always have a way of making you feel good again.