Everything was at once familiar; the hot slap of humid air, the lemon-and-lime coloured taxis with tiny Buddha statues perched on the dashboards, the sparkling spikes of temple tops poking out amongst the malls and city blocks and the occasional orange-robed monk padding down the pavement. After over a year, we were finally back in Thailand.
This week we’re back in the UK preparing for our big move to Thailand this Saturday! I’m ridiculously behind with sharing our European adventures on the blog but posts are coming soon about our time in Bratislava, our family holidays in Italy and Spain and my favourite city of the year: Prague. Right now though, it’s all about getting ready to head back to Thailand – here’s a look at how we’re preparing to start our new life in Chiang Mai.
2015 has been a year of two very different halves for us; the first spent in Asia, the second in America and the UK. We lived in Vietnam’s crazy capital city, Hanoi, where we saved over £14,000 (and nearly lost our minds!) by teaching English. We relaxed on beaches in Thailand, house sat in London, toured South Wales and took the best road trip ever through New England in the USA. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas in Blighty for the first time in nearly three years, here’s our 2015 travel round-up.
It feels strange to have finally left Asia after spending almost two years there. For us, travel has been inextricably linked with this part of the world. When I think of backpacking my mind conjures up images of long, cramped bus journeys and never-ending terraces of rice, gold-carpeted beaches and heaving cities full of motorbikes and street markets. I think of wading through soupy, humid air, the smell of citronella insect repellent, incense from temples, and spices from road-side food stalls; I hear beeping horns, crowing roosters, prayer calls and the lapping of the sea.
One of the things we love most about Chiang Mai is all the delicious food that’s on offer. There are literally thousands of restaurants in Chiang Mai as well as cafes, pubs and bakeries. That's not to mention the night markets and street food. What’s more, the city caters to all kinds of diets with restaurants specialising in vegetarian, vegan, raw or gluten-free food. Here are our top picks of Chiang Mai restaurants in the Old City area.
Where were you this time last year? We were in Thailand, relaxing by the river Kwai in Kanchanaburi whilst preparing for our trip to Burma. I’ve written many times about our love for the Land of Smiles and now that the weather has turned cold and wet here in Hanoi I often fantasise about heading back to the warmth of one of our favourite Asian cities: Chiang Mai. We have fond memories of this northern Thai oasis; volunteering at the nearby Elephant Nature Park, hanging out with visiting friends and family and celebrating the New Year’s water festival, Songkran.
Tuesday morning is the hardest part of my week, I teach four grade one classes in a row and I always finish them half-deafened, exhausted and defeated. For me, the five-year-old kids in these classes are great one-on-one and when I meet them out in the playground, but when they’re packed into a tiny classroom and asked to sit still and be quiet for more than a minute they can be an absolute nightmare. Admittedly, the rest of my week is full of lovely classes so I can’t complain too much, but still, when Tuesdays roll around once more I find myself dreaming of an escape.
How do you plan your trip to Burma? It isn’t as easy as heading to other nearby countries like Laos, Cambodia or Thailand. You can’t just cross overland into the country, you can’t just pick up a visa on arrival at the airport, you need all your money in crisp, unmarked US$ and you have to book your accommodation in advance, or so we thought. Burma travel planning is full-on! Read on to find out more.