Songkran water festival in Chiang Mai!

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Songkran is awesome! A 3 day water fight across the whole of Thailand. A unique way to see in the new year. A month before, you’ll see shops full of water guns, buckets and flowery shirts too. All in preparation for the craziest festival of the year. Thai’s and tourists look forward to it every year, fishing out their water guns from the year before and putting on their flowery clothes ready to stand out on the streets and soak everyone that passes by.

It was awesome to be in Chiang Mai for Songkran last year as a tourist. I was based in a guesthouse in Thapae gate, right in the heart of the old town’s celebrations. Stalls were set up for free giveaway’s and swimming pools were inflated and filled with water on the side of the road. There were people selling water guns, pistols, buckets, waterproof bags, anything you could want for the occasion. Our guesthouse filled a dustbin with water and ice outside, ready for the tourist’s to flock in their hundreds. It was incredible.

The celebration of New year starts on the 13th April every year and lasts until the 15th. Although as we were staying in the backpacker area, tourists were out the day before. My boyfriend and I took a bamboo rafting trip on the 12th April. Cruising down the river on the raft, we sailed past rows and rows of bamboo huts filled with Thai families. After spotting us, it took around 30 seconds before we were splashed with water and a huge water fight broke out. Kids were jumping in the river with their water guns and their parents got involved soaking us too. It was hilariously fun and lovely seeing the whole family joining in.

Wherever you are in Thailand during Songkran, it would be awesome I’m sure. Chiang Mai was great. People dancing on tables outside guesthouses, firing water at literally everyone they saw. You can hire a tuk-tuk for 200 bht and set yourself up for a very cool experience. Everyone attacked the tuk-tuk’s with ice cold water. It was mental but awesome at the same time. A giant water fight with thousands of people, your inner child definitely comes out again. Don’t miss Songkran this year, just make sure you get a water gun early! Watch my experience of Songkran in this 1 minute video.

 

 

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1 year as an expat in Chiang Mai

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Yesterday marked exactly one year since I embarked on my first long term adventure abroad. One year exactly since I boarded a plane at Heathrow airport with my boyfriend and said a tearful goodbye to my family. One year ago today that I landed in Bangkok and explored more of what Thailand has to offer. One year has gone by; the plan was 6 months abroad so I never thought we would get to mark this occasion.

It’s crazy how fast a year can go, and it’s amazing to look back on the amount of things I’ve done over the course of this past year. I’ve moved abroad and become an expat in a foreign country. I’ve travelled more of Thailand in one year than I have in my entire life back home in England. I’ve moved into two different apartments in Chiang Mai. I have my own swimming pool and gym to use every day to my heart’s content. I’ve become a Teacher and taught some truly incredible children for the past year. I’ve made friends. I’ve become confident standing up and speaking in front of people. I’ve learnt all about the Thai culture and even learnt how to speak some basic words in Thai. I’ve become a blogger and written all about my travels and experiences. I’ve washed, fed and ridden an elephant. I’ve swam in waterfalls, hiked through mountains, ridden on the back of a motorbike, visited and donated to a Thai hill tribe, felt lost, felt homesick, felt amazing, happy and content all in one.

I’ve achieved so much just in one year, it feels incredible. This has shown me just what it means to achieve your dreams and so much more. You hear people say, “I wish I had done that when I was younger”, or “you need to settle in the real world”. But this is the real world. I’m exploring it as much as I can, I’m living my life to the full and I have no regrets. I’m 23 years of age, I’ve seen so much and yet I’m hungry to see so much more.

Chiang Mai is an awesome place to live, there’s so much to see and do, you’re never too far from being able to explore your surrounding areas and it very much feels like home now. The time has come where I feel like I’ve done so much, it’s hard to find new things to do and see. So we have made the decision to move. Having now travelled much of Thailand, I’m itching for a new country and a new culture to explore, so a move to Bali in Indonesia is very close to becoming our reality.

I’ve had an amazing year. My first teaching experience has been more than I would have hoped for. I didn’t think I would find something that I would love to do for the rest of my life. Standing up in front of 25 students and teaching them for a year is an amazing achievement, one that I will always remember. I wish I could pick the kids up and take them to a new place. They are the highlight of my job and it has been great getting to know each of them. We played games, we’ve had parties, we’ve grown and learnt together and it was very hard to say goodbye.

Moving to Thailand and becoming a teacher here has been the best decision I have ever made. We’ve explored a new culture and found a job we both enjoy. Teaching will be my future but for now, I want to carry on exploring the adventurous world we live in.

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The hidden wonders of Mae Wang national park.

Hidden within Mae Wang national park lies the old river ruins of Pha Chor. Believed to be the old course of the Ping river, after movement from tectonic plates and erosion, it has now become a small tourist destination. When I say small, I mean you’ll struggle to find much information about it. Don’t let that deter you from going though, because it’s another one of those scenic drives around Chiang Mai and it’s a natural beauty worth checking out.

The erosion has over time, left soil pillars and cliffs standing at around 30 meters high. It has become a quiet tourist destination, mainly visited by Thai nationals. In fact, when we visited, we were the only foreign people around.

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Pha Chor

Lee and I decided we wanted to see more of Chiang Mai having ticked off most of the destinations Chiang Mai has to offer in a year of living here. I came across Pha Chor only from another blogger. I found basic instructions on how to get there, a map that took us to the wrong place and just a couple of road numbers (108 and 1013). So off we went, towards Mae Wang National park. Located around an hours drive South from Chiang Mai, you reach the entrance to the park. Although if you’re anything like me, you’ll miss the turning and continue driving for a further 40 minutes in the wrong direction! Although it wasn’t completely my fault, the map we had was wrong too! Thankfully the route we took was stunning, heading into the mountains and driving past rows and rows of stunning paddy fields. So don’t be too disheartened if you miss the turn, as the views your met with through the countryside are worth it anyway!

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Desert like roads in the Mae Wang national park.

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Make sure you turn LEFT here towards the national park!

 

Finally locating the correct turn off, and heading into the park, you pay 100bht to get in plus 20bht for a motorbike. Spotting the turn for Pha Chor, we had to wait for a herd of cows walking freely to cross in front of us which was a lovely sight! The turn takes you off the nice, flat roads and onto a very bumpy dirt track!

Arriving, there’s a place to park up, go to the loo and grab a coffee before embarking on a short 10 minute walk to get to the cliffs. I think we were a rare sight for all of the Thai tourists walking past, kind of got the feeling we were being stared at.

We decided to start at the top and work our way down, admiring all the details on the structures and catching a photo opportunity whenever we could. You can walk all around the cliffs, on the way out following the actual route of the river, which can get very narrow. Tip: wear long trousers to stop the cliffs from cutting your legs. 

Pha Chor was a great find, and the drive leading up to the park was just as stunning as the cliffs too. I say it’s a tourist destination but there were only a handful of people there. Making it a quiet and relaxing place, a hidden find within Mae Wang national park. 

If you have time, take a drive past the car park of Pha Chor and follow the signs for Pha Daeng. Similar to Pha Chor with huge cliffs but on a higher level and you’re met with an incredible view across the stunning mountain range. Be aware that the roads leading up to it are full of gravel and rocks. We ended up pulling over and walking the last 200 meters as it was difficult on the bike.

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Pha Daeng cliffs.

Another point of interest before you get to Pha Chor, is to continue driving straight. You’re met with a river and in the dry season, its completely dry so you can drive along the course of the river. Deciding to take a walk, you stumble across a stream of water and a bamboo hut hidden within the trees. A very scenic walk with no one around, hearing only the sounds of nature and the trickling stream. It was probably my favourite part of the day!

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Walking along the river. 

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The river in Thailand’s dry season. 

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Bamboo hut hidden in the park/

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Here’s a more reliable map to get to Mae Wang national park.

Terracotta gardens 

Northern Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular, is well known for having coffee shops everywhere you turn. Looking for something a bit different, my boyfriend came across Terracotta gardens. A coffee shop right in the centre of the old town in Chiang Mai.

Hidden down a small soi, we found the clay house as it is also known as. Terracotta gardens is a unique coffee shop, surrounded by Terracotta ornaments and old Buddhist shrines.

Take a walk around and you’ll find numerous ornaments of all differnet shapes and sizes. Including loads of statues with only their heads on display!




Have a nice coffee in their coffee shop, buy a handmade card or two or relax with a book in the lovely garden surroundings. Just don’t forget to take some mosquito spray with you, those things can bite!