For the first few days in Sydney we mostly slept! It was only a 4 hour time difference from Bangkok to Sydney but it really affected me. I think the lack of sleep totally caught up with us!
Katie came to see us on the 21st and we went together to see the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. They weren’t as big as I had expected them to be!
It was really lovely to see Katie again!
The following day we went to Bondi Beach for a bit of sunbathing. It was very bizarre being on the beach in the middle of December. The water was very cold though!
The next few days I slept even more – I had the worst sore throat ever, it felt like I was swallowing glass. Not what you want over the Christmas period in Sydney.
We met up with a friend from Asia, Kylie on Christmas Eve. It was good to see her again and funny to catch up on gossip!
Christmas Day in Australia was rather bizarre. It was fantastic to speak to both sides of my family but for at least this one day, I would have given anything to be home with them.
We had planned to go to a festival on the beach but it was raining! In Sam’s words “we came to Sydney for sun! What is this?!”. Eventually we decided to meet up with some of Sam’s friends from home to find something vaguely Christmassy to eat! We nearly ended up with KFC before we found a place you get a steak and chips. Sydney was so empty on rainy Christmas day. As it was so rainy we ended up going to the cinema to watch Les Miserables and eating cheese and apple in bed watching Home Alone. Next year I’m going to be Christmas personified!
Boxing Day we went to the cinema again – we had to, it was the Hobbit’s release date! (How is it released in Bosnia before Australia?). In the evening we saw Kylie again and had a great Boxing Day night at an Irish pub – Sydney started to grow on me.
Today we went to Sydney Botanic Garden. It was so beautiful, right by Sydney Harbour. Just like Kew Gardens but in Sydney. There were so many wonderful plants and great views. Going there really helped change my so far negative perception of Sydney, it was stunning.
After the garden, we went to look at an actually Christmassy arcade – the most Christmas we’ve seen in Oz!
We wandered round the shops and I found some entirely unrealistic shoes that I NEED.
But settled on some ridiculous $5 leggings instead!
So there, an evening of blogging to catch up on my tracks right up to the day! We’re staying in Sydney until just after New Year before heading to Melbourne to look for jobs. Between then and now I’m going to try to catch up with some friends from Asia, see Alex from home (very excited!), see more of Sydney and see some pretty awesome New Year fireworks!
To get to Sydney, I went from Pai to Chiang Mai by minibus, had an hour stop over then got a night bus to Bangkok. Thailand doesn’t have proper sleeper buses like Vietnam so I ‘slept’ pretty much sitting upright! I arrived in Bangkok on December 19th at 5.50am with Hannah and Jeff from Pai. We went into McDonalds of all places to wait until a sensible time for them to get hostels and me to find Sam. Sitting in there reminded me why I hate Khao San Road – there was a boy passed out on the floor!
Jeff checked into a hotel which coincidentally Sam was staying in! We reunited, repacked our bags Abe briefly met up with our friend Louise whom we hasn’t seen since the end of September. Since then she’d been to Laos, Italy, Istanbul and Iran just to name a few!
We got to the airport, went to check in and…didn’t have tickets! Emirates had not released them! After a fair but of stressing and a lucky flight delay, we made it onto the flight.
I didn’t sleep for the whole flight but did manage to catch up on 4 episodes of Doctor Who. By the time we reached Sydney, I’d been up 26 hours. We checked into our hostel and slept!
On our return to Pai, we met up with Sugar, a girl from Bangkok that we’d met in Soppong. She’s crazy but lovely! We also made some new friends; Nathan and Andrew from Australia.
The next day – 12/12/12 was my Dad’s birthday. It was great to Skype with him!
Nathan, Andrew, Katie and I went to find the “egg chairs”. We found them and they were wonderful! Hanging chairs in the shape of eggs looking out over the mountains.
We played football against the boys and won (I scored the winning goal!).
That night another strange coincidence happened – I met a friend of a friend by accident. The world is too small!
We went to an amazing bar that I’d never managed to find before. Bebop was great – live music and you can hang from the ceiling!
Katie, Nathan and Andrew left the next day. I was really sad – Katie and I had been travelling together for a month and had become great friends but we promised to meet up in Sydney and London! She’s a really great friend and I feel lucky to have met her.
That evening was Freedom Jamming Concert, Pai’s reggae festival – I cheered up at it! Everyone in Pai was there. Job2Do, Thailand’s most famous reggae band played and we got to the front of the crowd for them. I’m not even sure how it happened, it all happened so quick and was surreal, but I ended up on stage with Job2Do. Just me and them, bopping away. Unfortunately nobody got a photo of this amazing moment but I don’t think I could ever forget it!
Over my last few days in beautiful Pai, I hung out with my friends, had my first roast dinner in 4 months, booked my buses all the way down to Bangkok, found an upside-down house and had a leaving party.
Leaving Pai was really hard. I have so many happy memories here, lots of amazing Thai and traveller friends and the place just has a hold on me! It was time to move on though, I was offered a job as a lemon seller in Pai market and didn’t think I was up to it! As I got on the bus and my friends waved me off, I was so sad. I’ll be back again one day!
Even though I didn’t make it to the Thai islands on this trip, I don’t regret it – Northern Thailand is where I spent most time both the first and second time I was in Thailand, it just captivates me!
Now, I have something to admit. I drove a moped! I didn’t crash and actually did fairly well on it. It was a risky decision but we loved it and drove it for a while before our epic adventure… Katie and I drove the moped 50km to Soppong, up and down the mountain.
P Aaron came with us halfway – to the top of the mountain, the viewpoint. (So called ‘P Aaron’ as if you respect someone older than you in Thailand, ‘P’ indicates that respect. As Aaron is like an older brother to me, he becomes P Aaron).
Just after we said goodbye to Aaron, we realized we had a flat tyre. Luckily mountain rescue drove past at that point, picked the ped up and took us to Soppong!
After getting the tyre changed, we made it to Cave Lodge by Lod Cave. Katie and I had our own warm cabin in the forest with orangutans living nearby. The lodge was amazing, right by the river with a fire pit in the middle of the communal area where everyone ended up gathered in the evenings.
For 2 days we did not much other than eat, sleep, have a Thai massage and read. It was pure bliss!
On December 10th we went kayaking through the cave. I was terrified of kayaking and of the cave but combined it was brilliant! A kayaked to the cave past cows and dragonflies.
Then we entered the pitch black cave. Through the torch light I could see hundreds of ghostly white fish. It was very eery. Especially when or guide told me there was a crocodile. It was a rock and he was winding me up.
The second cave we went into was similarly terrifying. It had lower ceilings and we had to crawl through to get to the bats. There were bats on the ceiling! We turned all our torches off and I was holding onto Katie for dear life!
After the caves there were a lot of rapids. Flowing along was really fun and the cliff sides were stunning. We went down 2 dams, it was exhilarating.
Soppong was a great time, I had the space to think in peace that you don’t even get in magical Pai. We drove back super safely and once again stopped at the viewpoint to pose!
On November 30th, we travelled to Pai fairly late. The road was just as bad as I remembered – it made me feel so sick! Arriving in Pai, we made our way to Spicy Pai – they were expecting us and it felt like a homecoming. It was great to see Megan, Kit, Ashley and Aaron again.
Waking up in the morning to my paradise view was fantastic. It was a shock that the rice paddy had been harvested though!
It was Megan’s last day in Pai after 4 months so we celebrated all day and ended up jumping in the fish pond!
We had a UV party and it was so fun!
The following day, this happened to my hair:
I went to the pool with Martin who I’d met in Vietnam, bumped into in Cambodia then saw again here. We went to the temple on the hill in time for a perfect sunset. That evening, Katie and I worked in a bar in town, it was quite fun!
On December 4th, we had a day out around Pai. Kristin, Katie, Martin, Aaron and I went exploring.
We went to the jumpy waterfall.
We met Captain Jack Sparrow under a bridge.
We went to the land crack and I climbed it higher than before and we found a massive swing.
We went to Pai Canyon, it was astounding! I was pretty scared there… It was very high!
We watched another Pairadise sunset.
Kristin, Katie and I got beautiful headdresses in town, hand made by a wonderful Japanese lady called Mai. They’re definitely Burning Man Festival attire!
Once again Pai had me but as it was so cold in the dorms at night Katie and I decided to run away to Soppong for a bit of warmth and a change of scene. We left most of our stuff in Pai, packed a small bag and set off!
The first proper day of the light festival Yee Peng fully blew our minds. It was an overload to the senses.
There was a parade of traditional Thai culture, people releasing lanterns everywhere you looked, fireworks being lit left right and centre and floating Loy Krathong set down the river. Thais believe that letting them go gets rid of your bad luck.
We found a temple that we really liked and somehow I ended up helping the monks to make caramel in a giant bowl with a massive spoon!
When it started raining some of the beautiful Thai girls hid under their banners to shelter. Naturally, I joined in too.
The sky had so many more stars in the sky that night because of the lanterns. It was truly awe inspiring. Katie and I let off our first lantern and it went so well that people clapped and cheered like something from a movie!
On the way to go for a drink, we stopped in a shoe show had seen earlier in the day and ended up having a fashion shoot, drinking with the owners! It’s just Thailand all over; random but welcoming.
The following day, we let off our own Loy Krathong art the festival. It was hard to do but we got there eventually! I realised then I’d got the “Thai squat” down!
We did another lantern and write good luck messages on it this time.
We went to the bar and made it there this time! We danced to reggae music all night on the tables, it was so fun!
The following day we went back to the temple we went to on the first day for a “monk chat”. We sat and spoke with a monk for us to learn about Buddhism and for him to improve his English. It was fascinating!
By the last day of the festival, we were exhausted from all the excitement and the running around! We headed home after one last lantern.
On the first official day of the light festival we headed to Tha Pae Gate and checked out the light versions of famous buildings.
Wandering around the city, we found a wall and ceiling of light, it was so beautiful.
I gave a light catapult a go but was awful at it.
After running around like crazy people all day, Katie and I were so happy to find an Indian that did a beautiful chana masala!
That night we barely slept as we were so excited for the next day… Training as mahouts (elephant carers)! At the camp in the mountains we first got changed into ridiculous clothes then learnt to make their food which we would later wash them with.
We learnt how to get on the elephants; either by climbing up their raised leg or scrambling over their head! I could not master climbing on mine’s head!
One of the elephants was really naughty and snuck round to where we were standing to steal food and he kissed me!
There was a super cute baby elephant too.
We got on the elephants backs to go for a walk, not knowing that they were going down to the river…to sit down with us on them! We were all soaked and the water everywhere. We washed the elephants and they loved it. Some rolled around in the water and sprayed us.
On the way back, we stopped at a mud pool and chaos ensued! There was a massive mud fight as the elephants rolled in the cool mud and we were covered in mud! Katie got taken down with a rugby tackle into the mud.
It was such an amazing day, the elephants were so gentle and loving and I think I was the happiest I’ve ever been! We went home, got cleaned up and prepared for the light festival to kick off properly…