Tag archive for "chiang mai"

From elephant rider to Save Elephant Foundation, Thailand

Blog, Destinations, Thailand, What I'm thinking

From elephant rider to Save Elephant Foundation, Thailand

6 Comments 16 May 2013

I had this vision of myself before visiting Southeast Asia, wearing a green dress, riding an elephant through the jungles of Thailand.

It started with my love of animals, turned into a must-do for the region because of all the photos I’d seen of others doing the same and inevitably led to something purely selfish, self-absorbed and ignorant.

Visit Thailand. Ride an elephant.

Looking back now, this sounds like the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of and I’m ashamed to say that I was so lost in the campaigns for travel in Asia, that I neglected to think about something that really matters to me, animal welfare.

I don’t know how I could have been so stupid?

These are wild animals. They stampede. They live in locations where people do not. What sounds right about a mere human, with no experience with them, hopping on top and telling them what to do. What seems okay with them doing tricks in a crowded street.

They’re not scary. They’re not mean. They’re just not meant to be for your amusement.

I looked for elephant riding opportunities in Thailand that advertised themselves as ‘kinder to the animal’ than other companies. But they weren’t. Towering creatures chained up by the foot, caged in bamboo huts. How could I have thought that this elephant activity was any better than the rest?

And it only got worse once jumped on…

It just didn’t feel right. I cringed every time I watched the mahout (person in charge of the elephant) hit her on the head with this sharp sort of hammer, which was often, to get her going in the right direction.

My next trip to Thailand, I decided to see the country’s indigenous creature in a different way, saved.

One of the rescues at ENP as a bath in the river that runs through the park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I could go on and on about my one-day visit to Save Elephant Foundation’s Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and everything that’s right about the organization, but I know that’s been done a million times over by people much better at it than me, so I’ll just talk about what was the most important interaction at the park for me.

I think everyone who visits ENP has one elephant that affects them most. The one they share a moment with or just relate to their stories. Mine was Jokia.

Jokia is Save Elephant Foundations many rescues. She’s completely blind, so it’s unclear where she’d be now if it wasn’t ENP. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Elephants were used in Thailand’s lucrative timber industry up until 1989 when heavy flooding, due to deforestation, led the country to ban logging in 1989. That said, illegal logging continued after the ban.

This has been one of many reasons or problems with elephant welfare in Thailand. Not only were the elephants often treated horribly when working in the timber industry, but afterwards there was sort of an unknown of what to do with the animals and mahouts didn’t have the money or space to take care of them. They couldn’t go back to the wild. They were practically domesticated. So a lot were used in tourism. Forced to walk the streets in Bangkok for money (Yes, that happened), sleep under highway bridges and take peanuts from drunken tourists holidaying on the island.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

A lucky few were rescued by people like Lek Chailert and either transitioned into the wild at Elephant Nature Park or are still living there now with plenty of space to breathe.

Jokia is a saved elephant with one of the saddest and cruelest stories I’ve ever heard.

Jokia, born in 1960, was pregnant while working in the illegal years of the logging industry. An elephant’s pregnancy can last for about two years. But her mahout didn’t know or didn’t care and pushed Jokia harder and harder to get more work done. She had her calf while logging timber uphill. It fell out and she was not allowed to stop to check if her new-born calf was dead or alive.

As any mother would, Jokia became extremely depressed after this happened. She wouldn’t work let alone move, so her mahout would stab her in the eyes regularly to get her up and moving. It left her completely blind.

Though Jokia didn’t have a happy life. The story does have a happy ending. Jokia is one of Save Elephant Foundation’s many rescues.

My first introduction to Jokia was by Mae Perm while visiting the park in October 2012. You’ll see elephants pair off and sort of stick with their friend or companion at the park. Mae Perm and Jokia are one of the most well-known pairs there.

Jokia and Mae Perm arrive, side by side. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I felt a little bit scared as I heard that loud elephant yell while we were all standing on the ground waiting to get up close with the animals.

A mahout told us to not be worried. He explained the Mae Perm will do that for Jokia if she’s going the wrong way or if somethings in the way, because she’s blind and wouldn’t know if her friend didn’t say something.

That was it. I was in love.

The beauty, sensitivity and gentleness from these animals I didn’t really expect visiting the park.

I just thought I would see them all doing their own thing, running free, but really the visit was all about getting to know their individual personalities and struggles.

I spent most of my time with Jokia, feeding her. Unlike the younger elephants that you just handed fruit to, Jokia would lay her trunk on the concrete stage that people stand on during the feeding section of the visit. You have to place bananas or pieces of pumpkins in the middle of the rolled trunk and touch it gently to let her know something is there.

That’s me feeding Jokia.

As I said, I think everyone has their own moments and experiences at the park and that was mine.

So here’s my message to you, from someone who has fallen for the tourism campaigns and regrets elephant riding. Don’t bother with it. Not only is it wrong, but it’s also not nearly as special as as the experience you’ll have at a place that actually cares for and looks after their elephants.

I know we all want to escape the world while we’re on holiday, but it’s not possible and it’s not fair. You have to be responsible for your actions and how you treat all species and the environment.

Not only a place that rescues elephants, but also stray dogs. The two species roam the park in harmony. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Some people just don’t know that the animals are treated poorly or just don’t really give the simple activity the thought they should. If you’re one of those people and have made it this far through my blog post, now you do know, from someone whose been both sort of tourists and seen both sides. I hope you won’t ignore it any longer.

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Elephant Nature Park 10th Anniversary: My Bucket List

Destinations, Online Goodies, Other, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park 10th Anniversary: My Bucket List

3 Comments 04 April 2013

Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is the sort place that stays with you way beyond your travels to Thailand. I visited the park last year and was amazed by it. The passion and dedication volunteers here have to animal welfare is incredible. Plus, visiting the park and interacting with rescued elephants is like no other animal encounter you’ve ever had before.

So I was very excited to read that the organization is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. To do so, they’re calling all bloggers to write a post listing their top ten bucket list items.

I’ve never been one for bucket lists. I kind of just decide what I want to do as I go. But if writing one is in celebration of a good cause, then why the hell not! I’ve already done the usual bucket list items like sky dive, bungy jump and play in a river with elephants (thanks ENP), so some of the items on my list might be a bit unusual or unexpected, but they’re all epic travel goals.

Trans-Siberian Railway

I think one of the first memories I have of world travel is of the Trans-Siberian Railway. There are a few different routes people can take. I would go for the train ride from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, which is six nights and shows passengers the beauty of an area of the world most never see.

Overland from Laos to Spain

This trip would definitely be more about the journey than any destination, because to be honest I can’t even pronounce most of the places I would take on this route. It would be a struggle and I know I’d have to go through parts of the world where tourism isn’t even a thought, but that’s the fun of it.

Live in South America for one year

When I left the USA to travel over three years ago, I always thought I’d end up in some South American village either for life or at least a few years. Before it was just an assumption, but now I think it’s a dream. I see myself working as a divemaster, walking along the beach to my house for siesta and partying in a hut by night.

Learn a language

I think I’ll have to accomplish this item before the last one. It’s quite a common goal for people and I actually feel like I missed out on a lot of things not knowing another language by now. My biggest problem is picking a language to learn and sticking to it.

Open a cafe in Key West

This bucket list item only came about because I traveled. Prior to hitting the road in 2010, I had very little interest in being a restauranteur or anything in the hospitality industry for that matter. I only started working in the industry in Australia purely because it had the most opportunity for backpackers. Everything happens for a reason. I absolutely fell in love with everything to do with restaurants from waiting tables and meeting people to making coffees and learning about food. Plus, I met my partner working at a restaurant. Our shared love of the industry and experience in it is where this item comes from.

Why Key West? Ummm, because it’s warm and gorgeous.

Attempt to ice climb

I first found out this was an option when I visited Interlaken, Switzerland in 2007. I’m not sure why I became so fascinated with it then, but I spent all my money skydiving there and haven’t had another opportunity to do it. Next time I do, you can bet I’m taking it.

Festival Food Truck in the USA

The problem: my partner and I want to open our own cafe asap, but our feet are too itchy to stop and focus on it. The solution: a cafe on wheels or food truck. We want to open one and travel around the USA for a summer, maybe even a year, hitting the country’s best festivals and concerts.

Shaving my head and traveling India

I’ve been obsessed with visiting India for as long as I can remember. When I go, I want to stay for at least six months, making sure to join the hippy community in Goa, get to a wedding, celebrate Holi and live at an Ashram. The head shaving bit? I dono, I’m weird. I’ve always wanted to shave my head and I heard women receive a lot of unwanted attention in the country. I don’t think I’m going to be one of those people that looks hot with a shaved head (how did Natalie Portman do it?), so maybe it will help with that.

Road trip Western Australia

I don’t know if it’s a regret, because I love the places I visited and how everything turned out during my year in Australia, but I do wish I explored the country’s west coast. It was my original plan actually, so forces must have led me away for a reason. I know what the reason is, so I’m okay with that. It just means I need to visit again and not miss it this time.

Walk across the USA

Call me crazy, but I’m certain that I will accomplish this in my life. Do I need to give reasons why I want to do it? Witness the country’s beauty, challenge my body’s limits, accomplish something only tens of people have done… I could go on and on. This is number one on my life list.

Now it’s your turn! I nominate these ten people to participate in ENP’s blogger carnival. All you have to do is write about your top ten bucket list items and nominate ten more people to participate.

  1. Wonderful Wanderings
  2. Today I’m Bobbi 
  3. The Traveller
  4. Misadventures with Andi 
  5. That Backpacker 
  6. Hayley on Holiday
  7. Christine in Spain
  8. Our Oyster
  9. Bohemian Trails
  10. GlobeTrotterGirls

“My top 10 bucket list post is a part of Save Elephant Foundation’s blog carnival to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Elephant Nature Park.”

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Wish you were here: Chiang Mai

Blog, Destinations, Thailand, Wish you were here

Wish you were here: Chiang Mai

9 Comments 25 October 2012

Dear Readers,

When I last wrote you Ric was off to boys night and I was off to be made over before heading to my own night out with the ladies. I’m happy to report that we both made it back alive…barely.

I’ll share my half of the day/night. Since I started traveling three years ago, I’ve spent my money on little else other than traveling. Once a shopaholic, I’ve bought very few clothes over the last few years, nor have I visited salons or make-up counters. My focus has been on travel and I’ve happily devoted most of my spending towards that, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t yearned to be made over or hit the mall.

So I decided to take advantage of the exchange rate and spend a day splurging on myself while in Bangkok. Most of Friday was spent at Terminal 21where I felt extremely lost, which is weird considering I used to be a mall rat from Jersey. What should have been an exciting and feel-good experience was actually no fun at all.

Busy intersection by Terminal 21. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I have a confession to make. I don’t like shopping in the malls of Bangkok. Part of it is that all the clothes are so small, definitely not made for the majority of Western woman. Beyond that I found the sales people to not really care at all about who steps into their shop. Most owners ignored me and one offended me. Maybe that was because they knew I wouldn’t fit in their clothes.

After hours of wandering and going up and down escalators, I finally found a knockout red dress. Next step, hair. I found a salon to give me a Demi Lovato up-do for THB500, about $US15.

Dressed and ready for the night, Flick and I headed to My Bar at Dusit Thani Hotel for what may be the best ladies’ night in the world. Get this: free drinks for ladies from 7-9 p.m. every Friday. We met up with a group of teachers from her International School in Bangkok, so any questions I had about teaching in Thailand were answered. After ladies’ night we headed to Soi 4, Silom which is filled with male strippers and gay bars.

It was a long and silly evening, but we made it home and didn’t leave home once the following day.

On Sunday it was time to say goodbye to Bangkok and head to Chiang Mai. We came to the city to visit Ric’s friend, so for that, I’m happy we spent as much time here as we did, but from a travel perspective, I found Bangkok actually got a bit boring. I don’t mind that it’s busy or that it’s a bit seedy in certain areas. I just felt like after a few days there wasn’t much more to do other than drink and party. At one point on Friday I thought, ‘I’m in Thailand, what on earth am I doing in a mall right now?’.

But everyone constantly goes on about how cultured and amazing Chiang Mai is, so I thought the next stop would have a bit more of what I expect out of Thailand.

I have to admit, I was a little let down by Chiang Mai at first. Before you call me crazy and stop reading, I’ll tell you I came around and loved it in the end.

Basically, everyone constantly goes on about how cultured the city is. So I was a bit confused to see Starbucks and McDonald’s in a Times Square sort of intersection on the drive in. I’m starting to come to the realization that there are few places in the world where one can escape this.

Busy Times Square-like intersection in Chiang Mai. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What I found in the end was that Chiang Mai is a fun and laid back city to stay in and a great base for some really cultural experiences in the surrounding areas. The old city and streets around it are filled with beautiful wats, cool backpacker hang outs and an array of Western and Thai shops and restaurants. The city really grew on me and by the end I understood why so many people end up staying there for so long.

We arrived in the city on Monday at about noon. (Tip: always add an extra two hours to train journeys in Thailand. Our journeys to and from Chiang Mai were both two hours longer than scheduled and most people I’ve talked to say the same about their own.) From the train station we took a Red Song Tao to our hotel, which is the cheapest form of transportation in the city.

A single journey on one of these red utes with enclosed seating in the back usually costs THB20-30, but the drivers pick up other people along the way so if you’re in a rush it might be a good idea to splurge on a tuk tuk, which I never found costs anymore than THB80 from one point to another in the city.

We went on a bit of a hotel tour in Chiang Mai, staying at three different places during our time there. The first was B2 Tippanet. This location of the Thai chain received mixed reviews online, but I thought it was more than perfect for the price we paid, which was about THB500. For that price we had our own private room and bathroom in a really modern hotel. The staff was kind and the hotel is less than a ten-minute walk to the old city.

That first day was a bit of a daze. Ric and I didn’t have the best sleep on our train journey in, so our only real objective for the day was to eat and stay awake until 8 p.m. Eat, we did. Thanks to Nancy Chandler’s map of Chiang Mai, we found out about a THB150 buffet at White Elephant restaurant in the Chiang Mai Grandview Hotel on Chiang Mai-Lampang Road.

Honestly, I did not expect to eat so many buffets in Thailand. I think we’re up to about six at this point.

After our feast, we walked through Somphet Market. Around here is where most of the backpacker guesthouses and bars are located. We stumbled upon Moonlight Thai Massage which sells Thai massages for THB150. If the food didn’t knock us out, the massage did. After, we did a bit more wandering then headed straight to bed. We wanted to be well-rested for the next day’s treat.

Asia Rooms welcomed me to review one of their hotels on our trip to Thailand, so on Tuesday they set us up at Yantarasri Resort for two nights. I’ve already gone on and on about just how in love I am with this hotel, so I won’t bore you all with it again. But I’ll just say, a bit of old-world Thailand, an amazing pool and terry cloth robes are what made the stay for me.

The pool at Yantarasri Resort, Chiang Mai. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

When I stay in nice hotels I like to stay in them as long as possible, so we made the most out of our little sanctuary on Tuesday, only leaving at night to visit the Night Bazaar. It’s a great place to buy just about anything, but Ric and I were really just looking to shop around the food stalls. The massive market has carts and restaurants throughout it. We decided to visit it’s food court for Khao Soi, a chicken curry noodle dish common in Northern Thailand. I paid THB30 for the dish then bought some naan bread from an Indian stall also in the food court to dip in my leftover curry.

After that meal, we decided to be serious fat kids and buy two Nutella Waffles and a scoop of Ferrero Rocher gelato to dip them in. Yes, that happened.

The food court at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The following day we spent more time sunbathing and swimming at our resort. That night I met up with bloggers Diana Eldman of D Travels Round and Lindsay Mc of Travel Dudes at Pizza e Vino for, you guessed it, pizza and wine. Diana has been living in Chiang Mai for a few months working with Elephant Nature Park and Lindsay just arrived in the city but I don’t think she’ll be leaving anytime soon.

Diana knows how to pick a good pizza place. I love Thai food, but I do get sick of it after awhile, so a massive pizza and wine was just what I needed after three weeks in the country. By the way, good or even average wine is hard to find in the country, if you love it as much as me go to Pizza e Vino for a fix. Everything there, including my two glasses of red was delicious.

Wine and pizza turned into just wine at Ciccia’s House on Nantaram, another great hang out recommended by Diana. I loved talking with the girls about blogging and meeting all the locals and expats that came in and out of the restaurant. Diana really has found a wonderful expat community in the city. I had such a great night with those two gals. Give me good company and good wine, and I’m happy.

On Thursday, Ric and I reluctantly checked out of Yantarasri, but we did it in style. The resort rents motorbikes for THB250 for the day, so we left our bags with the front desk, hopped on a light blue vespa and hit the road.

Ric’s favorite thing and one of mine, to do in Thailand is to rent a motorbike and just go exploring. We didn’t really have much of an itinerary, but headed in the direction of Doi Suthep, a wat on top of a hill that offers great views of the city, since so many people recommended it.

Along the way we stopped at Mon Tha Than Falls (THB100 per person and THB20 per bike to enter). We passed Doi Sethup and headed to Bhubing Palace, the Summer home of the royal family which sits further up the mountain than Doi Suthep.

Mon Tha Than Falls. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

On the way up clouds surrounded us and within ten minutes it was pouring. We ate lunch near the palace and waited for about an hour and a half for the rain to clear. Wet season in Thailand is no joke. It costs THB50 to enter the palace grounds and THB15 to rent a piece of clothing. Shoulders and legs must be covered. The palace was being renovated and the gardens we covered for the rainy season, so I don’t think we saw the palace in all its glory.

Finally, we carefully drove back down the mountain to Doi Suthep and walked up 300 steps to the wat. It costs THB30 to enter and is well worth the money and trip. The grounds are beautiful and seeing monks walk around the center with flowers, you get a glimpse into Buddhism. We spent about an hour there then headed back to Chiang Mai to plan another motorbike adventure.

Monks praying at Doi Suthep. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Without fail, every time Ric and I rent a motorbike in SE Asia, we see a monkey. It’s almost always a short sighting in which I don’t have nearly enough time to capture the moment.

This time was different.

On our way down Ric spotted a grey gibbon at a lay-by from about 100 meters away. I screamed, “Pull over!” And he did. I should have known something was wrong by the ten people with their back against the wall refusing to move. As we pulled in, Ric looked for a parking spot and I got out my camera and took a photo. The gibbon started chasing us, so I screamed, “No, Ric! Go! Go! Go!”

As he swung around the gibbon continued to go for us, still on the bike, with a ferocious look in his face and stance. At one point, Ric slowed down and the gibbon started to gain on us. It was then Ric saw a Thai guard step out with a massive knife and sped off. The monkey chased us until we were out of sight.

Just a reminder that wild animals are wild and not to be played with or tested.

We rode away laughing hysterically, but that experience could have gone very wrong.

After making it back to Chiang Mai we attempted to reach Mae Sa Falls, unfortunately it closed just before we arrived at 4:30 p.m. Nature closes? So we headed back to the resort, picked up our bags and hopped on a Red Song Tao to our third and final accommodation in Chiang Mai, Eco Resort.

This was Ric’s pick and he might be in charge of all our accommodation from now on. The resort is located on Bumrungrat Road, on the other side of Mae Ping River from the old city. We booked it ourselves through Asia Rooms to test out the company’s booking process and got a serious bargain. For THB400 we stayed in a private room with shared bathrooms in another old-world Thai sanctuary. That price included entrance to the resorts massive swimming pool, breakfast buffet and unlimited wifi. That night we did a bit of bar-hopping outside the old city, but headed home early as the next day I was visiting Elephant Nature Park.

Front house at Eco Resort, Chiang Mai. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

That Friday spent at the park was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I’m an animal lover and it’s quite hard to see animals being mistreated in a lot of tourist activities in the country. Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for elephants that were once used and abused in the country’s now void logging industry. It was beautiful to see the largest land mammal on earth in a somewhat wild setting. The park’s 32 elephants aren’t forced to ride around tourists all day, nor do tricks for people in city streets. They live free in a middle ground between domestication and the wild.

I’ll write much more on the experience in the future. For now, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to interact with elephants in a way that benefits them and the animals.

Jokia went blind, because of abuse in the logging industry she once worked. Her story is heartbreaking, but she remains extremely gentle and sweet. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

After my day with the elephants I came home buzzing. Ric and I wanted to explore a new section of the city on our last night so we headed to the river where a few guidebook-recommended restaurants are located. As we both guessed, most of the restaurants along the river were a bit out of our price range.

We looked at about four different menus, visited a few high-end antique shops on Charoenrat, the road along the river, then started to look for a ride into town. Before we could hail one down we stumbled upon a hidden gem of a restaurant and guesthouse along the river, Regina.

Located in an old, teak house, the place looked like a natural Cracker Barrel upon entering, filled with 1950s vintage signs, old photos and dolls. It had a few small circular tables and chairs set up. Plus, I noticed a proper coffee machine behind the counter. Curiosity led us to our own private dining area on the river.

I think it’s the most romantic meal Ric and I have ever had; a wooden terrace with tables lit by candle light beneath, a few picnic tables along the river, lanterns and small ponds filled the space. The place is filled with friendly cats and the prices are perfect for people on a budget, think THB60 meals.

It was the most charming end to what I came around to see is Thailand’s most charming city, Chiang Mai.

Bobbi xxx

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A taste of old Thailand at Yantarasri Resort, Chiang Mai

Destinations, Thailand

A taste of old Thailand at Yantarasri Resort, Chiang Mai

8 Comments 09 October 2012

I have this vision of the Thailand that is unfortunately a bit harder to find in modern times. It’s an old-world view of the country, one from times when people weren’t searching the country for untouched beaches nor visiting Bangkok for its malls. It’s a vision of tradition and culture.

I saw that exact vision go from my mind to my eyes upon entering Yantarasri Resort in Chiang Mai.

As I follow a path through the gated-entrance into the compound, concrete buildings turned to teak houses and the sounds of traffic seemed to become lost in the resort’s forestry. It feels as if I had not only left this city, but also this century.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Located on Soi 6 off a trendy section of Nimmanhaemin Road not far from Chiang Mai University, Yantarasri Resort has all the nostalgia of a different time, but luxuries of today. The resort is made up of about four different dark teak houses, none higher than three stories. They all surround a pool, which serves as a centerpiece to the resort as well.

Lined with teal tiles and trimmed with black slate, the square pool is decorated with elephant water fountains and overflowing stone vases. Lanterns hang around it by balconies above and about eight-padded lounge chairs sit on top of teak planks. Surrounding the pool is a small forest made up of native trees such as the Mujarin. You might even spot a red squirrell every now and then bouncing about their branches.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Yes, we are still in the city center of Chiang Mai and this is your view from most rooms, others look out to koi ponds and statues. The resort offers a range of private rooms and suites located on the first and second floor. On the first floor, you can find a few rooms that open right up to the pool area and have their own private lounge next to it. Each room on the second floor comes with a large balcony and reclining wicker chair. Basically, there’s not a bad seat in the house.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We’re given a reserved, but kind welcome upon arrival by two Thai women dressed in long patterned skirts and traditional tops. They welcome us to sit down through the quick check-in process, at the end of which they call a male co-worker out to lead us to our room.

We’re staying in one of the resort’s Superior en-suites. As the door opens I’m instantly pulled to our balcony and that centerpiece I described above. It really is hard to stop looking at. Glass paneled teak sliding doors open out to the balcony next to a large bed covered in pillows, one a massive version of those u-shaped pillows used on planes.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The room comes with air-con, a flat screen TV and like the rest of the resort, unlimited free wifi. White walls and a marble floor, the room is decorated with dark teak furniture and lanterns. Permanently-fogged windows enclose the bathroom, which has a rock garden floor with a teak wood panels to walk on and a rain shower.

Some other extras to our room include bottled water, a well-priced mini bar, complimentary tea and coffee and two terry-cloth robes and pairs of slippers. It’s hard to leave your room at Yantarasri and even harder to leave the resort.

Luckily, you really don’t have to.

The resort has a bar and restaurant as well as a spa. But there are plenty of busy bars and restaurants located right outside of the resort. While this area is about a twenty minute walk from the Old City, it’s a section worth visiting unto itself and an ideal starting off point for renting a motorbike and touring outside the city, which the resort also offers (THB250 for the day).

Inevitably, if you prefer to spend your time out of hotels exploring, then Yantarasiri is a quiet place to come home to after a long day and a cool place to hideaway and swim when you need a break. If you are looking for a bit of old world Thailand to do more than just tour and stare at in handy craft booths, than you might find it hard to leave Yantarasri Resort.

Thanks to Asia Rooms for providing us with accommodation at Yantarasri Resort in Chiang Mai. The hotel booking company offers discounted rates on accommodation all over Asia as well as last-minute deals. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Travel plans for the rest of 2012 and beyond

Blog, What I'm thinking

Travel plans for the rest of 2012 and beyond

10 Comments 26 September 2012

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since we’ve been on a plane.

While Ric and I have both technically still been traveling this past year, living in New Zealand, we haven’t really been on the move too much in 2012. So it makes me extremely happy to announce our plans to travel for the rest of the year and into the next.

After a lot of hard work and self-control, we’ve managed to save up for a five-month holiday that will take us pretty much around the world.

Part 1: Southeast Asia

Ever since we left Southeast Asia in May 2011, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to get back. Originally we wanted to spend six months in the region after New Zealand , spending every cent to our names and figuring out what next later. But we discovered another work visa available to us elsewhere.

So we’ll just have to settle for six weeks in Southeast Asia instead. I’ll take it!

Our first stop is Bangkok, where one of Ric’s friends from home is living. We’ll spend about two weeks in the city with no real plans other than to eat a lot of street food, have a few good nights out and make it to the floating market, finally.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Next stop is Chiang Mai, a place we both missed on our last visit to Thailand. We’ll be spending about a week there. Two places we really want to visit are Tiger Kingdom and Elephant Nature Park, beyond that I think we’ll just soak up the city.

Then it’s back to Bangkok to meet up with my Dad. We’ll all spend a few days in the city and head South to Koh Lanta and Railay.

Since visitors from the USA and UK are only given a 30-day visa to Thailand upon arrival (when arriving by plane) and we have six weeks before our flight out of Bangkok, we have to do a visa run somewhere. Why not Malaysia?

Ric and I have never been there. Two places we’ve talked about visiting are Langkawi and Penang, but we are open to suggestions and recommendations, especially on Malaysian food considering that we know very little about it.

After the visa run, we’ll make our way back to Bangkok with a few stops along the way, then we’re off to the USA.

Part 2: USA

Ric and I both have to return home to sort out visas. It just works out that we’ll be visiting for the holidays.

After being abroad for two holiday seasons, I will finally be in America for my absolute favorite holiday in the world this year, Thanksgiving. It’s the time of year I want to be back most, so I’m extremely happy to not only be there with my family, but also to introduce Ric to his first real Thanksgiving.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Most of the time spent in the USA will involve catching up with family and friends, but we will fit in a few visits around the Northeast, including Niagara Falls, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and New York City. We might try to fit in a trip to Key West, but it depends on time and money.

Part 3: England

We’ll arrive in England just before Christmas. It’ll be Ric’s first time home in three years and my first trip home with him. He’s from a village called Bollington in Cheshire. I can’t wait to meet everyone he’s told me about and spend my first Christmas in England, which so many people have told me is amazing.

Photo courtesy of Bollington Photos.

Like with our trip to the USA, in England our only real intentions are to spend time with family and friends, but we’re going to fit in a few visits around the country. We’ll definitely be spending a few days in London. We also want to see Stonehenge.

Part 4: ?

I don’t like announcing plans that aren’t for certain, but something big is in the works, so stay tuned!

What do you think of our plans? Do you have any suggestions for the regions we’ll be visiting? Please share!

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