Photo of the Week: Baskets Full of Freshness

baskets of produce, chiang mai, thailandChiang Mai is the place in Thailand to take a cooking class, and wow, am I glad I signed up!

Every course includes making, and enjoying, a few traditional Thai meals, but the morning half day course also included a tour of the local market – brilliant!

Our guide took us to five different stalls (“shops”) to explain the various staple ingredients involved in Thai dishes and it was quite the learning experience – I didn’t know there were so many kinds of basil!

Being able to see the raw ingredients at a market before we mixed and mashed them into meals was one of the best parts, and integral to the whole experience.

Here, on the way back to class with baskets full of freshness!

the eleventh month: the whole reason I left in the first place [bangkok, thailand]

The eleventh month took me from the end of a big 2012 to a big 2013 start.

happy new year, wat pho, bangkok, thailand

End of 2012

My 2012 was big – if only because I finally did what I’ve been talking about for years and actually left to travel.

And after a year of exploring ten different countries, December ended with Christmas with the family like I had wanted for about twenty years. It never ceases to surprise me how good it feels to have people around that know me and accept me and love me no matter what, no matter when, and no matter how crazy they think traveling southeast Asia solo is. Thank you all for everything.

My Solo Southeast So Far

yourlocalkat at railay beach west, thailandI started the year off big by landing in Bangkok just before New Year’s, but it actually took me about a week to settle into the solo thing. Everyone kept saying that I’ll meet so many people everywhere that I got really down when I didn’t already have a whole posse of friends leaving the airport in Gdansk.

Being solo was different – it was hard because it was effort: There was no one to help me decide where to go next, no one to come up with cool things to do, no one to walk home with me in the dark because I forgot to buy water during the day… Silly things, but they were all on me and I knew that that was the very reason I left in the first place: to realize I could do it.

From that moment on it’s been little lessons everyday, little things that teach me how to make the next experience easier on myself, and by the time I got to Railay I was much more relaxed, open, and trusting of myself to actually be able to enjoy the things I was experiencing – kind of important.

About Blogging in Bungalows

blogging in a bungalow, koh lanta, thailandI’m trying really hard to be consistent. It was easy enough when I was in a beach bungalow with nothing else to do, but the self-inflicted rockclimbing-kayaking-scuba diving bootcamp I put myself through the past two weeks made staying connected nearly impossible.

That said, my goal to start a monthly newsletter will come to pass as soon as my twelfth month update is out of the way, but you can start subscribing now!

Subscribers are sort of like Facebook Fans but for websites and are the only real way (for all those fancy statistics) to give someone a standing in the internet world: it basically shows that there are real people interested in what I have to say.

So, if you enjoy reading about my various reflections, insights and adventures, please please sign up to get these monthly updates delivered straight to your email inbox.

You can do so right from the top-right corner footer at the bottom of this page – I will be forever grateful.

And Coming Up…

After New Year’s in Bangkok, relaxing on Koh Lanta, rockclimbing in Railay and scuba diving on Koh Tao, I am back in Bangkok ready to head north to Chiang Mai and then through to Laos.

As for my one city, one beach, one extra plan? Epic fail so far.

Do I regret it? Not even a bit!

Till next time (and please subscribe!),

Kat

P.S. Tynia, Piotr, Asia, Artur, Ola – żyję ;)

Photo of the Week: Boats on Amphawa Floating Market

Sunday seems to be Market Day everywhere you go in Bangkok! From early morning, the streets are packed with vendors selling everything from hot dogs on a stick to freshly caught squid, and by nightfall, the sidewalks are littered with tee shirts and candy and cell phone covers like some exploding sidewalk sale.

The weekend is also the only time that the Floating Market in Amphawa is on, and while not as photogenic as the more famous Damnoen Saduak market, it is infinitely more authentic, and as such, provides its own photo opportunities. Boats at Amphawa Floating Market, ThailandHere, boats gather at the ‘ordering’ steps, each with their own food specialty – just look at the variety!

The Floating Market in Amphawa is in the Samut Songkram area and runs Fridays to Sundays starting late afternoon. To get there from Bangkok, get yourself to the minivan station right by the Victory Monument. Tickets cost 80 baht one way.

Photo of the Week: Longtails at Railay

Arriving at Railay, my first thoughts were OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD!

They were promptly followed by my jaw dropping.

Railay was everything I imagined Thailand to be: the sandy shores and the vivid green jungle were one thing, but the view of the karst cliffs jutting out of the turquoise water was unlike anything I’ve seen.

And the boats? Well, on this kind of backdrop I could barely contain my shutterbug impulses.

Longtails at Railay, Thailand

One Night in Bangkok: A New Year’s to Remember

“Are you traveling alone?” I hear at my right, and turn to see John, green tee and faded blonde hair, waiting for an answer.

I had arrived in the Big Mango a few hours earlier and was now walking Khao San Roadthe backpacker hub of southeast Asia, if not the world – looking for something that would do justice to my New Year’s Eve.

Khao San Road on a good day. Bangkok, Thailand

So far, the street had been littered with couples looking into each others’ eyes, parents looking after their six year olds, and groups looking to have a good time together – no room for a stray like myself.

A stage at the end of the road with some entertainment provided a decent location but there was still two hours till midnight and I was hardly willing to stand around. I took my cue and headed deeper down Khao San Road. That’s when he found me.

“I’m from the couchsurfing group – have you heard of it?” John goes on to ask after I confirm my solo status.

I have, and know it’s exactly what I was looking for.

Couchsurfers, New Year's 2013, Bangkok, Thailand

Within seconds I’m being introduced to couchsurfers from Turkey, Serbia, and Sri Lanka, as they all appear from behind me in train formation like in some sort of movie.

We head to the Shamrock Irish Pub where a group of about 20 CS’ers has already formed and set up on the stairs. We get scolded – something about a fire hazard? – numerous times but inevitably end up right where we were.

The dancing begins and by the third time each of Gangnam Style, Balada Boa and my favourite remix of Ai Se Eu Te Pego are played, almost everyone knows the lyrics. And the moves.

I have the privilege of meeting more people from Gdansk (!), Thailand, Germany, Laos, Scotland: all good, open people. My favorite conversation is, however, with the guy from Ohio (not the one in the Michigan shirt).

Happy 2013 from Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Me: Where’re you from?

Him: (Muffled by the loud music) The states.

Me: What?

Him: The States. (And then enunciates loudly) AMERICA.

A neighbor! I think. I wonder what state he’s from!

Me: Oh! So, where’re you from?

I should’ve been more specific.

Him: That’s where I’m from! A-MER-I-CA!

Me: Dude, I’m from Canada, I know what America is.

Madness. New Year's Khao San Road, Bangkok, ThailandThe two hours fly by and we head outside for the countdown.

Khao San is intense and there’s barely room to breathe, much less move. We catch on at about ’3, 2, 1′ and then it’s HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! And madness ensues.

Fireworks go off, noise makers sound. There’s yelling, whoo-ing, singing, cheering, someone is flat out high-pitched screaming. It is deafening. And it is packed.

And it is perfection. Fireworks! Bangkok, Thailand

As for my first pad thai and the police? That’s easy. After another hour or so, one of the guys wants to grab food and since I hadn’t eaten anything since the plane, I invite myself along. He stops at a pad thai vendor.

Me: So what do we order?

Him: (Points to the array of noodles and fish and meat) That.

Me: What is it?

Him: It’s pad thai.

Me: Oh.

My first pad thai, Khao San, Bangkok, ThailandBut I’ve had noodles, and egg, and meat before, and so have my first pad thai. In the meantime, he goes to buy us a sausage each from another lady and within seconds he’s yelling, “No!”, she’s yelling “Take it!”, and I’m going, huh?

And then she’s pushing him and he’s leading her and I’m following them both through the crowd, eating my pad thai.

Next thing I know, we’re at the police station.

I stay outside, all loyal puppy like (see? nothing to worry about) and within minutes he comes out with a complimentary bottled water like some show contestant and we head back to the Shamrock.

Police Station on Khao San, Bangkok, Thailand

Like I said, a night to remember.