Travel Blog: Week 54

Chiang Mai Week 54: 18.11.2013 – 24.11.2013 Feeling good I did a full workout. Each place I move to a have to find ways to use what I have around me to exercise. The sit ups and push ups are doable pretty much anywhere, but I use bottles filled with water as weights and the chairs or stairs for working my quads and glutes. Not to mention the hula hoop. Hey, it’s like having free gym membership. I met Houston briefly

Chiang Mai

Week 54: 18.11.2013 – 24.11.2013

Feeling good I did a full workout. Each place I move to a have to find ways to use what I have around me to exercise. The sit ups and push ups are doable pretty much anywhere, but I use bottles filled with water as weights and the chairs or stairs for working my quads and glutes. Not to mention the hula hoop. Hey, it’s like having free gym membership.

I met Houston briefly on Monday morning, the guy who’d moved into Elizabeth’s home. He was quite young but fairly well travelled and he was due to work with Elizabeth once she’d returned – they did work with the local hill tribes. I gave him the update on things in the house and also bought some more food for Norman. She’d gone AWOL again!

The traffic around town was manic and I only just got to Yoga Tree for my massage appointment. I don’t know why I still worry about being on time here, everything is so laid back and time is almost irrelevant. Shaku wasn’t quite ready anyway so I had time to chill. The Indian Head Massage was amazing and so I signed up for a reflexology session straight after as her afternoon was free. I felt totally spaced out after the two back to back massages – but in a good way!

It was late by now and both Shaku and I were hungry. Bless her, she rustled up a noodle and fried egg meal for us. It was followed up with a shot of Kombucha. It’s a kind of fermented tea which acts like a probiotic – surprisingly good!

I left around 6, stopping off at my old stomping ground for yoghurt and fruit.

I got home just before the rain. I had homemade potato salad for dinner (I really miss potatoes) and attempted another batch of yoghurt making. The rest of the evening was only good for movies. It continued to rain, but despite the downpour the town tried to celebrate the last day of Loi Kratong with rather damp lanterns and fireworks.

Tuesday:-

Shaku’s massage knocked me out. Apart from the briefest of moments to open my eyes around 8, I slept until 10:30!

I felt so relaxed. I had breakfast, checked on my yoghurt which was a disaster (and not for the first time), skipped my workout and meditated. Eventually I went out and took the scooter around the moat road to Yoga Tree. I’d left my toe rings there last night and I also wanted to book other sessions with Shaku – Thursday and Monday. The place was deserted apart from just the lady I wanted to see. She was preparing lunch so I sat with her chatting for a while. She’s the most amazing woman who has overcome many challenges and still embraces life.

Next stop, Waew. She still wasn’t well and I think was struggling to keep going. As more tourists arrived for advice I ducked out, got some copies of my passport (the trip to immigration for my 30 day visa extension was looming) and went to the UN Irish Pub for a very late lunch. I’d been craving their roast chicken, mash and pumpkin dish for a few days. It was just as good as it had been in my imagination.

I braved the roads around the old town and went to Worawot Market taking a different route home which serendipitously took me past the organic place where I made a very quick stop for cereal – they were just closing up but I nipped in, paid with the right money and nipped out again. I also popped by to drop of some things I’d picked up from a pharmacy for Waew. They roads are becoming so clogged with the influx of tourists, even on a scooter the options to weave between traffic are becoming less available. I stopped for gas and just made it back before the rains came again. They stayed aaaaaalllllll evening and into the night. Time to catch up on laundry!

  

Wednesday:-

I think of all the wonderful things that have happened on this trip, the way my mornings have changed is my greatest joy. After years of being woken unnaturally in the early hours by an alarm clock, rushing around to put my breakfast (and when I’m organised enough, lunch too) in a plastic tub to eat at my desk later, jumping in the car and facing the rush hour traffic to get of the office to start work, I now have mornings to really cherish. Today I woke around 9 and lay in bed for a few minutes listening to the sounds around me. I put on some music and lit an incense stick and soon the soothing sounds and fragrances filled the apartment. My morning smoothie consisted of those wonderfully small sweet bananas of Thailand, dragon fruit, papaya, ginger, lime, parsley, coconut oil, chia seeds and goji berries, (Nigel, I know you’re mouth must be watering at the thought!) and all for less than a couple of quid. Not only that, but the whole experience of buying these fresh ingredients from the locals immerses you in a Buddhist culture of calm and smiles. How’s that for a start to the day!

  

I went to Free Bird for lunch and had a sample plate of three traditional Shan (people living on the borders of Myanmar [Burma], Laos, Thailand and China) salads. One consisting of Papaya and Potato, one of Pennywort and the other of ginger. Quite the explosion of flavours! Whilst I waited for my order I read one of the leaflets scattered on the table. The Free Bird cafe was set up to support the funding of an education programme, which was floundering, for excluded Burmese and Thai people – children and adults. All of its profits are channelled into this programme which takes place on the floor above the cafe. This is where Jelena and I bought our second hand clothes a few days ago. Our money from those purchases would have helped. I found a pair a Asic trainers amongst the second hand stuff and decided to buy them even though I already had one pair of second hand trainers. I also made a further donation. I so admire the motivation and dedication of people who want to make a difference.

On the way back I stopped at the swimming pool. It was almost empty and a joy for swimming. The torrential rain from last night and the subsequent cool day today meant the water was rather chilly to say the least. Perfect! This was the first outing for my new swimming cossy. It did me proud! I managed 60 lengths today but with many stops. I was cream crackered! By now the pool had a few more swimmers. I chatted with some of them and heard about a free running track just east of the river on the east side. Something to go in search of. Maybe, just maybe my ‘new’ second hand trainers will get some further use!

  

 

I got back just before dark. Made dinner and set to scrubbing up my trainers. They’ll take a few days to dry out but then they’ll be operationally ready. I had collected a number of clothes through my various trips to the second hand market over the last few months. Many of them I never actually wear so I decided to sort through them and donate them to the Free Bird cafe. They can make a little more cash.

Thursday:-

Did not sleep well for some reason – just couldn’t fall asleep. I woke and dragged myself out of bed so I could allow some digestion time for my breakfast before my head massage at 10. I checked my emails – something had come up and Shaku couldn’t make our appointment. I had my smoothie and went back to bed. I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm today and now I was free until teaching at 5:30. I pottered, I did more copying of my blog, and didn’t do a workout. I then got a call from Irene – Sarah wasn’t going to class tonight. Wow, I had three things planned for today and 2 had been cancelled. It was a strange day. Other things didn’t go well either.

I went to Rim Ping – the supermarket. Red rights all the way on the roads, AND road blocks (twice), I dropped too many things to mention, banged my head, and drove the wrong way down a one way street! Some days just don’t go smoothly although you need the occasional day of perspective. On the up side had dinner with Matt’s girlfriend Tanja – Matt who I was subletting from. We met at a cool vegetarian restaurant and chatted the evening away.

Back to apartment and bed

Friday:-

I’m really struggling with how to spend my time at the moment. Nothing is really providing any stimulation and I’m in a ‘can’t be bothered’ mood in terms of motivating myself. Do I just roll with that lazy sentiment and be bored or do I force something? Pass!

Anyway, after a morning of lounging on the bed considering my options, doing emails, and taking stock of my finances, I did a workout, showered, dressed and went out.

  

It was after 2 and I wanted some food. I can’t even get very enthusiastic about food either! I decided to take the scooter along Nimmanhaemin Road and pop into a place I hadn’t been for a while – the last time was with Nicole! Salad Concept i’s a great place and gives you loads of options for creating your own meal. A had a salad wrap and shiitake mushroom soup. It was delicious.

  

I’d kinda decided I would go swimming again today. I’d sit in the sun and read a while so I could digest my lunch before doing any real swimming. Just as I was getting ready to leave for the pool I received a text from Shaku – she had a slot for a massage if I could make it. I could and I headed off for Yoga Tree. It was blissful – a head and foot massage. Feeling zonked I went back to the apartment and skipped the whole swimming idea. Tonight was cheese night at Clare’s.

I gathered together the food I’d bought, checked Clare’s emailed directions and set off. The journey was surprisingly smooth, apart from missing the penultimate turn but that just meant a U turn to double back. I arrived just as Leo did – she had a flat though unfortunately and had had to push her scooter the last mile. Despite that we had a great evening on Clare’s huge balcony – seriously, it was probably twice the size if my conservatory at home. We chatted, watched the stars, took in the view below – the Thai security guard had decided to turn the patch of waste land next to the apartment block into a little cottage garden, complete with neat little rows to make for easy watering. The air was filled with the smell of wacky backy which I’m sure made the evening that little more chilled.

  

I gave Leo a lift home – what an adventure that was as I have little experience of having a passenger on my scooter. It makes the balance of the bike a little more challenging so we wobbled our way back to the old town. I dropped her off and left with the promise I’d be back in the morning to take her back to her poorly bike.

Saturday:-

I haven’t been up this early in ages. I made a smoothie and packed it up to drink on route. I collected Leo and we made our way back to Clare’s . Just to add to the whole occasion Leo’s bike had been clamped by the apartment security – apparently guests were not allowed to park overnight! Clare knew someone who could fix the tyre and whilst the clamp on the bike was being unlocked, the mechanic made his way over.

As we were in the vicinity I made a quick visit to the Farang Farm as it was bakery day and bought some fabulous bread (for me and Leo) and another slice of that delicious pizza. I dropped off Leo’s bounty just as the bike was fixed and being put back on the road. Now off to Yoga Tree – today I was going to a Yoga workshop and just had enough time to get thee for 10:30.

I met Steph, the instructor, and my fellow yogi newbies – Simon, Erin and Kat. The workshop was spread over two days – two and a half hours each day which was about the limit of my attention span. Today covered the various forms of yoga, some breathing techniques which would help my meditation, and the basic postures for sun salute. It was a great session and I felt very chilled.

  

 

Back to the apartment. I was just changing when the housekeeper came to clean the room!!! I was initially pretty pissed off that I’d been out all morning and the cleaner chose to knock on the door to be let in to clean less than a minute after I got back and whilst I was in a state of undress. I later realised that they do not have their own key to let themselves in, so apologies! Anyway, I changed quickly and went for a swim to leave him to it.

I managed another 60 lengths and it was definitely getting easier. Oh how I’d missed feeling the blood push round my body. I went back to the apartment to eat some of the marvellous bread I bought. I watched TV for the rest of the afternoon.

I received a text from Taywin – he was back in Chiang Mai!

That evening I met Leo on the Suthep road and we convoyed along Canal Road stopping to check the directions, look for a row of phone boxes and an orange self serve gas pump. We found the right road but not the house, then a few heads popped over the roofline of a place and we realised we’d arrived.

It was a small gathering but a really fabulous night. Leo, and an Brit called Adam, entertained us by singing along to a guitar, and Ocean provided totally awesome veggie food, including 2 kinds of potatoes – mashed and roast. Ohhhh how I have missed the good old spud! We sat on huge mats spread out across the rooftop and ate, chatted, ate, ate and sung along to the music, oh and we ate. It was dark apart from the moonlight and the strings of fairly lights and candles. There were a few stars twinkling through the evening cloud and an occasional lantern floated up into the ether. What a mind blowing occasion – somebody pinch me!

  

  

Sunday:-

Up early ish but waking naturally today.

It was day 2 of the yoga workshop and I arrived at Yoga Tree just as Steph, the teacher, did. There was more theory and some of the background history, but we learned more poses and had our photos taken to demonstrate what our posture was like and what needed to improve. We then did 20 minutes of flow yoga followed by some restorative, and a little meditation. With a poem (which I’ve added below) and an Ommmmmmm!

The mind says ‘mistake. regret. punishment.’
The heart speaks ‘long. ache. grieve’
The body pulses ‘want. want. want’
Yoga answers ‘you are nothing but your breath. exhale’

The legs scream ‘go. run. escape’
The ceiling fan whispers ‘you are still here’
The critic declares ‘not enough. do more’
The practice replies ‘exactly right. infinitely curious. eternally gentle’
The hips protest ‘no. I can’t’
Yoga says ‘release the stories. they do not serve’

The hands grasp ‘hold tight. don’t let go’
The pose demands ‘loosen. relinquish. release’
The tension says ‘do not move’
The breath says ‘you are free’
The habit pushes ‘control’
The mantra answers ‘surrender’
The spirit cries ‘scared. so scared’
The music sings ‘every little thing’s gonna be alright’
The head whispers ‘afraid of shadows’
Yoga answers ‘you are nothing but light’

The muscles complain ‘so tired’
Savasana responds ‘rest now. be still.’

The fear says ‘ordinary’
Namaste reminds ‘divine. divine. divine’

The self says ‘I am here’
Yoga says ‘yes, you are’

I was about to leave when Shaku found me and invited me to watch an impromptu improvisation dance. The audience was just me! it was a little strange and I was asked to give my opinion on the performance. What was my interpretation of the story???? Oh crikey, no pressure then!

I got back to the apartment and had a late lunch, finishing off the goodies I’d got from the bakery. Just enough time before I went back to Yoga Tree to listen to Maggie talk about ‘Living In the Now’. She’d been Eckhart Tolle’s PA for three years – I’d started to read one of his books. It was a strange event with everyone sitting cross legged in a semicircle around Maggie. It was a tough subject to get my head around – how our ego affects our thoughts and therefore emotions. I have taken away a few concepts which I think I can use but otherwise it didn’t really help me personally. Not yet…..anyway!

I waited around for my next adventure. Dance Mandala – Shaku was facilitating and it was her last session so I wanted to give it a go. It was dusk and the lights in the room were set low. This was a mix of dance and meditation. It was popular and the room had a healthy mix between people and space. It was all instrumental stuff but very varied from manic paced electro to sounds of nature. You have to totally let go and just shake, jiggle, twist, bend, swirl, and do whatever you feel. Quite liberating!

  

It had been quite a day and I was glad to get back and put my feet up.

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