Tag Archives: relaxing

Settling in/moving on

You know you’ve been away for a long time when you begin to feel nostalgic for earlier days of a trip that is not yet over. Throughout these past few weeks there have been moments when I’ve caught myself looking back over the past six months, missing and reminiscing. The cosy stone villa high up in the Umbrian hills, with its view out over endless olive groves and and villages below. Morning coffee on my brother’s London rooftop, the white terrace houses of Finsbury Park that reminded me so much of home. Staying up late through the endless twilight of Scandinavian summer; settling in to bed early with a pot of sweet Ceylon tea and a book in my cottage in the Sri Lankan hill country.

In these moments, I think a part of me wished I was back in Europe. But then I came to Chiang Mai.

I’ve been here almost two weeks – longer than I’ve spent in any single place since I left Melbourne over six months ago. And, were it not for work starting on Thursday, I think it’s the kind of place I could get stuck.

Today passed like most days. I woke up late, and had a scratch breakfast in my guesthouse room- rye bread, hunted down in a supermarket outside town, and tiny, sweet bananas, bought in a giant bunch from a roadside stall for less than 50c. I caught up on some emails and IFSA work in the bustling common area downstairs, then headed out for a morning coffee at Bird’s Nest Cafe – freshly ground and spiced with cloves, cinnamon and star anise.

I stumbled across this beautiful little cafe on one of my afternoon wanders, and it has become a favourite. On Saturday morning I treated myself to one of their epic vegetarian breakfasts, and passed the rest of the day curled up with a book, chatting to fellow travellers who passed through. Today I took my coffee upstairs to the mezzanine of low wooden tables, cushions on the ground, and a sole hammock, which I took over for the next few hours, finishing Breath by Tim Winton, which I had picked up second hand only yesterday afternoon.

Alexis, an American girl I met in my hostel in Granada, had just arrived in Chiang Mai to begin work as an English teacher. She came and met me for lunch and we swapped travel stories, marvelling at how two people can meet and make a connection while travelling, then, due to the wonders of Facebook, cross paths again months later on the other side of the world.

If it seems like my time in Chiang Mai has revolved around food, that’s not far from the truth. Of all the many countries I’ve travelled through, Thailand has the best food of any by far (particularly for vegetarians), and of everywhere I’ve been in Thailand, Chiang Mai tops the lot. From $1 plates of pad thai or fiery papaya salad, served on plastic plates and eaten while perched on plastic stools by a tiny street stall, to feasts of curries, brown rice, or tofu salads from one of the many organic vegetarian cafes.

To balance all that food, I’ve been relishing in the ability to walk here – being able to wander the relatively quiet streets without fear of being mown down by a bus or tuk tuk hurtling past. I’ve been doing yoga – hatha flow, with a wonderful French instructor called Pierre, in the peaceful Namo Studio in the north east of the Old Town. And, apart from a night or two out with fellow backpackers, I’ve been having early nights, trying to get into a regular sleep pattern in preparation for work on Thursday.


I started this post yesterday – Thursday is now tomorrow, my time in Chiang Mai is quickly coming to an end. Tomorrow I drive up to Chiang Rai province with my boss, to take over the last few days of a project. So today is a rush of tying up loose ends, familiarising myself with student names and project details, hunting down a stationary shop for discussion materials, and sorting out my visa run flights. Ticking off my to do list!

Still, when I can do half of this while curled up with a coffee on a cushion in a little cafe, it’s not too bad.


Lazy days at Mirissa beach

This last week I’ve been doing a whole lot of not much.

After ten days hiking around the hill country, it was time to make my way south to the coast, to meet my friend Clare who was flying in from Copenhagen. Like me, she is slowly making her way homeward after months travelling Europe.

We’re staying in a lovely guesthouse, a short wander back from Mirissa beach. We’ve got a private room in a small building off to the side of a large garden and communal space which, after the secludedness of my hill country guest houses, has been great for meeting other travellers.

Upside to being away from the beach: no endless honking of horns and rumbling of busses along the beach road destroying our relaxed vibe.

Downside: walking the dark, quiet roads back to our guesthouse each night, keeping eyes ahead and pace brisk as we pass sleeping dogs and loiterers on the bridge (don’t worry mum, it’s perfectly safe….).

I’ve been here six days, Clare five, and time is passing in that slowly paced but disappearing way that it does when you find yourself losing track of the days. We get up late (some later than others), sit around drinking our morning coffee in the garden, go for a late breakfast/early lunch, then head to the beach.

The ocean is pretty rough here – shallow water but high, crashing waves that churn you into the sandy bottom if you’re not prepared. Jumping and diving through the waves is the extent of our exercise here. The sun sets early, maybe 6pm, and every evening all the bars along the beach set up little tables in the sand, each lit with a flickering candle, and serve fresh fish and seafood, the catches all on display for you to choose from. I *may* have switched to flexitarian here.

It’s the kind of place you can easily get stuck. We meant to leave today…but instead we will stay until tomorrow, then head west to Unawatuna. The plan was to go diving there but, based on what we’ve seen and heard, the conditions aren’t right and the diving isn’t exceptional anyway, so my suspicion is that it will be more of the same. Which suits me just fine.

I also haven’t taken my camera out once, so here are some instagram photos (from Polhena beach, and an epic Sri Lankan breakfast) for your viewing pleasure: