Life of Pai

I never had Pai on my original itinerary. After learning it was a small hippy town where renting scooters was a must, I soon turned my attention to other places to visit. However, after hearing multiple accounts including Pai is chilled, Pai is the best place on Earth, you’ll never want to leave Pai, not to mention the fact that everybody I met seemed to be going, I decided to give this hippy paradise a chance.

But arriving at night wasn’t the best idea.

After a three and a bit hour journey from Chiang Mai that includes no less than 762 windy turns, our next task was to find somewhere to stay the night. We were recommended by some randomer in a Chang beer vest a place called Giant House, a series of huts by the river. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these bamboo huts were lovely places to hang out during the day, but the questionnable mosquito nets and insect-infested toilets didn’t exactly sell the place. Coupled with my friend talking about flying home for Christmas, this became the first night I’d felt homesick and slightly tired of the whole travelling malarky (after two weeks, I know right?)

However the next day, Pai pleasantly surprised me. Even the insect-infested toilets held a touch of glamour in the sunshine. We soon moved to a place called Riverside (let’s go!) which included not only proper beds and an en-suite but as said in the name, a grassy spot by the river. Such a step up from the previous night that we decided to stay three, though I may have swallowed a couple of ants in the process.

So aside from bamboo hut accommodation, what is the life of Pai really like? Pretty much as I expected. Pai’s chilled café culture coupled with the roar of multiple scooters caters for both those who want to relax (like me) and those who want to explore the gorgeous green hills you would never expect of Thailand (also like me).

However, I’m much better at the first option.

After deciding to rent a scooter, given that it’s “the thing to do in Pai”, I was taken for a test drive with my Thai instructor. Two minutes later, I found myself staring at my bike that I’d somehow accelerated and crashed into a farmer’s wired fence, myself surprisingly unharmed. I’m so glad I took out insurance for 40 baht :p

So not a good start.

But fear not, I decided I’d give it another go and already felt my technique was improving, until I hit a muddy patch and ended up on the floor, luckily not under the bike. Feeling too much of a dangerous driver, I instead spent the day on the back of my friend Lauren’s scooter, who after only three days of riding already seems a complete natural.

I'll take you anywhere, I can take you anywhere. Pai, November, 2014

I’ll take you anywhere, I can take you anywhere: Pai, November 2014

So what did I see?

You wouldn't want to get lost here. Pai Canyon, November, 2014

You wouldn’t want to get lost here: Pai Canyon, November 2014

And what did I get up to?

Don't look down... Pai, November, 2014

Don’t look down…:Pai, November 2014

...because it's a long climb up. Pai, November, 2014

…because it’s a long climb up: Pai, November 2014

FYI I did brave the scooter again. And I rocked.

Still smiling. Pai, November, 2014

Still smiling: Pai, November 2014

Chilling in Chiang Mai

Two weeks ago, I unexpectedly took a 24GBP flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in time for the much acclaimed Loi Krathong (Light Festival) that takes place all over Thailand but is most famous for its Chiang Mai spectacular. Flying is my last resort when it comes to transport, but because of the heightened festivities, all buses and trains from Bangkok were booked and flying with Thai Lion Air was my only option.

On arrival, the vibe in Chiang Mai is immediately distinct and the tranquility I felt while wandering the streets for a hostel immediately made me fall in love with the place. Chiang Mai has a lot to offer, meaning it’s much easier to part with your money here than in Bangkok. This is where my hard-earned cash has gone:

Thai Cooking (700 baht, 14 GBP)

You're looking at your new Thai masterchef. Chiang Mai, November, 2014.

You’re looking at your new Thai masterchef: Chiang Mai, November 2014.

Anyone who knows me knows that my cooking skills aren’t up to scratch. However, after a recommendation from my friend Fiona who previously tried a cooking class down in the islands, I decided to put on my pinny and stir up some serious food at the Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School. As a group, you decide on two types of dishes between stir fry, soup, salad and dessert and then spring rolls and the main curry are compulsory. As a majority, we chose to make stir fry and soup (I voted dessert, obviously). Within that category, you could cook anything you wanted from a choice of five dishes. I chose to cook chicken with cashew nuts, a coconut milk soup and finally, penang curry (all of those being the mildest options). We were then taken to the local market where we learnt about all the different types of rice (who knew?), followed by the cooking school’s garden where they grew their own basil, lemongrass, coriander and more.

Chicken with cashew! Chiang Mai, November, 2014

Chicken with cashew: Chiang Mai, November 2014

Coconut soup and penang curry. Chiang Mai, November, 2014

Coconut soup and penang curry: Chiang Mai, November 2014

While I enjoyed the cooking and eating, my favourite part of the day was probably being picked up by an Asian woman on a scooter with an awesome haircut. I now realise how silly my, “where’s the bus?” must have sounded :p

Just scooting around. Chiang Mai, November, 2014

Just scooting around: Chiang Mai, November 2014

Doi Suthep (20 baht red taxi and 50 baht admission fees)

Developing my spiritual side. Chiang Mai, November, 2014

Developing my spiritual side: Chiang Mai, November 2014

After an in-town cooking class, it was nice to get out of the city and visit Doi Suthep, otherwise known as “the temple on the hill”. And while it is not the easiest place to get to (you need to find a red taxi and then climb up what seems like a thousand steps), I probably prefer this place to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Yes, it is still touristy, but there’s definitely more of a purposeful feeling here, like spiritually you are part of something big. Make sure you cover your shoulders and knees as a sign of respect. My sarong barely covered me, but I improvised.

Just another cloudy day in Chiang Mai, November, 2014

Just another cloudy day: Chiang Mai, November 2014

Muay Thai (400 baht and discount to the Muay Thai boxing match)

One of the things I would most recommend to do in Chiang Mai is take part in a muay thai boxing training session. For 400 baht, I was taken to a special muay thai gym off the beaten track where it was me and two friends and a number of fighters. After a painful fitness regime (skipping, press-ups, sit-ups, all in this humidity!), we each had our own sparring partner to practice the techniques we had learnt. I even got to practice in the ring! Carrying on the theme of muay thai, I spent the evening at the local boxing match which included seven fights, the main one being an international fight between France and Thailand. While Fiona was reluctant to join me after hearing that thai boxing can be bloody and brutal, the night itself was very tame with only one fight ending with a knock out. However, I really enjoyed the fighting spirit atmosphere, even if it was predominantly filled with tourists. Next time I’m in Bangkok, my mission is to see another thai boxing match (matches there cost a lot more than in Chiang Mai) and compare the two experiences.

Beginning in Bangkok

Starting a Southeast Asia trip in Bangkok is pretty standard procedure and one that has both positive and negative aspects. The good thing is that almost everybody starts their backpacking journey here, meaning it is really easy to meet fellow travellers at every turn. That said, because of the volume of tourists, Bangkok has become quite westernised and those looking for their authentic Asian culture shock may have to look elsewhere.

For me as a first time solo traveller, Bangkok was perfect.

Before coming to Asia, I had read in previous travel blogs that most travellers had a love/hate affection for Bangkok and the reality matches. Many travellers I’ve met couldn’t wait to get out of Bangkok. Others loved it. So why the divide for such an iconic city?

If you look past the rubbish-filled streets and rather annoying tuk tuk drivers, Bangkok is a great city to explore. Streets lined with endless market stalls allow you to ready your stomach for a brand new diet. What’s more, Khao San Road is a must for anybody wanting to party the night away, or take a chance on Chang roulette. Suneta Hostel (Hostelworld recommended) where I stayed is perfectly located behind Khao San Road so you can soak up its lively atmosphere but still retire to your room when you’ve had enough of post-Chang pad thai and fried scorpion.

Everybody plays Chang roulette at some point. Bangkok October 2014

Everybody plays Chang roulette at some point: Bangkok, October 2014

"So what do you do for a living?" "I sell scorpion on a stick". Bangkok, October,2014

“So what do you do for a living?” “I sell scorpion on a stick”: Bangkok, October 2014

Staying near Khao San Road also means you’re only a fifteen minute walk away from Bangkok’s Grand Palace – a must see for any budding tourist. Try go in the morning to avoid the humidity and hotbed of Western tourists. Entry costs 500 baht (£10) but you could easily spend the day here (if you can bare the weather that is) and will get some stunning photos.

Entrance of the palace. Bangkok, October, 2014.

Entrance of the palace: Bangkok, October 2014

Towards the exit. Bangkok, October, 2014.

Towards the exit: Bangkok, October 2014

Once you’ve had enough of Khao San and the palace, I would next recommend a riverboat trip (15 baht if you avoid the scams and ask to take the local boat). Here, not only do you get a taste of Thai culture in the form of standing on a crowded boat but you see some iconic sights including Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn, which I believe you can climb for a small price.

One of the last things I did before leaving Bangkok was visit the MBK shopping centre in the Siam district. Feeling a bit templed out and fed up of street food, I was keen to see a touch of modern Bangkok and this was one of the places to see it. While food prices immediately climb to match Western standards, it provides a break from Bangkok’s slumish streets, so much that you’ll forget you’re even in Asia.

All in all, while Bangkok isn’t a place I would like to stay in the long term, I enjoyed the East meets West vibe and will no doubt return in the future. Next time, I’m keen to visit the Sky bar featured in Hangover 2 as I’ve heard the views over illuminated Bangkok are immense. I would also like to see a Muay Thai boxing match (you can read more about this under Chiang Mai).

Starting in Southeast Asia

It has been two weeks since I set off on my backpacking journey of the unknown. After a train, coach, tube, two planes, skytrain and a taxi, I finally arrived in Bangkok on the 29th October with a horrible feeling in my stomach. And that wasn’t from the Thai food. But I can safely say that after two weeks of constantly meeting people from all walks of life; some soloing like me, others in pairs, some with a significant other, I am having an incredible experience and needn’t have worried about being on my own. In fact, I must apologise for the tardiness of this blog as this is the first time I’ve had a moment to myself! Not that I’m complaining 🙂

After a horrific tube ride to Heathrow which included me pressed against the window like that Michael Macintyre sketch, it was a surprising relief to board my first Air India flight to Delhi for my changover. After looking around and noticing I was the only white person on the flight, I decided to befriend the lovely Indian woman next to me whose first questions included, “Do you have any children?” and “Are you married?” On explanation that I was in fact a 23 year old solo traveller heading to Bangkok, she was surprisingly in admiration of what I was doing. I realised that despite the nerves, the stress, the worry, I had definitely made the right decision, and any discomforting moments from now on would only make me a stronger person.

And then the flight began to descend into Bangkok.

Suddenly, I had a flashback of all the travel blogs I’d read warning me against all the hassle and con artists of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. My hostel had advised against getting straight into a taxi and instead recommended taking the BTS skytrain to Phaya Thai station and then a taxi. The long-winded option I thought, but I trusted that they knew what they were doing. Following the airport signs for the City Line, I found the turnstiles and watched as other commuters received a red token similar to a Connect 4 piece. Following their lead, I did exactly the same and got on the Skytrain with no issues whatsoever.

My next concern was taking a taxi. On researching this trip, I had read many bloggers describing how taxi drivers will con you, drive you somewhere else, or worse, and how you MUST insist that they use the meter before setting off. I read that it had even taken one well-known blogger thirty minutes before he was successfully in a meter-run taxi. While I wasn’t stood on the busiest street, I eventually hailed down a taxi and asked to go to my hostel with the meter on. Surprisingly, he did exactly as I asked and I was well on my way to Khao San Road. This must be too good to be true, I thought. I even planned how I was going to escape for when the driver pulled in to some creepy looking brothel. One hand was ready to open the door, the other ready to grab my bags. But after thirty minutes of driving and only 65 baht (approx. 1.30 GBP!), I was finally within walking distance of my hostel (after a helpful nod from about six locals).

As if things couldn’t go smoother enough, I arrived at my six-bed female dorm to find five other girls who had just arrived in Bangkok and were all travelling solo. Within minutes, I had a group of friends, all eager to explore the overwhelming wonders of Bangkok. Unfortunately, we have all gone our separate ways for the moment but I am fully confident I’ll see them again. That’s the traveller’s way 🙂

 

While I will try to update this blog as much as possible, please follow my photos on facebook or http://www.flickr.com for more immediate updates 🙂 If you cannot access them on flickr, let me know and I’ll sort it out 🙂 Backpackernadge.

California Dreamin’

Before I even boarded a plane to Los Angeles, I already knew this holiday would provide me with plentiful to write about and I was scribbling away in my notebook even in Manchester Airport. I remember it starting with Joe Hart (England Football International Goalkeeper) checking in at the next desk for the same flight. While the Saudi Arabian fanbase was going wild for photographs and my friends back home may have been slightly jealous over my celebrity spot, I thought, I’m taking the same holiday as a multimillionaire sportsman, having only paid £525 for my return flight. Can’t be bad!

I was certainly in no doubt that this three week adventure to California, starting in Los Angeles with a Virgin Atlantic ticket (bought from http://www.lastminute.com for £525, the same ticket costing £1000 direct with Virgin) was going to be my most exciting journey yet. And while 2013 saw me trekking across eight European countries with only bread and gouda cheese to go on, this time I intended to enjoy a little more luxury. I’d earned it!

Unfortunately, the one thing that has put me off blogging sooner is the abduction of my beloved photographs. Anyone who knows me well knows that I take a ridiculous amount of photographs, and because I’d run out of space and moved onto my boyfriend’s camera, the first camera was stolen from our suitcase, along with all the memory cards stashed inside. As such, it does make writing about this incredible vacation even harder because I have only a minority of photographs I can produce.

However, I’ve decided that now is the time to show you how wonderful California really is, if not with my photographs then my words (no pressure!)

Stay tuned for blogs on Hollywood, San Francisco, Santa Rosa Sonoma County, Yosemite National Park and more.

2013 Calendar

At the end of 2012, I found an offer on popular freebie site Student Beans to create a personalised calendar for a limited offer price. On finding this irrestible offer, I spent a ridiculous amount of time scouring my photographs to create the ultimate 2013 calendar. Ironically, I never ended up purchasing the calendar (all that photo searching and trips down memory lane meant I missed the offer!), but I still had a folder of twelve carefully chosen photographs with no purpose but to sit there on my clogged up hard drive.

Until now.

Here I bring you those twelve photographs, all taken on my previous year abroad spent in France, Spain and Portugal. The months do not accurately match the time I spent in these places, nevertheless I hope you appreciate their beauty and perhaps embark on a similar calendar adventure of your own, this time taking up the offer in time 🙂

New York City in Five Days

One of the many views from the Empire State. Here you can see Macy's; the largest department store in the world, April 2014.

One of the many views from the Empire State. Here you can see Macy’s (Herald Square); the largest department store in the world: New York City, April 2014

Over Easter, I took a much needed break from my teacher training course and headed to NYC with my parents and boyfriend. Although my expectations were considerably high, given that my parents had previously visited the Big Apple and rave about it at any given moment, I was absolutely infactuated with the place. While it is easy to say this about any major city, New York really is the stuff made of dreams and everybody should aim to go at least once in their life (NY blog coming soon!).

In terms of how long you should spend in New York, we took five days. Three days and it’s a rushed job. A week or more, you’ll end up bankrupting yourself (New York is really expensive, particularly if you’re used to Northern England prices). Five days is the perfect length of time to see all the major sites, plus a couple of extras. Here’s my list of tips on how to do New York City in five days:

1. Get up in good time.

So this may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many sights you can visit before lunchtime if you’re ready to leave the hotel by 9:30. We stayed in Queens which meant taking a thirty minute subway to the central sites of Manhattan. However, by leaving at this time, we were still able to fit a lot in before breaking for lunch.

2. Make a list of everything you want to see and do.

By knowing how many places you intend to visit, you can work out how many things you need to see/do each day. Even better if you can group things based on location (for example, Wall Street and the Liberty Island ferry which are a 15/20 minute walk apart).

3. Buy a weekly metro ticket.

For 32 dollars (approx. £19), you can buy a weekly metro pass allowing you to take the subway as much as you like for seven days.That’s not to say you shouldn’t walk overland and admire the views, however you will definitely get your money’s worth purchasing this gem. Passes can be bought from subway and train station ticket machines, similar to the Oyster system in London. Try pay in exact cash if you can. From what I remember, the machines will only give you a maximum of 8 dollars in change.

4. Avoid peak times.

It’s 12pm and you’ve decided you want to visit the Statue of Liberty. Forget it. You’ll be queuing for hours (depending on the time of year) and by the time you get remotely near the front, you’ll see a sign saying ferry stops sailing at 2pm (that’s what happened to us). Instead, try to visit major sites such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building early morning or in the evening (for the latter). That said…

5. …Brace yourself for queues.

Plenty of time to look at this plaque, the Empire State Building, April 2014.

Plenty of time to look at this plaque: The Empire State Building, New York City, April 2014

You will be queuing regardless. We queued an hour and 45 minutes to board the Liberty Island ferry and a whopping two and a half hours to go up the Empire State Building. That wasn’t even to the very top. Since 911, most of NY’s tourist attractions have adopted an airport security-style system which means having yourself and your belongings checked before you can enter the attraction. Best take a book to read.

 

 

Who am I?

Hello there! And thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you’ve stumbled across me by accident, stick around for five minutes. You never know what you might find 🙂

Let me introduce who I am and what this blog is about.

My name is Nadge. I’m 23 years old and this summer, I qualified as a secondary French and Spanish teacher after an intense year of teacher training. As I write this, my peers are frantically preparing new classroom displays, getting their heads around class timetables and generally feeling excited at the thought of their careers and what’s to come.

My story is a little different.

While I won’t go into the ins and outs of my teacher training year, I finished the course somewhat detached from the profession. I didn’t enjoy the course, I certainly didn’t find it easy, and the post-university crisis that hit many of my counterparts last June had finally caught up with me. Help.

On the contrary, this summer, I decided to confront this negativity and add some positivity to my life. I joined the gym. I spent three weeks in California, and best of all, I had the idea to start this blog. Oh, and I’ve also recently decided that I’m going to spend six months backpacking around South East Asia. How this girl has changed!

Why an interest in travel?

My interest in travel came about in September 2011 when I moved to Perpignan, France to commence my university third year abroad. As a Languages student, this was an obligation. Had it not been, I probably would never have done it.

I soon became immersed in travel, an interest that started with exploring French and Spanish cities on my weekends and has expanded to the new dream: to visit every possible country in the world.

I’m currently on 19!

Before you begin to delve into the heart of this website (if you’re still here), I must explain what this blog will be about. This is not going to be a blog on how I’ve traveled the world and how you can do it too. Rather, it is more suited for people like me: people that are new to travel, people that previously thought travel wasn’t an option for them and people that are ready to satisfy their cravings for the world and go against the norm, whatever their age. Ultimately, this blog will include me writing about my own travels which hopefully inspire both you and I to make the most of life by getting out there and exploring the world.

Backpacker Nadge. Ready to travel the world.

 

First steps in the Pyrenees: Villefranche-de-Conflent, October 2011

First steps in the Pyrenees: Villefranche-de-Conflent, October 2011