I am so happy. I don’t think I have ever felt happiness like this before. It isn’t the same as UK happy. It’s Pai (Thailand) happy. Soul deep happiness.
Within 5 hours of being here I had declared I never wanted to live anywhere else. After a couple of days I have finally been half persuaded of the benefits of coming home eventually (mostly people and seasons) but I am so at home here.
This little village up in the mountains, just north of Chiang Mai, has a vibe. It wreaks of magic. Probably because we are surrounded by so much nature. The soundtrack to my life is currently running water, a myriad of different birds, and the occasional tree frog. At night the ground sounds like it has electricity running through it. It’s hard not to feel the magic of a place like that.
I finally feel like a human being. I think that previously, my entire life, I’ve felt like a human doing. Even when I was not doing anything, it was usually because I was purposefully not doing anything, which kind of makes it an act of doing… I would plan in alone time as an act of self care because I knew I would need it.
This is entirely different. This is not a plan. This is not an act of self care. This is being. This is glorious, connected, nourished, inspired, being!
When I did Danielle La Porte’s ‘Desire Map’ my five Core Desired Feelings were:
I mean these words in a full mind, body, spirit kind of way. Where my soul is nourished, my body is nourished and my mind is nourished. Where I am connected both literally to people, my surroundings, my spirit and the collective, the Universe. I push the limits of my mind, body and soul until I find that there are none (because really there aren’t). And so on.
Pai makes me feel all of those things.
There’s a cafe here [Earth Tone Cafe] that serves vegan gluten free food! I can eat almost all the things on the menu! How’s that for nourishment of the body! And the environment is brilliant. The building is made from mostly natural materials – bamboo and wood. There’s a little stream running through it, and there are butterflies flying around the foliage next to your table. It’s incredible. The woman that runs front of house (potentially the owner?) is brilliant – her sense of humour and level of friendliness is remarkable by any standard.
The roads around Pai are pretty quiet, mostly there are just scooters going slowly and the odd car or truck. There’s a night market on the Walking Street which is busy enough to have a good vibe but quiet enough that it does not overwhelm me.
I genuinely love it here.
We spent two nights (one full day) in Chiang Mai. It is a stark contrast to Pai. After 24 hours of travelling I did not enjoy the wide and busy main road, having to constantly be alert and think three steps ahead. It was a huge culture shock for me to go from a suburb in Surrey to travelling up and down the Chaing Mai ring road. We went to the shopping centre to get Thai SIM cards, and didn’t take our passports with us. So we had to go all the way back to get them, and all the way back again. Undoubtedly a rookie mistake – we take our passports with us now! But that little mistake cost me a lot of my sanity in Chiang Mai.
I plan to go back and try again, and stay in a different part of the city. But I wont be staying there for very long. Pai pace is much more my scene.
Other things I have learnt so far:
- How to check in luggage (yep, genuinely my first flight with checked baggage)
- How a boardng pass works (yep, never had one of those either)
- How to complete an immigration form (who even knew that was a thing…)
- When packing hand luggage, put a little airplane sleep kit in your bag that is easy to access (headphones, ear plugs, eye mask, extra socks!)
- Wear your sandals on the plane and just put extra pairs of socks on to stay warm – yes you look like an idiot, but it saves carrying a pair of sandals in your luggage while you wear trainers.
- You don’t need to book a return flight if you’ve already got a visa… they don’t check it at the airport and I’ve now got to pay £150 to change my flight.
- Everything takes longer than you think it will.
- They don’t serve gluten free food on planes (I should maybe have tried harder to express my dietary requirement ahead of time).
- Even at Heathrow, they do not have sufficient airside food outlets with wheat free options so that you can take supplies with you. The only portable wheat free food that was available was sushi, and I couldn’t rely on that staying cold for the duration of the flight (though maybe I could have asked them to refrigerate it for me… not sure if they would have had space)
- Take less stuff. Somehow. [Still working that one out].
- Pack using the smaller packing cubes instead of the big ones.
- The chub rub you experienced at Brighton Pride should have served as a lesson on why you can’t rely on wearing dresses all the time… take more boho trousers with you so you don’t have to buy 6 more pairs when you get there (I am an idiot).
- You need shower gel or a bar of soap.
- You don’t need shampoo (well, I am yet to wash my hair [the water pressure is so low it’ll take me half an hour to get the soap out]… it is day 5 of the trip – 6 days since I washed my hair. I am hoping it’ll just start cleaning itself… that is totally a thing right? I’ll keep you posted…)
- When travelling with your new boyfriend [oh yeah, I have one of those now, I’ll save the details for another post] you’re going to fall out, a few times. And his shocked face at your first little diva strop will be forever etched in your memory. But you will be saved by your exceptional communication skills [thus far at least] and by making sure that you eat at appropriate intervals (I get hangry)
- Even in a country where the most common food is rice, everything still has wheat in it. In my first 5 days I’ve had a total of 5 proper meals, you know, with actual nutrients and vegetables in them. It is not as easy as you first think to just pick up a Pad Thai everywhere you go.
- It is not ok to live off of flavoured corn puffs (cheese or chocolate is my fave so far). This lack of nutrients will make you tired, and grumpy, and less resilient.
- You need a lot of resilience.
- Your aversion to planning is a blessing and a curse. It affords you the freedom to just add on an extra couple of days in paradise, but you still need to take the time to book and plan your trains, buses, planes and accommodation.
- Planning is boring and takes a lot of your time.
- Just because you are currently travelling with someone else, does not mean they’re happy to do all the planning and booking – you have to muck in with the admin. Duh.
- Even though everyone speaks English to some degree here, a little Thai ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
- How anyone managed to wander the planet without access to the internet I will never know – such a lot of planning and booking in advance. I’d have struggled.
- Thank you to Tim Berners-Lee for inventing such a world changing piece of tech, and to Google and Facebook and Whatsapp. [I understand there are more sociological issues with this than just being a positive tool for travel. But right now…]
- There is no need to force yourself to do all the things on the tick list that some internet blogger created for your destination. If you are tired, rest.
So it’s been 5 days and I’ve learnt 25 things… that’s quite a lot. If I averaged one lesson a day at home that would have been a good week. But 5 lessons a day… that’s quite mind blowing really.
I’m going up to the White Buddha to watch the sunset now. It’s burning season so the visibility is a little prohibited due to the smoke, but I’m sure it’ll be worth the climb regardless.
I’ll keep you posted.