A Travellerspoint blog

Things I Want to Remember: New Zealand

- Devonport, walking around on volcanic rock, seeing the kids point out the crabs in the small tide pools

- beer fridge in the local wine & beer shop, picking out some local beers that sounded good based on advice from the knowledgeable cashier/liquor connoisseur, putting back the seasonal coconut & vanilla porter after I was advised it tasted like an "impressive pile of mediocrity" . . . I like that phrase . . . I instead went for a brew with "mutant hops" that made an IPA take on a lemony flavor, or at least that's what I was told

- rental car, driving on the left side of the road, different than Uganda, struggling each time with roundabouts

- Squids restaurant in Whitianga, sharing my Tuatara London Porter with the Australian man in the table next to me, talking of wine and beers, sulfites and additives and good wine versus bad wine, his shocked expression as he found out I did not try any of the wines in Portugal, feeling as though I have missed out on an experience I should have enjoyed, vowing to try an expensive wine based on his suggestion

- Hobbiton, beautiful weather, sheep throughout, drinking the Southfarthing Stout at the Green Dragon Inn, walking around the Shire, imaging what it would have looked like at night all lit up, picking up extra beers to share with friends at home

- collecting shells among Buffalo Road

- sweet Max from Germany, offering a ride before he asks, an unexpected 45 km journey to Coromandel, climbing to the lookout point along the way and thinking, "European hitchhikers are so trusting" and being humored by it, dropping him off and declining the offer for gas money, driving the windy roads towards the shire, listening to the themes from James Bond, Mission Impossible, and Jaws, thinking how incredibly fitting the music was for a windy road along a rocky sea, shaded by trees and cliffs

- relaxing with Talulah and Keith, hearing of Keith's intrigue for Woodstock and his love of 70's music, laughing as he played Christie's "San Bernardino" on YouTube for me to experience, him handing me a book of his poems, discussing sobriety and family dynamics

- walking around the Redwoods, sunlight through the trees, leaves that look like tissue paper, crunch of the ground, feeling guilty seeing them before my mother makes it to Northern California

- waving at the fisherman in the purple poncho at the base of the mount as I made my way around the extinct volcano, both of us laughing for no clear reason, pure shellshells beneath my feet between the volcanic rocks, learning later of the details of the boy Jack Dixon who I saw represented in shell letters across the earth and by his Batman and Lego toys hanging from the tree

- a simple dinner of lemon pepper tuna and sweet vine peppers on Ohope Beach, an almost disorienting landscape of rippled sand with scattered bits of driftwood, walking to the water and remembering those in my life who I've revealed different bits of myself to, not regretting my decisions to be forthcoming

- driving along field after field full of sheep and cow, lazy grazing between mature trees, thinking "I'm pretty sure happy cows are from New Zealand, not California", then coming up behind a station wagon with a dog who I would have sworn was smiling at me

- the worst attack dog in the world, who greeted me in, immediately gave me her belly to rub, wanted to play, then spent the rest of the evening sleeping on the couch and licking herself as I settled in to my room and took a shower

- driving through one of many gorges, this time on my way to Wellington, where the curves made the rolling sides of the gorge appear to fan away, one by one, to reveal the afternoon sky, which slowly turned from vibrant blue to yellow streaks, to the vanilla sky I have come to love and crave, then vibrant pink and lastly, husky purple before twinkling with stars

- driving through the town named after the person on my mind at that very moment, finding many of the services of the town fit my needs at the moment, smiling at the irony as I drove away

- munching on a pistachio raspberry ice cream sugar cone coated in white chocolate during intermission of The Pitmen Painters, examining the pottery and photography in the lobby, thinking of MICA and how I am terrified to paint now after being labeled a "waste of time" at art college, reminding myself that this fear means I must paint again

- the restaurant Afrika's Ethiopian night, listening to African music, enjoying the decor, long conversation with Sean at the counter about cooking (salt, sugar, bitter, and acid) and learning of his attempts for a chocolate restaurant and a cool salad business and a "proper" German sausage food car, long conversation and free South African beer as I sat at the counter

- coffee with John on his porch, listening to planes fly overhead, seeing him squint in the bright sun despite sunglasses as he smoked his hand rolled cigarette, talking of his dreams to drive across Route 66 in an Impala before he's 30, wanting to do it alone because "it's a man thing, see?"

- Wellington, so much like San Francisco

- black sand beach for the first time in Mokau

- conversation with Shirley in the morning, coffee and fruit and oatmeal, toast with bits of blackberry jam, the cat and kittens, her dog Bella, her blue eyes lighting up saying, "Yes, I can hear the excitement in my voice, didn't realize I was so enthusiastic about travel", discussing differences in Americans

- Waitomo, the glowworm caves, the song of our guide, the flute he played, the silence with faint water drips in the background, seeing the glowworms web dangles

Posted by WanderingWorld 23:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland rotorua volcano new_zealand hobbiton wellington rtw whitianga airbnb things_i_want_to_remember Comments (0)

New Zealand: Auckland to Wellington

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10/3/14 at 1759 (Bangkok time)

First time on a Qantas flight . . . dreams do come true.

I feel so safe . . .

10/3/14 at 1940 (Bangkok time)

"That's what we all want, isn't it? A woman to be quiet with?"

10/5/14 at 1635 (Auckland time)

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Maori inscription on the Auckland carpet translates to "Auckland Airport and the people of Paorae welcome you"

  • *Paorae refers to the face of the land surrounding the Manukau Harbour

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New Zealand tourism offices worked with Weta Workshop to create this 16 foot tall dwarf statue, made specifically to greet new arrivals to Auckland Airport

After about 30 hours of travel with multiple flight delays, I made my way to the windy, chilly city of Auckland yesterday. My AirBNB hosts Michelle and Derrick are a super sweet couple from Malaysia who welcomed me and offered to share their dinner. It was simple but deluxe at the same time: green onion and egg omelet, bean sprouts with soy sauce, and boiled chicken. I changed into my PJs to relax, watched "Transformers 2" with them (explosions, pink lipstick, and dinosaur transformers), did some laundry (wash only, hung to dry in the chilly weather outside), and then enjoyed some fantastic sleep. It's a chilly room with a makeshift heater bedside, where I hung a pair of my socks on a hanger so they'd be dry by morning.

I walked around Auckland, splurged on a macpac raincoat that is also helping to keep me warm in this "unexpectedly cold" climate, and enjoyed a local coffee with danish while on the ferry to Devonport. While there, I visited the free Torpedo Bay Naval Museum and explored a local craft fair. I'm now waiting for the ferry back to Auckland where I'll visit Ponsonby Road. It's been glorious so far!

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Fresh coffee to keep me warm before the chilly ferry ride to Devonport

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10/5/14 at 2350 (Auckland time)

After a long day, I am finally having dinner!! I walked around and explored, stopped by the local grocery store for dinner. When I got to Derrick & Michelle's house, I couldn't figure out the oven though. I tried multiple times, and even looked up the manual on-line to make sure the images on the turn knobs were meant to do what I was assuming they were meant to do. I could hear the air turning on but the oven was not heating. Well, when Derrick and Michelle got home, they helped me figure it out . . . apparently the oven will not apply heat until the time is turned on as well. Finally . . . my schnitzel is ready to be eaten . . .

10/5/14 at 2355 (Auckland time)

Realization: as I move on from each place, I have deleted that previous destination's timezone from my world clock on my iPad . . . except for Ponta Delgada. I can't do it, not yet at least.

10/6/14 at 1358 (Auckland time)

Woohoo, I have a rental car again! My driver's license arrived via FedEx this morning at about 9:30 AM (thanks Mom & Brad!), I had the car rented and accommodations made ASAP, packed up and headed out.

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Grateful to New Zealand for having this sticker reminder on my rental car!

Oh, and booked my Hobbiton tour too, of course. ;-)

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The lady at the car rental location recommended a warehouse savings store nearby where I could pick up an inexpensive suitcase. I found a sturdy one for $50 USD, picked up a roll of bubble-wrap to protect my future purchases, and found some CD compilations to help pass the travel time on the road as the radio was a no go in my discount car rental. Of course, also picked up some snacks for the road. I'm now sitting in a little place called the Acorn Cafe, sipping a cafe latte and munching on my lunchtime panini before I hit the road . . . I feel so free . . .

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When the radio doesn't work, discount CD compilations will do just fine

10/6/14 at 2036 (Whitianga time)

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Memories to be written before forgotten . . . sharing my Tuatara London Porter with the Australian couple next to me, small restaurant with a smaller bar, next to the open water, small sailboats, crackling shells underfoot instead of sand. Speaking of wine and hops, malt and bourbon, origin of the word "porter", hearing how they make their own wine. The disappointed groan from him when he heard I did not drink any wine in Portugal. I was originally at a different table in the restaurant but was unceremoniously moved to a "smaller table, please" as I was there alone. Some things are meant to be . . .

Today I sang along with Harry Belafonte, Phil Harris, and Ray Parker. Enjoyed the scenery, which presents as a mix between the shires of Hobbiton, the farms of the Açores, and the cover of a Six Feet Under DVD. I have never seen such a variety of expressive trees before. Dead, alive, green, yellow, reaching up, or lying down. I stopped the car, watched the wind blow on the dewy grass, making it ripple & reflect the sun like the Tasman Sea. Awestruck, silent, beautiful, simple.

I arrived to my hostel facing the water, settled in, met my German roommates who are celebrating a completed university run with 8+ months in New Zealand and Australia (and reminding me again that Germans have it right), then I headed out immediately. Wind exploration and play, stopping by the historical sites,and enjoying the ignored presence of large intact seashells littering the shores of this place.

P.S. I get it. Buzzed writing is so much more fun than sober writing. I understand you, writers of legend.

10/7/14 at 1854 (Oropi time)

I've just arrived to the beautiful home of Talulah and Keith, my outgoing AirBNB hosts. Their son Louie is here and two Kiwi women who are renting a room as well. Their sweet dogs Harry and Penny are outgoing, happy little things. There's a cat who has "three names" and two donkeys out front which I haven't quite caught the names of yet. The home is welcoming, near a forest of trees & trails, adorned with Talulah's vibrant paintings of landscapes, abstracts, and surreal portraits.

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Earlier today I picked up a hitchhiker outside of my Whitianga Backpacker's "On the Beach" hostel, almost before he had a chance to stick out his thumb. He was headed to Coromandel and I was looking for a drive. We drove the windy roads, stopped occasionally for a view and a picture. He offered gas money, which I declined but appreciated.

I then made my way down south to Matamata, where I enjoyed the Hobbiton movie set tour. I'm not a big LoTR or Hobbit fan, although I did enjoy the films. Now that the tour is completed and I've been able to literally touch a piece of the films, I want to rewatch them!

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The shire

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Getting ready to check out the Green Dragon Inn

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Green Dragon Inn

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Getting ready for a dinner of vegetarian chili and brown rice. I'm feeling quite relaxed and at home here with Talulah and Keith . . .

10/8/14 at 1457 (Rotorua time)

Enjoying a Swine Lager at the Pig & Whistle in Rotorua. The "historic pub" is in a beautiful building that was originally a police station, built in 1940 and adorned with Maori motifs on the external portion of the building.

I slept in a bit this morning, made myself some breakfast, then accepted the offer for an early morning walk with my two New Zealand roomies who also staying in the house.

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We went on a trail through the woods, which ended up being a 45 minute loop. The ladies are exceedingly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area, having done hikes and walking treks for over thirty years now. It was a beautiful morning, slightly overcast, and faintly chilly . . . perfect for a walk through the woods.

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Headed out to Rotorua quite a bit later than planned and was held up a bit due to an accident, the details of which I (oddly enough) received on my foreign car radio. We were then routed around Lake Rotorua and entered the town from the opposite side. Now on to explore . . .

10/9/14 at 0048 (Taruanga time)

Off to bed . . . whew, what a fantastic day!! After the Pig & Whistle, I did an hour long hike through the Redwoods here in Rotorua, enjoyed being "back to the nature" again. I didn't know there were Redwoods here so that was a nice surprise! There was hardly anyone in the woods, so quiet. Felt amazing to be walking amongst the giant trees.

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Then I booked a Maori experience for tomorrow where I'm excited to try hangi and see the Maori warriors. I then did a mud bath at Hell's Gate, one of the few that allows the experience under the stars. My skin feels amazing and I feel so relaxed. =)

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Hell's Gate, gorgeous and relaxing in the moonlight

Afterwards, went to Croucher microbrewery in downtown Rotorua for a drink and they had a live band playing. The place was packed and it was good fun.

Now I've booked the White Island Tour (active volcano where you have to wear a gas mask?! Sign me up!) for Saturday, requested accommodations, and am off to bed!

10/9/14 at 1815 (Rotorua time)

Waiting for the Mitai Maori Village show to start. I slept in a bit, which is always fantastic. Then I made my way to Mount Maunganui, a dormant volcano at the edge of the sea in Tauranga. I had picked up a chai latte beforehand and sipped as I walked around the base trek. It was beautiful with large trees sprouting between large chunks of volcanic rock, powerful waves splashing against them. I continued to wander and marveled at once again finding an area of "sand" that was pure seashells crunching beneath my feet.

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The view from the base trail of Mount Maunganui

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Jack Dixon's shells

I drove through Tauranga a bit, enjoying driving their version of PCH (highway 2). Then made my way to Rotorua where I wandered through a small geothermal park, then enjoyed their Thursday night market, bought a fierce pillow and enjoyed a lemon and passionfruit crepe as an appetizer.

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Oh, the smell of sulfur . . .

It's almost time to check in for the show. I'm excited to try some hangi!! I also opted for the optional addition of walking around Rainbow Springs so I can see their nightlife; the girl at the counter told me, "It's mainly to see the kiwi." Sold!

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Our enigmatic, multilingual host

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Showing off the hangi *mouth watering*

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The entrance of the warriors

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The tribe's local geothermal hot spring, with glowworms present

10/10/14 at 1354 (Te Puke time)

So sad to say goodbye to Talulah and Keith this morning. They were wonderful hosts and I felt so welcomed, so right at home. Before leaving, I gave Keith my decades and film CDs to import whatever music he wanted. He had always commented how he loved the music from the 70's. I gave him back his book of poems that he had let me borrow for my stay. I dropped him off in town to pick up his car that was being serviced, we said our goodbyes, and I was on my way.

I stopped at Kiwi360, where I took the $20 tour. We were driven around the farm area in a large kiwi caravan (literally in the shape of kiwi fruit, which was awesome in and of itself). It was a 30 minute tour of the "park-style orchards", where we stopped occasionally to sample pineapple mandarins, feel and wander among various types of kiwi plants, and even allowed to pick up some fresh avocados that had fallen to the ground.

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Travel, kiwi style.

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Perhaps the most interesting part for me was seeing the kiwi plants that had been affected by the Psa virus, which was originally from China but transferred to New Zealand from Italy. We were told about how the farmers gathered to sue the government for "allowing" the infestation to come in and affect the crops. A new growth of kiwifruit is sprouting up at this time and will hopefully flourish.

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Kiwi orchard

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A Psv affected kiwi plant

Now I'm sitting at the Kiwi360 cafe having ordered a simple lunch of fish & chips, washing it down with some Sparkling Feijoa elderflower mineral water. To be followed by kiwi ice cream, yuuuummmm . . . .

10/11/14 at 0825 (Whakatane time)

After much driving, I made it to the spa and B&B known as the House of Many Faces last night. I'm so incredibly sad to say that my White Island tour of the active volcano has been cancelled for today due too high winds, making it dangerous for the boat ride to the island. =(

Last night when I arrived, I got to sit and chat with my hosts, who do ballroom competitions. They showed me their awards and video footage of their impressive dips and twirls. They also showed me footage of some of the younger couples competing and we had a good bit of conversation about Dancing with the Stars. Sad to say I am only staying one night with them. The offer was there to stay another night if I wanted and to try the White Island Tour again tomorrow. Sadly, I think it's best for me to move on south and continue my journey.

I think I may head to Wellington early . . .

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10/12/14 at 1544 (Wellington time)

Yesterday I made the 10 hour drive from Whakatane to Gisborne to Napier to Wellington. And I kinda loved it. I went through my various mix CDs, enjoyed the scenery, let my mind wander. I stopped over when I was hungry or thirsty and munched on little bits of groceries I had in the car. I'm sad to say I don't think I'll be in New Zealand long enough to see my free avocados from the Kiwi360 orchard ripen.

In Wellington, I am staying with Jane and John through AirBNB in an absolute gorgeous 100+ year old home in various states of remodel. Their style is quirky and vintage, and I feel right at home. They left the key out for me late last night and I let myself in. Turns out they were at a church charity beer tasting and they came home in quite a good mood, telling meet about the brewer in their group, sharing beer (the kind of which I don't remember), and playing Elvis songs as we flipped the cushion where their pup had emptied her bladder.

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John and Jane's pup

I've enjoyed Wellington so far, driving by the bay, visiting the Weta Cave and taking their tour. They had an interesting short film in the shop that talked about the various films Weta has worked on. I picked up a couple Lord of the Rings souvenirs too, of course. =P

I wandered through the Te Pau Museum and then picked up a ticket for the play the Pitmen Painters. I'm sitting at the Circa Theatre now, enjoying a drink and a bit of karamu frittata before the show. Then, I shall be on to their cable cars . . .

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My magnet poetry, created at the Te Pau Museum

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Installation at Te Pau Museum

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Fashion design display at Te Pau Museum

10/13/14 at 1644 (Waitomo time)

Random thoughts of the day:

- I have a gravitational pull towards those with cleft lips, presumably due to positive experiences in the past; I am OK with this

- my theory that driving along the coast is best done with the James Bond theme playing in the background remains tried and true

- I think I shall for ever now have random cravings for a Hungarian apricot and plum chimney cake

- gas stations that do not honor mislabeled coffee prices make me upset

- gas station employees who shrug and do not correct mislabeled coffee prices so it's not an issue in the future for other unsuspecting drivers in need of caffeine make me further upset

10/13/14 at 2251 (Waitomo time)

Yesterday, I also explored the botanical gardens near the top of the Wellington cable cars. It was fun wandering and helped me to fall further in love with Wellington. I ended up having a late night African dinner and enjoying some good conversation with the counter man at the restaurant before calling it a (late) night. Then this morning, coffee with John and the pup before heading out for a long day of driving.

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I went up to New Plymouth first but was disappointed to find that (like most of NZ) everything closes at approximately 4 PM, so I missed the shops. The stretch of beach was not much to see either. I headed on to Waitomo direction so that I could see the glow worm caves, as the glow worms at the Maori experience in Rotorua had really mesmerized me. After about 3 hours of driving, I finally found a cafe open where I ordered a bacon-egg burger, which is apparently the same as a egg and ham burger with mayo. I took it as take away and drove up the road till I came to a large open beach littered with various bits of bleached white driftwood. I enjoyed my dinner with apple-blackcurrent juice (sure, why not?) and then wandered down on to the sand. With the setting sun, I had not realized what I thought was a muddy beach was in fact a black sand beach. It was my first time being on black sand and it was so intensely fine, I couldn't stop playing with the sand. Amazing Mukao Beach . . .

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Mukao Beach

Now I'm settled in my AirBNB room with Shirley, who also has a puppy Bella and is fostering a new mama cat with three tiny 3-week old kittens. I'll be leaving early in the morning for the glowworms and then to make my way to Auckland so unfortunately don't have so much time with Ms. Shirley before I head on. Crazy to think this 2 month trip will be over in just one day . . . it's been fantastic, it's been beyond what I can describe.

10/14/14 at 0332 (Waitomo time)

I can't sleep. Maybe it's because I'm excited for glow worms. Maybe it's because I know it's my last day in New Zealand and my last day for this whole RTW trip. Or maybe it's because I know there's a giant thick black spider under my bed that I failed to kill when it lowered from the ceiling near my toes . . .

10/14/14 at 2159 (Auckland time)

I am staying once again with Michelle and Derrick from AirBNB in their home near the airport, now facing the daunting task of packing away all of my souvenirs and mentally/emotionally preparing for my return home. I am ready but then again perhaps not . . . ???

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My last postcards from my last destination of my RTW trip . . .

Today was ideal and emotional for me. I started the morning early, fresh breakfast on the table and good conversation with my host Shirley. We talked for hours of travel and cultures, relationships, and life plans. I was sad to leave when the time came but was excited to head down too the Waitomo Caves.

The glowworms exceeded my expectations and created a sense of awe in all of us there. Truly beautiful. In the boat we were asked to be silent and in the background we could hear faint drips from various corners of the cave. The smell was wet but not musky, instead it was fresh and brought thoughts of spring. I cannot imagine what the experience was like for those exploring the cave decades prior, when they first came upon such beauty unexplained.

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Do you see any glowworms?

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Exiting out of the Waitomo Caves

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Waitomo Caves

I then continued on to Raglan, a sleepy little surfing city with "hippie" stores and a fancy technologically advanced public toilet. Then on to Auckland, but not before stopping at a local waterfall point I saw a sign for along the roads.

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Bridal Veil Falls

I had a simple dinner of yellow and green kiwi fruits, lemon pepper tuna on red bellpepper topped with fresh avocado from the orchards of Kiwi360(!). I was so excited that one of my avocados ripened in time to be eaten! I donated the other one to Michelle and Derrick.

And now . . . shower. Pack. Sleep, return rental car, fly home. Wow. It's over.

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Gifts and souvenirs of New Zealand

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Dew Drop Inn before my Hobbiton tour

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Seasonal whitebait frittata at the Dew Drop Inn

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Burnt seaweed Hot Water Beach

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Devonport

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Weta

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Yum!

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Found the elusive kiwi bird!

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New Zealand officially has the best public toilets I've ever seen!!

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And the last self portrait of my RTW trip on my last night of packing . . .
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Posted by WanderingWorld 22:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches beer auckland rotorua beach volcano cave new_zealand hobbiton whakatane wellington rtw whitianga waitomo glowworm airbnb foot_shot house_of_many_faces Comments (0)

Things I Want to Remember: Thailand

Bangkok

- in line for the British Airways plane to Thailand, the man with dreadlocks and tattooed elbows, multiple piercings and flamboyant red, yellow, & green pants, me smiling at his bold demeanor. Later on the plane, him in front of my exit row seat as he waited for the restroom, glancing up from my Woody Allen film to sneak a peak at him straight on, caught that he had bits of shell in his dreadlocks and a string of vertebrae on a dreadlock over his right shoulder. I smiled, he noticed, and without change in expression he turned away. Then, as if changing his mind, turned back to me, looked at me straight in the face almost as if to say, "Go ahead, you can look, it's OK". I was too embarrassed, he was a foot in front of me. I continued with my Woody Allen film experience but felt my face blush.

- first rain fall in Bangkok, running to Fortune Town for cover, looking for an umbrella to purchase, miming with the polite woman in the business suit, the kind man with the 8-foot green umbrella, walked me to the car port, smiling and helpful, couldn't remember phrase for thank you, both of us laughing and shrugging

- night with Faine and JP, they ordered pad thai, speaking with who we thought was the cook and later found out it was the owner of Aoody's, helping me to order an unfamiliar dish which ended up being seafood mixed with seasoning and jasmine rice, the owner apologizing for no shrimp, grateful I was able to order something other than pad thai which Faine & JP indicated was "the standard go to"

- the large frog in the lotus plant out front, Rob telling me he was saved by Fain, seeing his big eyes staring back at me

- Chinese vegetarian festival during the bike tour, seeing numerous turtles and other animals on strings, our guide explaining the animals are purchased, then released back into the wild for good luck

- Follow Me bike tour with Matthew our guide, enjoying the ramps and the slight misty rain towards the end of the tour, riding in narrow alleyways, hearing light rain on aluminum roofing and smelling incense from the homes, passing by an outdoor oil pan bubbling up, men smiling, children waving, scooters doing their best to be polite, policemen waving us forward, going alongside the water at a good pace on our bikes, the ferry, the Scottish wife feeling nauseous, husband climbed upon the seats and smiled, the flower market and the intricate work of the women there, learning to peel the lotus flower in front of the giant Buddha, having fresh fruit awaiting us upon return, wanting to ask the Scottish honeymooners to hang out but not wanting to take away from their honeymoon time

- Matthew explaining the land of smiles, discussing the genuine nature of Thai people, the happiness and respect for one another, appreciating Thai culture more and more

- Soi Cowboy, more interested in the unique variety of street food than the neon lights and bored looking Asian women in their mini skirts, lack of patrons, mysterious closed doors that I was sure held empty rooms with a multitude of naked women waiting for foreign men to enter

- free WiFi throughout Thailand thanks to Rob and his coffee shop cards

- sweet Rob and his OCD, rearranging the shoes, three different trash cans, post-it notes throughout the home

- precise queue lines created by the Thai people with no pushing or shoving, a respect of one another's space, a stark contrast to my experiences in China and Japan

- eating random chips with random flavors and drinking random drinks with my roomies while sitting on the cool tile floor in the kitchen

- Mod, my Bangkok food tour guide, cute Paul the Marine who I was paired with, us hitting it off more than the other group including the couple from Singapore, laughing at the insect cart and truly wanting to try them but Mod not understanding, pad Thai wrapped in an egg, sweet Thai tacos, crispy noodles with chicken & egg on top, the beautiful lights of Bangkok whizzing by during our nighttime tuk tuk ride, seeing the commercial being recorded in the street but not realizing until our tuk tuk driver smiled & pointed to the light-up sign which said "Move", the awkward ending of our drink at the Arun Residence in front of Wat Arun as we realized Paul and I were the only ones talking

- Nang Loeng taxi driver who was chosen by the police officer when others were trying to gain my favor at the train station, him shy and smiling after being so formal and cold, obvious that he was embarrassed, gave him a tip and saw him look somewhat surprised, grateful to find the market

- First Tuk Tuk ride, easily haggled down to 50 baht from 150 baht

- sleeping in my room with the green walls during thunder storm, hearing the flood of water pouring down, smelling the wet earth come through the windows of Rob's home, soothed to sleep and appreciating the experiences in both Ecuador and Thailand where I was able to fall asleep to ferocious rain fall

- the coconut ice cream within Chatuchuk Market, bright, foreign toppings of various consistency, all delicious and unrecognizable, strings of fresh coconut within the bottom of the cup

Chiang Mai


- drinking my honey lemon tea, taking a bite of fresh pineapple to help wash down the hot spice of the curry served with my dinner tray I ordered, listening to the loud Thai music played by the kitchen crew on a large radio system set up in the antiquated Japanese diner car, the window down and the air puffing through my hair as we pulled away, one staff lady with a little baby who all are enamored with, the baby who all are making laugh

- listening to Cab Calloway and Annie Lennox through my earbuds as the window in the diner car remains down, sitting with a neck cramp as I look out the open window, feeling a genuine rush every time we pass another train and a forceful puff of air pushes me back and the rhythmic clank of the metal becomes more lively

- my little cubby hole of an upper bunk with a vibrant blue curtain, realizing there were little coat hooks, an individual light, and hoop netting for possible trash, snuggling in to my blanket and smiling as I remember the look on the cashier's face when I declined the lower bunk and asked for the upper one "for the experience"

- Arlhan and her beautiful raised wooden home, seeing her sleep on the matt underneath the home, the homemade bamboo shower that made me feel like I was showering in a tropical paradise, assisting her with charging of her tablet and assisting her daughter open the can of condensed milk to pour on her slices of avocado, playing with extension cords for my dim light in the room and balancing my adapter at just the right angle to charge my camera batteries, loving the mosquito netting I had that took me back to my time in Uganda with Maria and George and our laughs as the mzungus tried to twirl the white netting the way a Ugandan does . . . I tried my skills again and it was enough to do the job but lacked the beauty and flare of George's skill

- Baanchang Elephant Park, my slow-walking elephant Ton Khwang with the steady gait except in patches of mud, feeling her coarse head hairs, tapping her head firmly telling her </i>'dee, dee'<i> to calm her during thunder, feeling her hefty stride push me side to side as she walked, laughing as she distractedly stopped walking and began to eat the tall grass and bits off trees, Ton Khwang's mahout Dang walking alongside and grabbing my feet to scare me (and somewhat succeeding), bathing the elephants in the man made lake with the sudden drop off we all clumsily discovered, relaxing in the wicker hammock, hearing them squeak under everyone's weight as we discussed our vacations, where we were from, and what we would be doing next, sitting down at the polished wooden table in the nearly abandoned bungalows, amused that despite the baron environment hot boiling water was still readily available for instant coffee or tea, kicking my feet up and working on postcards while listening to the elephants bellow below in the rain fell, looking to the mountains while riding Ton Khwang and appreciating the jungle foliage and thick mist

- Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai, the frail elderly woman in the wheelchair making wicker woven frogs, dragons, and fish, selling them for less than a dollar for the children to play with, quail eggs and 'ancient ice cream' street food, abundant stands around temples all filled with food, handmade leather goods and bits of art from soda and beer cans, listening to live music from the elder's club and more live music from groups of young men who were visually impaired, walking back to my room that night with my goods in a plastic bag, continuing to feel comfortable and happy with my direction and myself as a traveler, hoping my orange woven fish will make the journey home back to the states

- Crazy Jimmy and his elephant karaoke song, matchstick and shoelace magic tricks

- Chinese fire lanterns by the water, the darkened jungle around Baanchang, holding and releasing at the right time, feeling their heat and holding my breath as the large lanterns hovered over the water before ascending towards the night sky

- "white water rafting" in brown water, the nerves and excitement before, realizing the raft was taking on water before we left the bank of the river, being overtaken by a wall of mud water that left the raft full to the brim, seeing the panic set in to the "experienced" girls' eyes, losing our captain as he jumped out midway to take a photo of the chaos, spinning in circles near the rocks and beginning to fly down the river backwards, all misunderstanding the commands to stand versus to crouch, exiting out the raft onto a drowning reed plank where the water reached mid-calf and realizing I lost part of a toenail and a considerable amount of nail polish

- the short trek to the waterfall, sitting and sliding in the cool water, running into Lorre and Christoph (Belgium couple) and hearing of their horrific elephant experience compared to their time at Baangchang, doing the small rock waterfall slide, falling asleep on the lower level rock with the trees and sun above me, listening to voices carry down from the group talking at the small pool near the top of the waterfall

- helping to make poopoo paper in the factory, learning about the various fibers used, wondering how many products were made from the waste of the elephants whom we had helped to care for

- feeding the young elephants peeled bananas and bits of sugarcane, their trunks so much softer, strong mama reaching for the food as well, the staff reminding us that mama needs food too, focusing on her and reaching in to pet the babies

- the Hindu ceremony in Chiang Mai, two of us being corrected by the Thai women that we are not to stretch out our legs but instead need to sit cross-legged, realizing that feet towards their gods was an offensive act, listening to the music and the calls, the bells that were rung, not understanding the symbolism or the purpose, seeing the English man close his eyes and realizing that he was attempting to meditate in the way he learned and wondering if he was able to do so while being surrounded by so much stimulation, the free food after, enjoying the stewed bananas in coconut milk and the jasmine rice mixed with my curry

Krabi

- the pure seashell beach in front of the property, the crunch of the shells as I walked along the water, the sound of the waves as they ruffled the shells, reminding me of the waves at Serenity Bay in Castaway Cay

- swinging on the swing, my bathing suit dripping ocean water, the sound of the zacadas and the playful waves, seeing the Thai long boats in the distance as they zoomed off to nearby islands

- the South African couple in the water, holding one another quietly off to the side of the long boat before crawling in, giving each other little smooches, sitting next to them in the boat and offering to take their photo & noticing they looked particularly surprised, began a conversation, wanted to ask them how they were treated as a lesbian couple in Thailand but thought better of it, just hoping they felt relaxed on their vacation even in the conservative south of the country

- the Thai longboat experience, not understanding beforehand we were to crawl out waist deep into the water and jump/crawl into the boat, the water rough and splashing my chest, the sway of the boat and struggling to find a way to jump in without wetting my bag, laughing with the other patrons as we looked at one another nervously swinging in the narrow boat, saying, "Well, this is quite an adventure, isn't it?"

- laughing with Roma and Albin, learning about Work Away and hearing of their adventures throughout Africa, seeing Roma and the kitty together, exploring the waterfall and appreciating their earnest nature and adventurous spirit

- helping Bat with his drawing of the girl in the sand, giving her the seashell necklace and him finishing it off with a leaf, taking a photo and being proud of our temporary art piece in Krabi

- clear water of Railay Beach, the recurrent long boat experience back to port, appreciating the rough cliff edges we passed along the way

Posted by WanderingWorld 16:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged ocean beach thailand elephants bangkok krabi chiang_mai rtw things_i_want_to_remember baang_chang work_away dawn_of_happiness Comments (0)

Krabi, Thailand

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10/1/14 at 1852 (Krabi time)

It is now officially October . . . craziness. My flight was diverted to Phuket, where we waited for two hours in the plane and were still asked to pay for water and snacks. Then we were told that we were ok to make the 20 minute plane ride back to Krabi as the weather had improved. After the trip and a 40 minute busride, I made it to my fantastic room at Dawn of Happiness. It's a small individual bungalow directly on the beach! There, I met Lerrin, my awesome host and the owner, as well as some of the assistive staff who speak hardly any English but greet you with genuine smiles.

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Sign marking the entrance to Dawn of Happiness, which I found on AirBNB
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Peekaboo into Dawn of Happiness' kitchen
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The open and relaxing dining area
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My own personal bungalow
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Inside my bungaloo with another opportunity to work on my mosquito net skills
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My porch and seating area that came in handy for washing clothes & drying out the bathing suit after playing in the ocean
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My beautiful view
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I also met a retired Australian couple (Alban and Roma) who are working there through a Work Away program. You pay 24€ for a two year membership or 29€ for a couple or group of friends, then you are open to contacting hosts around the world offering room and board for a 20 hour workweek doing (literally) whatever it is they need, whether that's helping take care of an elderly family member, conversing with their children in English, or helping them to build a brewery and milk the cows. The couple told me they've already been contacted by people in Russia and the Himalayas about other opportunities!

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Alban and Roma

I relaxed for a bit after a quick meal and some FaceTime with the parentals, enjoying my bungalow's ocean view and close proximity to the water. Then I went swimming for a bit, then made the trek down to the Anaman Pier for the ferryboat to Railay Beach. Little did I know that ferryboat meant long wooden boat in which you wade out to waist high water, then jump in the wobbly thing. And you have to wait for 8 people minimum before you take off. I would have dressed differently if I had known the specifics. =P

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Your ferry awaits . . .

I walked around Railay for a bit, impressed with the clarity of the water but somewhat less than impressed with the care of the sand. I got a Green Tea ice cream cone before later giving in to a strawberry and banana Thai pancake, which was light and crispy.

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Thai pancake

Now I'm finishing up dinner at a Thai-Dutch restaurant adorned with dark wood and shell lights. I'll be grabbing a tuk tuk back to my place where I'll hopefully get my Turkish update on-line! Even with the delay, it's been a good day. =)

10/2/14 at 1711 (Krabi time)

Slept in this morning, jumped at sparks in the shower last night, gobbled down my "American" breakfast at the restaurant and then joined Roma, Alban, and Junker for a trip to a waterfall, swam around with Roma and Junker in the refreshingly chilly water, had lunch at a friend's restaurant with Coca-Cola in ice that was promised to be clean.

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Khao Phanombencha National Park
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Afterwards, we hung out at a friend's house (Welsh ex-pat) where some partook of the happy environment. We drank a few Thai beers and enjoyed squid-flavored fish strips, sweetened crisps of unknown origin, and watermelon chocolate as we played with cats and enjoyed the rain from the covered backyard seating area. Now back to the Dawn of Happiness for some rest time. Once again on this trip I feel like an accepted family member and it is difficult realizing that I will be leaving so soon.

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Exhausted, about to zonk before another day of travel

10/3/14 at 1034 (Krabi time)

Sitting in the Krabi airport with another unspecified flight delay. Grateful to have WiFi from a little coffee and snack stand, although the signal is poor. I see the staff repeatedly turning the router on and off again in an attempt to give better signal but I don't think that's going to do the trick. Munching on seaweed strips with a can of Pepsi to wash away the saltiness. I became quite fond of Alban and Roma, and appreciated their good-natured demeanor (as well as their insistence on improvements at the Dawn of Happiness in an attempt to better the business). We shall see if any changes take place.

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I return to Bangkok before heading out yet again . . . next up . . . New Zealand. =)

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On my way to see Huai Sa Khe Waterfall

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Alban and Roma

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Lower portion of Huai Sa Khe Waterfall

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Posted by WanderingWorld 16:13 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches food beach thailand krabi rtw airbnb foot_shot dawn_of_happiness Comments (1)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

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9/27/14 at 2047 (Bangkok time)

On the train on my way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, realizing that this my first time being on a train that's not at Disneyland or Knott's or Metrolink since . . . possibly forever. A true travel train. I'm sitting in the restaurant car with the window down, there's no AC in here but there are several fans. I prefer the hot diner car to my sleeper car towards the front; because there's AC in the sleeper cars, the windows don't open. And on top of that, they've already converted the seats into beds. There are several people in there, good enough for socialization but they all seem to know one another except for a handful of middle-aged folks who are sleeping and not interested in talking. I had dinner in here before the train started to run and the prices were only slightly inflated. Relatively decent all things considered.

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Getting ready to board the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

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So nice of them to issue warnings =P

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The communal luggage rack

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The seat area beneath my sleeper bunk

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The restaurant car where I spent the majority of my time, listening to music and watching Thailand go by

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My first meal on the train

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This was my second fake wedding ring of the trip after losing the first in Turkey (where it got the most use as a man deflector!)

As I look out the window and feel the wind on my face, an animated nighttime parade plays before me. Darkened graffiti on cement pillars, unrecognizable figures sitting in plastic chairs before their small tin homes, scooters running at various speeds following the route of our train. The speed is disorienting and I am not sure if we are passing through Thailand or if she is passing us by. Either way, the country is awake in the dark, alive with tinsel lights and scooter headlights. Loud Thai music is playing by the kitchen staff, who are laughing and joyfully talking. The music and the rush of the scenery works together to create an enjoyable slideshow experience through my square window.

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Buildings going by in the night

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Getting my beauty sleep

We continue on to Chiang Mai . . .

9/28/14 at 0937 (Chiang Mai time)

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One of my first glimpses of the greenery of Chiang Mai
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Breakfast view through the restaurant car window

We're almost there and the train ride was thoroughly enjoyable, from the sweet Chinese couple in the bunks nearby to the quirky restaurant family and their baby girl that everyone took turns holding & playing with. When I awoke, we were surrounded by jungle scenery with large mountains and the occasional rice patty field whizzing by. I hurried to get ready so I could sit at my favorite spot in the dining car. I enjoyed a simple breakfast of underdone toast with strawberry jam, a small sausage in a sweet sauce, a slice of thin deli ham, a slice of pineapple, unknown juice, and cup of instant coffee with sugar and powdered creamer. It was a great way to start the day. Soon I'll be to my hostel at Baan Arlhan where I booked a room for $4.64 USD a night. With free WiFi. =P

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My room at the beautiful Baan Arlhan

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Thapae, the main gate leading into Chiang Mai's Old City

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The red taxi cabs of Chiang Mai

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Setting up for the famous Sunday Night Market

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Ratchadamnoen Road

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Intricate glass items for sale at the famous Sunday Night Market

9/28/14 at 1748 (Chiang Mai time)

Today shall forever go down in history as the day I received termite-infested chopsticks.

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9/28/14 at 2358 (Chiang Mai time)

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This woman was hand weaving these toys for children; she made frogs, fish, and birds of colorful reeds and attached them to straws with a bit of string and a few beads. I cannot recall the exact cost but I believe it was less than 0.75 USD for the gold fish I purchased.

I think I am officially in love with Chiang Mai. It is so much more artistic and the weather is cooler . . . I had thought that going north to the jungle areas would bring more humidity but I was wrong. I was lucky enough to be here during the Sunday Night Market, which was HUGE! I ate a lot, bought a lot, and am now trying to sleep with my mosquito netting properly tucked as learned from my time in Uganda and Vietnam.

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Arlhan is so sweet and her raised house is gorgeous. The creaky floorboards have gaps between where you can see the matts on the earth below where Arlhaan and her children take afternoon naps. The small amber light in my room gives a soft glow to my "room" which is more of a nook sectioned off with a homemade wooden door that does not reach the ceiling. I met a neighbor from the room next to me. She is from France but I did not catch her name.

While out, I also purchased a two day experience at Baangchang, an elephant reserve that is known for properly caring for their elephants. I decided against the tiger experience as the tigers are said by many to be heavily sedated to keep risk of injury low.

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My first view of the elephants

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Ready to play with elephants

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9/29/14 at 1705 (Chiang Mai time)

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Writing postcards

Working on postcards as it rains. I'm sitting at the Baanchang Elephant Park, having just showered and settled in for the night. I'll be staying in the luxuriously large room #6 with three beds all by my onesies. There are several rooms here but only 5 people staying, 3 of which are traveling together. The electricity was out but it seems like it's just come back on, so that's good.

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Learning to ride

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In case anyone is curious what the view from atop an elephant looks like

Started off the day at 8:15 AM when I was the first tourist to be picked up from my hostel. Subsequently picked up an English couple, a couple from Belgium, and a family of 4 from New Zealand. They all had the one day trip, so together we fed elephants sugar cane and bananas, very reminiscent of my time in Ecuador at Sacha Yacu. We 'met' all the elephants and their <i>mahouts</i>, or trainers. Then we learned to climb up, control/command, and climb off an elephant, followed by a simple lunch of pad thai and fresh pineapple. Our guide was "crazy Jimmy" and the name is pretty fitting. He's a fun one. ;-)

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Crazy Jimmy teaching the elephant song

After lunch, it began to rain, so we relaxed in their wicker hammocks waiting for it to pass, then headed out when the rain was light. We were all pretty nervous riding the elephants when the rain had caused so much mud, but the overcast sky, the fresh earthly smell, and the light bits of rain made the experience so much more enjoyable.

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Waiting for the rain to pass

Ironically, the most fearful or anxious I have been this whole trip has been when my elephant Ton Khwang slipped a few times in the mud. I don't think you truly know fear until your elephant can't keep her balance.

Tomorrow is a jungle adventure, which I'm thoroughly looking forward to.

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We were surprised with lanterns to be released into the night sky
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The Baangchang 2 and 3 day group
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9/30/14 at 2358 (Chiang Mai time)

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Shopping portion of a small Akha village

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Purchased a seed necklace from this woman of the Akha tribe

Jungle adventure was somewhat thwarted by rain but included the trek to the waterfall, quick visit to the Akha village, white water rafting (which was more like brown water rafting), fresh lunch in banana leaves, and a visit too the elephant poopoo factory. We also were able to ride the elephants in the AM and help with their baths, then helped to feed the 7 month old and 2 year old elephants.

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The night ended with meeting new roommates at Baan Arlhan, including a young man named Lee who didn't appear to speak English but smiled at our conversation while he smoked his cigarette. The French girl is still there, and now a new English young man who spent 10 days meditating with monks. Apparently I misunderstood meditation. While I was under the impression it was about silence and reflection, it is more about the sense of nothingness and attempting too release your mind of all thoughts and concerns. Hearing about his experience with the monks was interesting. There is also an Australian girl who is quite excited about vegetation.

A group of us headed out with Arlhan to see a traditional Hindu ceremony that also included free Indian food. Arlhan toook a tuk tuk home but the rest of us (vegetation girl and meditation guy) decided to walk back. We came across the North Gate jazz co-op where I enjoyed a dark lager from Laos. I walked the rest of the way back on my own as it wasn't far and I needed to pack up.

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An ex-pat and tourist hangout, the North Gate jazz co-op is well known for it's large gatherings and good music

Arlhan is going to help me send a package home and she called a tuk tuk to pick me up in the AM. She headed off to bed after I paid for my water bottle usage. She's been such a wonderful host . . . wish I had more time to stay.

But I am moving on. Tomorrow, I am on to Krabi. =)

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My last night in Chiang Mai, happy to be back at Baan Arlhan

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Chao kuai, or grass jelly

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The Sunday Night Market had several musicians, including those that were
elderly, visually impaired, or hearing impaired. All played beautiful music.

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My plate from the Vegetarian Festival at the condiment table

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An unfamiliar, gelatinous drink . . . it was quite refreshing

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A woman asking for directions was assisted by multiple members of the military.
Truly the most polite military coup ever . . .

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Group elephant bathing time

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Posted by WanderingWorld 20:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged food rain thailand elephants jungle chiang_mai rtw vegetarian foot_shot baanchang sunday_market Comments (0)

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