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Bye bye yes we’re headed to Pai

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With 4 days left before I needed to be in Bangkok for a meeting with my new school, Robbie and I were at a bit of a loss as to what to do. Should we stay in Chiang Mai, head back and have a few to explore Bangkok or travel north to Pai…decisions decisions! It’s hot season in Thailand at the moment so staying in the cool north was very tempting. We’d both heard a lot about Pai from various sources and decided it sounded too interesting to miss. We booked a bus for the following morning and headed out to see Chiang Mai at night. It’s such a beautiful city, with the old city wall and such brightly lit Tuk Tuks driving around. Using the marvels of modern technology (my iPhone) we headed to the night bazaar (via 4 7/11’s…yup! 4!) According to a few websites this market is the cheapest in Thailand so Robbie was looking forward to getting some good deals on pressies for people back home. Therefore not impressed when things turned out to be over double the price of Bangkok! However we still managed some good haggling and enjoyed the walk around. Night markets are such a bustle of light and noise with stall holders ready to pounce on you to make a sale. The slightest display of interest in an item and they will begin the bargaining process. Some people don’t like it but if you approach it with the right mindset it’s really fun 🙂 I showed a huge deal of restraint in resisting buying some more elephant paintings (I already have one from this trip despite having nowhere to live yet!) but got a few gifts to send back at some point. At around 11pm it seemed like a good idea to visit a spa…only in Thailand can you get a pedicure (for me) and massage (Mr Young) at almost midnight. The last massage Robbie had in Thailand there was a special offer at the end so I was intrigued to see what happened this time! Maybe it was a female presence, or maybe it was just a legitimate spa because the offer was not repeated! Haha!! One slurpee later and it was time to head back and get some sleep before the early bus to Pai.

Now that was an experience!!!

The road to Pai is meant to be one of the bendiest in Thailand, so much so that when the locals ride it on their mopeds they can get a certificate from the police! I woke up so sleepy too so only wanted to get my head down, nigh on impossible when twisting from left to right up and down hills every few seconds. There was a guy called Charlie on the bus who was headed to the same hotel so that was fun.

All in all the journey took around 3 and a half hours dropping us off in this little boho town with a welcoming committee! People were so friendly from the moment the bus doors opened, offering advice on places to eat and visit while in Pai.

If ever you’re in Pai I sincerely recommend staying in Darling View Point. It’s a little hostel up on the hill run by Peter and his wife Darling. The second the 3 of us arrived everyone was just so friendly, a pool party was arranged for later that evening and we were all invited out for dinner beforehand, it was reminiscent of Bali times! Within an hour Robbie, Charlie and I, along with an Australian called Mike were off tubing. Peter drove us up the river to a place he had never dropped people off before and full of reassurances (not!) abandoned us there! The river was SO warm, honestly like a bath, and it was so relaxing to gently float along admiring the view. Definitely had worse introductions to new places!

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About half way along we bumped into a group of kids splashing around in the water. They swam alongside us pulling and pushing our tubes along. At one point I jumped out and let the water babies at the tube. Talk about acrobatics

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Just round the corner from there the water got a bit choppy and then rocky and I managed to burst my rubber ring. Oops!!! Luckily we were not too far from the end and had a true gent at hand who swapped tubes with me. The hole was only little so you could plug it up and keep going. But the next time we hit the shallows there just wasnt enough air to continue so Robbie had to get out. The rest of us were so far ahead at this point we had no idea what had happened to him. A huge lightning storm started and we were just starting to worry when a familiar face came over the bridge. Phew! We managed to get back to the hotel just before the heavens opened completely…seems to be a bit of a habit!!

Everyone was heading into town at about 6 that evening for dinner but having not eaten since the previous day Robbie was too hungry to wait so we had something to eat at Darlings and headed out with the others for cocktails. Mohito buckets, Singha beers and drinking games by the hostel pool. It was fun! All the excitement caught up with me though so I headed to bed around midnight, was just so tired!!

The next morning the Darling crew headed down the hill, over the bamboo bridge (so unstable!) and into Pai town to get breakfast and rent mopeds so we could explore the local area. Imran had visited a waterfall that he was keen to share. The water had created a natural slide ending in a plunge pool…so.much.fun! Yet another of those situations where a bunch of kids were showing all the adults up by being totally fearless so… In we went!

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It was colder than the river, refreshing you might say! The rocks however were so warm, I spent more than a while sunbathing there, for which my shoulders are still paying the price. I wish I’d got photos of people sliding, especially the mad guy who went down the next (far steeper) tier of the waterfall into knee deep water…mental! After a few hours hunger struck and we headed to Fluid, a lush public swimming pool which offered chunky chips and other western food. Seems odd I know but you miss it after a while. The 6 of us played a game of keep me up with a beach ball before going our separate ways, some >;ahem<; to get aloe to apply to rapidly reddening skin!!

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As Robbie and I were headed back to Bangkok the next day we took some time to explore Pai town that evening, strolling down the walking streets. Pai reminds me of Glastonbury, imagine Glasto as a town…thats it! Random stalls, temporary bars and food places as well as people of all shapes and sizes strolling around. There were push bikes with baskets, dread locks and Burmese carvings. I could have walked round for hours. We stopped for some street food (noodle soup!) before heading to a bar offering live music, a guy on guitar and another on keyboard playing some absolute classics. It was just the place to chill out with a ginger tea (it was served in bamboo! Couldn’t resist!) or a beer and chat away the hours (visualise a cube…tell me where it is, what it’s made of and how big it is and I will tell you about yourself). After a while the rest of the crew showed up with a plan to head back to the hotel which turned into ‘just one more bar’, haha! It was such a good couple of days, the cooler mountain air meant you could do things during the day and at night sleep without a fan or air-con quite comfortably. Or even chill out in a hammock on the balcony (bug spray helps!)

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After the elephants I thought the trip couldn’t get any better but Pai was the perfect icing on the cake. A really chilled out mountain town, there’s nothing much there really so no one knows why it has become so popular with tourists. But I’m really glad we took the time to visit!

Next Bangkok! But for now, sleep! Nos da readers xx

Blogathon Day 47 – He’s making a list, checking it twice!

Ho ho ho and a Merry Christmas to all!

Is there anything more magical than being a kid at Christmas time? Wishing for snow, counting down the days till a jolly old man in a red suit pays a visit down your fireplace, leaving out mince pies and carrots for the reindeer….magiiiiiiic! Today’s theme was set by my good friend Emma Brown (Enmability to her friends), who would like to know of a visit to Old St Nick.

The thing is, every story I can remember involves taking my nephews, rather than going myself. Yet I must have been, at least 10 times! So, rather than telling you a memorable story from a childhood visit, I’m going to tell you about the best Santas Grotto I’ve ever seen.

A few years ago we decided to visit Berkeley Castle, in Gloucestershire, during their Christmas celebrations. In December the castle becomes an even more magical place, their “Castle by Candlelight” event fills the castle with candles (surprisingly), giant festive trees and a choir warming the great hall with carols and hymns. It’s pretty fantastic, if you haven’t been and are close by I encourage you to go!

After you have explored the many rooms, old corridors and ‘secret’ passageways Berkeley has to offer, supped on hot mulled wine and enjoyed some roasted nuts (probably my favourite winter snack!) you are ready for the pièce de résistance…a visit to the big guy himself. I have to say, even I was caught up in the magic of it.

The entrance to Santa’s Grotto is a long narrow white washed corridor, adorned with boughs of green, fairy lights, mistletoe and decorations. Whilst you wait (there’s ALWAYS a queue) you can hear the choir singing. The day we were there everyone was in good spirits and often those waiting would join in with a carol or two, really got us in the festive mood! At the end of the corridor the ceiling and walls widened into a round cavern about 2m square (can something be m sq if it is round?) where sat a jolly little elf who asked for a pound per child who wanted to go in. She was SO cool, honestly until that moment my nephew had been quite skeptical about the whole thing (right on the cusp of the Age of Non Believing) but this elf, with a nod of her head, twinkling eye and few choice words had him enraptured.

In we went….wow.

Blue lights on the white walls gave the room a decidedly ‘North Poleon’ feeling, there was a carpet of snow, merry snowman and a path of fairy lights leading up to the jolliest man who ever lived. You know how sometimes Father Christmas has just obviously had a long day, what with popping back to Lapland to check on the toy making, answering to Mrs Claus about the route he’s planning to take on Christmas Eve and bugging the elves about the price of reindeer food going up again it’s no wonder that at times he can seem a little grumpy, but not this day! This was, hands down, the best mood I have ever seen Chris Cringle in…he was laughing and smiling, telling jokes and offering hugs to mummys and daddy’s as well as boys and girls. We came out of that room feeling warm and merry and bright and 100% glad to all be on the nice list. What a merry day we had!

I’m really intrigued as to whether Katy and Fi remember visits to St Nick (Sion (like Sean) Con in Welsh for those who are wondering!) as children…seems strange I can’t remember a single visit! I remember there being white footprints from the front door to the tree the year it snowed…I remember my father saying everyone will leave milk, so we should leave brandy out for Father Christmas. Haha! I can recall visits from family we hadn’t seen all year, Christmas walks and brandy butter. I remember the biggest present I ever had, from my uncle, and wondering and wondering what it could be for weeks before Christmas…but visits to mini North Poles, not so much! There’s a message in there somewhere. Am very much looking forward to this year now, thanks Enmability! 😀

Blogathon Day 31 – Tra la la la la, la la, la la!

For those who know me, try not to faint; I’m about to discuss Christmas, despite it definitely not being December. Fiona wants to hear about our family traditions, what’s a girl to do?

Christmas (Peg I hope you know how hard it is to even write that, I usually call it ‘Mid December’ at least until I have my advent calendar!) for my family always arrives after mums birthday (technically it arrives at the same time for every family, but you know what I mean!). She was born on the 16th December and it’s very rare indeed for decorations, trees or anything else to get a look in at our house before that. Quite right too in my adult opinion! As a kid however, the wait was torture! We have a few family traditions I suppose, things I took as normal until others told me they were odd. Having dinner on Christmas Eve for example is quite standard in our house.; a few years ago it was decreed that spending most of the big day slaving away in the kitchen sucked, so we have our big dinner the day before. Usually around 14 descend upon my parents house, where either mum or Col will have barricaded themselves in the kitchen (baby gates can be useful things) to cook the feast. By this point the trees (yup, multiple, one in the kitchen and one in the lounge) are up, candles lit and the whole house has that piney, spicy smell which only comes with Christmas. For the past few years it has been my job to ‘set the table’, ever so much fun! I’ve made table cloths and runners, bought new placemats and love choosing the colour scheme, decorations and seating arrangements for the meal.

Sadly the effect kind of gets lost once all the plates are put out!

Last year we were all also instructed to make our own hats, the results of this exercise can be seen above. My ‘hat’ was a sprig of holly attached to a hair band with some festive wire. Before you tell me off for making such little effort may I say that holly is very prickly and my head quite sensitive. Lesson learned!

Before bed the kids (that’s me and my siblings, not the actual kids) each get a present, usually something small or silly, but it sets the mood. Last year we also tracked Santa using an app on my phone which was VERY exciting, it even had a little notice for when children should head to bed so as not to be caught up too late when old St Nick arrived. Ace!

Christmas morning very much depends on the company, some years it is a leisurely adult affair, with bucks fizz, salmon and scrambled egg breakfasts while we wait for the youngens to arrive. Other years they are already there, so the lounge is often hidden under piles of wrapping paper before 8am. Either way there are always lots of hugs, oo’s, aah’s and chocolate for ‘pre’ breakfast (the bucks fizz et al occurs either way). I’m trying to think of what else there is to it really, with most of the ‘traditions’ over before midday on Dec 25th everyone just tends to relax until the Doctor Who Christmas Special (no Queen’s speech I’m afraid, unless Matt Smith is involved!). We play games with the kids, listen to new cd’s, try out new gadgets, maybe go for a walk to the beach (one year all the boys got kites), all the standard things which happen when you get an influx of new stuff to entertain you. It’s just fun, relaxed and friendly. All in all a jolly good day.

This post is part of the Twitter Blogathon.