Social anxiety and feminism vs. free food

Compared to how I used to be, I think I’ve become quite an antisocial person over the past year. Of course, that partially comes with age but I’m not really all that old so for that reason, I decided last week that I’d change my increasingly anti-social ways. I managed to make myself feel guilty about how much I love not going out, and that guilt pushed me to decide to go out to a free beach club dinner with a group of women.  In retrospect, mistakes were made which clearly need to be documented on this blog.

Mistake number one was made when I decided that free food trumps social anxiety. As soon as I decided to go, the dinner showed me what a social recluse and weirdo I can be at times  [insert sweaty armpits and awkward handshakes]. That’s probably made pretty obvious as I sit here writing a blog post about my experience leaving my house (HAHA). But hey, leaving my house got me a free 3-course meal right? The restaurant even boasted decent vegetarian options, so it was kind of a no-brainer that I had to do it. All I had to do for my free meal was wear a “little black dress.” Mistake number two was when I decided that free food trumped feminism. I was subjecting myself to something which goes against what i’d like to believe are my feminist principles. Whatever though, it’s hard to turn down a free 3 course meal and a chance to try to somewhat redeem myself socially.

The host of this event was an aging Italian man whose jokes were just tip toeing the line of sexism the entire night, but, did I mention it was a free meal? If someone were to write a story about my life the title would be “Woman puts up with sexist and misogynistic behavior for free food and drinks.” Just kidding that wouldn’t be the title but close enough.

So I attended this free food event and won my meal by wearing my little black dress. I tried with all my might to go against the grain as much as could. My little black dress was high necked, long sleeved, and went down past my knees and was probably more suitable for a funeral than a sexy girl event. Take that, that man, or….. umm whoever i’m trying to stick it to by looking as unsexy as I can.

I guess the purpose of this free meal was to promote the newly opened beach venue that it took place at. The prize for the girl in the sexiest little black dress was a bottle of champagne which served it’s purpose of getting us all really fired up . The price of champagne in Thailand is exorbitant. This little event/competition has been running for a few weeks now and we were told that the winner was determined by the host based on who he thought looked the sexiest in their dress (usually the tiniest dress). I think this may have been a little family un-friendly so they changed up the rules and decided to go the more um…intellectual route you could say.

So, he [the host] handed us small pieces of paper and asked us in 20 words or less (groan) to write why we deserved to win the free bottle of champagne prize (double groan). I decided that i’d be nice and oblige the man because he was about to feed me.

I again tried to go against the grain, as much I love champagne and as fired up as free things get me, there was no way I wanted to stand up in front of a group of sexy and scantily clad women and accept my shining champagne bottle award. I played with the idea of writing “I don’t want to win, please don’t pick me,” but then I thought, “No, don’t do that, maybe it will back fire.” So I went with something a little less out there and said “I won’t share the champagne with my friends if I win.” That answer was nice and rude so it was a sure loss for me. Thank the sweet heavens above his favorite choices of the winner were entries such as…..

“I’ve got a tiny black dress and longggg legs so pick me”

“I’m the best looking one here and i’m a princess, who doesn’t want to pamper a princess”

“Just look at me, i’m the most beautiful”

“I want to win, I want to win, I need to win, I win”

the list goes on.

My submission was clearly sub standard compared to these gems and thank goodness for that.  I can just imagine my champagne bottle acceptance speech now “Um hi everyone, thanks for being here tonight. I bought this dress for my future as the most boring woman in the world so it really means a lot to me that my submission about not sharing was able to beat out the, “I have really long legs” entry. I will cherish this bottle and um…um *bursts into tears for dramatic effect.”

Or something along those lines. Shame I wasn’t able to win this one. Alas, there is always next week as this lovely new restaurant bar club conglomerate thing has decided that this a weekly tradition.

This event just set me on the path for over analyze-ation of myself and everyone around me. I’ve been preaching lately (to my journal) about how much I hate that people base everything on looks when *cue cliche saying* really it’s what’s inside that counts. It’s actually a scary thought. I’m going to end this one here because I feel i’m about to waffle on even more.

Thanks for reading

Oh yeah, P.S. – the food was super good

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How to survive while traveling with a small amount of money – Part 1

Whenever I talk to people about traveling and why they don’t do it, one of the first reasons that I always hear is lack of money or an unwillingness to spend money. I’m here to inform all of you out there that you don’t actually need a lot of money to travel. I don’t think there has ever been a point in my life where I would say that I was wealthy or had more money than the average person my age and yet I’ve managed to get out there and see lots of different places. I’ve been able to do this because of a few different techniques that I’ve picked up along the way. I’ve provided below some pointers on ways to travel without a ton of money.1901546_10153813448965468_1445808495_n

*Note – This post will be two parts

Getting Somewhere

First things first – Figure out where it you want to go and the different ways you can get there. If you’re staying in the country that you’re already in and just moving to a different area, there are probably a few low cost options for getting where you need to go.

Traveling is not always easy  :)

Traveling is not always easy 🙂

For example: Take a bus – Do not be scared to do this; everyone does it. I quite enjoy riding the bus. It is a great people watching spot, you get to see things you probably otherwise would never see, and if you’re outgoing enough you’ll probably make a new friend. I know people who have never actually ridden a bus and to those people I have to say- it is not as complicated or terrifying as it might seem.

Take a train – I’ve got pretty much the same thing to say about the train as I do about the bus except the train is even better because chances are you can buy snacks on the train. If you’re imaginative enough you can even convince yourself that you’re on the hogwarts express to make the ride more fun.

Ride share – A ride share is pretty self explanatory; you share a ride with someone – usually for a small fee like splitting the cost of gas. There are plenty of different ways to find ride shares just be careful when you do it!10917167_10203640972769883_4235955159397242392_o

Take a bicycle – Depending on how fit you are, you may be able to get to your destination by bicycling. Of course for some places this will take several days to get where you need to go but no doubt will be a good experience.

If you’re going out of the country things can be a bit trickier. If you’re going to another country that borders your own, then the suggestions from above still apply. You can probably get there cheaply without leaving the ground. If you’re going a bit further than the bordering countries, or if you’re going overseas you’ll need to figure out how to look for a cheap flight. I will soon be providing a post on how to find cheap flights. Trust me, it can be done.

Where to stay

So when you finally do get to your destination you’re going to need to find accommodation that is within your budget. This can be done in several different ways. You can research accommodation in your destination ahead of time, you can wait until you get there and just see what you come across, you can hire a travel agent (let’s be real, you’re on a budget so you’re not hiring a travel agent), or you could rely on the help of friendly locals to guide you to the best places (this tactic does not always work – be careful especially if you’re a lone female traveler).

I’ve gone about finding cheap accommodation in all of those ways apart from the travel agent. Here are some tips for you guys:

Use your connections Go to a city where you know someone, even if it’s a distant distant relative, or a friend of friend, don’t be afraid to ask them the good places. If you know nice people, chances are they might show you around or even let you stay with them until you find a good place. I’ve done this on a number of ocassions. It helps to have friends all over the world. If you don’t now, you’ll get there because once you start traveling you’ll make lots of new friends.10177501_10152768621084199_1631014377_n

Stay in hostels – Don’t be afraid to do this. I remember my first experience staying in a hostel I was excited but also had a creepy image in my mind of what i’d be facing when I got there. My first hostel stay was in Edinburgh, Scotland and I have to say I had an amazing time. I paid something around 6 GBP per night to share a room with 7 other people and I had the experience of a lifetime. If you’re going for a long term or permanent holiday you can even land a job working at the hostel for free accommodation. This is a good way to keep yourself in your desired city/country without having to stress too much about finding work and accommodation. Working at a hostel does not appear to be easy but the people I met who worked there seemed to love their life and made so many life long friendships.1546265_10151955947508124_151448873_n

Scour the net for discounts and specials. Grab that groupon while it’s hot! There are deals to be found if you put in the time and effort.

Look into house swaps- Again this is one of those things that is exactly like it sounds. You can literally swap houses with someone on the other side of the world for a holiday. This one I’ve never done as I’ve not yet owned my own house but I do intend to try it one day.

Couch Surfing- For a small fee you can join a website where you can find a place to stay in different cities. This is really a great service and a good way to meet new people. The website is really helpful as well because you can read reviews about the experiences at different houses and choose something you think will fit you best.

Eat cheaply

Spy on the locals – The best way to eat affordable food is to watch what the locals eat. This is especially important if you’re in an area that has a lot of tourism. You’ll find restaurants that I like to call “tourist traps” everywhere. These will be the easiest and most obvious places for you to eat, but they are also probably some of the most expensive. Try and figure out where the local people eat and go and eat there as well. Chances are the food is going to be cheap, super good, and authentic.1969192_10152663015974199_49610931_n

Share- Another good tip is to share a meal with your friends. Sharing meals with the people around you is great way to make new friends, be a nice person, and save some money. If you’re coming from the western world, especially America, sharing plates is not a very common concept. Typically each person will order the food they want and eat that food to themselves. You will find that in a lot countries most of the eating is done “family style.” The dishes are all in the middle of the table and everyone takes some from each dish. This is an awesome way to try lots of different foods. I admit when I first came to SE Asia it took me a while to get used to this concept, it felt very foreign. I learned along the way though not to be shy, and not to be stingy and this has contributed to many wonderful experiences for me. Sharing a meal with people has to be one of the most joyful things you can do in life.1505090_10151971641248124_1119303183_n

Discounts, groupons, etc! – There are so many good deals and discounts everywhere you go. A lot of them will be things like buy one get one free which are great for sharing with your friends! Just put in a little bit of time and find good deals. Another good tip is to find newly opened restaurants that are doing trials. I’ve got quite a few free meals that way. 🙂

Limit your drinking- I know that for some people this will not be possible, but if you are able to limit how much alcohol you drink you will be surprised by how much money you will save. One thing i’ve learned along the way while traveling is that having a drink on your journey often leads to a fun time but it can also cause you to forget parts of your trip that you wish you could remember. After all, if you’re going to travel across the world just to get black out drunk you could save yourself a whole lot of money and stayed home to do that 🙂

Part 2 coming soon

Thank you for reading!

Chiang Mai – I’m in LOVE!

Guys, I LOVE Chiang Mai, I really really do. I’ve been trying to convince myself to go back to school so that I have an excuse to move there and attend Chiang Mai University.

There are so many reasons to love Chiang Mai but for me the number one reason is because it reminds me a little bit of home (as much as Thailand can I suppose). It’s such an extreme difference being in Northern Thailand in Chiang Mai for holiday and living in Southern Thailand. Life on Koh Samui is absolutely nothing like life in Chiang Mai. They both have great things to offer but also are so different to each other. In this post i’ll go into the a little bit of detail about my experiences there and what I found to be good while I was there. There is quite a bit more to say but i’ll try to keep this relatively brief!

Beauty in Chiang Mai

Beauty in Chiang Mai

Getting to Chiang Mai

We took the night bus up from Koh Samui to Bangkok where we arrived at about 6am. My boyfriend Ae is from Bangkok so we spent the day at his family’s house just catching up with them and did little bit of cycling around the neighborhood before getting back on another night bus that night up to Chiang Mai. We rode with Sombat Tour up to Chiang Mai and I kid you not, it was the coldest I’ve been in over a year. I don’t know what temperature they turn the AC on to, but my nipples were hard enough to cut diamonds and I’m pretty sure my lips turned blue. Ok, I’m being a little dramatic but I was just not ready for that aircon after living in Koh Samui for so long.

When we arrived to Chiang Mai in the morning we thought we’d step out of the bus to warm air and feel great but once again, it was cold! I am from MICHIGAN in the United States of America which if you know anything about Michigan you know it’s cold most of year (extremely cold), and I was shivering in Chiang Mai. Thankfully it warmed up throughout the day but just a tip for anyone visiting around December- January, bring warm clothes!

Another note about getting to Chiang Mai- you can get there a few different ways including by air plane. For us the bus made the most sense because of the budget we were on. From Southern Thailand it is about a 24 hour total bus journey up to Chiang Mai. You can also take a train from Surat Thai, rent a car and drive there yourself, or as I mentioned before you can fly in from various locations.

From the moment we got off the bus and took a Song Taew to the area of our hotel, I knew I was already in love. Chiang Mai is just so……cute! I hate to use that word but it really just is. It is so artsy and calm and quaint and cute! I felt like I was back in Michigan in a lot of ways.

One example of cuteness

One example of cuteness

I won’t bore you all with the whole step by step of what did in our days in Chiang Mai but I have put together below some recommendations, must sees, and other tips!

Where to stay

We stayed in Old  City for our time in Chiang Mai which in my opinion was a great choice because there was a lot to do and see there, it was really great fun. I get the impression that Old City is the main area that draws in tourism. With that being said though it didn’t seem to be all that crowded or touristy. We went over Christmas time which is supposed to be a very busy time in Chiang Mai but for me it was not all that busy.

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Opal and Ae sitting outside of Greenhouse Backpacker

We stayed at a place called Greenhouse Backpacker in old town and I could not have been more pleased with the place we decided to stay. Greenhouse Backpacker is a hostel but it does have private rooms as well. The hostel bedrooms have a maximum of four beds in each room so they are not too crowded. My boyfriend and I got a private room and my friend stayed in the dorm room. The beds are comfortable, clean, and each room is uniquely decorated. They’ve all got what I call the “Chiang Mai Feel.” The style and decor in there is unbeatable, and it’s also really hard to describe. As I said before it’s the artistic, maybe a bit hippy, a bit hipster, and a bit traditional Northern Thai style all combined in one.

Another example of some typical Chiang Mai cuteness

Another example of some typical Chiang Mai cuteness

Anyway, Greenhouse Backpacker was even more amazing because of the person who worked there named Opal. Opal was the funniest, nicest, most all around awesome person to meet in Chiang Mai. She was super accommodating and made our stay there really enjoyable because of her hilarious jokes. She also gave us so many tips on cheap places to eat, good temples to visit, the popular bar to go to at night, and the cheap places to rent bicycles. So I highly recommend giving the Green House Backpacker a visit, and tell Opal I say hi!

Getting around

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Santas everywhere! My Santa Tuk Tuk was amazing

Ride in a tuk tuk! Come on, be a typical tourist and just do it! It is actually really fun and chances are it’s probably something you cannot do at home. We were lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai over Christmas so our Tuk Tuk was extra special and all dressed up like Santa Clause.

Tuk Tuks are cheap, relatively safe, and a good experience. They are not great for super long distances but for short distances they are totally fine! I would say for about a 15 minute journey you can expect to pay somewhere around 100 baht in Chiang Mai. Split that with a few friends, and it’s practically nothing! Chances are your tuk tuk drive will also be super fun to talk to and have lots of good recommendations for you.

Tuk tuks are awesome but my favorite way to get around in Chiang Mai is by bicycle! It’s a great way to see parts of the city that you probably would not otherwise get to see. Also, there are bike rental shops everywhere so it is not hard to find one that suits you. The type of bike you should rent will be based on where in the city you plan to go. If you’re not doing any mountain or hill riding you can just rent a cruiser and take a tour around the city. Typically the cost of renting one for 24 hours is only 50 baht. Unbeatable really! It’s a great form of exercise, it’s fun, and the roads in Chiang Mai are cyclist friendly as they have so many people there doing it!

Relaxing at the park after a nice bike ride.

Relaxing at the park after a nice bike ride.

Another way to get around Chiang Mai is by catching a Song Taew which we did a lot of as well. Song Taews are the pick up trucks with benches put in the back for people to sit on. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and adventurous you will get to stand at the back and hang on for dear life. If you’ve been around Thailand before i’m sure you’ve encountered Song Taews, they are a very popular way to get around. In Chiang Mai they are also super cheap at about 40 baht per person pretty much anywhere you want to go in the city (within reason).

My last recommendation of a way to get around in Chiang Mai is to rent a motorbike. Unless you have an international license, it’s not the smartest idea in Chiang Mai. There are a lot of police to stop people riding to check for the proper licensing. If you don’t have it, prepare to pay! It’s just so much easier not to go through that hassle. If you do take the risk and rent a motorbike, ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET. Not only because you’ll get a big fine if you’re caught without one, but also because you’re head/brain/and life are way more important than your hairstyle and how cool you look. Ok, my public service announcement for the day is finished. 🙂

Song Taew action shot

Song Taew action shot

My top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai

Shop at the Night Bazaar

The night Bazaar is the famous night market in Chiang Mai and lucky for all it’s patrons it is open every night! The Night Bazaar is super fun, full of people, and full of great things to buy. I haven’t been to a market quite like this one yet in Thailand as it has things from pretty much every culture you can imagine. For any jewelry fans out there, this is also a great place to purchase jewelry. I think between Chiang Mai and Pai I bought probably 6 different rings and even more earrings (my boyfriend thinks I shop too much but that’s just not possible).

Another great thing about the Night Bazaar is that it’s not only a great place for shopping, but like  most markets in Thailand it’s full of great food. The food in the north part of Thailand is so flavorful, inventive, and of course, spicy. If you are not used to spicy food, make sure when you are traveling in Thailand you ask for your food not spicy or say “Mai Phet Kha,”kind of like saying the phrase “My Pet,”but for a female you add “Kha”on the end and for a male you add “Krap”on the end to be polite. “Mai Phet” in Thai means not spicy.  My experiences with food in Thailand have been that if you go far North or far South you need to be prepared for that famous Thai spice that you hear about. If you stay in the middle area of the country the food is not automatically burn your lips off sort of spicy.

Sorry to get off subject a bit, but I recommend visiting the Night Bazaar to pick up some great things to bring back to your friends and family or just to help remember your trip. It is also a great place for a nice relaxed night out.

Visit Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is a must see for Chiang Mai and i’m sure if you’ve done any researching on Chiang Mai you’ve probably already come across this name before. It is a mountain in the city about 15 kilometers outside of the center of the city. It’s a must see for several reason, one being the breathtaking Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which is the temple up on the mountain. There are a few ways to get there but I will give you the insider tip on the cheapest and best way to do it. Before taking my trip up there I did a bit of research on the cheapest way to do it because I am nothing if not frugal when traveling. My friends and I ended up renting motor bikes just for the trip up there (150 per motorbike rented). For us, this was the easiest way to go about it as it allowed us time to stop at the different areas we wanted to see and we could create our own schedule. The other option if you’re not super comfortable on a motorbike is to take a taxi or a songtaew (a truck with seats in the back) up the mountain, this one though is a bit more pricey at around 600 baht per person for the round trip. The nice part about doing that way though is that you don’t have to worry about figuring out where you’re going or driving up there yourself.  If you’re super fit and up for a challenge you can get there by mountain bike- as I mentioned before you can rent them almost anywhere. I do not know exactly how long this takes but riding a motorbike all the way up to to the temple took about 30 minutes. The bike ride up there looked quite challenging but I image it is was super satisfying getting to the top and it was clearly a great form of exercise. I’m planning to get the courage built up and do it on my next trip to Chiang Mai.

Once you do get to the temple though you’ve got some stairs to climb before you finally reach the beauty. It’s full of amazing Buddhist relics and history, and there is quite a bit to see there. Also, the view from up there is unbeatable. It really put into perspective for me just how big Chiang Mai actually is.

At the temple on Doi Suthep

At the temple on Doi Suthep

There is a cost to get into the temple which was around 20 baht at the time I went, so not much at all especially for what you are getting when you go there. Although the temple is a major tourism spot and from what I gathered is often full of people, it is still almost impossible not to feel at peace while you are there.

Eat Khao Soi  (ข้าวซอย) 
If you’re a lover of food, or eat food just to sustain life I urge you try Khao Soi, you will not regret it. It is something like the North’s version of the noodle soup that see everywhere in Thailand. I’m kind of horrible at describing flavours so i’ll try my best here- Khao Soi is rich, creamy, slightly spicy, and just all around delicious. You can get it the classic way with chicken, or just vegetables like I did. Based on the reviews from my friends and from my experience, it is delicious either way. I really couldn’t even tell you all of the ingreidents that it includes but to name a few – boiled noodles, fried noodles, coconut milk, some sort of stock, curry, lime, and the list goes on and on. It’s simply amazing! You have to get it when you’re in the north because that is where is originates from so it will be the best there. Also, I’ve discovered that it’s nearly impossible to find anywhere else.

Sorry guys, wish I could upload a picture of deliciousness but I was literally too excited every time I ate it that I forgot take a picture. You can google it though to see what i’m talking about.

Get a massage at the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution 

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, prisoners giving massages. Well to be more accurate, they are female prisoners who are almost finished with their prison sentences and are preparing to transition into the massage industry when they are released. The massages are really good, really cheap (180 baht per hour!), and more importantly they are helping to make a difference in the life of people looking for a second chance. They are professional, and make their customers feel completely comfortable.

I would highly recommend this if you love relaxation and massage and are looking for an affordable massage coupled with a unique experience. Not only will you leave relaxed and feeling good but you can also go back and tell all your friends that you’ve been massaged by a prisoner. That makes a good opening line for a story.

While there you can also purchase handmade products that some of the ladies have made during their time and the money for this goes back to into the program that is helping out the prisoners to sharpen their skills. This massage parlor is a great idea for helping women to have a better and more structured life when they are released.

If you are interested in having a massage though I would recommend booking before you go so that you are guaranteed a spot, this is quite a popular stop in Chiang Mai.

Lounge around in Suan Buak Had Park

Lovely day at the park

Lovely day at the park

On a lovely day we decided to take a ride over the Suan Buak Had Park and I’m really glad that we did. I am huge fan of parks and I always felt like I needed a park visit while living in Koh Samui. It was really nice to see a beautiful, green, well kept park that so many people were enjoying. The park is quite small (it takes about 5 minutes to ride a bicycle around the whole park) but has a lot of different things going on so there is no way to get bored there. There is plenty of room to just lounge around and read a good book or relax and talk with friends. If you’re worried about sitting on the grass, no need worry anymore, you can rent a bamboo mat to sit on for only 10 baht. If you get hungry or thirsty just take a quick walk around the park and you’ll find refreshment carts to satisfy your needs. I had to have some coconut ice cream while I was there, I couldn’t resist it. At only 25 baht per cone though, it is hard to turn that down. Not only is the park filled with ice cream but it’s also filled with people doing physical activity. Yoga classes, acro partner yoga, and slack lining seemed to be the most popular things going on when I was there. From what I gathered, yoga happens quite frequently in the park. It’s not hard to see why, it is a peaceful and tranquil place, and although there are quite a few people there, it is a quiet place as well. If you’re not too into yoga you can try your hand at one of the permanent exercise machines they’ve got around the park. Or, if you’re like me you can just do a couple laps around on your bicycle and then lay down and eat some ice cream. Either way, this a great little place that’s worth a visit for a peaceful afternoon.

 

Conclusion 

As I said before, I love Chiang Mai, and I highly highly recommend it as a must see when you are visiting Thailand. I’ve barely scratched the surface in this post of all the things to do, all the places to see, and all the wonderful details about the city. The food is unbeatable, the people are super friendly, the night life is buzzing, and the city makes you feel a little bit magical somehow. If anyone is interested in more recommendations of things to do or places to go please get in touch me with I am happy to recommend more.

 

Thanks for reading!