Thursday, 24 July 2014

"It's my favourite place, we have to go back", Koh Phangan, 2nd visit

5 months of seeing, doing and traveling have passed since I last visited my memory bank and posted about my 'story', this Thailand post took place across 2 weeks from February 19th ..
With this in mind, a few things are bound to be missing but it was a great time that I just couldn't miss out!
The times that follow this in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have pretty much been written up already - I had a surge on inspo on a long haul flight from Brazil to Australia a couple of weeks ago so let's just take this one for what it is for now and then I can crack on with the rest of them (which somehow I remember much more clearly!) 
Here goes .. 

The scene
Jen and I left James behind in glorious Pai and spent a steady 12 hours (bus, 2 flights, boat) going South then East across Thailand to Koh Phangan. The final two weeks of my 60 day Thai visa would be spent here, the place I'd loved best so far, with my still relatively new friend Jen "girls only, woo!", 19th February.

The story
Leaving Pai at dawn, hungover but feeling frisky we made our journey to the island. Koh Phangan had treated me so well on my first visit back in early January that I couldn't wait to set foot on its white sands again. We arrived as a pair and ended up with a new friend, Jake (Shakey;), a solo traveler from New Zealand. We also randomly reunited with Bert again too - I'd met him during that first January Phangan trip and then traveled on to Koh Toa, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi with him and his other two friends Bas and Richard. 

The highlights;
- Jen kicked off in Chiang Mai airport because cafe staff gave her hot milk for her tea "why do they do that?! They just don't get how to make tea over here!!". We agreed from that moment that if we wanted "proper tea, a proper builders cup" we'd have to make it ourselves.
- Having a "pamper" session in the bungalow with 100 baht facemasks that felt like they were made from paper mâché and singing "we're going Tinderrrr' before a beach/ buckets night out "don't take photos of me!" Sorry mate, photos of us looking great appear to be seen below..
- Jen putting a Welsh flag up in the window much to my delight "Wowww! A Welsh flag! Now our jungalow bungalow feels like home!" Little ties with family really do become so important on the road!
- Shania our resident Gecko whom I've previously mentioned in earlier posts brought a boyfriend back to the "bungalow of love" one night. Fat Frank the toad appeared through the bathroom drain hole, luckily he survived us not seeing him at first "we nearly washed him away, Shania would have been devastated!".
- Hiring scooters "they're both called Ben" and exploring the island "there's so much more to Phangan than the Full Moon Party!" Jen was nifty on a scooter and burnt me off at every chance "I'll succeed and finally lose you one day!".
- Going to a Coral Pool Party and being told party tales by staff "people aren't allowed to jump off the roof anymore but they keep doing it".

- Chatting to Jake on the beach on our way to the Half Moon Party and ending up going as a three to check out the event we'd heard so much of. We'd already been on the buckets on route and I remember paying 600 baht to get in then later thinking "swear I was only in there for 10 minutes..". Annoyed to report that Jake told me the next day "you were only in there 10 minutes, I saw you leave". Jen shouted "one of the best nights of my life" when she got back at 10am .. Yes, I'd bailed early, passed out and missed the fun! Too many buckets is good for no one!! 

- Discovering the garlic mayonnaise at The Lazy House! If you're ever on the island, you must go there to watch a film and eat chips with that! "Can we get some more mayo please?" "More than that, more than that .. thanks ;)".
- This deffo isn't considered a 'highlight' but we saw a man nearly drown in Haad Rin, 6 men went in to save him then they got stuck out in the current and he managed to get back to shore. Everyone got in safely in the end and the original drowner was carted off (literally!!..) in a tractor to the island doctors. Don't swim if you can't swim folks!! That sea looks pretty but the locals told us it's got a bad rip "this happens all the time".

- Starting a big night at Mushroom Mountain, we decided to all "hop on the fun bus" and "never get off". Handily the bus "drove us" up to the highest point of the island, all the way into the Black Moon Party. 
It was a night filled with neon, laughs, weird trance music and an unusual crowd; "that guy looks like Gandalf","I'm the only person to go to India and not go to the Taj Mahal", "that guy just tried to lick my face, I had to lose him in the crowd".
We spotted a group of boys (Hi Alex and Darryn;) in matching kimonos and recognised them from the beach a previous night when they'd all been wearing matching shirts, neon glasses and had been running under the fire limbo "they always wear matching outfits, love it!". We made friends and danced the night away "this place is nuts, look at the view out over the whole of Phangan" "Ahhhh! I never wanna leave this island!". 

- We decided to go by long tail boat to The Sanctuary on nearby Haad Tien beach for a "break" and ended up having one of the wildest nights of the fortnight. It all started with cocktails in the bar then feeling energetic/ tipsy we raced up the dodgy steep steps and ran across the mountain in the dark moaning at each other the whole way "are we there yet?!" "I can't breathe". Our destination was Eden, a night we'd heard so much about ..
You can buy anything over the counter in Eden, a wooden shack/ bar/ crazy dance floor on the mountain. Jen, Jake and I exchanged baht for a good time with the bar man and got in the mix. 
Eden dance floor is not for dancing, it's for stomping! Bare foot stomping, wriggling your body and shaking your mane like there's no tomorrow stomping! It was a sweat fuelled night full of laughter that we couldn't piece together the next day "Lar, you look like you've been in the shower" "Whatever! Time of my life! Jake take a photo!". 
Eden is an absolute must do, you can get directly there and back by boat from Haad Rin for just 150 baht each way. It starts around midnight and goes on into the morning. The music and atmosphere can't be compared to other Phangan parties, it's just different! Many people visit Phangan and never go there - don't be one to miss out! 

- Bert joined us at The Sanctuary for a night then we all hot footed it back to Haad Rin "we've had enough of a 'break', we wanna party more!". It was so good to see him "yayyyy! I'm so happy you're here!" after what felt like years apart when really it was only a matter of weeks since I'd left him on Koh Phi Phi, the beautiful crazy island at the South end of Thailand. We all swapped stories that night in the bar with Bert telling us how some place in Krabi had got him "closer to nature" (free hugs from "bed rats" anyone?). Having Bert bring our little group to an even 2 girls / 2 boys was fab, we spent a lot of our time together winding each other up, eating ace food and watching movies when we weren't out "driving the fun bus" on the beach.

Those two weeks were filled with sun, massages, cups of teas, green curries to die for, endless laughs and famous island parties. Jen and I decided to part ways with plans to "meet up in Cambodia if we can, we should be able to, we'll work it out". 
Jen went on to Koh Toa then Phuket and Koh Phi Phi but I'd "already done them all, can't go again, plus my visas out - I need to leave Thailand!". I made plans to travel on to Laos alone. 

The minibus picked us up to transfer us to the ferry port and I remember thinking "this music is making me feel emotional!". I looked round at Jen "are you crying?!!" She nodded. Then I started crying and we started laughing "ah, can't wait to leave you! Hate you so much!". 
Think we realised right then how close a friends we'd really become, we'd only traveled for a month together by that point but as any traveler will agree, a month is a long time to spend enjoying loads of unforgettable experiences together. We waved each other off "why we crying? Pair of divs!", "don't drink tea without me!".

I remember sitting on top of the ferry looking back at the beautiful island and its surrounding turquoise waters as if it were right now. It felt really weird leaving Jen but I was excited for the next stage of my trip, what would Laos hold for me? I couldn't wait to explore it and meet the new friends I knew would surely be there. 

Leaving Thailand ticked off the first 2 months of my solo travels. It had been amazing, unreal, the best, more than I could have wished for. I'd been ill a few times, lost endless pairs of flip flops, met people I loved "I love him" and had an all round unbelievably happy time. It was pure magic, I left knowing I would be back soon "best two months of my life, love that place, love the people, love the feeling of being constantly free". But for now it was time for the night train to Laos!!




Monday, 19 May 2014

"Never forget the power you hold in your finger tips"


Writing this post with a little bit of a heavy heart, it dawned on me a couple of days ago that I won't be able to blog while I'm on the next two chapters of my life, of '#Larasstory' ..

*** WHERES MY BLOG AT; 

I've just written about Pai in North Thailand, early February 

*** WHATS POSTS ARE COMING NEXT; 

Thailand (2nd visit to Koh Phangan) 

Laos (Vientienne > Vang Vieng > Luang Prabang > Don Det)

Cambodia (Siem Reap > Koh Rong > Phnom Penh)

Vietnam (Ho Chin Minh > Hoi An > Hanoi plus Halong Bay for the Castaway Tour)

Thailand (Koh Phangan, 3rd and final visit! > Bangkok final visit pre Australia)

*** WHATS HAPPENING NOW;

I've been in Melbourne for nearly a month and absolutely LOVED it. If you follow me on twitter/ insta/ bookface you'll see how many great times I've experienced here (many thanks to my amazing friend Rhia for showing me so much in a short time;).

Tomorrow I fly on to Sydney for 8 nights, can't wait to explore the new city .. after I've been to Sydney I'll make my mind up as to where I potentially want to be based in Australia (when I'm done traveling around and exploring it - no planned time scale on this at the moment!).

Melbourne has stolen my heart; Sydney has a lot to live up to, we'll see!

After Sydney I fly (for 35 hours!) to Brazil on May 29th to volunteer on World Cup campsites. Based primarily in Salvador we'll be on the Rio and Natal sites too. 
The whole 'Brazil thing' came about through Jen, the girl I met in Bangkok in the first week of February and then ended up spending most of my time traveling SE Asia with. 
She was already going and I jumped on the bandwagon - we traveled Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam together - I still can't believe we'll be sharing South America times now too!! 
Meeting Jen changed my life, a chance friendship formed while watching the Wales vs Ireland rugby game in a grotty travelers pub on Koh San road has led to us crossing the world together for 2 "once in a life time" months.

*** THE POINT OF THIS BLOG POST;

I didn't have a phone during my 4 months traveling SE Asia and lived things through my iPad, blogging when I could. Not having a phone meant many missed opportunities for amazing photos and captured special moments but the times I did have it made for 5000 photos and 400 videos across those 4 months (Jan to April).

Now I have a phone I've decided not to bring my iPad on the next bit of my journey. I'll be reunited with it in August when I get back to Melbourne. I feel like it's too precious to risk getting stolen and it's one less thing to worry about, safety alerts will be on high in South America!! 

So, I wanted to thank YOU for reading my 'story' to date. I've been so happy with the amount of readers and amazing feedback I've received so far. 
Come August I'll be back in Australia and having missed writing, I'll be raring to pick up where I left off. 

I've got a new notepad (complete with Steve the unicorn) on the cover to record notes on posts to come next, it will all make the blog one day not too far away!

I'm going to publish my 4 months in SE Asia into an ebook and hopefully a paperback too. I go back to the UK to visit home for a month in late October so will have my blog updated and my book in process then. 
I hope my stories will inspire others to travel and make girls realise that with guts, a bit of planning, savings in your back pocket and a willingness to embrace life you really can go out there and explore our world alone. 

Can't wait to get my blog going again, I have sooooo many unreal times and truly fantastic people yet to be introduced, some of the very best times are yet to come ;)

Ciao for now !! I will be tweeting and Instagram'ing @LaraLain while I'm gone. 
Look forward to hearing from you on there.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING MY BLOG !!!!!

**** "Whatever you do be playful with it" **** 




Tuesday, 13 May 2014

"I I I I I iiiiiiii like you veryyyyy much", Pai

The scene;
James, Jen and I head off to Pai with the wisdom of our crazy friend Helene ringing in our ears; "theres 762 bends in the road on the way up" she warns - armed with sick tablets off we went! 16th February.

The story;
We'd heard the bus from Chiang Mai was "3 hours of hell but worth it in the end", as it goes the journey was fine! The "762 bends" were indeed a fact, not a myth, but since it was so damn bendy the driver couldn't get up too much speed, phew!
Apart from someone yodelling at the back of the bus "earphones are going in, can't be dealing with this shit!" our journey was good, we arrived in awe of the beautiful scenery we'd seen on our way.

We explored Pai's infamous Walking Street (no cars allowed but dogs on scooters are A OK..) and fell in love with the place, it was small with just 2 'main' streets full of cheap, interesting shops that were different to others we'd seen so far in Thailand. 
We raided the 7eleven (the 'Tesco Extra' to every British traveler) and made a bar in the bungalow on that first night. Jen was running the joint; "I haven't got a beard, am I still allowed in?" "Yeah I'll let you off, Samsong and Red Bull is it love?".

James provided the entertainment as we got ready "Tom Jones is in the shower". He joined us on the Red Bull high then we had the "all of a sudden I was down Coolers on the wazz" Welsh banter going on and him singing "10 songs in a row! Boom! Your turn!" for us. 
We ended up in the Don't Cry bar sitting around the fire chatting with fellow travellers. At one point we ventured into the 'club' area, only for the sound system to completely cut out the moment we started dancing "No way!! Ha ha, we're the only divs in here, let's go back to the fire!".

Next day James (aka The Crazy Frog) hired a scooter and went off on adventure arvo with friends he'd made on his Chiang Mai trek. While he was gone Jen and I shared an afternoon that neither of us will ever forget; our friendship took a turn down the "you're as mad as me, we'll deffo be mates for life now for sure, forever, there's no going back" route.

It was one of those "you had to be there moments" (don't you just hate them!) but basically .. Jen was telling me something about someone and it was just the way she described one thing. 
I was lying on the balcony facing away from her looking out over the mountain and she was in the hammock. Her voice piped up sounding all quiet and meek (which let me tell you, she is not!) behind me, just the way she said it made me roar with laughter like I'd had 20 laughing gas balloons in a row. 
Laughing turned into hysterics "Whaa? Whaa? What's so funny Lara?" and next minute I'm crying so much my sides are hurting. 
It went on for ages, the more we laughed the more we couldn't stop. She laughed at me laughing at her then we were just laughing at laughing. We rolled around that balcony like a pair of goons "are we on day release?" "The neighbours are guna think we've lost it".
I'm laughing as I write this just thinking about it. "Laugh cry or die" was born that day. It's hard to make such a feeling come to life here but it was hands down one of the funniest moments of my entire 4 months in SE Asia.

Later, James returned high on life and told us of winding roads, rock climbing and walking the Pai Canyon "today has been one of the best days of my life". Having just about got over the laugh-cry episode James scootered me up to the Buddha that overlooks Pai before sunset fell and we admired the beauty of the wonderful place from above. 
One of James' fave pastimes on a bike is waving to his friends, I clung on like a limpet on the back, he didn't go fast though I was just being a baby because the light was falling and I "can't see James, I can't see!".

Jens friend Brock joined us from Chiang Mai that day, we went for a lush meal, no food is bad in Pai! Then on for drinks with Adam (Sandler). We discussed the glorious thing that is "piss shitting" (travellers out there, you know what I'm saying), pretended to be Buddhas and 'enjoyed' strong cocktails that had "too much lime in them".

Later, me, Adam and his mates went back to ours for a "party! Let's have a party!" and bugger me I shit you not the party did not last long!
Our (locked!!) door was opened by the bungalow owner, who I recall had a rifle in his hands "no noise after 10pm!" "Whoaaaah sorry we'll be quiet!". Of course we did not mean this at all and had no intention of stopping the fun. 
Andddd of course it all ended about 20 minutes later with these words "you've had 3 chances, if I liked you you could have stayed but I don't - if you don't leave I will kill you". 
Well!!! Calm down, we were only jumping around the bungalow blasting music and drinking from 'Jens bar', easy goes sir ;) Anyway, the party was pooped and we had to leave. Shame we 'couldn't read' the sign on the bungalow hey..
Adam went back to get his top at one point and told us "he was staring at me through the hedge with a sniper, swear that looney was guna shoot me". Note to self, stay ay Spicypai Backpacksrs next time, friends have since informed me it's THE party place to stay in Pai. 

I ended that night running around random bungalows at 6am shouting "Jen! Jen! Are you here? We're guna miss the bus!!". We found each other at 620am "Hiya loveeee, Koh Phangannnnn" and we're on the bus loving life by 630am.

2 nights in Pai was never goi to be enough, if we'd know how special a place it was we would have got 'stuck' there for who knows how long. It's a little gem in the north of Thailand, one of my ultimate fave places in my 2 1/2 months in Thailand. In the words of Arnie "I'll be back" ... 

So, as the story goes .. James stayed on and Jen and I left Pai in a state of euphoria, we'd had little sleep after our eventful nights but we didn't care, our next stop was Koh Phangan. 
My second visit on my trip and Jens first ever ... I knew what awaited us and Jen couldn't wait to see what fun I'd been talking so highly of. As you can see from the final pic below we laughed out way out of Pai in hysterics, what was going on in that pic is anyone's guess. 












Wednesday, 7 May 2014

"What happens in the jungle stays in the jungle", Chiang Mai (part II)

The scene; 
Deciding to be 'proper' travellers, Jen and I signed up for a trek with Travelhub. For just £30 we'd be off on an adventure into the 'unspoilt' Samoeng depths of the Thai jungle .. leaving lovely Chiang Mai behind for a few days - we didn't have a scooby about how it would REALLY be.

The story; 
The idea of an "epic 3 day 2 night trek in the jungle, it's amazing!" came from my travel buddy James. He'd "done it before" and reported it was "the nuts Lar, our guide set the bungalow on fire when he was smashed on the first night, you gotta do it!" James told his tales of previous fun with gusto and I was sold, I wanted in!

Jen was game too, she signed up for the 1 night/ 2 day option and I went all "going hard, not going home" and chose the 2 night/ 3 day option. James went off on a different trek as he'd done the one we'd booked on to before. All was well as we split at the SoHostel "see you in a few days buddy, enjoy!!"

Well! It all started rosy; pretty, green, boiling hot to the point of burning alive in the never forgiving Thai sun but still rosy. It didn't stay that way though did it, oh no no no, that would have been too easy..

High highs and low lows; 
Our tour guide was called Rocky, a teeny tiny little Thai man who appeared to have rockets attached to his (what I assume to be) size 4 feet. Keeping up with Rocky and his trusty bamboo stick was a challenge from the start. 
Me and Jen got our whinge on pretty fast (only to each other of course) "does he have to go so damn fast? I AM SWEATING!".
The first day brought lunch at a beautiful waterfall; a waterfall that had some wild dogs trying to nick our lunch and also an amazing rainbow within the fall itself. I'll never forget seeing that rainbow, it was perfect timing "I'm going to find the pot of gold so I can travel forever".

After the waterfall, which was only about an hour into the trek it all went sort of downhill. We climbed high, like if you crane your neck back to look up to the sky but instead of sky you see jungle and jungle and more jungle peering down on you. 
The trek was hard !! We were scrabbling upwards on our knees at a few points it was so steep. 

We made it to our first overnight stop without any major issues and we'd seen some amazing views on the way - when you're in the jungle, you're proper in it, miles away from any kind of civilisation. Me and Jen had a Red Bull in the arvo (they're laced with something that really does give you wings in Thailand) and it saw us skipping through to the evening camp.

Said camp came with a little baby monkey "call him Rocky 2", a cat that hugged the monkey and a dog that wanted to 'play' with them both. Our guide said we'd trekked '15km' that day. 
I was playing one of my fave DJ's, Sam Divine, on my iPad as Jen and I shared a Chang outside our hut "yeah I know Sam Divine" - the deal was sealed, me and Jen would always be friends forever now ;)
We visited the Longneck ladies, tried on their long neck gold, learned about their way of life and settled down with our group for a night of Bob Marley, chatting and food by the camp fire.

I've got a video of me waking up after that first night and apart from Jen (since she was there) no one else should ever see it. My head looks like a balloon with pin pricks for eyes. 
"Great sleep, no one was awake 1/2 the night. No we didn't get woken at 4am by a rooster with the wrong time clock". Joking around then and not having seen myself in a mirror, I didn't realise what was coming next.

After breakfast I realised I felt "weird" but tried to laugh it off as I do with anything negative (being in the middle of the jungle I had little choice on my state of health after all). 
I could have asked to go back with the 2 day crew but didn't want to, I wanted to ride the elephants on the next (last) day. I had it all mapped out in my head that I wanted to complete the whole trek and I wasn't about to give in.

ANYWAY, suffice to say I wish I had !! The moment Jen went off with the 2 dayers I turned back to those left on our group and said "can you wait for me up there a minute, I'm guna puke" and with that I promptly turned and puked what felt like my whole life out in the hedge. 
Well! I didn't have a clue what was wrong with me. The day went from bad to worse. We trekked another 15km that day. Across all sorts of terrain in the raging heat. I couldn't keep up with the group and stopped loads to prevent myself fainting, it was so embarrassing! Being ill and weak just isn't me but I had no choice, my body was caving!

We stopped for lunch for 3 hours (dunno why it was that long but I was so grateful!). Rocky showed me a hut to sleep in and the moment my head touched the wooden floor I was out cold. 
I slept until I was woken then dragged myself as best I could behind our group to the Karen Hill Tribe family to stay for our final night. 
Getting there was such a relief, I didn't eat, just slept, praying tomorrow would be a better day. I've got a video of me sitting alone in the dark in my mozzie net saying "if you can't laugh at yourself you've had it, Blair Witch eat ya heart out" ha ha!!

The 3rd and final day brought a degree of better health, thankfully !!! We rode the beautiful elephants through the jungle and laughed as the girls one was intent in having breaks whenever it felt like it and they got left behind. Then my fave part of the whole trek was the last bit, bamboo rafting down the river. It was so mellow and the sound of the water was soothing as we went past lots of Korean tourists drinking Chang on the river banks and playing in the shade.

I can't express enough how grateful I was (still am) to the ace girls and guys in my group (final photo). All of them looked out for me when I was in despair and didn't get grumpy when I had to hold them up.

You don't get pre-warned about how hard the trek is but here it is from me, if you're not fit I wouldn't recommend the 3 day option. You need to be physically on it or you're likely to really struggle and the tour guides walk fast so you don't have many options to take pics of the amazing scenery which is a bit shit. Saying that, as always I don't regret it - can't help my mystery illness, healthy me would have LOVED the whole thing ;)

When I got back to the hostel James had a bunch of new pals from his trek (which he loved of course) and Jen reported back on "one of the best nights partying at Zoe's", damn! It was time to man up for final night our before heading to Pai iiiii iiiii the next morning.

Day 1 & 2


Day 3












Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A tale of two halves, Chiang Mai (Part I)

The scene; 
James and I said tattybye to Bangkok on the promise of vast green jungles and a place I'd fall in love with .. I'd heard a lot about little ol' Chiang Mai. 
Having both never been on an overnight train before, we left the heady heat of Bangkok on a pact that we'd "pop our sleeper train cherry together", 9th Feb.

The story; 
We started off with one night in a room that can only be considered as "rank" with the hardest brown (!!) bed and grimmest pink sheets. We moved swiftly on to the modern, kitsch SoHostel next as Jen (our fellow rugby-loving Welshy) had decided to cave in on my "come to Chiang Maiiiii, us Welsh girls need to stick togetherrr!!!" bookface messages and fly up from Bangkok to join us, yay!!
We explored the city, went trekking through the jungle (separate eventful post to come on this!), visited a children's home and took the advice of a crazy "let's walk around the dorm naked" French Canadian lady called Helene.

The highlights;
- A bunk bed each, staff coming round what seemed like every 2 minutes offering food, beer and oranges (?!) and a toilet that can only be described as a tin can with iron bars for windows - what's not to love about the night train?! 
James and I revelled in our first sleeper train experience; we read, we wrote, we slept, we both "got stuck in the toilet for ages then" since the views out of the bars were so damn captivating! 
Second to flying (love cloud watching I do!) the train fast became my fave way to travel through Thailand. Leaving the bonkers Bangkok by night to wake up to the glorious green of sunrise coming up over the Northern Thai jungle is something once seen never forgotten.

- We stumbled upon a little treasure trove called the John Gallery Sweat Shop and only left because we had to (hunger strikes boombadaboom!) .. it was "the coolest shop" James had "ever seen" and it even played "the best music too; Johnny Cash". 
It had stuff everywhere; the ceiling, shelves, walls, all stacked with artwork, homeware and nicnacs that we wanted but couldn't have "can't fit that in my backpack can I, boo!". 
Every piece had a thought provoking message on it, including these that stick in my mind;
'Live your dream, don't dream your life'
'Leave no tern unstoned'
'How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?'
.. ever visit Chiang Mai? Find that shop!!! 

- Sophie, who I'd shared the Phi Phi > Bangkok journey with the previous week was also in Chiang Mai. We met for an arvo of exploring the temples inside the walls of the old city. We must have visited 8 or so before we "templed out", think everyone reaches that point eventually!! 
It was a lovely day of walking, learning and beautiful colours. Spot Soph in the pic below sitting among some happy little Buddhas we had found in what looked like a car park .. this was our fave place of the day!

- The night market was the place to go for a fun start to a night! For cheap eats from all over the world, you buy tokens then get what you want with said tokens (weird system but the food is good!!). After food there you can 'relax' with a "masssageeee". 
See our laughing faces getting looked after by the campest team of masseuses we could have asked for!! Not sure how much relaxing you do when you're constantly laughing but whateverrrr, we loved it and went to them 3 times. James always got a guy much to his despair and our entertainment!
The Blues Bar above the market proved the go-to for live music with a band sporting hair like Fraggle Rock playing old classics each night. 

- Through a close friend of my family I was put in touch with The Stratton ABC Foundation, a happy 'home' that cares for disadvantaged Northern Thai children and helps to create better future opportunities for them.
It was great to visit the foundation home, learn about all the benefits the children gain from the time they spend there and meet the lovely children themselves. 
James gave one of the little boys a football shirt, it was so cute!! I had water fights with them and we all sang together too, it was a rewarding and humbling day.

- Adam 'Sandler' shared our dorm and to quote him after I brushed my mane in it one day "have you brushed your fucking hair? The cleaner was in earlier tutting you, I thought a cat had had a fight by my bed!!' Adammmm, we didn't spend enough time with him in Chiang Mai! A case of meeting a legend just before leaving, again!!

- Jen will back me up on this one, the last night was the night we wished had been the first so we'd have gone back again.. we drank Vodka with 2 ladies and a guy from our hostel then headed out separately. 
We'd heard 'Zoe's' was the place to go and as we got nearer I heard music blasting off the street. We turned the corner and it looked as though ALL the people in Chaing Mai were there! Zoe's is made up of all walks of life with music pumping and drinks flowing. 
At one point we both turned and saw the 3 we'd been drinking with (2nd last picture) skip past like big kids holding a massive gold trophy above their heads as though they'd just won it boxing or something. Zoe's has to be seen to be believed !! 

Following a recommendation from Helene (the crazy lady) we decided our next stop would be Pai. We had breakfast with her the morning before we left and she said "go on, you'll love it, have fun". 
She was such a character "I ran away to Australia with the circus years ago but got deported and we all cried" ... we'll never forget her. 
Her personality shows in the pics below .. If Pai was anything like the tales she'd told us we were in for something unique.