Looking for a Sunset – Nai Harn Beach

I think I have hit that point in this vacation where I am starting to feel more like myself and am ready to take on bigger adventures. I am sorry if my posts have not been that exciting the last couple of days, but if you are ever in the mood for one of those relaxing beach vacations, I would highly recommend Nia Harn Beach. It is a little off the beaten path on the Phuket island, but it has some great restaurants within walking distance, the beach is relatively quiet with calm waters during the winter months, and the place just begs to be lazy for a couple of days.

One of the things that I like the most about it is that the it had a nice view of the west and there should be a good view of the sunset almost every evening. I have gone out the three nights I have been out here in order to witness one of these highlights from nature. Unfortunately, this is the best one I have seen so far. Something has always seemed to pop up in order hide this from view. The first day had big violent rainstorms out in the distant sea that obscured the sunset from view, and the second day was too cloudy for it to make an appearance.

It does not mean that I will not continue to try to get that elusive picture of a great sunset. Last time I was down here, I could out every night and catch an amazing light show on the horizon, but it is funny what s difference a couple of months makes. The sun shifts a bit, the weather makes adjustments as well, and now the sunset is hard to come by.

But it is important that I continue to look for it. If I give up and let myself by satisfied with the small example I collected earlier, I will miss the bigger show when it comes around. I fear that too many people give up too early when there is something spectacular on the horizon, and if we would just practice a little patience, it will be another beautiful sunset.

The Healing Properties of Water – Nai Harn Beach

The Celtic culture uses many aspects of nature as symbols to express certain ideas within their stories, and many of these symbols have found their way into the literature of the world. The strange thing about these symbols is that they have a duality to them that can express things that are the complete opposite of each other. One of the best examples of this is water. It can be a destructive force that can wipe out a civilization, but it can also be a healing entity that can restore a person and show them a new life that they had been missing all along. Both of them work hand in hand to form this world. We cannot build something better unless we first destroy the mess that we have left behind. We cannot find something new within ourselves if we don’t wash away the thing that is holding us back.

This has to be the reason that beaches are such a big draw. They are the place where we can find this property in such great quantities that we cannot help to feel the healing qualities that it has to offer. Many people are not big fans of these tourist destinations and I get the reasons why. You spend a lot of time wiping away the sand off of your body and somehow you seem to grab suitcases full of the stuff to bring back with you. Most of the time it is almost impossible to find a nice spot where you are not disturbed by other people. So why would people want to come here?

Well, there is the plethora of water sports that they can participate in and if the world is tilting the right way, there are huge waves that will crash on the beach bringing the surfers to their shores. But I think it is something more. I felt it yesterday as I wandered into the warm waters of Nai Harn Beach. All of the work and stress from a semester as a high school English teacher was washed away. I no longer had to worry about lesson plans or grading essays. I didn’t have to reread books I have read numerous times and guide students who may not have read them through their intricacies. I didn’t need to worry about yearly evaluations or the problems that were happening behind the scenes of my school. I could find myself in the moment, laying on back in a huge body of salt water and let it wipe away all of these worries and just enjoy where I ended up.

This is the reason that people search out destinations where the land ends and the ocean begins. They need to wash away the pains and stress of everyday life in the healing waters of the ocean and be rejuvenated into something new that allows them to look at the world in a more positive and joyful light. After a year like we all have had, I hope you can find that place of calm so the next year is something that you are not only willing to conquer but you are looking forward to the possibilities that it will offer.

Afternoon Arrival – Nai Harn Beach

It is amazing the difference that one night can make. The previous night I had slept at a roadside hotel made out of repurposed material to a hotel that is a destination in itself looking out over one of my favorite beaches in all of Thailand, Nai Harn. It is not that I would ever have been able to afford to stay at this place normally, but considering that the usual tourists that come to Thailand are absent this year, a lot of the higher end hotels are having great deals, and I am taking advantage of them while I still can. In a year, I will have to go back to spending nights in private rooms in hostels, and hotels made out of shipping crates, but right now, it is five star locations overlooking some spectacular scenery.

We arrived later in the afternoon after another good day of driving. It is a nice feeling to be able to get out of the car for a little while and enjoy the place where we have stopped. It is also nice to know that we have left Bangkok just in time. This morning news of a Covid outbreak in the region to the south of Bangkok has put that area under lockdown, and it has not meant that it has crept into the big city yet, but it has put the people living there a little more on edge. Hopefully it does not mean a lockdown of all Thailand in the future, but only time can tell. It just means that this might be our last hurrah for a little while as we go back to a culture of being safer with what we do and how we interact with other people.

Until then I find out more about that, I will just have to enjoy the beach lifestyle I find myself at. Where the hotel is at, I have only a two minute walk from the top story down to the beach and then I can relax on the sandy beach, jump into the warm Thai waters, or even borrow one of the paddle boards or kayaks to explore more of the bay. Basically, my goal to make the most out of the freedom while it lasts because in this time, we do not know when for the sake of the health of others that it will be restricted for a time.

The fun that can be had in the waters will be a little different this time around as well. Last time I was here, over the summer, the waves were huge and the bay was filled with surfers looking to catch one of the waves. This time the surf is not as crazy. I am really surprised by how calm the waters are. I can see through the clear blue water down to the bottom this time around where as last time there was so much sand and sediment swirling through the water that I could never see an inch into the water even though I was standing right over it. I guess that is the difference in season and part of the reason that tourists make their way out to this part of Thailand during this time of the year as opposed during the summer months. The beach is still not very crowded though. I guess that is another bonus for finding myself here at this time in history. Those crowds are not allowed in the country just as it makes it really hard for me to leave the country.

I am happy to have finally arrived and I look forward to the next couple of weeks off from work. I hope things stay safe and I won’t have to cut things short, but in the meantime, I will make the most out of each opportunity that comes my way when I can grab it. I guess that is one of the better things to come out of this situation. We all have started to appreciate those moments that we used to take for granted, and I know that I am able to have more than most people, but I have really learned to make the most out of them. I hope that you can do the same wherever you find yourself, and that you can make it the greatest that it possibly can be.

Until next time, stay healthy and be kind to each other.

I Spent the Night in a Shipping Crate – Tropical Holiday

it that time of the year that teachers all over the world look forward to more than any other; the time when all of their grades have been submitted and they can spend the next two to three weeks thinking of nothing else but recharging their batteries and enjoying those small moments of life. In a normal year, you would see flocks of these people gathering around pools and vacation spots filling in the void that has been left behind because of the vast amount of individuals who have responsibilities due to the regular scheduling of the school year, whether it is themselves or their children who need to be attending one of these institutions located everywhere. But when that restriction relaxes, so does the rest of the world.

That was until Covid-19, and now this group of people are so happy that they do not have to spend their time staring at a computer as they try to learn in any way possible during this unprecedented time in history. They know that they can’t move anywhere right now, and if given the opportunity to do it safely, they would. Luckily, I have found myself in one of the countries where travel is still possible because of the way the way they have handled the pandemic. It still is not completely under control, and hints are on the horizon that quarantine might come back soon even though there is now a vaccine, but it is still under control enough to take this opportunity responsibly. So on Friday, after school with a packed car, we took a drive down south to eventually reach Phuket to enjoy the holidays the best we could without the people we would have hoped to have spent the holiday with.

The only problem with this is that the place we hoped to eventually get to is a fourteen hour drive away from Bangkok, and we did not get out of school until noon that day. There was no way that we could make it all of the way without arriving way too early in the morning. We needed to stop half way along the way to make it a reasonable drive. Our goal was the town of Chumphon, a fairly good sized city that is the jumping off point for many of the smaller islands down south, and we first thought of staying at a hotel right along the highway, but found a different one that had really good reviews that we chose instead, the Retro Box Hotel.

The reviews were correct, and it turned out to be the perfect place for us to stay that night. The rooms were tiny, but we weren’t there to spread out. We were there to sleep, and the beds were comfortable. It was in a good location only ten minutes from the highway, and they even served a breakfast of eggs, sausages, and toast in the morning. The price was even great that even included access to a pool which we never took advantage of. The whole thing seemed perfect, so what possibly could be the problem with the place.

Well, there was one thing that might have turned people away from the place. The whole building was built out of reused shipping crates. The Retro Box Hotel took a bunch of these crates that were no longer being used by shipping companies, stacked them on top of each other, and then made a hotel out of them.

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking. Why would anybody want to stay in a place like this? But in all actuality, is was a nice, quiet, and very clean place. Each room had its own bathroom, and most importantly, a working air conditioning unit. It was perfectly, and even well designed that some of the room opened right up to private entry to the pool. I even liked the fact that the place repurposed these crates to make them something useful instead of them rotting away some place in an empty field because nobody knew what to do with them anymore.

I even liked the breakfast. It wasn’t part of some fancy buffet that I have been able to experience lately due to the lowered rates of fancy hotels in Thailand, but it was satisfying and served the purpose of filling me up with a good meal before sending me down the road.

I guess my point is that life sometimes piles on the dirt and it feels like we get buried underneath it, but every once in awhile there is an opening in that dirt that allows us to crawl out and enjoy the sun that is shining up above. It might not be the beautiful paradise that is promised in some brochure that is passed around the workers at the lunch room table, but it is surprisingly great for what it is. We should enjoy it while we are given that opportunity. If that means smiling while spending the night in a shipping crate, then that is what it means. There has never been a year where this means more than this year. It is has been full of life piling dirt on us, but there are those small moments where life is truly great. In fact, better than it ever could be because of its simplicity. We should treasure those moments when they are given to us.

I know I did not spend a lot of time savoring my time in the shipping crate, but it was such a unique experience that I don’t think I will ever forget it. It is a great start to this tropical holiday, and makes me excited for all of the other opportunities that will present themselves over the next couple of weeks. Whether it is fancy or quaint, I am ready to take it on, and enjoy it while I can.

Experiencing the Creep – Hua Hin, Thailand

My travels have taken me to some really interesting places, and I have gotten to have some crazy experiences during that time. I feel grateful that I have been able to live this life, and I look forward to more of these experiences as I move on. I think back at the old town celebration that I wander in on in Lucern, or watching the Spain World Cup Game with a bunch of locals in Salamanca. I treasure the moments of standing in the rain with my friends in Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan, or being the only couple in the ryokan in Magome. I will never forget wandering the Hobbiton movie set outside of Mata Mata, New Zealand, or enjoying a drink on the docks just outside of Dubrovnik before it became the biggest destination site when visiting Europe. The memories keep coming too. I have enjoyed a steak dinner in the hills outside of Hua Hin, and stumbled on a jazz music festival. The will be filed away with the other memories that I have collected, but there has been a change in the way I have travelled lately, and I am starting to recognize that change.

I used to look at the big huge fancy hotels and resorts from a distance. Most of the places I used to stay in were hostels. They were the only places I could afford. Sometimes, I could pull an extra couple of dollars together for a private room, but most of the time I was sharing a room with up to fifty other people, and would not spend a lot of time there. It was just a place to put my stuff, and lay my head down at when I had worn myself out by running around checking out the sites. It was part of the adventure and there were many moments from these places that hold a special place in my memory, but a few years back, we decided that we had outgrown the hostel experience and we only find hotels or Air B+Bs from here on out.

The places were still not the height of luxury. The bigger concern when picking the place had to do with location. It was important that we were close to the city center so we could easily wander around and see what we traveled so far to see. Sometimes that meant finding a place right on the beach so when I walked out my door, I could watch the waves crash on the sand.

But which spot we stayed at, it started to get fancier and fancier. Where we would run to a grocery store to find something to cook or find a local hot spot for dinner, we now found places with fancy restaurants attached to the grounds. Breakfast would be a quick affair with a bowl of cereal made with milk that we had placed in our tiny fridges, but now we make sure to find a place where it is included in the price of the stay.

Sometimes we would find a park to share some cheese and crackers that we bought off a local street vendor. Now the park is part of the hotel experience, and if we want some snacks we can order room service and have it brought to us. In other words, the last few times I have gone out for a quick trip, things have changed significantly. Part of this might be because, we have found ourselves in Thailand during a worldwide pandemic and the is country that is so dependent on tourism has so incredible deals going on right now. But if I am being honest, it is also about the change in lifestyle. As I have grown older and moved my way up in the world of academia, I have been able to afford places like this more often. I also find that I enjoy this moment of relaxation during my busy schedule, so I buy into it even more.

But the bigger question, the thing that has been bugging me about this, pops up. Is something lost because of this change? Am I getting the most out of my traveling experience because of the change to booking resorts? I have wandered away from the hotel a couple of times while I have been here this weekend, but most of the time was spent lounging around the pool and soaking in the moment. Granted, this was a quick weekend that I was taking before a longer break comes up, and I will definitely spend more time experiencing things during the three week break, but I find myself spending more time relaxing on vacation instead of trying to take as much of it in as I can. I do come back refreshed and ready to take on the next challenge, but the little stories aren’t as plentiful when I live a pampered lifestyle.

Some call it the creep. It is that moment in your life where you make enough money to enjoy the easy life a little more often, but at the expense of finding those same experiences for a little less. At the same time, the better pay comes with more responsibility, and I do need that time to relax or my life will be one big bundle of stress. I guess like many other things in life, it comes down to finding that balance between the two. I need to fight against the creep from time to time. I need to find those more humble experiences where I take in what life brings to me. This does not mean that I will go back to staying at hostels, but I do not need to find the biggest resort where I do not need to do much of anything. I need to find that place that gives me enough relaxation so I feel ready to go out and take in the place in the world where I have found myself. It is the whole reason I travel. I need to get back to experiencing the world. I have enjoyed this quick respite, but I am ready to take on the world again.

And as thing start to open up again and the vaccines get delivered to places around the world, I find that this year of trying to make the most out of the situation I found myself in will soon be behind me. I look forward to the new opportunities out there, and I can’t wait to see where my next adventure will take me.

Until next time, stay safe, and find the most out the time given to you.

Cicada Market – Hua Hin, Thailand

There are two ways to dine out in Thailand. There are the big fancy restaurants that serve meals from traditional Thai food to fare that could be found all over the world. There is also the street food that is extremely cheap and most of the time just as good. There is a little danger with this type of food because you might fall victim to the Thailand tummy or the Bangkok belly, but I have never had this experience since I have been out here though I have been witness to those who have. There is a simple rule of thumb when it comes to eating street food in Thailand, go to the places that have long lines and then you know the food you are getting will always be fresh and free from the things that might cause the rumble down below.

If I am Hua Hin, there are two street markets that allow for this great experience of dining with the street food. There is the old night market further in town and though a great, fun experience, does not necessarily meet with the higher standards of cleanliness that the other place does, the Cicada Market which can be found further on the southern part of the city. This is a newer market, and it boasts numerous venders who are all trying to sell you the greatest culinary delights for relatively cheap prices. It only takes place on the weekends, but it is definitely worth the voyage down there to check it out.

First off, the food down there is great. They sell all of your favorite Thai dishes from chicken satay to pineapple fried rice served in the husk of the pineapple where the delicious ingredient for the dish came from. They also have other quick street food fare that can be found in other places around the world such as wood stove pizza and Korean bar-b-q. Each dish is relatively inexpensive, so it is fun to walk around and have a little bit of this dish followed by a little bit of that dish.

The Cicada market also creates an atmosphere that is a blend of carnival as well as cultural. They have clowns walking around on stilts, people making balloon animals, and booths performing magic tricks, all around two stages where various juggling and comedic acts will perform, or if you prefer something a little more adult, you can go and watch a rock band perform next to the beer garden. There are also little niches where bands will set up to play traditional Thai music, or break dance to electronic beats produced by some of the country’s best DJs.

Considering that it also a market, there is also a section dedicated to various vendors selling their wares. This is a little different than what can be seen in a traditional market in Thailand though. Most of those places have quick products that can be found in most places around the country. You have knock off coffee mugs set next to t-shirts and phone cases. The items that are sold here are actually produced by the people selling them. There is a certain type of artistic quality that can be found at this market which makes it feel like that what you are buying can only be found in this little corner of Hua Hin. It also makes wandering through the market really fun because you see a lot of strange items that you would never find anywhere else.

It is my second time coming down to this market and if I ever find myself in Hua Hin over a weekend, I would make sure that I would come back here again. It is a must see for anybody visiting this city and I would recommend that when you come you bring a healthy appetite with you because you are going to want to spend a lot of your time here satisfying it.

The Garden by the Sea – Hua Hin, Thailand

One of the bigger holidays in Thailand is Father’s Day. It is celebrated every year on December 5th, and it is the perfect time for a teacher to run out of town for a couple of days to recharge the batteries to make that final push through the end of the first semester. There are many places to go around Bangkok, but the one we landed on was Hua Hin, a beach resort town about a three hour drive from our school. It is a great town with some beautiful hikes, a fun bar scene downtown, and a beach that stretches out for miles. It is a weekend destination site for many people in Bangkok and I had a feeling that this weekend would not be any different considering it is a long weekend for many people due to the holiday. Little did I know that there was another reason that this weekend would make Hua Hin an even bigger destination, the Hua Hun Jazz festival. We got down here late the night before and drove to our hotel to find that cars parked all up and down the skinny streets and many people walking to the beach to go and partake in this event. We were able to catch a bit of the show last night, but were a little too tired to stay up late enough to watch the whole thing.

I am glad that this was the decision that we made because I needed the rest and it made for a beautiful day as we explored the ground of the hotel that we stayed at, the Centara Grand. Most of the time, I do not really care much about the place where we stay because it is only a place to rest my head while I get ready to take on whatever adventure awaits me the next day. But being a short weekend run, and the fact that I knew I would be spending a lot of time at the hotel while I got caught up on my grading for the end of the semester, I was very happy with the choice that Christine had made. It is right next to the beach, and has at least three pools that I have found, but there are probably more hidden in different corners of the place. There are also a couple of bars and restaurants on the grounds, not to mention one of the best breakfast buffets that I have ever run into.

My favorite part though so far has easily been the expansive gardens that surround the rooms. It is something right out of Stephen King’s The Shining as there is a topiary of wild animals carved into the trees and bushes out there. It has to be quite the feat to make sure that these plants maintain their look and there were a couple of them that were starting to grow extra limbs out of their heads and stomachs.

But for the most part, I was really impressed by the way that they maintained the garden. I only saw one person working on it while I was walking through it, and I would think that they would need more than one person to maintain this botanical zoo. But it had to have been a full time job for this individual and he must have a regular rotation to make sure that the plants never get too far our of control.

I am not usually impressed by gardens when I have come across them, but the one on the grounds of the Centara Grand really came as a surprise. I enjoyed the breeze that blew in from the ocean to cool down the temperature in Hua Hin to make it one of the more pleasant experiences I have had since moving out here. It made the perfect environment to enjoy this place, and it made this hotel a great find in Thailand. It has enough character to make it more of an experience rather than the impersonal rooms that come with most hotels I stay at. It makes it a place that I don’t mind hanging around as I enjoy my weekend away from the rat race.

Eternal Summer’s Version of Christmas

It is that time of the year again where the night sky is lit up with tiny lights and images of people bundled up against the cold get plastered on the side of every established business. Songs about melting snowmen and chestnuts roasting over a fire play over the lobbies of hotels and speakers at gas station all around the world. Kids bundle up in new pajamas as they make their lists for toys that they would love to have from the jolly fat man from the north, and parents fight holiday crowds and their bankbooks to make those dreams come true.

It is truly a magical time of the year.

I will admit that when I was younger that this was my favorite time of the year, and probably contributes a lot to my love of snowy days. One of my fondest memories growing up involved a Christmas Eve blizzard that trapped us in our house on Christmas day. I was very young at the time and I always thought that it had to snow on Christmas Eve and the light flurry of flakes that fell that evening as I walked outside in my new Christmas pajamas to pick up the night edition of the paper confirmed this belief. It started out innocent enough, but when I woke up on Christmas morning there was a big surprise of a couple of feet of snow that had not been on the ground before. I don’t remember at all what I got that Christmas because the snow was the greatest gift we could have ever recieved.

I have since grown up and after many brown Colorado Christmases, I now know that snow on Christmas Eve is not a guarantee. In fact, there are many places in the world where seeing snow on Christmas would be considered crazy. Some of the more memorable ones I have spent in recent years have come while I have been on the other side of the globe in Australia and New Zealand. It was a strange feeling enjoying the holiday in a place where I knew that it would never get cold.

I am soon discovering that this year will also be one of those years that will not have a chance of feeling like the picturesque holiday season. It won’t be completely bad because Thailand loves to celebrate this holiday just like any other country in the world. The malls are packed with people and deals, and they tend to pump Christmas carols everywhere you go. The stores also try to outcompete each other to show who can make the brightest of all of the holiday light shows. I wasn’t expecting it much, but I did feel that magical spirit start to bubble up inside of me while I walked around downtown and viewed all of the Christmas displays wherever I went.

The only difference is that I will never feel that cold that I so cherish this time of the year. I won’t even feel a cool breeze that might hint at a chilly Christmas evening. The closest I will be able to get will be to turn my air conditioning on high so I can bundle up under a blanket and watch some Christmas movie where they get to experience a white event. Despite this small problem, it will feel more like Christmas than a lot of places around the world. There will still be the people taking the time to spend with each other, the children excited about the arrival of Santa Claus, and the endless celebration that takes place during the month of December.

I know I am looking forward to it either way, and I hope that wherever you find yourself this holiday season that you are able to make the most out of this month as well. Have a great holiday season, and I will let you know about what is happening in the land of eternal summer as I enjoy mine.

Black Friday

Ever since I have moved overseas, Thanksgiving Day does not mean as much to me. It is not that I do not appreciate the holiday. It is just that the holiday is a very American experience and other places in the world do not celebrate it or even acknowledge its existence. Because of this, I have had to work on the past six Thanksgiving Days, and after the sixth time, it is hard to get excited about this day.

It fills me with sadness when I recognize this fact because for a long time it had become my favorite holiday. It was the one day where we stripped away all of the pretentious behavior of our daily routines, and get together with family to share a delicious meal and make memories. There was also the looming consuming beast of Christmas looming right around the corner, but we could put that aside for a moment to just enjoy being with the people we love. I know that other countries have holidays that are comparable to this, but it is hard to get into the spirit of them when they jump out at me from nowhere and I am expected to understand the traditions of these days. The traditions of my past are the ones that stick with me and which I yearn for every year around this time.

There are other Americans at the schools I have taught at that help to keep this tradition alive. I have had one Thanksgiving dinner already and I will be experiencing another one this weekend, and I appreciate that people take the time to make sure that this holiday makes it across the ocean. But since I have moved to Asia, I have started a new tradition that makes me just as happy. It involves the day after Thanksgiving which in the United States is one of my least favorite days of the year. It is not because I am working off my turkey coma or I am depressed because I find myself without my family again. It is because I believe that this day brings out the worst of Americans as they push and shove to get crazy deals on crap that they really don’t need. It is fodder for the television news broadcasts and every year it gets just a little worse. Hopefully, with Covid ravaging the land, people will take it a little easier this year, but the current state of things has proven that many people would not let this tradition pass them by no matter what danger may loom in a crowded room.

The way I have avoided the pain of this day is to take in the meal that I usually miss because I have been stuck at work during Thanksgiving day. I have had the fortune to have the next day off, and the Asian countries though they ramp up the shopping experience during Black Friday, it is no where near the insanity that can be found in the United States. The restaurants are still open and this is a great day to hop from one to the next as I indulge in a little bite at each one. It allows me to get out there and see a bit of the holiday spirit as it takes over the community while not fighting with people over a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. This is the tradition I would like to see take off for this holiday. We need to step back from this idea that stuff will make Christmas perfect and look back at the holiday we have just enjoyed. It is about family, and all holidays should take Thanksgiving’s tradition to heart. This is what my new tradition would be about because you do not go out to spend money on people, but you meet up with them at various restaurants to enjoy their company.

I hope you all found yourself in a wonderful spot on this holiday and that you are taking the precautions to be safe during the next month. Be thankful for those people you have in your life no matter where they may be.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

As I close up on this vacation, I reflect back at the great time I was able to have in this northern city of Thailand. According to Wikipedia, it is the country’s second largest city, but it is so much smaller than Bangkok and so much more intimate. I do not feel the hustle and bustle that goes on constantly in the country’s capital, and it reminds me more of the city that I grew up in. It does not only have to do with the mountains that are always looming to the west of the city, or the slower pace that the city likes to enjoy. But it is the smaller town atmosphere that comes with Chiang Mai. Though it does sprawl along the base of the mountains, it does not feel like you are very far from any place else and if you wanted you could walk across the main parts of the city and come across a few people that you know while you are doing it.

I also have to count myself lucky that I landed in a country that has a variety of cities to go and visit during this uncertain time in human history. Thailand has done a wonderful job of keeping this pandemic out of its borders, but it is doing it by making sure there are strict rules set in place about who can enter and under what conditions. It is also stressed on everybody the importance of frequent temperature checks as well as wearing masks to keep the whole population safe. Things have loosened up every day because of these precautions, and even though wearing a mask is sometimes a little annoying, it is a small price to have to pay in order to enjoy these freedoms.

I also feel lucky that I am able to enjoy the sunsets over the beach towns in the south of Thailand during one excursion and turn around to enjoy the cooler mountain air of Chiang Mai on another one. The temperature out here has never gotten to the point where it is too chilly to go outside, but it was definitely cooler than the oppressive heat that we have been experiencing in Bangkok.

As we head into the holiday season in a part of the world that celebrates it a little differently than what I am accustomed to, it is nice to know that we have moved on from the quarantine struggle at the beginning of the year, to a time where I can go out and enjoy what the holidays have to offer. I still miss the opportunity to take a quick trip to my home country, but I know that as things progress that there will be a day that I will be able to see it again, and it means that I just have to take in stride all of what this part of the world has to offer me while I am here.

Even though it is a part of the world I have been to earlier, and I am already planning on coming back again for the lamps during New Year’s Day, it is nice to be able to take in Chiang Mai a second time around. The first time I was out here as a tourist, trying to experience all of it that I could as fast as I could, but this time around I get to savor the moments a little more. I was able to revisit the places I really enjoyed the first time here, and I got to find new places to look for the next time I am out here. And I found those little things that made it an even better experience, the art that amazed me, the people that made me feel welcomed, and the signs that made me laugh because of their loss of translation. It has been a great trip, and I am happy that I have been given opportunities to take moments like this when they are not always available to everybody.

No matter where you are, things will open up again some day, and we will be able to travel the world again. Until then, make the most of what you have and enjoy the experiences that are given to you. I have, and it has made life just a little more interesting because of that.