Change Yourself…Change The World.


Top 10 Things I Missed About Chiang Mai
November 22, 2010, 5:40 am
Filed under: Pictures Post, Thailand, Video Post

Chiang Mai, Thailand, is one of my most favorite places in the entire world. I originally spent two months in Chiang Mai with the Comparative Religion and Culture Program (CRC) with Global College in 2008. I came back again, two years later, to visit the program again. This post is a tribute to the top 10 things I missed most about this amazing place.


1. Trigong.
The best hotel in Chiang Mai. This is where Global College’s CRC program stays every year, and it is the nicest, most laid back happy place I’ve ever stayed at. The rooms are gorgeous with a queen bed, wicker furniture, fridge, and balcony, the staff are super friendly, and they even have a kitchen that you can use if you like cooking. If you ever come to Chiang Mai, stay at Trigong.

2. My old room at Trigong.
Yes, this is the EXACT same room that I lived in for two months at Trigong, and I was lucky enough that it was open so I could stay in it again. It was so crazy to be able to stay in this room and remember myself from two years ago- to walk into the bathroom and remember that this was where I cut off all of my hair for the first time, all of the nights I spent sitting on the balcony with my friends- it was really nice to both be able to recognize how much I’ve grown these past two years, but to also remember a few things about myself that I’ve missed.


3. Chai’s Bar.
Chai’s Bar is a bar directly across the street from Trigong. On CRC we would frequent Chai’s bar almost every night, where we became friends with many of the regulars and of course the bar owner, Chai. On one of our CRC trips, Chai took us to his house in Lamphun where we had a huge barbecue cookout and spent a night under the stars. When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, Chai threw a huge Obama party, where he served Obama cocktails and we let off an Obama good luck lantern into the night. For Loi Krathong, a huge celebration in Chiang Mai, we all made boats at Chai’s to float down the river in celebration. I have so many good memories of this place and the people in it. Being back here again was a dream come true.


4. Prego’s Massaman Curry.
I have been to 28 countries in 3 years, and this is still my favorite meal in the entire world. I used to come to Prego’s (an Italian restaurant right next to Chai’s bar) nearly every day to eat either their bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, their pesto gnocchi, or their unbelievable Massaman curry. No one can make Massaman curry like Prego’s. Their dish is sweet yet salty, crunchy, and it always hits the spot in every situation. Massaman curry was my first meal back in Chiang Mai, and I nearly cried with happiness when they presented me with a recipe. Prego’s Massaman curry is my favorite dish in the entire world.


5. Buddha Head Fruit.
Buddha Head Fruit, or Custard/Sugar Apple, is a fruit famous in SouthEast Asia. It is my favorite fruit in the entire world: incredibly tasty and sweet, I would snatch these up in the market whenever I could in Chiang Mai (they are only available intermittently). I was therefore extremely pleased to find the markets chock full of Buddha Head fruit the first day I was in Chiang Mai.


6. Thai Pants.
Thai fisherman pants have always been a large part of my wardrobe since I first came to Thailand. They are fun, versatile, really fun to lounge in, and one size fits all. When I first came to Thailand, I originally bought two pairs of Thai pants for myself. One of those pants I grew so fond of that I wore them ALL of the time until they absolutely wore down. After getting them stitched various times all over South America, I eventually had to say a sad good-bye to my Thai pants. So now that I’m back in Thailand, I took the opportunity to go a little crazy on the Thai fisherman pants- I bought EIGHT, I repeat, EIGHT pairs of Thai pants of varying colors (for 2 dollars a pop, it was a small fortune). I know that it will be awhile before I’m back in Thailand, so it’s nice to know that I have about 8 years worth of Thai pants to tide me over.


7. Song Taus.
Song Tau’s are the main mode of transportation in Chiang Mai- I wish they had Song Tau’s everywhere. It’s basically a red pick-up truck with the back converted into two long benches for people to use as a taxi. For 20 baht (less than a dollar), a Song Tau will take you anywhere you want to go around Chiang Mai. It’s always extremely fun and a cool way to meet other travelers.

8. Chiang Mai Night Market.
The Chiang Mai Night bazaar is always the best place to buy gifts for anyone, ever. It’s an extremely long street chock full of cheap clothes, toys, bags, DVDs, and pretty much every gift you could ever think of. They are open every night starting at 6 PM, and when I was in Thailand last time I once went here every night for a week hunting for Christmas presents. I also bought my Thai pants here. Truthfully, Chiang Mai’s Sunday Market is better and more interesting than the Night Bazaar– but if you’re not in Chiang Mai on Sunday, the Night bazaar is always a really fun place to go.


9.Loi Krathong.
Loi Krathong is a huge yearly celebration to celebrate the water spirits in Thailand. Thai float water boats down the river, let off thousands of lanterns into the sky, and lob fireworks at each other. It’s basically a time to kick back and have fun, and it’s one of the most fun celebrations in the world. Unfortunately, I missed the celebration by ONE DAY in Chiang Mai this year, but I was still able to participate in the festivities leading up to Loi Krathong- shooting fireworks and sending off paper lanterns. Here is a video of Loi Krathong celebrations in November 2008.

10. Sisterfriend/CRC.
The best part about Chiang Mai has always been the fact that CRC has been there with me, which made the experience so much sweeter. This year, one of my best friends who was on CRC with me is now a Teaching Assistant for the program. Being able to be back in Chiang Mai with my sisterfriend has been the icing on the cake, and being around CRC made me feel like I was coming back to a family. Global College is an amazing school, and it’s also really small. Being around people who understand the experience made me feel like I was right at home.

All in all, being in Chiang Mai this week has been exactly what I’ve needed. I feel like I’ve found a small piece of myself again that I sorely missed, and I’m very happy to have it back with me again.

I love you, Chiang Mai. I’ll be back again someday, I know it.

Much love,

Brittany



Asia- You Brought Me Back to Life
November 21, 2010, 7:13 am
Filed under: Thailand

Dear friends,

There are times in life when things are just so good that you’d rather be out there living it instead of writing about it. This was my past week: so wonderful, that I just didn’t have the time to write about it. I can’t even begin to describe how this past week was exactly what I needed.

Coming to Chiang Mai to relive Global College’s CRC program all over again was a literal dream come true. It’s like coming back to a family you haven’t seen in awhile, and it felt so good. Going back to Chiang Mai, a place in Thailand I once spent two months in and missed dearly, has felt indescribable. Staying at the same hotel we stayed at, in the same ROOM that I had lived in, is beyond words. Walking across the street to Chai’s bar every evening to sit with old friends and play Jackpot, eating buddha head fruit, walking down all of the little alleyways with my sisterfriend where we once traipsed before… it’s been more than anything I could ever ask for. This past week has made me feel happier than I’ve felt in awhile, as if an old self that I missed popped out a bit again.

Saying good-bye to Asia was very hard. I know that it will be awhile before I’m back there again- but as I whispered good-bye to Thailand as my plane took off into the airspace, I knew that it wasn’t goodbye forever. I can never stay away from Asia for too long- it is my home, after all.

Until next time, Chiangmai. I know we’ll meet again.

Much love,

Brittany



A bit of Ubud
November 12, 2010, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Indonesia, Thailand, Video Post

I can’t believe that I’ve been in Bali for nearly three weeks now. The time has passed by in a dream-like blur, every day filled with happiness and bliss.

I’ve spent most of my time in Bali in a town called Ubud, which is about an hour’s drive from the ocean- a bit more inland, and a bit more laid back. Just today I went to Kuta beach, which is the huge blow-out party and touristy area of Bali- every square inch of every street lined with shops, massage parlors, restaurants, and Westerners dressed in skimpy bathing suits. The beach, chock full of people and surf boards. It was cool to check out, but Ubud is definitely more my cup of tea: much more laid back and full of lots of really cool museums and shows to see.

One of the shows I got to check out a few nights ago was a Balinese shadow puppet show. This happened by pure luck: I was at dinner, sampling a bunch of Indonesian ‘tapas,’ when the host came up and offered me a free ticket. A couple in the restaurant had planned to go but the husband was sick, so the wife had offered me his ticket instead. I excitedly accepted- nothing makes me happier than a completely spontaneous adventure.

The puppet show was really interesting. The story is about a demon in a kingdom who possesses strong supernatural powers, and keeps killing people. The demon demands that the king offer him a human sacrifice, or he’ll continue killing everyone. Bima, a prince from another faraway kingdom who also possesses strong powers agrees to humbly sacrifice himself. When the demon tries to eat Bima, Bima’s magical powers overpower him, and there is a huge battle between Bima, the demon, and his followers. Eventually Bima defeats the demon and the kingdom lives happily ever after.

Here is a clip of the Balinese puppet show that I took on my iPhone. The quality isn’t that great, but it’s still cool to check out:

This part is when Bima and Detya Baka (the demon) are fighting. The orange glow in the background is actually a fire torch. I really enjoyed the show, even though most of it was in Balinese.

Another place I’ve been immensely enjoying in Ubud is The Yoga Barn, a huge open space right by my house that has all kinds of classes, treatments, and a little healthy cafe. I’ve been majorly indulging and getting treatments there, including a ‘crown’ massage, which is a full on head, shoulder, and neck massage using special medicinal herbs, and a hibiscus soak. AMAZING!

Plus, last night I attended a Tibetan bowl meditation class, which was pretty unbelievable. I’ve never experienced Tibetan meditation bowls before, and it was a very powerful experience. The first half of the class I felt as if I was in immense pain and I actually had a physical reaction- I had a coughing fit and my nose started running. I had to leave the room for a few minutes so I wouldn’t disturb the others in meditation. The second half of the class I suddenly entered a complete trance-like state where I felt this incredible energy within me, as if something else had entered my body. It was a very surreal feeling, and when the class finished, I felt extremely awake and alert, yet peaceful at the same time.

I’ve been enjoying my time here so much, and it’s hard to believe that in only two days I’ll be moving on to Thailand, which both saddens and excites me. Saddening because I’ve had such a wonderful time in Bali. There’s so much more that I want to see and experience, and I’m not ready to leave yet. I think it will be quite awhile before I make it back here again, but I know I will someday. I hope that I have the opportunity to stay here for a longer period and understand more of Bali’s secrets. I feel as if I’ve merely begun to scratch the surface.

However, I AM excited to be heading to Thailand for a week, up to Chiang Mai, where I was two years ago with the CRC program at Global College. I’ve missed Thailand so much these past two years, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to experience a slice of it again- even better that CRC is up there again this time of year, along with one of my best friends, Mira.

Here’s to lovely new experiences and back to old fond ones.

Much love,
Brittany



Halloween Abroad, Part 3
November 1, 2010, 4:27 am
Filed under: Indonesia, Paraguay, Thailand

Dear friends,

This is my third year in a row I have been outside of the United States for Halloween. The first year (2008) I was in Thailand; year 2 (2009) was in Paraguay; and now for the 3rd time in 2010, I’m in Indonesia.

I wonder where I’ll be next year?



Back in Bangkok
October 24, 2010, 8:05 am
Filed under: Thailand

Dear friends,

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to be back in Bangkok. Truth be told, while I was taking the airplane over to Asia, I had a few doubts as to what the hell I was doing. ‘Why are you spending extra money going back to Asia when you could be experiencing Africa instead?’ I chided myself. ‘What about Rwanda? What about Tanzania? Didn’t you want to go to both of these places so terribly badly? Why are you going back to Thailand, a country you’ve been to before, when you could go and experience new ones?’

But as soon as I stepped out of the airport and back onto that bus to KhaoSang Road, I broke into the widest grin, and I couldn’t make myself stop smiling the entire day. Thai Buddhist temples! Palm trees! The kind of heat that sticks to your skin! On the bus ride to KhaoSang Road, a huge flow of memories hit me, little things that I had completely forgotten. My friends from Global College, and our adventures together in Bangkok. Heidi and Kerry, my lovely Global College teachers. Chiang Mai, a Thai city in the north, which is one of my most favorite places in the world. And I knew immediately, that being back here is so incredibly right. I am so, so happy to be back in Thailand- even if it is for a day layover before heading to Bali, Indonesia. But don’t worry Thailand- I’ll be back for a week in November before heading home!

Truth be told, many times people ask me what my favorite country is that I’ve traveled to. That’s an incredibly tough question, and I always end up saying India: India was my first love, where I changed and grew monumentally, where I met an amazing Tibetan family who I love dearly. I love the sounds, the chaos, I love Hindi, rickshaws, sidestepping trash and debris on the streets- just thinking of India makes me want to cry with longing. I love India dearly, and I’ll always want to go back to it, again and again. More importantly, I know that I WILL come back to it again and again. I just can’t stay away from India for too long.
But deep down inside, I know that Thailand comes in at a very close second. I had such a wonderful experience in Thailand. The friends I met, the things we did- I just love the country, so dearly. But while I knew that I would always go back to India, I wondered if or when I would go back to Thailand- so in a sense, this made me miss the country even more than India.

And now an opportunity has presented itself, and I am beside myself with happiness that I am back here, in Khaosang Road: one of the craziest, most budget touristy, and quite frankly, fascinating areas in the world. Not much has changed from two years ago- it almost looks like time has stood still here. Prices are the exact same- I am staying at the same hotel as last time for the same price. I got the most amazing 1 hour massage of my life today for 8 dollars. KhaoSang road is chock full of clothes and jewelry and arts and crafts of every caliber. The only difference is that 2 years ago, Khaosang road was a much livelier place, packed full of hippie Westerners. Today, KhaoSang is much quieter- the hotel I’m staying in is nearly empty. My inkling is that Bangkok has emptied out due to a string of bomb incidents these past few months: but I still feel safe here. The bombers aren’t targeting tourist areas, at least, and Khaosang Road is packed with security anyway.

Thanks for inviting me, Thailand. I am so happy we’re together again.



Goodbye Africa
October 23, 2010, 4:07 am
Filed under: Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand

Dear friends,

My fellowship with Kiva has ended, and I am currently sitting in the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport waiting to board a plane to Bangkok, Thailand. I have a day layover there before I head to Bali, Indonesia for three weeks.

This sudden change of plans was precipitated by an immense need to just get out of Africa. Truth be told, this experience was not what I had hoped it would be. In a nutshell, my experience in Africa was largely based around Nairobi. While I’m appreciative that I got to live in the city for three months, travel all around and really understand it, this was not what I had envisioned myself doing: living in one of the most super posh urban areas of Africa for three months. I had imagined that my experience here would have been similar to the one I had in India- living a very basic lifestyle and really experiencing the life of an average local. Living in Nairobi, which is littered with plush shopping malls, movie cinemas, spacious apartment complexes, and a huge variety of Western food, limited that experience for me. I have to partially lay some of the blame on myself: I of course, could have chosen to live a very different lifestyle if I had wanted, but it would have been grossly inconvenient in relation to where my work was every day. I also found myself turning to these creature comforts merely because it was there and easy.

I think this correlates to my perception of what I thought Africa was before arriving, versus what it is now. Studying development extensively through Asia and South America, I read all kinds of books about ‘the plight of Africa’- the AIDs epidemic, millions crowded together in slums, malnutrition, malaria– and every picture I saw were of starving Africa children. Part of me knew, from traveling to many places, that this could not be the whole picture of Africa- but I had imagined that it was much more severely underdeveloped than most other places I had been. Upon arriving in Nairobi, I was shocked to find that places such as Bangladesh and Panama were much more underdeveloped than Nairobi, a vast city chock full of modern conveniences. I understand that Nairobi is not an indication of what the rest of Africa is, by any means- in fact, Nairobi is the hot spot for aid agencies that carry out work in other countries, because it is such a convenient place- but it still really changed my perception of Africa as a continent, in both good and bad ways.

And so I feel like I’ve experienced Africa in a pretty unique way- not quite the one I had wanted, but it was an experience. And at this point, I am ready to move on from this experience. I know that I will return back to Africa someday, when I am older, a bit more wiser, and when I am can see and understand the dichotomy of the continent a bit better. So I decided that rather than travel around Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania for a month, that I return to Asia instead for a brief respite, an area of the world that I hold most dear to my heart and sorely miss.

This decision was also caused by a huge desire to stay for a period of time in Bali, a place I’ve always wanted to go to. I think that a 3 week stint in Bali is just what I need right about now. Then before heading home at the end of November, I’ll be heading to Thailand for a week to visit one of my best friends Mira and the CRC program at Global College.

Kenya: I did have some wonderful memories with you, and so I thank you for that. But it’s time to move on.

On to Asia.

Much love,
Brittany



My Head is in an Empty Space
December 13, 2008, 2:31 am
Filed under: Thailand

Note:

This is originally from my previous facebook group ‘Brittany Goes Global,’ (wanna know how I got the blog name? ;)) in which I sent messages to friends about my travels with Global College’s CRC Program through Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here in the correct date. As you can see, my writing is not quite up to par with what it is now :) But I thought you readers would still find it informative and entertaining.

Hi friends,

I spent this week at a place called “Empty Space Chiang Mai.” It is the home of Manuel Lutgenhorst and his family, a really famous stage designer and director for many shows in theatre since the 70’s. He is the most humorous, genuine, kind, and interesting person, and he has the most beautiful home. It’s kind of like this huge open landscape in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of rice fields all around his house. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful the entire week. We had the opportunity to take ceramics with his wife Noi, to learn Thai cooking, to see presentations of Manuel’s works, and to just sit and soak up the sun and our adventures thus far in Thailand.

Empty Space Chiang Mai

The rice fields right outside our room.

I didn’t quite realize until I got there how utterly exhausted I’ve been. Traveling takes a lot out of you, and traveling WITH school work AND being around the same 7 people 24/7… I was brain-dead most of the week, but thankfully it’s given me the strength to gather myself and get prepared for the final two weeks of this semester: portfolio time. Essentially it’s all of my essays and journals and final papers and oral presentations piled together… but what’s been holding me together is the thought of coming home to Florida for 10 glorious days, to sleep in my bed with my 2 dogs and to see my friends and family, steaming hot showers… I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have the best of both worlds. Once you literally arrive on poverty’s doorstep and see it for yourself, once you’re taken in a van around Chiang Mai and shown blatant prostitution, once you meet people who sleep in bamboo huts, who don’t have I.D. cards, who can’t even begin to imagine the life we know in America… it makes me more thankful than ever to be coming back to this sort of surreal life that has only existed in memories the past 4 months.
Much love,
Brittany



Madness in Chiang Rai
December 5, 2008, 2:27 am
Filed under: Thailand

Hello everyone.
This week has been absolutely insane. We did a 5 day trek/homestay at Akha and Lahu villages (indigenous tribes in Thailand)/taught English to children/ and I became friends with two really fantastic Thai boys. I just came back today so I really don’t know what to think of it all yet.

Well all I can say is, while I was riding an elephant through the jungle in rural Thailand, and while I was learning the traditional dance of the Lahu village, and while I was watching the most red sun rise in the distance on a mountain top at 6 AM while eating yucca and corn cooked in a fire pit, all I could think was “Wow. I’m in class right now.”

I leave pieces of me in the world wherever I go.



Happy Thanksgiving!
November 28, 2008, 2:23 am
Filed under: Thailand

Note:

This is originally from my previous facebook group ‘Brittany Goes Global,’ (wanna know how I got the blog name? ;)) in which I sent messages to friends about my travels with Global College’s CRC Program through Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here in the correct date. As you can see, my writing is not quite up to par with what it is now :) But I thought you readers would still find it informative and entertaining.

So this has been such an unusual and special Thanksgiving for me. I spent the day going to Carefour (which is essentially a huge French Target in Thailand that has lots of American food) buying sausage, cheese, chips and salsa, muffins, things to make mac and cheese, and endless snacks with my friends. I helped Mira make macaroni and cheese. It was pretty disastrous but tasted delicious at least. At 3:40 PM we all rounded up and walked over to this restaurant that was serving ‘Thanksgiving meals’ for the day (Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, the works), ordered 12 meals to go, and headed over to Chanti’s apartment for a Thanksgiving celebration. It was really great because besides our group we had some friends from Thailand over, and there were some that were British, Thai, and Australian people that had never experienced Thanksgiving before. Some hadn’t even tried pumpkin pie! So it was really cool to be there for their first experience and explain what Thanksgiving was all about. The food was absolutely amazing. As soon as I started eating Turkey I wanted to cry because it was like I remember, “Oh yeah, it’s actually Thanksgiving today!” I felt proud to be American today in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday. I don’t think you realize how big it is in the US until you go out of the country and don’t see anyone celebrating. It was hard being away from my family, who had a huge thanksgiving reunion in New Jersey, but this was a fantastic substitute. After dinner when we were all in a food coma we went around and said what we were thankful for. Chanti, who just welcomed her 4th grandchild yesterday, broke out into dance that I don’t think I could copy if I tried. Heidi read poetry. Kerry played us a song. I did a South Indian tala. It was an amazing afternoon full of friends and laughter, and I am so thankful to have been there for such an amazing experience.

What am I thankful for?

I am incredibly thankful to always have clothes to wear, food to eat, shelter and safety, and more than anything I could possibly need.
I am thankful that my parents have saved up money for me to go to college since I was born, and that I can be on the amazing journey that I am on right now.
I am thankful that my whole family is supportive of me and my dreams and loves me unconditionally. I am thankful for my brother and sisters and parents who I especially missed yesterday.
I am thankful that I have SO many close friends who I can turn to when I’m down, when I need someone to talk to, when I need advice, when I need support, and to stimulate me, inspire me, and make me feel loved.
I am beyond thankful that I had the opportunity to go to India this year and meet my group and Dan and Aleta, who became my mentors. It has changed my life in ways I could never imagine happening and turned it into something beautiful and wonderful.
I am especially thankful for the Tibetan family that has welcomed me with open arms this year, for constant phone calls and love that I feel across the land from them, from laughter and jokes and a crazy connection that I know was meant to happen. I felt like I have gained 3 brothers and one more sister this year.
I am thankful for Tsering, who challenges me, helps me grow, is always there for me, and makes every day shine brighter because I have come to know him and know what love really means.
I am thankful for amazing books, amazing music, amazing art that helps or has helped me redefine my life.
I am thankful that I have had the experiences I’ve had while traveling and that I’ve experienced poverty and helplessness and seen it firsthand. It gives me hope because I know that I can do something about it.
I am thankful for love, I am thankful for strength, I am thankful for creativity, I am thankful for true beauty, I am thankful for everything that has happened in my life so far and where it will take me in the future.
I truly feel like the luckiest person alive. I hope you’ve been surrounded by love and happiness this holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)




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