The Europe seduction

There are times I find myself staring at a map, just lost in the possibilities of the world and all of its wonders.

Then, the wanderlust begins to bubble up … to slowly seduce me into a world where backpacks, trains, hostels, waking up in a new city are the norm. Are romantic. These little tendrils of travel creep into my mind and plant their roots. They whisper to me at night, “Diana … book a flight … Diana … come to me.”

Like a hangover, I shake these thoughts away because, let’s face it, the beginning of 2014 saw me barely making it to Chiang Mai Gate, let alone across town … how in the world am I going to leave the country?

Asia Blog Europe Thailand The Comfort Zone Project

Celebrating Passover in Chiang Mai

Rabbis clad in the Orthodox suits stand upon chairs, clapping their hands with smiles on their faces as our makeshift congregation of travelers and expats clap along.

Celebrating Passover in Chiang Mai

 

“Day-day-enu, day-day-enu, day-day-enu, dayenu, dayenu, dayenu,” we all sing together, accents melting into the chorus of the Passover song.

It’s the first night of Passover, the first seder, and instead of being with family or friends or out reveling in Songkran, which takes place simultaneously this year, I am sitting in a ballroom of the Centara Hotel in Chiang Mai’s red light district. I’m surrounded largely by Israelis who have come together on this special night to bring in Passover together.

Asia Blog Expat Life Thailand Travel Tips

The blessing of Chiang Mai

Living in Chiang Mai, I am constantly treated to spectacular visual beauty, thanks to the hundreds of temples and religious activities which regularly occur here. Any given morning, en route to work, I get to see people praying to monks and offering alms to them to bring back to their respective temples.

The beauty of Buddhism is constantly on display in the city I call “home.”

Today is no exception.

Chiang Mai monks making pilgrimage

The first of 500 Dhutanga monks enters the shot.

Asia Blog Expat Life Thailand
d travels headshot

The fat girl in Thailand

A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
This post is a part of the year-long Comfort Zone Project.

“Oh, why you so pom pui?” People ask me. Strangers. Friends. You name it.

Pom pui.

You’d think one of the first words I would learn in Thailand would be how to ask someone’s name, or how to ask for directions. But, nope. One of the first words I learn other than “drunk” is pom pui or “fat.”

Asia Expat Life Thailand The Comfort Zone Project

The Comfort Zone Project

“Life’s not about living happily ever after … it’s about living.”

That is the tagline for my blog, and was the motivating factor in the major decision I made nearly four years ago to quit my job in public relations and take a career-break and head out for a solo travel adventure.

It’s the same motivating factor that pushed me to quit my job again in 2012 and head over to Thailand to live as an expat and work for Save Elephant Foundation.

But, during my time in Thailand, something happened:

I lost my focus.

I lost my motivation.

I lost myself.

It’s easy to do, really.

Asia Expat Life Thailand The Comfort Zone Project

5 ways to beat the Expat Funk

Just like hitting the Travel Funk, as an expat, I’ve come to learn, you hit the Expat Funk, too. Know what I’m talking about?

It’s that shitty feeling when you wake up in the morning and you can’t be asked to go about your daily routine. When the things you once found charming, like the slow-paced walking though the early morning market on the way to work, dodging motorbikes, staring at the moat and looking at the lights twinkle in the murky waters … when they all lose their charm. When the wide-eyed awesome you first felt dissolves and turns into … meh.

A sunset in Chiang Mai

If you’re an expat living in one place for a long time and you haven’t felt that, congratulations.

Asia Blog Expat Life Thailand

Spring in Chiang Mai

I wake up and walk out of my air-conditioned room. I step into the teak upstairs of my home and am hit.

A blast of steam, of hot, humid air so powerful my cool flesh immediately begins to bead with sweat.

March in Chiang Mai.

Elephant Nature Park Spring

Not pictured: the steam rising up from my body.

Coming from the desert, I am well-equipped to deal with the heat. But the desert heat is a different kind of heat. A dry heat. I used to hate when people would tell me I was lucky to live in Vegas because at least the heat is dry, versus the humid and hot air of my hometown.

I would laugh.

“You think dry heat is better?” I would ask, rolling my eyes. “Let me tell you this. Go grab a hair dryer, put it on high, and tell me how you like that dry heat blowing in your face.”

Las Vegas

Can you FEEL the dry heat?

Normally, the point came across quite quickly.

I thought coming to Chiang Mai, I would be able to deal with the humid summer. But, I didn’t realize what I was in for.

From February through June, it is hard not to melt from the heat. From the thick, sticky air. Temps soar into the 100s and there is no relief.

In Chiang Mai, there are very few places equipped with cooling systems. Suddenly, fans become the gospel. Little misters are moments of cool on a hot day.

And then, there is the burning.

Chiang Mai air quality during burning season

A look at Doi Suthep at the beginning and end of burning season. Photo courtesy: BoundingOverOurSteps.com

During the hottest time of the year in Chiang Mai, the rice fields are also glowing orange. The valley fills up with smoke, making visibility close to null. The air quality is crap, coughs become the norm, and masks to cover mouths from pollutants lingering in the air are the fashion statement of the season.

Do I like it?

Not really.

Do I tolerate it?

You bet.

After all, I live in an amazing city.

But, I do tell people who come here to skip the burning/summer season in Chiang Mai. Head south to the beaches. Unless you like that sort of thing. Then come on up, hang out with me and plop some ice in your beer … because that’s a great way to keep cool.

Koh Samui

A clear alternative to the burn and hot: island living.

What you need to know about “spring” in Thailand

What Westerners consider the spring months is actually Thailand’s summer. Here, schools close during these months and many make a mass exodus to the more temperate and cleaner air by the water.

If you are going to be in Chiang Mai (or anywhere other than the islands, really), be prepared for heat. At times unbearable heat. Heat that penetrates your every inch. Sweating dripping from every pore in your body. Thick, humid air that makes you long for air-conditioning and will send you into a 7-11 to cool off, even if just for a brief moment of air-con bliss.

There’s a reason why the high season in Thailand is November through early February — the temperature is pretty much perfect, minus some cold spells.

The SE Asia resource site, Travelfish, has plenty of detailed information which breaks up Thailand by region and gives you an idea of what to expect.

What to wear

Thailand is a more conservative culture, so for the ladies, that means skipping the booty shorts and barely there tank tops (or worse, the sheer shirts with a bikini top underneath) and opting for loose-fitting cotton shirts and light, breezy pants. Men, you have a little more freedom, but shorts and tee shirts  are the best way to go.

If you’re going to be on the road a lot via motorbike or bicycle, purchase a filtered mask to protect your lungs when the burning really gets going.

Beating the heat

Since air-conditioning isn’t widely spread, minus guest houses, there are few chances to really cool down. Fans can help (especially if you soak a towel in water and then place it on the fan), but for those who are used to cranking the AC, it will cost more money to get a room in a guest house or hotel with the beautiful cold air.

Turn off the water heater. Because the water tanks heat up as the day progresses, take a shower in the morning when it is at its coolest.

Songkran in Chiang Mai

Nothing says “cool” like icy streams of water during Songkran

Be in Chiang Mai for Songkran. The icy buckets of water can send momentary chills and relief from the heat.

Baby powder is you’re friend. While you will still sweat, picking up some of the cooling baby powder can help cut it down and cool you off at least a little bit.

Have you survived a “spring” in Thailand? What were your experiences?

Asia Blog Expat Life Thailand