I stand nervously in my friend, Jodi’s, jungle hut placed perfectly in the heart of Elephant Nature Park. It’s a chilly morning and the sun has just crested the lush triangle mountains surrounding us. Around me, roosters crow, dogs bark and elephants begin their walk from their shelters to the vast sanctuary where they live.
Perhaps the one thing Cinque Terre is most known for — other than the pesto, glorious wines and tiny towns — are the paths tying the five Italian villages together. Varying in difficulty and length, visitors come from the world over, clad in their best gear to experience these world-renowned trails and relish the spectacular views that is Cinque Terre hiking.
Three years ago, if you would have asked me about a future in Chiang Mai, I may have gone all glassy-eyed and distant. Chiang Mai was a dream to me three years ago. The elephants were a dream to me then, too. I lived in a world where I was not satisfied with my existence. I lived in a world, three years ago, where despite my (mediocre) efforts, I had fallen unhappily back into a world I didn’t want to be in.
Nearly fresh off my career break/solo travel through Europe, there I was, sitting at my parent’s home in Maryland, waxing melancholy at my choices and desperately trying to sort out how to rearrange my life to make it one I was grateful for again. (Note: I wasn’t not grateful for my life, it just wasn’t what I wanted).
I dreamed of Thailand travel. A world exploring Chiang Mai. Bangkok. Being surrounded by elephants and fighting for their well-being.
Come to Thailand, she had written.
My mom and I arrive to Cinque Terre hours after we were supposed to, thanks to the Italian train strikes taking place on the day we hike it from photogenic Venice to Milan to La Spezia to Vernazza (whew).
Exhausted, moderately grumpy and ready to take in the beauty of the Ligurian region, we exit the train station and begin our search for our Flipkey vacation rental and the woman who owns it.
We wander past the rock archway leading to the beach and down the car-free lane lined with tiny shops and restaurants, craning our necks to find our host.
Venice, Italy is quite a photographers dream.
With the sparkling lagoons, tiny car-free lanes, buildings in a state of beautiful erosion, colors, lights, the historic landmarks and buildings … it is hard not to simply see Venice through the lens of a camera versus simply experiencing the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Of course, during my visit to the city, when I wasn’t trying to dodge the tourists, I was snapping photos and making sure I didn’t trip and fall head first into one of the canals. ‘Cause I totally could have.
With hundreds of photos of Venice to choose from, it was difficult to narrow it down. The city is that photogenic.
The thick doors of St. Mark’s Basilica close behind us, shutting us off to the whir and clamor of the throngs of people in Venice and we step into the entryway of the historical and iconic St. Mark’s. Located in Piazzo San Marco and connected to the Doge’s Palace, in the most recognizable city in the world (according to moi), tonight our visit to Venice’s St. Mark’s is blessedly quiet. Being one of the most popular things to do in Venice, the tourists which flock to this well-known attraction by the thousands during the day, are not standing here with us tonight. In fact, it is only a handful of us in this building, which dates back to the 800s. I’m really not one for visiting churches, but this opportunity is different; this is a Walks of Italy guided tour with an art historian through this massive, guide-book-recommended must in Venice … at night.
Welcome to a new series on d travels ’round, Chiang Mai Moments. This series will profile small moments in time during my life as an expat in Chiang Mai. The moments which normally would get pushed aside for the bigger picture of life, but deserve more. There is no schedule for these posts. There is no format. These are just stories flowing when they flow and moments happening when they happen. I hope these Chiang Mai Moments give you some insight into the beauty which exists in this country and the experiences gifted to expats who choose to make this city home.