Pentatonic Rock Bar, Chiang Mai

I freaking love Pentatonic Rock Bar.

photo from Pentatonic's Facebook page

It's the only place in Chiang Mai I can rock out to live covers of System of a Down, Rammstein, Marylin Manson, Korn, Rage Against the Machine and Muse.... and other less awesome bands like Guns n Roses (sorry, fans!).

I go really often. When we go on a night out, and it doesn't include Pentatonic Rock Bar, I sometimes feel like the night out could probably have been better.

The bands that play aren't shitty cover bands. They are amazing. The guitarists should be performing in concert halls around the world. The singers make the songs their own (if they like the song they're covering, haha).

The night starts off calmly, with Radiohead, Blur and Nirvana covers, and songs that only Andy knows.

Sometimes there's a very enthusiastic band who cover the kind of music people make claw hands to while whipping their very long hair around. Sometimes they have guest bands. Sometimes random members of the audience get up on stage to sing.

The main headliner band always makes me happy. There seems to be a few different singers and musicians that take it in turns. Or maybe they're different bands? I'm not sure, I'm usually drunk by this point.

But there's one lead singer who I especially like, who is just exceptionally cool and growls his way through all the songs.

photo from Pentatonic's Facebook page

Sure, it's not original music and sure, they play the same things most nights, but I love it. See you there!

Find Pentatonic Rock Bar in the Zoe area, in the Old City.
Posted by Amy Lou

Swiss Lanna Lodge Chiang Mai: Review

One word: BATHTUB.


Swiss Lanna Lodge is seriously lovely. The owners have converted an old traditional teak Thai house into really cosy accommodation. Everything is rich brown teak and there's modern and Lanna-style art dotted around. There are lots of communal areas, like the restaurant, balcony and garden.

It's really close to the river and night market, but it's in a residential area down a small soi that's kinda tricky to find at first. But, that does mean it's super quiet whilst still being close to everything.

The friendly Swiss Lanna staff had written our names on a chalkboard in the lobby and welcomed us with a glass of ice cold roselle juice to sip while we checked in. The happy lady who welcomed us told us what was nearby, and explained the different things we could do by ourselves or they could arrange for us.

The smallest rooms cost 890 baht and the most expensive one costs 3,390 baht.

We stayed in the fancy fancy Pasha room, the only one with a jacuzzi bathtub. It was gorgeous. It had a gong. It had a lamp that looked like a chemistry flask, and a strange egg-shaped device that killed mosquitoes. Though, we asked for mosquito spray because there were lots flying round, and that worked much better than the mysterious egg!

The Pasha Room housed the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in to date, including my old bed in England.  When I jumped on it to test the squishyness I actually exclaimed in shock at how beautiful it felt.

I closed the blackout blinds (hell yes), turned the aircon to ice-cold freezing and we read by the light of the chemistry flask for a while. I was nearly swallowed up by the fancy duvets and sheets and pillows.

So then Andy force fed a muffin into my face, in our little garden. That's love, right?

Everything in the room was the best quality, with a huge wardrobe, mirror, cool arty furniture and thoughtful touches like tea and coffee. The furniture looked like it should be in an art gallery - the modern pieces in the old teak house worked really well. The bathroom was outdoors and had a pretty Thai mural on the wall, a rain shower, a toilet with a bamboo plant growing out of the top and the tap was a little silver pyramid! I felt seriously fancy floating around the Pasha Room.

The hot tub was totally private with hot and cold water, and a shower, and a magical silver button that turned the jets on. Oh my word I must have spent around four hours in that tub in total. There was a kaffir lime tree behind it, and a little bird had made a nest in it! And she kept flying to and fro, bringing tasty grubs for her bird babies. I felt all magical and at one with nature, kind of.

Breakfast was delicious and healthy - muesli and homemade yoghurt drizzled with honey and a cappuccino. This is what hot summer mornings were made for.

Swiss Lanna Lodge make lots of different breakfast food, but for dinner I would recommend hopping on your motorbike (or borrow one of theirs) for five minutes to Dukes for the best pizza in Chiang Mai.

Chilling out here was just what we needed! It was a great opportunity for Andy and I to spend time together before I went on a two week motorbike trip around Northern Thailand with my friend Rob. More on that next time...

Thanks, Swiss Lanna Lodge! ^__^

Posted by Amy Lou

Judas, Brutus, WordPress.

"I will never forgive WordPress for this."

I despondently muttered these words into my pillow, face-down, at two in the morning today. Andy found this immediately hilarious. I did not.

Jusas, Brutus, Cassius WordPress

I'm setting up a new website (teaser below) and a lot of people told me to use WordPress. What nobody specified, however, is that there are TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF WORDPRESS.

Teaser... are you intrigued? Haha.

I know! So, I signed up to and paid them nine pounds to let me use a domain name I already own. But after I had paid, I finally figured out that isn't the only WordPress out there - there's WordPress.ORG too! And, after much research and stressing out the short story is that is totally unsuitable for me. So, now, I'm going to attempt to use, and already I'm struggling with, choosing the right server-plan for me.

When I created this website I didn't need to do all this because Blogger host it! But, I'm going to persevere because almost everyone says I will be so happy that I used WordPress.ORG in the end.

That end seems a long way off.

Posted by Amy Lou

My first yoga class ever, at NAMO Chiang Mai

So as you may have guessed, I was kinda nervous about going to a yoga class. Here's what happened.

After I had swerved my motorbike into the tiny, practically invisible lane that led to the NAMO Chiang Mai building, I sat for a few moments at a table in the pretty courtyard, taking it all in. There were over twenty colourful flip flops lying outside the door, belonging to the people I was about to join for my first ever yoga class. I decided not to take any photographs out of respect to the people exercising: not everyone is comfortable being photographed when upside down with random limbs in the air, hair in disarray and a red workout face!

Photo from Flickr creative commons user lyn tally

A nervous entrance

I went inside and paid the 220 baht class fee, managed to wash my feet without falling over and said hello to a few friendly people. I tripped up the old teak wood stairs, where I could see exercise mats hanging over the banister. I grabbed one and sat down crossed-legged and tied my hair up, trying to make out I totally knew what I was doing.

I took in the scene: around fifteen people were squeezed into a rather small room. Fans stirred the hot, lazy air. It was pretty much silent, except for the lady next to me. She was already in some kind of complicated pose, breathing loudly. Suddenly, she performed a series of rather violent movements that I wasn't aware humans could do. Shit, what had I gotten myself into? I looked over at a woman I'd spoken to downstairs and was relieved to find that she was watching the uber-yoga-lady with a similar look of amazement as must have been on my own face. Phew. She was sat on a little cushion. Oh... everyone in there had little cushions! And they each had a hard green foam block, and a kind of black belt. I walked across the creaky floorboards to sheepishly pick up the extra equipment, worrying that I had disturbed the lady meditating in the corner. I had butterflies because nobody was really speaking and I felt pretty flustered.

Photo from Flickr creative commons user 3dpete


At last the instructor walked in, and greeted us. She was instantly likeable and friendly. She informed us that the yoga style we'd do is called Hatha Flow. This is apparently a fairly easy-to-handle kind of yoga, perfect for beginners. I relaxed a little. After we'd closed our eyes, she asked us to join her in chanting 'om' three times. I totally hadn't expected that. I have to confess that I peeked; everyone else was om-ing very seriously so I shut my eyes again quickly and joined in. She guided us in a few moments of conscious meditation and it was really quite lovely. She had us focus on what we could hear, feel and smell. I could hear birds, traffic and a water pump. It was hot. She used her singing bowl, and woah, it was other-worldly.

She asked if we had any injuries. I really hate informing people of mine; a smashed up knee that's been held together with wires for over four or five years. Yes, it's limiting, but I try not to let it affect my life too much so I rarely bring it up. I timidly raised my hand and told her: I have a fake knee (it's easier than describing the whole situation, especially when I can't be sure of someone's English ability). She said I could use the little cushion under my knee when necessary.

Photo from Flickr creative commons user Ben and Kaz Askins

Bums, dogs and dancing dragons

Despite being a yoga virgin, I totally knew what a downward dog was before I even stepped into the room. This was one of the first moves we did, and we moved on from there with a whole load of other poses. I have no idea what most of the other moves were called. Each movement was supposed to flow into the next. It's safe to say that I need to work on my transitions: I don't flow so much as flop myself around the best I can. The series of movements that we performed were some kind of dragon dance, or something like that. Cool eh! I could do most of the poses, but a few were kinda difficult: one hand on the floor, the other pointing at the ceiling, my belly button facing the wall, my right hip positioned directly above my left. She had to come and help me with that one. Because it was pretty busy, I had my bottom in my neighbour's face quite often. She managed to keep her bottom to herself, but mine was pretty wayward. I'd apologise but honestly I expect it was quite thrilling.

Photo from Flickr creative commons user Jaybird

Bamboo legs

My favourite pose was one of the stretching poses we did after the dragon dance finished. We put the foam block under our tail-bone and stuck our legs up almost straight in the air, finding the point where it felt like we could hold them up there for hours. It was called the Bamboo Forest Pose, because, our instructor said, a whole room of people doing it looked like a forest of bamboo plants. It was very peaceful.

The class ended after almost two hours with a longer meditation in the dark. I was pretty exhausted by this point, and I don't have any experience meditating. I'm not sure if I was meditating, or simply lying there. How do you know the difference? After the meditation, the instructor said that we should all chant 'om' again and this time she added in a few 'shanti shanti shantis' after each om. It reminded me of India, and the movie Children of Men.

Photo from Flickr creative commons user Nikto Shlavić

The afterglow

When class started I couldn't quite touch my toes, but by the end I could touch them easily - my hand was almost flat on the floor. I walked out of NAMO feeling taller, leaner, and very... well, grounded! That's the best word for it. Like I was deeply into my centre of gravity, standing and moving very steadily. Is it possible to feel those things after just one session!?

I am totally inspired. It felt like a pretty intense workout, but it was enjoyable and I didn't feel like I was killing myself to get fit! Perhaps yoga is much more suitable for me than hardcore workouts like T25?

The next day, a whole lot of me hurt... and I couldn't wait to go again. I went two days later. The second time was a new teacher, and a new yoga style. A really freaking difficult yoga style - at least for me. The next installment of my journey into the world of yoga is coming soon: watch this space and please tell me any yoga tips and share your first-time stories!

Photo from Flickr creative commons user Twig Aho

Posted by Amy Lou

Going to Yoga for the first time ever!

Tonight, I will go to a yoga class, as per my fitness goals for 2015.

The opposite of my yoga skill level.
photo from Flickr Creative Commons user Jesse Warren

I AM NERVOUS, but excited.

A friend recommended that I go to NAMO Chiang Mai for my first experience, and assured me that it would be awesome. It's a special kind of yoga called Hatha Flow. Apparently it's nice and easy to pick up, and the idea is that you flow from one pose into the other, I think.

I expect that my poses will be wobbly rather than graceful, and my 'downward dog' will probably more resemble the way an exhausted old dog flops on the floor after a tiring day at the beach, but I gotta start somewhere right?

I hope I'm as good as this guy ;)
photo from Flickr Creative Commons user Hartwig HKD

Posted by Amy Lou

Guesthouses Near Shambhala In Your Heart Festival, Chiang Dao, Thailand

Are you looking for somewhere to sleep near Shambhala In Your Heart Festvial?

I've been getting emails asking for my recommendations of guesthouses near Shambhala in Your Heart Festival, Chiang Dao. You can always take a tent and camp, but if guaranteed sleep is important to you, stay in a guesthouse nearby (please don't drive a motorbike back to your guesthouse if you're drunk).

They're booking out fast so get a move on.

1. Chiang Dao Nest 1 and 2

Rates: 745 - 2995 THB, depending on the accommodation size.

Cabin at Nest 1
One of the gorgeous huts at Chiang Dao Nest. Photo from their website.

Chiang Dao Nest is my favourite place to stay in Chiang Dao. The two locations are five minutes away from each other. Nest 2 has aircon and the restaurant serves delicious Thai food. Nest 1 has no aircon, a swimming pool, ping pong tables and the restaurant serves incredible fine-dining international food. You can use the Nest 1 facilities even if you stay at Nest 2. The comfortable beds have a heap of blankets and pillows to keep you warm, and the duvet covers are this gorgeous cotton trimmed with lanna embroidery. The showers are hot and they provide hand-made soap, kaffir-lime shampoo and great big fluffy white towels.

The views from both locations are stunning. At breakfast time the mist rolling over the mountain towering above you is, simply, breathtaking. There's a friendly fat pug dog that shuffles around the place called Mr Bones, he's the cutest thing I've ever seen. SO SNUFFLY. The waitresses are really, really friendly and happy to help you out with speaking Thai. The general atmosphere of Nest 1 and 2 is incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating, and I can't recommend this place enough. Go!

2. Chiang Dao Hut

Rates: 326 - 2974 THB gets you a range of accommodation from a simple hut up to a family house.

Cute little houses at Chiang Dao Hut. Photo from Chiang Dao Hut's Facebook page.

Chiang Dao Hut is my second-favourite place to stay in Chiang Dao. The simple, cheap huts have a private balcony with a lanna-style sofa and a hammock. We spend our evenings here lying in hammocks and drinking wine by candlelight when there isn't a festival to go to. The cheapest huts have shared bathrooms, but get a superior one and you get your own private hot shower (which is so lovely to warm up in the cold Chiang Dao mornings!).

The restaurant area is full of teak wood furniture and hill-tribe fabric cushions, with huge tables to eat food or read at. There's a special Thai instrument hanging up in the restaurant, a kind of Thai violin. I had a go... let's just say I need practice.

3. Chiang Dao Privacy Resort

Rates: 1600 - 3400 THB, depending on the accommodation.

The Tarzan House. Wowwww! Photo from the resort's website.

Chiang Dao Privacy Resort is kinda new and each house has an imaginative, evocative name. The Tarzan House could definitely spark a couple's imagination (you know exactly what I mean), and it's way away from the other houses, so you can, you know, turn your TV up really loud. Then there's the beautiful Banana House, Rose Apple House and 2-bedroom Rambutan House left to choose from if wild Tarzan sex chilling in loin-cloth isn't for you.

If you want to get up close and personal with the beautiful Chiang Dao countryside, this is the place to be. The sun rise over the fields and trees right outside your door is magical. They cook using vegetables from the chemical-free vegetable plots onsite and there's plenty of space to make a campfire. If you're interested, the owner can arrange a course for you to learn rice sowing, planting and harvesting. The showers are nice and hot, toiletries are provided and there's a fridge and TV in every room.

Please note that this accommodation is further away from the festival than the other places I've recommended. Only stay here if you're comfortable driving the extra distance.

4. Malee's Nature Lovers Bungalows

Rates: 100 baht camping, or 650 - 2300 THB depending on how big the house is.

The welcoming entrace to Malee's Nature Lovers Bungalows. Photo from their Facebook page.

We've stayed at Malee's a few times. The huts are rather basic and could do with a makeover, but it's OK for a night. The showers are usually cold, but one time we asked for a hot shower and they replaced the gas canister behind the hut. The Honeymoon House is pretty, but more expensive.

There's a tiny pool to splash about in, and the owners take their gardening seriously: everywhere is dripping with luscious tropical flowers, including orchids. Malee's is well-known for its bird-watching expeditions, so stay here if birds are your thing.

5. Chiangkham Luang Resort (for flashpackers!)

Rates: 2150 - 3655 THB

Such rustic. Photo from their Facebook page.

Chiangkham Luang Resort is gorgeous. The fancy huts are dotted throughout a large park area and the restaurant serves top-class food. As you'd expect, every room is decked out with a TV, fridge, aircon, fancy toiletries and towels. The wi-fi is kinda slow though, so it's not so great for watching videos of cats in your downtime.

There's a gym (ha, like I would ever use that on a holiday), sauna and steam room and different kinds of massages to experience.

It's all super-clean and the resort is operated to produce as little pollution as possible whilst still catering to their guests needs for aircon. If you want to have a much more luxurious festival experience, stay here.
Posted by Amy Lou

Yearning for isolated beaches...

It's been a busy day at work today.

I lost my cool with one of my rowdier classes; a rare occurrence that startles me as much as the students. The three strikes hadn't worked, moving ringleaders away from their friends hadn't worked, and not one group had completed the posters that we were supposed to be using today, thus ruining my plans for the rest of the class. They had plenty of time to finish them in the previous class, but didn't, which is the only reason why they had homework in the first place.

Of course I had a back-up lesson just in case, but today the fact that they didn't care at all about not having finished their poster really annoyed me.

Sure, they listened after they realised I was serious and angry. I made it clear to them that the fun lessons they get from me should not be taken advantage of, and the lesson was salvaged and in fact ended in fairly good spirits. But still, I left the class with a bad taste in my mouth and a crazy-strong desire to escape into my own world. I sat in the sun outside and read my book.

Then, I read some travel blogs and developed a serious case of wander-lust.

I want to be somewhere mostly alone, for a little while. 

After a month or maybe longer, I'd come home to beautiful Chiang Mai. The vibrant city and the culture within it that I am enchanted by, frustrated by, hurt by, healed by and generally in love with. Ready to show unbounded love to all of my students, even the ones that I sometimes want to throw out of the window. Ready to hang out, meet new people, laze around in the park, eat pizza in a fancy Italian restaurant, go to the cinema and dance drunkenly to a rock band all night.

But right now, I'm seriously craving a quiet beach life for a while.

I want to go to a difficult-to-reach island and sit under a tree on a beach that hasn't been rearranged by humans much. I want to swim alone in a warm clear ocean, and kayak on a river by myself. I want to dive into a freezing pool in the forest after hiking in burning sun, and eat local, freshly cooked food, and hear nothing but island-life and nature. Maybe there'd be a little outdoors cafe that I could get coffee in, a restaurant serving healthy sandwiches and salads. I don't want an airport, casinos, massive hotels, skybars and golf resorts. I want a clean bed in a hut, with an outdoor bathroom and not much else. I even miss the massive lizard that terrorised me the last time I stayed in a beach-hut, a little bit.

I'm under no illusion - I know perfectly well that I wouldn't want to live in the middle of nowhere forever. I'm completely against the toxic resentment of tourists and I know that I myself am one of the tourists that I'm currently wanting to escape from. I know that simply by visiting an 'untouched' island I'm contributing to the demise of its nature and native culture. The difficult journeys on the buses, in the vans and fisherman boats will one day change to a direct airport-to-island tourist delivery system. I know I have it good, and I love my job and the students that I shouted at today. You don't need to point out any of these things to me, I know, I know.

Leave me to my dreams of paradise today.

Posted by Amy Lou

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