Kayaking in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I recently started doing something I've loved doing for ages, but hardly ever actually did: kayaking. It turns out that Northern Thailand is a pretty sweet place for kayaking of all kinds. There's slow and easy, swift and wide, and rapid and bamboo-death-trappy.

Kayaking in Mae Tang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Easy kayaking on the river in Mae Tang

Last weekend, I went on the river in Mae Tang. I hadn't been kayaking for ages, and it seemed like a good place to start up again. Paddling began at about 10am, and about twenty eight lazy kilometres later, it was over. Kayaking seems to come easily to me; I love the easy motion of cutting through the water, gliding past life on the river banks in silence, zero pollution. It was a relaxing, lovely day. But I wanted more. I wanted challenge! I got it last Saturday.

Aidan, the owner of the kayaking company I went with, recommended that I try to conquer the Mae Ping River, starting in Chiang Dao. The river runs all the way to Chiang Mai. He painted a romantic picture of adventure; a fast-flowing jungle river, where you'd have to quickly duck under bamboo and pick a way through hanging vines without hesitation. We'd fly past temple ruins and remote monasteries in the Chiang Dao mountains. Exciting!

I met Daphne and Iris from The Netherlands in Chiang Mai at the kayaking centre. After a quick how-to-kayak lesson, our Thai guide Baigun drove us two hours north to Chiang Dao, with a brief stop to buy fresh rambutans from the side of the road. Have you ever tried this red and green spikey fruit? It’s kind of like a lychee. Particularly big and juicy rambutans are a real treat in Thailand.

Rainy season has recently descended upon Thailand, and the river was brown and swollen. We looked at it from the bank, a little nervous, trying to remember how to eddy out and where to lean and what to avoid. I tied my Converse tightly; there was a very definite chance of losing your shoes in this river. Daphne and Iris were wearing flip flops... oops. They tied them to their kayaks.

Kayaking in Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
It's all smiles before the bamboo spider death...

Straight away, I realised that this river was going to test me a lot more than the Mae Tang one. It wasn't easy, and it didn't feel like it came so naturally this time! After I'd pushed out into the river, I was supposed to paddle upstream to wait for the others to get in. I just wasn't strong enough, and was feeling a bit nervous! So I eddied out – went to the edge of the river where there’s no current. That’s when I first saw the spiders. If a spider is near me, that’s OK, though not desirable. But if one plops on my arm or head? I hate it.

River spiders are big, fast and scuttle-y. One was dangling off a twig over my kayak. I tried to brush it away with the oar, but these spiders are sticky. It ran up my oar, and I frantically splashed it away into the water. But a crazy thing I never knew about spiders? They can walk on water. It ran across the river, back onto its twig. Errgh. It was the first of many.

Kayaking in Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
kayak crash
When everyone was in, we turned to face downstream and began tackling the river. It was hard going. The water was fast and it was difficult to avoid the bamboo hanging down over the water. I crashed into it nearly every time. I realised why a helmet was so important. The bamboo scratched my arms and tried to pull my oar from me. Spiders apparently like to chill out on bamboo, and as I scraped through it loads fell into my boat. I didn't love it. Daphne got caught in some bamboo, and leaned the wrong way. Her kayak filled with water and she went over! She was fine, and laughing, but lost a flip flop.

I didn't take any photos for this part of the river - I was far too busy trying (and failing) to steer around bamboo. I think I glimpsed an impressive monastery during a quiet part.

It was certainly adventurous.


We stopped for lunch: fried rice, spicy pad kapow and a lot of water. Kayaking in this river was hard work! At lunch a super-fluffy black and white caterpillar joined us. It looked cute, but was dangerous, so I didn't stroke it. Baigun said that there was hardly any bamboo in the second half of our trip. Thai guides are notorious teasers, though, so I wasn't sure if he was telling porkies or not. I was pleased to find that it was the truth!

Kayaking in Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
view from the calmer river section

After lunch, we soon broke out of the bamboo-death part of the river, and it became wider, and a lot easier to avoid the obstacles. We relaxed; it was easy again! We played about, splashed each other and raced. It was fun, and there was plenty to look at: mountains, river-side-life and temples.

Is it crazy to want to go again?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

Feeling Homesick

I'm sorry, Blog. I've neglected you. The truth is, visiting England really threw me. 


I visited England in April for a whole month, and it was the best. I hung out with family and friends and saw England with new eyes.

I couldn't wait to get out of England two years ago. I said it was flat, boring, expensive, grey, cold and generally pretty rubbish. I knew I'd miss some things and some people, but I didn't realise just how much.

The Lake District is far from flat and boring. It's stunning, desolate and there are places that still feel wild and raw. We hiked to a tarn and fell asleep on a blanket by the water - perfect. We didn't need a guide. Here, all serious hiking seems to require a guide.

Then there's the beaches in Norfolk, where I spent so many days as a child with my family. We walked through pine forests, and ran through mist rolling on the sand for miles till we met the sea when the tide was out. I miss mist! It was like being in a dream world, blanketed away and only being able to see a few feet in front of you. The sea is cold in England, but this time I loved the iciness when I paddled, and the way the wind whips up your hair into a big salty tangly mess. After the 'loudness' of a tropical country, I loved the difference - the bleak greys, soft blues and stony whites.

"What fortune, I declared, to dwell in such an Eden, but my pleasantry punctured the young man's spirits. 'So I believed in my first days, sir, but now I don't rightly know. I mean, Eden's a spick and span place... but times are, I'd give anything for a North Sea fog.'"  --- Cloud Atlas

There were parties, of course, and day trips, mini holidays, dinners and drunken nights out. Glitter, tasty food, and all my favourite music that only me and my friends can enjoy so much. My favourite bar in Nottingham played the song I requested every time I went not long after we stumbled in, and there was lots of dancing and stomping! I spent almost every day in April with the best people in the world.

I love living in Thailand, but I'm homesick. Really, really homesick. I've been away for about two years now, with brief visits, and I miss home, family, friends. I haven't felt like blogging, or doing much of anything since I've been back. I haven't written a word for ages, or taken any photographs.

I started a new job at a new school, and I love it. We've been reading The Wizard of Oz, though, and Dorothy realises that she needn't look any further than her own backyard to find her heart's desire. Gotta admit, I've found talking about 'home' as a theme in the book has been really, really difficult for me.

“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” --- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Recently we've been out exploring again, though, and I've written this post. I've started to see the beauty of where I live again. I love the mountains and waterfalls, swimming outside every day, drinking coffee on our balcony every morning and driving our motorbike.

Is home wherever you make it so, or is it simply wherever the people you love live?


Someone please invent a teleportation device and let me borrow it...

living abroad, feeling homesick
Click your heels together three times... source: mrwgifs.com
Friday, 20 June 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

Chinese Tea Ceremony in Chiang Mai at Sati - The Art of Tea and Yoga

Did you know that tea has a spirit?



Today, me and a group of friends attended a beautiful tea ceremony at Sati, led by the most knowledgeable and graceful lady we could have hoped to meet: Echo.


Echo is a lovely, intelligent person and an amazing conversationalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of tea.


She can tell you about the history of tea in China, the differences between Japanese and Chinese tea ceremonies, describe the different effects each of the teas she has available might have on you and answer any burning tea-related questions that you need answering. Her way of describing and explaining is poetic, patient and eloquent. It is abundantly clear that Echo has a love affair with tea.

Sati is an extremely calming, relaxing environment. When we were there, peaceful Tibetan music was playing and a gentle breeze played through the open windows. Heavy wooden furniture decorates the blue and white room downstairs, and the upstairs room is bare to serve as a yoga studio.


A tea ceremony with Echo is absolutely incredible value at 150 baht per person.


You should book in advance on her Facebook page or by calling 088 431 8976. She will close Sati to other guests while you’re there, so you can have a totally private and uninterrupted tea ceremony. It really is special and I can’t recommend this experience enough. Of all the tourist things to do in Chiang Mai, it was probably the friendliest and most comfortable thing we've done, and Echo herself played no small part in that. Thank you, Echo, if you’re reading this!


After we had sat down, listened to the descriptions of the different kinds of tea we could choose from and asked a few questions, we decided to try green puer tea. Our friend Ellie had already tried black puer tea and said it was really good, so it seemed like a good choice.

The tea ceremony set was really quite special. On the wooden tray there were six dainty white cups with a blue pattern, a small brown tea pot, a small white pouring pot, and the most curious item of all – a kind of stone foot fish ornament. This was a spirit of tea! It played an important part in the ceremony, as you’ll see later. Next to the tray was a dry purple leaf, a wooden vase holding several implements, and a stack of six small wooden trays. There was a small kettle on an electric hob. Everything seemed very precise and in its place.




Echo bought over the tea ‘cake’, which was carefully wrapped in paper and clingfilm to preserve the taste and fragrance, and to make sure that the tea didn't become contaminated by any other smells.

Echo began the ceremony by closing her eyes and making her Tibetan singing bowl sing loudly in the room.

Then, she unwrapped the tea. It was spellbinding to watch her unwrapping the cake while the Tibetan music played in that calm, still room. I almost forgot to take photographs, and I almost didn't take any at all, because I was worried it might break the spell. Echo then used a wooden-handled tool to break tea leaf chunks away from the cake, and piled the leaves onto the purple leaf. The tea had a slight scent; earthy. It reminded me of hay.


She then warmed the tea set by pouring hot water in all of the pots and cups and finally over the stone foot fish. The tray had holes in, and a container concealed underneath. All of Echo’s movements were practiced and efficient; she told us that she does this ceremony every day, even if it’s just by herself.

This green puor tea was two years old, so had to be awakened!


Echo ‘awakened’ the tea after it’s two years of slumber by steeping it for just a few seconds in the brown tea pot and quickly pouring every cup full, and then some over the fish… then all the cups were poured over the fish. Now, the tea was awake!


Then it was our turn. Echo poured fresh water into the brown tea pot and again, only steeped the tea for a few seconds before pouring everyone a cup full of tea, and then one over the fish. The colour was a fresh, bright yellow. We were shown the correct way to hold our cups and drink the tea, and then we drank! Every time our cups were empty, she would pour more hot water into the brown pot and fill our cups again.

Every ‘round’ of tea was served by Echo clockwise. This was important – the loving way to serve tea. If she had done it anti-clockwise, then it would have been a big hint telling us to get lost and get out, according to the etiquette rules of Chinese tea ceremony!

The taste of the tea changed after each round. It started off quite bitter, but definitely got fruitier and sweeter. Hey, I should become a tea critic ;)

It’s not just the number of rounds that affect the tea’s taste, said Echo. She told us that every person at the ceremony affects the taste. We asked how on earth could that be? We hadn’t touched anything! Echo firmly believes that the character and emotions of everyone present at the ceremony affects the taste of tea, and the emotions of the one who serves the tea affects the taste most of all. She told us that sometimes, when she is feeling strong negative emotions, the tea has no taste whatsoever.


The tea ceremony was not a scary, formal experience.


While we drank tea, we talked about the role of tea in different cultures around the world, the history of tea, Echo’s personal beliefs about tea, tea in Thailand and even a little bit about teaching, wine, chocolate and coffee! Echo described how in all cultures, sitting down with friends to drink tea is so conducive to relaxing, talking and laughing together, and that’s exactly what we were doing. It was incredibly lovely.

At one point, Echo asked us if we were high yet! We laughed of course, but you know what, we kind of were. Mike described how his head felt strangely light, and I felt *so* focused on whatever I happened to be looking at. Echo nodded, and said that what Mike had described was what people try to attain when they practice yoga. She described it much more eloquently, and talked about chi and … other things I don’t really know about, but it was fascinating to listen to.


I once heard something about when you drink tea with a stranger, you form a special kind of tea-drinking friendship, and I think that probably happened today. I will definitely, definitely, definitely be going back to Sati to drink tea with Echo. We said that next time I visit, we’ll drink a smoky black tea. I can’t wait. Maybe one day in the future I’ll take Echo some British builder’s brew with custard cream dunkies, and see what she thinks of that..! Haha. Andy thinks she’ll be horrified.

I’m so happy to live in this beautiful city where I can meet people from so many different cultures and backgrounds.

Sati - The Art of Tea and Yoga is at 5 Chaiyapoom Road, Tambon Si Phoom, Chiang Mai, 50300.

You can call Echo on 0884318976 and visit her Facebook at www.facebook.com/satihouse.

Echo writes a blog too: satihouse.tumblr.com

Friday, 14 March 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

How To Avoid Getting Bitten by a Nasty Dog in Thailand

Photo from Flickr's Creative Commons by Frabuleuse

I hate mean Thai dogs.


The feeling's mutual, they seem to hate me too. Why else would they growl and bark and call all their friends over to join in? They pick on foreigners. A Thai colleague said it was because I had red hair and "it's weird for them". Maybe it's true - most people in Thailand are Thai, and have black hair. Dogs can see the difference between black hair and red hair, so, maybe!

Stray dogs are a common sight in Thailand and many people have a Bad Dog Story or two to tell. I understand - they have difficult lives. They're unwanted animals, struggling every day with traffic and unfriendly humans. Here, I have created a guide to help other foreigners in Thailand deal with nasty dogs in Thailand. I have used experience, science and dog behaviour guides.

Don't get me wrong, I love nice dogs!


I'm an animal lover. I love dogs, cats, llamas and penguins. I really miss my friendly Foxxie dog. She's sat at home in England right now, probably curled up in a patch on sunlight on the floor. I bet she's reading this with horror - don't worry Foxxie; I don't hate all dogs!

Such sweeping generalisations aren't fair, and there have been a few Thai dogs that I would have happily taken home with me (perhaps after a good de-flea-ing session first). Bobo the Fire Dog on Phuket, for example, who joined our fire-pit party by the sea. Lazy Dog at Baan Famui in Chiang Dao was gorgeous, and very floppy. Wuffles hangs out in front of the YMCA and wouldn't harm a fly.

A very not-scary Thai dog at Baan Famui Resort in Chiang Dao

But then there are the tales of the bad dogs. 


In Nang Rong there was the neighbour's dog that might have had rabies that bit my friends, and the temple dogs that swarmed out at us every time we went to the food market.

There were ones on Koh Kood that Would Not Let Us Pass and we had to hop on the back of a man called Sergey's motorbike to flee in terror - thank you, Sergey, but where were you when on the same island a different pack of dogs chased us down a pier and my legs were so wobbly I almost fell right off it onto the jagged rocks below or into the jagged doggy teeth before me!?

Dogs are why we carry a catapult in our bag. No joke.




How to Avoid Getting Bitten by a Nasty Dog in Thailand


There are several easy things you can do to avoid confrontations with nasty dogs in the first place. 
If you're unfortunate enough to be in a situation where you have to escape from a face-to-face encounter with a nasty dog, there are also several things you can do, but each require varying degrees of preparation, also detailed.

Prevention: Avoiding Confrontation


1. Let sleeping dogs lie.


This old adage was probably invented by a foreign person living in Thailand after they tried to pet one too many cute sleeping dogs. Don't do it! There's a high likelihood that cute sleepy dog is an evil killing machine. Also leave eating dogs and dogs with puppies alone.

2. Don't go near dogs.


Keep your distance. If you don't invade their territory, they're less likely to attack. Yep, super annoying when 'their territory' is the entrance to 7-11. If you're in this situation, wait till someone else comes along and go in with them (strength in numbers) or wait till it's distracted/distract it.

Remember it's not just stray dogs that can be nasty. People keep nasty dogs to protect their houses.

4. Don't go near dog hangouts at night


Dogs hang out inside temple grounds, in abandoned buildings, in building sites, in car parks and in other empty-ish places. Try to avoid such places at night, when dogs are feeling especially nasty.

Preparation: How to Pack Your Nasty Dog Arsenal


1. Catapult


Used to launch small pebbles at nasty dogs from a safe distance. Small, lightweight and a good conversation starter. Takes some practice, or you'll just end up shooting your own foot with a pebble. Potentially useful should you end up shipwrecked and have to hunt for your own food.

2. Pepper spray / mace


Good and reliable for close-range encounters with nasty dogs. Remember to take it out of your bag before plane travel.

3. Rape alarm


Dogs hate the very high pitch of rape alarms. Good to set off as you stroll past like nasty dogs ain't no thang. People trying to sleep in the nearby vicinity won't be so impressed.

4. Big stick / umbrella


If you frequently come up against nasty dogs, you won't even think that this is too much. A big stick and a quick lunge at the pack of dogs will keep them away. Personally, I preferred to carry an umbrella when I lived in Nang Rong a.k.a Dog City. Way more practical and less crazy - and it opened up into a kind of shield that shocked the dogs if you did it quickly enough.

Execution: How to Escape From A Nasty Dog


1. Don't run

If you run, you'll activate the dog's 'prey drive' and it will chase you. ESPECIALLY don't run if you're being faced with a pack of nasty dogs. In the past, dogs were predators, and used to work in packs to bring down prey. They are still capable of bringing you down.

2. Don't show fear: hold yourself tall


Pretend you're trying to impress Alan Sugar on The Apprentice: you're oozing confidence, you can do anything and aren't afraid of anything, not even those growling wild animals in front of you.

If you need inspiration, just watch how this super brave dude handles stray dogs in Bangkok. I can't claim that I've ever managed to stay this calm when faced by a pack of dogs, but that's what we're aiming for here.

If you're feeling small, use your clothing to make yourself appear big - hold your shawl out behind you or open your umbrella in front of you.

3. Don't Smile


Smiling looks bit like baring your teeth aggressively, if you're a dog, so stern is the way to go.

4. Don't make high pitched sounds


Don't squeal, or the dog might mistake your squeals as the sounds of a dying animal and attack you.

5. Make deep, loud-ish sounds


Don't shout really loudly, but look right at the dogs (not straight into their eyes though) and say whatever your want to in a deep, firm, authoritative and, if you like, gravelly voice, to show that you aren't afraid.

"I came in like a wrecking ball."

"I need to buy some cocopops tonight, or I'll have no breakfast tomorrow, and I'll be really grumpy."

Anything will do.

Yelling too much might make the dogs agitated, and more likely to attack. Remember: unafraid and firm.

6. Walk on by, possibly backwards


Don't hang about, though. All the barking and commotion will attract other dogs in the area, and that's bad news because dogs often like to join forces to participate in socially facilitated predation - meaning that once one dog starts ripping into your flesh, it's an open invitation to a free for all buffet.

Be wary of turning your back on the dogs - this could cause them to get bolshy* and give chase. If necessary, walk away backwards.

*bolshy = too big for their boots

7. Throw an invisible stone... maybe


Pretend to pick up a stone and throw it at the dogs. Believe it's real, and the dogs might too - at least enough so that they don't attack. People throw stones at them enough that they can't be sure it isn't real. However, I watched Brave Dude's video, and you can see that the guy who was flailing around had the dogs right up on him, but the brave dude didn't mess about at all and was fine.

8. Use your aresenal of weaponry should it become necessary


Hopefully you packed your nasty dog arsenal in your bag and you're wielding a great big umbrella shield.

Don't worry, though. Some stray dogs are very friendly indeed and apparently, you're more likely to win the lottery than be killed by dogs though, so, yay!

Dog on Doi Suthep Mountain, also not nasty.

Life for a stray dog in Thailand is hard.


Soi Dog helps the homeless, neglected and abused dogs and cats of Thailand. Their aim is to set an example for the Asian region on how to humanely reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats through spaying and neutering, and to better the lives and living conditions of the stray dogs and feral cats of Asia.


References





Thursday, 6 March 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

Not a girl, not yet a woman: a rambling post of uncertainty PLUS Party Request PLUS Great News!

I'm another year older and have (maybe) burst forth into the gardens of womanhood.


Happy Birthday to me! photo from Flickr's Creative Commons by Will Clayton
I might be having an existential crisis. I don't know whether or not I'm a woman, rather than a girl, because I don't know what it means to be a woman.
.

I certainly don't have any glamorous silk throws...


I'm twenty five now. Last year, I had trouble remembering that I was even twenty four. My mind seems to be stuck at twenty three. I wrote 'twenty three' on a form at Chiang Mai immigration. The stern grey lady behind the counter pointed my error out with a jabby finger of disdain. My little joke about forgetfulness in my old age didn't go down so well, I'll assume because of the language barrier.

Wishing on novelty candles is ridiculous, but chocolate torte is tasty.


I had dinner with friends to celebrate my twenty fifth birthday. Small and intimate party at Why Not Italian Restaurant, amazing pizza and wine and massively chocolatey, hugely delicious birthday torte from our favourite cake shop Butter is Better.

We accidentally bought novelty candles that re-lit themselves once you'd blown them all out. Whoever invented un-blow-outable novelty candles was extremely inelegant and not thinking clearly. How are you supposed to make a wish on a birthday candle that re-lights? It's like the wish fairy thought about granting your Big Birthday Wish, then thought "nah" and sent it back, vividly ungranted.

glorious days on We Heart It.
NO! Tumblr.com

But, I had birthday luck after all! My Big News


That's right, my big news is this: I have a wonderful new job! I did a demo lesson and an interview on my actual birthday and it was brilliant, and a few more interviews and chats later and I have a new job! I'm moving onto bigger and better things in a brand new school, and I can't wait to start. It's very exciting and I love the school and I really like everyone I've met there so far - students and future colleagues alike. This is definitely an adult-thing that I'm very happy about, but I will miss my old students the friends I've made there a lot. We're moving into a new house - a better house. I'm going to buy some glamorous silk throws for it. I'm so excited!

What is a woman anyway!?


Childhood is behind me, so are the dark and sparkling years of teenagedom. My early twenties don't count as adulthood, they were just practice I reckon. Perhaps it was the wine's influence, but the lyrics to the deep and meaningful 'Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman' by Britney Spears really spoke to me on my 25th birthday night. Have I now left that land of girl/woman uncertainty, stepped over the threshold and placed both feet firmly into the wonderlands of definite womanhood? I certainly find myself doing more and more adult/womanly things these days. I have a mint plant, for example. It's not even dead yet.

Me at 17 (I think). Yes, I said sparkling.

In the past, I think it was easier to know if you'd become an adult. There were obvious 'you're an Adult, Harry' milestones - a good job, a house, a husband, a good income and a child or three - stuff like that. What are they nowadays? Is adult/woman just an age? Maybe I've been a woman for ages already.

I know those feels, Harry. Tumblr.com

Is it now simply unacceptable that I just sorta hope that there'll always be someone else around to help me understand tax forms? 


I had mine thrust into my hand by a busy secretary at work last week. I don't have a clue what to do with it, so it's sat in my Abyss Desk Drawer - so named because once a document goes in, it rarely comes back out. I suspect an Abyss Desk Drawer isn't a very adult thing to have.

Perhaps now that I'm a woman, I will be the one that people come to for tax form advice. Oh shit.

I want to party like it's the noughties


I'm going to visit England soon. I'm going to see my family and all my best friends, and we're going to have a big party. I'd like to make a request! Let's have a party like we're not grown ups at all! Because we're definitely not too old for a fabulous noughtie party. Er...?

Photo from Flickr's Creative Commons by allieosmar
Can we have way too much colourful food - rainbow cakes, cookies and mashed potato and a rainbow buffet explosion (with edible glitter)? And punch, and wine, of course. All the girls will arrive early and put loud music on and get ready. Maybe there should even be fairy wings, and panda masks, and other such things. The first thing we'd do is celebrate Britishness by having a tea party, with scones (hopefully pink ones). And we'd eat and drink and dance and people will play guitars and do stupid things. My friend Emily told me about a game called Slap Shots and we must play that, too. And if anyone dares to mention taxes or mortgages or payment schemes or clubcard points or passive income or Nietzsche* on this one night, I shall scream, long and loud.

* you can mention Nietzsche if you do it in a non-dickish way.

gif from Tumblr.com

Sounds good, right?

Sunday, 2 March 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

Valentine's Day at Baan Famui near Chiang Mai: Romance in the Mountains

I like my eggs with sunshine, mountains and romance please!

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Our huge bungalow, hidden away in the Secret Garden of Tropical Dreams!

Picture this:


It’s breakfast time. In the morning sunshine, haystacks piled in the impossibly green fields cast long shadows over farmers, who use old fashioned tools to spill water from irrigation ditches onto their crops. The dark mountains behind the fields are burnt with the orange leaves of autumn and shrouded in the blue haze of distance.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
The view from the breakfast table.
That’s the scene that Andy and I looked out over as we ate toast and eggs on Valentine’s morning. Baan Famui is a delightful little guesthouse run by a genuinely super-friendly French guy called Damien and his wife Mui. Four large bungalows sit behind a real Thai village on a steep slope, which means it’s in the most fantastic position for taking in the awesome beauty of Chiang Dao’s mountains.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Freshly made filter coffee. Steamy!
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Toast, Twinings tea and warm morning sunshine.
Even if you’re not an early riser (hello me!), making the effort to watch the sunrise over the mountains and see the light burst over the rice fields from the comfort of your balcony is amazingly beautiful and something that you won't forget.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Baan Famui from the road, behind fields and a tiny Thai village. Lots of Shan people live around here.

Baan Famui is one of the most comfortable guesthouses we’ve been lucky enough to stay in.


Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
photo by agoda.com
Baan Famui is 100km North of Chiang Mai city, between Chiang Dao and Doi Ang Khang in a tiny little place called Nawai. It's been open for about three years, so everything is still shiny and new. Having happy, smiley guests is clearly a priority for Damien and Mui – everything is great quality, right down to the towels in the bathroom, the rain-shower-head, the comfy garden sofa on the balcony and the best king-sized mattress we've slept on in about two years. Everything is very clean, everything works perfectly, everything is very, very comfortable.

Oh my gosh I WISH we had that bed at home. We were almost tempted to just stay in bed all day watching movies huddled up in the squishy fluffiness, but then we’d have missed out on waterfalls and road tripping so I’m glad we hauled our lazy selves up.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Andy and Totoro check Facebook in bed.

So, what’s a Baan and what’s a Famui?


Baan means ‘home’ in Thai. A famui is a kind of orchid, and Mui is the cute nickname that Damien gave his  wife when he met her ten years ago, so the guesthouse name works on so many levels. For guests, the name really reflects the level of hospitality you can expect – it’s like you’re being welcomed into the family home. They are truly lovely lovely people! We invited Damien to drink coffee with us in the morning. He seemed genuinely interested in talking with us about ... well... anything and everything! We chatted for ages. He was very knowledgeable about what we could do in the area and helped us to plan our day.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Hugs for Dizzy Cat from Damien. Awww :)
Not only are the people awesome, but there’s a menagerie of animals to make friends with too. There currently are three dogs, three cats and three tortoises. One of the dogs is super sweet – a fat black Labrador girl who plods around the tropical gardens and flops down in the sunshine or shade as the fancy takes her. One of the cats was poisoned as a baby kitten (!!), and lost her balance, which means that now she’s a bit off balance and the cutest, silliest cat you’re likely to meet. The three tortoises were rescued from the forest, where they were liable to end up in the cooking pot of a local villager.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Love is in the air for Dizzy Cat and Kissy Tortoise
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Love is not in the air for Kissy Tortoise and Flopsy Dog.

Fat tropical flowers drip from stems and branches in Baan Famui’s gardens.

I’m not very green fingered. I bought a packet of coriander seeds about eight months ago and planted them eagerly, ready to grow my own organic coriander and put it on all my food. My plant is pathetic. It has a few straggly bits of grassy stuff that doesn’t even look like coriander. I’m always very jealous when people can grow amazing gardens. Baan Famui’s gardens are spectacular and bursting with colour.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Banana trees, palm trees, papaya trees (?) pink petals, fir trees and more line the paths of Baan Famui.
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
An Autumnal feel on this path.
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
I know this must be a very tropical flower because it's on Hawaiian print all the time! What is it?
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
We found this contraption by the pool. Damien revealed what it was. Do you know?

Super romantic glowing red pool

I really love flowers, but I think I probably loved Baan Famui’s little pool more because IT GLOWED RED AT NIGHT. It was amazing! How perfect is that for Valentine’s Day? I don’t think you can get much more romantic than a glowing red pool under a million bright stars with a glass of wine and a cheeky kiss from your favourite man-or-lady-friend on February the 14th!

At dinnertime, the little glowy pool kept a group of kids entertained for ages, it was very cute.

It’s a little chilly for swimming in February, but Damien promised me that he’s installing a solar heater very soon, which means that next year we’ll be in the pool for hours and become very prune-like.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Dizzy Cat the poolside model shows off the Glowy Red Pool (it only glows red at night).
At night, Damien lights a camp fire while his wife and the staff serve dinner to hungry guests. Because there are only four bungalows, I doubt it ever gets too busy.

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
A sultry Valentine's evening approaches at Baan Famui.

Book a stay at Baan Famui


A big bungalow in the tropical gardens at Baan Famui costs 1,500 baht per night for two people, and you get breakfast too.


Road trippin’ from Baan Famui

There's a lot to see around Baan Famui, but I'd recommend having your own transport, hiring a driver or joining one of Baan Famui's tours or activities. Bamboo rafting is a lot of fun, by the way ;)

Almost next door to Baan Famui is Srisungwan Waterfall - definitely worth a trip to cool off in! When you buy your ticket to the waterfall, you get entry to the nearby hot springs included too. Arunothai is a very Chinese little village. There's not an awful lot at the village, but the ride over is stunning. Muang Na cave is supposed to be very amazing, but we didn't have time or enough petrol to see it, argh! Does anybody know if it's worth a visit? There are hill tribe villages dotted all around the area, too. And of course, the hugely popular Chiang Dao area is just south of Baan Famui.

We love exploring the countryside on our motorbike..


...so that's exactly what we did the next day after breakfast. We drove to Muang Na village, ran out of petrol, got some more, drove to the Chinese village, went to the waterfall and then to Chiang Dao! The mostly clear roads were so much fun to drive. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes other-wordly, sometimes like we'd gone time travelling:

Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Orange earth and blackened trees make for an alien landscape before the mountains on the way to Arunthai, a Chinese village.
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Reminds me of an old film...
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Holiday home?
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Yes, I am the coolest biker around.
Plodding to the gorgeous waterfall right near Baan Famui.
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
The rocks aren't at all slippery, so you can climb up down and all around to explore.
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Fern Garden Herb Garden Fun at the waterfall.
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
OH YES PLEASE LET'S!
Baan Famui Review Chiang Mai Dao Thailand
Dappled sunlight on mossy dirt steps... eeee!

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Sunday, 23 February 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

These 13 Thai students' proverbs about life are amazing

Andy asked his students to finish five sentences about likes and dislikes.

Their responses were honest, intriguing and at times downright funny. 13 Thai students share their views...


On ice cream:
ESL Thai Student Proverbs
Photo by freefotouk via Flickr's Creative Commons
On boring jazz:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by via Flickr's Creative Commons
On the importance of healthy eating:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via Flickr's Creative Commons
On man's best friend:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by  Big Max Power (BMP) via Flickr's Creative Commons
On animal testing:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by 9brandon via Flickr's Creative Commons
On inescapable social conventions:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by Yoshimai via Flickr's Creative Commons
On kangaroos:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by firecall via Flickr's Creative Commons
On the perils of underwater exploration:
ESL Thai Student Proverbs
Photo by Mal B via Flickr's Creative Commons
On how everyone secretly feels about butterflies:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by @Doug88888 via Flickr's Creative Commons
On Persian cat behaviour traits:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by Kevin.Fai via Flickr's Creative Commons
On Bangkok:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by Mark Fischer via Flickr's Creative Commons
On the sad truth that when we grow up, we have far too little time to play:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by photolupi via Flickr's Creative Commons
On the importance of quiet time:
ESL Student Proverbs
Photo by nate2b via Flickr's Creative Commons
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Posted by Amy Burbridge

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Hi!

I live in Chiang Mai with my fiance Andy. I teach English to tweens in a great school, and I write. I write my own blog, for South East Asia Backpacker Magazine and for The Daily Touch.

Most of the time, I'm exploring Thailand, taking photographs and drinking lots of coffee and wine.

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