Bucketlist: Certified diver, check!

“My name is Scotty and I will be your instructor” is the last thing I hear before I slowly sink down into this alien world. Tiny little bubbles tickles my face, everywhere I look there is colourful fish going about their day. On Scotty’s command we descent further down and here I am surrounded by massive schools of fish. Diving is one of the best feelings in the world, the feeling of being weightless while swimming through pristine turquoise waters, seeing Nemo for the first time. It only takes 2 dives before I’m hooked, like a drug addict screaming for their next high. A week later and this lil mama is now a certified advanced diver, I will gladly tell you the whole process so you too can channel your inner Ariel. If the thought about going deep down in the ocean scares the shit out of you, don’t worry, I too was scared shitless on my first dive, all the way down to the bottom. As soon as you get a dive or two under your belt, you will be more comfortable and those silly little fears will vanish without you even realising it, because you will be too busy being amazed by the abundant of colourful life that lives under the sea. So here it is ladies and gents!

IMG_6509img_6540.jpgDay 1:

After a happy islander breakfast, we’re ready for our first lesson at 8.30am. The afternoon before we received some homework to read up on for today’s class. Like the lazy student I am, I did not read everything. A little tips, do your homework, you will be more prepared for everything your instructor will teach you. I were in a group of 6 with 4 boys and us two girls. Scotty takes us up to the pool and equipment room to get us set up. He gives a demonstration on how to set up your diving gear, signs and signals, lessons we will be doing underwater like removing our mask, alternate airsharing with your buddy. Eeh how about no? before I finish that panicked thought “don’t overthink diving” Scotty says. First time breathing underwater is a strange sensation where it’s mind over matter. Your brain will tell you that you can’t breathe even though you are breathing perfectly fine. One at a time we do our lessons, except for struggling a bit with our masks, the rest goes smoothly. After todays pool session we head to restaurant to order lunch, and watch the rest of the academic video. Last piece of information for the day is explained by Scotty to get us ready for tomorrows exam, and to answer any question we might have.

Day 2:

This was the day to actually go diving. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Before go head to the boat we do one last academic lesson before the exam. The exam were really easy, just do the homework and pay attention to your instructor, which you would want to do anyways for your own safety and peace of mind. I scored a 92% with 4 wrong answers, that means I pass! I celebrate with buying my own mask, I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of diving in the nearest future.

First dive site is Japanese Gardens, with a depth of 12 meters. We prep our gears, our group is the first one out so we just stay below and get ready. When diving you always dive in buddy teams, which is for your own safety, in case you go out of air (which you won’t because only losers go out of air) and to make it more comfortable. My buddy is a french girl Marine, who were just as nervous as me. The last check before jumping, rolling, back flipping whatever you prefer into the water, is buddy checks to make sure everything is in place. Scotty jumps in first, and of course I had to be first student in the water. My mind is freaking out, so after 10 seconds of eeh, aaah, nervous laughter and mentally peeing myself I just jump. The thought of doing is more scary then action itself, and like Scotty says “don’t overthink diving”. I was still freaking out in my mind as we were going down, all the way down to the bottom and that fear didn’t go away until dive nr 2. It takes some time to get used to the breathing and controlling your buoyancy, the breathing techniques that will make you go up and down, which is necessary to master before swimming over coral and through caves.

Dive 2 and it just keeps getting better. No more freaking out, this feeling of being underwater is growing on me. This time when I come up I prefer to go back down. And just like that a new human fish is born.

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Day 3:

Up bright and early for a morning dive at 6.30 am, this day we go down to 18 meters! No lessons, just fun diving. All open water divers get filmed on their last day of training, and number one rule of diving – be cool. Our first dive site Chumpon pinnacle, and this time I roll backwards into the water like those cool divers you see on TV. Do I feel cool? Yep, I sure do. The visibility is great, I look down and there is fish everywhere! So many colourful fish and that’s not even the the reefs or close to the corals. Massive schools of fish swim around us, I don’t remember the name for most of them but the colours are hypnotising. We go all the way down to 18 meters and I feel jealous of those who are below me who get to see more cool stuff. But this isn’t the end for me, no I am doing the advanced course as well which means I can dive down to 30 meters. Out of our group I was the only one going on to advanced. On the boat back we all applaud each other for now being certified divers, and celebrate with a drink in the restaurant while watching todays footage. Two of the boys, Maron and Joffrey decided to also do the advanced after watching the video. Yaaay! Go team Scotty! 20813338_1741725519188263_463348589_o20840022_1741725242521624_1641527180_o20841453_1741725042521644_523827808_o20841467_1741724855854996_1348517002_o20841317_1741724852521663_1119350396_o20839784_1741725469188268_332367010_o20841692_1741725512521597_1016360967_oIMG_6568IMG_6569P1050874P1050879P1050880

Day 4:

First day on advanced, I feel confident and happy. I’m well hydrated and I have the buoyancy under control. We need some more lessons before going out, like how to use a dive computer to monitor our ascent and a dive compass for navigation. We do a practice run on the beach following the compass. Seems easy enough, note to self, ask more questions instead of getting cocky. My mask started fogging up when we jumped into the water, the further we go down the more crap our visibility is. I can barely see anything, and it’s getting uncomfortable. The water gets colder and by the time we’re at the bottom I can only see 1 meter in front of me. I almost land on a sea ulcer (imagine a big spiky needle pillow) and starts flapping away crashing into the other guys haha. Scotty comes and help me position myself. When you dive down to 30 meters, most people will experience what we call narcosis. It’s best explained the feeling of being drunk, people who don’t drink or smoke will feel it more strongly than others, aka me. Let’s just say my narcosis was not fun. I actually freaked out, I forgot everything about how my dive computer worked, while everyone else were swimming up I stayed at the bottom because I thought my computer told me I couldn’t go up. All I saw was yellow which means slow down. Joffrey saw me on the bottom just staring at my watch, while I couldn’t see anyone. I almost started crying freaking out on how the hell do I get out of here, not knowing everyone were right above me. After what felt like forever, which was probably just 2 minutes, Scotty comes down and pulls me up. I was in no real danger, my instructor were there the whole time, but it can be really scary. For me it was. When we got back to the boat I were still a bit shaken up, but after a while I felt more embarrassed that I hadn’t payed proper attention to what my instructor had said.

So a lesson to everyone myself included, don’t get cocky. Or you will be that idiot who stayed at the bottom while everyone else goes up. Causing stress not just to yourself but also for everyone else. What’s the number one rule of diving? Be cool. I was not cool haha. P1050883IMG_6572IMG_6573IMG_6578

We did two more dives that day, navigation which went OK because my buddy forgot how the compass worked. And the last dive was night dive. That was really cool! We saw some blue spotted ribbon tale rays, or tiny stingrays in other words. I were a bit scared because I’m scared of the dark, but that was no biggie. It was fun all until I was feeling a bit unwell. I thought it might be because I ate too much, but when we got back to land I felt worse. Everyone on the resort had the stomach flu at one point, so it was something that was going around. Including me. I spent the night in the bathroom and had to skip the next days dive. Which kinda sucked because we were supposed to go wreck diving. And I really wanted to do that too, my only option was to wait for two more days until Friday. So I did, I spent the days walking on the beach, catching up on my reading and getting properly hydrated. I finished my advanced course with another instructor, Stefan. And did a celebratory drink in the evening with the rest of the instructors and dive masters. After one week I was finally a certified advanced adventurer. If I can do it, you can too. I’ve loved it so much that I haven’t wanted to leave this place. Yesterday I did fun diving, we swam through caves and I saw my first turtle! It was so cute! I’m already planning my diving bucket list with whale shark being my number 1. My plan was to leave today, but when the dutch boys came back, Maron and Joffrey, I couldn’t resist staying for another couple of days to dive some more. So yeah I will be staying put in Koh tao little longer, doing some fun dives. and enjoying lazy beach days. I’m trying to convince Maron to join me diving in Borneo, Malaysia, which is supposedly one of the best dive sites in the world. img_6595.jpgIMG_6596IMG_6597IMG_6600

So there you have it guys, diving is amazing, and please don’t do like me and wait until your 25 to do your first dive. There is a whole world of unexplored magical places you can only discover of you dare to enter the water. Have an amazing day, I know I will, right next to all the colourful fishies.

Check in: Koh Tao

“Found the truth beneath your lies, and true love never has to hide” my phone starts ringing, my alarm is that Beyoncé song I can never listen to anymore. I check the time, the screen lights up 3:35am. Already? Didn’t I just fall asleep? It’s too damn early, or should I say late? I really want to shut the alarm off and go back to sleep, but I have a bus to catch in 2 hours. Logic wins over lazy this time, and down the stairs I go to brush my teeth, strap up my backpack and get ready for my next adventure – Koh Tao.

When you’re trying to catch a taxi 4.30 in the morning, it’s not always that easy when in less touristy areas, like where my grandparents live. After running back and forth between both sides of the road trying to hail a taxi, a man from the other side helps me, by watching the left side for me while I look out to the right. Finally we spot one taxi with the red sign which means available, and off I go. Thankfully it’s not one of those chatty taxi drivers, because it’s too early for conversations. When I arrive the Lomprayah office there is already a long line stretching all the way to the sidewalk. I get my ticket, and my pink sticker for Koh Tao Island. The bus leaves at 6:00 am, it’s a 6 hour bus drive to Chumpon before getting on the speed ferry to Koh Tao. The bus ride was surprisingly comfy, even though my stomach was growling the whole time. Normally the bus will stop  at least once, on one of those gas stations, but not today. No sir. We finally arrived in Chumpon at 12:00 am, I quickly run to the bathroom, and stop by the minimart to buy a bag of chips before the boat leaves. I feel like an animal devouring the whole bag within minutes. To be fair, the bag was tiny. One thing I hate about taking the boat, is my body’s lack of handling motion. I get easily motion sickness, especially on an empty stomach. Of course today the waves were extra frisky, which left me sitting outside on the platform, the furthest in the back on a staircase, ready to vomit any minute. And the fact that I had no food in my stomach made it impossible to relieve my suffering. On and off with my hands covering my eyes I fell asleep, while passersby climbed up and down the stairs giving me the pity look. When we finally reached shore I was so relieved! I got picked up by a taxi sent by the diving hotel I’m staying with, Big blue diving resort. The island looks beautiful but I feel like I’m in some foreign country with only backpackers and tourists.

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So for those wondering what I’m doing here in Koh Tao, I am here to get my divers certificate! Doing the open water and advanced course. First lesson was getting registered, watching a couple of videos and getting acquainted with our scuba instructor, Scotty. Tomorrow we will have our first lesson in the water, in the pool to be exact, and I’m so excited! We even have homework, so I better get started. Have a beautiful weekend everyone! And wish me good luck.

25.

Today is my 25th birthday. 25 years on this earth, and for the first birthday in my life I decided to do absolutely nothing. I’ve always celebrated my birthday the way most people do, involving a lot of alcohol and dancing the night away with a bunch of friends. Every year I’ve always gone over the top with celebrating. Last year I spent my birthday in the Maldives doing a private dinner on the beach. It was amazing, but expensive as hell, but that’s what I wanted (I know, such a princess). I could’ve done something similar this year, celebrate it with some travelers I’d met, go to a bar by the end of the night in true backpacker spirit, nothing wrong with that. But I wanted to do something different and more personal, like spend the day with my grandparents, which I haven’t done since my 12th birthday. Yesterday I dragged my butt out of the house to go exchange money for my mom, and went to Central Plaza to buy some cake. And to add a little birthday gift from me to me, I went for a little shopping spree. My grandmother has diabetes and she can’t eat much sweets, therefore I bought her and grandfather each a sponge cheese type of cake I knew they would love, and picked out a matcha cake for myself. This morning I woke up to a big bowl of fruit my grandmother bought for me from the morning market, and she had prepared my favourite Thai dish for dinner. Can a girl ask for more? Before having a big bowl of sticky rice for breakfast, I headed over to 7 eleven to refill my sim card so I could download last nights episode of game of thrones. Yes, I spent the morning eating sticky rice with mango and watching game of thrones, which was awesome. I mean, I’m not gonna spoil anything, but that ending? Oh happy birthday to me! I also bought my grandfather some lottery tickets, that made him so happy. Happier than I have seen in a long time. We didn’t win anything, but we enjoyed cake together. And family time trumps everything, well for me it does because I grew up on a different continent from my grandparents. Here are some pictures of my day, nothing fancy. Just some pictures of food, because, food is life.

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They say one year older one year wiser, I don’t know about that but I do know that I am happier than I have been in a very long time. I’ve not only made one of my biggest dreams come true, but I’m living it every single day. Traveling the world while crossing off one thing at a time from my bucket list. A little change of plans, Laos will have to wait, because I’m going to Koh Tao on Friday, to get my divers certificate! I’m so excited!! I will do the diving course at Big blue dive, doing the open water and advanced course which will take place over 6 days. Oh and for those wondering, my bed bug bites are almost gone. It’s still bit itchy and I look slightly less diseased so that’s good news. Now this birthday girl is hitting the sack early, I need to get to a medical office tomorrow to get cleared for scuba diving because I suffer from motion sickness, and a slight fear of open spaces, like underwater (shark even though I’ve dived with them before). Let’s just hope I don’t panic when I’m 30 meters down. But hey, that’s why we need to get certified to scuba dive, right? Good night everyone!

 

Sak yants and chicken noodle soup

Tattoos either you hate them or you love them. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been fascinated with tattoos, body art and everything a little out of the ordinary. Art in general fascinates me, and I do consider tattoo a form of art. When people ask me why I have so many tattoos, or why I think people get tattoos now a days. First off you get addicted, adding more and more ink to your body. Second I think the younger generation like to keep their art on their body, while the older generation keep it on their walls. With my 25th birthday coming up in a month, I now sport a nice collection of art on my body. Do I regret some? Yes I do. Much like that one hair on that old Russian lady’s mole, I’ve learned to with it. The tattoo I’m talking about is the first one I got. I was 14, my brother was on his way to get his first tattoo. Back then whatever he did, I wanted to do the same. My brother was my idol and I looked up to my cool older brother, always kind of being the annoying little sister that followed him around everywhere. Even stealing his oversized hoodies because I had that tomboy phase. Not giving much thought about what I wanted, I ended up with 3 Chinese signs on my stomach. I’d seen it on a Russian dancer on a cruise boat, and yeah well here we are. What I wanted was peace love and happiness. I know, how original of me. But what I ended up with is probably a recipe for chicken noodle soup. It hurt like hell and my reaction was to cry, with my mother laughing at me and my brother, who I might add was in the bathroom nauseous after his tribal piece. One day I might get a cover up or have it removed, but for now I’ll just live out my twenties with my forever printed recipe on my stomach. Who would’ve thought that crybaby now sport more tattoos than I can count. Here is a little sneak peak of some of my tattoos.

These pictures are from when I studied interior design 2 years ago, two students walked around campus interviewing fellow students with tattoos. The interview is in Norwegian but you can check it out here.

As you guys know getting a Sak Yant by a monk is on my bucket list, and guess who can cross that one off their list? ME! I got my tattoo done through Sak Yant Chiangmai, run by a woman naked Nana. Because most monks will not touch a woman due to the risk of temptation, I felt it better to go through a well known agency to help me out. After the week at elephant nature park, I only planned on staying two days in Chiangmai. But for some reason, my planning skills has gone to shits. Most people who know me, knows that I’m kinda OCD when it comes to planning, cleaning and organising. So with my luck there wasn’t anything available until Thursday. The good thing about being a bit whimsical, is that I’ve learned to relax more. Letting go of that need for control of every single little thing. Being a little whimsical is actually kinda nice, and it’s doing my soul good.

Anyways, their office is a 5 minute walk from Wat Phra Singh. The total cost was 4500 because I wanted the full package, with the monk and the temple tour. You also should use some time to think through what kind of design you would like, read about the rules and aftercare, before you get there. The drive to the temple took about 20 minutes. The temple looked a bit more like where the monks live. Before we started I lit an incense and  gave prayer. If you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, don’t worry. The guide is there to help you through all the steps. Just remember to cover your legs and shoulders. I wore an open back t-shirt with buttons, giving easy access for the monk to work, without flashing too much skin. Also I brought a scarf to wrap around my waist and arms while getting the tattoo. The monk drew up the lines, and began working on my back. He used a bamboo needle with a steel tip, and this did actually hurt more than your regular tattoo. To my surprise it only took 10 minutes, and this was the result:

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I could not have been happier with the result! The tattoo looks so beautiful and elegant. If you are looking for a great place to get it done, I wholeheartedly will recommend Sak yant Chiang mai. You can read about everything you need to know before getting a Sak yant here. There are some rules to follow, but you can read more about it on their website.

After the tattoo was done we headed over the temple next door, took a walk and just soaked in the whole experience. I don’t remember the name of the temple because my brain won’t cooperate with me today, but it was breathtaking. Here is some pictures from  this buddhist heaven.

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So there you have it! Have a great day everyone, and if you have any awkward first tattoo stories, please do share them with me 🙂

Bangkok means family time

Even though Bangkok seems to be my favourite city here in Thailand, it really isn’t. The only reason I like spending time here is because of family. These two months while I’ve been in Thailand, my grandmother has been to the hospital 3 times. Both my grandparents are old, and getting weaker by the day. My grandfather can barely get out of bed, and my grandma is visiting the hospital more and more frequently. She is still very sporty and active for her age, but with a loss of appetite and diabetes, she is struggling to keep the weight on. It’s hard to watch this strong beautiful woman who took care of me as a baby, become so fragile. Here in Thailand we don’t just put our elders in nursing homes, and hearing about all the stuff going on, I hope I never get to experience that myself.

In 3 days my Jainoo, what I call her in Thai, is going back to the hospital for more checkups, tests and lord knows what more. My Thai isn’t that diverse to the extent that I can understand medical terms, I can’t read and write in Thai, and this is setting me back a little. So I’ve decided to learn three things the next years to come.

  1. To read and write in Thai
  2. Become fluent in Spanish (I better be as I am planning to travel South America for a year)
  3. Learn sign language

When I was staying in a hostel in Chiangmai before the Elephant park, I met this deaf guy who taught me to say My name is Christine, in ASL (American sign language). I’ve thought about learning it many times before, but always had an excuse to why I can’t do it right now. With so many other things I’ve wanted to do here in life, I kept shoving them further down the list, making my bucket list never ending. But ever since I started this journey, not only do I do everything I said I would, but I also like myself better. I genuinely feel like a better person, a more true version of myself. When I’m alone in Bangkok just hanging out with my grandparents, I have so much time to reflect about my past, my feelings, my thoughts and dreams for the future. I can reflect upon my previous actions, my previous relationship with a clear mind. Not fogged by all the emotions that comes with breakups and hurt feelings. When my relationship with my ex fiancé ended I was devastated. My mind was spinning, and I couldn’t find peace anywhere. There was so much going through my mind. Where do I go? What do I do now? Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong? How can I make him love me again? All these desperate, but very real all consuming thoughts, didn’t go away until after I left Norway. I truly needed that ocean between us to not only come to terms with everything, but to understand the meaning behind the action each of us took. The greatest lesson I think I finally learned is to let go of my anger, regrets, resentment and my bitterness. Finally I understood that the actions of a person is merely a reflection of how someone sees themselves. The actions have more to do with themselves, than with you as a person. But you know, as corny as it sounds, never a failure, always a lesson, is very true. And for those wondering, we are still good friends to this day despite everything that happened. After all he is the only one I trust to look after my fur baby while I’m out conquering the world 🙂

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One week at Elephant Nature park

One day a 15 year old girl heard an odd sound up in the mountain, a scream. She asked one of the farmers what the sound was, he explained it was the elephant. She then asked if he could take her there, what she saw that day changed everything. The sight was of an elephant logging a heavy branch, screaming in pain. Whenever the elephant fell down, the mahout would hit him in the head causing more pain. She could see the pain in his eyes, and since that day she promised herself she would save one elephant. 20 years later and there are over 70 elephants, 200 cats, 450 dogs, buffalos and monkeys. All rescued from tourism industry, circus, street begging, the slaughterhouse and from the streets. The work Lek, her husband Derek and the team does, is truly a hero’s work. I am honoured to have been a part this amazing journey. This week has been a life changing experience, and I would recommend this for everyone.

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The park is huge with lots of space for the elephants to roam freely, green lush mountains surrounding the sanctuary. Elephants, dogs and buffalos all live in harmony. As you walk around the park, you will see elephants bathing in the river with their families, eating delicious bananas, pumpkins, bamboo leaves and watermelons. Some elephants roll in the mud pit, feeling the soft texture of mud against their skin, giving a protective layer against the sun. Elephants in this sanctuary get to spend the rest of their lives together with their families, loved ones and their bestfriend. Even after coming here life isn’t a stroll through the park. Many of the elephants that come here doesn’t show visible scars. Many of the elephants have mental health problems caused by torture and isolation, by the hand of humans. All for one reason, for human entertainment. What most people don’t know, is how badly these majestic creatures are treated. I knew they were treated badly, but I had no idea what really goes on behind closed doors. After everything I have learned, I feel it’s my duty to pass on the information to help prevent others from participating in this cruel industry.

On the first and second day, Lek and the guides showed us a investigation video to reveal the truth. What we saw was elephants being beaten with a bull hook, repeatedly on the head, on the sides. Mahouts sharpened their nails to dig into their ear to make them obey and move in a certain direction, like to paint a picture with their trunk. The ear of an elephant is very sensitive with lots of nerves causing extreme pain. When the elephant is a baby, it is taken from the mother to start the training, of breaking their spirits. To capture the baby the hunters kill the mother and the nanny, often starting a fire in the forest to lure the baby into a trap. Many baby elephants die from the fall, I would say they are the lucky ones, as the ones that survive is facing a very dark future. To break an elephants spirit, mahouts will use a method called Pajaan. They tie up every part of the elephant to logs or to a tree, the legs, the trunk, the tail, the head, the body leaving it unable to move, sit, lay down or rest. All this while beating them repeatedly to make it afraid of the bullhook, ready to follow command. The mahout will always have the bullhook in plain sight, so the elephant will know what will happen if it don’t obey. Elephants are forced to trek with humans on their back, even though they are far from strong enough to carry 500kgs on their backs for 8-12 hours daily. The elephants are chained up not being able to move, waving their heads back and forth in distress. Isolated from families causing mental health problems like depression, anxiety and loneliness. Forced to live on the streets to beg for food so their mahout can make a couple of bucks. When they faint from exhaustion they will be hit and jabbed in the sides with a bullhook, until they get back up. No regards to the strong lighting blending their eyes, often making them blind. No regards to the unnatural environment with sounds, cars, smells and buildings. All the terrible things these beautiful babies go through because of us, because of ignorance, lack of knowledge. Because we use things, we use each other, we use animals for our entertainment, not giving an extra thought of what the consequences of our action are. These animals suffer for the sake of a picture, an experience, a memory. How much longer are we gonna allow the pain and suffering of another earthling continue, for our entertainment? How much longer can we justify our actions knowing deep down in our hearts, that this is wrong? I say that it’s about damn time we learn to share this world.

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I came here, what kind of work we would be doing etc. We were three different groups with 4 different guides, Wat, Johnny, Mix and Baz. I was in group A, and I can honestly say I have never in my life had so much fun scooping poop. Our work chores consisted of cleaning elephant inclosure, preparing food, bathing the elephants, feeding them bananas, cleaning up the park, planting trees, decorating the inclosure and cutting bamboo trees. Each day consisted of two different jobs. One starting 8.00 am and the next 1.00pm. We would wake up at around 6.30 am, breakfast starting at 7.00 am and first work starting 8.00 am. Each day there is a different task, usually heavier work in the morning, and lighter work in the afternoon. The two first days my muscles were pretty sore, but a little thai massage helped loosen up the tension in my back. Yes you can get a Thai massage with a beautiful view! You get 3 meals per day being all vegan/vegetarian food. I have never seen so much delicious vegan food in my life. Me being a vegetarian this was truly heaven. There was so much to choose between, curry, rice, noodles, fresh salads, fresh fruit and desert. Eat your heart out! Also one of the amazing things you get to experience, is seeing elephants walk casually by while you eat breakfast and lunch!

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On the Friday there is an excursion trip to a local school. As you can see in the picture below I made a friend pretty quickly. This little girl dragged me around to show me her classroom, where I got to teach english to some very shy kids (shy as in I can speak thai, therefore they didn’t want to talk english with me). There were traditional thai dancing, foot massages, kids making bracelet, icecreams. It was such a fun day! I wish we could’ve stayed longer than 1 hour, but the kids did have to go back to learning. Also I did buy a bunch of bracelets to support the local community, it’s a nice souvenir to keep from these adorable kids!

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One thing to remember, this isn’t a place where you ride elephants, or can run up and do whatever you want. No, this is a sanctuary where elephants decide who they want to be with. Each elephant has a mahout, and the elephant is the one that chooses the mahout. We were not allowed to walk alone in the park without the company of a guide. You never know what the elephants have been through, and it’s for your own safety. Also we are not allowed to touch the elephant except when you’re feeding them bananas. So whenever a baby would come up you would have to move, as they don’t know their own strength and might hurt you. On the last day I joined two other girls to walk around the park. We we’re accompanied by our guide Baz. We ended up at the end of the park where there where two large families living together, where we met Derek, Lek’s husband. It was so amazing to see the elephants interact with him. As you can see in the picture, this girl ran up to him, wrapped her trunk around his arm and pulled him with her. Derek and Lek is probably the only ones that have this connection with the elephants. This time we didn’t have to move, the elephants came up close, like I’ve never experienced before. I will never forget one elephant named Manao, which means Lemon. She came up to us, standing right in front of me, and she just stared me deep in the eyes. She had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, so bright and blue. I fell in love right then and there, and it pained me to think about all the abuse she had endured in her past.

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This week truly was one of the best, most unforgettable moments in my life. I’ve never had so much fun, being surrounded by so many great people. As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, the sanctuary is also home for many other animals. There is also a weekly program with dogs. In between jobs we would run up to the dog park to socialise, walk the dogs and just give our love and cuddles to these fur babies. I might go back in august to spend my birthday working with these puppers!

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This is once in a lifetime experience, and I would highly recommend anyone to come here. Here you will truly interact with the animals in a way that is both humane and enjoyable for all parties involved. You will leave with friends from all around the world, memories to last you a life time, a new profound knowledge and last but not least a proud sense of accomplishment. And remember, whenever you spend money to interact with wild animals, that be elephants, tigers, lions, iguanas, monkeys you name it, where you can pet or ride them to take a picture, there most definitely will be animal abuse involved. Real sanctuaries don’t let you ride elephants! The money you spend here goes toward buying food for the animals, and helping these people help the animals. Help me help them, you will not regret it!:) You can read more about elephant nature park here

The awkwardness of being a solo traveller

Three things are certain when you are traveling solo, and in hot humid areas.

  1. Taking a picture with a selfie stick is hella awkward
  2. If your legs are thick, and you aren’t wearing pants you will get the chub rub. Ouch!
  3. Mosquitos will eat you up

As I’m writing this post my legs are itching like crazy thanks to my 9 new mosquito bites, like bed bug bites all over my stomach wasn’t enough. There is one thing no one tells you when you decide to travel solo, and that is that there’s no one to take those cool travel photos of you. Yes you could just suck it up, get over that awkward part and get a selfie stick. But you know, it’s so awkward. I like to pretend that I’m this all brave chick who gives zero fucks, but deep down inside I cringe every time I do it alone in public. It’s such a stupid thing to get embarrassed about, everyone is practically a narcissist these days, and everyone does it. Don’t lie, you love taking shameless selfies.

While I was strolling around town alone today, it was actually really nice to just plug in the headphones and let the mind drift away. I love walking, but doing so in a new town where no one knows you, is one of the best feelings in the world. First things first, I wasn’t going to pay a taxi when half the experience is to walk the distance myself. Plus I need the exercise as my routine from home has gone to shits. To do so I need GPS because I cannot read a map to save my life. You know that little social media addiction I told you about, yeeeeah mama said screw that and got herself some more GB on her phone. Apparently it’s super easy, when your 30 days are over, you will get a text from dtac giving you the option to refill your internet package. Find a 7/11 which is on every corner here in Thailand. Fill up the amount you want, click on the link in the text, choose your package and voilá! With my renewed internet, I dashed in my destination and I strolled away. I said fuck it to my ridonkulus fear, and snapped some cool shots. It’s just too gorgeous to not do it.

Here are pictures from my temple hunt these two days. The temples in the pictures below is Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Saen Fang. All in a short walking distance from each other.

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This is the part where I tell you guys, that I got over my ridiculous fear, asked someone to be my 1 minute photographer, and posed away, right? Yeah nope. I was alone at this temple, and I set the self timer. Hey at least I got some pictures other than just my face.

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Tomorrow I head up to the elephant sanctuary and I’m excited beyond words! Because I only had two days, and there is so much more I want to see and do here in this gorgeous city, including getting my Sak Yant and visit mountain village hill tribes. I’ll just prolong my stay here in the north. I don’t know about you guys, but I loose all my appetite when it’s hot, often going almost 10 hours in between every eating session. Simply because I forget I’m hungry and live off of fruit and chips. Now I’m gonna go find some food I can actually consume, yesterday I couldn’t finish my plat, it was too damn spicy. After I consume a delish Phad Thai, I will enjoy the new season of Orange is the new black aaaand start packing, once again. Tudels ya’ll!

Touchdown – Chiang Mai

The last week I’ve barely had internet connection, I used up most of my 20GB internet package. What I’m left with is internet the speed of a snail, being used to high speed all the time, without the possibility of renewing my internet package, I realise how spoiled I really am. How much I take for granted the constant easy access to social media right in my hand. I do spend a lot of time on my phone, reading, checking social media and so on. This is a great opportunity to kick away my bad habit. I mean, I wake up and scroll through Instagram like it’s my newspaper. For me checking social media is a way to stay awake when my alarm goes off, or I’ll just start snoozing the alarm button and oversleep. I’m sure I’m not the only one doing so, but this is a really shitty habit… Buuuut this is not about my social media addiction. I just touched down in Chiang Mai and found this great, and by great I mean amazing hostel! That is something I never thought I would say. The hostel I’m staying at is called Hostel by bed, located in the heart of the city. With free water, coffee, tea and breakfast. This hostel is brand new, and only opened a couple of months ago. It’s so clean, the shower area is great, and sleeping in dorms is no problem. With comfy large beds, and a curtain for each bed giving much needed privacy. Each bunk comes with a locker for storage, lights, and outlet charger, aaaand it has a really cool interior. Seriously, check it out!!

(Pictures from booking.com)

So far I love love love this city and for those wondering where exactly on the map it’s located, Chiang Mai is up north in Thailand. This city has a cool rustic feel to it, very relaxed vibe, lot’s of backpackers without feeling crowded, and gorgeous surroundings. It’s like a better version of Bangkok.

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This part of my trip I want to do something truly amazing. I have decided to do volunteer work with elephants at a elephant sanctuary. The place is called Elephant Nature park, and it’s a sanctuary for elephants, cats, dogs and buffalos. Here elephants are rehabilitated after living life in the tourism industry. Learning to trust humans again after being mistreated in the worst way. This park offers the opportunity to give back and help these gentle creatures. No chains, no riding the elephants back. The elephants roams free, so you as a volunteer will help with feeding, bathing, cleaning, and help build up their broken spirits. It’s a beautiful program, I will be volunteering for 7 days. I haven’t even arrived the park yet, and I’m already considering staying longer. I wasn’t smart enough to become a doctor or a vet, but I’ve always wanted to help. When you have so much, I feel it’s important to give back with what you can. To quote Rihanna’s speech at Harvard “My grandmother always used to say if you got a dollar, there’s plenty to share”. I could not agree more. You can read about the program here. I will update with details when I arrive on Monday. In the mean time, I’m going to explore this cool city! Have a great weekend everyone!

 

Krabi, a little piece of Thai heaven

What can I say? I had seen the pictures online showing amazing mountains soaring over the ocean, giving shelter to all the human mermaids splashing through the waves. The reviews from most travel bloggers called it a trap, boring, and not so beautiful. Thanks to one movie, The Beach as you have probably heard of, Phi Phi and the other Islands were put on everyone’s map as a must see destination. And I fully understand why. They say that we find the surrounding nature we grew up with, as the most attractive. In Norway we have mountains upon mountains everywhere. No wonder I fell in love with this beautiful little piece of Thai paradise.

Koh Samui was also very beautiful, but Krabi had this relaxing atmosphere giving a sense of serenity. Staying here 3 days wasn’t nearly enough time, since we lost one day due to not pre-booking tickets, we thought what the heck, it would have to do. We only decided to go to Krabi the night before, also because me and Camilla wanted more time together before we parted ways. So the lesson here is that being spontaneous doesn’t always pay off..

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The unexpected last night in Koh Samui we ended up sleeping in a hostel, where no one in the dorm wanted to talk to us. Showers weren’t working and everything just felt dirty. I was prepared for the dirty, but I thought everyone was super chatty and friendly. Not everyone apparently. The room was freezing so I barely slept, and Camilla got bit by bedbugs so she didn’t sleep either. We woke up 7 in the morning, hopped in the shower as it finally was working, moved all our stuff out in the lobby to repack. Camilla and I weren’t keen on taking two trips on the scooter, sooo this was the result

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One suitcase, one 80L backpack, 2 small daypacks and one bag. Hahah this was so heavy, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Me and Camilla have done a lot of shit throughout our 13 year friendship, this will forever be one of my favourite moments. This would never be legal in Norway, good thing we are in Asia!

Being born a wuss by nature, I get easily motion and seasick. It’s a nag but thankfully there are pills you can take. The problem with those pills is they make you into a zombie. You get so tired and drowsy, I think I fell asleep 5 times on the boat+bus to Krabi. When we arrived the hotel I was so tired, again I had to sleep. While Camilla was showering, I fell asleep like a corpse in a coffin. Camilla being Camilla, ofc she documented my weird sleeping position. I think I slept like this for 2 hours.

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Being a vegetarian finding food in Asia is a challenge sometimes. Normally I don’t eat eggs, but being a traveler you have to adapt to where you go. You won’t always find proper source of proteins through vegetables. Here in Krabi there is one restaurant that is 100% vegan and vegetarian. The food is amazing! The restaurant is called Govinda’s, and is run by chilean owners. Even if you are not vegetarian, I would still recommend the food here. The vegan lasagna is so good! We loved the vibe, the atmosphere and the decor were all so mesmerising. A little mix between  french home cottage with exotic India.

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Here are some pictures of Ao nang beach, and the National park that lies at the end of the beach. When you go to the National Park at day time you can see monkeys, but we went there during night time and the monkeys were sleeping. The end of the park leads to a private hotel beach, where we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. Krabi is such a romantic place, you could smell the romance in the air.

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Krabi is one of those places where pictures doesn’t really capture the beauty of it. The beauty isn’t always in the obvious. Often I find it hard to capture the feeling a place will give you. That’s is why I love filming with Gopro, all the memories come alive again. I have always been a visual person, I just never knew how much more I preferred it. While being here in Krabi, we had to see what the fuss about Phi Phi Island was all about. We took a boat tour to 4 different Islands, Phi Phi leh, Phi phi Don, Bamboo Island, Monkey bay and Maya bay (Movie location for the movie The Beach, but this was so crowded you should just skip it). We were not disappointed, you can check it out here in my travel video: