Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

Songkran in Chiang Mai! By Adeline (Thailand)

This past month has been amazing! It was recently the Thai New Year so my school gave us a 2 week break for the holidays and I decided to head up to Chiang Mai. Being a solo female traveller, I found myself getting a little nervous in the days before leaving just because it’s a little more challenging traveling alone. Before I begin my story, I would like to mention that I had no trouble at all and the nerves were just my mind overthinking and allowing the fear to take over. At the start of my travels, I got a bus from my hometown in Ranong to Surat Thani and then from there I flew to Chiang Mai. The first few days I allowed myself to walk around the old town and get my bearings a bit because I had never travelled to the North before. I found it to be very easy to navigate and one of the first things I noticed was how many tourists were actually there too! It was really cool to see and experience because in the town where I am working there aren’t many travellers so it was nice to have a change of pace.

The first few nights I stayed in a quiet hostel but needed a little more of a social atmosphere and found Stamps Backpacker Hostel, to say I am forever grateful for my experience here would be an understatement. Right off the bat I was welcomed into the hostel and felt like I was part of the family almost immediately. I started making so many friends, especially because it was the New Year holiday and there were so many guests, we all were hanging out and having so much fun everyday. For the New Year in Thailand there is a huge water fight and in some places, like Chiang Mai, the water fighting can last up to a week! Everyday I would wake up and go downstairs already in my bathing suit prepared for the day. At Stamps they had a kiddy pool so people could chill and they provided water guns for all of the guests if they wanted to participate in the fighting. It was so cool to see the whole town participating in the water fight. Walking outside people were shooting water guns everywhere! There were people driving by in cars just throwing buckets of water at each other and this all lasted until around 7pm then it would slow down and it would be time for the nightly activities. There was even one bar at night that had a water fountain spraying the crowd, as if we didn't already have enough during the day. It is definitely an experience worth checking out and if you’re looking for an awesome place to go for the Thai New Year, Chiang Mai is the place to go!

Not only did I have an awesome time celebrating the new year but I had some great adventures and met some beautiful friends while I was there as well. I got to go kayaking, cave exploring, motorbiking up the mountain to see temples, watch a Muay Thai fight, see a ladyboy show, I even got a traditional Thai tattoo and more. I was extremely thankful for the tattoo experience because it was a nice balance from all of my other activities. While I enjoyed being social and going out, I really appreciated the experience of getting the tattoo. It was a full day of exploring a temple and learning a lot about the Buddhist culture and then (because I am a woman and traditionally only men get the tattoos in the temple) I went to the Monks house to get my tattoo. It was a very spiritual experience and I'm incredibly pleased with how it turned out. The meaning behind each tattoo is very special because in Thai culture it is believe that the tattoo gives you strength and power. My tattoo specifically relates to letting go of the past and growing into my own. It also represents self confidence and protection in all directions I choose to go in this life. Already I can feel its protection because I believe in its power. If you’re interested in getting one yourself, I recommend looking into all of the different designs available and gaining knowledge on the beliefs and symbolisms available for each tattoo.

I had such an incredible experience while I was in Chiang Mai and it was definitely extremely hard to leave such a beautiful place. I actually intended to go to Pai while I was there but ended up meeting so many people and having such a great time that I just never left. The thing I love most about backpacking is meeting so many amazing people and becoming so close in such a short amount of time. I met some amazing friends while traveling who are now a part of my life and that is the thing I am most grateful for this experience.

Although I was sad to leave, I know I can always go back and coming home to my students was very rewarding as well. I didn’t think I would miss them as much as I did but being back at school made me thankful to be here again. Now that I am home and on my own again, I am thankful for the space to reflect on the past with gratitude, appreciate the present moment and look forward to the future with excitement.

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