Getting Lost

I am on a journey of self discovery, a journey to ‘find myself’ so to speak. And what have I discovered? Well, to put it in a way that a contemporary audience would understand:

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Nothing. I know less about myself now than I did at 17- and that’s saying something. At 30 I thought I’d have it all together, not necessarily a house, kids and the husband to match, but at least that I could describe myself- really describe myself- in three words.

Yup, still drawing a blank.

So, as I sit here with my raw vegan mud cake and my matcha latte why not surmise what’s on my mind?

I am in Canggu in Bali right now. After being the ‘always had a goal’ gal I decided to quit my great job working internationally in Bangkok and become a backpacker without any plans. Yup, oldest backpacker in the world. I’m still convinced that it is BAGpacker because all you do it pack and repack your bags! And don’t get me started on the packing process because I can’t even find my underwear never mind myself!

I thought about going for an inspirational post: discuss my yoga and meditation, share the lessons from the healer I saw yesterday, reminisce about the calm I feel looking out over a cliff top…but this is not how it is flowing for me right now so I thought I’d attempt ‘funny’, feel free to criticise me if I fail miserably.

The truth is I’ve had an opportunity to do yoga a million times a day and I’ve done it about five; I attempted to be a vegetarian but the chicken sate got me every time; I aimed to start every day with a morning jog and it has happened one and a half times (how does the half even happen?); I saw a healer and my restless legs got me irritated; I gave up coffee only to become addicted to matcha lattes; I planned to blog every day and this is my first post in six weeks…find yourself FAIL.

I have found myself (oh the irony!) wanting to scream because I don’t know who I am or what I want. Isn’t time away from everyone and everything supposed to bring clarity? Isn’t throwing off the shackles of a routine meant to bring a calm alertness to my mind? Isn’t all this chatter in my mind meant to ease with the soft blow of the wind through my sea swept hair?

Breathe.

I love an inspirational quote, ask any of my friends, my Instagram feed is full of them, I drive my friends crazy on Facebook with yet another daily dose of inspiration. I can also talk the talk, giving good advice and words of wisdom (or so I’ve been told.) My problem? Not following through with my own words. I am my biggest critic and I often compare myself to my past self- teenage Claire who knew it all and genuinely didn’t care what people thought. Am I not supposed to be lost at 17 and found at 30?

And there lies the problem…

The constant wondering, the constant thinking, and the constant questioning. I need to just shut up. The truth is I don’t need to have a 5 year plan, heck I don’t even have a 5 week plan! I don’t need to have any of the answers because as I desperately search for them life is slowly passing me by, breath by breath. I need to remember: I am not looking for something, I am experiencing everything.

So, there you are. I’m a metaphorical mess who needs to chill the chatter in my head by just doing things I enjoy and not wondering ‘where next?’ or ‘what next?’ or ‘who next?’ Because, my friends, the beauty of life is that we never know what is around the corner…so there is absolutely no point in looking.

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Peace x

 

New Zealand Part 2: I got there in the end!

Sitting on this sun lounger in Gili Trawangan looking out at the oh so beautiful sea has got me all inspired (despite the sun block in my eye!) I was once told to finish what I start, and I have to admit that I haven’t been so good at that when it comes to blogging. Now writing in my journal comes easy to me. But let’s start now…

So New Zealand travels were in April: an adventure packed two weeks and we managed to see so many highlights and experience so many wonderful things. Obviously more than two weeks would be amazing…not even two months could cover all the beautiful sights to see but boy did we try.

Auckland was the first stop. I came with my wonderful friend Sinita (who will be happy that I’m finally writing this blog!) and my equally wonderful friend Claire (who made the looooong journey from home for our adventure.) Auckland, despite being New Zealand’s busiest city was quiet…although coming from Bangkok many places are quiet in comparison (if you’ve ever been to the city of squalor you’ll know what I mean!) We strolled around the city and had a few drinks in some local pubs…nice and relaxing (despite the house party full of eighteen year olds we ended up at!) Chilled was just what we needed in order to be ready for the adventures that followed.

My friend Claire is super organised; I’ll attempt to attach her itinerary here so you can do New Zealand in two weeks too if needs be:

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From Auckland we travelled to Rotorua for some exploration and adventure! We went white water rafting in level 5 rapids…I love the adrenaline! We jumped off a bridge into a plunge pool, floated aimlessly down the rapids in our life jackets and went down what seemed like huge waterfalls in the raft…my friend was even catapulted off the raft which she did without hesitation! It was so exciting…and it definitely highlighted that I need to do some work on my upper body strength…I won’t tell you about landing in the crotch of some poor guy who pulled me into the raft!

Followed by this was a trip to a national park to explore some geysers (not pronounced as the dialect of an Englishman as I thought!) The colours (and smells!) were definitely interesting. Sinita, the scientist, informed us of the sulphur and so on and so forth. There were greens and yellows as I’ve never seen before, and steam to match!

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We went from adventure and natural phenomena to more wonder…

Waitomo, to the glow worm caves. This was my FAVOURITE thing about NZ, although that is a bold statement to make…literally everything we did was amazing…as Sinita kept yelling, just in case we didn’t realise it! Being a little claustrophobic, I was hesitant at first but with the support of a lovely guide, and equally supportive friends I went in.

And boy am I glad that I did. The cave itself was a wonderful sight. Who would have thought that a tiny entrance could open up into such a space?

Not me apparently.

We walked through the stalactites and stalagmites and my years of studying geography came flooding back to me. That in itself was awe inspiring yet it didn’t even prepare me for the magic to come.

I say magic because that’s what it is. The quiet calm and lull of the boat as you pass through the cave, taking in the stars of the glowworms above that reflect in the water beneath. I felt so at peace there. I could have stayed there for hours. Despite it only lasting a few minutes, it felt like a lifetime. Such simplicity yet such inspiration.

We stayed there for one night and then it was off to Matamata¬†for some hobbit hunting! Even if you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan you will love it here. The little hobbit holes in an array of colours and the facts about the filming of the trilogy and of The Hobbit trilogy is fascinating. My friend aced every question…she is a much bigger LOTR geek than me! Me? I’m into it for Aragon and Legolas. A girl can dream can’t she?

We left Middle Earth to return to Auckland and fly to Wellington to complete our trip of the north island. We stayed there for two nights, exploring the city and sipping on some delicious cocktails. The food there is delicious! We had a delicious breakfast and some more delicious dessert! I could eat that pavlova right now actually! One day we climbed to the local peak and took in some breathtaking views of the city and surrounding water.

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Another day, we explored the harbour taking pictures and strolling into boutique shops, and sat on quirky steps such as this one…

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Afterwards it was onto the ferry heading for Picton; this may be the most beautiful ferry trip I have ever been on, weaving in and out of the sounds.

If I thought the North Island was gorgeous, it wasn’t even close to the beauty of the South Island.

That adventure is for another time, after I sip this Bintang. I’m not even a beer drinker but when in Rome…or Indonesia even!

 

Biggin’ Up Bangkok

To the world it’s known as Bangkok, to Thais as Krung Thep, to fans of “The Hangover” it will always be the City of Squalor…and to me? My current home. Personally I think Bangkok gets far too much bad press, from tourists and media alike. Hence why today I am singing the praises of this individual city: B to the K K.

Too often tourists think of Bangkok as just Khao San Road (although I do love an odd night out there!) They irritate me with their accusations of “Why do you live in Bangkok?” and “I hated Bangkok when I was there, would hate to live there!” This “when” being a maximum of three days. So haters listen up, here are the reasons why I LOVE living in Bangkok.

You can get anything you want, whenever you want (and I don’t mean the sleazy things!) Food glorious food!!! I always miss home food, and often yearn for it but the want is eased by the huge choice of food here: Italian, Indian, British, Korean, American, Greek, Lebanese, Japanese, my Irish grub (although not comparable to my mammy’s!) and so on and so forth.

And what better way to wash food down than with a few beverages? There is a ladies night every night of the week in Bangkok, with free flow booze. Being a ‘lady’ I love this. Whether it be the classy dining of W Hotel of a Saturday night (where we once ended up or the chilled after work tipple in The Witch’s Tavern of a Wednesday (which also has free pizza I might add!) there is something for everyone. Even being broke in Bangkok can be a pleasure.

Keeping with the nightlife vibe, there’s a wide choice of bars, clubs, karaoke and rooftop bars, from dingy but popular places such as Wong’s to classy establishments such as Octave Rooftop Lounge and Bar in the Marriot to choose from. But BEWARE, 49 floors up and above the city is a scary- albeit beautiful- place.

And if I haven’t fattened myself up too much from food and booze there’s these much loved shops: Topshop, Forever XXI, Nike, Australia’s Cotton On and markets, markets, markets.

And if I can’t fit into that sexy red number? More choice of sports and activities than one could ever imagine! Soccer, Gaelic football, basketball, netball (which I thought was volleyball!), yoga, Pilates, aerobics, Thai Muay Thai, karate, jujitsu, volleyball, badminton and so on and so forth. Oh and there’s always my condo, kitted out with pool and gym to use at my convenience.

I hear you ask…but what if I’m not the sporty type? What do I do then? Fear not fellows for there is an infinite number of Meet Up groups to join, from photography to language to books to travel to everything you can think of! Well, within reason…ish.

And back to food (because there’s enough to fill a million blogs!) I must not forget to mention the quirky restaurants: the robot restaurant where it does exactly what it says on the tin…robots as waiters; Cabbages and Condoms where Santa Claus is definitely only fit for an adult Christmas; dining with rabbits and all sorts! As I said, “quirky”.

Not to forgot my favourite…Thai style: beautiful temples, food stalls, boat taxis, motorbike taxis, festivals, and the ever challenging footpath challenge (survive it without breaking a toe!)

Then there’s always the escape within the city with hundreds of luxury hotels at reasonable prices…I’ve done it and it’s worth it!

But if after all this excitement you really need to get out of the big bad city? There’s always the accessible island escape of Koh Samed or the riverside town of Kanchanaburi to keep you content.

Remember one thing: Bangkok doesn’t have the longest name in the world for no reason, there must be something to it…check it out if you don’t believe me!

Bangkok Shopping: Bags of Bluntness

Bangkok is a great city and the people- for the most part- are wonderful. But *beware* they are honest, and not the good kind of honest (hence the warning.) Maybe honest isn’t the right word. Blunt. Yes that’s the word. Blunt. Brutally so. Shopping is definitely one thing that highlights this brutal ‘honesty’.

I love shopping. Fashion is my thing. I like to have my own style and I revel in the shopping experience. Thailand, however, has changed that.

The dread that creeps in when my wardrobe needs a sprucing up is now too familiar…Heaven forbid I need a new pair of shoes!

I’m a size 10…just about. And 5 foot 7 and a 1/2 inches tall. My feet? A size 7, so all in all I’m in proportion. In the Western World I feel comfortable with that, and feel confident shopping for my size. How do I feel when shopping in Thailand? Like an oversized green giant with whale fin feet to match!

As this green giant waddles into a shop, more often than not I turn right back on my heels as I am greeted with shouts of: “No have big size”, “We have big size!” and most irritating of all, “Look stretch!” As I’m staring at the widest pair of trousers I have ever seen sprawling from arm to arm of this matchstick sales woman I shake my head and sigh: clearly she’d rather hand out an insult than have me hand her my money.

I know what you’re thinking, “Poor self conscious girl, unable to carry out her shopping excursion.” Maybe once. Maybe once I hung my head and stared down at my fictional green giant, whale finned body; maybe once I apologised for the intrusion into a shop that was clearly not meant for ‘people like me’; maybe once I thought I should take that trip to the ladyboy shop for my obese feet. Maybe once. But those days are long gone.

No longer do I shy away from these comments, or make excuses that I’m looking in this shop for my much younger, much thinner, small footed, make-believe sister. Now? Now I wear my thick skin, laugh at their ignorance, and walk out of the shop with that tight, sequenced dress that I hope fits me one day.

Thailand: The Nitty Gritty

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I love Thailand. I love living here. However, there are some things about this wonderful country that I’ll never get used to, be it good, bad or just plain ugly.

1. Men’s long finger nails, primarily on the baby finger: I’ve since learned that this is used as a ‘tool’ of sorts to unscrew things or to scratch one’s ear. But to me there are cotton buds and screw drivers so please use these instead!

2. Dogs that look dead sleeping almost everywhere: Again I love dogs but I don’t want to run one over…which is a danger as they sprawl across the road unaware (and seemingly uncaring) of their impending death.

3. Taxi men refusing fares: I definitely confused taxi men when I went home to Ireland for Christmas as I asked them would they take me to my desired destination. They cocked their heads to the side and laughed a ‘don’t you know how taxis work’ laugh. I hung my head apologetically as I remembered that taxi men at home went where you wanted them to go, no ‘pai dai mai?’ (CAN you go) necessary, as is the case in Thailand.

4. Whitening cream: I say cream but it’s cream, powder, deodorant…whatever whitening can get in…it’s in!

5: Babies and children on motorbikes…without helmets! If you must put them on one at least make sure they’re wearing a helmet!

6: Nose picking: children and adults alike! It’s nasty so please don’t do it in public.

7: Transportation for tourists: those night buses could easily be cut down in time…if you stopped insisting on ferrying us from cafe to cafe and just GOT US TO OUR DESIRED DESTINATION!

8: Fitting four or more on a motorbike: not disgusted, but impressed.

9: Random pictures: I’ve been asked many a time if I could have my photo taken, or I’ve simply caught sight of a sneaky photo being taken. At first this perplexed me, that is until one wise friend (who’d been living here for a year longer than me) informed me that this was normal, that I needed to “just go with it.” Embracing the advised “just go with it” has led to me being in family photos, from beach to graduation!

10: Patterns: I know mixing patterns is fashionable but I don’t think the rule applies to floral shirt with cartoon pants!

11: Shop greetings: I like shopping. Wait. I LOVE shopping. However, the thrill for me is slightly (totally) numbed when I am greeted, not with a smile and a welcome, but with a shriek of “We have big size”, “Look stretch!” What a way to kill one’s ego, and needlessly lose a customer!

Most of the above are trivial things (apart from putting white on a pedestal and the helmetless infants) so I can put up with them, nothing a healthy dose of ranting can’t cure! You have been warned so look out for (and avoid) the long-finger-nailed-nose- picker!

Thailand and its Not- So- Charming Minivans

Currently, I am waiting for a minivan to take me from Bangkok to Chonburi, a little over one hour away. Because there is no visible timetable I ask the cashier, “When will the minivan get here?” No answer. I repeat my question. No answer. I try a third time, “Excuse me, when will the minivan get here?” Each time the question was asked in perfect Thai (I’ve been complimented on my Thai accent and it’s a simple question that I’ve used many times) so the ‘language barrier’ wasn’t an issue, confirmed when she answered, “It will get here when it gets here. Wait a minute.” Plain rude. Why did it take me repeating myself three times to get a simple answer? Many minutes later (far from the “beb diiaw” minute instruction) I am still waiting. Now to to make things clear: I love Thailand. However, the time has got me reflecting on the many flaws -and plain and simple instances of rudeness- that are a regular here, in all countries obviously, but since I have been irritated by this incident which has taken place on Bangkok, then Thailand I shall rant about! Mainly minivans. Actually, only minivans.

Minivan Rant 1: why must the driver tell you where to sit? “Move to the back, move to the side, sit upside down.” If seats aren’t assigned then aren’t I allowed to put my bottom where my bottom deems best?

Minivan Rant 2: waiting. Waiting. Waiting. The minivan is full. FULL! No more bodies can squeeze in so please, get this show on the road (because I want to be sipping cocktails on the each by 6, if not sooner.)

Minivan Rant 3: the driving, oh the driving! Sometimes it feels like a race as they speed along and veer in and out of the lanes, blowing horns at one’s will. This was endearing at first, the danger and excitement, knowing that those cocktails would be waiting when I reached my destination. Now, having been moved seven times by the seat dictator and needlessly waiting for much longer than necessary, this ‘race’ is just a contradiction (and annoyance, not to mention danger!) to the driver’s previous stalling. Slow down! People’s lives are in your hands! And then there’s the brakes. THE BRAKES! That harsh jamming of the brakes as we stop short of slamming into the car in front; the brakes that wouldn’t be needed so much if you drive at the legal speed limit.

Minivan Rant 4: it’s either baltic or boiling in there! Where’s the happy medium?

Minivan Rant 5: those back seats that make your arse want to die (not to mention that front inside seat that’s even worse!) Having spent ages waiting for the damn thing, securing the best seats by successful deployment of the bag friend- seat friend tactic as I’ve just christened it (Bangkokians know what I mean), the last thing you need is that seat dictator telling you to move! Doesn’t he know the anguish you’ve just been through: the dealing out of bag friend- seat friend roles, the furtive edging to the head of the queue, the wish to be able to read Thai as the minivan signs roll in, the movement of your bucket and spade to a secure location…DOESN’T HE KNOW? He definitely doesn’t care as he orders you to move to the back seats of arse death! And he doesn’t even bother to slow down going over those bumps!

Luckily for me, today has been a success: I’m sitting on a comfortable seat and we’re on the move. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the speed (the fear that he might order me to move creeping in.) My advice to a novice minivan passenger? Get a taxi.