On our last day in Mae Sot, Edie and I traveled tot he Mae Tao Clinic (A clinic run by volunteers and Doctors from Myanmar which specialized in helping and rehoming many refugees from over the border in Myanmar) and we wanted to speak to the staff and some patients about their experiences working with the clinic.
Edie did most of the talking and I followed quietly behind snapping and absorbing the sights around me. The clinic was in a secluded area that was really hard to reach and within the walls of this clinic, a "mini village" was bustling. Kids ran around, large palm trees shaded the elderly, and the nurses and doctors worked diligently for hours on end.
I was amazed at the amount of love and tenacity that radiated off of these volunteer workers. Every life in the clinic mattered and their status from Myanmar was not held against them in this place in Thailand like it would have been outside of the walls.
My favorite unit in the clinic was the pediatrics. I saw beautiful children and their mothers waiting treatment, babies that had just been born, rays of hope for worried parents. Edie and I were led into a small room with incubators.
"These babies are premies. They are twins. They were born earlier this week." Said our guide.
They were the smallest human beings I had ever seen. Like porcelain dolls. Beautiful. Fragile. Healthy; just tiny. I wanted to take a photo but I couldn't bring myself to it. I just stood and watched silently, hand on the incubator. Wondering what the lives of these pure human beings would look like in the coming years.
After a long morning of chatting and photographing, Edie and I thanked the staff for the eye-opening experience and left the clinic so we could catch our bus to Chiang Mai.
The bus ride to Chiang Mai was a long one. I was excited that I was getting closer and closer to my final stop where I would be living in Mae Sai.
Edie had lived in Chiang Mai for a few weeks earlier in the year when she did a journalism internship on her spring break. So she knew where all the hot spots were for Vegan food and delicious cocktails!
We dropped our things off at Hug Hostel and Edie went for a run while I went for a 2 hour long Thai Massage. It was my first one. I entered a large room with pallets lined neatly on the floor. I was given brown pajama-like scrubs to put on and then escorted to a pallet on the floor.
The woman took me to a place of complete relaxation. I had forgotten how heavy my bags were and how raw my shoulders had become.
After 2 hours, I stepped back into the streets of Chiang Mai, a new woman.
Edie and I decided on dinner with a few other women from the hostel and we made our way to Bamboo Bee Vegetarian restaurant. To call this place a "restaurant" is a bit of an over statement, it was more like a bamboo hutch nestled in a nook in an alley wall, but the food there was divine!! Only one woman was working there, and she whipped up our food and drinks in record time. There wasn't an unhappy belly in the bunch!
Edie and I split off from the group and headed to Zoe Yellow bar for some late night cocktails before heading back to the hostel to sleep. We only had two days in Chiang Mai before making the trek to Pai, Thailand. The rest of our time in Chiang Mai was filled with more Vegan food, more bonding, used book store exploring and more booze. It was a good 2 days.
Pai isn't a place, it's a state of being. Or at least that's what I took away from the trip to zion. I've never been to a place like Pai before and it has been by far my favorite place in Thailand. Edie and I arrived at our hostel Spicy Pai and were immediately taken aback byt he beauty of the bamboo structure with mosquito nets. I have always wanted to live in a tree house and this was pretty close! There were no full walls or A/C...we were out in nature and the cool mountain breeze made the mosquito netting billow in a dreamy way. There were muddy fields of tall grass that surrounded our hostel and all you could see was mountain and low clouds. Golden streaks of sunlight pierced the cotton clouds.
It could make you weap.
Our first night in Pai, Edie and I found some food at a street market and bought some items. I only bought one thing in Pai; a pair of striped overalls that were handmade from a heavy tarp like fabric. They called to me.
We made our way back to the bamboo hostel and made plans to wake up early and rent motorbikes so that we could visit some hot springs in the morning.
The next day we set off on our adventure. Just us and the road. I couldn't help myself from speeding along, it had been so long since I had been on a bike and all those lessons in Belfast paid off because it felt like second nature.
We found the hot springs but it was too hot to get in. There were literal eggs that people had tossed into the boiling water to watch cook. And they did. In a matter of seconds. We ran into a group of guys who we had seen a few hours back in Pai at a gas station and they were headed to a waterfall. They asked if we wanted to join and of course we did, so after some introductions and a few goofy photos, we all set off in our motorbike gang to the waterfalls.
The Falls were gorgeous. I stripped off without thinking and jumped in. No one else was swimming. I love water. I cannot explain to you what healing and energy I feel from queen H20. Eventually the gang joined me and we laughed at what could possibly be swimming in the waterfall pool with us below the surface.
Lukas and Tom; two guys from the group wanted to slide down the falls. What a great idea! Edie was too nervous so she stayed behind and said she would take pictures. Me and the lads climbed the rockface in our skimpies until we reached the top. The rock was slick from all the water that had smoothed it out. Like a natural waterslide. I jumped into the flowing water and slid fast like a bullet down into the pool below. A squeal burst through my lips. We spent a few hours at the falls until the sun began to set.
Back on the bikes, back to Pai. Later that night Edie and I met up with the guys from earlier and we met them for rounds of drinks at a few of the local bars. A few games of pool later and well past our bed times, Edie and I headed back to the bamboo haven.
The next day, we got back in a bus and headed back to Chiang Mai where Edie was catching a flight back to Bangkok for an interview and I was catching a 5 hour bus to my new home in Mae Sai. We hugged and said sweet departures as we separated. I was going to miss the companionship and the beautiful conversation. But I was ready for my new chapter.
Where do I begin with my new town? I arrived to Mae Sai late at night after the bus ride from Chiang Mai. The bus terminal had a few people there who drove sontow's (red trucks thatyou climb into and use as a taxi) but no one could understand where I needed to go. I used the remaining 2% of my phone battery to pull up the phone number of the Mae Sai Holic Lodge where I was booked to stay and someone made a call for me before my phone died.
A black truck pulled up ten minutes later and I climbed in. His name was Pat. The owner of the lodge. We talked a little bit and he asked me where I came from. What a loaded question.
My first few nights at the lodge were amazing. I had a private room with a bathtub and A/C. I liked it here. My agent contacted me and said someone could swing by and pick me up to show me an apartment complex. I went with him to see the apartment and I hated it. There was no kitchen, I had to pay for laundry and it was basically one room with a shower and bed.
Pat agreed to let me stay at the lodge for my time in Thailand after I told him the story. So this is where I live now. The Mae Sai Holic lodge. Room 6. A kitchen at my disposal, A/C, a courtyard to watch the stars at night and an influx of people from all over the world that come and go.
Pat and I grow closer each day and I've met his brother, Sister in Law, Mother in Law, wife and son so far. For Loykrathong festival on Nov 14th, his sister in law and wife helped me make my very own Krathong (flower boat made from a banana tree and leaves) to float in the river. We all set off lanterns that sailed away into the black sky above. The full moon was illuminated by the twinklings of paper lanterns that sailed from Myanmar and the surrounding areas in Thailand. It was unreal.
I have made friends with my work colleagues. Hugh and I sit next to eachother in the foreign language office and spend most of our time laughing. We have explored Mae sai a bit together and it's nice to have a buddy to do these things with. Elena is from Russia and she lives at the lodge with me. We walk to school every morning at 7am in the whispy fog that sinks down from the mountainside.
Being a teacher is an amazing experience. I have over 400 students and classes of 45/50 kids at a time. I thought it would be the ultimate form of birth control to be working with so many kids all the time...but I want my own now more than ever. The kids are like dreamy sponges. Filled with love and laughter. They teach me Thai and I teach them English. Both sides struggling to be understood. But we make due.
I will have to fill you in about my teaching life more in depth later. I have a 6am start and sleep is a virtue.
Apologies for the long delays. I will try to keep up the blogging as frequently as possible. It's just so hard to break away from this wonderful life worth living sometimes and jump on a computer.
Until next time,
Lotus flower hugs and sunbeam kisses.