Though May is officially behind us (by exactly 19 days now, whoops), here I am, on a rickety overnight train in China playing the usual catch-up (provided we don’t derail before I get to post this – still wondering why it feels like we’ve run over 3 obese bodies every time we reach a station?!).
We spent most of last month recharging our batteries in digital nomad paradise – Thailand. We hunkered down and got an apartment in the beloved Chiang Mai, nestled in the lush green Northern part of the country, teeming with trendy cafes, restaurants, abundant (working!) wifi, and a young local university crowd. After 5 months on the go, it was definitely what we needed.
- 9 days Tokyo
- 22 days Chiang Mai, Thailand
Highlights & laughs
- Nutrients, sweet nutrients. After five months in “developed” Asia, arriving in Thailand felt like the nutritional flood gates had opened after a total fruit&veg-pocolypse (that’s a word now, k?). Developed Asia just doesn’t do much fruits or veggies in its meals – see Asian food chart below which largely favours gargantuous consumption of bread, rice & noodles. So 30 cent bags of fresh cut fruit, $2 salads, $1 smoothies in Thailand ? Umm, we definitely binged. A LOT.
- Hot hot heat. With tempts in the high 30s almost everyday, we definitely caught up on any sunshine we’d be missing recently in our lives (which set half my body in an enormous, scaling, rash – more on that later). Thailand = freaking hot in May!
- Polished pearly whites (on a dime). Yep, getting my teeth cleaned and filled for <$50 is a definite highlight (am I the only one who enjoys a good teeth cleaning?). Turns out, Thailand is big on medical tourism, including dentistry. Being a health professional myself, I was initially skeptical, but after hours of online reading expat’s experiences, we committed. That was LIFE CHANGING. For about $80 CAD total each, we had our teeth cleaned, x-rays, and each had fillings done on a second visit (including a semi-complicated/large one for me). The dentist was completely competent and honest, and in the future I’ll definitely look into taking medical “vacations” from Australia as it’d be cheaper to fly there and back than have any major work done at home! In other words, I’m hooked on medical tourism.
- Loving orphan elephants. After learning the ugly truth behind why you shouldn’t ride elephants, we happily did a “volun-tour” at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. We were able to feed, bathe, and pat these incredible creatures up close without exploitation. FYI, their trunks are really rough (I think I imagined them feeling softer, like the consistency of a leather handbag??). Anyways, it was AMAZING. What could melt your heart more than rescued elephants? Puppies you say? Ok, ’cause they have 400+ adorable stray dogs too, some of whom play with the elephants. My heart = melted.
- Girls kicking Muay Thai butt. Maybe I’m lame because I thought I’d find Muay Thai boring, but a friend of ours twisted my arm into going to a fight while visiting for a weekend. Surprisingly, I loved it. It’s definitely one of the more excitement-provoking sports (speaking as someone who doesn’t like watching sports at all). Thai girls may look cute and tiny, but they kick some serious butt, and I found they fought way more aggressively than the guys. I mean, they even fell off the stage mid-fight at one point, and I don’t mean all WWE staged bullcrap. They legit fell punching each other onto a table, then staggered back onto the stage and continued fighting. GIRL POWER!
Lows and lessons learnt
- Battling burnout. Agh. I find the 5-month mark is usually when travel starts to take its toll, and this time around it definitely hit harder than before. Working while travelling sounds great in a sentence, but being on a budget means our work “office” is often sitting ’till our butts go numb on teeny beds in closet-sized hotel rooms (why are there rarely desks?!), struggling with temperamental Internet to do said work, etc etc. I love it most days, but lately it’s been a bit more of the lows than highs to be honest. But it’s all part of the ride with the epic trade off of seeing a LOT of the world, which makes it all worth it.
- Overplanning. On that note, after being fatigued by the continual “where should we go next, pick a city & a cheap but clean hotel or AirBNB, choose a duration of time, make sure it has good Wifi etc etc etc” – well, I did a lot of planning. Too much, in fact. In a hasty decision we booked a flight back to China to use our 2nd entry visa and check the final sights off our list. Then I also booked a flight OUT of China, to slow travel Eastern Europe. I was eager to just have the next 5 weeks booked and settled, to just work for a month straight. But looking back, it was definitely overly ambitious, as we felt we could’ve easily stayed another month in Thailand. Lesson learned!
- That time my entire body broke into a rash for 2 weeks straight. I have skin and allergy issues, not that you really came here to read about them (or maybe you did? Weird). Extreme heat seems to be my latest sensitivity, as Chiang Mai’s soaring temps sent my entire body into a perpetual state of horrific heat rash. Thankfully pharmacies in Thailand are well-stocked and you can simply point and choose as you wish – some high-strength hydrocortisone cream gradually did the trick, but it took over 2 weeks to chill the eff out. So, now that you know more about my skin than you ever needed to, onwards.
Health & Fitness (or lack thereof)
- Though we compensated our prior overconsumption of white rice with fresh veggies and fruit, we may have offset that with our total lack of exercise. Like, total. It began with “oh it’s too hot to run” as we’d been jogging last month, to “mmmkay it’s just too hot to do ANYTHING” to neither of us ever acknowledging our sudden lack of movement. That being said, we did do a TON of work this month, mostly hammering in 12+ hours a day on various projects – all laptop based nonetheless. So the next figures suck…
- Steps walked: might as well put 0 here instead of an embarassing number. In fact, why don’t we just not check it this month, mmkay?
- Accommodation: was a total bargain at $350 CAD for the month. Bam! That included a nice, well-located modern apartment in Chiang Mai with all the fixings – air con, shower, laundry, a working desk, and internet. Remind me why I ever overpaid for rent back home?
- Food: FOOD, oh glorious Thai food. We munched on delicious Thai curries, freshly blended smoothies, and tangy mango salads for an average of ~2$ CAD per meal. Hence why it’s definitely on our “we’re going back there” list of places!
- Cell phone/Internet: we stupidly bought an Internet plan at the airport for about $30 CAD for the month, which turned out to be unnecessary because Chiang Mai is FILLED with actual functional Internet at its incredible cafes. Much better than Sydney, I would even say. Lesson learnt for next time!
- Miscellaneous: we sent home another package of goodies for the fam, but with most of our days being spent working we prety much spent nil on extras. Who needs to buy stuff when there’s infinite delicious food to indulge in, anyway?
As it’s already June as I write this, you know we made it to China, and are then onwards to Eastern Europe. You’ll have to catch up more on our (mis)adventures in June through my least fav country on earth – China (there, I said it). And I PROMISE to be more timely and more enthused next time ’round. On that positive note, I shall conclude with what else but an orphan puppy jumping past these orphan elephants. You’re welcome.
Thanks for following along, check back next month to see what we get up to! To explore our prior adventures, see our old months in review here!