Trekking around Thailand

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Latimer: Lately I’ve been doing some globetrotting. Every time I hitch up my trusty wheelie bag and head off into the far blue yonder, I come back with lots of stories and lots of ideas. I think the most recent trip to South East Asia has me all inspired for writing!

Ridley and I are really excited to be working our way through our Keeping Secrets series, plotting and outlining all the books to come. We are back firmly on track now – and we’ll be releasing Book 2 by the end of August! So stay with us for updates!

In my recent travels I visited Thailand. It was a quick run through the north of the country from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, to a fly-by visit at Chiang Rai and then Chiang Khong (to cross into Laos). I didn’t see that much of Thailand really, but what I saw was stunning, beautiful, strange, inspiring and… stranger still!

Bangkok is a pretty cool place. There are lots of things to see there – when I was there I took a trip around the canals in the city and went to Wat Pho to see the huge golden reclining Buddha, which was amazing. Buddhism (and monks) feature strongly in my Asian travels; I sometimes think I’m starting to understand it, then I always get stuck and realise actually I don’t know much about Buddhism, but it’s really interesting.

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Bangkok canal views
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Reclining Buddha… massive!!
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He looks like he’s pretty comfortable here!
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Wat Pho outside views
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More of the Pho
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Yet more Pho!
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Another Buddha inside another temple in Wat Pho – I ear-wigged as this guy was explaining Buddhism to these people!
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Lot’s of monks – notice how young some of them are! All men in Thailand must serve a year (at least) as a monk before they get married, to be considered ‘a good man’ for marriage
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Thai green Curry… because… it’s Thailand!
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From the back of a tuc-tuc… the only way to travel in Thailand… I love tuc-tucs!

From Bangkok, I got an overnight train to Chiang Mai. Lots of people on the tour were worried about the overnight train, but having experienced the Chinese ones, I was no longer afraid. The ones in Thailand are actually brilliant; and compared to the Chinese ones, they are very spacious and comfortable – this coming from someone with extreme ‘creature comfort’ problems!

Chiang Mai was a fun place; we had a walk around in the blistering heat, went to see beautiful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple ate some lovely Thai food and went for a cool bike-ride around the city. While on our bike ride we stopped at an orphanage for Hill tribe children, for dinner. I bought some lovely artwork by the children – it was Naruto inspired 🙂

During my time in Chiang Mai, I was coming to terms with the heat, I won’t say I ever ‘got used to it’, just learned to accept I would always be dripping sweat and needing to drink water and isotonic drinks.

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Train station catching my ride to Chiang Mai
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These trains are fantastic! So clean and comfortable. There’s a bunk that comes down from over these seats and the seats themselves are transformed into another bed – big and very comfy.
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I had the top bunk, which was fine… but not as big. I had some pocky for the trip!
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Some cool outside dining in Chiang Mai
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Artwork on the streets
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Beautiful, random temple
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More temple action
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Buddha outside the temple
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A very cool dragon vomiting snakes… well, maybe not but that’s what it looks like!! Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Walking up to the temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep bells
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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Getting my fortune at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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Monks visting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
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I got this white blessing bracelet from a monk in Wat Phra That Doi Suthep; he said a prayer over it, for luck and safety in travel.
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A delicious vegetable spicy soup…. it was feckin hot though!
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Buddha overlooking the river on my bike ride around Chiang Mai
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Handle bar views in Chiang Mai
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Buddhas in Chiang Mai
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More views from my bike in Chiang Mai
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Chiang Mai temple
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Chiang Mai temple
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Chiang Mai temple
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Cool artwork done by the Hill tribe orphans
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More temples from my bike ride Chiang Mai
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Buddha and candle wax – from bike ride Chiang Mai

From Chiang Mai, we stopped off briefly in Chiang Rai to see the White Temple, which is a bit like Sangrada Familia in Barcelona, in that it’s unfinished at the moment and being built by the artist that designed it. It’s full of demons and cultural references – though I never got to go inside, as we were late getting there and it was closed! It’s supposed to have like cartoony stuff inside and be really strange and interesting. This temple was badly damaged after we had seen in, in the earthquake that hit Thailand – so I feel lucky to have seen it before that happened!

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Batman and Pinhead… heads.. .weird!!
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Freddie, Pinhead and Hellboy… retro weirdness!

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Yummy food in Chiang Khong
Yummy food in Chiang Khong

Then from Thailand, I took a bus into Laos! But that’s a post for another day!

For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Lovely Laos and Laotian Living

What’s for Dinner?

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Latimer: I’ve said this before (a lot!!), but honestly one of the best things about going to a different country is getting to eat their food! And I’m the sort of person who takes photos of the food they eat and Instagrams them – hence this post is photo heavy!

I love Asia food but I wouldn’t have ever said I particularly liked Chinese food. As with most countries, we have Chinese takeaways in Ireland and they’re fine. But having been in China, I don’t think they are making proper Chinese food (I think it’s Westernized to suit our palettes). But, I wish they weren’t, because as it turns out, proper Chinese food is so freckin’ good!

I was asked a lot about the food when I came home – people would grimace, ‘what did you eat?!’ Well, okay, to be honest in Chinese food, they use everything and the food is always fresh (i.e. the fish is alive in the tank then cooked and put on your plate). It’s harsh to look at, but you have to respect that Chinese people know where their food is coming from; we eat the steak and the pork and we don’t think about how it got there.

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Weighing the fish
And here the fish is cooked moments later (it's called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)
And here the fish is cooked moments later (it’s called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)

And they have some amazing food markets! The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an was one pretty cool food spot…

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Muslim Quarter Xi’an
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The yellow stuff is rice cake
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They are making this sticky bar type stuff from peanuts and honey… beating the crap out of it with mallets!
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A prune, fungus drink… wasn’t nice! 😦
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Roasted walnuts
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Kitchen in the Muslim Quarter
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A kitchen in the Muslim Quarter
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Making fried wraps
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Yummy fried wraps
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Squid on a stick!

From hotpots to noodles, to taro chips… I ate well in China!

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Meet in a bun… sooo good… and spicy cauliflower
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Noodles in Xi’an (they’re known for their noodles – this was the only time I had noodles actually! wow)
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Spicy beef
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Yummy spicy cabbage
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Sweet and sour fish in Beijing
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Dumplings in Xi’an
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Some seriously spicy hotpot in Chengdu (they have the best hotpots apparently!)
Do you see the brains? Yup... I did not try that! ah... ha... nooo...
Do you see the brains? Yup… I did not try that! ah… ha… nooo…
Spicy potato... Love me some spuds!
Spicy potato… Love me some spuds!

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We stopped off at a local woman’s house for lunch in Yangshuo. This green stuff (a type of lettuce I think?!) was soooo tasty… I could have ate the whole plate!
These were homegrown in the above woman's garden... yummy!
These were homegrown in the above woman’s garden… yummy!
Taro chips.... They could give potatoes a run for their money!!
Taro chips…. They could give potatoes a run for their money!!
I went to a cooking class and this was my end result.... not too bad?!
I went to a cooking class and this was my end result…. not too bad?!

If you ever go to China know that you are going to eat well!

And to round things off you’ll find some nice drinks too!!

This beers quite nice... and bloody massive - I could hardly hold it for this photo!
This beers quite nice… and bloody massive – I could hardly hold it for this photo!
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Strawberry soda
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coffee art… how can you drink it now!!
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More coffee art… so cute!!

 

Holiday Photos

Stop taking photos and enjoy!
Stop taking photos and enjoy!

Latimer: I love taking photos. And ever since I got a smart phone, I take photos almost all the time. But I’m honestly trying to put the phone down and just enjoy the experience when out and about. ‘Just be’ – something like that!

I hope I put that into practice, on my trip, as it comes to an end now 😦

And, as I’m looking forward (from the past), at the travelling I’m going to do – the places I’ll ‘see’ – I’m thinking that the world’s a big place and there are so many amazing places that I’ve yet to see… This video has added more to a never-ending list!

Holiday Food

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Latimer: After my study woes, I’m at last contemplating a holiday – and what’s one of the first things I dream about when I think of a holiday? Food, oh food; I am such a fan of food.

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I’m not a good cook, I try sometimes and I make a mean Kedgeree if I do say so myself, but I don’t try often enough to be considered ‘a good cook’.

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So it’s always a big thing for me, going on holidays and looking forward to eating some nice food!

When Ridley and I went to Tokyo, I was always putting out my hand before she could eat; “WAIT! I need to take a picture!” She got so used to this she’d actually wait sometimes, staring at me, holding her fork poised over the food… “Hurry up.”

I think the food-photo-taking started in Tokyo, but that trip was a major food event. There was so much yummy food to be had… and yes I have a food-porn collection as a result!  

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I also have nice photos of afternoon tea in London…

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I love taking my own photos of food (because it’s like you can then remember how tasty the food was) but I also like seeing other people’s food photos!

There is an amazing artist from deviantart (Jo aka cartoongirl7), that we now follow on Instagram and she takes some amazing food pictures – so amazing – check out her foody photos (she has seriously good taste mwhaha)! http://instagram.com/myrollingstar

Seriously, after the joy of actually going on holidays, food-joy is definitely next on my holiday joy list. I can’t wait to take lots of food photos on my next holiday 🙂

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