stories

CHINESE NEW YEAR

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The past months in Thailand have been months of many celebrations. It kind of felt like there was something happening every single week. The Yi Peng festival, Christmas and New Year definitely were the biggest events so far but my favourite one, has been the celebrations for the new Chinese lunar year.

For this occasion, I went to have a little wander through Chiang Mai’s China Town. This place is usually not that interesting to my opinion, but that was obviously before the new year celebrations started. The streets were decorated with hundreds of beautiful red lanterns. There were traditional dance performances and music in the streets. People (especially girls and children) dressed in bright red Chinese clothing. And the smell of the food market (it’s Asia, there had to be a food market) just took me to a whole new world. It felt like we just landed in a new place even though we were still in our beloved Chiang Mai.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but I did make a video! So make sure to check that out too. I will make a couple more videos over the next weeks so if you want to see them all, make sure to subscribe to the Elsewhere channel!

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stories

my love for Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a city of many many contrasts. You’ll find old Chinese temples in between the massive newly built skyscrapers, little green lungs in the massive concrete jungle and the traditions next to the ‘hip and happening’. In this city, the contemporary Western world and the authentic Chinese culture walk hand in hand. It made me feel like I was back home in Europe. Wandering through a huge China town of London or Paris. But at the same time, it felt quite the opposite.

The energy it gave me was incredible. It was not because I drank litres of coffee, ate a shitload of food or slept like a princess (impossible, the hotel was rubbish). It had all to do with the positive vibes of exploring new places, trying new food (vegan mock-fish sushi for the win!), and experiencing new traditions. The feeling of a once in a lifetime experience even though you secretly know you’ll be back. The people watch – from hipster Hong Kongers to an old lady walking in the street and even some loud British expats, the beautiful Chinese letters and sings, oh and the lanterns – they’re everywhere. The clichés and the unexpected.

It made me more than happy. The kind of happy you want to hold on to forever. If I had the budget, I probably would never have left. But for now, all I can say is: I’ll be back Hong Kong. Sooner or later.

OH by the way. We made a first – ever travel video! If you haven’t seen it already, go check it out – and give it a thumbs up :-)

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fitness + exercise

Back in the running game

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2016 is a year in which I say YES to new adventures. More travelling? Of course, but the biggest adventures will be fitness wise. Now I finally found my way to living a healthier life, I’d love to step up my fitness game. What started as working out to get back in shape, soon changed into an ‘I want to be quicker and better and stronger’ approach.

So what’s been happening? After my attempt in January to climb up the hardest, steepest and highest mountain of Thailand by bicycle – a 220km ride with circa 2300m elevation (more about that soon), I decided I needed a new challenge in February. Cycling on Inthanon again? Maybe later. I thought it would be fun to change the workout routine a bit and start running again. So I applied to compete in the Chiang Mai University half marathon (which is 23km so technically it’s even more haha). Because why go running if you don’t have a goal? AAH EXCITING! And scary. Mostly scary.

Since I’m not much of a runner – I mean, I have been running before but 15km was the furthest I ever managed to get – I realised I had to start to train for this. Easier said than done. But then, I found motivation in exploring new places in town while working out. Cycling has been great to explore places outside Chiang Mai, but we forgot about the places closer by. So the other day we decided to go running in the Chiang Mai University. We basically live next door, but kind of managed to never visit it in the past months. And yes, we were missing out. Especially the waving back at the tourists in the CMU golf carts part… and smiling for their pictures of course… But also the beautiful parks, the lake, the smell of colourful flowers everywhere and the sports fields, that basically make this place into a massive playground. Awesome!

Anyways LET’S DO THIS – and if you have any pro tips, please let me know!

By the way, how awesome are these leggings?! A big thanks to Pins to kill for sending me these! They just launched their website today, on which you can design your own leggings. It’s an awesome concept so make sure you check it out! Life is too short for boring workout clothes! :-) 

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guides

ELSEWHERE guide to Chiang Mai

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After spending about 5 months in Chiang Mai, you might think we’re running out of things to do. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Chiang Mai has so many good things to offer. The past months, I’ve been blogging about many of them separately, but now I’ve put them together in a list for you.

If you want more info and pictures about a place, click on the link for the full blog post! 

Let me start with how to get around. Chiang Mai is pretty big and even though walking is an option, you might want to get some help. The easiest way to get around is definitely by cycling. You can rent a bike, or if you’re into road cycling, definitely bring your own. It’s pretty safe in traffic, as the drivers are used to scooters and in general they give you a lot of space. Also, it’s the best way to avoid traffic jams and will save you a lot of time. If you really don’t want to cycle, renting a scooter is also a good option. Just remember to bring your international driver’s license as there are many police checks on the side of the road. And last but not least, a really cheap way to get around is using the red taxi service. It costs about 30-40 bath per person, depending on the distance. The one problem with this is that you will get stuck in traffic during the peak hours.

Now you’re ready to get around, let’s start exploring! 

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OLD TOWN

The old town of Chiang Mai is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful temples around every corner, little alleyways and streets filled with shops, restaurants and cafes. Here you can breath in the Northern Thai atmosphere the fullest. It’s usually not that busy during the week. Only during weekends it gets crowded as the evening markets are on.

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EAT (VEGAN) THAI FOOD

Chiang Mai is filled with great restaurants of which many are vegetarian or even vegan! Curries, stir fries, spring rolls and don’t forget the sticky rice will be a highlight of your stay. And the price (+ quality) of the food will make you go crazy and might even turn your trip into a food holiday before you know it. If you don’t know where to go, I made a list of my favourite restaurants!

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NIMMANHAEMIN

An up and coming neighbourhood in the North West of the city. The beautiful streets in the Nimmanhaemin area are filled with the hippest cafes and bars. Start your day off with a coffee, a morning walk through the beautiful streets and some shopping in the pop up stores and boutique shops, or end the day wining and dining in one of the many restaurants.

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VISIT TEMPLES

You can’t visit Thailand without visiting some temples. These overdecorated buildings can be found everywhere. There’s organised temple tours but you can easily arrange your own tour! Personally I’d recommend going in early mornings, when the streets are filled with monks collecting their offerings.

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GO CYCLING

Chiang Mai must be the bicycle capital of South East Asia and it will soon become clear why. It’s not just people riding city bikes, but it’s also mountain biking and road cycling. Around the city, you can find dozens of scenic rides both on the flat as in the mountains and it is definitely one of the best (and cheapest) ways to see the city!

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EVENING MARKETS

If you’re not in the mood for late night drinking but still like to do some evening activities, this is your call. Chiang Mai has evening markets on several locations in town. Most of them sell similar things like souvenirs, clothing and fake brands but if you get around the Nimmanhaemin area, you’ll find little artists markets and local clothing markets selling really nice products!

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ELEPHANT NATURE PARK

I usually wouldn’t recommend any zoos or animal sanctuaries, because I think it is sad and just not right to lock up animals. However the Elephant Nature Park is a different kind. In this park, rescued animals from logging and entertainment businesses have found a new home. Volunteers take care of the many hurt and even disabled elephants and your visit will support their good cause!

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GRAND CANYON

The Grand Canyon is a beautiful quarry, great for an afternoon of swimming, cliff jumping and relaxing! It’s located about 20km from the city but it’s well worth the trip. Let’s take a break from the city shall we?

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HIKE UP THE DOI SUTHEP

After getting all the delicious Thai food in, it might be a good idea to get active. The Pilgrims trail, starting at the Chiang Mai University brings you through the Doi Suthep Pui National Park to the well known Doi Suthep temple, overlooking the city. It’s a tough 1 hour climb but you’ll get rewarded with amazing views, fresh air and smoothies at the top!

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ENJOY THE CAFE CULTURE

The big and upcoming cafe culture hasn’t skipped Chiang Mai. On the contrary: the city has many beautiful coffee bars, spread all over town. Special brewed coffees and award winning latte art are no exception here. Served in the coolest interiors in town.

GET A MASSAGE

I don’t have to say this twice do I?! Perfect after a day on the bike, a hike up Doi Suthep or… just because: why not? You can find massage places all over town, and prices vary around 200-300 bath an hour (let’s say 5 – 7.5 euro) so you literally have no excuse not to try this out.

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QUEEN SIRIKIT BOTANIC GARDEN

No city is complete without a botanic garden and Chiang Mai might have one of the prettiest of all. These botanic gardens have next to a banana avenue (is this real life?), greenhouses filled with waterlillies, cacti and succulents, an amazing collection of native Thai plants and beautiful walkways through the park. A paradise for plant lovers!

(VEGAN) COOKING COURSE

Food is a big thing in Chiang Mai, so why not learn how to make your favourite Thai food yourself and enjoy it at home? There’s many cooking courses available in different price categories. There’s a couple of vegan ones available, which might be a good chance to get some vegan cooking inspiration, for those who think veganism is hard.

SWIM IN WATERFALLS

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place with this many waterfalls. Cycling through the mountains, you’ll find them on the side of the road or signs showing you the way to the ones nearby. A good cool down on a hot Thai summer’s day or place to relax!

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BAAN KANG WAT ARTIST VILLAGE

This place is a little gem just outside Chiang Mai. The Baan Kang Wat artist village is a little green oasis with little art studios and galleries, veggie patches, artists markets, coffee bars and restaurants. A must for a quick city escape and to get inspired by the arty northern Thai atmosphere.

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MUANG MAI MARKETS

Chiang Mai has markets everywhere but without any doubt, the Muang Mai Markets are my favourites. Located next to the Ping river, this place is a paradise for fresh fruit and veggies. Cheap prices, great choices and amazing photo opportunities!

GO TO THE MOVIES

Ehm what? Yes! I can honestly not believe how cheap the movie theaters are in Thailand. A ticket costs about 180 bath (4.5 euro) and on Tuesdays you’ll even get a discount… They play lots of English spoken movies, the seats are super comfy and the cinema is just another great spot to cool down from the melting Thai climate.

ENJOY!
stories

Hong Kong

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Hong Kong has been on top my travel wish list with cities like Tokyo and New York for ages. I wasn’t sure why, but I just felt like I had to go there. My ever-growing interest in Asian cultures has obviously something to do with that. So when I was wandering around the web and found a cheap flight+hotel deal for HK, I knew it was now or never. A week later, I found myself on a plane from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong. Excited like a kid in a candy store.

As soon as we saw the first glimpses of Hong Kong, through the windows of the airport train and in the cab to the hotel, I knew this was going to be awesome. It was exactly how I had imagined it. A concrete jungle, busy, messy but most of all visually pleasing. A mix of old and new, the patterns of the skyscraper’s windows, the big Chinese signages for shops and restaurants, and the dirtiness that big cities have – even though it was surprisingly clean everywhere. My camera did not disappear in my backpack for one second. We couldn’t walk for 10 meters straight because I saw photograph worthy stuff everywhere. I couldn’t be happier.

The weather couldn’t be crappier though. Rainy and cold(ish). Just what a winter should be like. The clouds hanging low, covering the tops of the tallest buildings in town. A strange atmosphere that I couldn’t have embraced more. A great cool down from the melting Thailand weather. I don’t think you have any idea how much fun it was to wear jeans and sweaters, for the first time in 5 months! On top of that, it was the perfect excuse to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, while people watch of course, to warm ourselves up again.

So here we go: the first series of pictures, taken in Kowloon. Kowloon is a part of the city, situated on the main land, at the other side of the water of Hong Kong city. This is where we stayed, and we absolutely loved the real authentic China town feeling of it. Quiet in the mornings, busy in the afternoon. But the most alive during the evenings when streets fill up with markets and people dine outside in the local restaurants. Welcome to Hong Kong!

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