I have been spending alot of time at home just hanging out, basically trying not to spend money! The first few weeks back were awesome but as friends started to go back to work and I started looking for a job things weren't quite so much fun! I registered with recruitment agents and have spent a lot of time up the road at the Riddingtons using their computer and browsing their Bay of Plenty Times job sections! I have been receiving the unemployment benefit too, I'm entitled to a half share of a married couple allowance, which equals $150 a week, so not enough to live on at all but I totally am just stoked that we can at least buy groceries and petrol and not have to waste all our savings. As you can guess we are still staying with Niki's Mum in Ohauiti, but that is all working out well although we are looking forward to unpacking all our stuff finally when we get a place of our own.
Early Jan we farewelled Donna for her move to Switzerland. In Jan I spent a night in Pukekohe, Auckland with my sister and cute nephew. My first ever Blues Brews and BBQs was a crack-up. Anniversary weekend we went up to Niki's Dad's place in Rawene (Hokianga) and had a fab time there just chilling in the house bus and doing some exploring, on one of our walks we were fortunate enough to see a pod of orcas which was absolutely stunning. Waitangi weekend we went camping at Athenree (Waihi) for two nights with a bunch of pals - Fantastic weather and good times had by all. Lovely Briar's Baby shower. Stefanie (Amercian friend we met in Edinburgh) was over with her boyfriend recently so was wicked to see them. We've been to countless BBQ's and drinking sessions, even trying town 3x (and disappointed all times!), walked around the Mount, copenhagen cones, hotpools...you know the drill, I love this city!
Personal achievements, or lack there of:
Trying to exercise a couple of times a week and failing miserably even though I am unemployed! Getting my confidence up and learning to drive - I am actually getting quite good, even did a solo drive over the kaimais to Cambridge! So am absolutely stoked, just need to work on tricky parking and reversing lol. Got a temp job for a few days last week at Pinto factory, awful mind numbing work but it was amazing what it did for my morale just getting out of the house and knowing I was earning some money.
For New Years I went down to Wellington with Debra and Justine for a 5 day stay. Needless to say we had lots of fun, so so great to see those gals. New Years Eve we had a party in the penthouse suite of a flash hotel. It was absolutely brilliant. The other days were filled with sangria, watching dvds, shopping, visiting Te Papa, eating, drinking and being merry!
After stopping for a disgusting buffet lunch, we drove further out to some more tribes to look at their wares. It was cool seeing them in traditional costume and seeing families interact. The most “exciting” part of this was seeing the long neck people (originally from Burma). The females have rings around their necks which stretches their necks, kinda freaky looking! It originally started hundreds of years ago for girls born on Tuesdays to be protected from the tiger attacking them but over the years it was used on all girls and now it’s a sign of beauty. We were wasted when we arrived back to Chiang Mai around 8:30pm that night, but as it was our last night we went out and had a lovely meal and also visited the night markets again (where I got a fantastic $5 haircut … cheap cheap Hayley fun).
Day 2 we left the village at 10ish and hiked for two hours or so to another Karen village where we stopped for lunch, this place had tiny kittens and puppies running around. So cute! Probably caught something off them but oh well, just had to cuddle them! After that we walked another hour or so to a village of small huts near a waterfall. The huts were so cute and fit two people per hut. Our “shower” that afternoon was in the freezing cold water under the waterfalls. The villagers brought out some of their handmade souvenirs as well, unfortunately for them we were a male dominated group but I was the sacrificial lamb and “supported” the tribe by buying purses, bracelets and scarves. Haha shopping in the jungle. That night after dinner we played drinking games, including a lethal game of spoons! Surprisingly the temps dropped pretty low at night so I pretty much wore everything I had packed to keep warm.
Tuesday was the final day and we only needed to hike one and a half hours before getting picked up by a truck and taken to a larger village, where we had lunch at a “proper” restaurant. After lunch we drove a little further and came to an elephant camp where we got to ride an elephant! It was the coolest, craziest thing. Although some of the staff were dodgy and the way the animals were treated was a bit dubious. I had brought a bunch of bananas and the elephant’s trunks were all over me before we were even seated = Hayley covered in slobber! As we rode, our elephant kept lifting up his trunk and blowing air at us until I gave him a banana…so so cute! Unfortunately we didn’t swap our camera with the others so have little pics of us on the elephant.
Next activity was bamboo rafting which really was lots of fun. We had three rafts for our group and each raft was trying to crash into another and splash or push each other off. There were no rapids or anything so it was completely safe and just nice fun. It took about an hour to get back to the guesthouse and once there most of us decided to go out to dinner and have a decent steak as we’d had no meat for three days…no we wouldn’t make good vegetarians!
The staff told us about the nearby tiger kingdom, which was such a bonus as we thought we had missed the boat on the tigers near Bangkok as our itinerary was so full already. Anyway so that afternoon we took a 40min tuktuk ride out to the tigers where we got to see and interact with both 4 month old tigers and 13 month old tigers. This was absolutely amazing to say the least. It cost 300B (£6 or NZ$15) per person for each age group of tiger and you get to stay in each enclosure for about 20 mins. The workers are great and happy to snap your photo and answer questions etc. The 13 month old tigers were fully grown so it was quite scarey being so close to them…but you soon loosened up and next thing we were lying on them pretending to sleep! The only rule was not to touch them near or on their faces and never touch them from the front. We’d heard about tigers in Bangkok being drugged but I really don’t think these guys were, they mostly lazed about in the sun but we also saw one swimming and playing with a ball. As you can imagine we got a CD with 200 odd pics on it – check facebook for some of these!
We were dropped back into town and decided to check out some of the temples where we saw plenty of Buddhist monks. A lovely local lady that we met at one of the temples suggested other places to visit and told us we shouldn’t pay more than 150B for an hour for a tuktuk (and proceeded to arrange one for us, yay). Considering we’d often been paying this amount for a single trip it was a good lesson to learn! The tuktuk took us to a few more amazing old and new temples and wats and then out to some souvenir factories before taking us home.
We took a bus to Koh San Road which is a well-known street where all of the businesses (cafes, bars, clothing stores, beauty parlours) cater to the English speaking backpacker crowd. We quickly found a well-priced hotel and (even though you get told not to) slept from 10am to 2pm before dragging our butts out to explore. We had some lovely Thai food for lunch and then had our first tuk tuk experience, I think they’re kinda fun! The driver took us to a tourist booking shop, we were a bit weary of getting ripped off but the guy who served us was a kiwi and all the licenses and shop certificates seemed to be in order so we went with it. Thankfully it paid off and he was very helpful in giving us ideas and information so we could really nut out what we wanted to do and we left there an hour later with a significantly lighter wallet but with a jam-packed itinerary.
A lot of friends had told us to get out of Bangkok as soon as we could but we actually didn’t mind the place. There was just so much to see and as it was our first Asian country we were in awe of everything. Things like riding down a busy street in a tuk tuk and seeing an elephant on the side of the road are just mind blowing. It was the King’s birthday on 5 December so all the streets were decorated with banners, streamers and photos of the king. There was a real party feel about the place and we wandered through a concert ground watching lovely dressed up dance groups, kick-boxing demo’s, and saw lots of food stalls… including deep-fried insects and dodgy looking meat.