Tag Archives: life

It’s been a while

Butterfly Editions Blog Krabi

Oh, hi there!

Gosh I’ve missed this place.

It’s been 18 months since I’ve written here. Sure, I’ve visited it from time to time, scrolling back through the archives with a sensation of faint familiarity. Sometimes I remember the things we got up to like it was yesterday, other times I wonder if this life we had was all but a dream.

I stopped writing for a few reasons. I was going through some tough stuff last year. I felt disillusioned with social media, with this social obsession of portraying this perfect online version of yourself. I took a step back.

I struggled with comparison and worried that my little piece of the internet looked like a platform just to boast about all these cool things I was doing, when all I wished was for it to be a place of inspiration.

And I felt like I’d failed - here I was set out on this incredible adventure, then suddenly I was home living with my parents - which was lovely, though generally living with your parents at 25 isn't perceived as the epitome of success!

But here we are. December 2016 is upon us (whaaaat!?!), I’ve just turned the ripe old age of 27 (whaaaat!?!) and decided now is the time to stop pondering and overthinking and actually do it. Blow off the dust if you will. Write it out.

I’ve become a consumer rather than a creator and that needs to change. I’m a little out of practice, but I love writing, creating, sharing and connecting - and I’ve really missed how the Butterfly Editions helped provide all of those things for me.

I’m not exactly sure about where we're going with the blog just yet. Let’s not worry too much and just see where we go, aye?

But hey, how about an update? Here’s a few fun things that have been happening.

Travel

On the travel front, I’m grateful that work has taken me a few places in the last year: San Diego, Los Angeles, Melbourne, NSW’s Hunter Valley and Adelaide.

Outside of work-related travel, my mum and I went on our dream girls’ trip to San Fransisco and New York, just last month!

Of course, there's always more adventures on the horizon, and Alan and I have a few ideas up our sleeve about where we'd like to head to next!

Home

However, home is now Nelson, New Zealand - my hometown. I lived away from Nelson for seven years and love living back here. It's small, it's (somewhat) relaxed, and it takes pretty much five minutes to go anywhere or do anything.

Speaking of home….we bought one! We’ve basically put our lives on hold to renovate - Alan’s been proving his worth and we know our way around our local hardware stores like the back of our hands. I’ll be sharing a fair few stories of this whole rewarding, exhausting, challenging, relationship-testing, crazy process on the blog.

Oh look, here we are on the very first evening we collected the keys to our house!

And this is how that same spot somewhat looks now (in progress!). Who knew those amazing wooden floors were lying beneath that circa 1960's orange and brown textured carpet?

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Fitness

If you followed along our adventure through Asia, do you remember how Alan and I trained Muay Thai on Koh Samui? I really wanted to train when we decided to stay in Nelson, but couldn’t find a local club here. However, I’ve been training boxing a couple of times a week for over a year now and love it. Perhaps there’ll be a fight in future….who knows?!

Alan manages an outdoor adventure shop here, so we’ve also been getting into a bit of mountain biking. Nelson is an epic place to live if you love mountain biking! Alan's pretty good and I’m slowly improving…it's a work in progress.

That's probably enough updates to go on with! It's strange, being back here, yet...comforting. I'm so pleased to be back.

A heartfelt thank you to those of you that followed our adventures, which came to an unexpectedly abrupt end early last year. I hope you'll follow along on this new adventure, too.

Christie xx


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Challenges and Changes – What’s Going On?

The Butterfly Editions Cable Bay - 1Oh hey there! How's it going? Good, I hope.

I guess its about time for a little update. If you have still been popping by, you might have noticed that I haven’t been hanging around here lately.

Where on earth am I? What happened? What's going on?

I really didn’t expect to ever have to write a post like this, and to be honest, I’ve been putting it off tremendously. But, I feel like these words simply have to come out before I can carry on.

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When you last heard from me, Alan and I were happily exploring Cambodia - then all of a sudden I seem to have fallen off the blogging radar. I haven’t posted on my blog, have barely looked at my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all those things we seem to think are so important - but that I’ve quickly come to realise at a time like this they are right at the very bottom of my priorities…and actually make me feel worse.

I had to return home for health reasons, requiring an unexpected and fairly major surgery. By the time I arrived home I remember saying that I’d cried so much that I’d literally run out of tears. I think most of the tears are for my travel dream, that now feels like its been shattered into a million pieces just out of my reach.

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I left my spirit in Asia. Thats the best way I’ve been able to describe how I feel right now.

I gave up so much to follow this dream and I guess I just feel cheated. I gave up a stable job, a decent income and my comfortable home to chase this dream I’d had for as long as I can remember - and to have returned this much earlier than planned feels like...failure.

Deep down, I know that I’m very lucky. I could have had long-term health implications. I could have had no “home” to return to. For goodness sake, I travelled through Asia for more than six months - a continent where many will never leave their own village, let alone their country. I’m indescribably privileged to be able to consider travel as an option, not to mention be freely on the move constantly for as long as Alan and I did.

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I’ve taken a long break from my blog. The honest truth? It's been too upsetting for me to reflect on our travels, too difficult to write these words, too many tears escaping every time my mind revisits my incomplete travels.

However, it's time to carry on with what I started. I'm digging deep into my dreams, adapting my plans, moving onwards and upwards. There are plenty of posts to come here on the Butterfly Editions, along with some exciting changes over the next few months.

So, there's the simplified version of the story. For the time being, Alan and I are living in my hometown of Nelson, New Zealand. It hasn’t been an easy few months, and I’m still not quite finished dealing with what happened yet. Fake it till you make it, right? But hey, we all get there in the end, don’t we!

Some life changes look negative and painful on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new and beautiful to emerge.

- Eckhart Tolle

For those of you that continue to follow along with my journey - thank you. I sure hope you stick around for whats to come!

Christie xx



Six Months of Travel: The Numbers

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WOW. Today marks exactly six months since Alan and I packed up our little home in Christchurch, New Zealand, prepared to spend all our savings (eek!), and set off to travel through Asia. In many ways it feels like we have been gone for so long, though in other ways it feels like just yesterday that we left.

As this six month milestone whizzes by, I'm feeling reflective on whats changed in my life over the past half year. It's been an absolute whirlwind - I have learnt a lot about the world, about myself, my values, my hopes and dreams, about the kind of life I want to lead. In many ways I have gained a lot of clarity, but in other ways I'm more confused than ever.

Especially travelling in Asia where many people live on so little, it makes you question a lot about humanity, your morals and what you truly need in order to be happy. I'm not going to get into that today, though - I'll stew that one up and get all deep and meaningful on you another time!

I love a good list (who doesn't?) so I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the past six months of travel with a list of the numbers. Ready? Here we go!

Days on the road: 182  (exactly 26 weeks!)

Countries visited: 7

Beds slept in: 41

Flights: 8

Inter-city busses: 30. Including 2 overnight busses, we've managed to avoid more than that!

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Waiting at the bus station in Pangandaran for our bus to Jakarta

Local busses: too many to count!

Cheating taxi drivers: 1 (though let's be honest, probably more that we didn't realise!)

Scooters hired: 10

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Exploring Kep, Cambodia

Inter-city trains: 4

Metro/subway/MRT rides: dozens!

Boat trips: 18

Arguments between Alan and I: 1,000+

Dentists visited: 1 (Alan)

Bouts of food poisoning: just 1 so far! (me)

Crickets consumed: 2 for me and 4 for Alan...yep, I'm talking about the insects!

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Yes, there's a cricket in my mouth. Mildly terrifying.

Theme parks visited: 2 - Universal Studios in Singapore and Vinpearl Island in Vietnam.

Jandals (flip-flops) replaced: 1 pair each.

Mango smoothies consumed: A fair estimate would be 100 each...

Dollars spent: Let's just say my savings are looking a little dry...take a look at my country budget breakdowns if you want to do the maths for yourself.

Tears cried: Enough. Most notably during week 1 of Muay Thai training in Thailand, and when I realised that I completely sucked at surfing that day in Pangandaran, Indonesia.

Panic/stress meltdowns: Christie - approximately 1,000. Alan - zero (how is he so damn chilled out?).

Where we stayed the longest time: Koh Samui, Thailand, where we trained Muay Thai for one month.

Where we stayed the shortest time: Probolinggo, Indonesia, where we arrived at 3am in the morning to experience the Mount Bromo sunrise and left later that afternoon.

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Incredible views from Mount Bromo

Three Highlights:

1. Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam. And zooming down waterslides on Vinpearl Island in Vietnam. And slow mornings in Hoi An, Vietnam. Let's just say Vietnam in general, okay? I love Vietnam.

2. Attending my friends' wedding in Huangshi, China.

3. Learning the art of Muay Thai on Koh Samui, Thailand.

But also because three is far too few: Splurging at Universal Studios Singapore. Playing with puppies in Ubud, Bali. Relaxing in waterfalls on Langkawi, Malaysia. And SO many more!

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Vinpearl Waterpark in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Best. Day. Ever.

Three Lowlights

1. Packing. I swear it gets worse and worse every single time.

2. Being tricked into eating dried rat (yep, rat) in Da Lat, Vietnam, only to be told afterwards what it actually was! Though admittedly, until I was told it was rat I was nodding and thinking this wouldn't be too bad mixed in with a bit of rice...

3. The biggest lowlight of them all? Realising that this can't last forever.


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Five Travel Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

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We all make mistakes, and when you're on the road it is easy to make a lot - I know I sure have! But as the saying goes, we learn from our mistakes, so in this post I am going to share with you five travel lessons I have learned the hard way.

Travel Lesson 1// Pack a (mostly) neutral wardrobe

The mistake: I made some questionable decisions when I packed my luggage, and brought with me so many different colours and prints. I have too many tops and bottoms that just cannot be worn together! Not such a problem when all of my clothes are freshly laundered, but definitely a big problem when I'm down to the animal print shorts and green patterned singlet that, when worn together, look like I've been dressed by a five-year-old.

Lesson learned: Select your clothes in a careful and planned way, sticking with neutral colours and adding in just a couple of key pieces with colours and patterns. Colourful scarves are a great way to add some life to an otherwise plain outfit.

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Scarves are a great way to add a pop of colour to an outfit

Travel Lesson 2// Don't pack clothes that must be hand-washed

The mistake: Also on the subject of clothing, I packed too many items that require hand-washing. Laundry across Asia is so cheap (and comes back smelling so good!) that it is usually a waste of time and energy to hand-wash clothes. I packed a couple of pairs of brightly coloured underwear that bleed dye every time they are washed, so I can't get them laundered with my other clothes or they will all come back with a pink tinge. It is such a pain, I don't know why I don't just get rid of them already! I also had a dress that was made of delicate fabric that I sent off to be washed and it came back all stretched and unwearable.

Lesson learned: Don't pack clothes that bleed colour, be sure to wash everything at home before you leave to double-check. Likewise, go for durable fabrics over delicate, pretty ones.

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RIP, pretty dress

Travel Lesson 3// Book in advance during peak seasons and public holidays

The mistake: I like to be flexible with our plans so usually we end up booking just a day or two in advance of moving to our next destination. This is fine when travelling during off-peak seasons, in fact you can often not book at all and simply take your pick of accommodation once you arrive. But peak season, along with holidays like Chinese New Year can affect your travel in many countries across Asia. We tried to book a guesthouse in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, a few nights ago and Agoda had ZERO rooms left out of more than 100 hotels. Luckily we managed to reserve one of the last rooms on another booking engine, but then we struggled to book a bus - they were also just about completely booked!

Lesson learned: During peak seasons and public holidays try to plan ahead as best as you can. If you want to be organised but still retain flexibility, try booking a room with free cancellation. Or better yet, travel during off-peak season! I much prefer travelling outside of peak seasons where room prices tend to be cheaper and you're not sharing the sights with hundreds of other people.

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When its busy, try to book in advance

Travel Lesson 4// Screenshot some maps on your phone before you arrive

The mistake: Especially when you're arriving by bus into a new city, you often have absolutely no idea where you are when you are dropped off. In Asia, you will quickly be approached by clever taxi/tuk-tuk drivers eager to take you to your accommodation. When I was in Vietnam a couple of years ago I made the mistake of arriving somewhere new and hopping in the first taxi I saw to take me to my guesthouse. 20 minutes and about $20 later, I arrived there. The mistake was only realised when I walked around the corner later that day and discovered that was exactly where the bus has dropped us off - that cunning taxi driver had taken me on a very expensive joyride!

Lesson learned: By mapping your accommodation and taking some screenshots, along with some zoomed out screenshots that show the layout of the city and a few key street names, you will be more easily able to locate yourself on your arrival. Then you can decide to walk if your accommodation is nearby, or you can barter a fair price with the taxi driver because you have an idea of the distance.

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Rickshaws in Melaka, Malaysia

Travel Lesson 5// You don't have to see everything

The mistake: I am the type of person that feels like I have to see and do everything, everywhere I go. I would plan our days so that we could fit in as much as possible, and I'd feel guilty if we spent a whole morning (let alone a whole day!) doing, well, nothing. But by the time we reached Chiang Mai I was feeling run down and over it - I had lost my travel mojo. Being too 'on-the-go' for too long had taken its toll.

Lesson learned: Although travelling is amazing and fun, it can also be very exhausting, especially when you are on the road for months at a time. Just like you sometimes blob out on the couch at home, it is important to have downtime while travelling too. Don't feel guilty for taking a whole day off, for watching hours of TV, or for missing a couple of the sights. As long as you enjoyed your time there, that is 100% the most important thing!

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It's okay to take a nap during the day

Have you also made some silly mistakes while travelling, that you have later learned from? Please share in the comments below!


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Sensational Si Satchanalai

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If I thought Sukhothai was ‘off the beaten track’, then Si Satchanalai took that ten steps further.

Dubbed by the Lonely Planet as a ‘suburb’ of the Sukhothai empire, Si Satchanalai is another incredible historical park housing even more incredible ruins from the 13th century Kingdom of Siam. Meaning “The City of Good People” it was built after the city of Sukhothai and became the major second town of the Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries.

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Although I really enjoyed Sukhothai Historical Park, I loved Si Satchanalai even more, as it is a lot more rustic in its appearance and hasn’t been restored or set up for tourism quite so much as Sukhothai. According to some reports thousands of tourists visit each year, though I found that hard to believe as there was just a handful of others there the day we visited. We barely saw another soul the entire time, how wonderful!

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We caught a tuk-tuk from our hotel to the Sukhothai New City Bus Station and purchased our bus tickets for 50 baht (NZ$2) each. Si Satchanalai is about 55 kilometres away and takes about an hour, simply let the driver or bus conductor know you're headed for the Historical Park and they’ll let you know when to jump off.

On unloading from the bus, we were quickly greeted by a friendly man offering full-day bicycle rental at 40 baht (NZ$1.65). We gladly rented off him, as the only other place we saw to rent bikes was right in by the park entrance 3 kilometres away - better to cycle than walk, I say!

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We cycled through the modest archway, crossed the, uh - rickety - suspension bridge and first came across Wat Phra Si Ratanamahathat, an ancient Khmer style masterpiece complete with happy temple dog. This guy looked healthy and happy - like he ran the place! - but for many temple dogs this is not the case.

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Three kilometres further down the road and you’ll reach the entrance to the main part of the park. See why I was glad we had already rented some bicycles?

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After paying our entry fee of 100 baht (NZ$4), we spent the best part of a day cycling around Si Satchanalai and taking in the peaceful, rustic atmosphere. It was very humbling to have the opportunity to explore and absorb he enormity of these 13th century, crumbling temples almost in total solitude.

Consisting of more than forty ruins within and outside the city walls of Si Satchanalai, there is plenty to discover and occupy yourself for hours.

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The only thing we wished for was more information. We visited without much prior knowledge, and although each ruin is signposted with its name and a short description of its known history, sometimes we longed for a little more detail to help those of us with poor imaginations build a better picture of what this thriving city would have been like all those 700+ years ago.

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Careful not to miss the last bus back to Sukhothai, by mid-afternoon we made our way back to the simple roadside bus stop. As we demolished well-earnt ice creams and awaited the bus, we were reminded that - at least for the day - we had escaped Thailand's well-beaten track. Not another tourist to be seen, locals going about their daily lives without an interest in us, motorbikes sharing the road with tractors, cars, trucks, busses, and chickens. Yep, chickens.

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With little of a plan ahead of us, the next morning we once again packed our bags and departed Sukhothai in the direction of nearby Phitsanulok in search of some more off the beaten track activities.

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Phitsanulok was a strange place for us. Generally a town only frequented by tourists for transit, we thought it would make a good base for some exploration into the nearby National Parks. Unfortunately, this time it didn't work out for us. We had a hard time finding information - the first two tourist information offices we were directed to in the city were abandoned, and when we finally came across the actual tourist office at 5pm it had already closed for the day.

With the next day being Christmas Eve - and not wanting to be completely off the grid for Santa to visit essential Christmas Day Skype sessions - we decided to give up on the idea of untouched nature this time around and instead do the polar opposite by heading to bustling Bangkok in time for Christmas.

So while we didn't end up doing much in Phitsanulok, other than spending hours trying to find information to no avail - oh and there was that shifty riverside bar we ended up having an awkward drink at - it was still rather fascinating to have a night in a truly un-touristed, provincial Thai town.

Not to mention - I would go back to Phitsanulok in a heartbeat if only for the hotel we stayed in. For just 545 baht (NZ$22.50), Hip Inn Coffee was a steal. Quirky, modern and with a funky design - and by that I mean the gaping window between the bedroom and the toilet means you're going to want to know that person very well before you share a room with them!

Seriously though, Hip Inn Coffee was a very cool hotel and the puppy complete in Santa outfit was the cherry on top. Cue puppy photo overload...

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Do it yourself

It is possible to do an organised day trip to Si Satchanalai from Sukhothai, if you’re staying in the new city I’d recommend booking this through your hotel, as we found tour offices and tourist information centres very hard to come by! We came across the best information at the information centre about two doors down from EZ House Hotel, which has many english brochures, despite the minimal english spoken by the staff - but I can’t complain because my Thai skills are a lot worse! However, if you’re game for public busses it is very easy to take yourself on your very own do-it-yourself day trip.

Stay tuned for the last instalment of our Thai adventures, when we head to Bangkok! Have you visited Si Satchanalai? Do you like getting off the tourist trail?


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Surprised by Sukhothai

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Sukhothai wasn’t really originally on our Thailand “plan” - and I say that in inverted commas because we didn’t really have much of a plan at all. So when my brother took a rather impromptu trip to India with a week in Bangkok on his way home, we immediately began to scratch together a plan to meet somewhere in Thailand. Considering Alan and I were in Northern Thailand and my brother would be flying into Bangkok, what better place that bang smack in the middle: Sukhothai. Yeah, that would do the trick.

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To be honest, I didn’t know much about Sukhothai other than it was the name of one of the Thai restaurants we frequented in my home town when I was growing up. I may be very partial to Pai and Koh Samui, but Sukhothai quickly joined their ranks and became one of my favourite places in Thailand to date.

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Sukhothai is a city in two pieces: the New City, which is the modern city, and the Old City, which houses the ruins of the ancient Thai capital and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located 12 kilometres apart, you can stay in either the old or the new area, though we were pleased with our decision to stay in the new city where we were surrounded by locals, a pleasingly minimal tourist scene, and simply travelled by bus - or rather, a large songthaew - to the old city for a day of exploring.

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Translated as "Dawn of Happiness", Sukhothai was the political and administrative hub of the Kingdom of Siam back in the 13th and 15th centuries (1238-1438 to be exact). The city had an enormous influence on the culture and art of what we now know as Thailand, and created what is referred to as "Sukhothai style" in terms of the design of its Buddha images. In the 1400's, Sukhothai was seen to its demise as it was conquered by Ayutthaya, another historical region of interesting ruins that can be explored by day trip from Bangkok.  If you are interested in a detailed history of Sukhothai, you can read all about it on the UNESCO World Heritage Site here.

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One of the best things about Sukhothai is that no-one seems to know about it! It is touristy enough that it is straightforward to find a meal, a great value guesthouse (we loved EZ House in the new city) and general amenities, however it definitely lacked the crowds of tourists and touts that can be a problem in so many other parts of Thailand. Sukhothai was so peaceful and felt almost empty, at least when we were there.

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We arrived late at night after an exhausting series of busses from Pai via Chiang Mai - we departed Pai at 8am and arrived in Sukhothai at 9pm (travel isn’t always fun!) - and my brother arrived on a similarly tiresome journey from Bangkok shortly after. Following a quick meal at a restaurant called - are you ready for it - Poo Restaurant (please tell me I'm not the only one to giggle...), we tucked up for the night, ready for some exploring of the Sukhothai ruins the next day.

The next morning after adequate coffee and breakfast consumption we boarded a bus bound for the Old City (20 baht) where we were quick to hire some rather old-school bicycles that would become our mode of transport for the day (30 baht for a full day). We paid our entrance fee for the largest, central area (100 baht for foreigners plus an extra 10 baht for the bicycle), cycled through the gates into Sukhothai Historical Park and were free to roam and marvel at the ruins.

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Marvel we did. Sukhothai is truly spectacular!

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Consisting of various temples and ruins of which many are 800+ years old, the park is very well-maintained, if not overly restored in some parts. Regardless, the peaceful ambience you would expect from such a place was retained and we barely saw more than a few tourists at each sight. Some areas that we visited we were the only people there which was truly a breath of fresh air!

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I love this photo - even monks can take ages to capture the perfect shot!

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Before we knew it, we were beginning to run low on energy and needed some sustenance for lunch. We circled back around to the corner of the park dedicated to restaurants and souvenir shops, and quickly demolished a very average plate of pad thai, saved only by the fact that it was very reasonably priced compared to what you would usually pay in a tourist area.

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As we ambled back to our bicycles ready to continue our day of exploring, we were stopped by a group of university students undertaking an English project where they wanted to ask us some questions. Naturally we were very hesitant (scam alert!) but over the course of a few minutes we became certain that this was in fact the truth and happily volunteered to be interviewed. Some of their English was really good, others you really had to listen hard to pick out keywords - but we managed with smiles all round. Usually we would avoid this kind of activity if approached in tourist areas (and always keep a close hand on your possessions!), but that was one of the beauties of Sukhothai for us - we felt like this was a safe and real environment, and it was!

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Post-interviews, more cycling ensued. We continued to explore within the walls, before venturing out back onto the road and spotting a few more ruins dotted around.

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You can pay extra to visit the North and West areas of Sukhothai Historical park, which I’m certain are just as impressive, but we all agreed that for us it was more about the atmosphere and feeling of the place than ticking off each specific temple. We cycled as much as we could without having to pay an additional fee, before circling back and calling it a day - and a surprisingly magnificent one at that.

Little did we know, the next day we would be marvelling even more at the ruins of outlying Si Satchanalai…stay tuned!


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Eight things you MUST do in Pai, Thailand

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We survived the 762 corners from Chiang Mai to Pai, though it didn’t come easily. Earbuds in, music on and managing to get yourself into a sort of trance-like state helped ease the corners and block the chucking-up happening in the row ahead from your senses as best you could.

I’m so glad I was finding my travel mojo again because Pai was truly something special. A quirky town in Northern Thailand, Pai is known for its hippie-centric and laid back vibe.

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We stayed in a modest hut at the chilled out and cheap KK Hut Guesthouse about 10 minutes walk from the town, right across a dirt road from the Circus School! Just the basics - a simple concrete bathroom (complete with resident frog), mattress on the floor, mosquito net and a fan we didn't even need to use. No need for air-conditioning in Pai - its fresh in the mornings, warm during the day and cool at night.

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Before we get started on your schedule of activities in Pai, first things first. In Pai, a scooter is essential. There is little to see in the town itself and, beyond generally chilling out, the whole reason for going to Pai is to get out into nature and explore the countryside! Your accommodation will be able to provide you with a map, so its hard to get lost.

Be careful if this is your first time on a scooter, as the roads are not always forgiving and in just our three days there saw a handful of people have minor accidents. That said, all the scooters up for rent in Pai are so beaten up that they will probably never know if you add a few more scrapes to the paint job…but still, take care!

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Okay, so you have your scooter, map in hand - now what? Here’s what I recommend you get up to in Pai!

1. The Land Split

Hands down my favourite attraction in Pai. To understand this place, you need to know the story behind it. Essentially, this used to be farming land when one day back in 2008, without warning a giant crack appeared in the land, essentially destroying its use for farming crops and the hope of future income. The entrepreneurial farmer then decided if he couldn’t continue to farm on his land, he would turn the giant crack into a tourist attraction.

We took a look at the split - and yeah, basically its just what you expect, a crack through some land, fairly impressive though not overly exciting. However, the crack is not what makes this place great!

What makes the Land Split the most wonderful place is that when you arrive there you are greeted with genuine smiles and ushered to a relaxed little seating area, where you are quickly served copious amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables grown right on this very land. They also grow roselle flowers (a type of Hibiscus) and you’ll be served a sweet roselle juice, followed by a small bottle of roselle wine!

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There is no entry fee, you simply donate what you like before you leave - they trust you will pay what you feel it is worth. After paying our gratitude to the friendly staff, we were sent on our way with a bag full of fresh passionfruit that we devoured over the next few days!

Nearby is the Pam Bok waterfall which is pretty, and worth a look while you’re in the vicinity. Some were brave enough to enter the freezing water, dipping my toes in was enough for me!

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2. Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon was ten times more awesome than I was expecting it to be, and had we not had just a couple of days to cram everything we wanted to do in, I would have loved to spend much longer wandering around.

There are some rather narrow ridges where you don’t really want to look down the 20+ metre drop either side of you as you cross - its not for the faint of heart! I’d recommend wearing some sturdy shoes for this one.

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3. Chinese Village (Ban Santichon) Viewpoint

Perhaps equally my favourite activity in Pai…I loved this one too. Drive through the Chinese Village and head right up to the top of the hill.

On arrival you pay a mere 20 baht and are served a gorgeous pot of chinese tea to sip as you enjoy the beautiful vista. Naturally, we bought a 10 baht mantou to nibble on with our tea, basically a donut served with condensed milk for dipping - yum! The perfect stop for morning tea with a sweeping view. So peaceful.

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4. Love Pai Strawberry Cafe

The strawberry cafe is extremely popular, so its not a place you visit for peace - BUT - it is super delicious, so go! They offer strawberry everything at this cafe, and its a place you can wander around for a while sampling goodies and exploring the gardens, then cool back down with a refreshing strawberry smoothie.

Fresh strawberries are few and far between in Southeast Asia, most areas are too hot to grow them other than highland regions - which is where you will find them in abundance (remember we ate tonnes of strawberries in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands?). So make the most of them while they are available!

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5. Wat Phra That Mae Yen (Temple on the Hill)

Get your cultural fix by visiting the Temple on the Hill and the Big Buddha (still in construction!) that resides at the summit. Peaceful, picturesque and colourful, this is the perfect temple complex to stroll around for an hour or two and recharge your spirit.

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6. WWII Memorial Bridge

Originally built by the Japanese as part of the route from Burma through Thailand during World War II. There has since been a new bridge for traffic built directly parallel, however you can still park up your motorbike and take five minutes to walk across this steel bridge - which isn't particularly pretty but offers lovely views over the river along with some historical value.

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7. Walking Street at night

Back in Pai town itself, every evening the main road fills up with food vendors and artists selling their wares. Unlike so many of the mass produced souvenirs you find in tourist markets across Southeast Asia, as a community full of artists Pai offers a unique approach to keepsakes - many are handmade and sold by the very maker themselves at the night market. Its a great place to pick up a few treasures and gifts that are true handicrafts and represent Pai's quirky nature.

8. Eat Cake at The Witching Well

Initially I was only going to write seven must-dos in Pai - but then I looked back at my photos and was reminded of the most lip-smacking carrot cake I ate at The Witching Well on our final night in Pai. The food was tasty - I ordered a brown rice, cauliflower and chickpea dish, balanced out with a splurge on a glass of red wine, but the star of the show was definitely the cake. So good! And by that I mean just like a carrot cake you would buy from a cafe back home. THAT good.

I thought about buying another piece to eat the next morning, but reconsidered after I realised we had to lurch the 762 corners back to Chiang Mai - perhaps that mightn't be the best combo.

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These eight activities, amongst a fair amount of driving around, getting a little lost, and stopping for many a photo, is how we spent our two days and three nights in Pai. Enough time for me to realise I love Pai, but not nearly enough to honour that love. Yet another place I simply have to go back to! That's the problem with travel - its all just a delicate balance between going back to places you love, and falling in love with new ones.

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However, time was ticking - we had a chain of bus trips ahead of us to reach Sukhothai where I'd be reunited with my brother for a dose of temple exploring!

Do it yourself

A shuttle between Chiang Mai and Pai costs 150 baht one-way. The journey takes about three hours with a 15 minute stop around the halfway point. If you get easily queasy, try and get the front seat in the shuttle bus if you can - it helps!

Have you visited Pai? Does it sound like the kind of place you would enjoy?


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How I Lost and Found My Travel Mojo in Chiang Mai

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In the name of being honest and open, and not over-glamourising this adventure of ours, I'm going to tell you exactly how I lost my travel mojo - and then found it again -  in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Alan and I had entered our fourth month on the road and I had begun to grow weary.

I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me! After all, I am living my dream of travelling the world and on the whole couldn’t really be happier than I am right now. But travel burnout can be ruthless, it hits you in a way that makes you want to hibernate in your dark room, consoling your tired mind with a pointless spiral of youtube videos and endless Facebook feeds, rather than explore your exotic new surroundings.

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Despite aiming to stay 5+ nights in most places we visit, sometimes it is still exceptionally tiring to be packing, moving, planning, travelling and generally living without a home base. Sadness from departing our perfect little lifestyle on Koh Samui, sickness on Koh Tao, and a now very indefinite amount of time ahead until we temporarily ‘settle’ somewhere again had all added up to me feeling a bit uneasy and blue.

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Combined with my stress-inducing personality of we-must-be-busy-all-the-time, I was mildly exhausted. I was tired of sightseeing on a daily basis. Don’t hate me - but there are only so many temples you can admire, history you can absorb and local specialty foods you must try until you need a break.

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After a night’s stop over in Surat Thani back on the Thai mainland (see the very end of this post for details!), we flew the next day to Chiang Mai. Arriving in the afternoon, we were quick to hop on the back of a songthaew and make our way to the cheerful Buddy’s Guesthouse. I spent most of the evening stalking Buddy the pug (yep, the guesthouse is named after him!) until he eventually gave in and let me shower him with snuggly pug cuddles.

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We already knew that the next day we were not going to have time to see or do anything in Chiang Mai. It took a gruelling nine hours straight to nail our upcoming three weeks in China down to a tee, as whilst in Chiang Mai we had to apply for our China visas which are notoriously specific about your travel plans. A tasty plate of mango and sticky rice gave me the energy to power through the planning, and before we knew it we were up with the sun the following morning to queue outside the Chinese Consulate with our visa applications. Forms filled out, passports handed over and a gazillion pages of flight, accommodation and train booking confirmations later, it was now just a waiting game.

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On applying, the visas were to take four working days to process, excluding the weekend in the middle. We had a whole week ahead of us in Chiang Mai, passport-less and feeling unenthused. The worst thing about not having a passport in Chiang Mai is that as far as I am aware, you need it as a deposit for hiring a scooter - so we were on our own two feet for the entire time - which probably did us some good physically, but didn't give us the sense of freedom we love about hiring a scooter, and meant we didn't escape the city for any of its outer sights during our stay.

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Turns out, all I needed to get my travel mojo back was a break from my own exceedingly overboard need to do and see everything.  Before we arrived in Chiang Mai I had a list a mile long of what we would be doing while we were there. But when we arrived, and after some serious convincing from both myself and Alan, I threw any plans out the window and chose to listen to my instincts.

My body was telling me to just chill out and go with the flow. Nope, there wouldn't be any overnight trekking, no temple-hopping just to tick them off the list (we did visit a handful but in a very relaxed, unplanned sort of way), and no schedule. Each day would come and go exactly as we felt. Activities would happen if we felt like it and not if we didn't feel like it.

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Basically, I did my very best to ignore the voice in my head telling me what I 'should' be doing, and instead did what I felt like doing.

Of course, I always feel like eating, so ate tonnes of non-thai food and enjoyed every bite. Lasagne! McFlurries! Bagels! Vegemite sandwiches! Ice Cream Sundaes! Porridge! Mexican!

Margaritas were essential at Miguel's Cafe

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Proper English tucker at The Cafe Soi 1

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Delicious bagels at The Hideout (run by an Aussie guy who also offers vegemite and cheese sammies!)

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Swensen's because...ice cream.

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Lemon soft-serve at Lemon Hub - refreshing!

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Tanita Coffee House, where you can relax the entire afternoon away

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The sights of Chiang Mai just 'happened' upon us as we wandered around, rather than being planned - which is kind of magic. A holiday from our holiday, if you will.

When we weren't chilling in our room enjoying doing absolutely nothing or devouring all of the food ever, here's what we got up to.

Wat Chedi Luang

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I found a swing!

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Wat Phra Singh

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Three Kings Monument

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The Night Bazaar, Saturday Market and Sunday Market

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Walking a loop of the city's moat

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People-watching at Suan Buak Hat

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Travelling long-term is different to being a tourist. This is among the lessons I am learning and slowly coming to terms with along the way. I don't have to see and do everything, everywhere. Downtime is perfectly acceptable. There is more to travel than sightseeing. Simply being in a place, eating up its food, soaking in its culture, wandering its streets, sipping a coffee whilst watching the world go by - each are perfectly valuable activities to experience a destination beyond its sights.

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Though I didn't visit all the 'must-sees' in Chiang Mai, I felt a lot more relaxed and in the swing of things when I left than I did when I arrived, and surely thats a good thing - right? Just in time too, because it was time to collect our passports, board yet another bus and conquer the 762 corners to our next destination: the quirky highlands town of Pai!

Have you ever lost your travel mojo? How did you get over it?

I haven't written a post on Surat Thani as we didn't have time to see or do anything there, but I simply must mention the hotel we stayed in as it was truly fantastic and I would recommend it to everyone! For a mere NZD$23 per night, we stayed in what felt like luxury at My Place @ Surat Hotel. They had a welcome sign with our names in the reception area, a personalised welcome message in the room with a fresh flower and on departure the following day gave us a handwritten postcard when we left thanking us for staying there. Five-star service - not to mention impeccably clean, nicely decorated and spacious rooms. The room was nicer than our hotel in Singapore that we paid more than triple per night for. A must-stay, for sure!


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I Need to Go Back to Koh Tao

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I was really, really excited to visit Koh Tao. I know a few people who have visited and I'd read a huge number of travel blogs raving about this perfect little island. We didn't have much time to spare before we headed up north but we had set aside three nights to relax and explore what I was sure would be paradise!

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See ya, Samui

Everything was perfect when we arrived and other than being a little sad about leaving our adoptive-home of Koh Samui, we were in good spirits about having a new island to explore right at our fingertips. By mid-afternoon, just a couple of hours after catching the boat from Samui, we had already hired a rather jazzy off-road scooter, navigated a very steep and unforgiving hill on a gravel road and checked into our gorgeous accommodation (Lungpae Resort) at the top of said hill, with a breathtaking panoramic vista.

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Things continued to go well as we hopped back onto the scooter, manoeuvred our way back down the hair-raising hill and ventured out for dinner that night. After a close call with a snake quietly slithering across the road, we found a quiet little beach and relaxed back into cushions, blissfully overlooking the sea as we contemplated what to order to eat.

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And that's when I made my fatal error. Let's just say I won't be ordering tofu noodle soup again any time soon!

I spent the entire next day feeling sorry for myself in bed, not out beach-hopping and exploring Koh Tao in our off-road scooter like I had anticipated. Probably fed up with my whining, Alan set out on his own adventure and kindly bought me back some gatorade, along with the photos like this to show me exactly what I was missing out on. So generous.

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Thankfully I had Kitty-kat to keep me company, the cat which seemed to be as much a part of our room as the curtains - he certainly seemed to think it was his domain. What a cutie.

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Still not feeling well enough to bump all the way back down that hill in the evening, we decided to simply wander up the few steps to the restaurant at our accommodation. Luckily, the restaurant is actually very popular in Koh Tao for its steak (which comes highly recommended by the Queen of Koh Tao herself, Alex in Wonderland!), so Alan indulged in the melt-in-your-mouth E4 steak which he still raves about to this day...while I wasn't even able to finish my sandwich. Damn that tofu soup!

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The next day I actually woke up feeling considerably better so we ventured to Tanote Bay, a beautiful, peaceful beach that Alan had come across on his solo escapades the day earlier. We hired snorkels from our resort and had a wonderful few hours relaxing on the beach and snorkelling around the rock which had zillions of colourful fish!

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By the evening I determined that I was on the road to recovery, hunger had finally set in, and that I could really demolish some pasta (if you've been reading a while you'll know how much I like pasta!). Referring to Alex in Wanderland's Where to Eat on Koh Tao we hightailed it directly to Porto Bello in Sairee for a hearty dose of Italian food. A few pesto doughboys and a bowl of spaghetti later, I was feeling like myself again.

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Unfortunately, the next day came far too quickly and before we knew it we were back on the ferry, headed towards the mainland for the next part of our Thai odyssey: the north!

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Food poisoning sucks. I knew it was bound to happen at some point on this indefinite Asia adventure of ours, but I really hadn't anticipated it happening in perhaps the place I was MOST looking forward to of all, and had very few days in anyway.

I simply have to go back to the paradise of Koh Tao and give it another shot - even if just to order an E4 steak for myself!

Have you ever had sickness ruin a holiday? Tell me I'm not the only one!


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Muay Thai Training in Thailand: Helpful and Inspiring Links for Beginners

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This post is for the Muay Thai beginners and newbies that are interested in embarking on your own journey of Muay Thai training in Thailand. In my quest for information myself, I discovered some excellent resources that I recommend you read before you go.

Before I went to Superpro Samui to spend a month Muay Thai training in Thailand, I knew absolutely NOTHING about Muay Thai. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

I'd never watched a Muay Thai fight in my life. I didn't know that Muay Thai is nicknamed the sport of eight limbs (fists, elbows, knees and kicking). I didn't know how freaking tough it would be to do two hours of training in a day, let alone the days where we committed to four hours training. I didn't know how much I would learn so quickly. I didn't really think about it as learning a new skill, I thought of it more as a fitness bootcamp. I didn't know I'd even enjoy Muay Thai, let alone find it interesting to watch and read about!

After my first class and realising I was way out of my comfort zone, it quickly became my mission to learn as much as possible about this intriguing form of martial art as I could. I found SO much inspiring and helpful information, that I am happily sharing in this post to inspire and help you!

You can read all my posts about Muay Thai training in Thailand at the following links:


Miss Roxy Balboa

Miss Roxy Balboa, a former Pro Muay Thai Fighter come Muay Thai Coach, has so many helpful posts focussed towards beginners to the sport. Some of my favourites are...

20 Tips for Muay Thai Newbies - a must read!

I Just Started Muay Thai & My (Blank) Hurts. Is This Normal? - talks about all different kinds of injuries/pain/bruising etc you may experience (I sure did!) and what to do about it.

Muay Thai Sparring: It's okay not to want to get punched in the face - because I don't want to get punched in the face, please.


Under The Ropes

Emma is an English fighter working in Bangkok and training out of Master Toddy's Gym. She writes lots of interesting articles on her blog and I also follow her Facebook page. My favourite posts are as follows, but you can easily get lost in her blog for hours!

Muay Thai Documentaries and TV Shows - The Directory - since coming across this directory I've watched heaps of these, its worth bookmarking!

Three Years of Living and Training at Master Toddy's - will your story be similar to Emma's?

Does Fighting Change You?

Emma also has a directory of Female Muay Thai Blogs and Websites that may have some further helpful information, insights and resources for you!


Milk Blitz Street Bomb

A team of contributors write this blog, each chronicling their own journeys and insights into the world of Muay Thai training in Thailand.

Guidelines for Training in Thailand's Muay Thai Gyms - extensive advice to not only help you manage physically, but also adapt to ensure you are being culturally sensitive during your training.

Interested in Training Muay Thai in Thailand? Some Things to Consider Before You Go, followed by part 2: What Can You Really Handle? - A must read series before you go, with all the right questions to ask yourself. Ensure you know why you are going, what you want to get out of your Muay Thai experience, and that you are going to the right place.


8 Limbs

An American fighter in Thailand, on her blog Sylvie chronicles her journey to 100 fights in Thailand (a goal to which she is currently very close!). In addition to fight recaps, Sylvie covers a range of Muay Thai topics that are very interesting to read.

How Do You Know When You're Ready To Fight? - I'm not personally interested in being a fighter, but for those of you that are? Read this.

15 New Techniques That Will Improve Your Muay Thai - a post with tonnes of videos Sylvie has made that are worth a watch, you'll certainly learn a thing or two!

The Myth of Overtraining - Endurance, Physical and Mental for Muay Thai - There's no doubt that Muay Thai is intense training (let along Sylvia's training schedule, which is super full on!). This post covers a lot of information that will inspire you to push yourself through the pain.

I hope this post helps you with some inspiration and information to kick-start your Muay Thai training in Thailand. Let me know in the comments if you have any further helpful links to add!


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