Good Morning Vietnam

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Latimer: What else could I call a blog post about Vietnam? It’s a phrase I overused so very much while in Vietnam. I said it basically every morning, and if I forgot, I’d say it mid-way through the day.

This post is a continuation of my trip around South East Asia, as it’s getting to the end of summer now; I find myself reminiscing more and more about my adventures in the past. They were so good; they make me consider what the next adventure will be!

But well, back to my South East Asian adventures! I had made it through Thailand and Laos, with lots of fond memories and exciting adventures, onward to Vietnam, a place that I was expecting to love, though I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting to love about it…

I was right about the loving part; it’s a gorgeous, bustling fun place, full of amazing places to see and history to learn about, all inter-spaced with yummy food, cool art and random livestock on bikes (the motorbike is everything in Vietnam!)

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Beer corner, Hanoi where local people sell beer and we all watch the crazy traffic go by, as we sit on the street and drink. Yup. I randomly met up with some of my China-travel buddies here too, so the world is a very small place guys!

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Bun Cha, Vietnamese delicacy, Hanoi

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Crash site of Senator John McCain’s plane, shot down by the Viet Con during the Vietnam war (it is still there in Hanoi where it fell)

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They are super happy about having shot down this plane, so it’s very well sign posted – I think it’s because Senator John McCain is a Senator now

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This is the Hilton Prison, Hanoi. Hilton was a nickname placed on the prison, by the prisoners, who were American POWs

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Motorbikes on the streets of Hanoi

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More yummy Vietnamese food!

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Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) propaganda artwork for sale in Hanoi

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Artwork, Hanoi

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Chinese monument in Hanoi – there is a heavy Chinese influence in Vietnam, as the country was part of/occupied by the Chinese during it’s history (Vietnam feels like it has more Chinese influence than, Laos, Thailand or Cambodia)

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Halong Bay

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Sunset, kite-flying off the back of our boat in Halong Bay

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Yes, that is a cow on the back of a motorbike… yeah

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Food wraps and kawaii fingers, Hue

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Vietnamese dragon and my Chinese Travelling Buddha, in the Vietnamese ‘forbidden city’, Hue

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Just on the road in Vietnam, amazing

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Blurry Buddha and me in an old American war bunker, on the road

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The Mighty Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City (kinda)

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Fresh coconuts on the Mekong Delta

Travelling Buddha gets around, here he's at the Chu-Chi Tunnels

Travelling Buddha gets around, here he’s at the Cu-Chi Tunnels

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Tofu, noodles and veggies, yum!

I saw a lot of amazing places, but my favourite had to be the laid-back beautiful Hoi An, I could have spent a long time there, it was a small, but very lovely town?

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Beautiful wedding couple. As in Chinese tradition, red is the colour for the bride in Vietnam, not white

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Laid back streets of Hoi An

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Hoi An streets

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A bridge across the river, Hoi An

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Lanterns, beautiful Vietnamese lanterns

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Sunsets on its way over Hoi An!

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A cool eatery Hoi Ah, though it looks very Spanish or something!

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Super fresh noodles and yummy avocado smoothie (delicious!), Hoi An

Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Hoi An has a lovely river running through it. I went on a boat ride during the sunset and cast some lanterns out on the water, sending my wishes with it!

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It’s where people get clothes made lots of the time, but it has some cool art shops also, and also, the best tea shop I have ever been in in my whole life. It’s called Reaching Out Teahouse and it’s run by deaf and mute staff, so everything is done by indicating via the menu and also these little notes where you can ask for a re-fill of water etc. It is a Fairtrade shop and it works with people with disabilities in the community to find employment and live an independent life, so it’s well worth supporting. They also sell these amazing crafts in the shop – and all the tea cups and cutlery (metal and ceramic) are made by the Reaching Out artisans.

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Used to communicate with staff

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Iced coffee, with coffee ice… haha

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Crafts from the shop

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Traditional seating

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The tea tasting menu (3 types) – soooo good, plus you get three interesting treats with it! Like, eg., a sweet potato swirl, or green tea biscuit

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A platter of very interesting treats!

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The famous Vietnamese coffee (iced) – three type tasting menu here! It was so good!

It was really serene and it was nice to sit in this traditional style teahouse and look out of the open shutters at the front at the people passing by in the street. Some Chinese tourists randomly stopped in front of the windows and took photos with us Westerns in the background, which was… well, hilarious and random, but I had noticed this happened a lot in China also, so I was kind of used to it, in a very weird way!

Vietnam was a brilliant place, I would definitely go back. Maybe one day I will, but from there it was onward to the place I had wanted to visit the most, Cambodia (and the stunning Angkor Wat… what)!

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Unbroken Ties, Keeping Secrets 2

We’re back! Yes it has been a while, but we’re picking up lots of momentum recently and everything is back on track and progressing nicely!

So here it is, the cover for our next book, due out at the end of August – drum roll please… Unbroken Ties, Keeping Secrets 2!

Book 2 cover!!

Book 2 cover!!

We hope you guys like it! Please let us know what you think. The cover was designed and made my ourselves here at MLR and we’re v.happy with the results!

So, yes, this is book 2 in our Keeping Secrets series (Young Adult, Urban Fantasy), continuing on from Legend Unleashed (Keeping Secrets 1). The synopsis for Unbroken Ties is…

Unbroken Ties, Keeping Secrets Book 2

Trouble is brewing and tensions are high in Carwick, where Temperance is struggling to belong.

The wizards distrust her, the werewolves despise her, and someone wants her dead.

With Halvard’s duties drawing him further from her, and the surprise return of her brother, chaos grips Carwick, and Temperance soon finds her loyalty to her family tested like never before….

We hope you’ll come back to Carwick with us for the next story! If you haven’t already checked out Legend Unleashed, please click here to read some excerpts and see the book trailers! Or you can pop on over to Amazon!

 

Latimer watches… Beauty and the Beast

Latimer wants adventure in the great wide somewhere!!!

Latimer wants adventure in the great wide somewhere!!!

Latimer: I’ve found myself watching lots of Disney movie’s lately. This is mainly due to the fact that my niece loves to watch Disney movies, since she’s finally old enough to sit still long enough to watch an actual movie! So, I ended up watching Beauty and the Beast for the first time in years, and I had some random thoughts as I watched!

When Belle sings her first song and heads into town to return her book, I just love the part where she enters the bookshop and chats to the owner and rolls around on the ladder looking for books. It’s always been a moment I’ve loved!

Gaston has shot something at the start of the movie, and LeFou is carrying it, and fecked if I know what on earth it’s supposed to be – it has no head, horns, fur and feathers… what the hell is it?! Beauty-and-the-beast-disneyscreencaps.com-484 When Belle sings her ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere’ line I bob my head in agreement! I can often be found randomly singing that line in a passion when I’m gearing myself up for an adventure! Ha!

This has always bothered me – how come no one knows about this beast and the castle in the woods? I mean come on! It isn’t that far from their town and the beast was cursed when he was a young man and he’s only got until his 21st birthday to find someone to love him… which means he could have only been cursed for a few years – therefore everyone in town, including Belle, must remember the prince in the forest?! Surely!

It breaks my heart when Belle’s Daddy goes to the tavern to ask for help to save Belle and everyone laughs at him and ridicules him for talking crazy about a beast (which, again, they should all know about anyway!), and they throw him out into the snow. He is left there saying; ‘will no one help me!’ (that line has always stuck with me, even the way he says it!). Damn, so sad. 500px-Beauty-and-the-beast-disneyscreencaps_com-3472 How does the Beast have a woman’s bedroom with woman’s clothes that fit Belle like a glove? They could have just jigged that a bit, like the clothes needed to be tailored a bit by the castle tailor, who has been transformed into a measuring tape with his needle and thread assistants! They could have fought at the end of the movie with the rest of the cursed inhabitants – they could have had a scene where they stitch-up a townsman – the measuring tape could have tripped up another person! Ah Disney you missed an opportunity there – ha!

Some of the cursed castle inhabitants don’t have mouths or eyes… what does that mean? Did the witch/enchantress think the Beast would need to have enchanted cutlery as well as servants enchanted to be cutlery? I don’t get that. be-our-guest-beauty-and-the-beast I guess it’s pretty interesting to consider that Beast is always the one that judges based on looks. He assumes that Belle doesn’t like him because he’s a beast, because of the way he looks, but actually the reason she doesn’t like him is because he has a terrible temper and is verbally abusive to her!

It still annoys me that Belle doesn’t really eat anything at the dinner song! I love all that food! (I love food, I really, really do)

Lumiere sings that ‘10 years we’ve been rusting’ – 10 years?! That would have made the Prince 11 years old when he was cursed! The enchantress cursed an 11 year old for being a superficial person? What a crazy woman she was! And wouldn’t that mean then that Chip, the cup, was probably born a cup? Because he looks like he’s probably 6 years old when he’s a human! Ah, apparently there was a flashback scene in the Enchanted Christmas special, that kind of explains things (but also doesn’t!).

The Prince was a boy when he was cursed – and Chip was a child when he turned into a cup. But the Prince is a man when he turns back into Prince – because he’s 21 years old now – but Chip, alas, for some reason, is still a child?

Okay, while I seem to have been picking a lot at the movie, I actually really love this movie. It’s not my favourite Disney movie, but I definitely rate it highly on my Disney movie list!

Laotian Living

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Latimer: Ridley and I are working hard to get the second book of our Keeping Secrets series read for publication! But, in the meantime, we are daydreaming about the exotic and the far-away, reliving some holidays and thinking about some new ones.

Last I left off on my trip down the South-East Asian holiday memory-lane, I was in Laos, heading towards Vang Vieng and the capital city of Laos Vientiane!

In Vang Vieng, we were lucky enough to stay with a local family in a small village (just a few minutes from Vang Vieng central). It was a real eye-opener because we just don’t live like this anymore in Ireland. Everyone was really nice and the homemade food was yummy.

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Village living

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Little piggys!

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While in Vang Vieng, I checked out the beauty of the Blue Lagoon; petted a butterfly – no really, it felt like I was Snow White or something, it was crazy, I was surrounded for the briefest moment by a flock (?) of colourful butterflies! I trekked up a mountain and had a poke around an amazing cave, which really inspired me for writing! And then, I had some fresh coconut juice. I also had a bit of relaxation getting a brilliant Laotian massage – I definitely recommend them!

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Blue lagoon… beautiful!!

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Stunning butterfly

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My Disney/Snow White moment!!

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We had a few relaxing days in Vang Vieng, ending the trip there with a beautiful sunset and some nice juices…

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Then it was off to Vientiane, the most laid-back capital city in the world. It’s really small, but has this relaxing feel to the place, that just doesn’t exist in… well, basically any capital city I’ve ever been in. It’s such a cool, fun place. We managed to get lost walking around the whole city, but all roads lead to where you want to go eventually in Vientiane! On the detour we managed to check out some nice temples.

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We didn’t have long in Vientiane before we were saying goodbye to Laos and GOOD MORNING to VIETNAM :)

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For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Lovely Laos and Trekking through Thailand

Grouplove

grouplove_js_170913Ridley: I went to see this band a while ago in The Academy. I love going to concerts. Music is always fantastic live! They were really good! I’d like a range and mix of different types of music. From heavy metal to country, pop, rock, classical and everything in between! I can often be found singing Disney songs in my car too. Who doesn’t love a good old blast out of the Circle of Life from the Lion King? Is there anyone that doesn’t love that song?

So my favourite song from Grouplove, is Ways to Go. I think the video is just brilliant with the little kid in it.

Then we’ve a Coca Cola ad on the television, that has this song on it, so most people will recognise it, well here anyway!

Supposedly this type music is known as surfer rock.

Just some good tunes to relax and spend an evening listening to!

And of course, let’s end it on….

Stop-motion love

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Latimer: There are some interesting movies on the horizon. Just the other day I saw a trailer for The Boxtrolls, a beautiful-looking stop-motion movie made by the Laika group.

It’s been a while since I saw one of their movies (Paranorman) but I always look forward to them – because I love me some stop-motion.The Nightmare before Christmas is one of my favourite movies (and also, strangely, one of the movies that creeps me out most… not sure what that says about me!).

Paranorman was preceded by Coraline (one of Neil Gaiman’s books), which was on the TV recently and made me fall in love, all over again, with lovely Laika stop-motion.

What a beautiful art-form stop-motion it is. These movies are so detailed and so lovingly made. You can see how much time and effort went into crafting them. I love the wacky character designs, the seamless movement and yes, I love the eerie feeling that niggles at the back of my mind, because stop-motion, in a lot of ways, boarders on the very, very creepy.

They take years to make and I guess that’s the price we pay for the quality – the time. But, YES, time to look forward to The Boxtrolls!  

Lovely Laos

20140502_091324Latimer: I continued my adventure through South East Asia by crossing from Thailand into Laos. I have to say it’s one of the loveliest, most laid back countries I’ve ever visited. I’ll put my hand up and say I really didn’t know anything about Laos before I went there. So, here’s a quick list of facts/interesting info, about Laos!

  • Laos is actually called; Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Hello is pronounced – SAA-BAI-DEE
  • Thank you is pronounced – KUP-JAI; Thank you very much – KUP JAI LAI LAI
  • Currency is called ‘kip’
  • Biggest export is coffee
  • New Year occurs in Mid-April
  • It’s the most bombed country; due to its proximity to Vietnam and Cambodia
  • 75% people are farmers
  • 67% Buddhist; 32% Phii (a jungle religion); 1% Christian

First stop on the journey through Laos was a trip down the might Mekong River. Which gave me some time to catch up on my note-taking from my trip, eat some traditional Laotian food and have my first taste of lychee! 20140502_092012 20140502_102145 20140502_112257 20140502_161101 20140502_17410520140502_103556 20140503_115759

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Thai Buddha art catch up on the Mekong River!

We then went to the lovely town of Luang Prabang. Where I found myself up at 5AM to go and offer alms to the Buddhist monks, along with a lot of other visitors. This was a pretty special moment. My offering was some sticky rice; but… it’s very sticky (go figure!) and it was really hard to dish the stuff out without being overwhelmed by the sea of orange clad monks descending upon the streets of Luang Prabang! In Luang Prabang, I met some elephants and had a misadventure kyakking in a boat that had a hole in it and ended up capsizing, with me onboard, in a river full of elephants and their poo… yeah. That’s happened. The elephants were pretty cool about it though, looking on nonchalant as I resurfaced full of rage.

5AM in Luang Prabang

5AM in Luang Prabang

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Monks collecting alms

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Poor children from the mountains come into town and the monks toss some of their food into the children’s baskets. The children then take these baskets home to their families.

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Sticky rice offering

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Elephant rider

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Beautiful elephants having a snack

The RIVER... yesh.... hmmm, I have mixed feeling about you river...

The RIVER… yesh…. hmmm, I have mixed feeling about you river…

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Views of Luang Prabang

No trip of mine would be complete without me waxing lyrical on the food! I had some good food in Laos… We managed to stop off at a local families house in Luang Prabang for some traditional food, that was so good. We were also given a Buddhist blessing by the family for luck on our travels. Then it was on to the next stop on our journey! Vang Vieng and the capital of Laos; Vientiane! But that’s another blog post!

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Food, home cooked foooooood

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Yummy fresh mango and….. a traditional dessert, kind of tasted like coconut…. sorta!

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Blessings and welcomes; I would loose these along with my Buddhist blessing from Thailand when I fell in the river… damnable RIVER!!

For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Laotian Living and Trekking through Thailand

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

Wandering Free

1401550280017Ridley: So, I’m back from my week in Portugal (you’re probably going, ‘eh? I never knew you even left!’) and Latimer is back from her fantastic travels too. If you follow us on twitter, our feed has been packed with pictures. I have to say we’re extremely lucky that we’re both able to do these things, as I know not everyone has the opportunity, and while I didn’t go as far afield as Latimer did on her amazing travels, I still had a brilliant time. We also both had pocket sized travelling Buddhas to keep us company on our separate adventures. He has a little spindle and a giant smile. Latimer gave me mine, she got him in China, you’re not allowed buy the little man you have to be given it, so I was well chuffed to get him!1401550283680IMG_20140531_124548

So with my little Buddha, I was able to step out of my life and into another for a short time. Whenever I go abroad I always come back wishing I could spend my life exploring, to be able to wander to the farthest reaches of the earth, learn new languages, eat unusual foods and experience different cultures. I’m a firm believer in working to live and not living to work. I know on my deathbed I won’t be wishing I’d spent more time at the office. Well maybe I’ll wish I’d once visited an office, as I’ve never worked in one, but you get my meaning!1401551450575

While in Portugal, I got to listen to people speak a different language, try a few words myself, I tasted octopus, sea bass, swordfish, and I had the best of ice cream (lots of it). There were palm trees, cockroaches, crickets and weird beetles, colourful birds and lots of cats, all things that we don’t really have in Ireland (except for the cats, but these are Portuguese cats, so I’ll count them). The houses were painted bright exciting pinks and blues that were complemented by the sparkling sunshine and the tiles of the roofs were beautiful vibrant terracotta.IMG_20140529_200137 1401550285752 IMG_20140531_143657 1401550277759 There was blistering heat during the day, where I burned to a fire engine red, and freckles, that I never knew were lurking just beneath my skin, popped up like uninvited mushrooms. Then night time, it was freezing, the stars were so exceptionally bright, and the darkness came so much earlier than at home. It’s the differences between places, and often times the similarities, that I love and get excited over. I’m certain that there are lots of people out there that feel the same way, right?

I think the one thing I really need to learn to do though, is appreciate what I have in my own country too, to see it through the eyes of a visitor and know that while our houses aren’t bright colours, and we have no palm trees, it’s still a great place to live. 1401551449963Everyone commiserated with me when I returned home on how bad the weather was, that the rain was what greeted me when I stepped off the plane, at first I agreed wholeheartedly, but when I thought about it I decided that there was just a different type of beauty in the dark storm clouds rolling by overhead and the patter of rain, the gurgling of water filled gutters, while I liked being away from it all, I have to say I would miss it if I never had it ever again too.0212

On that note, I’ll leave you with more pretty pictures!

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Make me Laugh

Latimer love's Smodcast

Latimer love’s Smodcast

Latimer: I love me some funny podcasts and Smodcast by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier is one of my favourites. I just love listening to these two old friends talking about random stuff and joking around.

Smodcast is full of bizarre stories and funny nerdy references, and life lessons.

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I just love these two, they make me laugh but they also have all this funny random advice about taking risks on doing the things that you love, and being creative and surrounding yourself with ‘why not?’ people. All this inter-spaced with Kevin’s obsession with Batman and Canada, and fascination with Jaws (or just sharks and being eaten by one).

“But… what would Batman do Scott?” and “Can you give me that in Jaws measurement*? How many Jaws’ would that be Scott?” (*Jaws measurement being one of Kevin’s ways of measuring things in the standard unit of a Jaw’s shark!)

I’m so happy to say that Ridley and I will be heading off to see Kevin Smith doing a live podcast in Dublin in June! I can’t wait :) 

If you don’t mind swearing and you like to laugh you should check out Smodcast!