Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chinese New Year, Chiang Mai.. ( & a bath too!)

"Can we talk about vacation now?!!! Can we get excited about it???!!" - *me here - sitting on my hands trying my hardest to contain my excitement*

Truth is, I am SO ready. 
I'm treating myself SO well this time around....for this upcoming vacation... let me tell you.

Yes, I've already been to Beijing and Hong Kong and Macau while living here in China...
and even though I've done some different tours and casinos and shopping while in each of those places, it has never completely felt like a "vacation". I've had good times.... but each time was almost like a "forced choice" you know? Like while in Beijing, I was there for "teacher training", and so "obviously" I would take advantage of that time and go tour The Great Wall and see the night markets, etc. I went to Hong Kong and Macau because I HAD to ... ( because of my visa, requiring me to leave the country once per month) and SINCE I had to .... why not play a few slots at the casino or tour the Temple Street Market and hike up the Tian Tan Buddha?

This time no one is asking me or telling me to leave. I'm going because I want to and because I can. It's holiday time! Chinese New Year is here! 2012 is The Year of the Water Dragon. Dragon years are supposed to be especially powerful and lucky. Typically there are more births that take place during a dragon year in China too because everyone wants to have a dragon baby. 2012 is already feeling lucky and powerful to me. I'm happy and excited to welcome the Dragon.

Chinese New Year ( also, more commonly called "Spring Festival" here in China) is the biggest holiday in China. It reminds me of a combination of "Thanksgiving" ( without the "turkey") and "Christmas" ( without the "Jesus" emphasis). It is very much about family - about going home and reconnecting with family who you typically do not get to see much of during the rest of the year. Eating, drinking, watching "New Year's Specials" on tv, watching Dragon/Lion dances being performed in your community, etc. People will ( and have been) take buses and trains and whatever means necessary to find a way to get home to reconnect with their loved ones and old friends. It is considered good luck to wear lots of "red" during this time. If you are a "Dragon" ( or whatever animal year is being celebrated ... Monkey, Snake, etc. ) You are supposed to wear something red everyday that year ( if you don't want to wear it on the outside, wearing red underwear or a red bra also counts/works supposedly). Lisa is a Dragon ...and she gave me a red scarf for Christmas .... so I'll have that as well as my red jacket... and maybe some dark red nails if I go get a manicure/pedicure tomorrow ... to carry me into the New Year.

People might have anywhere from 1 week to 10 days to 2 weeks to a month of vacation during this time (depending on your job, working in the public vs. private sector,  etc. I'm not sure what the exact differences are). At my school we are getting 9 days of paid holiday vacation for the New Year. However some people are taking more - like my TA Metis - she went home one week early (and took that extra week unpaid). Or like me, I am taking 3 extra days - but I will put in some "extra work days" - a few Tuesdays in February- so I can get paid for them.

Going on vacation as a family, is also a popular thing to do during the New Year. I would think especially if you live in your hometown and you see most of your family on a regular basis, this would be a good alternative.

I've saved up some money ( I paid for my flight, my travel insurance,  my one week stay at the Elephant Nature Park, and am bringing some spending money) along with some Christmas money for 5 nights at 2 different hotels ( thank you "Santa" - aka Mom & Dad, Aunt Joan & Aunt Anne, and Aunt Mary & Uncle Stuart)  ......

and I am going to Chiang Mai, Thailand!!!! 
Taking a bath!
Thai Food!
Thai Massage!   
Living and Playing with Elephants for a week!

and yes, "taking a bath" gets an exclamation point because it's been 9 months since I've taken one. Now you know. LOL. I don't HAVE a bathtub in my apartment in Foshan, I only have a shower.  I've TAKEN PLENTY OF SHOWERS over the past 9 MONTHS- BUT taking a "nice bath" has been out of the question. Until now. Incase you need to find me .... here's a brief itinerary below.

I will be getting picked up at the airport by a car from my hotel and staying here at the Bodhi Serene Hotel for two nights - January 21st and the 22nd. I'm staying in an "Executive Room" here (booked early and got a sweet cheap deal) and I'm excited about taking a bath here in what looks like a big, round bathtub. :)  I've also booked a tour of the temple Wat Pra Thart Doi Suthep  ( see some pictures here ) for the afternoon of the 22nd as well as a traditional Khantoke Dinner/Show for that night. The hotel will also transfer me to the Elephant Nature Park office in the city (at 8am on the morning of the 23rd ... and the team of volunteers will leave together for the park from there.)

Then I will be back to ( possibly cold?... I don't know) the "shower only" (and "shared bedroom/tent") status for the week of January 23rd to the 29th while I am living/working/playing/volunteering HERE . I'm sewwwwwww excited to meet all the mamas, papas, and especially the baby elephants as well as the dogs/cats/ other rescued animals running around. I've really missed being around animals. I'm also excited and curious about meeting other volunteers from around the world. Animal Lovers are good people ... so I'm sure I'll be in good company all around.

THEN it's back to luxe life here  with 3 final nights - the 29th, 30th, and 31st- at The Sirilanna Hotel. I'm in a Deluxe Room here... annnnnd my bathroom has a JACUZZI BATHTUB! Totally making up for "lost tub time"with this one. I hope I remember to get out and ummmm ya know.... see some sights and stuff.  If any friends are reading this, have some free time, and a little spare cash, you are more than welcome to crash with me here! FOR REAL. Thailand in general is actually a great deal in terms of the exchange rate ( for US dollars and Chinese RMB). Once you get past the "airfare" part ...  you can get some decent hotel and tour rates and plenty of high quality massages ( for really cheap!). I'm laughing to myself because I'm remembering my friend Masha's story about almost accidentally getting a "naughty massage" from a woman in Bangkok. I will definitely make it clear when I'm in Chiang Mai that I want a "Non-Naughty Thai Massage" and/or  a "Non Naughty Foot Reflexology Treatment". ;)

I'm just.... really content and excited about it all. Trying to just think one step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other. Making my way from the airport in Guangzhou to Bangkok then (after a three hour layover) to Chiang Mai. Just PRAY that I make all of my connections quickly and easily and that I have a safe and fun/amazing time. I'm not excited to be taking a 7am flight back to China on February 1st .... but it's a small sacrifice to make after a trip like this.

OK, that's all for now. Just pray that I make all of my connections quickly and easily and that I have a safe/fun/ good time. I will try to upload some pictures onto Facebook at some point while there. I will have wireless access in the hotels ( and as far as I know Facebook is NOT blocked in Thailand).

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012! WELCOME THE WATER DRAGON!  I look forward to celebrating his/her "element" by enjoying many wonderful  WATERY baths over the New Year. :)

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