What a year!!! (part 1)

2016 in review

Where do we start? Firstly, this review wouldn’t be complete without stating that it will in fact cover a period of 14 months as we left Australia in early November 2015.

Who knew that as we set off on November 5th 2015 what a wonderful, exciting, adventurous, enlightening, educational year it would turn out to be for us.Our original plan was to spend time in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam investigating possible retirement locations with perhaps a short visit to Europe if our funds allowed.

However, we ended up staying 6 months in Thailand and 6 months in Europe and never even got to Malaysia or Vietnam!

To say we enjoyed Thailand would be an understatement – we absolutely loved it. We lived in Chiang Mai in the North however we also had two trips to the Royal seaside town of Hua Hin, a short trip to Bangkok (with Jacqueline’s mother), a visit to the ancient 13th century capital of Thailand – Sukhothai and a beach holiday to Krabi in the South.

Our plans started to morph and evolve after we did a house sit in Hua Hin in December. We had been investigating house sitting, prior to leaving Australia, as a way to continue our travels in an affordable way to see and experience new places. Our initial sit for six cats in Thailand was a great experience and opened our eyes to the possibilities that this service could offer to both us and the homeowners. On our return from the sit we leapt in with great zeal to see what other sits we could find and this lead to our 6 month sojourn to Europe.

Chiang Mai sunset from our rooftop terrace

So, back to the start of our adventures.

We arrived in Chiang Mai not really knowing anyone or what to expect but in a very short time we had made new friends and become involved in various activities via the local expat group – Chiang Mai Expats Club. Chiang Mai celebrates many festivals and we were fortunate to be able to enjoy quite a few of them. The most memorable was probably Loy Krathong and Yee Ping in late November. We spent the evening at a function on the Mai Ping River and were blown away by the sheer volume of sky lanterns being continually released into the night sky. In fact, there are so many that the local airport has to restrict flights on this one particular evening of the year.

Releasing a sky lantern at the Yee Ping festival

3 day cycle tour around Chiang Mai

As any readers of this blog will know Jacqueline and I enjoy cycling so in December we embarked on a 3 day self guided cycle tour to the East and South of Chiang Mai. We had a great time seeing some of the more rural aspects of life in northern Thailand cycling through local villages and experiencing a different side of Chiang Mai. A nice surprise of this tour was the quality of the accommodation. Very welcome after a long days cycling in the heat.

A visit from the mother-in-law

Jacqueline’s mother, Sandra, came to visit in January and we had a lovely time showing her around our ‘new home town’. We also took her down to crazy town (aka Bangkok) for a couple of days to see the sights of the ‘big smoke’. Whilst there we did a day trip to the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace and the UNESCO Ayutthaya Historical park before she returned back to Australia.

Ancient ruins and the beach

We left Chiang Mai in early March and took an interesting bus journey to Sukhothai. This is a fabulous set of ancient ruins about half way between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. We had visited there very briefly on an organised tour of Thailand a few years ago but didn’t get enough time to explore them fully. This time we had an entire day so left ‘new’ Sukhothai early, hired a couple of bicycles (surprise!!) and had a wonderful day exploring the area in much more detail. As mentioned previously, this was the 13th century capital of Thailand and the architecture, temples and ruins are fascinating. It is well worth a visit if you are coming to Thailand.

The following day we went to the much smaller, but still extremely interesting, site of Si Satchanalai. This is also worth taking a look at if you have the time.

Having been living ‘inland’ for some months we decided to take a weeks break to get some sun and sand in Ao Nang on the Andaman Sea. We flew out from Sukhothai airport which has to be one of the most pleasant and beautiful airports in the world.

We enjoyed a wonderful and restful week in Ao Nang and spent time on some very lovely beaches (sometimes sharing with the local monkeys) but all too soon it was time to depart Thailand for a house sit in Hong Kong.

Pai Plong beach – Ao Nang

This blog post has ended up quite large so I’ll end here and shall continue reviewing the rest of the year in part 2…..

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