A Hidden Gem in Chiang Mai!

Horizon Village and Resort is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing day in Chiang Mai. It’s not on the usual list of tourist spots and even many long time residents don’t know of it.

Thanks to my friend, Keidra, who is a tour guide here in Chiang Mai, I discovered this hidden gem.

For an inexpensive fee of 85 baht (less than$3) you can enter the resort and spend the whole day exploring. There are waterfalls, a botanical garden, petting zoo, labyrinth, and more.

You can rent a bike for 75 baht for all day, which was a great way to explore the massive grounds. You can also rent a golf card or take a tram ride.

There are several restaurants and a coffee shop. We enjoyed a delicious, moderately priced lunch.

After a day of bike riding a visit to the resort pool (100 baht admission) was a perfect way to end the day!

There are all sorts of hidden gems and special ways to spend a day or longer in Chiang Mai. Contact Keidra for some great ideas or to book a tour.

Furaha Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.

I have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and Kathy and I have celebrated together for the past 14 years.

Kwanzaa is a holiday rich in symbolism and culture. I love it’s rituals, principles and lack of materialism.

This year we celebrated Kwanzaa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hope this will be an annual event.

Kwanzaa has seven core symbols:

1. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.

2. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.

3. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.

4. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.

5. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.

6. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.

7. Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.

Kwanzaa celebrates what Doctor Karenga calls the Nguzo Saba  (the seven principlesl. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles.

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations always include an opportunity for our guests to come up and speak on one of the Nguzo Saba and what it means to them.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations are always joyous events filled with lots of love and laughter.

Children are always a key part of our celebration. I hope we are creating memories and instilling pride in our rich culture.

Wherever you are you can celebrate Kwanzaa and most importantly, we can all practice these principles every day!

Our Colorful Chiang Rai Trip

Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.

Arriving in Chiang Rai our first stop was Baan Dam. Commonly known as the Black House it’s a park containing a diverse and sprawling series of buildings, displays, sculptures and installations. The park and highly eclectic contents are the life’s work of local and nationally renowned artist Thawan Duchanee. We spent a delightful hour exploring the grounds and exhibits.Our next stop was for lunch. Lesson learned: don’t ask your driver for restaurant recommendations. Leelawadee was overpriced with not very good service. The food was delicious though and we had a nice view of the river.Full from lunch, we ventured on to the Blue Temple. For me this breathtaking temple was the highlight of our trip! I understand that this is a fairly new temple. It is built at the site of a ruin of an temple abandoned 80 to 100 years ago. In 1996, the villagers decided to rebuild a temple here. The construction started in October 2005, the White Buddha was completed in 2008 while the main hall was only completed on 22th January 2016. There are so many intricate carvings and paintings to enjoy!Our last stop was the White Temple which is the most famous temple in the Chiang Rai area. I’m sorry to say that the temple was closing when we arrived. It turns out there is a special event there right now where they illuminate the temple in the evenings. As we only had our van until 10 pm we had to leave for the 4 hour drive back to Chiang Mai before the illumination began. We did get some good photos, both of our own and a very kind Thai lady who shared hers with us.Overall our trip was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the time spent with members of our beautiful Chiang Mai community and visitors!

Black Family 5K: We Did It!

GirlTrek.org

Early in November I got an email from GirlTrek.org. They inspired me to start a new tradition, right here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today, Friday, November 29 we gathered at a local park and got our walks/runs on. It was a wonderful way to work off our big Thanksgiving meals, talk and get to know each other better. The Brothers and Sisters of Chiang Mai were well represented! From Northern and Southern California; Louisville, KY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, the Cayman Islands; Eritrea; Little Rock, AK; and Lampang, Thailand we showed up and out!

Hope you enjoy the pictures from this glorious day and of these amazing folks!

BOLT REVIEWS: Huay Kaew Arboretum

One of the big advantages to living long term in a variety of places is that you get to explore some of the less touristy attractions. The urban forest at Huay Kaew Arboretum was just such a find!

Kathy and I spent a lovely hour walking around the peaceful and shady grounds.

It was kind of a whimsical place too, with lots of apparatus for children to play on.

I especially enjoyed the signs on the many trees, telling us their names, ages and reminding us to not forget their importance.

There were lots of informative signs too.

Arboretum admission is free and very close to an the busy Nimman area. So if you are in Chiang Mai and want a place to get a good walk in, visit the Huay Kaew Arboretum.

National Museum of Chiang Mai Excursion

The National Museum of Chiang Mai is a small space, located on lovely grounds. The majority of the exhibits were of Buddha statues. There were also exhibits on the history of the Lanna Kingdom. My intention is to do once a month excursions to local spots of interest. A small group joined me today and I enjoyed this first excursion greatly!

Getting a Thai Visa

5 Thai embassies

There are many types of visas obtainable for travel to or living in Thailand. If you are visiting for less than 30 days this post is not for you. You are able to fly in and obtain a visa exemption on arrival at no cost.

However, for those who wish to spend a significant amount of time in Thailand here is some information you might find helpful.

There are 5 Thai embassies here in the U.S. Luckily there is an embassy right here in Los Angeles. While it is possible to obtain many types of visas in Thailand we found the process much easier here.

If you are 50 years or older you can get a retirement visa, good for a one year stay. The big advantage of getting it in the U.S. is that you only need to provide proof of 800,000 Thai Baht (approximately $25k) in the bank. If you get this visa in Thailand you must put your money in a Thai bank. This is probably perfectly safe but we do have some concerns. The cost of this visa is $200. See the link above for all details.

Another good visa option is the Multiple Entry Thai Visa.

No matter what type of visa you want, read the information provided in the links carefully and do your best to follow the directions to the letter.

Some things we found out:

  • No matter the type of visa, you must pay by cashier’s check or money order. Cash is not accepted. We saw several people turned away because they missed this in the instructions.
  • Arrive in the morning. Long lines but the service is pretty fast.
  • Don’t pay for expensive passport photos. Take your own. There are several apps that can help. We saved over $60 dollars doing this!
  • Have all your paperwork in order. The more organized you are the easier it seems to go.
  • For the retirement visa you must obtain notarized statements from your bank. Our credit union provides free notary service which made it easy.
  • Also for the retirement visa you must have a clearance from your doctor and a letter from local law enforcement. The instructions say these must be notarized as well. Turns out this means that you sign the clearance reports and have your signature notarized.
  • We felt kind of overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork… breathe deeply, take your time, check, double check and recheck.
  • The laws and regulations can be confusing, they change a lot too. Be sure you visit the official Thai government websites and don’t hesitate to ask questions (I called the embassy at least 4 times).

I hope this information is helpful. Thailand is such a wonderful country, the visa processes are relatively easy and most importantly…BOLT will be there! We hope to see you soon.

Chiang Mai to Ensenada… We made it!

I’m too tired and jet lagged to write much but the BOLTs have arrived safely in Ensenada, Baja California Norte, Mexico.

We are reunited with the BOLT dog, Kahlo.

And are back in the cozy Winnie.

The trip was grueling with a 5 hour layover in Bangkok and a 12 hour one in Tokyo. We ventured out from Narita Airport, by bus, into Tokyo. I don’t recommend this. The bus ride is 3 hours round trip and all we saw was the big, bustling, business part of Tokyo. We will definitely visit Japan when we have time to explore and enjoy.

We arrived safely in San Diego after a 10 hour flight. From San Diego we enjoyed the Blue Line Trolley which took us right to the Mexican border.

Crossing the border was easy, the Mexican immigration folks are lovely and friendly.

We took a taxi from the border to Ensenada, less than 2 hours, for $80. There are cheaper ways to go (by bus) but we were very tired. We arrived safely at the Mona Lisa RV park. And are enjoying the Pacific Ocean Views.

Chiang Mai Magic!

There’s just something about Chiang Mai! Kathy and I came here over 3 years ago and stayed over a year that time. Yes, we visited other cities and countries but we always came back to Chiang Mai. This time we came and have stayed a solid year. Except for a brief visit to Bangkok we have stayed in Chiang Mai for the whole time.

It’s hard to describe the magic that happens in Chiang Mai and I’m not sure if you can feel it during a brief visit.

Chiang Mai Magic occurs in the over 300 temples, places of such sacred beauty that I never get tired of visiting them.

Chiang Mai Magic is at the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs, one of my favorite places to practice self care.

Chiang Mai Magic is in all the wonderful festivals that occur throughout the year, especially Yi Peng, the Flower Festival and Songkran.

Chiang Mai Magic is overwhelmingly at Inthakin Green Village. There is so much magic and healing here that I have written several blogs about it.

Chiang Mai Magic happens for Kathy on the motorbike. She experiences magic on her many rides in and around the city. If you want to experience Chiang Mai in this way, I highly recommend the Honda Safety Riding School.

Most of all I think Chiang Mai Magic is the people, the beautiful Thai people, the fabulous members of the African American community here and beloved friends and family who have visited. The magic is in planned events and random meet ups. The magic happens just walking down the street where I always see and greet someone I know.

We leave Chiang Mai and it’s magic tomorrow. I’m sad to leave all this magic behind. However, part of the magic of Chiang Mai is that I know we can’t stay away for long. BOLT loves you Chiang Mai and we’ll be back soon.

Thailand Road Trip!

I love a good road trip and yesterday was the perfect one! We set out in the morning from Inthakin Green Village in Mae Teang. We headed north, destination Chang Dao, just a few kilometers from the Myanmar border.

Most of the drive was along the Ping River which was lovely in itself. We traveled through small villages and lots of lush greenery.

Our first stop in Chang Dao was the temple /home of a local monk. It was wonderful to see him again, he had given us a special blessing a few months ago. We also got to see our friend, Pi Oi, who lives near the monk.

No road trip is complete without delicious food. The gyoza at this small restaurant is amazing!

After our bellies were full, we headed up to this amazing wat (temple) . Called Wat Tam Mung Na, it’s building it built onto a cave. There’s an easy trip up several levels of ramps to the top where you find the cave and are surrounded by soothing chanting and can join in sitting meditation.

Many people come to spend the night or several days in meditation and chanting. There were tents everywhere.

These are the views from the top of the temple.

The temple grounds were very beautiful with lots of amazing statues.

There’s even a cute little coffee shop, which also offered amazing views.

Kathy and I had a truly fabulous day, made even more special because we spent it with people we love. Thank you Wanvisa, Jen and Ajan Sai for a perfect day!