This past Saturday we spent it on the busy streets of Chiang Mai for their annual flower festival. Exotic flowers and traditional music filled the streets as beautiful traditionally adorned Thai locals showcased their culture. When we first heard about it, we were told it started at 8AM, so being the night owls that we are this was a challenge to be up and fight a crowd. Funny thing is, it didn’t start until after 5PM! haha We’ve gotten used to the relaxed concept of time around here, so we didn’t mind at all. We spent most of the day temple hopping, sipping smoothies, and finding new discoveries in our own neighborhood. At sundown, the exotic blooms made its way down the streets of Tha Pae. The parade was a beautiful representation of their vibrant culture through people, through artsy floats, music, and yes, their beautiful ethnic threads!
This is the longest we’ve sat still in the past year and we’ve gotten to know the four walls of our apartment very well these few months. We love how the sun shines in through all our open windows and the noisy street noises remind us of the chaos that sits right outside of our balcony. We had found our groove, found our work and life routine, and even made some neighborhood friends. And then it hits us. We’re antsy to leave, antsy to pack and ready to hit the road, the sky or the sea. Not that Thailand is any less exciting since we got here, but our cameras has had time to collect some dust, and blank pages of our journals are still left blank awaiting more stories to be told. Wanderlust, you fickle thing. It’s time to go once more, so we booked a train and it’s leaving Tuesday.
Last weekend Charmie and I took the motorbike 3 hours north to the little mountain utopia known as Pai. The ride up was amazing. It reminded me of home…making the winding trek from Tennessee to North Carolina. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the sun when we reached the bottom of the valley. The view of the rice fields in front of the layering mountain silhouettes was wonderful. It almost felt like I was looking at an illustration that belonged on a “Visit Thailand” postcard.
We stayed at this incredible little bungalow village that sat across the river from the town’s main street. At the entrance of the village there was a small field of flowering plants as tall as our heads, with only a small little path to walk between. We slowly walked through in awe at how beautiful the scene was….butterflies fluttering around the purple plants with whiffs of reefer in the air. I started to wonder if there was something else growing in the middle of the towering plants, but with heaving coughing coming from all directions, I quickly figured out the game. Upon checking in the guesthouse owner whispered with a straight face, “If you want cannibas, I have.”…The tone for the weekend was set from there. It reminded me of being at a summer festival again. During the day people chilled out in their huts and hid from the sun. The streets were empty, with people rolling out only to grab food. Pai came to life at night. It seemed almost every bar had a firepit for people to gather around. The first night we watched a fire spinning contest and met some interesting people from all over. We shared a spliff with two dreadheaded chicks – one crazy looking one from Turkey and the other from Russia, and also a guy from Iran. As usual, I didn’t say much. I just sat there grinning at the thought of sharing that moment with those people from such far-out places (far-out to me anyways). Our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different, but we were all there together…at a small little mountain town in Northern Thailand.
The whole town felt like home. I met a leather artisan name Oil and asked if he could make me a pair of moccasins. He told me he could make them the following day and invited Charmie and I to come have coffee and hang out while he worked on them. We took him up on his offer and drove the bike up to his place the next morning. Him and his friends were incredibly hospitable. They gave us Chinese whiskey to sip on with our coffee and then cooked up some extremely spicy but delicious Thai food. It was a prefect day to end a beautiful weekend.
The month we spent in Cambodia, we spent some time visiting Aaron’s cousin in Battambang. Cambodia’s 2nd largest city, yet small enough where everyone seemed to know everyone. Tourism can really change a place and we were happy to see the lack there of in Battambang felt as if we were seeing it in it’s essence. We were enchanted by the feeling as if we have stepped back in time. Old French buildings still standing amongst dusty roads, small outdoor markets and with a short ride up to the mountain you can view the entire city. With each trip we always try to see something new, but Cambodia intrigued us so much we’re planning another visit in a couple weeks!
Sometimes some of the hardest posts to write are the moments so beautiful that words fail. That’s why Palau is just now finding a spot in our blog, our trip to Aaron’s homeland of Palau was definitely an island from our dreams. His family welcomed us with open arms, and kept our bellies full with fresh seafood. Such an untouched gem in the middle of the pacific abundant with life. Chickens literally crossed the roads, clams sat in rows for easy digging, bananas and papayas lined the streets, ocean so abundant with fish I felt like you could reach down and grab them. Every time we went fishing with his family, they came ready with rice and soy sauce and we feasted on the freshest sushi right on the boat. As our tanlines disappear, we’re reminded of how much we miss the island vibes. We’re booking flights for July, and we’re excited to say we’ll see you this summer Palau!
There’s something so beautifully organic about traditionally handmade threads, where each stitch creates a pattern, and each pattern holds a meaning. If we take a minute to pay attention to their details, we would unearth stories of the culture behind them. The faster this world spins perpetually into a technological age, I find myself aesthetically gravitating to pieces that I feel are quickly disappearing, techniques no longer widely practiced, and things that take translation. Maybe it’s my way of holding on and treasuring what was here and what is now. We’re all changing, the earth, our place in it, our lives, the people in it, and us. Whether we witness it or not, as we evolve we learn, unlearn, and relearn our way. Tonight we spend it here, under this glass dome to star-gaze and slow time down even if just for a night. Happy Friday everyone, hope you have an amazing weekend!
Find the tribal textiles and pillows in our shop here.
It dawned on us that is has been four months since our last camping trip. It was a beautiful night on the shores of Palau and we felt like we had the island to ourselves. I will never forget the “two-person” tent that we bought at a local store and once we popped it open we realized it was only big enough for one small child. Needless to say we to slept toppled on each other in random angles. Like playing twister, in a half awake state haha!
The holidays were here and though it didn’t really feel like the Christmas as we knew it from home, we were happy to spend it together for the first time.. ever. We decided no gifts, accompanying each other through this journey and experiences thousands of miles away from home was a gift that we couldn’t have imagined asking for. This year we traded the Christmas tree to for a teepee, we weren’t with family, but we had each other, and we didn’t exchange presents but grateful for intangible moments that continue to fill the pages of our journals.
The night we camped got down to a chilly 40 degrees(F)! We found this little compound called Maetachang which consisted of straw huts and tepees made out of leaves by serendipitous luck. Aaron was taking random back roads on the motorbike when he drove past this little commune already set up with tents and a huge campfire. We needed a place to shoot our hill tribe dresses that we added recently to the shop, and this place couldn’t have been more perfect to mix work and play. It was ran by a sweet lady who was an amazing cook, and a man full of smiles and the only thing he was serious about was keeping the campfire alive. Everything on site was made by materials found on or near the compound, the tables and chairs in the lawn were imperfectly made from scrap wood, wild chickens roamed, and they even offered food which they cooked on the campfire. Such a whole chicken for 200 baht (about $7). It was settled by a rice field and right beside a serene creek which we were lucky to have the place to ourselves. It was a beautiful day and night spent on this magical space of nature. We will definitely be back for more stargazing with beers and stories around the campfire.
Hope everyone had an amazing holiday!
We have officially entered the winter solstice. As we trade long sunny days for longer starry nights we are gravitated to travel inward. Enjoy quiet days with yourself, a journal, and your imagination. Be alone with your thoughts and let go of things that weigh on your soul. Forever be a student, and play with abandon. Reflect on the past, live in the present, and move forward with intention.
The “Virgin Land”, as our landlord dubbed her neighboring country to the East, lived up to it’s nickname as being that of a lush and not-so-developed jungle in this beautiful corner of the world. Life is simple and the people are laid back. A lot of women still wear traditional clothing and men butcher their kills right out in the open public. Our boat trip through the Mekong has been one of the highlights of our journey so far.
I’ve always appreciated the craftsmanship that went into our Hmong textiles. From the meticulous cross-stitching, to the embroidery, and their Batik techniques. Today we decided to learn first hand from Hmong artisans about the Batik techniques that I love so much in not only in our textiles but also in our wanderer ponchos. All I can say is wow, these women have great attention to detail, a deep knowledge to meanings of patterns, along with very steady hands! The Batik dying process includes tools handmade in their village which had different size points for making lines. Kind of reminded me of calligraphy pens! They use it to dip into beeswax that is harvested from their village. The beeswax is melted over a clay pot of fire which in time will turn black. They then draw their traditional patterns on a hand drawn grid all from memory. Specific patterns had different meanings and the one we are drawing below means good luck and protection for a baby, which they use to stitch into a baby carrier. I told her I didn’t have a baby yet, then she replied “When you do, bring your baby to our village”.
After the pattern is drawn, we then dip it into indigo which is harvested from their land. Winhus pictured below is showing us the indigo leaves prior to mixing it with ash and water to create the dye. From here the process can take days to weeks depending on preferred hue of indigo. You dip, then hang dry, and dip again. Once you have achieved the hue you prefer, you then dip the fabric into boiling water to melt off the wax and reveal the contrast of patterns. Ta-da! All the women in this tribe are such talented artisans and take much pride in their work. After months of working on one piece they then take it to the market to sell. Talk about delayed gratification! What a beautiful and slow process each piece is. They mentioned most of the kids in the village have started to lose interest in learning and is most interested in modern technology. Therefore only the older women in the village still hold this knowledge of their traditional Batik technique and through their textiles they work to preserve remnants of their culture.