Thailand

Black house, Chiang Rai

April 12, 2015

There’s almost no information about this cool place outside of Chiang Rai. Black house, also known as Black Temple or Baan Dam (or Bandaam Museum) is a must see if you are in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.

Continue Reading…

Thailand

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai

April 4, 2015

Hey everyone! Great to get back to writing, I’m very excited to finish all the posts about this backpackers trip to Thailand and Singapore – there is so much to share. The past few weeks Anton and I were busy working on our family project DIY Foods. Opened the store, check it out!

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

But back to Chiang Mail. The earlier post about the town inspired a few of you to go there. Mission accomplished! You know, this is the point, I love inspiring you to travel, that’s the only reason this blog was started. You made me drop a tear of joy that day, thank you so much! Here’s the link to that post in case you missed it.

So if you happen to visit beautiful Chiang Mai, you might as well check out this beauty – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Here is more information about the temple itself – how to get there, opening hours and the history. We rented bikes and really enjoyed the road.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Do know that the temple area is very touristy, lots of souvenirs, food, people taking selfies, dogs, beggars. BUT. If you come early, there’s a chance to avoid the crowds. Gosh, I just made it sound like a horrible experience, it’s not. The temple is indeed worth visiting.

The 309 steps you need to climb to get to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple:

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

You need to take off your shoes and leave them at the entrance. Just FYI.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

And this is glass, also just in case, you know, if anyone tells you it’s emerald and you run around like a very excited Ukrainian girl telling your friends: “It’s emerald, can you believe it???”. Nope, not embarrassed at all :-)

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

It’s beautiful and I have a thing for any spiritual instruments like gongs, singing bowls, bells. I once cried when I stood next to a huge Gong, actually, it was in Chiang Mai as well, so for me the trip to the temple was well worth it. Just look at them:

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

And the details:

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

The end!

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Malaysia

Seeing hot air balloons for the first time

March 17, 2015

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Do you remember when you were a kid? When life was exciting, bright, every day you discovered something new. When was the last time you’ve learned something new? When was the last time you’ve experienced something for the first time?

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

I like playing this game of “if I were to leave KL (or any other city I happened to live at) in a month, what would I do?” This makes me live, experience, play, visit places I wanted to visit and not wait for when “the time is right”.

IMHot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.comG_9123Same happened this weekend when Anton, our friend Sep and I went to Putrajaya for a hot air balloon fiesta.

IMGHot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com_9133We reached there by 7am on a clear Sunday morning. It was, like all the right, spontaneous and “meant to be” experiences, effortless. Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.comThe balloons were getting ready and boy were they big! Pictures cannot show how huge and impressive the sight was. I think it’s probably the same with the mountains – a photo never shows the grandness of the breathtaking view.

Accompanied by Katty Perry’s “Roar” the first balloon went up.

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

I can’t describe this. Sep helped. I shared how excited I feel watching these odd objects, bright, colourful, effortlessly floating in air. He said: “When you are a child, doing or seeing something new for the first time takes time for your brain needs to digest all the new information and it gets active and you are excited”. Something between the lines of: “We, as adults, are not doing enough new things so that function of our brains is not exercised”.

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hence the excitement. I think it was it – the feeling of doing something new, the childish joy of discovery. I was jumping around, I was so happy there in that moment.

By the way, meet Sep. He’s a writer, wanderer, a summit poet rebel and a very beautiful soul.

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

I will leave you with this. Do something new, experience things you have never done, taste new food, experiment, take a new route to work, sneak out to the café during lunch, take your book and nothing else, just be there, present.

There are so many things you could do. Join me. I’m trying to do/learn/taste/see something new every day. It’s fun. It gives you the taste of living and puts you into living now, being present. And it’s simply very exciting.

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

And go see the hot air balloons as soon as you can. They are beautiful.

Hot air balloon festival 2015 via TinyBlackBird.com

Sending you lots of love,

Olya

 

Thailand

Chiang Mai

March 12, 2015

If there’s one place in Southeast Asia I would love to move to relax, write and enjoy life, it would be Chiang Mai.

It has all the right ingredients for that kind of life: mild climate, streets to walk, cycle and ride a bike around, great coffee, stunning culture (which also creates very tasty contrast – you will see in the pictures below), fresh groceries, good accommodation and way too many trails to hike.

Plus everything else Thailand is famous for (if you’re into those kind of things): affordable alcohol, massage parlour on every corner, boxing, you get the idea.

Oh, have I mentioned the coffee? We found a few really nice hipster coffee shops, our personal favourite was Akha Ama café (check out their story here). Brought a pack of their Italian roast and it was perfect for Bulletproof coffee. I swear by Bulletproof coffee diet – Anton and I have been playing with it for more than two months now and we do see results. Some very impressive results. Anyway, if you want to know more, you can check it here (or talk to me if you want to hear my thoughts on the subject).

IMG_1967

Back to Chiang Mai. We’ve spent 4 days there, haven’t had anything booked, so just walked around the city centre – it’s very easy to navigate – and found a few really nice hotels.

Depending on the budget, I would recommend looking at Thapae Loft Hotel (which we almost chose) or S.K. House 2 which we ended up staying at (it looks dodgy on Agoda, but it was nice and clean when we were there in Jan 2015).

There are a lot of cool hotels in Chiang Mai, inside the old city square and outside of it. If you’re here for only a few days, get something inside, that’s for sure.

Getting around was a bliss – walk everywhere, rent a bicycle or a bike – your choice. We have done all three and also rented a car to go to Chiang Rai for a day with no problem at all. I’ll share more on that a soon when Chang Rai gets published.

Contrasts, yummy contrasts. Dumbo is watching you.

Our favourite thing to do was getting lost in the small streets, poking our phones competing whose app has a better location oracle, then giving up and just giving in to exploration. I found out that allowing yourself to be guided is always the best way. That’s how we found the best pizza in Asia (By Hand Pizza Cafe).

IMG_1961

Fresh avocados the size of a melon, crunchy fresh greens, mango sticky rice, flavourful rich coffee, massages every other day – what a life. But after a few days we were ready for another adventure.

Up next: the unexpected transformation of Chiang Mai on a Sunday night, emerald Buddha, white temple with Star Wars murals, black house of a true genius and more. Excited to share these stories with you soon!

 

Thailand

Koh Tao

March 2, 2015

Of all other possible islands we could have gone to from Bangkok, we chose Koh Tao because of thee reasons:

  1. It’s not Koh Samui
  2. There’s not that much party as on Koh Pha Ngan
  3. It’s known to be an island for divers (50+ dive shops on 21 sq.km!)

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

Wikipedia says: “Ko Tao is less developed than Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, but has become increasingly popular especially with the mid-20s backpacker crowd in search of relatively inexpensive scuba diving certification. For the past two years the demographics of the island has seen an age increase, with many of the visitors who first visited the island over ten years ago are now returning with their families.”

Which I later found out looked like: “It’s a cool little place with lots of backpackers, it’s embracing the hipster needs of today’s 20-somethings by accommodating their morning urge to buy bad overpriced coffee that has to be consumed in a lofty building with pillars, concrete in the design and horrible wifi”. And also: “Yes, many people visited it a few years ago, loved it and now are continuously making a mistake of coming back with spouses and babies onto memory-lane trips. Those are often seen frowning at backpackers who would be carefully driving their overpriced nasty take-away coffee on their neon-coloured rented bikes, dangling their anklets into the dim of dawn”.

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

And it’s also really easy to get to. Night bus and ferry from Bangkok would be around $68 return (bus + boat – all the hustle). Convenient. Here’s the link, I found it surprisingly safe to book and to figure out.

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

Koh Tao is indeed small, we found it best to stay near the jetty ($15 per room per night) and walk to either Sairee Beach with the best breakfast in town.

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

Or to Sai Nuan Beach where you can take emo photos on the cliff:Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.comOr swing on that chandelier:Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

As per diving – it was ok. We were probably on a trial of “now let’s see how much you really like diving, make it rain!!”. You see, after 25 or so beautiful dives in the warm clear water and visibility never lower 8m, with great encounters even on house reef dives, we were about to experience the other side of the diving spectrum: rain, cold wind, discovering the power of double-wetsuits and how a windbreaker can save your surface interval on the deck, how you can see absolutely nothing on a wreck dive (“… I don’t think I see that wheel he’s showing, whoa! I just almost hit a wheel!”) and I definitely never thought I’d be that excited to get out of the cold wet suit at the end of the second dive. We did 10 dives (Wiki’s right, the price was good), but can’t say they were all amazing. On the brighter side, our logbooks are 17 dives away from qualifying for the dive master training!

We’re definitely going to be more appreciative of good dives from now on and we’re totally going to Tioman soon, like omg, we’re so coming back for more dives!

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

Oh, and Koh Tao is also pretty at night.

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

Very much.

Koh Tao via TinyBlackBird.com

(Pictures are all taken and edited by the one and only Anton Veselov aka “Oooooh, the cliff! Take the emo picture of me on the cliff! Can it be me, the sea, the cliff and minus the crocs? Hey, don’t laugh!” aka the Husband)

Thailand

Bangkok feel

February 27, 2015

Bangkok feel_featured

I usually like writing how-to posts, packed with facts, details and things that won’t leave room for interpretations.

Example: Bangkok has this district called Sukhumvit that has bars, clubs and expats; instead of: Sukhumvit feels really Gotham-like to me, where you can see a couple walking to the club – him looking crisp and after-work, her having this tired hope in her eyes, and right behind the corner there would be local kids freestyling like tomorrow is never going to come. Dirty, hopeful yet very romantic in its own way.

One of the recent posts I wrote about what KL feels to me (link) got a lot of you curious, many people wrote or came to me telling they feel the same or suggesting what they feel about the city.

This got me thinking, that maybe I should let go of the careful writing, choosing words, thus stripping them all the colours and flavours. Travelling is a very tricky thing to describe and I strongly believe there’s no such thing as “travel advice” – two people in the same travel group will see the same thing completely differently and one will splurge ‘meh’ all over Trip Advisor the moment they get online, the other would quietly whisper “It was amazing, omg, I want to move there” to close friends and family. And both of them will be true. To themselves.

IMG_1670

So since this is a place where I share my travels, I thought I’d add more me instead of giving you wikitravel-like factual digests and safe comment-less picture galleries. I’ll give it a try. And you let me know what you think, ok?

Bangkok feel

So Bangkok. I’ve been there for only a few days. I really like arriving to the city at night where you’re scared a little and everything looks dark, gloomy yet fun. You don’t see the full picture, only what is brightened up by people. What they want to show, the rest you’ll see the next morning.

 

Bangkok, to me, ended up leaving an impression of an old lonesome grandpa. He’s trying to keep up, he wants to be in the whirlwind of events, he seems cool, of course he has an iPhone and all the hip clothes, developed a few hipster hobbies, but at times, his true nature shows: all his wisdom is suddenly emerging from around the corner of the conversation, the gold of the temples and the shine of mosaic tiles. They’re blinding, bright, cheerful. And you feel happy.

Then he’ll remember something and will switch the conversation to more modern topics, so he sounds very up to date. That’s where all the skyscrapers and posh condos come in.

But then, right away, he’ll show his true face again – wires, small houses, enormous markets, people selling everything you can imagine, old, very old badly maintained yet charming in it’s own way. He seems o have shorter memory spans so he is repeating himself over and over again. Which is great, because I really enjoy that kind of conversation. And that kind of charm of old yet modernised Asia.

IMG_1481_2

And slightly perverted. Yeah, that little hint of a smell, you get it when in Bangkok. Grandpa with that bad breath you can’t avoid.

IMG_1476

That’s how I saw Bangkok.

 

Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think. Hugs!

Thailand

Weekend in Bangkok

January 29, 2015

Weekend in Bangkok_featured

Bangkok was on my must-see list for a while now. I’ve heard it’s very colourful, big and the shopping is good. But over the years of travelling I’ve learn one thing: don’t have any expectations. Well, I did have some idea of what the city could be, I thought it would be a little similar to KL.

IMG_1435

Bangkok went beyond any of that and left a very good impression. It is indeed colourful, a city of contrasts – huge megapolis with lots of small back streets that contrast so much with the skyscrapers, the impressive city train and lots of temples and great cultural spots.

We’ve only had 2 days thee and here are the highlights of the weekend in Bangkok. Huge thanks to Anton for taking some of the pictures and editing them all. I love the way he saw the city!

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-08

Living in Suk 11

Suk11 is a hostel. A very authentic and definitely interesting place to stay. Do check it out. The area is loud and very lively, but close to the train station and overall very interesting.

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-03

Chatuchak weekend market

27 acres of shops is no joke. Chatuchak Weekend Market is huge. And fun. Just go there. Spend a few hours, eat, watch the people. Especially locals, look at them:

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-18

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-01

Temples

We did a fast temple run and visited the most prominent temples. Wat Benjamabhopit:

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-05

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-06

And Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha):

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-04

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-10

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-11

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-13

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-12

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-16

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-17

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-09

This weekend in Bangkok was great. Just one note, if you go there. Please read this and be mindful of scams. I wrote about this on Facebook, but also wanted to add it here. Just something to be aware of.

Weekend in Bangkok via TinyBlackBird.com-14

Be safe and stay tuned for more posts from Thailand coming soon!

Happy thoughts, Thailand

Giveaway: Tiny Black Box from Thailand

January 17, 2015

Hi guys!

As you know, I’m currently strolling around Thailand, backpacking, trying to capture all this beauty and recharge.
The energy of this place is very vibrant and I really want to share some of it with you. Time for a giveaway!

Tint Black Box Thailand_featured

So this is how it works. I’m going to collect a few meaningful things from Thailand and share the story of each (on Instagram and Facebook). Then pack them up nicely in a tiny black box because Tiny Black Bird. And one of you will receive it. Wherever you are. Because sharing this inspiration is very important to me, I would love for you to have a glimpse of it too.

Here are the rules

You just need to follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram and leave a comment below noting your Facebook/ Instagram username so I know you are you. In reply to your comment I’ll give you a number. If you followed on both, you get 2 numbers. If you found and followed me elsewhere, bonus points to you, stalker :-)

Then at the end of this trip, a random number will be selected in a transparent and honest way (will probably shoot a small video of it) and one of you will get the Tiny Black Box from Thailand! I’ll ship it your way, wherever you are.

Short and sweet. The giveaway will end on Jan 30th so I can get your address on time to ship the box on Jan 31st.

I’m super excited to scout for little pieces of Thailand for you, let the fun begin!

UPD: Just pulled a lucky winner of the Tiny Black Box and it’s #15. Congrats Anya! I’ve also pulled out 3 numbers that will get a little something – 10, 24 and 26. Will contact you shortly for more details. Thank you guys for participating! It’s amazing to be able to share all this inspiration with you. More #tinyblackboxes will come in the future, stay tuned and get inspired to travel!

giveaway results

Lots of love,
Olya

Running

13 tips for beginning runners

January 13, 2015

This is a continuation of my running story. The first part actually got me back on track with running. Since that post, I received a lot of encouragement, booked the next race (running half marathon on March 8th!) and signed up for a very cool gym, so I’m back in business! Right now I’m experimenting with different running apps and plans, bought a few books about running techniques, try to follow bulletproof diet (I’m very consistent with the coffee part, hehe) and I run at least 3 times a week plus have two pilates classes and one hike a week. But more on that later.

Running_featured

So running. There is tons, TONS of information about it out there. But since today is January 13th, I came up with 13 tips for beginning runners and things I personally did/read/used. All this is purely my experience, I’m a beginner myself. If you have thoughts on this or would like to share your tips, please share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

1. Do your research

Read. Study. Understand running and what it does to your body. I read stuff in Russian mostly. And Lifehacker on running. And Runner’s World.

I’ve just downloaded Gordon Pirie’s “Running fast and injury free” pdf (link) and bought Pose method of running by Dr. Nicholas Romanov. Haven’t read them yet, but they are highly recommended on running blogs and sites.

2. Get friends on board

I told people I’m running. This made a public commitment to the new routine and really helped in the long run. Literally. I had friends supporting me during the race (mentally) and it helped beyond words. Social commitment is crazy powerful – having a running or a workout buddy is vital for me. I have a friend picking me up 4 days a week at 7:07 am and we go to the gym together. If this is working for me, so not a morning person, anyone can do this.

3. Get the right shoes

I bought mine at New Balance. They had good shoes for my heel, I tried 5 or 6 pairs and these were just perfect for me and my goal (running on treadmill, long distance runs).

4. Are you running right?

I watched this video about the right positioning of the foot

and this video about the pose method of running

5. Run where you can

To me running on treadmill was a conscious choice – running outside was just too hard for me – too hot/raining/humid/hazy/can’t wake up early/too dark when I get home/hundreds other excuses – I would never get into running had I waited for better weather or a perfect moment. So I ran indoors. The half marathon was actually the first outdoor run in Malaysia. Not the smartest thing to do. So yes, decide where you are running and when, but just run, ok?

6. Then commit to it

Just show up. Do whatever helps. Don’t slip. Better run slower and steadier and build up pace than burn out on week one. Trust me, you will see results fast.

7. Set a goal

Do you want to run a race? Lose weight? Be able to run 10km without dropping the pace? What motivates you? Set yourself a goal.

I had: to be able to run 5km (I thought it would take a while, but with lots of dedication, I pulled it off in two months), then it was “run half marathon”, now the goal is to run a full marathon in 2015. And then? I don’t know yet, let’s see.

lets go

(click the image for the source)

8. Have a plan

I used Runkeeper‘s 0 to 5km plan and then a half marathon preparation plan. Of course I didn’t do the WHOLE plan perfectly. I missed one or two workouts here and there. But to me, that was the hardest – committing no matter what. And then I started seeing results and it became easier.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Runkeeper, will give Nike+ a try. I’m using Garmin’s Vivofit and the heart monitor to track stuff, but still haven’t found a good smart app. Advice?

9. Celebrate your results

Suddenly people started complimenting on my look and my clothes became too loose. That’s when I realised that small steps over long time show real results. Looking back, I can totally say the result stayed even though I paused running for a few months.

10. Book that race

I booked a Penang half marathon in August and a Standard Chartered KL marathon in November. Needless to say I did underestimate the time I was ready to dedicate to this and overestimated my capabilities. I did run the half, but the full marathon.. The half made me realise how much more serious I need to be about it and how much proper training I need to be able to pull off a full marathon. So I skipped that one for now.

Furthermore, I paused running after the race for 4 months! I’m slowly starting back now, but the break was a conscious decision. It could have been shorter, now I fell out of the habit and it’s very hard to get back into the flow.

No tips here, I guess. It’s my big problem – so I’m dealing with it as much as I can – committing to something and getting it to become a habit and not letting it slide. Hard..

remember why you started

(click the image for the source)

11. Find motivation

No joke, running quotes are cheesy, but guys, they are so empowering! If a fluffy quote makes you get out of the bed in the morning and run 5km, it’s probably not that fluffy, right? Check out Pinterest for inspiration. Goodreads also has a good collection of quotes.

12. Don’t stop

See step 6. Consistency is the key here. I just cannot emphasise on this enough!

13. Enjoy!

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”

― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running