My name is Anna and I am a new volunteer for Art Relief International. Having just arrived a week ago, already there has been so many wonderful experiences to share with you. My days have begun with going with all my fellow volunteers to the Art Relief International office to prepare for the day's program, leading activities with different participants, home for dinner by six, and then a small chunk of time exploring Chiang Mai. It has been a humbling experience to be a part of what the current volunteers provide for the participants of programs. This week's activities have ranged from pointillism painting, making penguin masks, to playing theater sport games. All of which have left us rolling in laughter and my face hurting from smiling all day.
So far, Thailand has surpassed any idea I had made of it before arriving. What has stood out to me the most since arriving is how I am welcomed with smiling faces at every turn. Everyone here, strangers and new friends alike, have treated me with such amounts of kindness that amazes me. Though I know only common Thai phrases, local Thai people make such an effort to converse with me; through missed translations it'll leave both of us smiling.
Other than the daily ARI activities, I have found within just one week many things to do during any off time. Chiang Mai is a busy city filled with beautiful greenery, a gorgeous view of Doi Suthep, tea houses down most streets, and incredible temples. Most mornings call for a walk to a nearby tea spot, a cute place to get a relaxing start to your day is Tanita Coffee. It's located just a five minute walk from the volunteer home, is beautifully covered in moss paired with old wooden seats, and an old tree grows through the middle of the entry.
As the afternoon rolls around, it's quite fun to walk into the Old city of Chiang Mai and endlessly explore all of its lovely paths. Currently, there is the ASEAN Vegetarian festival going on so everyday the streets are covered even more so with stands of vegetarian food. The other night, other volunteers and myself went to the festival to enjoy some tea and northern Thai dishes. Everything was too delicious!
This past weekend was my first full free time to fully explore the city so I took advantage of my time and set out to do some adventuring. Two friends and I rented motorbikes for a day to ride around Chiang Mai. We set off to Mae Sa waterfalls; which is around a thirty minute motorbike ride outside of town. The motorbikes were a fun way to travel and the road to the falls was gorgeous. Everything is so lusciously green here and there was a gorgeous view of the mountains as we rode. The falls themselves and its surrounding environment were breathtaking.
The night life here is wonderful! Weekend nights have consisted of visiting the incredible Night Market and listening to live music with friends. There is such a vibrant to Chiang Mai's music scene. There are commonly live bands playing at restaurants or on side streets that play incredibly. It's been too fun to go dancing with friends while good music is played. This place has so much to offer!