This is now the fourth Christmas we have celebrated as editors of The Working Traveller and we have as little intention of being original or hard working on this day as we did in 2012, 2011 and 2010. This means once again we are keeping to the tradition of repeats so loved by TV channels over the festive period. In this way we can scoff loads of roast potatoes, punish the brandy and fall asleep in front of the TV in garish knitwear.
Not long after last Christmas we jumped on a plane to cold, snowy Istanbul and then onward to Thailand where we compared the differences in preparing for this trip with our first long trip in 2003.
We stayed in Southeast Asia for much of the rest of the year and naturally the region dominated our writing, though we did also reflect on past trips to Machu Picchu, Petra, and our evening with a Colonel in Iraq.
Unlike our last trip to Thailand where we spent our first night homeless and wandering the streets rescuing drugged, shoeless robbery victims, this time we enjoyed a good start to Bangkok. While we slept elsewhere on our visits to Bangkok I have to confess I like the Khao San Road.
Having visited Thailand before we did very few touristy things this time around. Instead we set ourselves up in Chiang Mai and enjoyed life in the sun, walking city streets, working and drinking smoothies. Eventually, towards the end of our time in northern Thailand, we roused ourselves to cram in to a couple of days all the adventure activities and cookery classes we had so far missed.
Burma was another matter. The country was the lure that drew us back to Southeast Asia rather than decide to venture to a part of the world we have yet to see. We showed how to get a Burmese visa in Bangkok, advised against using PayPal, were charmed by Yangon, nearly killed in Bagan and took photos of monks and the cats that no longer jump through hoops in a monastery beside Inle Lake.
We enjoyed the place so much we returned there another three times, but only for five or six minutes at a time to renew our Thai visa. We did another visa run to Savannakhet, but on this occasion we stuck around in Laos for a month. Here we enjoyed the Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival in Don Det that was so successful it proved to be almost as wet as the chaotic Songkran New Year celebrations in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was also the scene of the Poi Sang Long Festival, a rite of passage for Shan boys in northern Thailand, who imitate the life of the Buddha, dressing up as Princes before being ordained as monks.
Despite only living in Chiang Mai for a few months the city felt very much like home and I can imagine us returning for a third time before too long. Three travellers familiar with the city are James Clark, Latoya Brown and Diana Edelman. James is a digital nomad, Latoya funds her lifestyle through social media marketing, and Diana currently helps the Save Elephant Foundation with PR and social media, one of 34 places we found to volunteer in and around Chiang Mai.
We also asked Jonny Blair about teaching English in Hong Kong and the numerous other jobs he has done to remain on the road. Other interviews concerned quizzing expats about their adopted hometowns of Chicago, La Paz, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Bogota, Barcelona, La Roche sur Foron, La Garde, Privlaka, Sihanoukville, Sapa and Dahab.
Some information on volunteer work can be found in the last two interviews. We did some of our own when we took a lion for a walk in Kanchanburi, location of the Kwai Bridge. Here are ten more free or cheap volunteer projects to join in Southeast Asia. This list doesn’t include working in hostels in Kuala Lumpur or Sukhothai or Ireland. These last two we will cover after the new year.
Shane and Deirdre
Image courtesy jayneandd.