Staying safe in Thailand

I could tell you that Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world, and you probably wouldn’t believe if you’ve never been before. To put you at ease, here are a few safety precautions to take during your first trip over.

Riding an elephant 

Image credit: Fah Rojvithee

More or less everyone who watches documentaries about Thailand wants to ride an elephant. And why not? It’s fun. Just beware for your own safety while doing so. Listen to the trainer or owner when they give you specific instructions and bear in mind that, trained or not, elephants are still wild animals. They have been known to charge off. In this eventuality, jump from its back. It’s safer on the ground.

Steer clear of scams 

Thailand is no stranger to scams, the same as every other country. Be wary of those who approach and appear to be far too friendly. Basically, use your common sense. Anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is. Don’t treat everyone with hostile suspicion though. Thai people are very nice and genuine overall. It’s the 1% you need to keep an eye on.

Image credit: travelourplanet.com

Cabs 

There are nice cab drivers, and there are some who just aren’t. And just like any place in the world, tourists are usually targets for rip offs. It pays to have pre-arranged transportation prior to your trip.

Unlike in the UK, airport parking services are not very common in Thailand, so travellers really have to rely on cabs or car rentals. This is something that other international airports can take inspiration from; UK’s parking4less , for instance, gives travellers some sort of relief knowing they can leave their car at the airport during their holiday. This means they don’t need to opt for renting a car or hiring a cab after a long, exhausting flight. It’s also safer and more convenient compared to having to take a cab or taking the bus.

Bottled water 

Make sure you drink bottled water only. In all honesty most people who stay for an extended period in Thailand, say the tap water is fine, but if you’re on holiday, you don’t want avoidable sickness to ruin your experience. Bottles are cheap and the fruit juices are also harmless. If you’re keen to be careful, say no to ice in your drinks too. Don’t be paranoid if you do rinse your mouth out with tap water though.

All that said, me and Pola drunk coconut water every single day until one day we got such severe food poisoning that my mum had research Thai meds to help us. (Thank you mum!)

Swimming in rivers 

Just because the locals are swimming in the rivers, doesn’t mean you should. The fish bite in Thailand; and those who are squeamish about snakes will not enjoy the experience (yes, the snakes swim). The water in the streams isn’t very clean either.

More stories about Thailand:

Awesome cooking classes in Chiang Mai

The best green Thai curry in Thailand

The best breakfast ever

Last couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with my porridge and yesterday I found my ultimate favourite. Firstly, hats off to the amazing Deliciously Ella who vastly inspired this recipe (and the majority of my everyday menus).

Without further introduction, let me present you… Overnight Chia Oats with Apple Cinnamon Puree.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of gluten free oats
1/2 cup of almond milk
1 apple
3 teaspoons of chia seeds
1 tsp of cinnamon
a splash of agave syrup
a drop of vanilla bean extract

The night before, cut and peel the apple to cook it for about 5-10 minutes. Once it gets soft, mash it up with a fork and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Place in the fridge, go to sleep and enjoy the most delicious breakfast in the morning!

Best green Thai curry in Thailand

I dare to find a more delicious and beautifully served green Thai curry!

My green Thai curry recipe from the cooking classes in Chiang Mai is coming soon, so come back soon!

Chiang Mai Cooking Wonder Emporium

Everyone who goes to Thailand says it is amazing. Well, it truly is. Every place, every village and every island are so beautiful, yet totally different from each other. I loved it everywhere – from Chiang Rai to Riley. One of the highlights of our travels in February were the cooking classes in Chiang Mai in Zabb E Lee Cooking School. Absolutely delicious!!!

It was just the three of us, me, Pola, and the lovely Thai lady who leads her own cooking school. We started off by choosing which starters, soups, stir-fries and curries we wanted to prepare.

Ready to hear? Papaya salad, Tom yum, pad thai, green Thai curry were my selections; whereas Pola chose veggie spring rolls, Tom kha, cashew nut chicken, red Thai curry. All so insanely delicious, fresh and full of flavours!

It is a kind of magic!

Ain’t no body, stir fries better!

In the upcoming weeks, I promise to share some of the recipes we learned so you too can experience a little bit of Thailand in your kitchen.

Smacznego!

Heart-Shaped Chia Smoothie

I love three things about my food: it tastes good, it is super healthy and it looks amazing! Here is my Heart-Shaped Chia Smoothie that is so delicious and so pretty, and… Takes less than 2 minutes to make!

Ingredients:

1 banana

1 tbsp almond butter

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 cup of almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

Simply blend everything together and create a heart shape topping with some extra chia seeds.

Follow me on Instagram @haveyoumetsonia for more delicious smoothies!

Coffee Heaven at the London Coffee Festival

London Coffee Festival 2014 was a blast!

After quitting gluten, processed food and alcohol, I thought that the last ‘unhealthy’ element of my life was coffee. I love it, but it is acidic on the alkaline-acidic scale, so I should eliminate it – no?

No! I realised it was impossible. Coffee is my one true love. Boyfriends come and go, coffee is here to stay. I’m so happy that me and Maria went to the London Coffee Festival this year, it was a paradise.

First coffee of the day

Latte selfie

This place was amazing. Instead of paying for coffee, in Poetry Café you had to write a poem!

What happens after you take your first sip of coffee

Maria loved that one

Can you spot the shape of Africa in his eyes?

Good cop, bad cop @ Google City Experts

14 coffees latte’r

Now that I confessed my love, it will come as no surprise that I’m starting a coffee shop tour on haveyoumetsonia.co.uk Stay tuned!

What are your favourite coffee places in London?

Letter to Gabo

Dear Gabo,

I’m sorry that you died but I’m sure you will make something beautiful out of heaven. Everyone will love you there, just like we did here in our world. I’m looking forward to reading your afterlife books when I’m dead myself.

Thank you for showing me into your magical world. Thank you for introducing me to Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Each time I’m sad, they remind me that I won’t die alone.

I truly loved your books.

Abrazo,

Sonia

Resurrection of haveyoumetsonia.co.uk

Hi all, I’m back! Last couple of months I’ve been so incredibly busy, I’m sorry for abandoning haveyoumetsonia.co.uk It wasn’t only the job hunt and my new gig that kept me so occupied. Actually, my New Year’s Resolutions from last year got me learning and practising so many new things, I barely had any time to wander around the internet any more. Believe it or not, I kept the majority of them.

Nowadays, I take theatre classes on Mondays, learn Portuguese on Tuesdays, practice tennis on Thursdays and Sundays. In between I pop in for an occasional yoga at the gym and learn how to cook healthy food. It’s rather difficult to find time for anything else, whereas I still need to schedule in some ballet and capoeira classes, and start going to London Fields lido as it gets sunnier.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve never been happier. I want to write again, because I simply love writing and oversharing things on the internet. I travelled quite a few times, so in the next couple of weeks I will share some photos and memories of these trips. I indulge myself in coffee these days, so I might review some of the new coffee places I visit. Last but not least, cooking and being healthy is such a big part of my life now, you’re going to see plenty of food instagrams too!

Hear, hear to the new blogging adventures!

Spain beyond Barcelona

I’ve been to Spain a couple of times now but I can never go anywhere else but Barcelona. I want to see Madrid and visit to the Basque country but I always end up booking a flight to Barcelona. Recently, my friend suggested: how about we go on a road trip? I think this is the answer; we can find some cheap car hire in Spain and go everywhere!

We’ll start in Barcelona anyway, because I love it. I wish Spain wasn’t in the economic crisis and I could find work and move there. The highlights for me are always harbour and the beach, Park Guell and food in La Boqueria. I still have one unfulfilled resolution from Barcelona – I love The Shadow of the Wind but I’ve read it a couple of years before going to Barcelona. I want to read it again and walk the routes that Daniele Sempere met Fermin Romero de Torres, escaped from Lain Coubert. Last but not least, I want to be guided to the Cemetry of Forgotten Books.


From Barcelona, we would drive 600 kms to Bilbao and the Basque Country. I have two friends from there and they always praise Northern Spain. What looks particularly amazing is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. It’s an islet, half an hour from Bilbao that is only accessible by climbing hundreds of stone steps. These stairs on photos look like a miniature Great Wall of China. The views are just breath-taking.

Photo credit goes to Christina

Next stop: Madrid. I’m keen to see Madrid because I feel the rivalry between Barcelona is Madrid is similar to Warsaw and Krakow that I mentioned in the previous post. Beautiful city vs the capital. In real world, I come from the capital so I should be a Madrid’s advocate. From what I hear my Spanish friends recommend, Prado Museum is a must, as well as Retiro Park and Palacio de Cristal.

Final stop: Andalusia! Flamenco! First, we will have to visit Alhambra. It looks just like out of One Thousand and One Nights. I want to get lost there and dream that I’m an Arabian princess. In evenings, we will visit all flamenco places to listen to the music and watch beautiful dancing.

Here we are at the end of our trip. Can I say that I saw Spain after visiting these four locations? Will I get this tingling sensation on one of the streets and decide to leave London behind and move to Spain? I’m really looking forward to!

Starting the tour of Krakow

The immediate question I get asked after saying that I’m from Poland is: “Whereabouts?” From Warsaw. “Oh, I’ve been to Krakow” everybody replies. It may seem as a great conversation starter, but just to warn you, foreigners. Warsaw and Krakow don’t like each other. Krakow still thinks they are the capital of Poland! Jokes aside, rivalry aside, I loooove Krakow. Every time I visit, I feel I can just stay there, study history and become a poet. I’d like to invite all of you looking for cheap holidays to experience the Old City magic.
Krakow used to be the capital of Poland for over 5 centuries so you should know you are entering a royal city. Although, Poland now is a tiny country somewhere in Eastern Europe famous for its cleaners, plumbers and builders, we used to be big monarchy. In the 16th century Poland was the biggest country in Europe, famous for its tolerance thus receiving tons of foreigners who couldn’t admit to their faith in their own countries. The kings and nobility were so wealthy, they could afford the best architects from Italy to build towns, palaces and churches. You can still see the remnants of those time when you have a walk around the Old City. (You  sadly can’t experience this in Warsaw, since the capital was completely crashed during WW2)
Ok so you landed in Krakow, checked in to your hostel, what now? I recommend taking a free walking tour around the city. The most famous one is the Royal Krakow, but they have a whole bunch of interesting routes like the  Jewish Krakow or a trip to Nowa Huta which was a model communist town built in the 50s. (Whoa wait what? Where did the communist come to the picture, we were talking 16th century. Exactly, you need a tour to understand it all.)
If you missed the departure time, don’t worry. I can still walk you through the most iconic sights in Krakow. If you are standing at the meeting point in front of St Mary’s Church but the tour is gone, keep calm and open my blog. In the upcoming series on Krakow, I will guide you through my favourite places.
Here start my words of Krakow wisdom: have a look at the church, this is the second most important church in Krakow after the cathedral.
Have you noticed that the two towers you can see are not equal height. The legend has it, they were built by two brother architects and the one who built the taller tower was obviously more talented. His brother, crazy from jealousy, killed the poor brother. (And consequentially committed a suicide out of guilt)
Can you hear that trumpet? It’s St. Mary’s Trumpet Call, the anthem of Krakow. Do you want to hear the legend or true story about this melody? Lets go with the legend. A long time ago, during the  Mongolian invasion on Poland,  a sentry on a tower saw Mongolians approaching and sounded alarm by playing the trumpet. The city gates were closed before they could take the city by surprise. The trumpeter, however, was shot in the throat and did not complete the anthem. You can still hear that the melody the forth time finishes abruptly. (Ok remember I said it was a legend, this is not a true story, but the tourists like it)
Now, go inside of the church. The inside is a spectacular mix of gothic, baroc and art nouveau. It’s so beautiful, you have to admire it no matter what religion you are. Look up.
The ceiling looks like a starry night. Look around. Can you see the beautiful stained glass windows? The polychromy on the walls was designed by one of great Polish artists Jan Matejko.
Make your way to the front to see the most famous masterpiece. It’s the altar carved in wood by the Nuremberg artist Veit Stoss. The centre scene shows St Mary falling asleep, it’s surrounded by 6 other stories from St Mary’s life. The altar is massive, the characters from the main piece are bigger than human people. Actually, everybody you can see on the alter used to walk around Krakow at some point. It was no secret (and this time it’s not a legend) that Veit Stoss used real Krakow people as inspiration. To the extent that Polish medicine students joke that they can learn diseases from their faces.
The last thing before you leave, don’t miss the Veit Stoss crucifix. It’s very naturalistic, the 21st century people are not too religious, but think what impact it had for people in Krakow in 15th century!
After you leave St Mary’s Church, let me take you around the main square. A lot of interesting stories here coming up in a post next week! Afterwards, expect the academic Krakow, the Pope route and the Royal Castle and Cathedral.