Holiday In Chiang Dao: Day 2: Caving, Rainstorms And Meeting Randoms…

So day 2 was all about caving, this was the main reason I came here, so off I went to explore, well, the caves…

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I did a bit of writing and caught up on social media bs, then it was time to go and and see the caves. Luckily after my escapades yesterday I was staying about 200 metres away from the caves, so I wondered in that general direction and made my way there.

It is 40 Baht a ticket to go into the caves, or 20 Baht if you are a Thai. I don’t look very Asian (I know, I’m so fucking racist!) but I do possess a work permit, which means I get the benefit of getting a Thai price for certain things. So when the lady saw me walking to the counter she looked at me as if I was having sex with her better looking best friend whilst making eye contact and smirking, then angrily demanded 40 Baht. I then confidently placed my work permit on the counter as if it were an FBI badge…

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“Aray?” She asked her friend (Not her best friend, I made that bit up. Although that would be a much better story if this dialogue was happening mid-fuck…) Which roughly translates as “What’s this monstrosity?”

I explained in Thai what the law was, and she quickly retorted that only Thai’s got the 20 Baht rate. It was less than 50 cents difference, but the law is the law and out of principle I kept explaining to her that this was not the case and I should have a half price ticket. (On an unrelated note; I’m still single. I have no idea why I can’t find a girlfriend at the moment…) and eventually she cracked, more out of boredom than anything, and gave me the Thai price.

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I walked up the stairs and gingerly made my way around. Eventually I found my way to the proper entrance. To the left was the real caving and to the right was the basic touristy walkway that was well lit. I wanted to do the proper caving, but I remember my bad experience I had in the Philippines that was ever so slightly dangerous (I still don’t know how I survived that looking back on it) and I bottled it. My argument was that there were no guides there and you had to take a guide underground for the lighting and where to step etc… Maybe it was because it was low season that there were no guides, but I was more than happy to pussy out and do the basic caving instead.

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It was so lit that you could even take photos. Some of these photos were with no flash as well! There were also shrines all around the walkway of the caves, and at one point there were two guys painting some of the shrines in the cave. What a job eh? Imagine being lucky enough to be paid to do something like that?

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I got to the end and it was pitch black, with a sign saying that no one was allowed to go into the water and they would be fined 5000 Baht (£100). I couldn’t even see the water, but I didn’t fancy finding the hard way if there was any, so I headed back through the caves, exhaling like a pretentious guy strolling through an art museum…

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Then it began to chuck it down. It was amazing because the echoes of the rain inside the caves made you feel alert, yet protected. In Thailand tropical rainstorms only last for 5-10 minutes, so I headed to the entrance/exit to watch the rainstorm for a bit. About a minute later I went back into the cave to see the rest of the bits I had missed.

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Once I left I walked around the entrance and took some photos. Then some random guy came up to me and said, “Plaa! (fish)” I thought this was weird, but I smiled and said ‘yes’. Then he got a bag of what I assume was fish pellet food and I figured out he was trying to sell me fish food. I went to buy one for 10 Baht but he said he had no change. So I took two and offered it to a couple who were protecting themselves from the rain.

“No thank you. We did it earlier and I don’t think they are hungry…” The guy replied as he continued to hug his girlfriend. He was right, as I threw some of the pellets in none of the fish gave a shit. The seller said to me I had to throw it in hard so the fish would hear it and then eat it, but of course he was full of shit, and the fish didn’t care either way, and the guy quickly disappeared when I did as he said and it didn’t work…

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Not to be deterred I went to the place where I fed the ducks before :

https://steemit.com/nature/@lewisjfclarke/having-breakfast-by-the-lake-in-northern-thailand

…knowing that the fish there were hungry, so they’d be more than happy to eat my abundance of fish-pellet-things. But alas, a shit they did not give either… And I ended up dumping the whole lot in the water hoping that at least one fish may want to eat them.

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This was my last night in Chiang Dao, so I thought I’d put on my fake Bulgarian trainers and my Chiang Mai FC football shirt, then hit the town. Well, I needed dinner first, and as I mentioned on the day 1 blog everything shuts here at around 7. So at 6:30 I walked to the cave area hoping that there would be a restaurant there serving basic Thai food.

Everything was shut though, and as I was making my way out I saw my guesthouse owner who asked me if I was looking for food (I nodded like a kid at primary school who’d just been bullied) and she went into one of the restaurants and asked if they could quickly make a dish for me. They did. I had a cracking Pad Thai for 50 Baht and as an added bonus I got 19 mosquito bites on my legs. WINNING!!!!

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Then it was time to hit the bar. I walked in and there was a friendly American couple playing cards who I chatted to, then I gave the bar owner a free book (I promised I’d give her one the day before. Innuendo 100% intended…) She replied by giving me one back! Before you get excited and think she led me into the toilets, she didn’t. She gave me a free drink.

Then for the rest of the evening I was chatting to the American couple and another American bloke doing the gap year thing, then I headed home to write some more of my book, and possibly waste time on websites like Youtube, Facebook and other things that give me temporary joy…

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And that’s pretty much it I’m afraid! I’d love to lie and say I got into a Red Dead Redemption style shootout with the local gang that had been hassling the locals, but I’m afraid my holiday was relatively uneventful. I wonder what – and when – the next holiday will be? I know I need one, but I also know that I need money to pay for said holiday. Ahhh, capitalism…

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Holiday In Chiang Dao: Day 1, I’m Not Going To Do Much, Honest…

Rocking up to Chiang Dao, the plan was to get my bearings then have a lazy day. Then the day after was supposed to be my busy day doing activities and shit.

Yeah, when have things ever gone to plan…?

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I got off the bus and saw some tout walking towards me with a creepy smile that suggested he may or may not have a sex dungeon if I was interested. I started speaking to him in Thai (Not about the dungeon. That’s how rumours get started…) and after realising I spoke Thai he completely ignored me and headed to an unsuspecting Danish couple. I then skipped off towards the bus stop of sorts to try and head to where the caves were, as I knew that was the best area to stay.

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I found a Song Tao (cross between a taxi and a bus) driver and got a lift there for 150 Baht. As I went get in I saw the couple getting into a different song tao next to me and I asked where they were going.

“Chiang Dao huts.” The female tout who was with my song tao driver said.

“How much?” I asked.

“No, this is not near Chiang Dao caves.” She said.

“Are you sure? Because I thought it was very close.” I asked, trying to remember if my Google Map knowledge was correct.

“Yes. very far!” She insisted.

I didn’t believe her, but I wasn’t going to call her out on it. Turns out Chiang Dao Huts was 250 metres away from where I got dropped off, so I was right to be suspicious. But people have got to make money somehow, and I can’t think of a better way than to lie…

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The view from my guesthouse…

It didn’t matter in the end because I found a nice little place called Ashi Guesthouse for 450 Baht a night. The owner was really friendly and told me where the nearest shops etc… were (as Chiang Dao was not only very quiet, but apparently it was low season) So I waddled off to get my bearings, figuring out my plan of action for the next day.

I found a small Thai restaurant owned by a little old lady with no teeth that spoke zero English. I asked her for a noodle soup and she whipped one up for me. It tasted brilliant, and it only cost 20 Baht (40p) as well!

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Then in true Lewis fashion I got lost. Well, not so much lost as it was one road, but more like Forrest Gump ‘Since I’ve gone this far…I might as well keep going…’ and was soon walking past signs for resorts saying 2-3 kms away, then walking past said resorts.

I then eventually found myself in front of one of the places I planned on going the next day; Wat Tham Pha Plong, which literally translates as ‘Bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay Snoop Dogg’s in the muthafuckin… temple’.
Basically this temple is at the top of a hill, a hill that contains over 500 steps. Then on top of that the temple is inside a cave. I’d already walked this far, so I thought I might as well go do the temple as well…

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And do it I did! It was pretty cool because on the way there were little wise phrases up on the walls as you were waking past, and they weren’t cheesy either; they were sayings that made you stop and think. Then about 300 steps up the steps forked, and there was a steep walkway to the right that led to complete mystery. I did my best Scooby Doo impression and headed in that direction to find out what was there.

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I was nearly disappointed as it looked like not much was there apart from a load of steep steps. Then I saw another makeshift walkway up the hill and to the right. I headed that way and it wasn’t easy to get to, which usually means something pretty good is there…

And there was! As you can see it looks like a secret entrance to a cave. So I went up the flimsy ladder and into the cave. I didn’t plan on going far as I expected it to be total darkness, but I soon saw it didn’t go in very deep, and was a secret shrine away from the tourist area. I didn’t take a picture of the shrine for two reasons:

  1. Out of respect, as it wasn’t open for the average tourist
  2. It was too dark to take a decent picture even if I wanted to

So if you want to see inside, then I recommend you go. It’s definitely worth it!

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The entrance to the secret cave

I finally got to the top and was exhausted. I ran out of water two kilometres ago, and there was nowhere that was selling water. So I asked the monks at the top of the temple if I could buy a bottle of water. They said I could help myself to as much water as I liked provided I cleaned the cup they gave me to drink out of. I drank two cupfuls. I wanted more but I didn’t want to be rude, and then left 10 Baht for them for the water as a way of saying thank you for their hospitality.

Then it was temple time! This was pretty interesting as the temple is enshrined into the cave. This also meant the place itself was really cool, so I stayed there for a bit absorbing the energy and at the same time strategically cooling myself down. Mission successful!

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Then in my infinite wisdom I thought it would be a good idea to go up another steep hill and go to the wildlife santuary instead of calling it a day. I went up and there was nothing there. I suppose I can always lie and say I saw a panda juggling three tortoises…

And that’s it right? No, instead of resting I thought I should socialise in search of a beautiful female. So I decided to go to the only place that was open in Chiang Dao after 7:30; The Cave Bar. I walked in and soon found out I was the only guy in the bar.
By default I was the sexiest guy in the room, so I felt confident and strutted my way to the bar. I only ordered a coke because I was shattered and didn’t fancy getting drunk on top of that. Then I played a few games of pool with the owner (Nice girl. Runs the bar by herself) namedropped my books in completely irrelevant scenarios then made my way home.

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I still managed to write a blog post on top of that, and 500+ words for my latest book. But day 2 was going to be a hell of a lot slower that’s for sure. Caving, and that would be probably it. Probably…

Motivation Hits In Mysterious Ways…

I’ve been struggling to keep my latest book moving recently. I have a scene I am writing and although I know vaguely what I have to write and how I have to get there, I’ve been struggling to think of something is isn’t cheesy or illogical, which has led me to not write anything for the last three days.

Last night I said to myself I needed to force this book along otherwise I’d get stuck. Because one day soon turns into two, and before you know it six months have gone by and you’ve done nothing. So I went to meet a mate of mine for a drink, promising to myself that I’d write something once I got home.

Of course, one drink turned into several, and before we knew it we were in some random late night bar in Thailand with a few random tourists we’d picked up along the way. Then we went to another girly bar where they were recommending a place we needed to go to get another drink.

I kept asking where specifically we were going, but they kept ignoring me. It seemed very suspicious but there were a lot of us so it wasn’t as if we were going to get jumped in any way. Nonetheless I kept alert and was watching where we were going in the tuk-tuk, ready to bail if they went down a dark unknown side street that looked dangerous…

We ended up in some underground bar that looked pretty safe. I smiled and was enjoying the chilled out vibe. Then as the group of us sat down we asked for a drinks menu (for prices) but no one would give us one. The Thai girls kept saying we needed to get a big bottle of Thai whisky for 800 Baht, which is a lot of money for what it is (You can usually buy the bottle for a third of the price) I was skeptical and was asking for the price of a smaller bottle or the price for anything else (maybe individual drinks, or a bottle of vodka), which again no one would tell me, they just got angry saying there were a lot of people so we needed a big bottle.

Then one girl got really aggressive and started shouting insults at me, and weird accusations like saying she wasn’t a bar girl, she was a good girl. I was incredibly confused but most likely they were angry I’d caught them out on some scam where I can only assume the tourists buy an overpriced bottle and the girls drink most of it. Then she demanded if she didn’t like her attitude I could leave. I didn’t need asking twice; I stood up and despite the others trying to convince me to stay I was more than happy to get out of there.

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It was a shit end to the evening I guess, but as I was walking to my bike it suddenly occurred to me that the confusing confrontation I’d had would be a perfect way to join the book together and get the message across that I was trying to portray in that particular scene. I went to bed with a smile on my face, not actually writing anything other than notes that day, but finally aware of how to make the scene flow smoothly now.

It’s weird how things are meant to happen and sometimes you have to wait a particular amount of time before the right moment happens and inspires you to write the perfect scene. It ended up working out really well for me, and other than that very brief uncomfortable moment it was actually a really good night out.

Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao, how to get there:

I’ve just recently come back from a two day holiday in Chiang Dao, and whilst telling a friend of mine about it in Chiang Mai he seemed to have no idea how easy it was to get there. So before I write a travel blog about the place itself I thought I’d write a mini blog on how to get there.

OK, first and most importantly you have to go to Chang Puak bus station. This is important as this is the far more obscure bus station. Most tourists will only know about Arcade Bus Station on the east side of town, however this one is just north of the town square and covers the more local trips. I’ve left a Google Maps link below because I’m sexy like that…

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https://www.google.com/maps/place/%E0%B8%82%E0%B8%99%E0%B8%AA%E0%B9%88%E0%B8%87%E0%B8%8A%E0%B9%89%E0%B8%B2%E0%B8%87%E0%B9%80%E0%B8%9C%E0%B8%B7%E0%B8%AD%E0%B8%81/@18.8000399,98.985545,18z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x30da3a9415608989:0x6f1e102b1a3e7339!8m2!3d18.8000399!4d98.9866394

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This is the main entrance of the station. It’s very small so you won’t get lost. Then shimmy your way to the middle and they’ll have various little kiosks telling you which bus to become a stowaway on. Our stop was number six, and was going to a place called Fang and stopped off at Chiang Dao along the way. You then buy your ticket on the bus

When Do They Leave?

Every half an hour. I’m not sure when they stop running though, so I’m just going to pick a number out of the hat and say five…

How Much Was The Ticket?

A whopping 40 Baht, which works out as roughly $1.20, or £0.90

How long was the journey?

Between 90 minutes and two hours, depending on how motivated the driver is…

Tell me about the bus journey.

It’s nothing special, but you are on a proper local Thai bus which is pretty cool to experience. They have loads of windows open so it’s actually nice and cool as you drive along. There are fans spinning around on the bus as well for reasons that probably don’t need to be explained…

Cool! And that’s it?

No, you’re dropped off into town and your best bet is to stay near the caves. It’s a bit more touristy there (But not too much) and there’s slightly more life there. There’s also a bar called The Cave Bar that gave me a free drink in exchange for one of my books, so I’m happy to give them a name drop on here.

OK, So How Do You Get Up To The Better Side Of Town Then?

It’s not too hard. There’ll be touts offering rooms in the area with a lift there, or if you are feeling adventurous like I did, you can grab a song tao (a red truck, similar to the yellow trucks in the picture but, umm…it’s red…) to take you to the cave for 150 Baht ($4.50, or ~£3) and from the caves most guesthouses are walking distance.

OK, and accommodation costs?

I stayed at a place called Ashi Guesthouse for 450 Baht a night (single room, communal bathroom down the hall) but there were other options; Chiang Dao Huts – which pretty much summarises what they are – were 400 Baht a night. If you are looking for somewhere nicer then there was a lovely little resort called Chiang Dao Nest. They have two locations very close to each other and the price starts at 950 Baht a night (roughly $30 or £20) and if you are looking for a relaxing getaway, then this is the recommended place

Anything else I need to know?

About Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao? No, not really. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments section. If not feel free to sing along to ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ with Peter Griffin…

 

HAVING BREAKFAST BY THE LAKE IN NORTHERN THAILAND

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I’m currently in a small town called Chiang Dao for a few days, and I thought I’d spend my time relaxing and being close to nature.

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As I was looking for a nearby place to have breakfast, I saw one of the few places that were open (as it is low season) and I ordered a pork fried rice with a fried egg on top. I sat down and noticed there was a small lake next to the restaurant, and asked if I could change tables so I could stare aimlessly into the lake. They said it was OK, so I shuffled to the table and sat down whilst looking to my left.

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As you can see we are right on the lake, and as I was looking into the water I saw schools of fish swimming by. Some fish were a good foot long, others were less than a centimetre. I’m not sure if you can tell by the photos but they were very visible to the naked eye.

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Then my food came out. I took a bite and I must admit it was pretty poor. Nevertheless I ate it because I was hungry and needed energy from my escapades from the night before. (Nothing naughty, calm the fuck down…) so I wolfed as much as I could down. I got about half way through before I needed to give myself a half-time pep talk.

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The ducks must have known I was trying to rally myself up, because they waddled over saying “What the fuck’s going on over here then?” I took a few photos because, you know; proof and all that… Then I looked at my food and thought they’d probably like it a lot more than I did, so I went Mrs Doubtfire mode and fed the ducks.

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Are you gonna give me fackin food or what bruv?

Thanks to watching The Simpsons as a child (and Fight Club as an adult), I know that feeding birds rice can make them explode. I think it’s something to do with rice giving them gas and birds have no way to release that gas. I don’t know, I’m not a vet. But I did think this was a bad idea, so I only gave them all the excess greens on my plate, being extra careful and making sure there was no rice stuck on the greens. The black duck showed his appreciation by literally wagging his tail!

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There were a few cut up tomatoes on my plate as well, which I threw in the lake and the bigger fish gobbled them up in one go. I saw some of the tiny fish surrounding the greens that the ducks had left as well, so maybe they get nutrients from them. In that case, everyone wins!!!

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The food was 100 Baht in the end (About £2) and it wasn’t worth it, but sitting by the lake feeding the ducks and fish definitely was…

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Kad Manee Market, Chiang Mai

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Thailand has no shortage of stunning food markets, and this evening I couldn’t decide what to eat, so I thought I’d go to one of my local markets and see what was on offer

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I ended up getting a chicken kebab stick and some quail eggs to nibble on, and then I got a pizza as well for 79 Baht (Approx £1.60)

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The guy who cooked my pizza accidentally dropped it on the table as he was taking it out of the pizza oven. I told him it wasn’t a problem but he insisted on making me a fresh one, which I thought was nice of him.

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Obligatory pac-man pizza pic…

Then I got a table with a view and decimated my picky bits. The view wasn’t too bad either…

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I think I need to come back here more often!

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So I Had My First Salsa Lesson…

I have very educated feet when it comes to football, but when it comes to dancing lets say I’m slightly less methodical. So naturally when my friend invited me to take a salsa lesson with her, there was only going to be one answer…

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So I said my friend that I’d meet her at 8. She said it was a great way to meet women and even though I’m sure by law of averages that 50% of the people there were going to be women, I wasn’t exactly expecting to show off my sexual prowess as a first time dancer in front of the professionals. Regardless I was ready to approach this with a confident attitude and knock this motherfucker out of the park. No I mean the dancing, not an actual motherfucker…

We started off doing the basic side steps and spins. I’m not gonna lie; I was fucking nailing it! I was spinning away thinking that I’d found my calling and was ready to invest in some flamenco clothes and a fake rose to permanently place in my mouth when the leader of the group split the men and the women up. Then he told us to take charge and grab a lady we would like to dance with. I looked at him thinking, “You’re having a fucking laugh aren’t you?”

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I immediately ran with the elegance of a toddler towards my friend Em and said something like: “Hello random person who I’ve never met before, looks relatively attractive and qualifies as a dance partner. Would you like me to embarrass us both on the dance floor?”

She accepted my outstanding offer and we went to assume the position. However when I went over to get some space, some old man went up to her and said, “Excuse me, do you have a partner?”

“No you fucking don’t…” I thought in full on rage mode. “That’s my random partner.” And went up to him and bluntly said, “Yeah, she’s with me.” Before awkwardly leading her away from Leery McBeerbelly.

Then the instructors said, “Today we are going to learn this move;” before doing some kind of intimidating performance that you would see in mainstream 90’s romcom films. I looked at them and literally burst out laughing. I didn’t mean to offend them, but there was no way in one hour I was going to have the hip movements of Patrick Swayze. Patrick Stewart maybe, but not Patrick Swayze…

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Then we switched partners a few times. I met some really cool girls and confessed from the get go I was in way over my head. We laughed as we stumbled through the first few moves. Then it got a bit more complicated and spins of the lady were involved. I nearly broke my arm a couple of times trying to look professional (turns out with salsa you are supposed to let the lady rest her hands on yours, not full on grab them like you are aspiring to get a restraining order…) but I got there in the end. Kind of…

Then at the end of the lesson they played some salsa music for people to dance to and I walked up to Em to tell her that I was leaving, and she grabbed me and pulled me to the dance floor.

“I guess were doing this then…” I thought to myself as got ready to disappoint some unsuspecting female…

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Random picture of me looking to the left because I ran out of salsa pictures, and I needed one more photo to break up the post…

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Who would have fucking thought it; I did the whole sequence perfectly at the first time of asking. The spins, the grabs… I felt like a master. Em looked at me shocked saying, “You can do it!” To which I quickly replied, “Honestly, that was the first time I’ve ever got it right!”
After that I must admit there were a few stumbles and even more laughs. We were having a great time, and I wasn’t even put off by the people around us who clearly had their own dance studios by the way they were gliding around the dance floor. Then once the third song stopped I declared that I was exhausted and needed to drink some water.

I sat down in the light rain drinking my water and admiring the dancers. Everyone was having a great time regardless of whether they were beginners or had been doing it since they were two and a half. And that’s what life is about isn’t it? Enjoying yourself, smiling, moving around, getting to know other and generally having a good time…

So I had a load of fun and am willing to give it another try. I’m also going to put myself in more situations I’m clearly not comfortable with to see how I respond to those situations and possibly learn more about myself. So I’m looking forward to the next evening of fun outside of my comfort zone, whatever that may be…