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Adventurous Women
Oxygen Magazine February 2009


Open Original

BY SUE HILE

At 43 years of age, I was feeling a little jaded and bored with my life. Prior to now, I had always set goals for myself and been able to achieve these through determination, and most of all, passion. But lately I had been left wondering - where had that passion gone? I really felt in need of some time out, some "me" time, where I could do a bit of soul searching and decide just what it was that I wanted to do with the next phase of my life. So I decided to take Long Service Leave.

My husband and our two teenage sons were very supportive of my decision and knew if they gave me the space I needed, I'd come back a much happier person. However, they were concerned about me travelling alone, so I checked around for tour operators offering trips for women. I couldn't find anything in Perth, so I set about joining travel forums on the Internet. That is how I met my travel buddy, Tracy from Arizona.

I assured my friends and family that I was wise enough to decide whether or not she was suitable for me to travel with. If when I met her, she turned out to be some kind of weirdo, I would just move on and make other arrangements. As my adventurous spirit was beginning to resurface, I could feel the old me coming back. It was time to pack my bags!

One rather hair raising taxi ride after I had arrived in Bangkok and I finally met Tracy. Upon meeting her, I felt instant relief - she wasn't a weirdo! We spent the rest of our first day just cruising around Bangkok and becoming familiar with the transport system, then set off for the Tiger Temple in the Kanchanaburi Provence the very next day. We took local transport to the temple which took approximately three hours. On our arrival we joined one of the monks walking along with a tiger, which we were able to pat. It was a real buzz. We were then able to enter the canyon where handlers were standing by the tigers. As we sat and patted them we found out that these tigers had been raised by the monks from a very early age and were used to being handled. Even so, we were obliged to sign a disclaimer before entering the grounds.

The bus ride back to Bangkok was truly entertaining. We stopped so many times that I lost count. The first stop a lady fainted due to the lack of fresh air, then the bus ran out of petrol. And to top it all off, we were taken to the wrong bus station' Lucky for us, our combined knowledge of the Thai language found us a taxi driver who got us back to the guest house without too much hassle. At least we could laugh abour it - and the tigers made it so worthwhile.

Chatachuk Market is a must see if visiting Bangkok. We had a great time wandering through the different areas of the market. They have everything there; clothes, second-hand books, antiques, art, pets, spices, food and more. I shopped till I dropped and felt very satisfied with my purchases, although I made sure I didn't buy any more shoes (last time in Asia I took home 15 pairs).

Another interesting experience in Bangkok is watching the Thai boxing.Every Sunday you can go to see free Thai boxing matches (which usually cost around 500 baht) at the Channel 7 Stadium near Chatachuk Market. This is where most of the locals hang our and it's very entertaining to watch them placing their bets and cheering on their favourites.

Chiang Mai was our next destination.We travelled there on an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok - a very cheap and interesting way to travel. Chiang Mai was a refreshing change as it was not as polluted as Bangkok and a little quieter. We stayed at a quaint little guest house called The Green Tulip, which only cost AU$12 per night for a twin share. I would recommend it to anyone as it was clean, cheap and friendly.

Whilst in Chiang Mai, we decided it was time to get serious about some exercise, so we booked a two day Hill Tribe Trek.Apart from the trekking itself, we rode elephants, swam in the natural pools near waterfalls, tried our hand at white water rafting, visited the local market and drove around the villages on the back of a truck. Our overnight stay was at the Red Lahu Tribal Village where we were welcomed by lots of cute little kids. Our lodgings were a huge dormitory style bamboo hut and there were about 12 of us sharing the floor space. The villagers cooked up a sensational local dinner for us and aftetwards the kids joined in and danced for us.

There was not a dull moment after we got back from the trek. Every Sunday the market kicks off at about 4pm and goes until 1lpm. This market has all the best deals in comparison with the touristy Night Bazaar, which is on every evening. There are also some amazing temples to explore in Chiang Mai. Just outside the city there is one called Suandok that offers three day intensive meditation courses. Another fabulous temple is Doi Suthep which is about 20 minutes drive from Chiang Mai.

One ofthe things on our "must do" list was a Thai cooking class. We had a great day out at Siam Rice Cookery school and were taught some fabulous dishes to try out on our families back home. I chose to cook hot and sour soup, pad Thai, spicy mixed chicken sa lad and sticky rice with mango ... YUM! After that big feast we all moved outside to relax in the sun, and that's where I spotted the Chefs motorbike. After watching me eyeing off his bike, he told me to take it for a spin. It didn't take too much convincing as I love motorbikes and it was only a little one. So off I sped off into the local village for a look around - a great end to another day in paradise!

Coming back home, I couldn't get the idea out of my head that there had to be other women out there like myself, who wanted to explore the world and expand their horizons. It was at that very moment I decided not to return to my job. I began to pursue the idea of helping other women fulfil their own dreams and goals through adventure, travel and life experiences, thus my new business "Adventurous Women" was born, and I had found my passion again.