10 Things to do in Thailand

DCIM109GOPRO I am back in Thailand after 8 months of traveling in Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and India. I am falling in love with the Land of Pad Thai, Dragon Fruit and Orchids. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Here is what I love to do in Thailand: Motorbiking in the hills of Pai as seen in the above photo. Absolutely jaw – drop gorgeous scenery and no traffic until the tourists arrive in November.


fruitshakes22sushisashimishake22And the best part? You won’t gain weight. No bread or cheese, mostly small portions of noodles or rice with spicy meats/fish and veggies. Barbecued fish is sold on the street for $1 to $1.75 US, what’s not to like? I was looking forward to cooking but since stoves are not standard issue in apartments I just walk out my door, hop on my motorbike and today for lunch I had roast duck with rice and it was crazy delicious. $1.50 US. My neighborhood in Chiang Mai is full of wonder and yumminess. Sap Li! (that’s Thai for very delicious) KhaoSoisoup22Khao Soi soup – my favorite!

Commune with an elephant. VagabondCoverIssue1Read my Thailand issue of Vagabond in the itunes store for your ipad here.

Go see temples in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and in Issan: Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai and there is a Vegetarian restaurant in the back. DCIM109GOPROGo to the markets – if you can stand to be shell-shocked by consumerism. But its all in fun and entertaining to watch other shoppers buying bags of loot. And its mostly all cheap too. You can always stop when you are getting overwhelmed. But you never know when the perfect pair of sandals will fall on your head out of the sky or you will just get so hungry you have to eat again – take your pick.

Make Friends. JolieMary22 englishclasswithnong22 Volunteer to speak English with a class – its great fun and you laugh a lot! nongmaryyoga22Do yoga and have a Thai massage.

Enjoy the flora and fauna.

Discover waterfalls and hot springs in Pai.

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Web site: http://bartnikowski.com

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ADDpink flower in paiLove from Thailand!

Vagabond Mary


10 Reasons to Quit Your Job Now

My New Backyard in Belize

10 Reasons to Quit Your Job Now

The Dalai Lama said, “Asians don’t know how to worry.”

He must have noticed that people in the USA are about to have heart attacks from thinking too much.

I have the solution. Quit your job and leave the West behind – spread your wings and fly!

Here’s my list to inspire you:

1.You’ll get younger (not older.) Studies have shown, keep learning

and you won’t age. Those brain cells need revitalizing.

2.Stress kills, quit, and find something you love

3.Go live in another country. It costs less than staying in the USA working.

For example:

My rent per month in 2012 in all the countries I lived in this year:

Belize: $450 for a shack – it was on the Caribbean Sea, folks!

Guatemala: $300 for a lovely house with private terrace overlooking Lake Atitlan utilities included.

Tulum, Mexico: renting a clean basic room on the Yucatan a few kilometers from the sea for $20 per night or if you like rustic, $8 per night for a hostel or camping on the beach, same price. I liked the beach until I got rained out.

Half Moon Bay, California $600 for 2 weeks for a small 2-room house walking distance to the glorious beach.

Bangkok, Thailand: fully loaded hotel room – AC, own bathroom, king-size bed, wifi in room, proper air flow, quiet and all for $21 per night.

Loei, Thailand in Issan. Room in guesthouse: use of kitchen, wifi in room, fan only, kind family, shared spotlessly clean bathroom, $6 per night.

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Guesthouse $12 per night; wifi in room, AC, fridge, good bed, Quiet.

Pai, Thailand Best Deal of the Year: $200 per month (incl. utilities) for my own house in Pai with a breathtaking view of the sunset, quiet, mountains, hot springs, and clouds floating by (no wifi in the house, no AC, I loved it!)

So the high cost is no longer an issue.

$200 US dollars per month folks!

$200 US dollars per month folks!

4. Don’t think about it – just dive in. Luangpo my meditation master and spiritual friend in Loei, Thailand says, “You thinking, thinking, you aren’t in Thailand. Look at heart, look at body.” It’s all about the moment.

Anything you have to think about for too long usually doesn’t work.

5. You discover the wonder inside you by slicing off the past.

There is nothing familiar: no anchors to hold on to — you are free floating.

I’m not saying the past is bad. Just that the Past is Over. The Present is where it’s.

6. What do you live on?

You live on your wits.

You can volunteer and receive room and board

You can give massages, cook, teach yoga/meditation, English, you can do it!

I currently, teach photography, yoga and meditation, write and shoot for Vagabond Magazine, and get hired to shoot photographs.

Set up a business for tourists – guiding, teaching.

Run an Internet business

Do the business you are doing now as a consultant from Asia, Belize, or Fez, Morocco.

Teaching yoga on the Caribbean in Belize

7. “I’ll do it next year”never happens.

Once you do it – you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Teaching Meditation in Pai, Thailand

8. OK you do have to pay back your bills before doing it. So did I.

Now I have one bill: for my storage unit back in California for my photography/art stuff, china dishes from my Mom, glassware and artifacts.

9. Being free is a choice. Choosing to be happy is also a choice. I choose happiness every day even when I’m feeling bratty.

Santa Cruz, Guatemala terrace of my home overlooking Lake Atitlan

10. Invest in your self. Rather than the stock market or a house.

Give your self the option of re-inventing yourself. Only you can do it – no one else will do it for you.

Dharmasala, india View from my bedroom

Jump in! Don’t think about it. Bathe in the sweet waters of wonder and awe.

Write and tell me what you feel and how you will implement your new plans!

Me, teaching yoga in Belize

See my Photography

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Discover Vagabond Travel Photography Magazine for your iPad - Stunning Photography, Travel Advice on your next Journey and Inspiration http://tinyurl.com/byg76kx

Discover Vagabond Travel Photography Magazine for your iPad – Stunning Photography, Travel Advice on your next Journey and Inspiration

First: You fall in love with the people here. They want to help you.

All you have to do is look lost and someone will come to your aid.

This does not work in many countries but it works here in Yangon.

My latest thing to do is get on a city bus going in my general direction with a note written in Burmese where I want to go.

And I will get there. How?

This morning three people offered to guide me.  I did the same route yesterday so I didn’t need help but I did bask in their good will.

The bus looked like it was going to crumble into dust particles but I didn’t think it was polite to photograph it with all the passengers sitting on the peeling seats.

Check out my Youtube channel to Discover Videos from all over the Globe - 176,879 downloads

Check out my Youtube channel to Discover Videos from all over the Globe – 176,879 downloads

So here I am in a swank coffee Garden Bistro looking out over the magnificent gardens of Kandawgyi Lake.

My favorite place to do wifi and drink coffee in Yangon. Ultimate reality. Garden Bistro, with Signature Restaurant next to Kandawgki Lake

My favorite place to do wifi and drink coffee in Yangon. Ultimate reality. Garden Bistro, with Signature Restaurant next to Kandawgyi Lake

I walked around the lake last night and even when it got dark I felt safe — there is almost no crime here – this may be because if you get caught you get executed but I think this may be changing.

I haven’t gotten a creepy feeling yet — oh wait…

I did get sketched out last night when I went to look at a room to rent. It was stinky and decorated with mold, low ceilings, and felt dirty for $22. It didn’t come with a smile so I bailed. I knew I would have nightmares in that room.

The owner looked bored/pissed off that I was showing up to book a room. There’s a scarcity of rooms available in town as it is the high season and they didn’t build enough hotels to accommadate all the people interested in coming to Burma now that restrictions have been lifted. It was not actually closed to outsiders for the last 20 years it was just more irritating to get a visa as I have met many people here in Asia who did get in – and they are foreigners like me. You had to wait longer and there were less tourists – sounds great to me.

Side note: it only cost $70 to fly one-way from Bangkok here. Now the doors to Burma are wide open and people are scrambling to start up hotels and guesthouses for us.

Transportation here varies:

Taxi, motorcycle, walking, decrepit bus, and my favorite; bicycle rickshaw:

See the Gallery of Worldwide Photography for Your Own Projects here: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

See my Gallery of Worldwide Photography for Your Own Projects here:

Coming soon the actual video of the above  photo – i have to wait to get to a country where it doesn’t take 3 hours to upload a 3-minute video.

So back to Kindness and More Miracles: in the taxi on the way to my guesthouse from the airport I was so excited to be here I was hanging out the car window waving and smiling and taking photographs to all of Yangon and I didn’t notice my passport falling out of my camera bag. It was dark when we to the guesthouse thru the insane traffic (not many traffic lights so things get clogged up fast) and i didn’t lsiten to the tiny voice inside me that said – check the car again — my mind said oh i have evruthing – –

Stop Listen to the Body!

So I noticed it was gone after I checked in and started to panic. I must have left it at the airport – so back I go to the airport in another over-priced taxi but on the way I realized – no it fell out int he first taxi and a peace settled over me – I would get it back.

5 minutes later the phone rang in the car — my passport had been delivered back to my geusthouse.

Meet the kind people who helped me here

Travel Advice: never get in a taxi with a person who feels creepy. I knew when I looked at this man that I could trust him.

He was kind and he had heaps of friends: while he drove me into town he said hello to other drivers and chatted with them in the choked with traffic roadways – smiling the whole time.

This country is full of love and kindness. Except for maybe the military who control everthing but even that is thawing. Aung San Sui Kyi is having meetings with her former captors who kept her on house arrest. The louts.


The military like to say she was free to go and that is true but they would have never let her back in Burma if she went to see her family in England. This is what can happen to large spirits. The Burmese love her. And the authorities find this annoying.

Fact: she was forced into house arrest after winning the people’s vote to put her in power 20 years ago. That’s when the barbed wire was installed around her home and her family in England forbidden to visit. Heinous. But she may be in command in a few years when they have another election. Sure hope so.

So I’ve been in Yangon for 5 days now and am finding new things to look at and people to talk with every day.

Check out more photos from Machu Picchu to the rooftop of the world in Nepal: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Check out more photos from Machu Picchu to the rooftop of the world in Nepal: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

I am experiencing a tidal wave of goodwill towards me.

Barack Obama visited Myanmar, and the Burmese are now fond of us USA folk so come here now before anything screws that up. Their faces light up when I tell them I’m from USA — where else in the world are you gonna get that?

I am literally bowled over. People are asking to have their photograph taken with me – like the one above. I’m being called Madame and I finally like it: I feel like a quasi celebrity.

My favorite thing Obama has done is to come to Burma and make friends here. Never mind that he shouldn’t have kissed Aung San Sui Kyi as no one shows affection like that here except for teenagers in the park making out under their umbrellas to hide the fact that they are kissing. Cute.

The only challenge so far has been eating that prawn salad last night which resulted in getting the runs today but even that is not deterring me – I still took the local bus lurching over the road in downtown Yangon for about 3 miles.

And since I’m only paying $8 a night for a room with fan only and rather thin walls I can live it up at this posh place that charges $3 for a glass of juice and $4 for a caffe latte. And has a great view over the gardens.

The neighborhood is topnotch – a big public garden is steps away from my guesthouse where I plan to do yoga in the morning – Sule Pagoda is next door – see photo below – a golden tower of holiness that glows all day and tons of fascinating street life – you don’t even have to go anywhere but outside to see things you have never seen before:

Unusual Fruits, slinky skirts on all women, men in longyis, crumbling colonial architecture next to modern buildings, and poverty but not so horribly bad. Not as bad as Cambodia.

The best things so far:

Making friends with the Burmese staff and helping them with their English. See facebook page: Mary Bartnikowski – be my friend and I will be yours.

Seeing Shwe Dagon Temple in Yangon and feeling the astounding vibrancy penetrate my soul.

Check out: Photography from two trips around this planet earth here: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Check out: Photography from two trips around this planet earth here: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Moving to the Sule Pagoda neighborhood and being astonished by the rhythm of Yangon (some people call it Rangoon.) The food is delcious, the people are kind, there is no crime, and even though the streets aren’t clean I’ll take kindness over cleanliness any day.

I go to sleep to this view and I wake up to it too. Teashops, kind people, and fruit - thats all I need. http://bartnikowski.com

I go to sleep to this view. Teashops, kind people, and fruit – thats all I need. http://bartnikowski.com

Check out: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com for more Astonishing Photography

Check out: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com for more Astonishing Photography

The delicious food! Many times I am not sure what it is but it sure tastes good.

I’ll have more food photos and video — See my latest videos  here:


And my next issue of Vagabond Magazine will be out by mid-March, Check it out!   http://tinyurl.com/byg76kx

Write me, I’ll write you back.

Next Stop Nepal!

Yoga and Photo Safari Retreat on Lake Atitlan

December 3 – 10, 2011

Rejuvenate, Relax, and Surrender to the mystical energy of Lake Atitlan in the mountains of Gorgeous Guatemala. Expand and energize with daily yoga and meditation followed by enthusiastic and professional photo safari guidance with Mary, a portrait and art photographer for 25 years. You will learn how to use your camera, how to love people with your camera, explore and identify luminescent light, surprising angles, graceful composition and exquisite timing. Portraits, animals, and nature are emphasized.

A photographer is a painter in a hurry. The viewfinder is your canvas. Being in this lavish and lush environment will strengthen your vision and inspire your creative expression.

Be inspired to capture moments and express your vision on the shore of Lake Atitlan at the enchanting Villa Sumaya Hotel, a lush lakeside hideaway. www.villasumaya.com

Luxuriate in peace and creative stimulation. Enjoy delicious and healthy meals, serenity, the sun and blue sky shining above sacred Lake Atitlan. Day trips to lakeside villages, hiking, massages, and volunteering with locals if you like.

At this more relaxed time of year there are less people, more sunshine, and clear skies. You will also have free time to explore, rest, meditate or simply be still.

You will touch the bliss within you. Guaranteed.



Flex your imagination and  and  gain peace, confidence, and well being while flexing your creative muscles.

“It made me see in a new way!” – Satya, Spain

“I had an awesome time and learned so much.”  – Kristin, Germany

Learn how to love people with your camera, anticipate shots before they happen. and see with fresh eyes while traveling. Strengthen your unique perspective by learning all Mary’s photo secrets.

Mary Bartnikowski, a portrait and art photographer for 25 years and published author with her own thriving photography business in Palo Alto, California has led programs at Stanford University, Intel, Apple Computer, and her own photo workshops worldwide. She has shot thousands of portraits: babies, CEO’s, families, authors, yoga masters, teens, and over 700 weddings. Her latest book is Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, Adventures of a Female Vagabond, about her 6 years of wanderlust and teaching in 27 countries on 4 continents and including over 90 photographs. http://bartnikowski.com/book/

Contact:  [email protected]    www.bartnikowski.com

Online photography course:


 Want to talk? Call me: 336-775-7171

Luxury accommodations, inspiring practice spaces, nourishing meals, exciting cultural experiences, and an exotic location at very reasonable rates.

7 days includes all meals, lovely room overlooking the lake, and all instruction.

$1500 for singles

$900 each for doubles.

Guidance and help on air travel, boat launches, and transport to the hotel.

More info: Call Mary 336-775-7171