We arrived in Chiang Mai on October 5th, dropped at our Guesthouse in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, far away from the sights. Chiang Mai is the biggest city in Northern Thailand and has a lot of appeal. As we began to wander, we realized that while outside the touristy areas, we weren’t really far at all. And with the super low prices for taxi trucks and tuk tuks we were easily able to access all that we wanted to. It was not difficult to become familiar with the area once we started that first day. Our guesthouse, located in the JJ Market area, is surrounded by mainly local eateries, bars, and shopping centers. Not bad for an authentic Thai experience but we quickly learned the first night at the nearby bars that we would have been much more successful had we known some key Thai phrases.
We spent that first night bar hopping with some friends we had met up north in Mae Wang, one of whom celebrated her birthday at midnight, so we had to join in on the festivities. It was a great night out well rounded with live music, our first tuk tuk ride, a unique dining experience (anyone heard of MK Restaurants?), cheap rum, and a game each of pool and darts at a local biker bar. That was definitely enough to call it a night!
Our days were spent enjoying the sights around town and the food – OH THE FOOD! Thai food EVERYWHERE! One happy vegetarian right here! We saw many wats (temples) and learned the geography of the town. One of the downsides I found was the constant inhalation of exhaust fumes. There are definitely a lot of motorbikes there. And a lot of interesting sites to be found on said motorbikes.
Our second night we visited the legendary Sunday Market, also known as Walking Street. It encompasses kilometers of street stalls and food vendors selling any type of souvenir one might desire. I ended up finding lots of things! And the price is so affordable that you often think, “I don’t know what I am ever going to do with this, but hey, it’s only $3!” I didn’t get too many things that I hadn’t been looking out for anyway but nonetheless my bag’s weight has surely increased. We accidentally ran into some more friends while wandering through so we hung out and enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere together until they vanished in the crowd…
The following day we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us out of the city so we could experience what else the province has to offer. The surrounding area is beautifully green and lots of it remains untouched. We stopped at the Tiger Kingdom to assess the situation and decide if it was right for us. We opted to skip it due to the price and it was a bit touristy for our liking. I read a lot of the facts on the walls though and I feel a little better about the concept, but I don’t think I am quite on board with the whole idea of having tigers pose for photos with tourists… The Mae Sa waterfalls were a highlight of the day for me, despite having to jump over multiple parades of ants crossings. We hiked up the jungle path to see many of the different pools and along the way it was truly beautiful.
We headed back to town afterward to enjoy more food and massages. We had back and shoulders first, followed by a delectable foot massage in the evening…mmmm… and they are so affordable! The Night Bazaar called to me so again I had a heyday checking out the goods until Rob peeled me away for dinner. I would not recommend where we ate…I’ll leave it at that for now. Needless to say we did not linger at the restaurant but instead headed back to our place to pack up and prepare for our 5 hour minivan trip to Chiang Khong where we would spend our night before boarding the slow boat to Luang Prabang, Laos.