Trip Start Jul 05, 2008
30Trip End Aug 30, 2008
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Where I stayed
We had an awesome hotel. For about 8.50CAD a night we had a big room with hot water and a fan. The place was quiet with a nice garden.
The first day we just walked around Chiang Mai. We were exhausted after barely 3 hours of sleep before our early morning flight. So, in Chiang Mai, kind of delerious. But it's a nice town, navigable on foot, without big busy highways inside the centre. There are also lots of wats, which are basically temples, and monks walking around in orange robes, the whole 9 yards.
We rented a scooter on Day 2 and drove up the mountains to Phra Doi Suthep, which is an absolutely beautiful temple up in the mists. Aaron was my bitch of course, because he can't drive a scooter so I had to double him, but that's okay he's a good navigator ;). The temple is shiny and gold and in a dazzling little complex reached by climbing over 300 steps through the jungle up a staircase flanked by dragons.(SEP: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8100053@N05/1627878796/). Not a bad way to spend a day. A quiet and peaceful place, we looked out over the plain of Chiang Mai, which is basically in like a bowl. Also they had the greatest food ever there, waffle-on-a-stick... with banana inside! I should bring it back. I could revolutionalize Toronto street food.
We also went to the Chinese embassy in Chiang Mai, which was yet another exercise in futility. On top of the fake flights and fake hotels Aaron has booked, now they want him to get the hotel to stamp the reservation. Of course this "regulation" isn't posted anywhere or on anything. Of course the difficulties of contacting said hotels by fax/email/phone aren't considered by the consulate, because why would they give a damn about people trying to get into their stupid country for the biggest event of the year just to spend all their money. GRRR! After weighing our options, which included the difficulties of over-coming a language barrier with Chinese hotels, Aaron decided to try again in Bangkok via a travel agency. So now we had extra time to spend in Chiang Mai. Whee! Good town.
Day 3. We drove south out of Chiang Mai to Bo Sang, which is basically an umbrella making village where they make... umbrellas. Paper ones. Unfortunately they also sell alot of other horrible touristy garbage. The drive flattened me, just going in one direction in the hot sun with no real shade or change of scenery. And it was HOT. And the sun was INTENSE. But something to do is something to do. At night we went to the "night market", which was no where as cool as a Taiwanese nightmarket, basically just a dizzying maze of vendor stalls geared to tourists. Sigh. Double sigh. After we found a random strange bar and were served by a funny Thai boy who thought Aaron was hot.
Day 4. This was a good day. We signed up for a Thai cooking class at a cooking school just outside of town. They pick you up, take you to the market, and then teach you how to make 6 different thai dishes. It was a group class with a bunch of youngins from all over, including one Canadian. The cooking class was awesome, as was the teacher. We got to wear little chef hats and aprons. And the best part was that we got to do all the fun stuff but none of the cleaning. We made: pad thai, spring rolls, cashew tofu, thai vegetables, tom yum soup, and coconut sticky rice with mango. All of it was delicious, because I made it! And by the end I was so full I thought I was going to die.
Day 5. Kind of errand day, we went to the post office and mailed random things home that I was sick of dragging around with me. Food and water for the train trip were purchased, which turned out to be pointless as the train had some decent-ish food and the mangosteens (SEP http://www.flickr.com/photos/colloidfarl/41690770/) we bought were full of worms. I don't even think we touched the longans (SEP http://www.flickr.com/photos/logout/199188185/). The train left at 2:50pm from Chiang Mai, and was scheduled to arrive in Bangkok 15 hrs later. It was a sleeper train and it was awesome. Looking out the window at the stunning scenery of Northern Thailand couldn't be beat. Rice paddies, strange white asian cattle, misty mountains, farmers ploughing fields by hand, banana plantations... nice. We couldn't find any playing cards in Chiang Mai, so we played hangman for a couple hours. Aaron claims he won, but I suspect an arithmetic error in his favor.
The seats in the train fold down into beds, and I actually had a really good sleep on that train. A solid 7 hours. And nothing got stolen out of anyone's bags, so that rumor turned out to be garbage.
We got into Bangkok incident free today at around 5:30 am, did a bunch of stuff (stay tuned!) and now I'm bloody exhausted.
Parting thoughts on Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai you're the best! My favorite kind of little tourist town, lots to do and easily accessible to make your life easy. Not too big a place, no one staring at you or being a general pain, not too hyper or crazy but also not too busy. The perfect middle ground with lots to keep you busy. It kind of reminds me of Atitlan in Guatemala, or El Nido in the Philippines. All places you should visit!
Additional thoughts on travelling with a friend:
It continues to trump travelling alone. Plus, I don't have to be the one struggling with a map all the time :)
My Bangkok and Chiang Mai pictures are finally UP!