Wat. What? Exactly. Aka, Chilling in Chiang Mai
March 15-25, 2017
After the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam in general, there was an immediate sense of calm when we landed at Chiang Mai airport. Outside, waiting for our Uber (yes, Uber!), the first thing we noticed was the lack of constant beep-beep-beeping. Plus, the ratio of cars to scooters favored cars by a long shot. We assumed crossing the street would be easier but after a month in Vietnam, we had developed an appreciation for the delicate relationship between scooters, cars and people and suddenly the volume of cars in Thailand seemed oddly unpredictable.
Chiang Mai is the northern capital of Thailand and the home to hundreds of Buddhist temples - Wats - that became a running joke for the next 3 weeks. Wat's over there? What? Wat? I could go on.... The square Old City is surrounded by a moat and there are still a few pieces of the old wall. Inside the walls are enough temples to wear out even the most avid Buddhist historian, plus cafes, bars, walking markets, hipsters, Thai massage parlors and one park. You can spend days wandering down the main drags and meandering through the alley ways.
We lucked out - a friend of Ruben's offered us a free place to stay outside of the old city, near the Chiang Mai University. We used this as home base for the next 10 days to explore the area.
We toured the old city, by day and by night:
Had a Thai Massage by former female prison inmates, wandered through markets, had cocktails with hipsters in Nimmanheman, lounged by the pool, ate great cheap street food while mingling with the college kids, hiked to the top of Doi Suthep - home of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - and planned our travel for the upcoming weeks, no easy task!
Took a Thai cooking class with Nancy, owner of Siam Rice: http://www.siamricethaicookery.com/index.html
Went on a 2-day trek, including a home stay, near the Myanmar border with our favorite tour guide to date, Anne, owner of Good Morning Thailand: http://www.goodmorningthailandtrek.com/
And visited Elephant Family Sanctuary https://www.facebook.com/elephantfamilysanctuary/, a eco-friendly elephant home, where we bathed and fed - but did not ride! - the beautiful, graceful yet strong creatures:
Next stop: Koh Tao for beach, sunning and Scuba!