The first time I visited Chiang Mai was during our five month trip around Asia. I can tell you that I am struggling to remember much of what we did. It has all blurred into the mists of mis-memory (I think I just invented a word) and is the sum of our photos. But seeing as you are here, let me share with you what I do remember about Chiang Mai.
Read more about our five month trip backpacking
Chiang Mai Itself
Around 500 kilometres North of Bangkok, is Thailand‘s second city, Chiang Mai. It is known as the capital of the North, the centre of cultural exploits and is a great spot to visit if you want a mix of temple-hopping, cookery lessons and Thai boxing workshops. Surrounding the city is a swatche of stunning countryside containing the some of most amazing Thai eco-resorts, fascinating tribes and rolling green hills as far as the eye can see.
Our Arrival in Chiang Mai
To reach the city, we had taken the overnight train from Bangkok, making a few friends en route. Chiang Mai has big shared tuk tuks and so we jumped aboard with some of our overnight carriage companions.
You can read all about the trip in our post; Riding the Rails – The Night Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
We shouted forward to the driver.
US – “We want to go to the hostel called Nice Place 2.
DRIVER – “Ah, you must be reading the Rough Guide.
Apparently everyone with the Rough Guide wanted that guesthouse, and the Lonely Planet devotees all asked for a guesthouse right across the road. What a cliche we were.
The room was basic but there was a little plunge pool and with only one pound sign in the book, it seemed like the best option. Unfortunately, the plunge pool was freeeeezing!
Chiang Mai’s Night Market
Chiang Mai is famed for its night market, and you can see why. The world spills onto the streets selling delicious snacks, vast swathes of tourist tat, foot massages and a few things that people might actually need. Our first night in Chiang Mai, we hit the streets to soak it all up. I don’t recall what we had for dinner, but I can bet you £100 that it was something tasty on a stick, and not something like this:
After pounding the streets, and watching the free entertainment, we decided to indulge in one of the numerous foot massage joints. These are super cheap and the rows of masaage chairs that line the pavements are exceedingly comfortable.
I was really enjoying the massage. They aren’t relaxing but they feel like they must be doing you some good. Powerful hands pummelling your calf muscles and cracking your toes. Its all great….until they pull out the plastic stick! I am NOT a fan of the plastic stick. For a reason that I still have yet to fathom, this implement is pushed firmly into your boney, jointy bits, repeatedly. I guess it must be something about pressure points. Do you know?
Zip-lining is one of my favourite adventure activities. I suppose that’s because it involves very little effort and lots of gravity. Chiang Mai is surrounded by zipwire courses and so we decided to splash out a budget-busting £50 each on one called Jungle Flight .
After several accidents involving tourists, one fatal, the zip wire companies have all had to tighten up their safety standards. However, when we went things were a little more lax. Our day began with a safety briefing.
“Here is a bamboo brake. When we shout “BRAKE” you put it over the wire and pull HARD”.
Alrighty then, let’s go!
Simon and Cait, two new travel buddies from Bangkok, joined us for the day and it was such fun. Whizzing on the flying fox from tree to tree, through the canopy, with the world far below: what a rush!
We did a whole afternoon of obstacle, huge zip lines and even vertical drops. It was £50 very well spent and I finally got the happy ending in Thailand that everyone always talks about.
Check out our travels all over Asia
OK, so here is where it gets very sketchy. We visited temples, lots of temples and I have no recollection of it at all. I think that was the first time we experienced temple burn out. Looking back at our photos I can see that we sort of, kind of, almost took some decent pictures but I think it was a bit half-arsed. Chiang Mai is full of the most gorgeous temples but I think I’ll have to go again to really appreciate it all.
Check out Trekking Northern Thailand from Pai-land
The Last Night
Just around the corner from our guesthouse was an Indian restaurant. We decided to get some Indian food. I mean it had been a whole week since leaving Bangalore, we must have been slightly addicted. After filling our tummies with delicious curry goodness, we all ended up in a bar a few doors down. This was our second big blow out in Chiang Mai. We bought actual cocktails! Not only that, but I got noodles on the way home from 7/11. Such big spenders!
- Chiang Mai is really rather nice.
- I took some truly awful photos during our trip.
- I have a dreadful memory about this part of the trip.
- I’d like to go back again and take some nicer photos.
- I don’t think that is what they meant by a Thailand happy ending…