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The Thai chronicles, part 5: Chilled Chiang Mai

Day 12

Today I leave Phi Phi. It’s kinda hard to, but there are so many more things I want to see and I ‘only’ have about 2 weeks left.

No airport on the island, so I get the boat back towards Phuket, a minibus to the terminal to catch a flight to Chiang Mai tonight. It’s time to head north. I’ve basically spent the day crossing the entire country. Long.

Bodega hostel looks super lively. There are plenty of people chilling in the communal area. I have a feeling this will be good.

Day 13

Borrowed a bicycle and spent hours going around the old town centre. You can rent actual mopeds too, but I’ve only ridden 3 times and crashed once, which I feel is a fairly mediocre track record. Besides, you technically need an international driving license which I don’t have, and I’ve tempted fate enough times already this trip.

There are SO many Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai – over 300 of them, a local tells me. Lots of cool graffiti scattered around too. I booked a full day excursion for tomorrow. Getting picked up at 7am. Ouch.

Met my first real life Trump voter today. Turns out they’re actual people, not just Twitter bots. He voted Trump because something something Hilary. He didn’t last very long in a political argument.

Went for drinks with mates from the hostel. We ended up in a ladyboy cabaret show. It wasn’t my first choice – or in my top 50. One of those situations where pretty girls suggest it, and everyone sort of nods along. Obviously, I end up sat in the front row. I’ll spare you the details. Weird, but fun night!

Day 14

Get up at 6.30, hanging. I hope the trip is worth it! Catching a minibus to Chiang Rai a few hours further north to see the amazing White Temple.

Next we stop at a traditional Thai tribal village. It seems a bit freak-show like to walk around somewhere actual people live. Then again, since they ‘officially’ stopped trading opium, tourism is what keeps those villages going.

Also on the agenda is the Golden Triangle, the natural border and river where Thailand meets Laos and Burma. Until a few decades ago, it was renown as South East Asia’s opium trading Mecca, a place full of ‘bad hombres’.

We crossed over and spent an hour in Laos. Tried a cheeky bit of Cobra whiskey – not like the Cobra beer, Cobra as in they literally stick a giant freaking snake in the bottle for flavour. It’s surprisingly nice. They also had tiger penis flavour. That didn’t sound appealing (or ethical). I pass.

Get back at 10. It’s been a long but good day. Again, it’s been meant to rain the whole time I was in Chiang Mai. Hasn’t yet.

Day 15

No plan for today, tired. I hang out in the hostel lobby and quickly make a new group of friends. We go for a wander and end of going up the mountain top temple of Doi Suthep to admire the panorama.

We hit Chiang Mai’s night bazaar market in the evening. I keep saying I’ll do my souvenir shopping later because I don’t want to carry stuff around. But some bargains are just too good to ignore. First clubbing night in Chiang Mai. We go to Zoe’s, the main place to party. I’m shocked when the light come on at midnight.

Luckily met a local girl who takes me to another hidden place which closes later. End the night sharing a pad Thai with her, as she drunkenly explains to me the strict curfew is imposed by the country’s military.

Also, she comes from a village where they eat rat and snake. Looked at her differently after that. Really good night. Somewhat educational, too.

Day 16

Despite the hangover, torrential rain, cold weather and genuinely dangerous zigzaging across uphill wet mountain roads, visiting an elephant sanctuary is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

We fed them, had mud baths and cleaned them. They look so innocent and gentle. The nicest part was how happy they seem to be out there, in natural environment. This is a must-do if you visit Thailand.

Spent the evening at a Thai boxing tournament before hitting an all you can eat Korean BBQ. Ate a disgraceful amount. Got a big group of friends going now. One of the best days of my trip all round.

Day 17

Thai massage number fuck-it-who’s-still-counting. We went to a massage center run to by former female prisoners, which is quite a well-known thing. Better rehabilitation job than picking up garbage to be fair.

Went to the Sunday night Rachadamnoen street market, which is another of the city’s main attractions. It is especially good to find local crafted goods and food. The event, which takes up the entire city centre, is the second biggest market in Thailand after Bangkok’s Chatuchak. It’s pouring it down today.

Moved on to hit the night bazaar market again. Picked up great bargains because most tourists went to the main Sunday markets. Bought tons of high quality silk and cheap football shirts. Productive, I think.

Day 18

Took a Thai cooking class which was great. I love the food here, and there’s no way I’m going home without knowing some basics.

Went to Sammy’s cooking class. Super cool and very good value for money. He took us around a local market to show us how and what Thai people typically shop for, and onto his farm where he grows everything he cooks.

We each made 3 mains and 2 deserts, and did our best to eat them all. Couldn’t finish. Haven’t actually been using that smelly mosquito repellent everyone forced me to pack with me. My legs are covered in bites.

Day 19

Got bikes out again and explored the city a little more. I’m pretty much done in Chiang Mai , but it’s really chilled and I made some good friends so I’ve stuck around longer than planned.

Random observations: everywhere you visit in Thailand, be it accommodation, bars or food places have Wi-Fi available. I expected this place to be more digitally remote. Many locals who run day trips are quite tech savvy also. They regularly take pictures for their business Facebook pages, and ask to give them good reviews.

Took the souvenir shopping too far, and had to buy an additional suitcase. Went to get a hair cut in the backroom of a massage parlour. The had a shaver but not the heads so the lady had to use a comb instead. Didn’t work. Paid 200 baht not to get a hair cut. She didn’t even have a mirror to show me the result. Tried those weird foot fish baths where they pick off dead skin. Not sure I like it.

Leaving Chiang Mai tomorrow, last night out. Ended up dancing with a Thai woman and her 2 daughters – not how we did family nights back home. The mum kept ordering me to hit on them. Freaking weird night.

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