I was just in Chiang Mai for ten days. I really wish I was still there.
The plan: go to Chiang Mai and have as much fun as possible exploring the city with this man.
Chiang Mai has all the possible farang delights a PCV could ever hope for: lasagna, smoothies, quesadillas (with cheese), air-conditioned bedrooms, pizza, good shopping with clothes that actually fit, English breakfast tea, and best of all, blendability (ie, tons of other farangs and Thais that don’t get jazzed up about them). I enjoyed some of the best food in my life and I’m fairly certain I added onto the ‘Mid-Service five’ from two weeks ago. I don’t care. Part of our mission was for Jeff to gain back his weight from the freak case of pneumonia and bronchitis. It was a wild success.
The city definitely has shades of Western influence with what seemed to me a far more significant population of (especially long-term) foreigners than anywhere else I’ve been in Thailand. As what only seems possible in a places like Thailand, the mesh of Thai and farang places blended nicely giving the city a feel that wasn’t quite west, but distinctly different from ‘village Thailand’ that I’ve spent the past yearish in.
Our typical day went like this: wake-up late, eat at ‘the breakfast place’ (worthy of its own post if I had more pictures of it/our food), hate ourselves for the amount of food consumed, start the activity of the day, sweat, sit in an air-conditioned smoothie place for two hours while deciding what to have for dinner, finish activity of the day, take hot shower, eat more copious amounts of food, sleep in air-conditioned room. Buddha, it was glorious.
Some of said ‘activities of the day’ included:
We went to the two temples mentioned in the guidebook that were closest to our guest house. Us and about fifty other farangs. These were actually kind of cool because some had foundations from ancient times and held cultural significance to northern Thailand, rather than the ten-year old ones (that are weirdly run down and usually empty) you’ll find in our villages.
The only thing that bothered me were other farang women running around in spaghetti strap tank tops and short-shorts despite signs distinctly pointing out not to dress as such. You (usually) won’t be refused entrance (there are a few strict places in Bangkok) because Thais don’t want to confront you, but try to slave off the heat for a few hours, show a little cultural respect, and protect your shoulders from the sun at the same time!
More photos of the temples in the previous post dedicated to just pictures.
I came to Chiang Mai knowing that I was going to drop some serious change at the markets. I had a good time doing it. Both the ‘walking street’ market and daily night market were close to our guest house and there was a special market during Song Kran that happened daily as well. I acquired lots of jewelry, t-shirts (including one that reads ‘Owl be loving you forever’ complete with an owl wearing green aviators and a rainbow behind him, swoon), and food, of course. This is on top of the fantastic export shops in the mall. I was in my glory.
I had heard from other PCVs that the ‘Flight of the Gibbon’ zip-lining experience was awesome, but was a little wary at the price of 3,000 baht (about $100 USD). As residents of Thailand, we ended up getting about 1000 baht off the cost. Coupled with that and the word of PCV mouth, we decided to go for it and loved it! It was one of the coolest things I’ve done in Thailand and thinking of ways to convince my Mom to go so I can enjoy it again. I felt totally safe with the guides and they give you no time to get nervous as you step up to the platform and away you go. The best of the lines was a ‘Superman’ jump attaching to your back. Jeff was the guinea pig and they didn’t really explain it to him, so after watching him, I had to take the enormous, dramatic jump for the both of us. I think it’s the closest I’ll ever feel to flying.
Half of the day was spent zipping down lines from lengths of thirty to three hundred meters before you’re provided with lunch and then take a mini-hike to a multi-level waterfall. I definitely felt like it was worth the cost, especially if your money is coming from the west and you’re willing to make a small splurge. The package also included direct transportation to and from our guesthouse and free tickets to the zoo which I probably wouldn’t have bothered with if I hadn’t gone on the tour.
A clip video is in the works!
Chiang Mai Zoo
We took the zoo at a leisurely pace since we had free tickets. When traveling, I usually never make a real effort to go to zoos because as awesome as animals are, they’re just that. Animals, in an enclosure.
One small thing to give special status to though. Thailand, being so close to China and having a pretty good zoo, has one animal that I’ve always longed to see in real life. Black and white. Cute and cuddly. Chiang Mai zoo had two pandas out for the public to see. I was so excited, I had a Kristen Bell-esque breakdown.
I made up a panda song, set the bears up with my own ideas for names, and read all the information placards. I seriously considered lobbying Jeff for the volunteer with the pandas day for a cool 5,000 baht, but something told me he didn’t share my enthusiasm. These are a select few of the many pictures I took.
We didn’t really have a choice in this. Song Kran used to be my favorite Thai holiday as it’s about renewal, giving blessings/luck to others, and splashing water on people. In Chiang Mai, it was taken over by drunken frat boy types and their female counterparts crowding the streets making it nearly impossible to walk ten meters without getting soaked by their waterguns. Dumbasses. We were Song Kran scrooges for the most part terrorizing Thai kids that didn’t listen to our warnings and/or tipping over buckets on their unsuspecting owners. We hid out in the mall one day and just blasted through the parade the next.
The funny thing about the parade though is while we were trying our best to get through, mostly ignoring what was happening there, the Prime Minister of Thailand was within ten feet of us as we strolled through her security escort around the truck. I didn’t even realize it was her until we were talking about it at the best cake place on planet earth (Volcano chocolate cake… ’nuff said).
The discussion of defensive movements and tactics to effectively disarm a combatant Song Kraner stirred up the quote in the title.
A few shots of what Song Kran looks like. Note, these were taken in some random town from the safety of our bus. Chiang Mai was a freaking nightmare to someone who wanted to stay dry.
As I’ve mentioned before, half of going on vacation as a Peace Corps Volunteer is just being with friends. People that you can bitch and moan about Thailand/Peace Corps and know how much you love it despite its craziness. Just talking and spilling your random thoughts that tend to fill up when you’re at site is a big relief. Meeting up with Jeff and some other Volunteers made me a little less homesick, giving me some Volunteer family time. Jeff and I bonded so much, I decided to paint my toes to match his. Yes, you read that right.
Chiang Mai fulfilled all my expectations in a city and is in the running for post-PC occupation. I wouldn’t suggest Chiang Mai to those that want to see the ‘real Thailand’ because you won’t really find it there. Chiang Mai has its own blended vibe that makes it a vibrant, realistic, and unique place to live and travel.