Day 5 : Chiang Mai, Thailand

Outside the walled city of Chiang Mai. Situated on the banks of the River Ping, surrounded by lazy rivers and green hills; it is the perfect refuge from Bangkok. It is a world apart. Unique in its architecture, culture and climate it is in many ways separated from the remainder of Thailand as a whole.

The beauty of traveling here is that you can just take a cab to the airport, buy a ticket to almost anywhere in the country and leave within a few hours (Bangkok to Chaing Mai - One hour by plane at $40 round trip). The best part is - it is the same price as if you had booked it months in advance. Earlier that day Brian and I had decided to catch the evening flight to Chang Mai and leave the chaos of Bangkok behind a day early. The absolute best part of self-planned travel is the "wing-it" factor. There are no rules and no schedules to follow. With certain situations, however, The guidebook can be a savior – like when you fly into a new city at midnight and want to know exactly where you are going.  You can always move on tomorrow.

We landed late and took a much calmer Tuk-Tuk ride down a dirt road just a couple of blocks from the busy part of town. Sleepy, dark and quiet; the climate is much dryer and cooler; it is already a nice change from the Bangkok scene. There were no street lights, just scattered single light bulbs perched atop poles to signify the few guest houses along a dirt road. We made a reservation yesterday via the internet and we had a room waiting for us in a small guesthouse just outside the noise. Guesthouses in Thailand are, ideally, teak homes owned and operated by local families with fewer than a dozen rooms. A hybrid of the youth Hostel and bed and breakfast.  The perfect guesthouse offers trekking services, bike rentals, usually some form of restaurant service and can be a wonderful experience to visit with other travelers.

We unloaded our packs and squeezed out of the Tuk-tuk. This guesthouse had a gate in front that was locked. A note at the doorbell told us to ring if we arrived after hours (10pm). We buzzed in and were escorted to our room by the not-so- friendly, not-so-Thai owner. Mildly disappointing, but whatever. For about $8.00 we got a vanilla shell with full size bed, ceiling fan, private bath with cold shower; and that's all she wrote. Brian threw his bag into the corner and dove for the mattress. It was nothing more than a thick foam pad sitting on top of plywood, pretending to be a mattress. Thud. We looked wide eyed at each other. Brian’s lips formed into a perfect O for a second or two, "Oooooo I think I heard it crack".


Breakfast. Brian does not drink coffee so..... It's Coke Light for him (through a straw of course). Is the sun coming up earlier today? Coffee. Thai coffee my crazy strong and sweet lover. If that won’t get me up nothing will.
My staple breakfast ....when bird flu eggs are not available I hit the rice soup (conji). Like cream of rice really - i love it.

Chang Mai - a northern mountain city. Chang Mai is the Thailand you envision. If you ever visit this country, don't miss it. The air isn't as polluted as Bangkok and it possesses an old world charm Bangkok does not. Temples around every corner, Free to visit...and you are usually alone. Instead of traffic-choked urban sprawl, travellers find a picturesque downtown easily navigated on foot, where the air is clean and the climate mercifully cool with long shady boulevards.  A short bike or scooter ride out of the town leads to a densely rain forested countryside.  


Back alleys and side streets lead you into the best nooks and crannies of this town. We turned a corner to run into this amazing random temple. No ticket booth, no fees, no scam artists…no tourist attraction, just the Temple.
I really had to sort through hundreds of "Brian with the Dragon" photos. he does love the dragons.
Did I say how long it takes to get food? The food is all made fresh. There are no pre-prep options, no microwaves, and no frozen short cuts. And wow – is it worth it. Coconut curries, Thai basil, fish sauce…..slurpy noodle bowls….all worth every minute (or massive cluster of minutes).
Wat Pra Sing on the side streets of Chiang Mai. A 14th century temple to house the ashes of a king, It is a visual Yin and Yang - Old meets new.
Wat Chang Lom is One of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. This one cost a little fee, but it was like 1$....
Bri waiting for lunch.... food takes FOREVER here.
Bathrooms are always an adventure when traveling. These were our first ever foot pad toilets. Standing only - its tricky. The bucket to the right is the "flusher". And the hand sprayer is - well you don't see any TP so you get the picture.
Wat Pra Sing. The newer (1920’s) structure is a small but ornately adorned with gold leaf. It is gilded with bright shimmering green dragoons and red accents. Just amazing in person.
See, Brian and his Dragons.

The old town, which sits inside the ancient moat surrounded wall, is an extraordinary vision. Here amid the 30-odd temple spires, barefoot monks in flame-coloured robes collect alms in the morning and street vendors sell their wares by night. Torches burn around the moat and atop the wall, which encloses an all night market bazaar. Vendors of all sorts and food stalls galore prepare everything from noodles and veggies to fried bugs... yep, we tried them. When in Rome...


Sunset brought to us the gift of the Night Bazaar. Every evening, the centre of Chiang Mai comes alive with a massive Night Bazaar, and as we discovered, few people visit the city without picking up a few bargains here.
At the bazaar, food venders are set up every different way from propane fired grills to hibachis on the ground. Here is one guy making food and selling eggs. Simple, and obviously real easy to get a food service permit.
Christmas shopping at the Night Bazaar. Me closing a sweet deal for dad's Christmas gift. These were little wooden games and brain teasers thingies. (Wait, did I just blow Dad's gift surprise?)
A woman working a small wooden cart called out to us. “Farang! “She yelled out (farangs are white folks – tourists - us). ”You try….here, you try“, she simultaneously scooped her hand onto one of the partitioned vessels and emptied the contents into a paper cup. She handed the cup to Brian with a massive grin. Brian whipped his around to me with a huge mischievous smile. “…Bugs….”
At the Bug Buffet Bri had the grasshopper - “Oh, the texture, Moorish. You would not get past the texture. The legs. They’re all wiry and stick-like. And the head – well, we won’t go there”- Brian
The bazaar, considered legendary, is Located on a three block stretch of Chang Khlan Road. Just around the corner you continue into the Ansuran Night Market. Chang Mai’s most authentic and lively dining experience, dozens of stalls prepare a wide range of fare from Northern Thai to Bermese-influencded cuisine.
Hey, There's a band! In fact, the stalls are squeezed onto the pavement selling everything from antiques to Rolex watches. They are jammed inbetween food vebders, musicians, artists and farmers selling whatever they can.
Two little girls playing Traditional Thai Instruments. Meanwhile, its like midnight... school? Not sure
A bug’s life in Thailand isn’t worth much and it doesn’t last particularly long either. You see, if it crawls, fly’s, jumps, or just stands still it gets eaten…..Thais love bugs. First was a grub. A small pudgy little worm, brown in color, jelly bean in size, lima bean in texture and corn tortilla in taste. Second was the meal worm. The mealy worm has a crisp airy texture, much like that of a cheesy puff and for that matter tastes a lot like one as well.

At 2 am we hear a tapping on our door and the girlie giggles of Ryan, "House keeping. Me fluff your pillow"?  The remainder of our crew has arrived. They received our email on the lodging change and miraculously found us. We got up to greet them and as the group of us walked into their room, they unloaded their packs and we all burst out into fits of laughter. It was their beds. The Threebears mini beds. Hahahahaha. Now what we still have yet to tell them is about the Janky-Sketchy tour we booked this morning...... We do love a bargain.  Ryan, Bob and Moe arrived end of day 2 to meet us for some time in Chang Mai and the intention of doing a tour into the Golden Triangle. 

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