I had no expectations when it came to northern Thailand. Heck, I had no expectations for any part of Thailand. I had a friend who once lived there for a while after we graduated high school, but for some reason I had never gotten the vibe that Thailand was where it was at. The hip place. The mesmerizing place. The exotic place.
Well, I done did learn that day! While Bangkok was big and busy, Chiang Mai in the north was the chill, older cousin of Bangkok. I immediately was drawn to it, and the allure of lush greenery outside every window. I’ll never forget how the mountains looked when our overnight train pulled into town. It was beautiful! So beautiful, in fact, that I didn’t take as many pictures as usual, because I was so busy enjoying the views.
Because Thailand is so inexpensive, we decided to stay in an adorable guesthouse for less than $25 a night. It was a little outside of the city center, but we were able to take a tuk tuk (a three-wheeler taxi) into town for about $4 each way. Being a little out of the way allowed our guesthouse the space for an outdoor eating space and pool though, so we gladly took the distance for this! We spent our mornings eating the yummiest breakfasts on the patio, and lazily swam in the warm sunshine in the early afternoons. Once the earth had cooled a little in the evenings, we rode the tuk tuk into town for dinner and shopping. After going nonstop for three weeks in Europe, it was nice to finally relax and have some lazy days!
Going into town was loads of fun! Riding on a tuk tuk is a thrill, as there are no seat belts and the passenger seats are completely exposed to the elements. Racing and whooshing down the streets, it was an exciting way to get into town every day! My favorite part about town was the night markets. During the evenings, venues that are ghost towns during the day come alive with the chatter of bargaining and laughter. You can buy miniature wooden elephants, have a Thai dinner, and get massages all for prices that’ll have you in the greatest mood ever. Elephants are my ABSOLUTE favorite animal, and their likeness is featured everywhere…. so I had a hard time not buying every last thing that had their image embroidered, ironed on, or sculpted!
One thing I didn’t expect to see was so much… life! It’s technically “low season” in Thailand right now. This means it’s about to be the rainy monsoon season, so there are less tourists around. At least, that’s what they claim! It seemed plenty busy to me and it never ended up raining on us, though we did catch a storm brewing on the mountains from our balcony one morning. Low season also means that things are cheaper, as far as accommodation and prices of things in town go. I definitely didn’t have a problem with that! The food was also so yummy, and the fruit so fresh! I got to try mangosteen (kind of peachy), and rambutan (kind of grapey), and the FRESH FRUIT SMOOTHIES, Y’ALL. I don’t know what they put into them, but they had me coming back to try new ones every single day, sometimes twice a day! The shops pre-cut fruit and place them into various sized cups. You pick your size, and they blend the fruit with ice and cream right in front of you! So good! The ones blended with all the Thai fruits were extra delicious. I absolutely loved the chill vibes from Chiang Mai, but what I loved the ABSOLUTE most was going to the elephant park, something I’ll be writing about in detail in my next post!