Mar 04 2008

1,000 Words

Published by at 11:49 am under Chiang Mai,Thailand

Ah, Chiang Mai. After Bangkok, Thailand’s second largest city is like a breath of fresh air. Picture me sitting on the sunny patio of a cafe, drinking Thai iced tea, eating fresh mango, and writing in my journal, as I whimsically sigh “ah…Chiang Mai…,” and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how I spent my time in the city.

We took a train through the rice paddies and beautiful countryside of Northern Thailand, to arrive in Chiang Mai sometime last week. We became so enamored with the city we extended our stay multiple times. Ben has deemed it a Special Place, a hard-earned title in our book, alongside Chania and Charlottesville. The Thai are proud of this city, and consider it the cultural and culinary capital of the country. Which probably explains why we like it so much.

I’d love to delve into the usual account of our day-to-day adventures, but I think a detailed description of our many meals and market shopping would bore everyone except probably my mom (who, despite my many attempts to assure her otherwise, is steadily convinced this country is going to eat me alive). Plus, a street vendor selling bananas in coconut milk just passed and I must go chase him down. So we’ve decided to capture our week in Chiang Mai with photos. Please enjoy our first attempt at photojournalism while keeping in mind that we are not photographers and I am a delicate flower. So be nice.

mango with sticky rice! our favorite breakfast!
This picture encapsulates our week more than anything else. We discovered this tiny cafe in the old town of Chiang Mai on day one, and have brunched there daily ever since. Mango with sticky rice (with a slight drizzle of coconut cream) is probably our favorite meal we’ve had on this trip. It’s that good. I won’t say that we ate it multiple times per day. But we did.

Chiang Mai handicrafts
Chiang Mai is known for its handicrafts. Which is a weird word, but a fun one. Thanks to the concentration of hilltribes in the region (who come down from the hills to sell their beautiful wares) and the many outlets for young Thai designers to show off their skillz, the city has an incredible variety of impressive and quality handicrafts. It was hard to mind our budget.

Sunday Walking Street
One of those outlets is Sunday Walking Street, a market on the main thoroughfare of town that happens every Sunday evening. It’s fun: the street is jam-packed with locals and tourists and vendors selling all sorts of great stuff. Street musicians play ambient music (from ethnic hilltribe music to Bob Dylan covers) for your spare baht, and the air is filled with a char-grilled scent wafting from hundreds of woks and deep fryers. After six months abroad, Ben and I are market connoisseurs, and this is definitely the best we’ve seen.

wat + mountains
The mountains north and west of the city not only provide beautiful scenery, but are home to the many ethnic hilltribes that have settled in Thailand. Also, they offer many opportunities for crazy tourists to pay to climb them. Like we did.

park crossing Chiang Mai moat
A moat defines the borders of the old town. Small parks and trees line the streets on either side.

some guy has decided to swim in the moat
Some people have decided they like to swim in the moat. Not for people equipped with only a Western immune system.

exploring the many rice options
Ben learning about the many, many, many varieties of rice grown in the region at a local market.

motorcycle: A LIVE HALF LIFE
Most people in Chiang Mai speak a little English. Sort of.

street vendor
A street vendor whipping us up a fresh batch of pad thai on the spot.

The flora here is beautiful.

huge ex-pat population means restaurants like this
Large ex-pat population = strange restaurants. Thai. Mexican. Western. FOOD. Fish’n Chip shop, of course. I admit it! We ate here.

Golden Chedi in Chiang Mai
Golden chedi + pretty sky. Gotta have a wat shot.

Vegetarian restaurant menu
Chiang Mai offers the best Thai food we’ve had so far. Lots of specialty restaurants for cheap!

That’s all for now! We’ll be getting into the down and dirty of our time in Chiang Mai soon, including details of our two-day trek into the jungle and that time I was pummeled by a tiny Thai woman.

NEXT: Trekking Adventures in Thailand: Day 1 »



8 responses so far

8 Responses to “1,000 Words”

  1. Sciencemelon 04 Mar 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Good pics guys… Just heard from some friends that the boat trip to Laos is horrible… Go overland or fly if you can. (I’ve included their quote below for your info…)

    “We arrived in Luang Prabang from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Originally we had considered taking a 6 hour bus trip to the Laos border, and then a two day boat ride down the Mekong River for the adventure. It sounded quaintly adventurous and we thought that it would be a great experience. We changed our mind and flew into Laos and it appears that we made a very good decision. We were at a travel agent’s office and overheard a conversation from some people who did that and they said it was horrible. The trip was on a longboat and the river was rough, the boat was packed with more than a 100 people. All the luggage and backpacks were tossed in the back and some got wet. They related the conditions as being awful.”

  2. Sloanon 07 Mar 2008 at 10:07 am

    Ah, Chiang Mai. I dropped my sandwich in that moat. True story.

  3. cheska21on 07 Mar 2008 at 1:18 pm

    great pictures. i especially got interested in the crafts that they make. i collect crafts from different countries i go to. and would love to have a chiang mai craft.

  4. Brittanyon 08 Mar 2008 at 1:30 am

    Hey Sciencemel,

    Too late! We just got off the boat. The beautiful scenery made up for the horrible ride…for about 3 hours. The 11 additional hours were not fun. Thankfully, the river was smooth and calm, but the passengers packed in like sardines and the hard, wooden benches got very old very fast.

    Thanks for the advice! I guess we need to catch up on the blog so we can get tips like this BEFORE we leave. :)


    PS: We never did discover what those white balls were in Ben’s soup… I think some sort of fish ball or pork dumpling. They were sold EVERYWHERE on the streets of Thailand. We’ve adopted a we-don’t-want-to-know attitude when it comes to dining in SE Asia. :)

  5. Sciencemelon 08 Mar 2008 at 11:38 am

    Glad you made it safely to Laos, despite the trip. A couple of mates said, “If you love Thailand, you’re going to have found Shang-ri-la in Laos.” If you get a chance to swing up to Kunming (China) it is well worth it… again, according to mates on the ground. And brace yourselves for the poverty in Cambodia – it is abject and astounding.

    I haven’t heard any other negative vibes on the travel front other than that the train down Vietnam from Hanoi to HCMC is murder in terms of the timing… Double then add a day… Unless of course there is flooding when you should plan to fly as the train will never actually get there. Something to think about… PM if you want me to send you details of their experience (it was a rather protracted e-mail they sent and I’m happy to distill it for you).

  6. Abbyon 09 Mar 2008 at 12:11 am

    So, Krystle and I went to Tara Thai tonight, at Short Pump and got thai food, obviously, and thought about you guys! On the dessert menu, they had mango and sweet sticky rice, but when I tried to order it, they said it wasn’t in season yet. I pretty much flipped out and caused a scene when I saw it on the menu though!

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