Since he was at the end of his trip Heewon decided he wanted a bit of comfort and decided to book himself a nice hotel room for his last few days. We were chatting about our rooms when he sent me a picture of his, which included a huge couch. I jokingly replied, “It’s huge, I could sleep on that couch!” but he generously said, “Sure? If you want to you can.” I had already paid for my dorm room for that night, but he said if I wanted to move Saturday morning it was fine with him, so I figured why not. Which is how I also wound up spending the last few days of my Bangkok trip in luxury, and not even on a couch.
My trip to Thailand was unplanned, I only knew it would begin with a good friend, relaxing on the beach and then, who knows? As I should have known Chiang Mai pulled me back and within a few days of landing in the country I had a ticket North booked. Although I have a spot (Teeraya) in Chiang Mai that I love I thought I’d take a look through the Couchsurfing profiles and see if anything jumped out. Loads of profiles were expats and digital nomads, living in Chiang Mai and offering up their couch or floor for the wandering souls, not so much what I was interested in, but then I came across Peace’s profile. An energetic, enthusiastic local who just so happened to host English camps and was sometimes looking for volunteers, I was interested and so I sent him a message. Within no time he got back to me with a detailed response, including an offer for me to join an upcoming English camp, the only catch it was in Krabi - the pace I was about to leave.
This story starts walking down the streets of Chiang Mai with my new friends from the UK, all of us with a large beer in hand. What I assumed would be a fun last night out in Chiang Mai, a few drinks, new bar, good food and possibly a ladyboy show, turned into a pivotal moment shaping the next few weeks of my travels and possibly more.
When traveling I find that I’m quick to adapt to the different surroundings and crowds that I immerse myself into. I’ve never had a major problem finding comfort in a new situation, no matter how different it may be to what I’m used to. It’s funny, actually the most uncomfortable I found myself in the last year were the two times I was preparing to leave the United States, not sure what laid ahead in my life. Once I found myself abroad though those worries disappeared and I fell back into my Chameleon skin.
Venturing back to Chiang Mai for my third visit within the year, I decided to mix it up a bit and give myself a new challenge. I very happily could have relaxed in town all week visiting different cafe's and restaurants, or re-visited Pai for another tattoo, but I ventured up the hill towards Doi Suthep instead. The purpose of my visit was not to join the hoards of tourists headed in that direction for photos of the famous temple, rather it was to the nearby Meditation center, my new home for a week.
On my first visit to Pai I had one "must do" on my itinerary but unfortunately, it was something that didn't happen. After meeting my friend Alice during my Yoga training at Vikasa Yoga I was determined to visit her new friend Poh who just so happens to be a very talented tattoo artist. I had already gotten my traditional Sak Yant tattoo in Bangkok but I was looking for something more original for my next one so I figured paying Poh a visit at Monkey Magic tattoo sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately, due to his packed schedule and my stupidly pre-booked flight to Vietnam, I wasn't able to make it happen. After my adventures through Vietnam and Laos though I decided to add a return visit to Northern Thailand at the end of my trip. This may or may not have been heavily influenced by the possibility of getting this tattoo....
After being forced to withdraw additional Thai Baht in order to pay for my Vietnam visa I had some extra cash on hand and decided to use it to join Amy in her Thai cooking course. I'm actually not the biggest fan of Thai food, shocking I know, but after a while all the curries start to taste the same and pad thai is like one step up from ramen. That being said I knew it'd be a fun last day with Amy before we both went our separate ways and help me learn some things so I can cook for my family and friends back home. Having already done a course in Cambodia I had something to compare this course to but still wasn't sure what to expect. Amy heard great things about Sammy's Organic Farm and cooking school so we signed up for a full day of fun with them.
After spending the better part of the day riding my bike around the city, doing yoga in the park, checking out cute cafe's and sweating for every second of it, Amy and I decided to give the night market one last go. I was forced to draw out more Thai Baht than had planned (thanks Vietnam), so I decided I had some money to burn and goodies to buy. I'm not sure if you've noticed but I'm really good at adapting the stingy backpacker role, on my last few visits to the market my thoughts centered around "I don't need it, have room for it, or won't wear it" but this time I decided to give in.
Although I was perfectly content in Chiang Mai I made the decision to pack up my bags and head north to the "hippy backpacker, come for 2 days stay for a week" town of Pai. Since before I even left for my trip to SE Asia I had been hearing stories of the beautiful little town, whether it was through travel blogs, Instagram or other travelers I met the message was the same "Do not miss Pai!". There's really only one downside attached to a trip to Pai and that's in getting there; the road from Chiang Mai includes 762 winding turns along narrow mountain roads. You basically have two options, pop some motion sickness pills and tough it out on the bus or hire a motorbike and hope you don't end up like 1/4 of the people walking around Pai with cuts, scrapes, and bruises. I was back n' forth between the two options but ultimately chose the bus, I figured I'd rather puke in a bag than wipe out on the side of the road.
No trip abroad can go completely without an interesting story; the same is true whether you’re planning to be gone for one week, or one year. Something interesting is bound to happen! Laura definitely had a good story to tell thanks to our eccentric trekking guide, Chet, but clearly Thailand wanted to give her one more memory.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.