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.
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.
Having one successful day out on the scooter in Chiang Mai we decided to give it another try. After all, Laura only had one day left in the city so we didn’t want to waste it by the pool, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I did some searching the day before and discovered there’s both a cave (Muang On) and hot springs located about an hour away, in the San Kamphaeng district of Chiang Mai. Laura and I had previously considered visiting some caves near Pai so this sounded like an ideal replacement. We were smarter about breakfast this time around and chose to buy some goodies at the local market, much cheaper and faster. Armed with our snacks and obnoxiously big Thai iced coffees we were on our way.
On our second day in Chiang Mai Laura and I decided it was time to get out and do some sightseeing, but not along the normal tourist track, we wanted to take things into our own hands. Laura was brave and trusted me as her driver for her first motorbike experience. We rented a bike from our hostel (mistake since it was 50 baht cheaper down the street) and departed early(ish) for Doi Suthep. The main purpose of trekking up the hill was to see the impressive temple at the top, Wat Phra, one of the most visited sights in Chiang Mai. Songthaews will make the trip to the temple but with Laura's potential motion sickness and my hatred of anything organized we opted to do it on our own, and what a wise decision it was!
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.