This past December/January I had the great opportunity to go to Thailand…Chaing Mai to be exact. My little brother was getting married and my now sister-in-law is originally from Thailand. Thus a wedding in Thailand! Over twenty friends and family from the Seattle area made the trip for the great celebration! I traveled with three other friends from Seattle to Toyko, a few hours layover and then on to Bangkok. We spent the night in the Bangkok airport and then flew out in the morning to Chiang Mai on Thai Airways, which is an amazing airline known for it’s baked goods which were delicious! We were in Chiang Mai for about two weeks and while there were plenty of wedding things to do we also had lots of time for fun and exploring. Some of the things to see and find in the area are:
The Thai Elephants
Not the real ones (though you can find them at various places), but these beautiful art pieces that are all over the city and the world! Each uniquely designed by Elephant Parade and you can buy them and support helping elephants.
The Old City
You can still see parts of the original wall, 700 years old! The corners and the gates are still there to be seen and you can see more of the wall at the Chiang Mai Historical Centre within the city. The city is surrounded by a mote. It is a very packed area with many beautiful temples, some interesting museums (I recommend the Lanna Folklife Museum) and many coffee shops and hostels. Another place to visit is the North Gate Jazz Co-op. This night jazz club had some real talent, just know it gets crowded to come early for a seat.
You have to see the Sunday Market which runs from Tha Phae Gate in the Old City. It is a well-known market and has so much to see and find. The Night Market is every night outside of the Old City a few blocks, the booths are on the street as well as inside the market building. Everyone’s favorite buy are some elephant print pants and shirts with the unique elephant designs on them. Both have some great food to offer too! Every day you can also wind through the Waroros Market, it is close to the river. I didn’t spend much time here, you can find all your unique eating options at this one like worms and bugs and frogs. I know there are other markets to see and find, but these are the ones I visited.
Before I went to Chiang Mai I looked up things to see and found this blog talking about cafes: http://www.paperplanesblog.com/50-of-the-best-cafes-in-chiang-mai/ and there are so many more than 100 cafes. Everywhere you can find coffee! I tried out Free Bird Cafe, had an iced chai latte, very yummy. It was a good one and had a little thrift shop attached too, they are a non-proft that helps families in northern Thailand. I also visited The House, there I had a coconut juice that came in a coconut…so pretty fresh! It was a fun little place and the Elephant Parade store is right next door. I guess I’m not the best judge for coffee shops because I don’t like it…but these two places were nice places to chill. Both had free wifi.
I tried the songthaew (a small truck) and a Tuk-Tuk. The songthaew is by far the cheaper option and I think you can get by not knowing any Thai as long as you have the address, it helps if it’s a well-known landmark like The Old City or a hotel. The songthaews are in about three colors, each color represents where they run. Some have fixed routes, others will take you where you need to go like a taxi, others specifically go further outside the city. The Tuk-Tuk was fun and came in handy when we needed to get from the one gate in the Old City to the other gate quickly.
There is so much good looking and smelling food. I was glad to have my sister-in-law and her sister to help me figure out what to try. I would love to tell you all the dishes to try but I can’t remember the names. I tried lots of good noodle dishes, the fried fish was very delicious and I had some really yummy veggie dishes. Every morning our host served us delicious fruit, some I knew (like mangoes and papaya) and others I still don’t know what they were (Thai names only). Some other things to try are the Mango Sticky Rice (a dessert of Mango and Sticky Rice soaked in sweet coconut milk), Iced Tea (of the Thai variety, so much better in Thailand!) and finally Roti, this is sort of like a crepe, but not really. You can have it many different ways (sweet or savory) but I enjoyed the banana-chocolate kind.
Outside the City
I didn’t venture too much outside of Chiang Mai, but we did all take a trip to the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls. This waterfall out in the jungle/forests of Chiang Mai is of limestone and it makes it sticky, or grippy, and easy to climb up the waterfall. They do have ropes tied to the trees as there are a few spots that the moss has grown and it’s slippier, but for the most part, you climb up and down the waterfall feeling like Spiderman! Really great! Unfortunately, the day we went was a bit cool and drizzly (unusual for their dry season), but it was still fun!
Another spot was San Kamphaeng, this area has all the factories. The silk factory, the umbrella factory, the gem factories and much more. We rented a songthaew who drove us up and to all the factories. Most of the songthaews (the red ones) you can rent to take you to a specific place, the drivers also have laminated “menus” of all the main places so even with no Thai you can point at where you want to go. I heard the drivers get a commission if you make purchases at the factories so there is some extra motivation for them. I enjoyed most of the factories. The umbrellas were beautiful and fascinating to see how they are made. The silk factory was really interesting as well to see how they process silk and to watch the women weaving. Most of the gem factories were not as interesting, just seeing stones polished and then being ushered in to show rooms full of jewerly outside of my price range. The lacquer factory was also interestng, I had seen some ancient pieces at the museum so it was interesting to see how it is made and how long the process takes. And lastly the wood factory had amazing carvings and you could watch them carve…they have stellar eyesight and talent!
This is a really great event to go to. First, the food is amazing, and they just keep bringing out more! And second, the show is really beautiful.
I could write a few more paragraphs on this trip, but I’ll give my readers a break.