Waking up at 6:30 a.m., we quickly packed up our hotel room, said goodbye to 4/5 of the rum bottle, and went downstairs for a quick breakfast before meeting our minibus to the airport. By 7:25 am we were ready to hand in our key, but not before begrudgingly waiting for the hotel staff to check on our room and ensure we did not take anything from the minibar. It’s lucky for us that they did this though because it was soon discovered that we had left our laptop charger in the room and that would have been a butt to replace or have sent to us. So thank you resort!
We then joined our minibus driver on a 1.5 hr drive through Phuket picking up some more Eastern Europeans, a very sad American girl who was leaving her friends, and a European couple who packed way too much to the point that they could not even lift their bags in the bus by themselves. Lynn remembers those days, but is proud to say she is doing quite well with just a duffel bag and daypack. We reached the airport with plenty of time to spare, checked in, and then searched around for another Jetstar ticketing counter to no avail. We don’t know where Jetstar exists, but we know we want to fly it from Phnom Penh to Singapore. Why is this so hard?! We even asked the airport information booth which directed us to a company on third floor, Bags. Yes, it was called Bags. The Bags man told us to wait 10 minutes more for someone to assist us. We waited and waited, and then gave up once again. We’ll just try again when we get to Chiang Mai.
We then went through security and promptly entered the Bangkok Airways lounge, because we are now insiders, where we treated ourselves to spectacular wifi and free treats. 30 minutes later it was time to board where we were once again able to take in the fantastic dance number that is done along with the safety video. If you’d like to treat yourself feel free to check it out here. Be sure to look for the poorly dubbed pilot. Warning: the entirety of the flight we would lean over to each other and say ‘Bangkok Airways’ in the singsongy way they do in the video. You may also be caught in this trap.
We arrived in Chiang Mai right around 1 p.m., collected our bags, and chose to walk the 33 minutes to our guesthouse instead of spend the 150 baht on a taxi. 150 baht is about $4.25 USD, so not an extreme amount by any means, but we keep equating such sums to the number of massages we can get or how much additional food we can eat (hence the need to walk more). It was not the nicest walk, but luckily it had sidewalks the majority of the way. The downside was we were quite sweaty when we arrived, soaked through our shirts even and maybe a little bit smelly. It seems that Chiang Mai, being among the Thailand mountains, isn’t as cool as we had expected and is possibly even hotter than Bangkok. Instead of heading out after checking in, we enjoyed the A/C while we looked into the various ways we could spend our first afternoon in the city.
After about an hour or so, we hadn’t really settled on anything. The things to do in Chiang Mai are 1) Visit the temples – we are, again, a little templed out so weren’t too keen on that idea, 2) Visit elephants – Super excited about this but it is a full day activity we had scheduled for later in the week, and 3) Take a cooking class – Again, super excited but already scheduled for later in the week. Digging a bit deeper we did find that there is a Sunday Market on Walking Street in the evenings and planned on attending that when the time came. For now, we would just roam and see what we found.
The first thing we stumbled upon was, you guessed it, a temple. There seemed to be some event happening there where monks were running around in a frenzy and several other men appeared to be auctioning off offerings. It was here we noticed that the Buddhist monk’s robes are actually different shades of orange with some being more yellow and others more red.
Making our way down another street we encountered Wat Chiang Man, which just so happens to contain the first temple built in Chiang Mai. This temple is very different than ones we had already seen. Instead of white or tiled or just plain sparkly, this temple is brick and a muted color. It also was decorated with elephants of which only 5 or 6 still stand due to an earthquake 500 years ago and multi-headed dragon guardians with elaborately carved headdresses. Walking around the exterior of the chedi, there was a donation box for every Chinese Zodiac animal so we spent a good 2 minutes confirming that Doug is an ox and Lynn is a rat. Oh, and we had to take pictures with our animal in the hopes that we would now remember which was which.
Exiting Wat Chiang Man we noticed that there was a lot of hubbub happening near the entrance and in the street. The Sunday Market was starting to be set up and the temple allowed the market vendors to park on the temple grounds during this time. With nothing better to do we walked down Ratchadamnoen Road admiring the market goods as the vendors were getting set up and starting to get very excited that this would be a legitimate market with goods we had not seen elsewhere in our month and a half of traveling. Lynn eyed some fishermen pants that she would need to check out later while Doug was continuously drawn to colorful art pieces of elephants, temples, and monks. We were also very happy to see that we were back to real Thai prices and would not have to resort to 7/11.
We exited the city walls and reached Chiang Mai’s river before turning around, still unsure of what to do. Lynn pulled out a tourist map she had collected at the airport and found the only other thing on it that was not a temple, the Three Kings statue so we decided to head in its direction. Again, we walked down Ratchadamnoen Road in the opposite direction, snaking our way through the vendors beginning to get excited about the prospect of a street food dinner. Arriving at the statue, we were disappointed to see that the only text describing its significance (we assume) was in Thai. Oh well, we tried. But, by this point things in the market seemed to be starting to take off so it was time to see what it had to offer.
We joined back up with the road leading to the Three Kings statue and quickly saw a vendor with two big signs stating, “Take Free.” Not to miss out on anything free when neither of us are gainfully employed, we headed in that direction and were handed a plate of noodles with mushrooms, carrots, and tofu. We had seen a sign earlier in our walk that there was a Vegetarian Festival happening in Chiang Mai as well, so our best guess is that the food was being handed out as a part of the celebration. This started Doug and Lynn’s Thai Street Food Tour of Delicious Goodies: Part 1. Making our way down the street, the next food stop granted us with a very sweet Thai iced tea with boboa. Indeed there were quite a few good shops – a lot of handmade clothes, quilts, art, etc. but also your typical knock offs as well. Here is where Doug came up with his grand business plan to open a shop in San Francisco (because that is where the majority of hipsters can be found) where he will sell goods that he purchases from this market. It would not only give him an excuse to travel every year, but supply the world’s yuppies with the art and clothing necessary to complement their lifestyles (yes, we know we are those yuppies).
Not letting the artwork distract us from our mission, the next treat was spicy chicken balls which Doug doused in sweet chili sauce and complemented with a cup of pure passionfruit sold just down the street. Ok, our eyes were getting too big for our stomachs so instead of continuing on Doug suggested an 80 baht 30 minute foot massage being done alongside the road (we told you that the saved 150 baht would be put to good use). These setups could be found throughout the market, but we chose one right then and there and were promptly placed in a plastic chair alongside each other. While we could not communicate directly with our masseuses, we did manage to get in a few laughs together. First was when Doug’s masseuse grab Lynn’s well oiled calf then her thigh, turned to Lynn’s masseuse and laughed. We have no idea what was funny, but Lynn wants to think that they were admiring her muscular legs. Next was when the coordinator handed each of us a very, very sour Mandarin orange piece and we each were able to take turns laughing at the others while he or she suffered through it. All in all some very good fun, and a good massage at that.
Before starting Doug and Lynn’s Thai Street Food Tour of Delicious Goodies: Part 2, we meandered our way through the market admiring some re-purposed watches, trying on tank tops, and scrunching our faces at the sight of deep fried insects such as scorpions and worms. We also were treated to some interesting and questionable street performers ranging from a group of white guys chanting in white outfits down the street (Vegetarian Festival related?), to a band of very talented blind musicians, to young made-up girls attempting to make money for their parents while they practice their instruments poorly.
Then it was on to Part 2! Dragon Fruit shake, vegetarian spring roll, coconut ice cream, and mango sticky rice (of course!) oh my! Ok, but now back to those fisherman pants. Yes, Lynn bought them and the lady would not negotiate, but they are amazingly comfortable and you can’t really beat $7 USD fish pants. No, Doug didn’t get anything for himself though he really really like the red triangular lanterns.
We ended the evening by splitting a Thai sausage which was sweet, salty, and cold all at the same time. In other words, awful. It was time to then head back to the hotel for bed, but not before stopping at 7/11 to buy a water to get the terrible taste out of their mouths.
Daily Walking Mileage: 11.1
- The monk’s robe color depends on the color of the dye used, but saffron and ochre are the most prevalent colors today.
- A chedi is another word for a Buddhist stupa. A stupa is mound-like structure that can be found at many Buddhist temples.
- The internet later informed us that the Three Kings statue consists of King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai, and King Ngam Muang of Payao. The three worked together to lay out the city of Chiang Mai.