Wandering Around Chiang Mai

Our first adventure for 2019 has begun! We are now in Chiang Mai, Thailand and will be spending the next couple of months exploring SE Asia. The flight to reach here was long – 13 hours from Seattle to Taipei, followed by a 4.25-hour flight from Taipei to Chiang Mai. Immigration was relatively painless. I was amused to see large signs behind each border agent saying, “No Tips!”. I am not sure why anyone would want to tip a border agent, but apparently, they feel these signs are necessary. Too funny!

Because the lines for immigration were fairly lengthy, our suitcases were waiting for us so we were able to quickly get some TB (Thai Baht) from an ATM and head out to find a taxi. We had read that taxis to the city center should cost between 100-200 TB ($3-$6 US) but that many taxis try to charge more. Right by the cash machines was a sign advertising a shuttle into town for 40 TB per person. Seemed like a good deal, but when we asked about it, were told that it would cost 300 TB. I told the person that we were not willing to pay that much, and were told that taxis were available out door 1. No truth in advertising! Door 1 was located at the other end of the airport, so we headed down there to catch a cab. The flat cost for a cab into town was 150 TB. We joined the taxi queue and waited in a torrential downpour for our cab to pick us up. The airport was less than 3 miles from our hotel, Le Naview @Prasingh, so it didn’t take long to reach there.

Due to the weather, we spent much of our first day at our hotel. There is a lovely terrace where we were able to sit in comfy chairs and watch the action on the street. The pace of life in Chiang Mai is much slower than that of Bangkok (the only other place we have visited in Thailand). Just like other locations in SE Asia, motorcycles and scooters are seen everywhere, but unlike other countries we have visited, they seem to keep to the roads (as opposed to the sidewalks). We had forgotten that people here drive on the opposite side of the road than we do in the US. We saw a few tuk tuks, and quite a few songthaews. These are trucks that operate kind of like a bus, but a bus that does not have a set route. You flag them down and if they are going your way, will drop you off anywhere in town for a mere 30 TB (less than $1). There are two rows of benches in the back, so probably best for short rides only! Actually, Songthaew literally means “two benches”. You can rent a motorbike for about $6-$8 US for the day, or a bike for less than $2.

We didn’t really want to do any sightseeing (we were pretty exhausted, and the weather was anything but conducive), but we did grab a couple of umbrellas from the hotel and take a walk around to scope out the neighborhood. There were plenty of massage places and quite a few places to eat. We ended up back at the hotel for dinner (pad thai and spring rolls – so delicious) and made it an early evening. There is a 15-hour time difference between here and home, plus the lack of sleep from the long flights, so we were tired puppies!

We both woke up at around 5 am, but that was after getting 10 hours of sleep, so not so bad. Breakfast at the hotel was included in our room rate, so we headed down to eat as soon as the restaurant opened (6:30). We were able to watch the monks in their orange robes collecting alms in their begging bowls. Traditionally, they would collect rice, but in modern times, they collect money which is then used to purchase food for the day. When we are in Luang Prabang in a couple of weeks, I will write more about this.

We didn’t have any set plans for the day, but since the rain had stopped and it was a perfect 70 degrees, it was an excellent day for walking around town. The old city is ringed by a wall, or at least it used to be. Parts of the wall are still intact as well as 4 gates. We checked out a few massage places as we walked – after we toured the town, we figured it would be an excellent time to get a massage. We had investigated ahead of time and found a couple of intriguing options. There are several “blind” massage places where one can receive a massage from a blind masseuse. The Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Center also offers massage. And, it seems like every third shop in town offers massage as well!

Our first stop was Wat Chedi Luang, a spectacular Buddhist temple complex. Just like there is an enormous number of massage places in Chiang Mai, there is also an enormous number of Wats (temples). This is one of the more spectacular in this particular city. The admission fee is 40 TB, and cover up clothing is offered for those that are not dressed appropriately. Apparently, a bathrobe is appropriate, but shorts and bare shoulders are not! There were parts of the temple that were not accessible to women. We women are thought to be unclean because we menstruate.

We continued our walk, stopping in at any wat that looked interesting. We stumbled upon a market where all types of interesting foods were being sold. What those foods were, I couldn’t tell you, but they certainly were unusual!

By now, it was time for a massage. We went to Chinola Massage, which was located near our hotel. It was an excellent choice! We opted for the back and foot massage (60 min. for less than $10); a most excellent choice! My masseuse found all sorts of kinks and knots in my back to work on. The cost for a massage here is so inexpensive that we will most likely make it a daily event!

We had spotted an intriguing place for lunch the previous day, SP Chicken. We weren’t hungry when we spotted it the first time, but looked it up on Google and decided that it was definitely worth a try. A half of a roasted chicken cost 90 TB (less than $3) and was served with a couple of delicious dipping sauces. There were other items on the menu, but the roast chicken is what this place is known for and it did not disappoint. I would be surprised if we don’t eat there again before we head on to our next destination!

After lunch was a perfect time to lounge by the pool for a bit before spending some time working on the blog. The next few days are booked with tours. There are so many things to do here! If we had another day, we would definitely visit an elephant sanctuary and perhaps, Elephant Poopoopaper Park! Yes, this place really exists!!