Chiang Mai, Thailand
When I created this blog, it was meant to keep me active and constantly pursuing the new. I had hoped it would keep me inspired to learn new things, see new places, and honestly reflect on my experiences in China. I intended for it to be my escape from the place I always end up getting way too invested in - work. I had thought that it would prevent exactly what ended up happening from happening.
When all of the excitement and adrenaline of moving to this foreign place wore off, so did my motivation. While others started settling into a routine, I started to settle into complacency. I would waste hours laying in bed, fighting the internet while trying to get videos to load through a VPN. I would take as many naps and sleep for as long as I could because I knew that would use up more hours of the day. I would go to the same coffee shop just to reread books that I already knew the ending to. I stopped writing for my blog because I felt I wasn’t doing anything worth writing about.
Josh was coming to visit and I knew that I did not want us to spend his whole time here just sitting in Shanghai, wasting time not feeling motivated to do anything. So I planned a getaway. 3 cities in 6 days: Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. I know that the saying goes you should save the best for last, but I’m going to ignore all that and tell you about the place that managed to give me both peace and energy. The place that helped me find the excitement that I had for the world that I had lost in these last few months.
Alright, so a brief overview as to what this beautiful city is. The province of Chiang Mai is one of the most northern parts of Thailand with one of it’s borders nestled up against the country Myanmar (formerly Burma). Beyond the laid-back city itself, the mountains are truly a picturesque sanctuary. No matter which direction you turn, you can see tall beautiful mountains covered in green. We were there during the rainy season so there was a consistent overcast and scattered rain showers. I can only imagine how the colors of the mountains would shine out against a bright blue sky with a golden sun peeking through.
We stayed at the Panviman Spa Resort: Chiang Mai. It is over an hour from the International Airport and about 45-50 minutes from the city. We arranged airport transport through the hotel and it was amazing. It was my first time having someone at the exit with a sign with my name on it! The driver was so nice and even waited for me to exchange my money. When we got to the van, he had ice cold water bottles for us (which was amazing because you should always hydrate after a flight).
It was pretty late at night so we couldn’t really see any of the views but we could definitely feel that we were going up into the mountains. For about 30 minutes, we were going at a consistent speedy incline. When I say speedy, I don’t mean that the incline was getting steep quickly, I mean the van driver was going at a speed that only someone who has been driving these roads their whole life can go. Fortunately, my time in taxi’s in Shanghai have prepared me for this kind of driving. What may seem a slightly dangerous speed for us Americans, is probably a completely moderate speed for them.
Fast forward past check-in (which was friendly, pleasant, seamless, two thumbs up) to our room. I have never stayed in a hotel room this big. I am 100% sure that I have had bedrooms smaller than the bathroom alone. Rain shower, bathtub, California king sized bed, two double doors leading onto an extensive patio. This room was amazing. Now this next description may not make sense to any of you but I’m going to try. It was nice, but not too nice. Sometimes, when I visit hotels they seem so extravagant, like you can clearly see why it is costing so much to stay there. Where things are unnaturally shiny and you are afraid of making a mess because everything looks brand new. Where there really isn’t too much character but you can tell they have the nicest options on the market. This room wasn’t that, in the best way possible. Everything was nice, but comfortable. It was so easy to just walk into the room and have it feel like a really well decorated home, not like a hotel at all. Maybe it was the way the room was decorated or the overall theme, but it felt so natural to be there.
When we woke up in the morning, I opened up both sets of double doors to let the fresh clean air (which is something that I miss so much and China does not give me) and see the indescribable view we had. I tried so hard to take pictures of it but being a complete amateur photographer I could not do it justice. So. Much. Green. Something you may not know about me is that I love green in nature. I love big beautiful green trees and rolling hills covered in soft green grass. It was that morning, while I was sitting on the patio by myself while Josh was still sleeping that all of those revelations began to take place. If you have ever had one of those moments, you will know exactly what I am talking about. Where you realize that what you have been doing doesn’t make you happy and you have no one to blame but yourself. But you aren’t mad about it. You recognize and appreciate the lesson there and find excitement for the changes that you want to make.
Being located towards the top of the mountain, we were able to see down into the valley and see the quiet life of those who live in rural Chiang Mai. I am not a writer so I hope my attempts of capturing the beauty of this place comes through in the pictures.
It was rainy season while we were there but that didn’t get us down one bit. After a failed attempt at riding a motor bike through the mud and rain, Josh and I decided to just walk down the mountain and see what we discovered. I am so lucky to have found someone who enjoys walks in the rain as much as I do. While some might not find it romantic, I loved being able to walk hand in hand with him through the rain, in the mountains of Thailand, stopping at random places on the side of the road to try their food (because it doesn’t get much more local than that).
One of the other amazing services the hotel offers is a free shuttle down into the city. Since it is so far away, a taxi is doable, just expensive. We took advantage of the shuttle and headed down for our bike riding food tour through the city. This experience blew any expectations I had for it out of the water. We booked the ‘Chiang Mai Street Food Bike Tour’ through Grasshopper Adventures. Not only did we get to try delicious local food, we also got to learn a little bit of history about the city, see a temple, make a wish/prayer, and see the city from the back roads rather than the main tourist streets. The best part was, we were the only ones who booked the tour for that day so we got our tour guide, Boy, all to ourselves!
He explained to us that the majority of people in the city don’t really make their meals themselves at home unless it is a holiday or a specific family dinner of sorts. What they do is go to the market. One part has stands full of every type of food imaginable. But really though. From your standard vegetables to a full raw pig head - it’s all there. Then, whatever needs to be cooked they take to another section of the market where they will make it for you. Now I am not the person you should talk to if you want to actually hear about all of the food. I will only be able to give you general descriptions like “it was good!”, “Kinda salty”, “really spicy”, etc. If you want in depth descriptions, talk to Joshua. I honestly don’t know anyone who can talk about food the way he does. So sorry, but you will just have to live with all my pictures instead!
The bike tour was such an amazing experience. We were able to see the city in a completely different way that we never would have discovered on our own, or on foot. For all of my future travels, if there is something in the city that offers a bike food tour, I’m going to do it. It was so much fun, fast paced, informative, and of course, delicious.
After the tour ended, we still had a couple hours to kill before the shuttle picked us up so we browsed the night market. This is where you go shopping for souvenirs and gifts to bring back for your friends. The exchange rate for USD is definitely in your favor. I am pretty sure we got two pairs of pants, a pair of shorts, and a shirt for maybe $20? I can’t remember exactly but it was definitely worth it. The fake market in China has prepped me for the ultimate haggle and we were able to get everything we wanted for an ideal price.
The shuttle picked us up and took us back on that speedy trip up the mountain. Our flight out to Phuket was early the next morning so I just took that time after breakfast to try and catch a few more pictures of the surroundings before we headed out.
There is so much more I could talk about, and tiny details that I could get into but I am trying my best to not turn this into a short novel. If you have any questions feel free to ask me! I would love to share as much as I can about this experience because I really wish that we had stayed longer than a couple days.