I’ve been in Thailand for over a week and have just boarded a bus to my next stop. Buses are a great time to do some reflecting on a place and here I am, doing just that, and I am battling to get a handle on northern Thailand.
I flew into Chiang Mai from Laos in order to get the 30 day tourist visa. I try and avoid flights as they are an unnecessary expense considering that I’m now unemployed and homeless.
Chiang Mai, if you believe everything you hear and read, is the promised land. In fact, if you believe the hippies you encounter, Jesus will choose Chiang Mai when he makes his return. That’s how cool it is. Apparently.
I’m not sold on it to be honest. But I was always going to feel like this- all the places that are overly-hyped up always disappoint me, and Chiang Mai is no different. I’m sure all the MacBook wielding, hemp-clad backpackers out there reading this have just collectively shat themselves upon reading these traitorous words.
The old town is beautiful from the point of view that there are some really interesting temples (Wats) to see. The Saturday and Sunday night markets are also great, if you can stomach the crowds. It’s like a Black Friday sale. Every night. It amazes me that the vendors even make any money- everyone seems to be selling roughly the same things and there must be thousands of vendors.
The food is incredible though. It even inspired me to attend a cooking course so I could hopefully try and recreate the dishes someday. I think I did a half-decent job at cooking some interesting stuff 🙂
I’ve encountered travelers that LOVE Chiang Mai and I guess I can see the appeal in some way but I just wasn’t feeling it. The city is like a good review on Trip Advisor: as soon as the place realizes it’s nice, it gets overhyped (and becomes WAY too popular) and then it begins slipping.
From Chiang Mai, I’d been convinced to go to Pai, a town 3 hours north. It’s a quaint little town stuck in a valley, surrounded by mountains. No one can argue with you that the setting is really stunning.
The town itself is a place that you need to come to if you’re even moderately interested in having dreadlocks or tattooing a ying yang on your forehead. It’s hippie central. And it’s great- the town is so laid back, nothing happens quickly and you get the feeling that no one gets angry here (except an American who waited longer than 20 minutes for her meal).
In terms of what to do in Pai, there are a handful of outdoorsy things to see including the canyon, land split and waterfall but these are just things to do. People come to Pai to do nothing, or if you’re inclined to the hippie scene, get stoned from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave.
From Pai, I made my way to Sukhothai, a town in central Thailand known for some ancient ruins. It makes for a good day out cycling around the sites. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of seeing ruins like these- it blows my mind that they were constructed so long ago and yet, are still here.
Cycling is definitely the best way of seeing the historical park but don’t expect a decent bicycle to rent. The thing you will rent is a bicycle in the sense that it has 2 wheels and you propel yourself with your feet but it stops there. Your feet are your brakes most of the time and the seat is akin to sitting on a cactus. Maybe I’m not cut out for cycling- I felt like an orangutan on a unicycle.
Can’t believe it’s almost Christmas – this year has flown!