We laid low last week to enjoy and explore our new location in the city center of Chiang Mai. The city center, or the old city, is a square wrapped by a moat filed with murky green water and what we assume from the big bubbles breaking the surface really big fish. On all four sides are gates to enter the old city; quite logically, people reference the north, south, east, west gates/moats when giving directions. Our new digs is in the northeast corner of the square, a bustling area of activity with guesthouses, food stands, outdoor markets, cafes, restaurants, tourist info stands and Thai spas, of course!
Here’s a summary of last week:
Last SUNDAY we arrived at Chiang Mai and settled into where we’d be staying for the next two nights, Ben Guesthouse just outside of the old city on a soi along the Mae Ping River and close to the Iron Bridge. A lovely neighborhood, though quiet and a little bit away from the action of old city. We spent Sunday exploring wats during the day and semi-patiently navigating Sunday Walking Street, packed with tourists and locals, at night.
MONDAY was a life-changing day for me because it was the day Chris introduced me to Khao Soi, one of his favorite northern Thai dishes. Khao Soi is noodles in a curry broth garnished with onions and pickled veggies. It was delicious! I was hooked at first bite and thus started our obsession to find the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. More to come on this later….we have lots more Khao Soi to sample!
We spent the rest of Monday shopping at Warorot market in search of more finding new clothes for me, intermittently taking breaks at 7-11 and enjoying cold treats to keep us cool. We found a great place for dinner Monday night to celebrate our first month of marriage. A lot has happened in the past six months… engagement on the Big Island, my layoff from Softcard (formerly ISIS), Hawaii trip to visit my grandma, Chris’s biz trip to Helsinki, a fun-filled wedding that we loved every moment of, family time in Seattle, packing up our house, moving out, and one way tickets to SE Asia. So many milestones – some planned, some surprising, some serendipitous – and all fortuitous, we hope!
On TUESDAY, in 100° heat, Chris and I hauled our backpacks to our new guesthouse within the city square. The journey was about two miles total with a few much-needed stops in the shade to catch our breath and chug water. Not too long a walk, but after carrying huge packs in such heat, our clothes were drenched with sweat by the time we got to our new guest house. We stripped down out of our sweat-soaked clothes and stood red-faced and out-of-breath under our room AC for about 15 minutes, trying to cool down enough that we could shower without still sweating. Welcome to our (literally) hot honeymoon.
On a tip from a friend, on WEDNESDAY we went to Le Meridien to check out the view from the rooftop pool. We had hoped to go swimming for a nominal day use fee, but apparently Le Meridien stopped allowing that, or the employees who usually let in non-guests weren’t around to be bribed. Anyway, like any upscale hotel, the Le Meridien view was breath-taking and the experience….rich. Errr…expensive! One small beer was 200 baht a pop! And so, two small beers and 400 baht later, we descended from the lofty heights of Le Meridien (said with the most dramatic, fake French accent possible) and found the Gekko Bar, a bar suited for creepy crawlies, one block away. Gekko bar was serving three large Chang beer bottles for 189 total. A steal! Just above 7-11 prices which are 55 baht a bottle.
THURSDAY we decided to venture out of Chiang Mai proper and explore some of the burbs. We rented a motorbike and rode out to Lamphun for the day. An awesome day a little off the beaten path. No tiger kingdom or elephant tours or crocodile shows for us. Not convinced that the treatment of animals on those tours are legit, so we searched for other “tourist” options in Chiang Mai.
On FRIDAY, we walked to nearby Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan, one of the more visited and popular temples in Chiang Mai. Chris taught me a lot about the wat’s history, one of my favorite parts being that part of the 14th century wat was restored within the past century, including the elephant statues (shown below). I appreciate that they left one elephant statue as is, untouched. Interesting to see the difference.
On SUNDAY, Chris’ buddy Simon and Simon’s girlfriend Aim took us out for a wonderful brunch at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, to welcome us to town and celebrate our marriage. Such a fun, all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch amid gorgeous 5-star hotel setting. Thank you, Simon and Aim!
After a short nap from the Four Seasons brunch, we pulled our act together and got a tuk-tuk to the 700th Anniversary Stadium to watch Chiang Mai FC vs Bangkok FC. What a fun experience! Cheering supporters’ groups, avid fans, lots of families, a beautiful sunset with the surrounding Chiang Mai mountains as a backdrop. I loved the beer served on ice with a straw…I did not love the swarm of bugs buzzing around by the giant stadium lights, some as big as birds!
MONDAY was laundry day. The end.
TUESDAY, we took a cooking course at Zabb E Lee Cooking School – such a fun experience! Highly recommended. Our class was made up of two middle-aged couples from Holland, a group of three from China, one woman from South Africa, and Chris and I – an excellent cast for a comedy of errors (though I’d argue that Chris and I were mere audience members in this play simply watching each comedic moment unfold).
A few scenes: Our instructor Nam said, “Gently slice the garlic,” as the Chinese couple starts whacking their garlic with a meat cleaver. Nam said, “Watch first how I cook the phad thai,” as the Dutch guy pours a cup of oil into his hot wok. The young Chinese gal decided Thai cooking was not as impressive as Chinese cooking and ditched the class to dance to Bruno Mars songs while FaceTiming on her iPhone. Among this group of students, I like to think Chris and I exemplified model students – we listened, we followed instructions, we sympathized with Nam as she herded and corralled folks, barking out orders as politely as she could amid the circumstances. People can be ridiculously entertaining, and that’s what helped make cooking school so fun! In addition to all the yummy food we have become experts at making, of course.
TUESDAY we rented another motorbike and scooted around the Ben Haw, a heavily Muslim influenced neighborhood just outside of the old city. We tried khao soi at a popular, well-reviewed spot – I didn’t care for the gritty both. Finally, around sunset, we headed up to Doi Suthep mountain to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple in the clouds, where we snapped my favorite picture from this trip so far.
Great few weeks exploring a small bit of northern Thailand! More to come as we move north from Chiang to Chang Rai. For now, here are some pics from our time in Chiang Mai:
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