When I arrived in Chiang Mai I wrote my first impressions of the city. I must admit, in a few ways it didn’t meet my expectations at the time. Nicole wasn’t even sure I should post my impressions because it came off as a bit grumpy. But I wanted to write my honest feelings, not just the typical “it’s heaven on earth” post that you see every other blogger here write.
I’m now sitting on the plane again on my way to Malaysia after spending a month in Chiang Mai, and wanted to take a moment to update my feelings on the city.
Unfortunately, there is no way for me to write this anymore without sounding like every other blogger who writes about Chiang Mai. I think I can confidently speak for everyone in our little family and say that it was the best month of our lives. We’re all very sad to be leaving, and spent the last few days trying to savor every single moment.
In one month we had 5 different homes, visited 7 major tourist attractions/tours, swam in 11 waterfalls and one lake, took 701 pictures (at least the ones we kept), saw 2 movies at the theatre, got 5 massages, spent about a total of 200 hours working (combined), sent Rae to preschool, went house hunting, ate out for every meal, opted for western fast food 3 times, and only spent about half what we’d spend on a typical month at home (excluding mortgage)!
Here’s a summary of our memories here… it’s a long list and I’m sure I’m forgetting some!
“Is this Real Life” Moments
Rae put it best one day when we were floating under a beautiful waterfall when she said “Is this real life, or is it a dream?” There were several moments during this trip where it honestly felt like things were just too perfect to be real.
Elephants Trumpeting. The moment right after bathing with a herd of elephants at Hug Elephants Sanctuary, when they all started trumpeting. It was an unbelievable feeling standing in the midst of those giant animals while they sang their songs all around us.
Floating in Under the Waterfall. The moment we were floating on our backs like leaves in a pond as the current from the most picturesque waterfall I’ve ever seen or imagined spun us gently under the trees.
Hot Pot on the Lake. The moment our hot-pot was delivered to us in our bamboo hut out in the warmest lake I’ve ever felt.
Slurpees and Sunbathing. The moment Rae and I got back to our signature suite at Singha Montra and kicked back on our balcony overlooking the mountains and sucked down our cream soda slurpees from 7-11.
Giraffe in the Tram. The moment I heard our Thai guide announce “Ok, Giraffe is coming!” on the tram ride at the Night Safari and I turned my head to find myself nose to nose with a friendly giraffe right inside the tram.
More Great Memories than can be Believed
I can’t believe how much we’ve experience in just one month in Chiang Mai. Sure, we’re in a new place and there is the “novelty” factor, but still taking that into account, the amount of things we have done and great memories we created is unbeleivable.
Rae proclaimed the food her favorite part about Thailand, and certainly a lot of our memories involve eating! You really can’t beat the food here, and the price is pretty great too!
Sunset at Nics. As the sun went down as we enjoyed great food and Rae played in the bamboo pirate ship at Nics restaurant.
Sunday Night Street Food. After a long walk through the gigantic Sunday night market hunting for food, we finally stumbled on what turned out to be the absolute best street food corner any of us have ever encountered.
Nicole’s Green Curry. When Nicole brought out her first dish at Thai Cooking Class and it looked and tasted like something you’d get at a world class restaurant.
Chinese BBQ Fiesta. On our last night in Chiang Mai, when Nicole ventured out on her own to retrieve some dinner and returned with bags of Chinese BBQ sticks. They were so delicious that I had to go down myself to get some more and got a big loud “It’s Chinese BBQ FIESTA!” from the chef as I walked in.
Pizza Hut Thanks Giving. When we ordered Pizza Hut and then realized it was Thanksgiving. Ironically, I don’t think we could have chosen a more “back home comfort food” style dinner than that even if we had planned it.
Banana Pancakes, Smoothies, and Thai Tea. It took a few weeks to find these, but we eventually did. At under a dollar each, we snacked on them any chance we could.
First Breakfast. When we first arrived in Chiang Mai and came down for the breakfast buffet. It was delicious and filling, and I started imagining my new life where all I had to do was roll out of bed and arrive at a delicious buffet while someone made the bed and cleaned my room.
There is SO MUCH to do here, and I can’t believe how much we actually squeezed in. I could imagine regular weekends here being full of fun stuff to do even if we weren’t tourists. There’s just always a lot going on here, and a really long list of cheap, fun, and close special activities for your days off.
Feeding Hippos. Upon entering the Chiang Mai Zoo and being confronted with our first Chiang Mai animal experience. Our minds were blown as we literally placed carrots inside their giant mouths and patted them on the head as they chowed down.
Movie Theatre Sofa. When Nicole and I got away for a movie and we ordered a sofa ticket. The theater was bigger and better than any back home, and we had the entire place to ourselves sitting back on our reclining sofa, legs stretched out as far as they could go. Total ticket price for the sofa was about $17 (for both of us).
Temple Exploration. Everywhere we went there were extravagant temples. Finding ourselves inside some temple, be it an ancient ruin or a sparkling silver and gold palace full of monks was just an everyday thing around almost every corner.
Scooter Rides. We rented a scooter for the last half of our time here and enjoyed many cruises around the city and out into the suburbs. My favorite was cruising around the moat in the evening breeze past all the markets that came to life every night.
Waterfall Day. The day we set out on our little scooter and hiked, swam, and relaxed at 3 of Chiang Mai’s many waterfall parks.
House Hunting. Could anyone spend a full month here and not starting pondering long-term stay? I think not. We actually spent a day with a realtor visiting a number of properties, and that day definitely qualifies as an exciting memory. From condos with a view, pool, gym, sauna, and private indoor kids playground to gated villas with 4 bedrooms and bathrooms that had urinals, it’s amazing what you can get here for a price that wouldn’t even return a single listing back home.
The plane to Chiang Mai from Beijing was FULL of families with kids. We knew right away that this was going to be a kid friendly city. And it was!
Kiddee Daycare. When Rae got out of her first day at Kiddee Daycare and she announced “I love it! It’s much more fun than hanging out with you guys all day.”
Indoor Playgrounds. Rae loved the big indoor playgrounds and could spend hours prancing around in there.
Between writing blog posts and regular work, there was quite a bit of time spent in front of a computer screen. But it’s funny thinking back to the number of times I had to look up for a moment and think “I can’t believe this is my ‘office’.”
Coffee Shops / Coworking. Many of the coffee shops here cater to people who need some space to work, and some of them are incredible. You can sit down and work for hours or even all day for the price of a cup of coffee.
Sunrise Work. Every morning I’d get up around 3-4am and start working. I’d often have some Skype calls so I’d work outside so as not to wake up the others. It became a normal thing to be working outside with a cup of coffee watching the sunrise and listening to birds sing.
Of course we know to expect the unexpected, and of course the some unexpected things did find us. Here are a few things that took us by surprise.
Animal Closeness. I was repeatedly taken by surprise at how close you get with animals here. They are not far behind cages behind a wall of “do not feed” signs. Here when you go to the zoo, the animals are right there in front of you, and feeding, petting, and posing with animals is not only allowed but encouraged… and not at any extra cost either!
We’ve aged! There are a lot of travelers in Chiang Mai, but it was kind of a shock to find that we’ve kind of aged ourselves out of the typical traveler demographic. We felt a bit out of place at times.
Financial Roller Coaster. We planned to stick to a reasonable budget and didn’t think money would be much of an issue on our minds. The opposite was true. At first we thought our money would run out, and then the reverse happened and we had so much extra cash that coming up with ways to spend it became a real source of tension!
Chinese are the Favorites. Nicole laughed when we arrived at the night bazzar and she saw a huge banner in Chinese: “We Warmly Welcome Chinese Tourists!” I didn’t see such a sign for us Canadians, Americans, or Europeans. The Chinese are now the ones with the money and get all the attention.
Massages… meh. I was really looking forward to enjoying cheap massages on a daily basis. But they weren’t really cheap enough to incorporate into daily life, and the ones I did get were nothing special.
A few Hiccups, Nothing Serious
The trip was not all fun and games, but thankfully most of our troubles would probably even be considered a bit beyond “first world problems.”
Airplane Delay. After a 12 hour flight from Vancouver to Beijing and 2 hours transferring planes in Beijing, we had to sit, buckled in, while our plane sat on the runway at Beijing airport for 6 hours before the final 5 hour flight to Chiang Mai.
Pool Problems. The pool was always the highest priority in our hotel selection, but we seem to have been cursed when it came to pools. Our first place advertised a pool, but it turned out the pool was at the hotel next door and after a few days we got the boot by management. The next place had a pool for one day, and then it broke down. The next place was fine, but it rained for the first few days and we only swam once or twice. The last place’s pool was also under maintenance when we got there.
Bug Bites. The bugs were pretty bad and I think I scratched off a few layers of skin.
Jacuzzi Mishaps. In our lavish hotel at the end of the trip we had a giant Jacuzzi in our room. The first night I had a near death by Jacuzzi experience, and the second day I left it on by accident all day and created a giant waterfall cascading from our 5th floor balcony through the balconies beneath and over the front entrance of the hotel.
Short Size. I thought I’d bite the bullet and move up a size for when shopping for new shorts. When I got home I found that somehow I had still ended up with a small size. I went back to buy another pair, but only to discover it wasn’t that I got the wrong size, it was just that one size up wasn’t enough! I finally found my comfortable fit more than a few sizes up!
Massage Toot. One of my greatest massages fears came true, and although it was humiliating, I still couldn’t help but write about it here.
Forgetfulness. At first I was doing good with not forgetting stuff in various places. But one day I forgot my phone in my motorbike while I spent a few hours at the Night Safari. To my surprise, it was still there when I returned. From then on I seemed to forget something at almost every turn, whether it was my phone, t-shirt, keys in the ignition, etc. I never lost a single thing permanently though!
And I still have no idea how you’re “supposed to” cross the street here.