Chiang Mai, Part One

September 03, 2013

Due to an unfortunate lens malfunction, I had to forgo my DSLR while in Thailand. Instead, I shot on various modes of film (35mm, disposable, fujifilm intax) and my iphone. Above are some iphone photos from Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. Our trip to Thailand was a learning experience. I like planning trips and I always find a plethora of activities to do, places to go, and foods to eat. The problem with this trip was that I booked too many things and we had little time for adventure.

We stayed in Chiang Mai for two nights, which was not enough time to explore this culturally rich and vibrant city. We did not have the opportunity to visit every temple we wanted, though I do recommend visiting Wat Sri Suphan, the "Silver Temple" (pictured above), which is unique and fantastic to behold. A nearby school hosts silver-making workshops and there is much to see on the neighboring side streets. Northern Thailand's cuisine is quite different from the Southern Thailand and Bangkok specialties that most Westerners know (Pad Thai, stir-fries). In Northern Thailand, the food is influenced by the neighboring northern countries, particularly Burma. The specialties we enjoyed the most:

Khao Soi, a coconut curry soup-like dish containing boiled egg noodles and meat, topped with deep-fried egg noodles, and served with pickled cabbage, shallots, and lime.

Tom Yum, a clear yet fragrant hot and sour soup, which we enjoyed served with thin rice noodles, a whole chicken leg, and a generous helping of chillies.

I am still dreaming of the Khao Soi, which we ate two days in a row. We washed these dishes down with cold Thai lagers or iced lemongrass juice. Much of Chiang Mai has become Westernized and touristy, so you must eat where the locals eat. One area in particular is a street running adjacent to the Three Kings Monument near the city center.

We stayed for two nights at BaanBooLOo, a traditional Thai guesthouse in the heart of a quiet neighborhood of Chiang Mai. I highly recommend this guesthouse if you are looking to splurge on accommodation for a few nights. If you're traveling on the cheap (which is easy to do in Thailand), this is not the place for you. The mosquitos were pretty bad here, but the service was impeccable. The breakfast (included) was a daily feast of coffee and tea, eggs, various forms of toast, platters of delicious Thai fruits, Pa Thong Ko (fried dough sticks), chicken skewers, and sticky rice (a regional treat). When my lip swelled up five times its normal size due to eating some sweet yet dangerous longon fruit (the small, brown orbs pictured above), our lovely host calmed me down and went and purchased a face mask for me at the drugstore. We slept in an old barn house on stilts. It was gorgeous in the morning as the sun was rising.

We spent one full day at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP), which was a truly special experience. If you ever travel to Thailand and you wish to interact with elephants, please do your research about the elephant tourism industry. There are many atrocities committed against the elephants and generally speaking, elephant rides and trekking tours are unethical. By spending a day at the ENP, we got to know the individual elephants and their stories, we fed and washed them in the river, we even outran a few rogue "teenagers" still learning to adjust to their lives at the park. It was thrilling and not once did we regret that we weren't riding them.

If you opt for a Thai cooking class, pay more for a private lesson. Unfortunately, though we booked a private lesson, we ended up with a group class. Ryan and I both found that our culinary abilities far exceeded those of the majority of the class. However, I did meet a really great social worker from England! Make sure you have enough time to explore the Sunday night bazaar, the markets, and the temples, which are scattered throughout the city. And if a kindly old gentleman approaches you on the street, talk with him about the history of Chiang Mai and be aware that he will likely try to persuade you to have a linen suit or dress hand-made at a local shop. We declined this recommendation, though it came about three or four times during our two-day stay.

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  1. This sounds like a really wonderful vacation! Can't wait to hear more! Beautiful pictures, too.

  2. Absolutely love this post and having you share more about the trip. While I would agree that the majority of your posts allow the story to be told strictly through images, this is the first (hopefully of many) focused on a brand new country and the plethora of experiences to attempt to take in. Also, enough can't be said about how amazing taxis and tuk-tuks are in Thailand!


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