October 24-29, 2013
It was three years ago when I unquestioningly made the appetent decision that placed me in the position to be able to say this and it was again an undeniable choice I made in September of this year that has allowed me to say it again, because I have experienced it once more; I love Chiang Mai.
This will not be the last time you hear me say it either.
Being in Chiang Mai is like being at a great party, with great people, great food, great smiles, and great views. The greatest realization is that even though you’re in a city of 170,000 people in the city proper you don’t feel like you’re in a city at all.
Upon arriving in Maesot we had twelve days to do with what we wished. Sarah and I opted for a not to far away trip to Chiang Mai. I had been there during the summer of 2010 and was ecstatic for the chance to visit again, especially with a Chiang Mai novice in tow. Green Bus is the only bus line that offers trips to Chiang Mai. We purchased the 8am first class bus tickets for Thursday. The ride to Chiang Mai was much like our ride from Bangkok to Maesot; windy and bumpy, in the end doable. It took about six hours to arrive in Chiang Mai, mostly due to the many stops along the way. Bathroom breaks, food breaks, other stops to randomly drop people off on the side of the road – when all the stops you could possibly imagine were finished, we set our eyes on Chiang Mai around 2pm. Thai time means no rush.
We had booked a hostel online before leaving Maesot and opted for one that looked decent online, had decent reviews, and had a great price of 130 Baht a night, or roughly $4. We arrived, checked-in, found our beds and proceeded downstairs to connect to the free wifi. I had made plans with my friend Jordan to meet us in the lobby around 3pm. Jordan and I are from the same hometown (Zillah, WA), she and my sister Bayil have been longtime friends, and our families continue to spend time with each year after year. Jordan happens to be doing her literacy practicum in Macau and had a few days off; what better way to spend it than to fly to Thailand and join us in Chiang Mai?
We spent about four and half days in Chiang Mai. Each morning we first graced the doors of Coffee Time, a nice little coffeehouse down the street from our hostel. Alec, the owner, was there most mornings and gave us great recommendations around the city. One in particular was to visit Dash Restaurant. There are many many good places to eat in Chiang Mai but this turned out to be one of our favorites for many reasons. The ambience, the FOOD, and the owner – Dash! Dash is half Thai and half American and grew up on Mercer Island, WA. We forgave him for being a UW Husky, and he let us stay and drink with him after the restaurant closed. It’s a great friendship in the making.
We spent the entirety of Friday with Sammy and his wife at Sammy’s Organic Thai Cooking and what a day well spent it was. Sammy’s is located about an hour outside of Chiang Mai and the views could not be more amazing. It is exactly the sort of picturesque sights you cannot leave Chiang Mai without seeing. All I can say is go and experience it, please. I had previously done a cooking class in Chiang Mai and Sammy’s far exceeds it in variety, skill, location, ingredients, and personality. At the conclusion of our day Sammy let us know his family plans to start building villa style huts on his land so visitors can stay for long periods as he has had many requests for this throughout the years. He said he would begin accepting volunteers to help with the goal in return for room and board. I say, I’m in Sammy.
In the end what makes any sort of travel feel like you belong where you are in the world at that moment in time, is the people you meet. Meeting and interacting with the locals is always priority but when you have the opportunity to mingle with fellow travelers as well, you can’t help but smile from ear to ear; mostly because every decision is a fun one and each persons’ story is intriguing. Chiang Mai is the perfect hub and melting pot for just these kinds of memories, memories that make you anxious to create the next one and the next one. Above all, Chiang Mai makes you feel safe. It’s like the older sibling that continually looks over your well being but doesn’t stop you from having fun. In my experience this is how you can come to meet some of the best sorts of people even when it’s the wee hours of the morning night.