Although Bangkok was interesting and busy, the smog and constant haggling on the street really began to wear on us. As the train pulled into the Chiang Mai station, we instantly exhaled a giant sigh of relief. This city is small and slow. Once surrounded by a moat, the cityscape is perfection: mountain views, canals, and temples. Not to mention a gentle and friendly population.
Our first hostel was a bit of a bust. The room was small, hot, and lacked any privacy. While the staff was very nice, we decided to get out of there as fast as possible. At $5 CAD a night, we learned a very valuable lesson about trying to save money. Luckily, we found The Green Tulip House for $15 CAD next. This hostel has been incredible, and the people we’ve met here are amazing. Our room has AC and a private bathroom, the main floor has a restaurant and plays deep house music all day, and there’s a rooftop patio overlooking the city. We feel right at home here!
Here’s what we’ve done in Chiang Mai so far:
We rented a motorbike for 230 baht ($7 CAD) a day (sorry mom!), which gave us access to the whole city as well as the nearby mountains, waterfalls, and temples. The price includes insurance and helmets for two as well and you’re free to make day treks anywhere outside of the city. If you break down, the rental place will come and pick you up. We rented from Mr. Mechanic which doesn’t have a website, but locals highly recommend the place.
We spent the day driving around and getting to know Chiang Mai. After a few hours, we got really hot and decided to head to the Eco Resort for some swimming. A delightfully designed retreat, there were acres of botanical gardens, as well as hotel-style rooms, a large rustic dinging/bar area, and some private villas. It was 100 baht ($3 CAD) each for pool access for us. Well worth it!
This is the day where we moved all of our stuff to the new hostel. It was such a relief to be somewhere where we were comfortable. Instantly, we made some friends with two other couples. Luke helped them each get a motorbike as well so they could join us on our way to the Mae Sa waterfalls.
The ride took about 30 minutes and the national park was 100 baht ($3 CAD) to get into. It was trickling rain when we arrived, so we stopped to eat at a food cart. The menu was definitely intended for the locals, with very little looking like it was within our comfort zones. We stuck to charcoal fried chicken, sticky rice, and barbecued eggs (who knew?). The chicken was incredible! If only we were more daring, there was also salted fish and barbecued pork intestines for sale.
When it stopped raining, we made our way up the waterfalls. At Mae Sa, there are 10 locations where you can stop, swim, picnic, and hang out at different levels and waterfalls. It’s really incredible. Some of the locals convinced Luke to jump in the waterfall, and he had a blast trying to stand under the crush of the water. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. You can see more here.
We got caught in the rain on the way home as we were biking, so we stopped in to have tea at this stunning resort called Cool Downs Resort. They let us in even though we looked like a bunch of drowned rats, but we took a look around and were in awe of how gorgeous the set up was with an outdoor infinity pool, a fire pit, and an overall beautiful modern design.
Later on after we all warmed up, Luke and I went out in search of food. I stuck with some chicken fried rice, but Luke got his hands on some grilled squid. It was put on the charcoal grill whole, and cooked thoroughly (maybe too thoroughly, as the texture became pretty tough… but at least it was safe to eat!) before they chopped it up and bagged it. Just before we left with our purchase, they offered a sauce. Luke unwittingly said yes, and watched his dinner get doused in a chili-seed marinade. Overall, the squid tasted great – but next time we’ll go easier on the liquid fire.
We went to an elephant retirement home. But, you’ll have to wait for that post!
– S & L