It has been three months since I set out on this little backpacking adventure across Southeast Asia. In that time I’ve been Malaysia, where I feasted on roti and curries like I was in India; Cambodia, where I temple hopped around Angkor; and Vietnam, where I was chased down a mountain by local Hmong ladies. Not too shabby!
However, it is time for a little travel break. Yes, I have covered 15 destinations in the last 3 months and as exciting as each village, town and city has been, it has also been a little tiring to have to pack up every few days and hop on yet another 17 hour bus ride across the country. So this summer I am planting temporary roots in Northern Thailand…
Hello, Chiang Mai! Now that’s not a bad view to wake up to, is it? I’ve been here for only a week, but I’ve already gotten into the groove of life in this town.
Is this really Thailand’s second largest city?
The thing about Chiang Mai is that it can feel both like a small town and a chaotic city. When I’m cycling down the small back lanes where mangoes fall to the ground and trees are covered in fuchsia blossoms, I feel like I’m in a sleepy undiscovered town. But then when I venture out into the city, it’s a mad web of scooters, tuk-tuks, red songthaews, cars and bicycles competing for an inch of space on the street lanes.
The mix of ruins and modern buildings.
I took the photo below a street over from my apartment and I think it sums up the city really well. A beautiful example of architecture that dates back to the 1200’s surrounded by shops and apartment buildings. While the bricks on this structure are slowly crumbling to the ground, the old wall that guards the city has seen its fair share of repairs over the years.
Wats, wats, and more wats.
A wat is a Buddhist temple which acts as a place of worship and a home for monks. One of the things that I first noticed in Chiang Mai was the hundreds of wats scattered across this city, and the monks cloaked in different shades of saffron and persimmon. They serve as a vivid reminder of just how far away from home I am.
Mango sticky rice is the shizz!
I do not like rice. I would never order a rice dish back at home (sweet or savoury), but then I came to Thailand and I had my first sticky mango rice. Whoa-ho-ho! The sweet, ripe mangoes, the thick coconut cream generously drizzled over the fruit and the rice. It’s perfection, I tell you! Mango sticky rice has become my new go-to dessert.
Health foods everywhere.
I’ve recently discovered a place called Dada Kafe and I have not been able to pull myself away for longer than two days. This place specializes in healthy organic meals – fresh produce is delivered every morning – and they make one killer shake. My new go to beverage is the ‘Energy Me’ which has banana, mango, and coconut. Wow, my taste buds are alive!
I also finally found Mrs. Pa’s fruit shake stand which sets up shop by Chiang Mai gate, and her blend of mango, pineapple, and passionfruit is one that is going to keep me coming back for the length of my stay here. And then yesterday I tried the apple, carrot, orange, rambutan blend – I think for the first time in my life I’m actually getting my daily serving of fruits and vegetables!
* * *
Of course just because I’m planting some roots in Chiang Mai for the summer doesn’t mean the travels are coming to an end. I plan on using this is as my base for exploring different parts of Thailand, and there will likely be trips to Burma and Laos for ‘visa run’ purposes.