I’ve been in Chiang Mai for a week now (I was in Taipei the previous week). I’m having a great time, even though I’ve managed to not see one thing that tourists are supposed to see. I haven’t been to the Saturday Market or the Sunday Market. Nor have I been to the Night Bazaar or even one wat (temples) in a city filled with wats. I feel bad about this but I keep telling myself that I have plenty of time.
I’ve met some great people, both local and foreigners. I’ve met a couple of travel bloggers, though not many. There are a ton here so I am sure it just a matter of time. I’m really looking forward to meeting them as they all seem like very cool people. I’ve met a couple of regular travelers. One from Estonia was a blast to hang out with. We managed to hit almost every bar in the city Friday night and had a great time. The bar scene in Chiang Mai is laid back and low-key (especially relative to Bangkok). I went to mostly gay bars and couple of mixed bars (which were essentially straight). Drink prices are all over the place, but average about 100-120 baht, or around $3. A large bottle of Singha beer (the local brew) at a restaurant is usually much less than that, so drinking at the bars adds up fast. Cocktails are even more expensive.
I’ve meet a couple of people from Chiang Mai, as well. They have been very helpful in giving me tips about the city. Everyone in Chiang Mai is extremely nice and very welcoming. Fortunately most people speak some English and the rest to can be figured out through a quick game of Charades. I’m learning some Thai, though very slowly, I must admit.
The food here is amazing! That is not good for my waistline, especially since I’ve been eating street food and a they use quite a bit of oil to make pad thai. It tastes so good though, and only costs 30 baht, which is about a $1 (I even saw a place selling it for 20 baht, about 65¢). I eat the soups they have too, which are also about $1. It’s somewhat similar to Vietnamese pho. The only problem is that nearby they have a Thai doughnut cart. Oh my god, they are so good and only cost 2 baht each, which is practically free!
I’ve eaten at a couple of restaurants. They are reasonably priced, though far more expensive than the carts at Chiang Mai Gate Market where I typically eat. The other night I was with a Thai friend and had an excellent meal that he chose. We had a shrimp patty appetizer, an amazing lightly fried fish, red chicken curry, and a vegetable that grows in the water (I haven’t figured out what it is yet, but it’s good). Delish!
Fortunately, there is fruit everywhere to temper the gluttony. A little bag of peeled papaya, melon, pineapple, or watermelon is about 10 baht each, and this is a pretty good size portion. Safeway would charge $5 or more for the same amount of fruit. I bought one “fruit” and was about to eat it when the lady started yelling at me in Thai. Pretty quickly I found out from everyone, and I mean everyone, around me that it needed to be cooked first. Oops. There’s also a fruit stand nearby that makes the best fresh fruit smoothies. They’re so good I have one almost every day. The only drawback is that the fruit and smoothie carts usually aren’t available in the morning.
Getting around is pretty easy by tuk tuk or red truck (both local taxis). I mostly take tuk tuks that run about 100 baht at night and then less than half that during the day (this depends on where you are going, of course, but it’s the average I’ve experienced with a little negotiation). Many people have motorcycles but I don’t want to be bothered with them. They might be cheaper but you have to park them and if you get tipsy it isn’t a good idea to drive drunk, so I decided against renting one.
The weather has been what you might imagine – hot and humid. It gets up to about 90° F during the day with humidity around 70%. It’s been generally nice, with just a few showers every now and then. No flooding like in the rest of the Thailand (Chiang Mai had flooding a couple of weeks before I arrived). The weather should be improving over the next couple weeks, hopefully in time for the Loi Krathong Festival which I’m very much looking forward to.
There have been a few negatives, but nothing super bad. AirAsia, a discount airline, messed up my booking somehow so I had to spend another $80 for a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The problem was never really figured out and they absolutely refuse to assist with anything. And, of course, there are no refunds whatsoever even though the problem was their fault. They are a pretty shitty airline, similar to Ryan Air in Asia, but they are dominate in South East Asia and they are cheap, so what can you do? Not the best welcome to Thailand, but fortunately AirAsia is an aberration—Thailand is extremely welcoming.
The place I am staying at is fair, but they changed the terms of the price when I arrived. Even though I reserved the place two months ago, they changed their prices recently and apparently saw no need to honor the price I was quoted. Most likely I will look into getting another place after a month, but we’ll see. They do have some fairly decent amenities here and the internet works… most of the time.
Overall, the experience has been great so far. I’m having a wonderful time and meeting some really great people, and it’s only been one week!