Koh Tao was full on with visiting friends, diving, partying, muay thai-ing, and all the other usual diversions. Bangkok was a short but intense weekend of indulgent partying. For my sister’s last few days in Thailand, she requested a relaxing spot to detox, catch up on work (she was soon returning to her final semester at NYU) and polish off that final Thailand tan.
So I coughed up a few more Starwood points and booked us in for three nights at the Le Meridian Chiang Rai.
It was secluded, luxurious, and lovely — it was everything we were looking for. I marveled over how few points I had to spend to get us into this massive chic room and lounging in front of this decadent pool. As promised, I’ll have a post up soon about how I managed to snag all those Starpoints, with lots of details and photos on the properties I booked using them.
But for now, these photos can serve as a representation of how we spent ninety-five percent of our time in Chiang Rai — without leaving the grounds of the resort.
Two out of three evenings, we took advantage of the resort’s free shuttle service into Chiang Rai town so we could have a cheap dinner, stock our mini-fridge with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast (sadly using Starpoints generally means no delicious hotel breakfast) and check out the famous local markets.
Chiang Rai was busier and more built-up that I had expected — I suppose it is the provincial capital! Still, the town is mostly used as a base for trekking and other jump-off activities, and doesn’t hold too much appeal in its official borders.
The Night Bazaar was well worth a look, and I say that as someone who is both not much of a shopper and also has been to approximately 7,145 night markets in Southeast Asia (rough estimate.) There seemed to be a good selection of crafts indigenous to Northern Thailand, which was a good sign.
I absolutely love the image below — a traditionally dressed hilltribe woman selling her handicrafts in the shadow of a gaudy local ladyboy show. Ah, Thailand.
We were also in town for the Saturday Night Walking Street. This was a bit more full-on and locally oriented, and I suffered from a few moments of intense claustrophobia. It was worth it though, for the local snacks…
The vendor guard dogs…
And the wide variety of goods for sale…
On Olivia’s final day in Thailand, we didn’t leave the property once, and capped off our last hours with a decadent dinner at the onsite Italian restaurant Favola. When we called her a cab and we waved goodbye, it hit me that I wouldn’t see her again for over four months. Traveling with a sister is challenging and while I admit there were moments I wished I was alone, I just as freely admit that I shed real tears at her departure.
The sister portion of my trip was over, and I was about to set off on my own. A new chapter begins…
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Okay, so I just couldn’t end that post having you all think I spend the majority of my traveling days at the freaking Le Meridian, being served cold bottled water by the pool and flipping through the latest Vanity Fair, could I? I could not. So I leave you instead with this: the epilogue, or How I Spent My First Two Days of Solo Travel.
I spent them here:
One hundred baht, or three dollars, can get you a lot of things in Thailand, including the lovely (ahem) room you see above. But that room was attached to a hotel with a nice garden and fast free WiFi, so I happily based myself there for two nights while I caught up on work and got my bearings.
Other travelers came and went on exotic trekking trips and hilltribe visits and elephant tours, but I sat in that garden and did freelancing projects and went up and slept in my little pod. When I needed a break, I got up to get a massage or a snack or to check out the beautiful temple around the corner.
And I was really, really happy.
Stay tuned for the bike tour that finally got me out exploring the countryside of Chiang Rai!