Pssst! I did in interview last week over at Inside the Travel Lab about what it’s like to work as an underwater videographer. Check it out!
I was very lucky that my solo travels throughout Thailand and Laos were actually not completely solo — my time alone was punctuated by much-welcomed meet ups with different groups of friends. First on that list were my pals Wim and Dave, who I met two years ago when Mark and I were living in The Cayman Islands. Mark and Dave worked at the same dive company and Wim and I quickly become close friends and yoga buddies. We’ve stayed in close and touch and when the cute couple decided to get married and pre-moon in Southeast Asia, it was a given that we would all meet up.
Of course the plans changed and I ended up heading up to Chiang Mai by myself to meet the soonly-weds. I mean, as a good friend I simply could not deny these two the opportunity to spend part of their romantic getaway with a freshly-single heartbroken chick, am I right? All jokes aside, I was really craving some familiar faces as well as the simple happiness and the warm wisdom that these two lovely people exude.
We had about five days together in Chiang Mai, the beloved unofficial capital of Northern Thailand. Honestly I didn’t really connect with this city, which captivates so many travelers. I heard someone describe it as the Boston to Bangkok’s New York, which I nodded along to as both Bangkok and NYC really make my heart flutter, and Boston and Chiang Mai don’t elicit much more than a blink.
Luckily in this case it wasn’t so much about the destination as it was about the company. Some days we did nothing but sit in the steaming heat and chat over drinks. Then other days we would scramble to make up for it, ticking off sights one after another. We did the typical Chiang Mai stuff: We ate dinner from food carts on the street, we checked out the night market. We went to a Muay Thai fight which was so fake and bad we left early, we went for Thai massages which were so cheap and good we stayed for seconds (Thaphae Boxing Stadium and C&R massage, in case you were wondering).
We visited Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a mountain temple and pinnacle of Chiang Mai sightseeing. It was quite beautiful but had kind of a circus atmosphere to it. Vendors selling street-food and tacky souvenirs lined the 300 steps up the hill to the base of the temple, and cameras outnumbered offerings.
Still, its just one of those things you’ve got to see once. The weather was really bizarre on the day we visited so sadly we didn’t get to see the famous view of the city. (It stormed and hailed amidst of a week of 100°F temperatures. Seriously).
We also took the time to visit an equally renown and prestigious sight, The Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders. Just on the off chance that my sarcasm is not dripping through your computer screen, let me be clear: this is not in actuality a renown or prestigious sight. It is, however, equal parts bizarre, hilarious, and confounding.
The place is run by one of the most eccentric characters I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, a man who has dedicated his life to the twin crafts of mosquito research and hilarious signage-making.
One such banner was displayed proudly over the door:
“The insects can make you feel fine.
Also they can make you cry.
This museum displays the thousand insects of Thailand.
Get to know them.
You will understand.”
On the more depressing side of tourism, we were suckered into visiting the Mae Sa Snake Farm by our tuk tuk driver in a classic rookie mistep. I have to admit the snake charmer show was actually pretty fascinating and amusing, but the attached zoo is really heartbreaking. The animals are kept in miniscule, decrepit cages and do not appear well looked after. The only picture I could bare to take outside the show was of this wild blue iguana, running around the grounds and taunting the other animals.
Aside from these little jaunts we did two major activities in Chiang Mai, one involving strapping ourselves to harnesses and jumping off platforms hundreds of feet off the ground, and the other involving walking into tiger cages. For more on those you’ll have to tune in throughout the week, but I’ll at least admit this: It was a pretty productive few days.
I might not have loved Chiang Mai but I for those few days I would have been happy anywhere; laughing, chatting away and picking up right where we all left off. A big fat thank you to Wim and Dave for being such great friends and lovely people. Stay tuned!
It’s too bad you didn’t fall in love with the city, as I too have heard tales from numerous travelers who are completely smitten with it. My family lives up near Boston and I went to Boston University so guess we’ll see how it compares to Boston/NY in my mind!
I bet if you are a Boston lover you’ll like Chiang Mai 🙂 I’m curious to see your reaction!
Gee, I don’t know how I missed that insect museum in all the time I was there! Love that iguana though, awesome shot 🙂
Yes, I can’t imagine how you missed it! Ha. Actually the day we went there was the day that we slept allll day and by the time we woke up everything was closed… except for the insect museum!
Very interesting and as sorry as I am to hear the snakes are mistreated …please no more pictures of them. They give me the creeps. Love
Ah yes, I forgot about your dislike of snakes! I’ll put up a warning next time 🙂
I agree with your Dad. Gram E
Did he inherit his fear of snakes from you? 🙂
Hi Alex, I have been reading your blog for a few months now and i receive a new update from your adventures to my email almost daily. I just have to say that when i am feeling down, just reading your adventures and travels always takes me to a greater place even if only for a moment. I came across your blog by chance and i am so glad that i did. Hopefully one day more courageous and adventurous girls will have the audacity to launch a venture as extraordinary as this, no matter how miniscule the effort may seem, in the grand scheme of things, with a blog and spirit such as yours, it truly makes all the difference. Be strong and travel on! Your readers are at your side, always anticipating your next adventure.
Sincerely , Elle Grace.
Elle, thank you so so much for this comment. You made my morning with your kind words! I’m so happy to have you reading.
P.S how old were you when you embarked on your trip?
I was 19 when I first went to Thailand in 2009, and traveled part-time since then while juggling school. A year ago I graduated and I’ve been full-time since!
Like Sarah said, we were there 2 and a half months and missed a few of those things. It is a great place to do nothing though.
I definitely see less of the traditional tourist attractions when I’m living somewhere vs. visiting! Such totally different experiences, I love a little mix of both.
Alex, I am on vacation this week and I have been sitting in the yard today catching up on all your posts. Thanks for the entertainment, I really enjoy reading your posts when I have the time to enjoy them. Hope you’re havin a great time wherever you are right now. To be quite honest, I lost track ! Enjoy !!
Noooo! I wish next week was your vacation… I’ll be back in Albany and I could have hung out in the backyard with ya!
I’m planning a trip over to Thailand and through my various research concluded that although I planned to hang around the Eastern beaches most of the time, Chiang Mai should be worth a quick trip. After reading your post, however, I am not sure! For a first time Thailand visitor, would you recommend it’s worth it? Or should I save time and just hang out down the East/South? (We will only be over for around 2 weeks, so not long!).
Thanks! (I am using your blog as a fantastic way of planning my trip!)
Hi Jes! You know, I’m totally in the minority of travel enthusiasts in not loving Chiang Mai — so take this with a grain of salt. It’s definitely considered part of the “trifecta” of Thailand — Bangkok, beaches, Chiang Mai. But for temples and culture and seeing that side of things, I far preferred the small towns of Lopburi and Ayutthaya.
In general, having only two weeks, I would stick to 3 or 4 destinations max!
Hi Alex..we are from BC in Canada…Loved your adventures in Thailand….snakes not so much… We are going for three months in December and will read back on to see what other recommendations you have. We will spend a week in Bangkok, and two weeks in Hua Hin, then leave the rest open. We have traveled to Sri Lanka as well, loved that country and the Maldives..great to see someone young having such wanderlust!
Happy days to you,
Thanks Dagmar! I have hundreds of posts on Thailand, so you should have quite a bit of new reading material 🙂 Glad you are enjoying my site — three months in Thailand is fantastic!
Compairing CM to Boston is absurd and your east coast elitest attitude could use some serious time on a meditation cusion.
Hey Robert, you may have noticed I was quoting another traveler with that comparison — but I must say, it’s one that rings quite true for me! I’m not sure what comparing two Thailand cities to two US East Coast cities has to do with being an elitist, but if it lands me on a meditation cushion I think your abrasive blog commenting could join me there 🙂
My fiance and I are going there in a few weeks. Ahh, I can’t wait to see the temples.
Congrats on the upcoming trip! Sounds amazing! Enjoy Chiang Mai 🙂