Back in Chiang Mai
So far my favorite place in Thailand otherwise I wouldn't have come back. I still have lots to explore in this country but with only a few days between the Cook Islands and Vietnam, I selected this charming city as a long layover destination.
Because I arrived on a Friday afternoon I had the luxury of going back to my favorite French market, it sits back in the woods but people tend to call it a jungle or the jungle market or the "ferang farm." It's near the convention center (to the left of it) and down a long road on the left side. That's as much direction as I feel I need to give at this time, especially because...
Since the last time I was there it has grown a great deal. As in a HUGE deal! Supposedly they have advertised and an article was written up on the place. There's massive amounts of people there now and it doesn't feel like the same French bakery market I remember. I think it's both good and bad.
There was a lot of Asians and it seemed that a lot of the ferang's had hired the local people to run their booths for them. Several vendors I remembered from two years ago were still there and a handful of new ones. The main reason I wanted to go though was to satisfy my bread craving with freshly baked chocolate and almond croissants that cost anywhere from $.07 to $.93 USD!!! That's crazy talk, right!? I know, I said that last time I wrote about this special market, almost 2 years ago!
I bought carol 2 danishes and a loaf of bread along with the items I wanted. My total was $10!
Teressa, carol and I went to a local market one day to get a few things for meals and then we ventured around the rest of the place.
Carol and I enjoying fresh coconut water and later the coconut meat! 40B /$1.12
Carol went back to the car to get out of the heat and rest her legs while Teressa and I did a quick venture. She showed me a small westernized grocery store tucked away in a corner.
We saw a knock off Lego store that Teresa and Mike have been helping support by purchasing kits for Nico to play with and a vendor stall with a hidden rabbit cage. Teresa had seen it a few days earlier and there were two adorable soft and furry rabbits inside. Of course we had to ask to hold the baby!
There was a place just down the road from Carol's that Teresa noticed a heap of what looked like fleece, stacked near the door. It grabbed her attention enough that the two of us walked down to investigate. It was THE BIGGEST thrift store I've seen. In regards to clothing that is and really that's about all they had with the exception of a large, hallow cinder block cube constructed on the dirt floor and filled with used stuffed animals.
There were even massive bags of clothing to eventually be unpacked and hung up. We guessed the clothes were being shipped in from China and America.
I got out on a 3mile run with Mike one day, which I hesitated to go on since he is training for the Chiang Mai marathon, meaning his running speed is likely much faster paced then mine. But I'm so glad I went! We ran down the main highway from Carol's house and then took off on a side road and into a village. This is the kind of stuff I like! Complete adventure mode and exploring off the beaten path, away from the tourist scene.
backpacker syndrome starting to kick in!
Teresa and I did a 2 mile run to the botanical garden a few days later without having a camera in hand (the way it should have been), they were setting up for an event in honor of the queen. I knew I'd need to come back with my camera! Not just because of the event but because of the beautiful grounds. The next day I borrowed a bike from Carol's house and rode back to the gardens with my camera.
I spent a good amount of my first few days in Chiang Mai helping Carol with projects around the house. Helping her a bit with an electrical issue in her kitchen, scanning articles that she wrote years back, cleaning a bit, laundry, and mailing off a printer to her daughter in Oregon.
A side note on the printer... She bought it here in Thailand and it's got an ink case on the side of it instead of inside of it. The ink is just ink in a squeeze bottle and WAY cheaper for it then your average printer ink. Like $20 total for 4 colors and it doesn't need refilled as quickly. Apparently it's not available in North America and other areas. Just Asia right now and largely because of the lack of money that CAN'T be made off of the ink. That just doesn't seem okay, that manufacturers would hold something like that from us but it's so true.
I also spent the first few days applying for my Vietnam visa and doing more airfaire searching and purchasing. I've been watching ticket prices closely because of the holidays.
One of my favorite days with Carol (besides the jungle market) was the day I drove her and I into the old city. I think I definitely fit right in as an driver here. I mean I'm not Asian of course but my driving skills are awesome! It seems to be a combination of assertiveness and aggressive training that you need to have in order to flow with the traffic. But when I say aggressive, they aren't angry drivers they're actually polite and they just find ways to go around you if you're in the way. It's much different then say Australia and even parts of the US where it's just plain aggressive and people have road rage.
We had lunch at Nice kitchen on Soi 6 where I know the owner Hann and know of her husband "bicycle Mike" who is friends of my "uncle" Joe's.
Hann's one of 9 children and 3 of them are in the restaurant buisness. Her sister owns a bakery just a few doors down from Nice Kitchen and her brother owns a restaurant/bakery on Soi 9 called Blue Diamond.
I moved out of Carol's and into the old city for the last 4 nights of my stay in Thailand. I stayed at Mountain View hotel just inside the Phuak gate
The old city gate entrances
Decent enough rooms for the price. It's not an upscale hotel but it's within my budget (350B $9 p/night because of the season) and the staff is very helpful. They were booked to capacity when I arrived as it's the high season right now and I watched Wit, a front desk guy walk a couple to another hotel to help find them a place for the night.
Some rooms had their own entrances and balconies and there were family rooms available as well. All the rooms that I was able to look inside of had two more or beds in them.
My FB penpal Janelle (from California) recommended Mountain View to me and she arrived my second night there. I finally got to meet her in person after 2 years of conversing over the phone and FB regarding travel info.
The day before she arrived I distracted myself with a walk mostly around the mote and city gates where I ran into an English couple. They had just graduated from college and were out to travel together for a year or 2, currently at the start of their adventure. Ben and Ame. I explored Wat's with them and they helped me look for street art.
I noticed a scar at the top of Ame's spine as I was walking behind her and asked if she had, had back surgery. She turned around with a huge smile and excitement in her voice saying, "yes!" Turns out she had the same scoliosis surgery that I had. Ben heard the start of this conversation and laughed while rolling his eyes at us. He said that I'm the first person to have ever brought up the surgery before Ame has. We talked about it for a bit and compared stories. It's always kind of cool to meet others who have had this same surgery as its not super common. I have yet to meet a guy who has had scoliosis surgery.
I wish I knew the names of these Wat's, to share with you but I didn't keep track.
Street art of a Tuk Tuk
Waking to lunch the day Janelle arrived, I was distracted by street food vendors running across the road and in front of me to the gates of a school yard. The students obviously couldn't leave campus but wanted food from the outside and the street vendors wanted to make a baht! I found it hilarious watching the kids yelling to the vendors across the street and the vendors running their orders over. I remember the days of a closed campus. I often snuck out.
Across the street from the school. Notice the 7/11 in the middle of it all.
I went back to Soi 6 for a smoothie at Addy's happy smoothies where I had a coconut and mango smoothie for $1.67. They used an entire coconut, all the water inside and scraped all the meat out and then a full mango. Such a killer deal! Then I went back to Nice kitchen had a mango, chia seed and coconut milk bowl and worked on this blog while visiting with Hann in between her taking orders. I stayed almost tell she closed, getting a lot accomplished and learning a lot about her and her about me.
Throughout the day I was feeling a rain drop or two and the weather cooling down a bit but it never really rained. Janelle arrived around 9:30pm and we finally had met in person! She was very much how I imagined her to be a mix of buisness and play, tall and slender with long hair and full of Thai knowledge and running a buisness from both Thailand and the USA. That's what she does, sells clothing and accessories that she has fully made in Thailand and selling in the US and online. She's made close relationships with these individual Thai people and is becoming very successful and learning a lot, by the day!
Our adventures together only lasted a few days since she arrived on a Friday night and I flew to Vietnam on Monday morning. I wish I had stayed longer to watch her in action more with the buisness but we will cross paths again. Our few days together really deserve their own post so I'll fill you in on some of our more memorable happenings in the next posting!