Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thailand Tastes So Good

We landed in Chiang Mai, Thailand on the evening of the 25th of October. The week was going to be jam-packed with things to see but we were really pooped so we ended up heading straight to our hotel to rest.  The hotel Andrew picked was lovely. It was called the Raming Lodge and it was central to town, had a delicious breakfast buffet, and best of all it had AIR CONDITIONING and a WARM SHOWER! Something we reallllyyyy missed after our time in Cambodia haha.  We only had 2 full days in Chiang Mai so we had to fit a lot in to the time we were there. The first day we decided to go check out the tigers at Tiger Kingdom, climb to the top of Doi Suthep, and check out the markets.  We walked down the streets, got some cash from an atm,  and found ourselves a taxi that we hired for the day for $30. Not bad.

The first stop was our trip to see the tigers, which I'll talk about in my next post.  After that we headed up to a mountain temple called Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep.  The walk leading up was filled with shops and food stands. After that you hit the 309 steps that lead up to the top of the mountain where the temple is.  Once there, you pay a little bit to get in (30 baht or $1) to the actual temple area.  It was an absolutely gorgeous drive up the mountain and an even more beautiful view from the top.  If you go to Chiang Mai, you must see this temple.  Because we were there in the off season, it wasn't really that busy so that made it extra nice. They had you dress in appropriate attire, covering your legs and shoulders, and you take off your shoes and go in to the actual temple. The walk around it was really lovely. There were bells and statues and all of the decor was so intricate. I love all of the mosaics and how everything was shiny and gold. It was such a gorgeous spot. I felt so alive up there.

On the way down we stopped at some of the food vendors. We got our first street food in Thailand at this spot that was basically a hot waffle on a stick with honey or chocolate on it.  Pretty darn good. Then we headed down the mountain again, back to our hotel.  We showered off the sweat from the day and decided to go check out the Sunday night market. They have lots of markets, all the time, but the Sunday Night Walking Market is the one to beat. It was AMAZING!!!! We started off on the east side and got ourselves a delicious mango drink to sip as we perused through the stands.  It was so big that we couldn't get through the whole thing! It was also ridiculously, I was feeling claustrophobic crowded...and I've never felt claustrophobic. Andrew wanted to punch me in the face because I started having a panic attack and made us step off to the side to breathe. However, that step aside lead us to the best street at the market...the street with the FOOD!

I cannot believe how much we ate. We had sticky rice with mango, fresh smoothies, egg rolls, meat on a stick, noodles, and so much more. I can't even remember all of the things we tried. It was the best feeling ever until it finally hit our stomachs and we stalled and determined we needed to sit down. We found a bar a few blocks down that wasn't too busy and had a sit and a drink.  After a while we determined we needed to attempt to do one last round at the shops to try to get the last of our souvenirs. After all of like 10 minutes we were DONE with shopping (mentally, not actually done because we still needed to get a bunch more for family members), so we headed to a bar that a friend of ours recommended called Zoe in Yellow.

It was pretty neat, but it was a slow night (or maybe just too early because it was like 9pm) so we sat in the "beer garden" and each had a beer as we people watched.  There were surprisingly a lot more females than males...and they were horribly was pretty funny. Unfortunately we were really tired, so after a short while, we determined we needed to go back to the hotel to sleep. So off we went back to the hotel, passing by the hilarious food stands (ex: Tacos Bell and Burgers Queen haha) until we got back to our nice air conditioned room and passed out. Oh how I love air conditioning...

The next day we rode elephants for the first time. It was a day of mixed feelings...but I'm glad we got to do it. I talk more about it in my next post.  Anyway...after the elephant riding we decided to go out for some Khao Soi, one of the dishes that our Thai friend (who was from Chaing Mai) said that we HAD to try. We ended up at a restaurant that was close by called Dash Teak House. It was a really pretty restaurant with great indoor/outdoor seating. They had a live band that was surprisingly really really good and the food was AMAZING! We decided we wanted to try two restaurants that night because we had limited time in Chiang Mai, so we split an appetizer of bacon wrapped shrimp and then the entree, Khao Soi. Oh my was it the best thing I have ever had. So flavorful! So delicious! And when I think of Thailand, I will forever crave this dish. We were kind of bummed we didn't just stick to eating dinner at this restaurant (because it was so good) but we really wanted to try out a different place that seemed to have a good nightlife feel.  So off we went to restaurant #2 and on the way we ran in to the strangest looking dog I have ever seen.  There are LOTS of dogs around SE Asia and they are all mini sized large dogs...its very strange. However, this was the strangest dog I saw on the trip so I feel it was worth noting.  It was spotted with this long black stripe in the shape of a question mark...weird.  Anyway, after taking pictures of the dog, we arrived at the next spot, Loco Elvis, a Mexican restaurant...yes, I said Loco Elvis...haha.

Loco Elvis was a restaurant we had walked by the night before that seemed to be pretty poppin'. They had a great band playing and it was packed full so we decided we should check it out. We sat outside at a table on the sidewalk and ordered some food. Originally we were going to split something but then each wanted something different so Andrew got a burrito and I got a quesadilla (not expecting much).  It was surprisingly really good for not having much cheese. While we were eating we noticed a flier on our table for a Muay Thai match that was happening that night. It was our last night in Chiang Mai, and Andrew was DYING to see a fight, so we figured, why not?! So we asked our waitress about it and she said they would give us a discount on the tickets and get us a tuk-tuk to get there...$30 later we were SOLD. Around 30 minutes later our tuk-tuk arrived. It was one of the most dangerous ride's I've ever been on (second to riding in the back of a truck in Haiti). These contraptions are ridiculous. The cart where you sit is strapped OVER the motorcycle...not connected by a's alllllllll one thing. So when you turn...oh dear, hold on. And did I mention they like going fast? Yikes!!

When we got to the fight we were a bit weirded out haha. There were pretty girls everywhere and they lead us to our seats in the middle of this strange area surrounded by lots of bars. A girl ran and got our drinks really quickly and then we waited for a long time for the fight to finally start. We were thinking it would be packed so we got there early. It ended up being almost full, but we definitely had a while to wait. The atmosphere as I mentioned was pretty strange. One of the bars had GORGEOUS transvestites working there. There were kids walking around trying to sell flowers and leis. Girls were basically running to be the first person to take your drink order.  It was odd. The fight started and I thought we had been jipped and we were at a fake fight because they were clearly rehearsed in their fighting, but apparently its tradition to do a dance before a fight, which was what we were seeing. We watched like 6 rounds of fights, all pretty hard core. No one bit off an ear or anything but it was definitely some real fighting! The final fight was an "international fight" between a Frenchman and a Thai fighter...when he came out Andrew decided it was a waste of time because he sucked haha. So we headed out to get another tuk-tuk and go back to the hotel.

Overall - I would say Chiang Mai had the potential to be my favorite place of the trip. There's something about a mountain city that I just love. The food was great, the markets were great, the people were super nice, and it was a beautiful place.  The city was pretty modern and it was relatively cheap. I feel like it would be a great place to live for a while some day. I definitely plan to come back because 2.5 days were not enough.

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