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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sunday, April 28, 2013

Having been to Chiang Mai before we thought we knew what to expect but over the course of time we had forgotten its true charm. Soon after arriving we noticed the city's relaxed atmosphere which reminded us of Chiang Rai and it's something you just don't seem to get the further South in the country you go.

Don't get us wrong there are still hundreds of bikes and tuk-tuks roaming the streets touting for business but everyone just seems to go about things at a leisurely pace without stress. Although we had forgotten the relaxed atmosphere, we quickly remembered it was one of the reasons we have such good memories from our first visit where we arrived from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. It's only day 1 but there is no doubt in our minds that we are going to leave here with more happy memories.

Day 1

We decided to spend the afternoon lazily walking through the streets of Chiang Mai to get a feel for the place and it wasn't long before we found ourselves near the hotel we stayed in on our first visit. A lovely hotel but way out of this trips budget as we paid significantly more for one night than our hotel this time is costing us for 3 nights!

It was great to wander through the streets, both reminiscing about our favourite places that seemed so fresh in our minds even though it has been over 4 years since we last visited. Ross even remembered a small restaurant that we liked so we headed there for lunch before making our way back to the hotel. That evening we headed back into town to visit the night market and soak up more of the 'go easy' atmosphere that seemed to cast a spell over everyone around us.

Day 2

Since the moment we decided to come back to Chiang Mai it was inevitable that Sonya would be spending one of the days on a cooking course. It was in Chiang Mai that she first fell in love with the Art of Thai cooking. In fact she loved it so much the first time around, she decided to retrace her steps and go back to the same cooking school. The only difference was the time of year, when she last did the cooking course it was October the start of the shoulder peak and a much busier time of year. Last time the course was full to the brim, this time it was much quieter, so much so that Sonya was the only student!

Sonya's Day

The day started at the local fresh food market where we picked up all of the ingredients needed for the six courses we would be cooking. The one thing that is apparent every time I visit a fresh food market is how very different they are to markets in the UK. It's a real shame that we don't take a leaf out of their book and improve our markets so not everything has to come from the supermarket.

We finished at the market and headed out of town to the home of Sompn Nabnian who is a famous TV Chef in Thailand and owner of the school. He was the first person to set up a cooking school in Chiang Mai calling it the 'Chiang Mai school of Thai cooking' The cooking school takes place at his home and is used for home stay accommodation for when people choose to do an extensive cooking course that can last for several days.

There were several work benches set up with gas burners, woks and an array of equipment that is needed for some proper Thai cooking!

Today with me being the only student we decided to do all of the cooking in the classroom where the air-con was a welcome relief from the sweltering heat. The chef teaching me was very good at what she did and we had a fun time creating some amazingly tasty dishes which I sampled for my lunch. Admittedly it was the largest lunch I have ever eaten but tasty all the same. I was so full that I had to take the last two dishes back to the hotel to share with Ross and even later in the evening when we went out for dinner I still couldn't face eating any more food.

Later that evening we decided to head over to the bar area to sample some beer and ended up having a great time playing pool (badly) and playing darts (surprisingly not so badly!) and generally having a good time. We moved from bar to bar and ended up at a place with a great atmosphere and funny staff that we chatted away to into the small hours. Ross somehow ended up being the DJ when they had a problem with the music, he soon took over and used his phone to play music for the whole bar and loved every minute. However when we noticed that most of the other bars around us were closed or in the process of closing we soon realised how late it was. It looked like our bar was preparing for a 'lock in' and when the shutters started closing we made our exit before it turned into an all nighter!

The last time we were in Chiang Mai we never ventured out to all of these bars mainly because we had a great package at the hotel we stayed at where you got free food and drinks between five and seven making it an easy decision to stay at the hotel after a day of sightseeing so it was nice to see something of Chiang Mai that we missed off the list the first time around.

Day 3

We had a lazy morning in bed recovering from last night and spent the afternoon having a relaxing foot massage. It was pure bliss and a much needed pampering session if only it was as cheap in the UK we might be able to do it more often.

That evening after a leisurely meal we went to see Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) something else in all our visits to Thailand we haven't managed to do yet. With the entry ticket just a fraction of the price down in Phuket it seemed like a great opportunity to go.

There was a mixture of male fights and female fights (most which looked liked men) and a 'special fight' that turned out to be five men wearing blindfolds, randomly hitting anything they came into contact with including the referee!

Absolutely hilarious!

The last fight was an international fight between a Thai man and a man from Argentina. They both looked to be around the same size but as Thai boxing is all about technique not power we thought that the Thai man would win hands down. He must have thought so too because he let his guard down one too many times and was knocked clean out! There was a shocked silence and then as soon as he came around the winner made sure he was okay before celebrating.

It was a fun evening full of excitement and laughter and was well worth the money.

We decided that the night was still young so we headed to a bar for one last beer which would have been the perfect ending to Chiang Mai.

But unfortunately on the way back to the hotel we ended up witnessing an accident. As we walked the back streets a car went through the cross roads in front of us and then immediately afterwards a bike coming from the right lost control and ended up in a big heap in the middle of the road.

From our angle initially it looked like the car had collided with the bike so Ross stopped the car whilst Sonya ran as fast as she could to help the injured couple. By the time she got there they were already being helped up to their feet. The man seemed to be dazed and in shock but didn't seem to have any injury's but unfortunately his girlfriend wasn't so lucky and had a bad injury to her leg and had severely broken her arm. Sonya helped her as best she could and found her a place to sit as she was in so much pain and was also in shock, luckily there was some local Thai men who helped by calling an ambulance.

We soon realised that the car driver was not at fault but the bike was going too fast and when they braked to avoid the car crossing in front of them the back wheel locked up and they lost control. We don't know if they'd been drinking but it was 1am so there was good chance they had.

This wasn't what we wanted our last memories of Chiang Mai to be, but it may have changed our mind about hiring a bike. Neither of us really like bikes but they are so convenient for getting around and we were contemplating hiring one when we get to Phuket. However after seeing the results of what can happen we have well and truly changed our minds. Walking might be slower but it's safer!

Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Back on the rails for the first time after many bus journey's. We decided against taking a sleeper and opted for the daytime service a mega 14 hours on the train arriving nearly 2 hours late without any announcement or reason why. We can't complain though as the train only cost 611B and included drinks and a light lunch, an absolute bargain compared to taking another VIP bus and a much nicer journey too!

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Green Tulip in a double private. The hotel had recently relocated approximately 300 metres down the road into a much larger property and everything was still like new. The garish multiple colour scheme wouldn't have been our choice of colours and looked like they were using up left over paint. Pink and Green do not go well together! Having said that most of it did look good but but in a few years time will probably look hideous. We had a lovely room and a fantastic bathroom, the best that we have had in ages. Now for the bad bits the hotel is not in a great location and is a good 20 minute walk from the bar area and nearly half an hour to the night market. We walked it regularly but it is just a bit too far and there are many hotels much closer that we passed on our late night treks. The hotel takes security very seriously which is great if you are on the inside but not when you go out for the night. The shutters close at 10pm and if you come back after midnight prepare for a death stare when you ring the bell to be let in. A lovely hotel but too far from the action.


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