As we get ready to leave Chiang Mai tomorrow on the sleeper train back to Bangkok (then heading to the islands) here's a little look back on our second week and everything we got up to. Chiang Mai has been absolutely lovely but I'm ready for some time on the beach and to get out of the city. Week two video is on it's way! You can see the first one here.
Boys Blues Bar - this place has brilliant live music and is set under cover at the Night Bazzaar meaning it was the perfect place to house us when we got rained out of the outside areas on Friday! Discovered the cheapest (and tastiest) way to drink was to order some Thai rum and some mixers - much better value than the 150 Baht beers (although slightly more lethal)
Ploen Night Market - We came here on a Friday and loved the atmosphere, there was live music and lots of food stalls and tin can cocktail bars. Yes it's more expensive than drinking beer and eating spring rolls down the local Thai cafe but we fancied something a bit different. The cocktails aren't too much and they served wine from the Vino Box - guess where I headed the moment we arrived.
Mostly we had beers in local Thai places, or around the pool at our hotel. We've sampled some locally Thai Whiskey & Rum but god I'm craving a good old England G&T!
Favourite places to eat:
Lert Ros - This place in an amazing fish restaurant - no frills but great food and a cheap eat. We've been here twice and thoroughly enjoyed the freshly barbecued tilapia fish and shelled prawns.
Street Markets - For the more adventurous the street markets can be like having 10 dinners a night. There are stalls selling a whole range of things like Chiang Mai sausage, grilled sweetcorn, gyoza, curries, sushi, roasted fish, bugs (!). I've been pretty lucky and haven't been ill the whole time despite eating a lot of things that I really have no idea what they are. This is a pretty cheap way to get dinner too! We didn't eat at Warorot Market but I think that would have been the tastiest - lots of thai locals were sitting enjoy their evening food there.
Sushi Jiro - We have Trip Advisor to thank for this gem, and even though it was a bit of a mission to find it was some of the best value sushi I've ever had. Generous portions, fresh fish and the best sashimi ever.
Blackitch - This was a bit of a splash out meal, and random really as I visited after reading a review of them in the Guardian about 6 months ago. There's next to no information online so we took a bit of a gamble, but this is fine dining at it's best. We went to the restaurant which is served as a 'Chef's Table' - Chef Black brought out nine courses one after the other of exquisite food for us to eat, explaining about the pairing and the tastes each time. The restaurant seats only 10 people and it was a pretty amazing experience.
There are also SO many little Thai places on the street that you can wander into by accident that serve, delicious, authentic, cheap Thai food - too many to mention. I've eaten my weight in freshly made gyoza and tried some very ominous looking meats from the street stalls too..
Favourite things to do:
As we've been here for 3 weeks we've taken it kind of easy and haven't packed it in - there's been a lot of chilling and reading in parks, coffee shops and by the pool! Some of these are pictured in last week's blog post too.
Perusing the local markets
There are LOTS of markets in Chiang Mai, there's the permanent nightly Night Bazzaar which to be honest we didn't spend any time in. We visited the Saturday & Sunday Walking Markets a few times but if you visit any time after about 7pm it's absolutely rammed and very hard to enjoy the atmosphere let alone buy anything. They're worth a visit for sure but be prepared of the crowds! Of course these are hugely inflates tourist prices too but there's a good range of clothing, souvenirs, food, jewellery and of course massages. Our favourite market was Warorot Market which is "more" of a local's market. Aside from being a lot less busy, it had an amazing plethora of smells, sights and sounds. There's also a beautiful flowers section too,
Trekking in the jungle
I did a Trek through Travel Hub (Panda Tours) as I really wanted to get out of the city for the day and see what the mountain and the countryside had to offer. It took me a long while to find a trek that didn't do elephant riding as they mostly do and it wasn't something I wanted. We mostly walked through the jungle with our guide for the day, stopping at a waterfall for a dip, and a hill tribe village too. I was pretty knackered by the end of it but absolutely glad I went.
Nong Buak Haad Park
The park right near our first hotel is called Nong Buak Haad Public Park and I absolutely loved it there. We went running a few times (yes, really) and I love how it's such a fitness hub. There's free access gym equipment around and people doing yoga, pilates, circus skills, aerobics or just sitting on the grass mats reading. I spent a good couple of afternoons there enjoy the sights. There's also a little massage place there which I loved too.
One of my favourite things I did in Chiang Mai was a one day meditation course at Wat Suan Dok (the University Campus). It was held by one of the Monks and gave and introduction into buddhism, meditation and the life of a Monk. They ran 2 days ones too but as I'm fairly new to mediation I opted to give myself the easier one day course! It was extremely rewarding.
There are Wats (temples) all over Chiang Mai - something like over 200. We did the two 'biggest' ones in town, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, which are exceptional feats of creations. There are also covered with tourists of course. Today we hired a car and went to another famous one a bit out, and up the mountain, and I have to say it's incredibly disappointing. Unbelievably over crowded where you can't move for people taking photos or selling you things. Beautiful building but not our thing. Next stop we went to another much smaller one hidden in the jungle, which was beautiful. Peaceful, serene, and a much more spiritual building. You get some great views of the city too. Tomorrow before we head off I'm planning to visit some of the smaller and much quieter Wats in the city for some meditation before we head out.
A few other things we got up to:
Went to the Cinema Yes, really! I love visiting cinemas in other countries and one day (after a good few beers the night before) we headed to soothe ourslves in a dark room and watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - with Thai subs. It was ace.
Went to the Cabaret show Super touristy but we had to give it a go one time. Good value fun for the price and very entertaining.
Got nibbled by the fish Me and my Dad visited this one morning and although I've done it before in England I'd definitely recommend if you want a bit of TLC after a day of walking. A weird experience having them nibble your feet!
Got a tattoo! Not me but my brave Da got his first tattoo done. A very fetching constellation, part of The Great Bear.
Visited the barbers The boys got a Thai shave each, Dad opted for a barber's garage and let him loose with the shaver, Nick chose a slgihtly more up market barbers! For some reason I'm fascinated with getting haircuts, shaves etc in other counties.. not sure why but we did it in Japan & Bali too! Same with laundrettes...
Went partying We're not massively clubbing people in England but after a few drinks at the very crowded and rowdy Zoe in Yellow bar we met some people, hopped on a 'rot si daeng' (big red sharing taxis) and went to a Thai nightclub. Unsurprisingly no photos of this feature in my travel photography...
Got a Thai massage I absolutely LOVE massages. I've had about 6 since we've been here. Our favourite place to go was either in the park (as mentioned) so you can look out on the scene in front of you, or at Lila which is a massage company run to train and employ ex-cons in Thailand.
Took a cooking lesson - I can't report back on this yet as we're doing it tomorrow morning but I'm excited to learn how to create some of the delicious food we've been eating and take that skill back to the UK.
Next week we'll be in Ko Pha Ngan Island staying in a beach hut for the Christmas time - although I am looking forward to some chilling the weather is supposed to be awful!