We captured this amazing blue sky, which hung around for a few minutes.  No photo manipulation, everyone was taking pictures of it before it faded away.

Relaxing for a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

April 26, 2015 – May 24, 2015

Full Chiang Mai Photo Gallery Here.

After heading back to Phnom Penh, Cambodia we said goodbye to Bre as she headed to the airport and back home to Seattle.  Our own journey would be continuing a bit longer.  We took a flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a much needed full month in one spot,  no packing up and moving, no planning where we were going to be or stay or eat.  We were finally able to relax and really get to know one place very well, and get caught up on this blog as well!

Chiang Mai, not to be confused with the lackluster Chiang Rai nearby, is one of the nicest and most popular tourist cities in Thailand.  Everywhere that Chiang Rai fails to impress, Chiang Mai succeeds.  The streets are clean and full of cute shops and cafes, the markets are numerous and huge, and modern malls have sprouted up outside the crumbling city walls and water filled moat of the temple filled old city.  The skies are clean and the forest and hills nearby are thick with lush green jungle and wandering hiking trails.  Whatever you are looking for, aside from a beach, you can find here in Chiang Mai.  And the best part was finding a nice budget friendly cozy little apartment we could rent for an entire month!

Nimman Neighborhood and our Apartment

Our little apartment, which we found on Airbnb for about US$22.00 a night was in the trendy and modern Nimman neighborhood.  The main street Nimmanhemin and dozens of side streets were all loaded with modern cafes, gourmet restaurants and tons of little shops.  We often spent a couple hours a day in a coffee shop, Krista using wifi while I worked on my writing.  There are so many coffee shops that we could have visited a different one every day for a month, but after visiting about ten or so we picked a couple favorites, Wawee Coffee and Ristr8to.

Working on some writing at a local coffee shop.
Working on some writing at a local Wawee Coffee shop.
We visited the world famous Ristr8o coffee shop.  Ristr8o barista's are world champion coffee foam art creators.  They can make everything from random flower and heart patterns, to pandas, dragons and your face! if you provide them with a picture (check it out on google).
We visited the world famous Ristr8o coffee shop. Ristr8o baristas are world champion coffee foam art winners. They can make everything from random flower and heart patterns, to pandas, dragons and even your face! If you provide them with a picture (check it out on google).
Pandas growing on a flower?
Pandas growing on a flower?  Be aware though, the more complicated a pattern you ask for the colder your coffee will be as it takes considerable time and effort on their part.

Perhaps the best part about our little apartment was the fact that it had a kitchen in it.  We could buy loads of fresh veggies from the local market, and cook them up in our own kitchen.  It was fun going to the market every few days to reload the fridge with produce,  tropical fruit like mango or pineapple, eggs, coconut milk and pad thai noodles, and get to know the various vendors.  We learned which ones were friendliest and which ones charged fair prices.

We bought these fresh veggies at a small produce market near our apartment.  All these veggies cost under US$3.00
We bought these fresh veggies at a small produce market near our apartment. All these veggies cost under US$3.00
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This was our favorite produce vender.
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Our chef picking out some fresh veggies for dinner.
You can find more than just veggies here, sausages are also popular all over Chiang Mai.
You can find more than just veggies here, sausages are also popular all over Chiang Mai.
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One of many all over the city, this was the local fresh produce market near our place, only a 10-15 minute walk from the apartment.
Bael fruit tea.  One of Krista's new favorite teas was sold at all the markets in Chiang Mai.
Bael fruit tea. One of Krista’s new favorite teas was sold at all the markets in Chiang Mai.

We visited some of the local malls as well, any of which are just as modern as the ones back home, though the Asian food courts are far better.

The very modern Maya Mall near our apartment.
The very modern Maya Mall near our apartment.
A typical parking garage in Thailand.  Can you spot a single car?
A typical parking garage in Thailand. Can you spot a single car?
The Rimping grocery store, a bit pricier than shopping in the markets but you can find all your favorite western brands not available anywhere else.
The Rimping grocery store, a bit pricier than shopping in the markets but you can find all your favorite western brands not available anywhere else.
Inside the huge nearby Central Festival Mall.  Thailand really loves huge sprawling malls.
Inside the huge nearby Central Festival Mall. Thailand really loves huge sprawling malls, and we appreciated having western conveniences at our fingertips in Thailand.
The streets around Nimman neighborhood.
The streets around Nimman neighborhood.

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We soon discovered that songthues, which translates to "two benches" are chared truck taxis, and we soon discovered they are much cheaper and easier to deal with than tuk-tuks, who charge twice as much and love to haggle for more.
Songthaews, which translates to “two benches”, are shared truck taxis, and we soon discovered they are much cheaper and easier to deal with than tuk-tuks, who charge twice as much and love to haggle for more.
The Nimman area is complete with temples as well, like this tall golden Stupa which was visible from our apartment.
The Nimman area is complete with temples as well, like this tall golden stupa at Wat Suan Dok which was visible from our apartment.

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Our cozy little apartment was on the top floor (10th floor) and had great views.
Our cozy little apartment was on the top floor (10th floor) and had great views.
View from our apartment window.
View from our apartment window. Lightning storms were common, you could sit and watch lightning for hours.
Lightning storms and rainstorms were common.  You could watch lightning for hours.
Our apartment was in the flight path of the nearby Chiang Mai airport and you could watch planes taking off and landing.  It is a small airport and the noise never became bothersome.

The Walled Old Town

Roughly in the center of sprawling Chiang Mai is a large square walled old city, which has stood for centuries.  It is lined with a stone wall complete with bastions in the corners, battlements and even a wide water filled moat.

The moat around the old city of Chiang Mai.
The moat around the old city of Chiang Mai.

The old city is a maze of streets filled with guest houses, hostels, more shops and cafes, museums and almost 80 different temples.  Everywhere you look you will see temples, and many of them are the oldest around.  Worth a few days of exploration the old city is huge, but easy to walk with less traffic than the rest of the city, and interesting hidden jewels around every corner.

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Temples are everywhere in the old walled city.
Temples are everywhere in the old walled city.

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This temple, one of the oldest in the city, is made almost entirely out of teak wood, intricately carved, and is so well maintained it doesn’t look a year over 200.
This temple is oldest and tallest and even has its own moat around the outside.
This temple is one of oldest and tallest and even has its own moat around the outside.

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Monks were often seen on the grounds of temples.

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We found this outdoor coin operated laundry mat.

There are simply so many temples in the old city we got tired of visiting them, especially as the temperature was often triple digits.

The Temple on the Hill – Doi Suthep

At the top of the largest hill rising above the city sits the bright gold temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, known as just Doi Suthep.  It’s just a short songthaew ride away or about a two hour hike.  Feeling like we needed some exercise we elected to hike there.   Apparently the Thais don’t like to hike and if you ask any of the locals about hiking trails they will be surprised to hear they even exist, but they do exist and are nearly empty of hikers.  On our two hour hike up the hill, we bumped into only one other hiker, a westerner, heading down.  At the top, you’ll not only surprise everyone by appearing out of the forest, but you also find a small city built up around a large temple complex.  Outside of the temple is a small city of souvenir shops and food venders, and lines of songthaews taking people up and down the mountain.  The temple itself is up another long flight of stone steps flanked on either side by two Nagas, a cross between a serpent and a dragon, both a football field in length.  At the top is the gleaming gold stupa and a few great viewpoints looking over the city of Chiang Mai below.

You can just barely see the temple on top of the hill just outside of town.
You can just barely see the temple on top of the hill just outside of town.
About half way up the hill we came across Wat Phalad temple and monastery.
About half way up the hill we came across Wat Phalad temple and monastery.
Wat Phalad, unlike the temples in the city, is surrounded by lush jungle on the hillside.
Wat Phalad, unlike the temples in the city, is surrounded by lush jungle on the hillside.

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The golden stupa at Doi Suthep at the top of the hill.
The golden stupa at Doi Suthep at the top of the hill.

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The view over the valley, and the city of Chiang Mai and the airport below.
The view over the valley, and the city of Chiang Mai and the airport below.

The Street Markets of Chiang Mai

The sheer number, size and quality of markets available throughout Chiang Mai is reason enough in itself to visit.  We have seen just about every kind of market there is on our trip around the world and the markets of Chiang Mai, might have them all beat.  There are daily night markets east of the old walled city, and we found a daily fresh produce market just south of our apartment in Nimmanhemin.  But the real big markets are the large Saturday Night market which spans a dozen blocks south of the old city, and the truly huge Sunday night market which is at least another three times bigger in the center of the old city.  The variety and quality of goods, souvenirs and food sold in the Sunday night market is what really makes it stand out from most markets around the world.  The souvenirs and other goods are of much higher quality than most of the cheap junk we were familiar with at markets, though buyer beware, bad deals can be found as well.  The food is perhaps the best part, skip dinner and just eat for cheap at the market, sampling a little of everything. Most of the food is super high quality with whole sections dedicated just to food, beverages and seating areas.  Next to the food you will often find outdoor masseurs by the dozens setting up cushioned chairs and offering foot or shoulder and back massages for US$5.00 for an hour.  So you can eat between shopping and then let your food digest with a back-rub while you people watch as the whole population of town walks slowly by.  We were in town for three Sunday night markets and didn’t miss a single one.

The Saturday night market, while not as huge as the Sunday night market its still quite large.
The Saturday night market, while not as huge as the Sunday night market its still quite large. It stretches for a least a dozen blocks or more.
One of our new favorites, bacon wrapped mushrooms.  These mushrooms are long and crunchy like bean sprouts.
One of our new favorites, bacon wrapped mushrooms. These mushrooms are long and crunchy like bean sprouts.
Looking in just one direction of massive sprawling Sunday night market.  It would take all night to see everything.  We went three times and still didn't see everything this huge market has to offer.
Looking in just one direction of massive sprawling Sunday night market. It would take all night to see everything. We went three times and still didn’t see everything this huge market has to offer.
You can sit and people watch while getting a massage in the street for cheap! About $US 5.00 for an hour.
You can sit and people watch while getting a massage in the street for cheap! About $US 5.00 for an hour.  Twice we got 30 minute head, neck and shoulder massages.  The first massage was terrific, and the second one was absolutely terrible!
This awesome van transforms into a coffee shop.  Best transformer ever!
This awesome van transforms into a coffee shop. Best transformer ever!
Colorful lanterns were popular in the market.
Colorful lanterns were popular in the market.
We captured this amazing blue sky, which hung around for a few minutes.  No photo manipulation, everyone was taking pictures of it before it faded away.
We captured this amazing blue sky, which hung around for a few minutes. No photo manipulation, everyone was taking pictures of it before it faded away.
Sausages are popular, we liked the spicy curry ones best.
Sausages are popular, we liked the spicy curry ones best that northern Thailand is known for called Sai Ua.  Cost is 15 baht in this picture.

 

The Anusarn Market and the Lady Boy Show

On one of our last nights in Chiang Mai we went to the Anusarn Market to see something another traveler had told us about and recommended, a lady boy show.  This popular PG show consists primarily of lip syncing to popular songs and dancing, Lady Boys are very common and accepted in South East Asia, and Thailand in particular.  It is not uncommon to see them around town or working at your favorite cafe.  So we checked out the market, bought some souvenirs and stayed for some entertainment.  There was a pole blocking our view so we didn’t try taking pictures, but the show was quite entertaining.

The Anusarn nigh market, and home to Chiang Mai's popular lady boy show.
The Anusarn nigh market, and home to Chiang Mai’s popular lady boy show.  Notice the motorcycle plowing through the pedestrian only area.

Getting Ready for China

Another reason for our long stay in Chiang Mai was getting ready for our final month abroad which we would be spending in China.  China is massive and there is loads to do and see, even with a whole month devoted to it, we could only possibly see a fraction of the country.  That fraction would nevertheless require a ton of research and preparation, not to mention the week long visa application process.   Chiang Mai conveniently has a Chinese consulate, yet another reason for our visit, which was necessary in order to acquire, fill out and submit our visa application and wait a week in one spot for the time it takes process.  China has the most complex visa requirements of any country on our trip.  Along with the usual we had to submit evidence of flights to and from China, an itinerary and hotel reservations for our entire stay.  We waited the requisite week and were approved to enter China, surprisingly receiving a multiple entry visa good for ten years.  Our next stop would be Shanghai, China, after leaving Chiang Mai on May 24th.  Which is today! (the date of this posting) so we have finally gotten the blog fully caught up, a first on this trip!

See you next in China!

6 thoughts on “Relaxing for a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand”

  1. Hi guys, I’ve been keeping up on your adventures and enjoyed all of the mostly great times you have been having. It seems as if you will be heading home in about a month, but what a great adventure. I can’t wait to talk in person with you after you return to see what were your favorite spots. I think I would head to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and maybe Myanmar on my next trip, if I can get motivated to head out on the road. I met a guy not long ago that spent a month in Chiang Mai and really enjoyed it. I could see myself staying in a few cool spots for a couple weeks at a time so I don’t go crazy with all the traveling. Enjoy the last leg of the trip. “Aja
    when all my dime dancing is through I run to you.”

  2. Hi Gary – It’s great to hear from you. Southeast Asia would be a great spot for your next trip. It’ll be fun to catch up after we get home and discuss our favorite destinations!

  3. Helpful article . I learned a lot from the insight , Does anyone know if my company could find a sample French Republic Long Stay Visa form to work with ?

  4. Going to Chiang Mai for 3 months in October, 2016, so much looking forward to it after reading the wandermuch.com website. Thanks so much. Single nicholas here

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