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One Foot Off the Merry-Go-Round

Chiang Mai: Round One

THAILAND | Saturday, 28 January 2012 | Views [533]

  We finally made it to Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. It was our original first stop destination when we began our trip in October, however the floods forced us south, to lovely Koh Tao. We’re currently on our second round of Chiang Mai… as we spent about a week and a half here, then went to Pai (which I will get to in a later blog), and now we are back for more.

  Chiang Mai is a beautiful city that has a small feel to it, with big cultural history wherever you look. When it was founded (in 1296), the city was surrounded by a moat and defensive brick wall which is still standing (broken down, but standing). There are over 300 wats (Buddhist temples) in the city, many of which we have stumbled upon while simply searching for some yummy Koh Soi or a coffee.

  We rented bicycles one day to ride around the city and must have looked like a couple of drunks. The bikes’ rims had warped therefore causing us to wobble uncontrollably. We got the hang of it, Travis much quicker than me, as he kept having to remind me every time he heard my yelps through busy traffic, “Keep your arms loose! Don’t straighten your arms!” We cycled past old temples and newer neighborhoods. Feeling the warm sun on our backs after a month in the wet and cold of Vietnam gave us instant energy. We rode around for hours… smelling foods being boiled or barbecued and the sweetness of flowers as we passed by gardens. One smell noticeably missing from our noses? The stinking, clogging fumes of petrol/pollution. Chiang Mai is a city, but you can take deep breaths here and feel like you’re sucking in pure oxygen, as opposed to gagging on the alternative.

  Speaking of smells… we got to experience some of the best during our daylong cooking class at Baan Thai Cookery School. We started the day by trekking to a nearby market. There, our instructors talked to us about the local fruits, vegetables, tofus, curries and noodles we would be cooking with. We bought our ingredients and headed back to the kitchen. We got to choose five from a long list of items to cook that day… everything from pad thai to koh soi to fried bananas and mangos with sticky rice. Oh, and the best part (worst part if you’re a bad chef), was we got to eat everything we made. So needless to say, by the end of the day, we were so full that we could barely walk a few blocks back to our guesthouse. It was great! We also got our own Thai cookbooks, so now we can bring a little bit of Thailand back home with us to share with all of you!

  We’re heading to the Saturday night market tonight, where we’ll be surrounded by food stalls and local musicians, clothes and crafts. A really fun place to spend a few hours. Then we’ll no doubt head to another favorite spot… The Cycle Bar. At first glance, it looks like a boat on wheels, but then as you approach, you see the seats are set up quite high and are actual bicycle seats. The drinks are strong, so it can be a bit treacherous as your balance starts to leave you after a few gin and tonics. But we love living dangerously, so Cycle Bar it is! ;)

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