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Partying in Chiang Mai

THAILAND | Wednesday, 10 December 2008 | Views [1361]

I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, and Major city in the North. It is a huge place, sprawling for miles in all directions, with no tall buildings. It is also a pretty place. Surrounded by mountains, with a nice river, and an old city that is surrounded by a moat and is filled with wats, it is a nice place to explore. Chiang Mai is also one of the world centers for ecotourism, with everybody and their uncle offering trekking trips to visit local villages, and elephant rides (and visits to the elephant camps), and rafting, and so on. My guesthouse, unfortunately, offered what looked like the usual generic fair, with little actual walking in their trekking trips, and visits to the same villages that everyone goes to. I was still disgusted from my village visit in laos, and I wasn't going for this. As what usually happens, the first few ecotourism operators offer high quality trips, and the rest go down hill, offering poor copies of the real thing. Also, I had just run into a couple in Laos on my last day who had spent a week as volunteers at the Elephant nature park, so I really wanted to go there and my guest house (a very pretty place with a private room for under $10) didn't offer that trip. 
 
My first evening, I walked a bit near my guest house (on a street with all sorts of good restaurants/bars along the river, but outside of the old town), then went to the famous night market where there are lots of stalls. Someone tried to sell me a custom made cashmere wool silk blend suit for $140 with a custom made shirt, but I thought I could do better and didn't buy it (I was told $90 in Bangkok, but maybe this is an old price or worse quality). There were lots of places to eat there, but I wanted to to a river cruise dinner back the the restaurant/bar called the Riverside near my guesthouse. After exploring a bit , I went back to the riverside, found out the boat was full, and went back to my guest house, got on the internet, and tried booking my trip to the elephant nature park for Monday (it was Saturday night). I paid with credit card and then got a message saying they will email me to confirm, but the email didn't come. Everyone these days heads up to this hippy town called Pai 6 hours north of Chiang Mai, so I instead wanted to go to this "mini-resort" called the Nest in Chiang Dao a town 1.5 hours north of Chiang Mai and in the mountains. So I emailed them to enquirer. Once again I didn't hear anything. 
 
I went back to Riverside at 8, a popular bar/resturant with live bands (live music was starting at 9), whose clientele was 90% Thai. (I found out later that many of them are  tourists from Bangkok, I was wondering since the place was quite expensive. $3/beer and $6 for dishes is a lot of money in Thailand). I was eventually seated (it was crowded and there was a long wait) and soon after these 3 americans were seated next to me. We soon combined tables. I had a great time with them. We hung out, we danced (the bands were fun, playing mostly american rock covers). One of them, an ex-laywer turned yoga instructor/enviormental activist, who reminded me of a few people I knew at Wesleyan, reminded me that I can change the world, before dancing and grinding with me (and the rest of the room) on the dance floor. A pretty Thai women asked me if I was with her, I mumbled something incoherent (the correct answer was NO). Anyway, the place was great. Thais are really fun. They seem to love to drink, party and have a good time. Thais are also very ethnically diverse, there is not just one look or body type. And some are quite striking (in cambodia, almost everyone was very good looking. Here it was more diverse, but some are stunning).  After spending 4 hours there, we went over to the Good View next door and I spent another 1.5 hours listen to music and dancing before finally going back to bed. Or so I thought.
 
The bed was a rock. I got almost no sleep that night, and I had a headache and my body ached the next day. I discovered in the early morning if I can sleep on top of the blanket I could seep some, so I got a few hours of sleep finally. I finally got up at 9 and started to walk around town, but I didn't find that many sites to see, although I did run into Mel and Dave (I met them in Laos). I also found a booking office for the elephant nature park, and called the main office about my booking, they had no record of it, but told me that they will get me the next day at my guest house. Eventually I found a wat, and someone offered to drive around around (in his new camry) for 2 hours to see some sights. He was charging me 100 Baht (about $3) and gave me a bottle of water. After seeing two great temples, one newer and one that was 700 years old and built around the founding of the city, I asked him how he can have a car like this, and charge me only 100 baht? He said, don't worry it will not cost any more. I soon found out why it was so cheap, as he took me next to a street with lots of expensive factories for making silk, jade, jewelery and other stuff. After my second stop, I asked him how much he was getting for each stop (or was it a commission on sales?). He admitted to a 20 baht gas coupon. So I quickly visited 6 shops to make him some money, and then drove home. Actually, I should have skipped the last 2, since by then I had a huge headache, and paid him the extra 40 baht myself...
 
After spending some time on the internet, walked toward the Sunday walking street ( a large weekly street market), and having an hour to kill I stopped off for a massage. The place had cushions on the floor, and thin curtains between the stalls. Well I figured this place looked safe, and my back really hurt from the bed the night before. Nope. Welcome to Thailand. There were wondering hands despite someone else just on the other side of the curtain from me, and not much acupressure, and I refuse to say any more on grounds this is a family blog...
 
I then went to the internet and tried booking the nest in Chaing Dao, without inquiring about availability first. This turned out to work, and I got a confirmation soon after.
 
 I visited the sunday walking street which is cheaper than the night market. I still did not buy anything (I guess I just do not know what to do with these silk products). After eating some street food I went back to riverside to listen to some music. This time I just stood around and watched. I will leave it to my highly intelligent readers to interpret. There were an abnormal number of western guys with thai girls. Actually this was true even in the city. At the walking street I saw a european guy about 70, with a thai women about 30. At the bar, I saw 4 american guys walk in together with 4 thai girls- what's the odds? At one table in the bar, there was one thai guy and 3 thai women. Soon after, 2 other young thai women joined them. As soon as they arrived, the guy walked over to a dweeby looking 30 something year old thai man sitting at the bar. He then beckoned for the cutest of the girls to come over, she gave the guy at the bar a wai (thai greeting with both hands pressed together and the height of it is a statement of respect, the king gets the highest wai), they chatted for a minute, then she went back. The guy at the table looked back at the guy at bar, and the guy at the bar shook his head no. No sale. Oh shit, I said I was going to leave the commentary out. Welcome to Thailand..... Anyway, despite these shenanigans, this still was a great bar. One of the best I have ever been to. Its one problem is that it too is a victim of its own success, and is way too crowded.
 
This night I got an extra sheet (they had no extra blankets) and I slept on the blanket covered with the sheet. This worked for a few hours, then it got too cold. I was able to partially wrap myself up in the blanket (barely) and got a few more hours sleep. I would have moved, but the logistics were complicated given I was going to the Elephant park for the day the next day.

Tags: riverside bar

 

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