It was time to leave the chaotic country of Nepal to somewhere more laidback and calm. I hadn’t organised anything past my Everest Base Camp hike so I had a thousand options to choose from before settling on North Thailand. I’d been to Thailand twice before but both times were in the south so I was excited to see the difference between the north and south.
I flew from Kathmandu to Bangkok, where I had a 3 hour layover before jumping back on a plane to Chiang Mai. I got in at around 11pm and even at this time, the humidity was rifling through the city. By the time I got to my hostel I was sweating profusely! My hostel – the Chiang Mai Gate Capsule Hostel – was a tiny hole in the wall hostel tucked away into a small street just outside the Old Town. It was quiet and the streets were desolate at this hour. It didnt take long before I was fast asleep in the lovely air-conditioned room.
The following morning I set out to explore. I’ve found the best way to get to know an area is to get yourself completely lost and then try and work out how to get back to where you started. This started off accidentally as I would always end up walking in circles before finding my destination but now I just wander and see where I end up. I’m famous in my family for not knowing my north from my south, but have gotten really good at remembering landmarks which usually save me. I figure you are never lost, just a few wrong turns from being in the right place! Besides I could cheat a little with my Maps.Me app which worked without wifi, but I was trying hard not to use it!
I wandered through the Old Town, past undercover markets selling everything from mangos to chicken carcasses, past beautiful gold temples and tourist stores before reaching Walking street, the Main Street in the Old Town. Here was filled with restaurants, travel agents and artsy shops. I found somewhere for breakfast and coffee to refuel before wandering on towards the Nimman area. I’d heard this area was famous for its cafe culture and being a coffee fiend, I was eager to suss it out!
It was about a 25 minute walk from the Old Town to the Nimman area, which wasn’t ideal to do in the middle of the day but I got there eventually. At the end of the main road was the brand new MAYA shopping centre so I ducked in there to cool down in the air-con. Picking up a new SIM card so I could finally have a phone number, I had a wander around the shopping centre wishing I had a bigger bag (and budget) to do some serious shopping! I headed back out into the heat and walked down Nimmanhaemin Road to find some of these cafes I’d been reading about. The Nimman area is basically one main road with lots of lanes branching off it. Down these lanes are cafes, hotels, art galleries and shops. You could go a down these lanes a hundred times and see something new everytime. As I was on foot I only ventured down the main road, saving the rest of the exploring for another day. It was about 3pm so I started to head back towards to my hostel.
After resting in the aircon for an hour or so, I headed back out again to check out the night market that was happening just outside my hostel. Since I’d been in the hostel, hundreds of stalls had been set up down the entire street and spilling out onto the intersection. There were food stalls, arts and crafts, souvenirs – basically everything you could possibly want! The street stalls were lined up about 1km long and I walked back and forth between stalls, admiring the locally made products and umm-ing and ahh-ing over what to eat.
Settling on pad Thai (so predictable Jess) and a fresh juice, I people watched as I sat and ate. After dinner I followed a market stall trail down a side street which led me to the Silver Temple. Under lights, this temple made of real silver glowed brightly! It was a lovely discovery to finish the day off with!
The markets didn’t finish until about 11pm but I was exhausted from the amount of kilometres I’d walked today so ducked into the cool of my hostel much earlier that than. I’ll be in Chiang Mai for the next two weeks, so was in no rush to see everything quickly. I just wanted somewhere to relax and wind down after a chaotic few weeks in Nepal. I was glad I chose Chiang Mai, it fits the bill perfectly!