Escape to Chiang Mai

It’s been 2 weeks now since leaving dreary and wet Manchester with a light heart for our second long winter escape. Yippee.We had always wanted to spend winter somewhere warm with blue skies, friendly people and fabulous food. For us Chiang Mai is that place.

It takes a bit of organising, especially if you still want your job on your return, but it’s not impossible. We felt like headless chickens (much like everyone else was but for different reasons) giving our contact details to neighbours, checking I had covered all my classes, sorting out cars and vans and emptying the fridge. Making sure we had the visas and copies, spare photos and money. Lots of mundane things to do but worth it!!

As we landed at CM we felt we were home. It just felt easy and familiar and our friend David picked us up. We spent the first few days sleeping in late. We felt no guilt that we should be ‘seeing things’. When you come away for more than 3 months those pressures drop away. We sorted out a motorbike for getting around, got a local Thai SIM card and got Thai baht. Now we’re cooking.

We visited our favourite blue plastic table eatery and had what we had been yearning for since we were last here in February. Pad see u, slippy noodles and pork for Chris and pad tai gai for me, yum. Both dishes and 2 large beers for less than a coffee and cake in our local costa. Result.

The traffic in CM can be fierce but Chris now drives like a local weaving in and out of the cars, trucks and motorbikes. When the lights are on red (often for 5 minutes, an extraordinary long time) the bikes build up at the front like a swarm of bees waiting for the green light and then we are off, formula 1 style. I found it really disconcerting last year but have relaxed more this time………mostly.

We stayed with David and Nuy at their guesthouse, Funky monkey, for the first 5 days which is just on the outside of the moat and very accessible to the centre. CM is a medieval moated city, not too big and full of little alleyways teeming with life and not just tourists. Great places to eat, shops, museums and the most wats and temples I have ever seen in one small place, over 300. There is a temple walking tour you can do, we did it a couple of years ago and it takes all day.

In one corner of the city inside the moat is a lovely green space called Buak Hard Park. All around the edges are places to exercise with all sorts of machines, pull up bars, weights and stuff I have no idea what they do, it looks like torture equipment! In the centre is a lake with huge fish. There are lots of little bridges over the water, fountains, places to sit and read or do yoga, or just watch the world go by. Last year they had the most fantastic flower festival here, we hope it happens this year. It’s the lungs of the city.

Last year we stayed in quite a posh condo in the trendy part of town called Nimman. This area is full of middle class Thai students, digital nomads (mostly American or Canadian) and retirees from all over the world. We liked it there but didn’t want to go back this time. On last years wanderings we found a little area which feels more like a proper Thai village, only 10 minutes from where we were, which we preferred. We spoke to a guesthouse owner took a card and that is where we are now and love it. We have a big room, huge bed, balcony, flat screen tv, fridge and very friendly owners. It is much quieter, cheaper and more authentic. It costs us £160 a month plus electric and water.Although we had a full kitchen last time we decided we didn’t want one this time, a fridge would suffice. We only need stuff for breakfast and we are happy with yoghurt and muesli. I don’t go anywhere without my kettle and supply of tea bags, so that all works. It is so cheap to eat out it’s not worth cooking, although sausage, mash and baked beans was a must after 2 months of rice and noodles last year. I’ll live!!

We like to escape into the local hills on the bike. CM is surrounded by huge national parks, mountains and valleys of breathtaking splendour only 20 minutes from the centre of the city. We especially like the projects which is where all the local produce comes from. These small settlements, often hill tribes, grow fruit and veg and many wonderful things. It feels like you are in a forgotten world. The late King started this initiative to try and stop the growing of opium. He gave the farmers a very good price for growing cabbage, cauliflower, strawberrys etc and they all have huge new 4×4’s so they can’t be doing too badly. I think they still sneak the odd field of their previous crop in…….

I also have a bit of an addiction to a local band that plays in a bar called Loco Elvis. Never understood the name until I noticed a picture on the wall of the late King meeting Elvis in army uniform in the 50’s. It’s a young band who play classic rock tunes and the guitarist plays like an angel. He is so talented I can’t believe he plays for just a few quid. In this bar they also serve mugeritas which is a margarita in a mug, another attraction for a good night out. Rock on. We are now on speaking terms with the band, their English groupies.

Just out of the old city is Doi Suthep, a very famous temple greatly revered by Buddhists. It is on top of a hill overlooking the city up a very windy road. We actually prefer the small temple halfway up in the forest. It is the most serene of places. You can walk up to the top. We are going to attempt this 12k walk as a bit of practise for our walk in India. Once a year, at New Year, hundreds of monks walk up on the road like a long orange train to the temple, a wondrous sight.

3 thoughts on “Escape to Chiang Mai

  1. Brill blogg Sigrid – you make it sound very tempting to hibernate in CM.
    CU soon, Have a good time at Christmas. Looks too warm for reindeer in CM, so don’t expect any presents.


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