My mom and I were holed up in her little apartment, cracking open brittle, plastic takeaway containers from a Thai restaurant down the street. She was getting over jet lag from the New York flight to Melbourne, and I was just starting to feel like myself again after an ungodly bout of Bali Belly that sent me fleeing to Australia–a souvenir from months in Southeast Asia. ‘Try it–it’s not spicy at all’. I passed her my green curry. A few seconds later she had a coughing fit and I realized I’d nearly poisoned my poor mom with what probably tasted like lava. A month in Thailand will have you eating fire.
Thai food wasn’t at the top of my eats bucket list when I left for Southeast Asia. I dreamed of crouching on a tiny plastic stool again on Nowhere Street, Vietnam, over steaming bowls of salty-sour Pho and vinegary, crunchy salads with exotic herbs and mountains of cilantro. But my second trip to Thailand converted me to a fanatic, in no small part thanks to a woman I met, named Yui.
Like a lot of people, I chose to make a long stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s cheap, easy to get around, and the food is amazing. I spent a month there in two different neighborhoods–first on Loi Kroh Road, and then in an area called Nimman.
During the first week in Chiang Mai, I had a place on Loi Kroh road, on the Southeastern corner of the city square. I chose it because it’s a busy area within walking distance of the night market, where you can gorge on street food and all the coconuts you could ever want, and there are lots of street food vendors, little shops, and restaurants.
I’ve been in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the last two+ weeks before I head to Indonesia. It’s my second time in Thailand and my first in Chiang Mai, which is in the North of Thailand just over an hour away from Bangkok by air. Chiang Mai is pretty isolated and feels secluded within the surrounding forest. It’s perfect if you’re looking for nature-related activities and a break from big cities. Save for some traffic jams, it’s very peaceful and the slower pace is growing on me (New Yorker, here!). The vibe keeps me wondering when I’m going to run into a beach. Maybe it’s all the flip flops.
I’m here for a month, and like many others, I chose it for a long-term stay due to its developed tourism infrastructure (easy transportation ftw!), consistently warm weather, and budget-friendliness; You can eat and sleep well and still include activities on a budget of $50/day here, and in Thailand in general (though it’s a bit harder–but still doable–in the capital city of Bangkok).
I’m sharing my tips from my time here to help you prepare for your own trip to Thailand. Note that most costs I’ve cited are based on Chiang Mai prices — expect to pay more in a larger city, like Bangkok.
Fortunately, a 30-day tourist visa (for the US and citizens of many other countries) is free and easy to get upon arrival at the airport. Compared to experiences in some other countries, clearing immigration was a breeze for me. Depending on the immigration agent and your country of origin, you may need to show proof of onward travel (a ticket out of Thailand). This time, I was not asked–the agent and I spent our quick exchange talking about his favorite local food (thanks, dude!). Continue reading “Tips for Traveling to Thailand: What to Know Before You Go”
Some of the Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai have a monk chat program where you can talk with the monks and learn about their lifestyle. Today at Wat Chedi Luang I asked these three–what makes a person decide to become a monk?
The city of Chiang Mai was built in the year 1296 after King Mengrai and his advisors identified it as the ideal location for the stronghold of the Lanna Kingdom in Northern Thailand. The center was built in the shape of a square that was protected by a moat and tall stone walls. You can still see some of the ruins today as your travel around the city. Taking a Songthaew–the red truck rideshares–is one of the most budget-friendly ways to get around Chiang Mai.