From Mae Chaem and back to Chiang Mai

I didn’t actually take great notes during this period and I’m writing months later, so I’m just going to summarize what I remember about the rest of the trip.

When my back was manageable we left for Mae Chaem on the scooter. I thought this was the best option as while I could have taken a bus, they’re honestly super crammed and not very comfortable. Plus, you are stuck! No stops. With this arrangement I was able to take breaks  when I needed them to stretch or walk around for a bit. I don’t remember much about the journey but I do recall a little about Mae Chaem.

Mae Chaem is small town and unlike most everywhere else in Thailand there wasn’t the plethora of ready restaurants to greet us. We ended up staying at the Mae Chaem Hotel and eating both dinner and breakfast at the restaurant there. The hotel itself was a little bit run down. They have both a main hotel with rooms, and some private cabins in the back. The room they showed us in the hotel was horrible. It was moldy smelling and visibly dirty. We were both horrified and unsure about staying here, but the cabins in the back were much cleaner and nicer looking. Eric decided he’d had enough of looking and just took it.

I remember that I actually ordered something called “fried pork” something or other, only to get a big plate of pork rinds! The server had a good laugh at my expense, lol. Now is probably a good time to mention you should be careful of English translations as they can be pretty fast and loose.

While the cabin was reasonably comfortable it was super cold at night. In addition the pillows were really weird. Twice the size of normal pillows and desperately hard. In the morning I was ready to move on.

I remember looking around on review sights and taking a walk through the downtown, but we just weren’t able to find anything open for breakfast. We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant again to keep things simple.  I was ready to be back in Chiang Mai!

Oh Chiang Mai, how I missed thee. Actually it was pretty stressful getting back. We came back on the exact day that our rented scooters were due and had to pick up some luggage we had left behind at our long term rental place. My back was still hurting a lot too and I couldn’t help out much.

I think we made the rentals by the skin of our teeth and managed to find some Khao Soi Gai. Unfortunately this was probably the worst Khao Soi of the trip! I remember the spices weren’t quite right and they had bits of dry chicken breast instead of the traditional leg. Pretty disappointing for our last time. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant and I don’t feel like it’s really worth looking up.

Next we found an inexpensive hotel called Viraporn’s Place. Why we stayed there is kind of a funny story. Like all of Thailand there was a 1 inch step once you get out of the stairway which I did not see. I totally ate it and busted up my ankle!

The owner was pretty apologetic, but he also made a joke that we had to stay there now, lol! I actually have sort of a dark sense of humor so I thought it was pretty funny. Also true! I didn’t want to walk around looking for another place after that.

Viraporn’s Place was a nice break and I was very comfortable there. Other than that I don’t really remember much about this period. I vaguely recall walking around the downtown backpacker market, and going to eat at this restaurant where I took this picture:

I remember walking down a kind of sketchy alleyway, only to find the restaurant at the end of it.  There was a sign above the door with a weird name. It specialized it a certain type of Thai food but I don’t remember what was special about it (Isaan? Northern Thai?).

After some googling I’m pretty sure that it was at Lert Ros. Even the tabletops look similar to some of the other pictures on tripadvisor. It specializes in Northeastern Thai cuisine and is recommended on the Lonely Planet website.

I remember that we were seated right away and the food was amazing. We ordered the grilled fish, a curry in banana leaf dish, and a clay pot soup. The fish was my favorite and it was especially delicious with the red dipping sauce. Ask for seconds because you will need a lot!

After a few days of relaxation in Chiang Mai we took the sleeper train to Bangkok in order to catch our flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia! On to our next adventure!

Lunch at Huen Muan Jai

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After a long week and graduating our 15 day Thai class I was just exhausted. All we did on Friday was relax and check out a new northern Thai restaurant called Huen Muan Jai. The restaurant is mostly outdoors on a wooden deck. Mosquito spray is provided for free although I don’t think we needed it. It was lovely to sit out on the shaded deck and to feel the breeze.

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We got all northern dishes, nam prick ong, gueng hang lay, and kao soi. All were pretty good but the Kao soi really stood out. It’s a pretty cheap and delicious lunch, I think that we will definitely have to get it again.

Galae and the Chiang Mai zoo

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On Wednesday we went out to lunch with our Thai class at the beautiful Galae restaurant. The location is right by the river amongst a lovely garden. After a delightful lunch filled with a variety of Northern favorites including Nam Prik Ong, Gueng Hang lay, and deep fried seabass with crispy galangal we went for a short walk along the grounds.

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While driving the scooters around we noticed that we were quite near the Chiang Mai zoo. The entrance was very odd, it almost looked like a private compound and there were no buses or other people besides the two in a small kiosk. We were able to buy tickets there and started walking towards the closest attraction. As it turned out we actually had entered at a small side entrance! We spent ages walking the steep road towards the actual zoo and past some very unusual signs, for example one read “Hormone extraction office” or something along those lines. I wonder if that is a mistranslation or they really extract hormones there?

Next time I would definitely take the time to find the real entrance. We had to walk over a very steep road for a long time and we then had to walk even further to find a place that sold tickets for the bus. In fact we almost had to buy two tickets for the bus around the park because they end at the entrance. Very annoying! I wish those guards had advised us to drive to the actual entrance.

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Once we got over our disappointment with the entrance situation we had a lot of fun. A highlight for me was seeing the pandas! There are only two but as they only cost 100 baht extra for the ticket we thought it was worth it. We got lucky in that the zoo keepers had put out some fresh bamboo just before we got there and one of the pandas we just hanging out eating bamboo really close to the edge of the enclosure. We were maybe 6-8 feet away here. Crazy!

Another cool thing that I almost forgot to mention is that you can feed nearly any animal at the zoo. That’s right, even the carnivores! My SO was brave and decided to feed one of the jaguars. So weird! We also feed a giraffe, an elephant, and some deer.

We did skip the super expensive aquarium but I think with the pandas and various opportunities to feed the animals the zoo is so much fun. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Definitely a different experience than going back home. Just make sure that you go in the main entrance, it will save you a lot of hassle.

Le Grand Lanna Traditional Thai Dinner with Dance Show

Last Sunday night my boyfriend and I decided to eat at Le Grand Lanna restaurant, a traditional Thai restaurant with a dance show. The restaurant itself is located at the Dharva Dhevi which is a very nice hotel resort complex.

Unfortunately my iPhone is not great in low light conditions and my videos are frankly blurry, too dark, and have the family seated in front of us in them. However the hotel grounds have a great atmosphere and the restaurant is done up in an impressive imitation of the traditional Lanna teak architecture. We sat outside on the porch overlooking a garden below and underneath a large tree with lanterns glowing in the upper branches. Very romantic!

It really is amazing how they almost seem to tell stories with their hands. I’m not sure that you can see it in this video but they move their fingers in these intricate poses. Beautiful.

The only thing that I would change about the evening is that my poor SO’s chicken curry was undercooked. He didn’t tell me until we were headed home but I wish that he had. He still enjoyed the show but said that the curry left him feeling ill. Because of that while I did enjoy the night I don’t think that we would come again.

The Golden Mount and Central World

The Golden Mount is a monument that we seem to have missed due to it’s close proximity. Even though it’s only a five minute walk we just haven’t thought to check it out.

Well today is our last day in Bangkok so we decided it was time. After some breakfast of course.

This is our first Saturday in Bangkok and we were surprised to see that two of our favorite breakfast places seemed to be closed. It was quite a bit later than we’ve had breakfast for the past few days so we weren’t sure what was going on. I think that they must only be open during the week.

Instead we went to a little outdoor market that’s on the way to the breakfast soup place. The guys got some spicy soup for breakfast while I got fried rice with a fried egg on top. It was really good! I really should have taken a picture of it but it was down the hatch before I had the thought. It actually was about three times bigger than anything else I’ve ordered in Thailand so far and I had trouble finishing it.

With renewed energy we were off to the Golden Mount. It was really only about a five, maybe ten at the most minute walk. It’s actually at the top of a tower with steps that wind their way around the exterior.

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The steps themselves are very low and are really uncomfortable. It’s actually the same feeling that I had when I was walking around the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Thankfully there were several landing between us and the top so our legs didn’t get too sore from the awkward climb.

These bells were actually on our way  down, but they look almost identical to  the ones on the way up.
These bells were actually on our way down, but they look almost identical to the ones on the way up.

On a few of the landing there were several bells all in succession. I think the purpose is to ring each bell in order as you walk up the mount. There was also a big gong on the way up, that my boyfriend rang. The sound was so deep the microphone on my phone couldn’t even pick it up! Oh well, I tried.

Finally we got to the top! With all the wind ringing the chimes and the flapping of the flags it really is mesmerizing. I didn’t notice this but the boyfriend’s brother said that people were walking around the top in a clockwise path. I just so happened to walk in the right direction while taking a video, please make sure that your speakers are turned on and take a moment to watch. I think that you will enjoy it.

The walk down was similar to the walk up, with several bells in long lines on the landings.

Next we took a water taxi to downtown and walked to Central World, a big mall in the center of Bangkok.

We found out that there is more security to get into a mall than back home. For example there was one guard to look through your bags, while a guard at another check point scans your person and takes a second look at your belongings.

Once inside you would think that you were transported into huge mall somewhere in the United States. Most of the signs are in English and there are even many of the familiar stores that we see back home. There was a North Face, H&M, Auntie Ann’s, and even a Starbucks!

The reason that we decided to go to the mall today was to see The Martian. There is a big theater on the seventh floor of the mall that just so happened to be showing it that day, so we headed there first to get our tickets.

Along the way we made a short pitstop in order to try some sugary drinks. The guys got some Hokkaido Choco drinks while I was still too stuffed to get anything. They were very expensive for Thailand but comparable to something you’d find back home.

The next showing of the Martian was at 1:10 PM, but we wanted to make sure that we could find the theater so we headed over there a bit early.  The movie was about a matinee price back home, which is pretty expensive for Thailand but we decided to go for it. We had no trouble ordering a ticket, the sales person spoke fluent English and even showed us a map with a seating chart. We realized then that in Thailand when you buy a ticket to a movie you get an assigned seat! We decided to get one of the seats in the back. They were slightly cheaper and I thought it would be fun to do some people watching.

We still had a lot of time until the movie so we went back out looking for a good place to eat lunch afterward. There was a pizza place that looked interesting, along with a Indian restaurant. The boyfriend and I split a Japanese style strawberry cake that was both cute and delicious! After that we went back to the theater.

Movie theater seats in Thailand are awesome! They have excellent lumbar support and recline to the perfect viewing angle. The theater is also air conditioned which was a little too cold for me but if you’ve been walking around all day in the heat is probably heavenly.

The Martian was awesome, I recommend seeing it if you get the chance! Finally a science movie that doesn’t have any weird mystical elements like 5th dimensional super being or psychic stuff. Just man and whatever he can come up with in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

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We were starving after the movies and stumbled on the most amazing Shabu-Shi. Imagine a hotpot place had a secret love child with a sushi boat restaurant. I snapped this pic about halfway through our meal, I was too distracted in the beginning of it. Not actually the best hot pot that I’ve ever had, but it was probably the most entertaining!

Next we did some shopping at H&M. It’s crazy how you can go shopping at an H&M in Thailand and get the exact same experience as shopping at one in any country.

After that we went back to the hostel. Originally we planned to go out again and check out the Halloween festivities on Khao San Road, however it started raining really hard right before we planned to go. Because Khao San Road is mostly an outdoor scene we decided to skip it this year. It was disappointing, but probably for the best. The next morning we had an early morning flight to Chiang Mai.

Next time, Chiang Mai!