After a week of hanging out on the beach it was time to start my real journey. I wanted to be in Chiang Mai for the Lantern Festival so it was time to head up there. At 9:30pm I was picked up by a pick-up truck and taken to the sleeper ferry. The ferry looked like a massive car cargo boat. I was directed into a massive room that had hundreds of bunk-beds and taken to my bed. At 11pm we departed and got to mainland at 5am. A cargo van picked me up and took me to a restaurant where I met more backpackers. We waited here for an hour and were then taken to our bus. The journey was almost 12 hours back to Bangkok. I split a cab from the bus terminal to the train terminal with a girl from Amsterdam and a guy from London. At arrival we found out that every sleeper bed seat was sold out due to the holiday. The only way to get north was to take another bus so we booked tickets for a VIP sleeper bus that night. It was another neon LED light bus. The seats almost completely reclined and it was set-up like an airplane. Blankets over the seats and a hostess wearing a baby blue flight attendant outfit tended to us. We arrived in Chiang Mai at 5am and took a van into the Old City. I then split from the group and wandered towards my guesthouse. I still had 2 hours before it opened but I found an amazing breakfast spot to chill at- eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, potatoes with mushrooms, toast, coffee, OJ and a plate of fresh fruits. 120 baht, approx. $4. Expensive for breakfast but completely worth it.
I wasn’t sure how long I was planning to stay in Chiang Mai for but I ended up staying 5 nights. The first day I wandered around the city checking out random temples and going to the US Consulate for more passport pages. The city was already being decorated with lanterns. People on the street were selling the traditional white lanterns and flower candle boats, but the city was decorated with colorful animal lanterns and lights. Early evening I went to Zoe in Yellow to meet people and ended up meeting an American girl at the VW Bus bar next door. A friend from Koh Tao met us there and we all went to the Cabaret show later on. The show was amazing. The ladyboys were beautiful and they somehow magically managed to hide everything. They did traditional cabaret and non-traditional, like Lady Gaga and Brittany Spears. For the final act the main ladyboy stripped down everything- clothing, hair, make-up.
We then walked through the night bazaar. Thousands of stands selling all types of souvenirs, but it’s too early for me to buy anything other than cheap clothes to wear.
The Lantern Festival began the next night. For 3 nights in row there were Beauty Contests, a massive parade through downtown and flower candle boats being released in the river. The lanterns being released were the second and third night. I did one each night. The first night we released them in a park and the second night we went to the big river, the main area for releasing them. Both nights I released them with a huge crowd of Americans, we all randomly found each other. Another girl from the East Village, DC, Miami, San Diego, Colorado, and one Canadian. There were thousands of lanterns in the sky from 7pm-12am. People were constantly releasing them. The final night there was a huge carnival and the streets were packed with people. We walked through the crowds constantly stopped to eat more street food. We all split a bag of bugs and they surprisingly just tasted like sunflower seeds.
Both nights we ended up at the square where Zoe in Yellow is. It’s a square lined with bars and take-out food. Full of backpackers.
One day during the day I did a cooking class. We went to a local market then farm just outside the city and learned to cook 6 dishes. I chose papaya salad, Tom Yum soup, spring rolls, basil chicken, red curry tofu and mango sticky rice. The class was touristy but the food came out delicious. I like Thai Spicy so I was finally able to make all my food exactly how I like it. However, now I know exactly how much oil, sugar and fish sauce the Thai’s cook with which I sort of wish I didn’t know. I tried to make the papaya salad and curry without fish sauce (I used salt instead) and it doesn’t taste nearly as good.
My second to last day a few of us decided to go to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the tallest temple in Chiang Mai. We took a red van up there then walked up to the temple. The stairs were lined with dragons. The temple is plated in gold and sits on top of the peak. Besides the mass crowds the temple is beautiful, plus is felt fantastic to be in nature and out of the city. There was also a great view of the city. The Old City, which is square shaped and surrounded by a moat, is visible from the peak. After walking around we stopped and pick-up street food. I had quail eggs that were delicious and my usual grilled corn. I should have had the corn in a cup though- grilled corn with salt and condensed milk. Delicious.
Lunch spots: Dada Kafe (healthy), Juicy4u (amazing make your own veggie sandwiches)
Dinner: always street food
Bars: Zoe in Yellow, THC (rooftop bar decorated for stoners- Persian rugs, pillows, coffee tables, neon glow-in-the-dark painted walls)
Finally found non-fried veggies at Juicy4u. Miss my healthy eating