The Rose of the North

Chiang Mai is everything we were hoped for, and then some. It didn’t take very long for us to become smitten with our new home (for the next couple months). Friendly locals, bustling night markets, delectable eats, cheap massages, and temples galore – what’s not to love?

The Smith Residence

Our apartment is just outside the old city, south of Chiang Mai Gate. We have decent sized room with a microwave, TV, fridge, spacious bed, and a well working air conditioner. Sean has to get on his knees to take a shower (guess it doesn’t always suck to be short) but besides that, we are pleased with our accommodations. The complex also has a rooftop gym and pool that is open from 6am-9pm.

Transportation

Tuk tuks wait on every street corner and while there are a few standard taxis, most people  get around using red trucks with oversized campers (songthaews) that serve as mini busses which can take multiple riders at a time. They are not metered but are a bargain when compared to tuk tuks.

Food, food, and more food

We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to Northern Thai cuisine. Khao soi is my obvious go to (My new love) but there is so much more to be discovered.

Of course we had to hit up the notorious “lady with the cowgirl hat” for her khao kha moo (slow stewed pork leg). It was some of the juiciest, tastiest, most tender pork I’ve ever eaten!

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the woman, the myth, the legend – number 1!!!

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khao kha moo from Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak

Here are some other noteworthy dishes we’ve had so far:

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Chicken Noodle Soup from Buathip

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gai yang from SP Chicken

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Thai rotee with banana and chocolate

Smoothies are a typical refreshment here in Thailand. Our favorite so far has been the mango mania smoothie from Mango Mania in the MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center. It was thick and sweet and could cure any heat stroke in three sips.

Italian, Mexican, Irish, fast food – they have a decent variety to choose from. Aside from the occasional American breakfast, we’ve only eaten Thai. At some point I’m sure we will crave a burrito or some tacos but I predict a disappointing experience. Stay tuned for that…

Getting our footing

Our first full day was spent figuring out how to navigate through the city and visiting our first temple, Wat Pho – the oldest and largest wat in Bangkok.
We started with a less than mediocre breakfast at the hotel restaurant. For 200 Baht a meal, Sean ordered the standard eggs, sausage, toast, and hash browns while I opted for the American club sandwich.
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American Breakfast at our hotel in Bangkok

 Needless to say, we won’t be going back the rest of our time here.
After breakfast we walked to the BTS station and took the SkyTrain to Saphan Taksin for 25 Baht per person. From there, we hopped on the tourist boat (40 Baht per person) up the river to Tha Tien. There is also an express boat that can be taken for less than half the price (14 Baht per person) but we figured we would go the touristy route for our first trip.
We made it to the temple by noon and explored for a couple of hours. Admission was 100 Baht per person and included a small bottle of cold water. There were a considerable amount of people but the temple complex was big enough that we could to get away from the crowd from time to time.

Pictures around the temple grounds.

The most hectic area was, by far, was the temple with the Reclining Buddha. Upon entering any of the temple rooms you must take off your shoes and make sure that your shoulders and knees are covered.
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Reclining Buddha

 The temple was beautiful and did not disappoint.
We then decided to explore more of the city by foot. Attempting to make our way to Wat Saket, we got lost and ended up roaming the streets, heading in almost every direction with no clue of where we were. It took about 2 hours of walking and a stop in a coffee shop before we gave up and hailed a Tuk Tuk to the MBK shopping center.
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Our first tuk tuk ride in Thailand

MBK is more like a flea market than a mall, with tons of vendors filling 8 floors with everything from jewelry, shoes, sunglasses, clothes, and more. We haven’t had a chance to compare the prices to other markets but it seemed pretty reasonable for what you could buy.
We weren’t too impressed with the shopping center until we got to Food Island, a food court on the 6th floor consisting of a multitude of amazing looking and smelling delights. For 80 Baht we devoured a delicious bowl of beef noodle soup. Easily the best thing we’ve eaten since leaving the states.
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MBK Food Island

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MBK Beef Noodle Soup

With happy bellies, we jumped on the SkyTrain to Sala Daeng to hit up the Patpong night market – a small alley with street vendors and night clubs. There you can buy knockoff Berkinstalks, Nikes, watches, sunglasses, and more. Or, if you are feeling extra adventurous, you can head into one of the clubs for a “ping pong show”. I won’t go into detail but I know that it involves female genitalia and ping pong balls. We had heard stories of these shows and were a little too frightened and not drunk enough to check one out.
We capped the night off with much needed Thai foot massages (250 Baht for 1 hour and well worth it). Feeling both refreshed and completely exhausted, we walked back to our hotel and crashed for the night. Learning a new city can take some time but I think our first day was a success.