Chiang Mai, Thailand

After 2 months in Vietnam and Laos, our next stop was Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the first place on this SE Asia trip that I had been to before (in 1987), so I was looking forward to seeing how it had changed. And wow has it changed.

After 2 months in Vietnam/Laos, it was a bit of a shock to be back on the world of Starbucks, 7-11, Macdonalds, Burger King, H&M, etc. The Maya Shopping Mall next to our AirBNB could have been anywhere in the world. But once I got over the initial shock of being back in the first world, I found Chiang Mai really nice! Great temples, food (the Panang Curry and Khao Soi is amazing), art, music clubs (including a really fantastic jazz club), and a cool ex-pat scene,

We learned a ton about local food on a morning market / street food tour, and Christine took a cooking class. She then made an incredible meal with the recipes from her class. I love being able to rent condo’s with a full kitchen on AirBNB!

I got quite scratched up riding through the jungle on a mountain bike tour.

I got to play a couple songs on drums at jam night at the North Gate Jazz Co-op. The level of musicians was every bit as good as you’d find at the open jams in San Francisco, and included Thai’s, expats, and travelers. I met a couple retired expat musicians that live here and do gigs 3-4 times/week. I may need to come back for a while….

Christine did a day trip to Chiang Rai to see the incredible ‘White Temple‘ and the crazy ‘Black House‘ while I recovered from a bout of food poisoning. She also visited a “long neck Karen’ village.

I was surprised to see that trekking trips are no longer a thing here. Trekking was the main reason people came to Chiang Mai in the 80’s, and trekking is currently huge in Sapa Vietnam, so I expected it to still be a thing in Chiang Mai, but no. All the treks in 1987 included a day of elephant riding (now politically incorrect) and optional opium smoking (now very illegal), so without those options I guess trekking is dying out.

It is also interesting to see the influence of Chinese tourism on the area, especially in the newer ‘Nimman Hill’ part of town. All the restaurants and hotels have signs and menus in Chinese, as well as English.

A selection of our photos from the week can be found here.

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