Thailand: Chiang … Mai Heart Is Full of Pai

Let me tell you about northern Thailand.

When I first arrived in Bangkok, I was a little taken aback by the tourist-Mecca overload that greets you the moment you leave the airport. To be honest I had been a bit disappointed, since I love cultural-adventurous travel more than anything. However, I was very pleased to find a change of pace in the northwestern Thai towns of Chiang Mai and Pai.    

CHIANG MAI 

Chiang Mai is a relatively large city with tons of flavour and activities for anyone. It was here that I did the Thai cooking class and the elephant jungle sanctuary (no riding), as well as enjoyed delicous dishes and drinks with cool travelers from around the world. I stayed at Stamps Backpackers, a Canadian-Thai owned hostel that has a chill and welcoming vibe and is always down for a fun night out at Zoe in Yellow or Spicy. I made myself at home here, and at Lantern House hostel, for the greater part of a week (forever on the backpacker time continuum). 

   
 
   
 After a few days of activities I decided to check out the Chiang Mai Sunday night market, and wow, I’ve never seen a market like it (and South America had some good ones!). There were streets upon streets of vendors and food stalls, all selling unique wares and treats. I didn’t get to them all and I was there for hours. I bought way more than I should have because I really enjoyed the one-of-a-kind (cheap!) nature of what was for sale. My poor 45L bag is now brimming with purchases (cat purse not included) that I’m excited to use when I get home.    

   

I. Love. Pai. 

After filling my bag with things I don’t need, I said goodbye to Chiang Mai and took a van 3 hours northwest on a windy road to Pai.

Cute shops. Cute restaurants. Hikes. Waterfalls. Elephants. Farms. Hippies. Views. Fresh avocado-topped bruscetta on the street. 

Is Pai heaven? Maybe.

The traveler vibe here was way more chill, and I met a cool crew of people who helped make my June birthday one of the most memorable yet.  I had been waiting to meet a group of like-minded people for a while now and the timing was perfect. We cuddled puppies, soaked in sunshine, rode around the area on our 200B/day ($8) scooters, and  took in a sunset at a local sunset bar where we stayed until the wee morning  hours. My friend M. (who I had traveled with from Koh Tao to Chiang Mai) even bought me a celebratory mango sticky rice as a surprise gift. Best day ever! 

Puppies at Purple Monkey hostel

  

HOT TIP: fresh mouth-watering food at Om Garden Cafe will make sure you stay in Pai for days. Try the breakfast potatoes!

     

   
Nights out until 4am were not uncommon in Pai, though they were never spent in clubs or getting wasted. My kind of place! They were usually pleasantly passed chilling in a hammock after a few drinks at a reggae bar, chatting, laughing, and sharing amazing travel stories until the wee hours over social lubricants. 

Active in the day, connecting with people at night. That’s the Pai way. The days here reminded me how much I love the bonds you make when you travel because they are instantly strong, curiously welcoming and they feel like you’ve had them for a lifetime.

  
Chiang Mai and Pai – don’t miss these places, if you’re coming; it’s been a highlight of my world travels (and I’ve been a few places, I guess!)

Thailand: an birthday party with elephants.

My birthday present to myself was a day with elephants. 

No. Big. Deal.

  

WHAT WASN’T INCLUDED

On this tour, we did not ride elephants. Elephants aren’t made for riding, and the ones that are doing it aren’t trained ethically or treated well, so I specifically sought out a company that did not do this.  As much as it would be cool to ride them or see them paint a picture, it just isn’t what elephants are meant to be doing. I didn’t need the riding to have an amazing experience; some awe-inspiring quality time getting acquainted still happened, and it happened so hard.


WHAT WAS INCLUDED 

We bathed with them. We mud-spa’d with them.  We fed and cuddled with them. We got really, really close to them!

  

    We met a pregnant one (two-year gestations, yikes!). We met a baby one. We met a 65 year old one. We met a male with a huge penis that was a little disconcerting…

  

The locals fed us the best meal I’ve had in Thailand thus far, let me nap in a jungle hammock for 20 minutes after lunch, and taught us just how gentle and loving these animals can be. I may have shed a tear when I really took a moment to absorb it all.  
    
  

Making some medicine balls for the elephants as a treat!

  

Here comes the baby!!

    
 

My heart is so full of happy and that’s exactly how I hope the elephants are feeling too. How did you bring happiness in to your day today?

Thailand: The Best Thai Cooking Class

The cooking class was one of the best activities I did in northern Thailand and I recommend it to anyone visiting Chiang Mai. We went to market to learn about the ingredients and then to the farm to learn all the cooking skills. Luckily (or not) I am bad at cooking, so it proved entertaining for all, and I even almost burned my face off!

Below are some pics of the series of events, culminating in 6 dishes including pad Thai, mango sticky rice, coconut soup, curry, cashew chicken, and papaya salad (not pictured because it was way too fucking spicy and I was busy trying to save my mouth from burning in spice hell). Be sure to try this if you visit, or come over to my house someday this year and force me to recreate my new favourite dishes!

All sorts of tofu

  
           

  

Pad Thai

  

Hardly the type of farm I am used to.

    
    

My perpetual state of confusion left me at least 3 steps behind everyone else.

  

mango sticky rice is so good!