English, French, German, Swiss, Australian, Thai, American, Mountains, Waterfalls, Hostels, Shopping, Partying, Trains, Ostriches, etc. This trip had it all. This was the trip of all trips. This was the trip that will lead to major future life decisions. This was the trip that will ultimately transform my life in ways I never thought possible. In other words, this was the trip of a lifetime.
|View from my train window|
Things really all started to come together when I was quietly sitting at the train station in Chachoengsoa. Suddenly a man about the age of 60 and his friend start “pssst”ing at me. This begins a usual Farang-Thai conversation of why I’m here, where I’m living, and where I’m going. The best part? These men bring Beer Chang along with them for the ride and are more than willing to share. Leg one of trip was already going my way.
Next was the long ride up to Chiang Mai. In the lovely Lonely Planet Books, it is stated that when traveling in Thailand, one must experience the overnight sleeper train at least once. They were correct. From 10:00PM Tuesday night to 1:00PM Wednesday afternoon, I slept and occasionally looked out my window to admire the countryside. The next thing I knew (15 hours later), I was in Chiang Mai – where I immediately boarded a bus to Chiang Rai.
In Chiang Rai we stayed at the City Home Guesthouse. It was a pleasant hostel type room and they had a bunny as a pet – you can’t go wrong with that. Next door was Tom’s Tours. It was there that we booked the following tour: Wake up at 3am to see Puh Chi Fa, visit a hot springs waterfall, and ride an OSTRICH! I was excited, to say the least. Puh Chi Fa was incredible. I went to freezing my ears off to being in awe of the sun coming up over the clouds and falling over the mountains. It was truly a beautiful sight that everyone should experience at least once. The ostrich ride – that was a little more intimidating and horrifying than magical. I didn’t exactly do well, but I’m proud of myself for at least getting on the giant pre-historic birds back.
|Large Buddah inside Chiang Rai Temple|
|Wat Roon Khun|
|Puh Chi Fa Sunrise|
|I'm on an Ostrich!|
Now for my favorite part – Chiang Mai.
Upon arrival, Chiang Mai was much like other cities in Thailand. It’s full of culture – but not just Thai culture. It has food from every nation, dozens of different languages can be heard walking down the street, and the architecture is a mix of Thai-European style. As we struggled to find ourselves to the Lita Guesthouse, I had no idea that life was about to change. I entered the gate to the hostel and saw a gathering of folks around a large table enjoying some dinner and whiskey. I said “Excuse me, I booked a room for tonight, my name is –“ and that’s when Thom stopped me. She said “You drink whiskey? Drink shot first, then talk business”. So I took the shot, and then we took a look around.
|Mama Thom! She's Amazing!|
During our stay at the Lita Guesthouse, Mama Thom never left things boring. She’d talk about her boyfriend, she’d talk about some unmentionable things, and she’d talk about her incredibly hard life – all with a smile.
I’ll be honest; I didn’t do much in Chiang Mai. I rented a motorbike and drove up Doi Suthep, went shopping at multiple markets filled with clothes, food, and tourist gifts, got a pedicure and massage, and celebrated New Years. But what I really took away from my three days in paradise was how at home and comfortable I felt doing absolutely nothing but walk around, meet new people, and relax at the crazy Lita Guesthouse with Thom and backpackers passing through. I felt like I was where I needed to be and didn’t need to look much further. I even spoke to some who had come to Lita Guesthouse for only a night or two…and had stayed a week or two or three.
|View of Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep|
|New Years in Chiang Mai|
I can’t summarize in words exactly how I felt about Chiang Mai. All I know is that when I got to the train station to leave back to Wang Chan, I cried a little (on the inside of course). I had found where I wanted to be, and I had to leave. But if things go my way – I’ll be there many more times in the near future. Cheers!