Chang Mai the capital of the North

Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Finlay I decided that it was time to move. Unfortunately many others took the same decision at the same time and all of a sudden the local bus from Pai to Chang Mai was too small, way to small. But the Romanian experience kicked in and to some of my fellow travelers surprise not that I got on bus I got a seat on the bus! Sour elbows and few bruises but all worth it. 4 hours later I got in Chang Mai a bit stiff (the local bus is made for the local people and I do not fit the specifications) but happy to be there.
Getting to the Old City wasn't very hard I did it on the back of a motorcycle, a ride for which I bargained like a ruthless bastard, I had the filling that all the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers were out there to rip me off, feeling that stayed with me all the time I spent in Chang Mai.
First guest house on the list didn't have any rooms available and so I landed at "Same Same" GH where I got a room on the roof with no bathroom and three beds, just for me. Same Same but quite different :) (An inside joke for those of you who traveled in SE Asia). So different that the next day I was running around to find other accommodations. And I found the perfect one. Smile House fantastic place, I think they call it boutique hotel, where I got an awesome room with balcony over the pool for the same same price. Finally happy.

Chang Mai used to be part of an ancient independent state Lanna Thai (Million Thai Rice Fields). Nowadays is the 2nd biggest city in Thailand and a proud capital of the North. Many of the 300 plus temples of CM (all in a very distinct Lanna style of 13th and 14th centuries - intricate wood carvings, colorful murals, Singha lions guarding the entrances) dot the Old City which is surrounded by an 700 years old wall (partially visible still and renovated in few places) and moats. A perfect square crissed crossed inside by countless narrow streets called Sois full of guesthouses, restaurants of all kinds and specifics some for Farangs some for locals and some for the many expats that live in the city these days. No.1 business though remains the Thai Massage. For every restaurant and guesthouse there are 3 Massage joints, it is inescapable.
The same day I started with the Wats (temples) by the end of the day I was completely watted out and still haven't seen more then 5 or 6... but I regained my energy thanks to the cook at Aum restaurant. A super simple and friendly vegetarian place (with a fantastic book selection) where I sipped on my papaya shake sitting on the mats on the floor watching the busy street outside from the 2nd level of the house.

I've heard some stories of fantastic Rock climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress from my friends in Canada so when I figured out that the place is only 20 km outside of CM and the guesthouse van arrange for me a full day with an adventure company it was a no brainer. Although I did only 6 or 7 climbs, top rope single pitches, I was happy as a clam that I was climbing again (and that in Thailand) and my knee did quite well. My fingers though weren't so happy. By noon I lost my finger prints and a couple of patches of the skin (my mistake) but the sticky white tape came to the rescue and I went on without any problems after lunch. The highlight of the day was when I realized I was competing for a hand hold with a massive geko that was basking in the afternoon sun on the rock. The geko won this one! :)
Next day I started feeling all the muscles in my body some that I didn't know I have but still happy I decided to rest and maybe indulge in a little bit of massage...
Thai Massage is something of a combination between relaxation, pain, much pain and wrestling not necessarily in this order. You will definitely find how amazingly flexible you suddenly are when a tiny little Thai woman wraps her leg around yours and pulls it up as hard as she can, and she can!! There are no rules on what parts of her body she can use on what parts of your body but I can tell you that much that they are strong and thorough. Elbows, knees, fists, fingers, very strong fingers can and will be used on all your big and small an previously unknown muscles of yours to produce a one hour full body kind of extreme pain relaxation. 8) I don't really know if I was suppose to feel like that or not but I know I will not go for another Thai massage when I'm all sour from climbing, a couple of Advil seem like a better alternative. I did like it though, I don't know what this says about me but I'll do it again when in better shape.:)

More Wats and more chilling in CM, it was quite all right after all. CM was not exactly what I expected though, a bit too touristy, as a good friend put it: "Farang Central" but it was the place where I was reacquainted to an old friend. Hot and smelling fantastic ... I surrendered. I fell in love again... I know what you're thinking but you're wrong. It's not a woman! It's the noodle soup specific to this northern area, mixed with curry and served with or without meat, fresh green onion and crispy noodles on top... Kao Soi die for!! Enough to say that I had it every day, multiple times... :)

One night I was sitting on a patio by this busy street in a nice french restaurant working slowly through my second Singha and writing on my blog when I don't know why I raised my head and watched the cars and the Tuk-Tuks, the motorcycles, the Elephant walking by... Did I mentioned it was already night and a big busy street? The pachyderm just strolled like that was nothing wrong with this picture, slowly walking in the curb side lane... And that's not all! He had a red light strapped to his tail, one of these red flushing lights that bicycles have! :) Everything happened so fast, surreal really. I didn't see if he was also wearing car plates or not :) Crazy stuff, Thailand all right.

Time to move on towards Laos, my Thai visa expires in few days... Next destination: Chang Rai.
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tomoczko on

Tony! Great to hear your new updates! Oh your writings are so witty, as usual! I really enjoy reading them. :)
Thai massage...tell me about it... I still remember 3 years ago when my mom and I went to this nice spa in Bangkok... next to my mom who is almost falling asleep with nice and graceful aroma massage, I was screaming with pain taking Thai massage! Whether I'm in good shape or not, I will NEVER take this again! Yes, NEVER! :)

Peter on

Again a nice story Tony, very interesting the Thai culture. But what I do not understand: when I was working in the red light district in Amsterdam the people came relaxed and with a big smiles on their face out of the Thai massage saloons: They did not look as to be tortured..... Is the Thaimassage in Thailand different then in Amsterdam...... burning questions here in wintering Quebec.....

Diana on

Did I just miss a call from you? Hmmm...

Great to read your stories, Tony! The climbing looks awesome. And the afterward soreness sounds milder than the post-Thai massage pain. So next time go climbing rather than for another Thai massage :-)

Liz Doster on

Truly, I don't even want to look @ your blog or photos, I'm so jealous. you're killing me. and I never made it climbing @ Crazy Horse, how is that?! I need some more of that amazing food, though, and could you please photograph my vacations for me? gorgeous pics.

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