Our trip to Chiang Mai was probably the most activity-filled stop we had in Southeast Asia. Because it’s so well-known to tourists and ex-pats, it was pretty easy on us foreigners. Lots of English, lots of chances to connect with people, and even a few folks we already knew hanging around the area.
Besides the lantern festival and meeting the elephants, we spent time visiting with my cousin and some friends, went to a big Buddhist temple to chat with a monk, took a Thai a cooking class, stumbled upon a weekly ex-pat board game meet-up, and hung around an art show.
Annabelle even had her first Halloween there!
We had heard from other visitors that if we wanted to do a cooking class, Da’s was the way to go. And heck yes I wanted to take a cooking class in Thailand; I LOVE Thai food and was practically giddy about the chance to make some myself.
Meghan, Ali’s cousin who happened to be living in Chiang Mai at the time, came with us, and the three of us created a multi-course meal of delicious soups, curries, and desserts. First, Da took us to a local market and showed us how to pick out various ingredients, then we went back to his organic farm, where he showed us around and we chose some fresh ingredients he had grown, and then the class started!
Cooking in an outdoor hut situated on a pond with a curious baby was a little stressful at times, but she never fell in the water and no food burned, so we count it a total success, even if Joe had to man Ali’s station sometimes while she kept Annabelle from becoming fish food. (Seriously, if you’re in Chiang Mai, check it out–here’s their TripAdvisor rating, and believe us, it is well deserved!)
Just up the mountain from the city of Chiang Mai sits a big Buddhist temple, complete with statues, worshippers, monks, and a large golden spire.
Joe and I aren’t religious, but hey, temples are cool. Some of Joe’s friends were in the area, so we met up with them and enjoyed the chance to wander around, see the art, and take way too long to figure out where the bell sounds came from (tiny bells all along the eaves, meant to do something besides sound pretty, though I don’t remember exactly what).
There was also a pretty great view of Chiang Mai from up there.
And all the rest!
Besides the big experiences of Chiang Mai, we were able to have lots of great little moments we’d never expected. Visiting my cousin’s art show was interesting, and it was wonderful to have time to visit with her.
Getting a chance to sit down and speak with a monk gave us the chance to better understand an important piece of another culture and way of life.
Meeting up with friends and going to ask ex-pat board game meetups several times let us spend a little time feeling that comfort you get when you’re with people from home. If you’ve traveled a lot, you probably understand that feeling.
Overall, Chiang Mai was an opportunity to do touristy things without feeling too much like tourists, while also giving us a little slice of home. It was crazy and beautiful and busy and full of tourists. And very, very fun.