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Published: February 7th 2012
Meet our new home, Chiang Mai, Thailand
We’ve already been here one month. We arrived on 11 January from India and it was a little case of love at first sight.
FYI we decided go to Chiang Mai based on feedback from one of Dave’s yoga teachers in Sydney, Tim, who mentioned how wonderful this place was. We've been to Phuket 3 times so it was time to see the north.
After some quick reading it was evident that this spot is home to many a global nomad and expat. We’ve met some nice people who spend a good chunk of their time here for work or just hanging from Germany, London, New York, Holland, California, etc.
After a 1.5 hr flight north of Bangkok, we arrived in the middle of their winter season, so picture 30 degree+ sunny clear days and slightly cooler evenings with no humidity. It is just gorgeous weather.
The city is full of vibrancy and joy and the local Thai’s beautiful smiles. The town is home to approx. 200,000 people but it has none of the crazy chaos of our recent
Drink coffee - to help me function
Dave without his 3 cups of coffee in the morning = no CPU capacity
home in India. Even in busy traffic, not a single horn is sounded
. Everyone in their cars or their motorbikes is accommodating and considerate of each other. The city is made up of many university campuses, hospitals, shopping malls, high end dental clinics and plastic surgery options for the fly in medical tourist, Thai massage, day spas, yoga studios, amazing decadent guest houses and hotels (aka The Four Seasons), fresh food markets, flowers everywhere, beautiful Buddhist temples and much more. The locals seem to be happy to have tourists and expats in their midst vs. merely tolerating like you feel in many other cities.
Here is snapshot for you of our life in Chiang Mai so far.
We started with 9 nights at a boutique guesthouse, The Twenty Lodge that was nestled in the old city, which is surrounded by a moat, and now we are in a serviced apartment, The Grand Napat. This has been so nice to have a change from living in a hotel room. We have a little kitchenette, spacious suite, balcony and great facilities including sparkling saltwater swimming pool and gym.
Some of the activities and observations of
Thai people believe that when you go to the temple for your happiness and to celebrate, you should make merit by donating money, doing walking meditation by walking around the pagoda or the temple grounds and by chanting with the monks. While at the temple, Thai people also hit the bells to make merit. They this will give them a long life and good luck.
our stay thus far are listed below:
1. Yoga – lots of world-class teachers base themselves here or fly in to conduct workshops or teacher training. Dave is enrolled in an intensive workshop called ‘Unbutton your spine’ for two weeks with teachers, William Hotby and Paddy McGarth. We’ve also enrolled in a ‘Open up your hips’ six-week course with Gernot Huber, ouch!!! but all good to work those tight hips and related muscles like your quads and hamstrings. Brilliant to learn about how to stretch not only your muscles, but the ligaments and tendons for all various movements to help all your yoga asanas and potentially move you towards Lotus sitting pose. We have had some beautiful Yin Yoga and Vinyasa flow classes with Joseph Lee and I have taken some Roll-Asana classes with Helen Ruth Saya. This class using soft padded roller to deeply massage all your muscles not just the infamous ITB band that you often people using the roller to use.
2. Eating – the choice of foods is fantastic and good healthy choices. The Thai’s have wonderful snacks you can buy on the side of the road, at tourist spots, night time
Doi Suthep - stairway to enlightenment
Doi Suthep is one of the most beautiful buddhist temples. It is located high in the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai.
markets etc like beautifully sliced fresh fruit, fruit smoothies and juices and many tasty savoury treats, both for meat lovers and vegetarians. Then there are fantastic restaurants and cafes with food from around the world including sushi that we grab at the Sunday walking markets. We have loved all the variety. Some of our favourites have been Cafe Compassion, Juicy 4 You, the Free Bird Cafe, Prego Italian and Thai. There are more to explore.
3. Thai Cooking classes – there are more than 25 various cooking schools to choose from. I went to Basil Cooking School taught by the lovely chef, Boom. Boom runs a very small class, only 6 students so you receive wonderful teaching from her.
4. Temples – we have visited some of the many ‘Wats’ or Buddhist temples that dot the city and in the neighbouring villages. They are working temples where monks live and work. You can go to a monk chat on certain times and days to chat about any questions you have of the monks and return it helps them practice their English. The wats are very beautiful both in the physical beauty but also to see local
Thai’s practising their faith with offerings and receipt of blessings from the monks. Everyone is welcome to meditate and pray. Refreshing change from India where many Hindu temples restrict or forbid entry by westerners and/or specifically women.
5. If you like animals you will love Chiang Mai, they have pandas, tigers, elephants etc also extreme sport adventures if you want adrenalin rush like zip lining, ATV (all terrain vehicles), dirt bike riding, bungy jumping, paintball skirmish, hot air ballooning, rock climbing specialist courses. Road cycling is pretty popular here as great hill climbs and good quality roads that many hi-tech cyclist fanatics can enjoy. Also the ‘fixie’ bike scene is pretty big here.
6. Massage – there are massage spas everywhere, some very upmarket spas to a little salon literally set up in someone’s guesthouse lobby or the front room of their home. We visited their blind masseuses clinic and also the women’s prison programme, which gives inmates massage training to help them seek employment when they leave. The treatments are all given in a well-appointed commercial salon space. Also if you want to train as a massage therapist, there are many schools and professional training
7. Movies – we were the most excited little campers, we have seen movies at a super sexy modern cinema. So far we have seen “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Contraband” and ‘Man on a ledge’. Note: you will need to stand up for the national Thai anthem and tribute to the King, which is played before the movie and also at the street markets they will announce and play the anthem and we all stand quietly and respectfully.
8. Really great value to live here, from accommodation to food to transport to activities it is very reasonable. Examples…..we are staying on a monthly rate at a 4 star hotel/apartment complete with an amazing saltwater pool and gym with daily cleaning for approx. $A 40/night, then meals can be very little as well – example Pad Thai noodles with large Singa beer for 100 thai baht (tb) or $A3. Renting a scooter for month is approx. A$3/day; yoga is 250tb per session, fresh fruit smoothies 50tb.
9. Muay Thai boxing – we have been to one fight night to watch various weight divisions incl. girls showcasing their kick boxing skills.
It was fun with the most amazing match we watched fought between two very young dudes, approximately 8 years old.
10. Lots of festivals and celebrations in Chiang Mai, so far we checked out the annual umbrella festival in the village of Bo Sang, they hand paint the silk and paper umbrellas, the flora festival displays and parade held 1st
weekend in February and from our apartment could see some of an international hot air ballooning event. The Flora festival is biggest flower show in Thailand and thus why Chiang Mai is often called the ‘Rose of the North’.
We have loved our time here so much so that we extended our stay an additional month.
To do that, we had to a ‘visa run’ with an overnight stay in KL, Malaysia to receive a refreshed tourist 30-day stay. You can go by bus to Laos but you only receive a 15-day overland visa extension. There are many tourist operators that have a specific visa run trip you can take as so many visitors often extend.
So we will be based in Chiang Mai until early March when our visa expires. We are currently researching
our next stop – preferably where there is sun and warm temperatures. We keep seeing the home forecast with loads of rain and again the devastating floods in Qld and also the freezing winter conditions being experienced across Europe.
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