Day 6 Off to Chiang Mai
The airport wasnít that far away, but I had to allow an hour to get there due to the crazy Bangkok rush hour traffic. I was flying AirAsia, and even in light of their recent tragedy I wasnít any more concerned than usual. The one hour flight was only $51 with tax and a surcharge for one checked bag.
Iím staying at the Baan Hanibah, a small boutique style hotel in the old city; it gets good reviews on both hotels.com and TA. The room is only $26 a night; luckily I booked early because they were sold out a month and a half in advance. Upon arrival I could see why, it is a short walk (less than 5 minutes) from the main road and has a very tranquil feel to it. The room is small, but has a comfortable queen sized bed, desk, wardrobe, TV and an updated bathroom; breakfast is also included and is served in the lobby or the garden as you choose. There is an upper balcony, with chairs where you can read and the small staff is helpful and cheerful. Shoes are in the lobby before entering you room or going up the stairs to the second floor in true Thai fashion.
Once settled in I took a walk to check out the nearby area, Chiang Mai has a completely different feel than Bangkok; it has all the bars and restaurants you would expect in a popular tourist destination, but doesnít have the touristy feel. It is popular with backpackers with many hostels; the cheapest I saw had a sign offering dormitory style accommodations for $1.30 a night or private double room with private bath for $12.
The hotel entrance and courtyard
As I walked around I checked out the brochures at the many tour offices, having an idea of the type of tour I wanted. I settled on a two day package the included all the things I wanted to do and included an overnight stay in an elephant camp with mahout (elephant handler) training and a chance to ride them bareback rather than in the large steel boxes some of the camps use. Iím also taking a full day Thai cooking course, but those who follow my travels probably could have guessed that.
Not far from the hotel there was a small market set up in the median that divides the main road, in addition to some craft and souvenir stands there were loads of food stands selling freshly cooked Thai dishes for less than $2 each, I immediately fell in love with the place. I noshed my way through, sampling some different dishes, all were fantastic. After a little more exploring to get my bearings, I settled in at a little pub for some Khao Soi, a spicy chicken soup in coconut milk with soft and crispy noodles and a few local beers before calling it a night in advance of my tour into the jungle tomorrow.
Some of the food stands at the market