Chiang Mai - Round One
Chiang Mai Travel Blog› entry 9 of 13 › view all entries
Getting out of Bangkok is always good news no matter where you're heading but Chiang Mai was a welcome relief for us veggies. There are so many excellent food options here and arriving at the station off the overnight sleeper we decided to abuse the generosity of one of the many touts and took a free ride to a guesthouse near several others we were interested in. We had a cursory look around the tout's place before excusing ourselves and going in search of a decent place. For once our Lonely Planet let us down with the map's positioning of our number one choice, which turned out to be for the best as a very friendly English girl named Claire got chatting to us and recommended the place she was staying called 'Grace Guesthouse'; which also operates a vegetarian restaurant downstairs and had been marked down as one of our must do eateries.
The room was basic to say the least but for 250 baht you have no right to complain and the restaurant is awesome. The most amazing selection of veggie and vegan delicacies to choose from. Better still there is another place associated with them just down the road called Blue Diamond which has an even more extensive menu. This was just the begining of a relative veggie paradise in Chiang Mai. We also found a great place called Aum which doubles up as a second hand bookstore so it's good for the body and mind, you could add soul too as we often saw buddhist monks wolfing down their hearty plates of veggie excellence. Not only that, there is a branch of a Bangkok veggie institution called May Kaidees' here too. We can almost feel our bodies making preparations for the extra pounds.
Our original intention for Chiang Mai was to stay about six days as we need to obtain a visa from the Indian consulate, so our first full day we moved to a bit nicer room at a place called 'Awana House' which has really lovely rooms, balconies (small) and a very chilly pool; we then hired a moped and set off to find the consulate. Not as easy as it sounds as they have moved several times in recent years and every map has them located in a different place. Strangely we decided to trust the guidebook and headed for the location that it pinpointed and wasted our petrol and time driving by the address which has now been turned into a nursery school, luckily one of our drive bys alerted us to the presence of the tourist police station and figuring they would have to know the correct location we stopped in.
Our plans in disarray we decided to head back to the hotel and change tack by splitting our time here in two with a visit to Pai.
While we still had the bike we decided to stock up the fridge in our room and headed off to the Thai "Tesco Lotus" for the novelty factor. All through our travels we have loved visiting local supermarkets as they give a real insight into the way people live in any given country. Seeing aisle after aisle of strange and wonderous items always involves at least a couple of hours worth of a visit in the larger stores. We might be a little jaded with our religious temples but we never tire of these modern temples to food, globalisation and consumerism. The emphasis on fresh produce is obviously much greater than back in the UK but we were surprised by the three huge aisles devoted to snacks and chocolate.
Another attraction of Chiang Mai is the night bazaar. A mass of stalls around an area of streets near the river selling pretty much anything and everything but with a special emphasis on the usual touristy rubbish that involves haggling over prices half the night.
We got one other chore out the way, posting home. We've posted parcels from Hong Kong, China, three from Vietnam and one from Malaysia and Thailand is by far the most expensive. A 3.5kg parcel cost us 1000 baht which comes out at about GBP17.