Brian and I had a few more days to kill and a lot of our budget to make up before our flight to Chiang Mai. We decided to head back to Krabi for some low key work days. We really wanted to stay in Railay Beach, but we couldn’t find anything for less than $80 a night. So, we figured Krabi would be a good home base for exploring other beaches if the weather held up.
We stayed at the cutest guest house. It had this summer cottage in Maine type of feel (I’ve never actually been to a summer cottage in Maine but I imagine this is what it would look like). And bonus points, it had great Wi-Fi! Every morning we would go for our 711 run and a waterside walk, hit up a market for some fresh fruit, set up shop at Chanchalay (our guesthouse), and work until we were hungry again… which was often. Shocking, I know. It should also be known that Krabi has the BEST coconut milkshake in all of Thailand. Every night we would go to one of the night markets, eat delicious food (sometimes questionable, but always tasty) for less than $4, and I would have a coconut milkshake. One day, I even had two.
Alas, the evening came when I had to say goodbye to my coconut milkshakes (which somehow I didn't get a single picture of). With tons of excitement for Northern Thailand (and a little sadness to leave my delicious treat), we boarded our Air Asia flight for Chiang Mai.
It wasn’t even twenty-four hours before my beloved milkshake was replaced by another delectable delight. Ladies and gentlemen…may I introduce…Khao Soi, also known as the noodles that will change your life. We were warned by many friends that these flat wheat and crispy noodles (yes! A two noodle variety only adding best texture to the already long list of why this is the best dish in Chiang Mai) swimming in rich savory coconut curry would send our taste buds into a frenzy. But, we completely underestimated our affinity for this heavenly dish. We ate it at least once a day. There was even one day that Brian ate it for lunch, second lunch, and dinner. Our favorite place for Khao Soi was Khao Soi Khun Yai (translation: Grandmother’s Khao Soi). This roadside noodle shop is no hidden gem by any means, but a little tricky to get to if you don’t know what you are looking for, so we are here to help!
You can find Khao Soi Khun Yai between the Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama Temples. Walk through the open area in the white fence and you'll see the delicious little shop on your left hand side. You can't see it from the street! At 30 – 35 Baht / bowl (less than $1.50), you won't feel guilty going back for seconds. OMG YUM MY MOUTH IS WATERING JUST TYPING THIS OUT.
Chiang Mai was a city of many first: the first time we had Khao Soi, the first mango shake in Thailand, our first international dental appointment (check out Dental World, it was a great experience and cost $20 for Brian's whole check up!), and the first time we actually tried Durian (what we thought was Durian in Bangkok was actually Jackfruit, which we loved). It was also a city of some unfortunate repeats, one of which was being pulled over on a scooter.
Not even five minutes after jumping on the back of our scooter, the cool breeze in our hair, did we find ourselves face to face with a rather intimidating Thai police officer. He directed us over to the side of the road along with all the other unfortunate tourists. DEJA VU. We did what we do best in these situations: play dumb. It didn’t work this time. Our crime? Not being Thai. That and not having an international driver’s license (however, if we did, it would have been one of the many other useless infractions they could have come up with I’m sure). Seriously, you could have replaced these cops with your average neighborhood kids selling lemonade at a lemonade stand. They took 400 baht from us (around $15 USD), shook our hands, and wished us a good day (all the while laughing at us). It wasn’t nearly as scary as our first run in with international police, but it still was no fun.
From then on out, we avoided the main Chiang Mai loop that bordered the city walls/city center, and I became a wiz at navigating us through the labyrinth of side streets in old town Chiang Mai. We even felt confident enough to ride almost two hours out of the city to the Bua Thong Waterfalls, also known as the Sticky Waterfalls. While Chiang Mai is hardly short on waterfalls, this one was by far one of the most unique ones we have seen.
Bua Thong is a series of waterfalls continuously flowing over porous rocks covered in a limestone deposit creating a "sticky" surface. There are no big drop-offs or what you would typically think of when you imagine a waterfall. The sticky factor (okay, it’s not so much sticky as it is rough) allows you to feel traction on the rocks and walk up them like stairs, as if there were no water rushing down at all.
I was pretty skeptical at first, but within my first few steps (while carefully avoiding the green algae which is, in fact, very slippery) I was climbing Bua Thong like it was a Stairmaster. I know it doesn’t sound that interesting, but trust us, it was really fun and unique.
While we had the scooter, we also visited Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (another thing Chiang Mai isn’t short of? Temples!) which sits high in the hills with a beautiful view of the city. The only problem was we went smack dab in the middle of the afternoon and it was packed! A word to the wise, go early!
We stumbled into Ploen Ruedee, one of many night markets in Chiang Mai, that seriously gave Off The Grid in SF a run for it's money. We found our go-to bar, Gecko Garden, which turned out to be the local watering hole for Expats. We watched with teary eyes and heavy hearts as Trump was inaugurated (and proceeded to drink the bar dry of large Changs) with some new friends Emma and Mike from the UK (Hi guys!).
One of the (many) highlights of Chiang Mai was when we went to the Cabaret Show at the Anusarn Night Market. I knew Ladyboys were part of the entertainment but I had no idea that they made up the entire cast. I literally had to pick my jaw up from the floor at times. They were beautiful! To my delight, Brian was handpicked (okay, I may have thrown him on stage) by the “funny” Ladyboy to join him but sadly, and much to my disappointment, he decided not to participate. Boo Brian!
We even splurged on an all day cooking class with The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School. If you are interested in a cooking class during your time in Chiang Mai, we can't recommend Thai Farm enough. It's a little pricier than the others but you won't be disappointed. After getting picked up at our guesthouse, our small group of 12 went to a local market where our guide pointed out specific Thai delicacies. Afterwards, we headed out of Chiang Mai and to the farm (around 17kms away). We toured the farm and then started our multi course cooking class. One thing I can promise you, you will not leave hungry!
We loved Chiang Mai, and as it goes with most cities we visit, I could see us living there one day. And as if it were a sign, my best friend from SF set us up on a friend date with a girl she met while traveling in Chiang Mai eight years ago who decided to make Chiang Mai a more permanent home. We had dinner with Charlie and her husband Michi one night really making Chiang Mai feel even more special than it already did. Hope to see you guys in Laos!
After a week or so of exploring, we had our last delicious helping of Khao Soi and hopped on the Green Bus to Chiang Rai.
PS. Here are some more food pictures from Chiang Mai because we spent 90% of our time eating.