“There’s a smell to Thailand,” my seatmate from Narita to Bangkok had explained to me upon our arrival to the country, and before we walked off of the plane and down the stairs to the tarmac. “I don’t know what it is, but it is distinct. And I love it.”

We walked towards the door and the first thing I was struck with was overwhelming, hair-frizzing, awful humidity.

Being a desert rat makes you forget all about that damp air.

Then, I was struck with the smell.

It wasn’t all pretty and sweet, the way my seatmate had made it out to be. But, it certainly was distinct, and not in bad way.

The air was a mix of spices, diesel and rain. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Oh, and interesting.

After an uncomfortable night at BKK, I was five pegs above excited when we got to board our jet from the capital to Thailand’s second largest (yet, seriously smaller) city, Chiang Mai.

For the duration of the quick flight, my eyes sat glued to the ground below.

This is Thailand. I am in Thailand. There is Bangkok and the skyscrapers. There are gorgeous, lush mountains. There are vast fields of green farmland. There is Chiang Mai.

The view from the mountains of Chiang Mai

All of the aches and lack-of-sleep deliriousness was at bay as we landed at my final destination. After nearly two full days of traveling and four flights.

With a burst of energy, I departed the plane, grabbed my backpack, cleared my declaration (um, nothing in my bag), and bounded to the cab window to get my ride to Little Bird, a suggestion from Katie. It was the place we had decided to meet after my time at the Elephant Nature Park and then my two nights of bliss at the Rachamankha Hotel.

Eyes-wide, I watched as the cab driver navigated the crazy streets of the city, competing with red cabs which are really pick-up trucks with covers over their back and two benches facing each other, tuk tuks, motor bikes and cars.

Along the way, he pointed out, in near perfect English, the major landmarks — the old city and it’s walls, the moat (yes, a real, live moat) and more.

Chiang Mai wasn’t what I had imagined, but with the abundance of tropical flowers and green foliage, I was happy.

A street in Chiang Mai

We pulled up to Little Bird and I got out of the car. Like most places in Chiang Mai, a large portion of the guest house was fairly open, save for a roof.

“Heya,” I said to no one in particular, but everyone under the roof, as I grabbed my belongings and headed to check-in.

I was way too energetic for just getting off of such epic travels with little (and uncomfortable) sleep, especially at 8:30 a.m.

But, I didn’t care.

I was in Chiang Mai!

12 comments

  1. Chiang Mai is one of my favourite cities and there’s so much to see around it too. Doi Suthep, the beautiful Buddhist temple just outside Chiang Mai, is well worth visiting!

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  2. I love that moment when you first step outside in a new place – the air is somehow always different. Tropical places are the best for that though, since I can really feel the change between my home air (California or Chile) and the muggy, heavy feeling of somewhere new.

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