Chiang Mai was my first experience in Southeast Asia, and one I will always remember for countless reasons.
It’s the city where Katie surprised me with an early visit, forcing me to power through my jet lag.
The city which was my home base after a week with the elephants at Elephant Nature Park.
And, the city I tried to fall in love with.
Somewhere, deep down, I knew Chiang Mai very well could end up being my home.
So, I did what anyone would do who is scouting their potential future city. I took photos. Lots and lots of them.
I loved wandering around and just taking in the beauty of life on the side streets.
For me, even with the mountains in the distance, with the humid weather and the tropical flowers, it was hard not to think I was living in a beach town.
New to me were the little “restaurants” on the side of the road, in places you wouldn’t imagine. Throw out some plastic chairs, a little table and assemble a mini-kitchen on the sidewalk, and you’ve got a bonafide place to enjoy some seriously good homemade Thai food.
And then, there’s life around the old city walls and moat. There were plenty of times I’d be walking near Thapae Gate and see random trucks decked out with colorful decorations.
I loved the way the city looks entirely different at night. Even the side streets seem to have a different atmosphere, with paper lanterns lit.
And, of course, no visit to Chiang Mai (or Thailand) is complete without visiting the numerous wats. Within the old city walls, there are plenty of them.
Tip: When visiting Chiang Mai, be sure to head to the Mae Ping River for some riverside exploration and dining.
Where to stay: While I was there, I stayed in a dorm room at A Little Bird Guesthouse (four-room, mixed dorm, around $2.50 a night), and later, at Chiang Mai Thai House. Little Bird is in the old city; the guest house is just outside of ThaePae Gate. Bonus? It’s got a pool!
The good news? By the time I was ready to leave and put aside my excuses, I was smitten with this tropical mountain town.