There’s a cacophony of crickets, frogs and dogs barking that wake me before my friend, Jodi, does.
Laying on the bamboo floor in her hut constructed of the same at Elephant Nature Park, I am still. Present in the total darkness as the world softly whispers outside the slats in her walls.
Her soft footfalls come from the bedroom and into the main room where I am splayed out, tucked under some thick blanket a top a Thai mat typical of what people sleep on.
She approaches me, and in a hushed voice so as not to wake her son in the other room, or the two dogs and cat somewhere nearby, she asks if I’m awake.
“Yeah,” I whisper back, slowly peeling back the blanket from my body and standing up. The floor creaks softly the way woven bamboo does when walked upon. It’s a sound I haven’t heard for months. Since I left the park in December 2014 to start one of many new chapters in my life.
“Follow me,” she instructs, opening her front door.
Compared to the thumping and thriving nightlife in Bangkok, Chiang Mai at night is sleepy and reserved. But, sleepy and reserved in a way that isn’t really sleepy or reserved at all.
From backpacker enclaves to seedier lady bars, to local dives and the places where the hip and fabulous hang out, there’s something for everyone.
Before we get into where to go, depending on what you’re look for, let’s talk about the booze and prices.
The cheapest bottle to be had that guarantees a buzz, if not more (as well as a hangover the next day) is the popular Sangsom. A dark rum, but referred to by locals as Thai whisky, is one of way to kick off an evening. Often combined with soda or soda water, you can also order it by the bucket. Yes. Bucket. There are some other liquors out there that are cheaper than Sangsom, but I don’t recommend them. Yes, I’m looking at you Hong Tong and Lao Kao.
Rainy season is my favorite time of year in Thailand. Without a doubt. I love the fresh air that washes the smell of diesel away. The sound of the droplets hitting the metal roofs. The downpours that come charging out of nowhere, and then disappear as quickly as they came.
During the months of July through October, mainland Thailand is privy to rainy season, also known as monsoon season.
Considered to be low season – although this is when the bulk of Americans travel thanks to our antiquated leave system and schools being out of session — prices tend to dip a little, making it the perfect time to head to this gorgeous part of the world.
Yes, it’s hot. Yes, it’s humid. No, it doesn’t get chilly at night. Unless you are wearing soaking wet clothes. And, even then, it is more of sticky wet than chilly wet.
Expect the days to be mostly overcast, although the sun does show its bright little face every now and then. And, expect bursts of rain showers that don’t last long enough to ruin your plans … just make them damp.
Editor’s Note: I was a guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand during my time in Krabi.
My paddle dips into the glassy green water of Bor Thor, and the shrimp start dancing.
Hundreds of tiny creatures pop out of the water, hop across it like rocks skipping, and then dive back down into its depths.
“We’re almost there,” our guide, Man, who also graciously volunteered to steer my kayak, informs us.
Our three fire-engine-red kayaks skirt around a small turn and into a mangrove forest and then we see it: a half-moon emerging from the water and moving upward into a towering karst shrouded in palm trees and other jungle foliage.
The sun has already begun its descent behind the rugged, snow-covered peak of Mt. Charleston to the west of the city. The mountains on the east, the ones covered in trees, are a deep purple. Sunrise Mountain, the naked, red, jagged mound to the northeast of The Stratosphere, glows a dusky pink.
It’s a serene setting, despite the fact I am sitting in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. A beautiful life outside my windows.
I stand over my sheet cake from the grocery store. Clad in an oversized sweatshirt with puffy paint splattered on it in pastel colors, I move my gel-soaked (à la 80s one-hit-wonder Samantha Fox), crunchy spiral-permed hair out of my face and readjust my roller skate clad feet to maintain my balance.
Next year, I will be in the double digits, I think to myself.
At nine-years-old, I was already ready to become a grown-up. To own those double-digit numbers like the champ I knew I was.
But, at that young age, at Wheel-A-While with my elementary school friends, that grown-up life seemed a lifetime away.
I’d look at my parents, in their 30s, and think to myself: I’ll never get to that age. It’s SO. FAR. AWAY.