The boys (my HS friends from back home; Cale & Hideki) are flying back to Aus and its time for me to start my solo adventure! Again there is that feeling of great excitement but also slight anxiety and fear of being a little lonely, but again I am reminded travelling solo does not mean being alone – the people at our hostel (SpicyThai backpackers) in Chiang Mai became great friends and my little ‘spicy family’!
Firstly regarding Chiang Mai (before I talk a little about SpicyThai) I can definitely see the appeal for many expats who live here, it is an absolutely great city with the perfect combination of attractions/things to do as well as enough places to find tranquility and escape from all the chaos. The place I stayed is close to the old city or ‘the square’ (it is literally a 2km x 2km square with a moat, there are still remnants of the old city walls around the perimeter).
The old city is dotted around with lots of temples which I spent most of my first day visiting and unwinding from all the bustle in Bangkok, just reflecting on some of the great experiences I have had so far and how lucky I feel to have had this opportunity to travel. I also had a chat to a few of the monks who started speaking to me in Thai as if I was a local (I think I have become quite tanned over the last few months to pass it off) to which when I responded that I am in fact from Australia he was very surprised! I would have that experience many times over the next 2 weeks: ‘you speak velly good engrish!’ I would hear on an almost daily basis. Ah the perks of being Asian-Australian…
There are also plenty of coffee shops to check out as well as those ‘cat cafes’ (look up ‘catmosphere’) where you get to play with kittys while sipping on a ‘catpuccino’. There is also a nearby mall; ‘kad suan kaew’ with a hotel that has a rooftop pool where me and the spicys spent a considerable amount of time to cool off from the heat.
There are activities organised at SpicyThai Backpackers everyday and the first night I arrived it was bowling and karaoke night, everyone got to know each other and have a great night out. It’s little things like that which just make for a great friendly and social atmosphere.
SpicyThai is a family-run place and small enough you can get to know everyone; Chris at the front desk is a great guy who does all the activities and took us up on the hike to Doi Suthep (the Golden Temple at the top of the mountain) as well as karaoke and family dinners. Noom, the owner also works at the desk and also at the cafe where he can cook up a storm and a killer Full English Breakfast.
The hike was one of my favourite things as we got to swim in the waterfalls as we made our way up and the view over Chiang Mai is pretty decent too. Goldie, the golden retriever or the house dog back at the hostel also made the hike!
We also had trivia at the hostel where the prize was a bottle of Sangsom (Thai Rum – quite nice, a little like Captain Morgans) for the winning team. Being the fucking huge nerd I am and winner of several trivia nights back at home at UTS I was able to answer questions like ‘What is the name of the King of Thailand?’ (Bhumibol Adulayej, King Rama IX) and carried the “Spicy Bitches and Bad Boys” to victory!
After polishing off the bottle with the team the whole hostel headed out for a night on the town starting with karaoke and then to party at Reggae Bar and Zoe’s in Yellow (all the bars/nightclubs are pretty much all on the same street). I don’t quite remember this but at the end of the night I apparently ran pretty fast to jump into a speeding taxi/jeep thing (Songthaew) heading back with everyone with a Pad Thai in hand – I was pretty fucking hungry.
Other things worth a mention that I did was go for a morning run around the square which I regret, all the fumes from the vehicles make it super hard to breathe. We also hit the night market to do a little shopping as well as the food markets to pick out dishes for the family dinner for the whole hostel, and I think we saw a few Muay Thai fights at the local boxing stadium. Time in between that was spent playing with Goldie or watching movies on the big flat screen and knocking back a few Chang beers.
I had a really great time in Chiang Mai and I think the things that made it for me the most was the people. Vilma, Zilla, Patricia, Seb, Sue, Haydar, Sabsi, Joly, Jesse and anyone I met at SpicyThai and Spicy Pai; if you are reading this thanks for helping to create some great memories!