Bangkok is a city that unfortunately loses its magic after a few days. It takes a day to see all of the temples and then all that’s left is the nightlife, which is a ton of fun but there’s only so much drinking you want to do before leaving to another part of the world. My original plan was to head south towards the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. I would arrive at Koh Tao and hop along to the different islands while diving in the ocean and relaxing on the beaches along the way, eventually making it to the Full Moon Party on October 6th. This party takes place on the beaches of Koh Phangan. It falls on the full moon of every month, however it won’t be happening in November because the nation will be celebrating the new King’s reign for a full month, following the past year that they’ve mourned the loss of the previous King, Bhumibol Adulyadej. What I’ve learned is that your plans will drastically change the moment you get here.
I’m currently in Chiang Mai, a mountainous area much further north in Thailand than both Bangkok and the Islands. I had heard about Chiang Mai from the many people I met during my stay in Bangkok. They relayed that it may be their favorite part of Thailand for multiple reasons. One of them being a trip an hour and a half outside of the city towards an elephant sanctuary in which you get to spend a full day with the elephants in a humane and massive area. Another reason being that the landscapes are jungly and beautiful. You can even take a multiple day trek throughout the jungles as you explore areas most people never get to see.
I hopped on the night train which left from the central station in Bangkok in the evening and ran for 13 long hours of wobbly, in and out sleep. A bed is provided and so it’s an easier travel than a plane, but waking up in a bed with dozens of random people sitting around, since I prefer to sleep the whole way through, is a very awkward experience. Imagine the feeling of a walk of shame but immediately after you wake up. After arriving and heading out towards the front of the train station I experienced something similar to the pelicans in Finding Nemo that belt out, “mine!” A defensive wall of taxi drivers all shouting out, “taxi, taxi! Where you going?” It was almost perfectly in harmony and I couldn’t help but break out into laughter. I got into one of the taxis and for 40 baht headed to my hostel to check in.
The first thing I did after checking in was go to a place called Tiger Kingdom, where you could literally pet tigers and lions. I spent a good amount of time looking at reviews of the place to make sure that it was at least a humane place for the tigers and that they weren’t drugged. I was convinced it was and decided to go, but after I left I seriously regretted giving them my money. The enclosures are not nearly large enough for wild animals like tigers to live in and they were so sleepy that I was fairly certain they were drugged. It was upsetting to see but at least I experienced laying my head down on the back of a lion.
That night I decided to go to a Muy Thai fight in the city. The ring was set up in a seedy back alley market. The first fight was between a couple of twelve year olds. It ended in a TKO when the fighter in the red trunks landed a brutal knee to the kidney of the other fighter. As the second fighters were gearing up an abbrasive woman started asking us to place bets on the next fight. When one of my friends tried to place a bet on the blue corner the lady denied the bet and told him he had to bet on the red corner so we figured the fights were rigged. However, the next fight ended with a blue corner victory so who knows? The fights were enjoyable to watch and I don’t bet so I was having a great time, especially since I was pounding back some big Chang beers with the occasional SangSom and Coke.
The following afternoon I took a cooking class which was fucking phenomenal. I learned how to cook Pad Thai, spring rolls, Tom Yum Goong, and red curry. The only problem was that it was absolutely way too much food to eat. It tasted amazing though and I left the place with a cookbook if I ever decide to cook those meals in the future, which I most definitely will. The group I was with for the cooking class all decided to go out for drinks afterwards. The nightlife in Chiang Mai is top notch and unique. Legally the bars have to close at midnight, but there are a few that stay open afterwards. The first bar is more like a small strip in between two streets named Zoe’s In Yellow. Everybody is out dancing on the streets and the energy is very high. I actually ran into a backpacker I met back in Bangkok in the middle of all of the craze and we both shared an exceptional scream of excitement. After Zoe’s closes everyone takes a five minute walk to a club named Spicy’s which literally has a separate entrance for tourists. It’s a club setting and at that point in the night everybody is just dancing like crazy, it’s nonstop fun.
Chiang Mai has a much different vibe than Bangkok and I definitely like it more. The nightlife has a lot more variety and there is a plethora of things to do during the days. If this keeps up I’m going to run out of money much sooner than I anticipated.
Sunset in Chiang Mai