Farewell, Chiang Mai

We are sitting in the Tokyo International Airport, waiting for our flight to Chicago, and we’re so excited to be on our way home!

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But, we thought we’d take the chance to reminisce about the final week of this incredible journey. For our last eight days in Thailand, our great friend Angelica was able to join us in Chiang Mai. It was so much fun to show her around the city, and to have an excuse to do all of our favorite things in Chiang Mai one last time. We even threw in a few new attractions for good measure.

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We started off the week with some excellent jazz at the North Gate on Saturday night, and the next day wandering around the old city, where Gelli found her favorite food of the trip: glass noodle salad (but not too spicy!). We ate and perused the wares for souvenir bargains at the Sunday Night Market, and on Monday at the overwhelming Wararot Market, both of which were convenient walking distance from our hotel.

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Tuesday we went to the major tourist temple of Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep, which proved to be a little commercial for our taste. That evening however, we returned to the lady boy Cabaret for another amazing show that did not disappoint. We didn’t realize this before, but the dancers perform a different show every night, and this one was just as fantastic as the first. We even went up on stage after the show to join in on the impromptu dance party!

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On Wednesday, we woke up early to catch the local intercity bus to Chiang Dao. We arrived at the cave temple early enough that we were some of the only tourists to be seen, which made it very peaceful. We decided to take the 30-minute guided tour through the caves this time around, which turned out to be very worthwhile. Our guide was patient as we stopped to snap photos, and she was happy to point out rocks in the shapes of three-headed elephants, frogs, lions, and the like. The cave was pretty tight in a few places where we had to squeeze through, but it was mostly large caverns populated by huge numbers of tiny squeaking bats.

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In the afternoon, we went to the mountain temple, where the views were beautiful and serene. As we were crossing the parking lot to head back to the bus stop for our return, a nice couple passed and asked if we’d like a ride back to Chiang Mai. We accepted, and learned that the woman’s son was studying to be a Buddhist monk at that temple. We enjoyed talking with them, sharing our snacks, and listening to the Thai Lanna Folk music they had playing in the car before being dropped off to eat dinner.

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The next day was spent sightseeing in the old city at the Three Kings Monument and museum. We sought refuge from the incredible heat in the air conditioned and beautifully furnished library and enjoyed the few issues of National Geographic that were in English. That evening, we went to a Muay Thai fight at Thapae Boxing Stadium. There were seven fights in all, and although most were fairly one-sided, a couple of the fights went to judge’s decision.

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Friday, our last full day in Chiang Mai, was spent the same way as our first full day: at A Lot of Thai home cooking class. The recipes are original and authentic, and the instructor and owner of the class, Yui, is a fascinating and interesting person. She’s very talkative and her stories about cooking in Thailand and other  countries over the years provide unique insight into Thai culture. She’s also an excellent teacher and an amazingly skillful cook. Since she’s self taught, she prefers the terms food lover or Thai cook to the more pretentious “chef”.

After a long day at the cooking class, all three of us were ready for a calm and relaxing evening. Being the last day of the four month journey, however, we decided to go out and do some karaoke.

The karaoke bar we went to offers rooms for rent by the hour. Each room has an incredibly cheesy theme, a few couches, and a tv with a computer with karaoke software. The English language song selection was fairly small but offered enough fun singalongs from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Highlights included Spice Girls and TLC.

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And now the trip has come to an end. It’s been a great four months. The saying is that time flies when you’re having fun, but in the case of this trip, it seems like the opposite has happened. These four months have felt incredibly long, in a good way. Individual days can go by quickly, but the weeks and months have seemed like years. When your surroundings are constantly changing and you’re constantly surrounded by different kinds of food, language, currency, weather and people, there’s no way to fall into a rut or routine. We’ve perceived these four months as much longer, but in a great way. This taste of travel has made us want to see more of our own country, too, and the sleek little car we just bought should be the perfect tool for that task. And we can’t wait to get back to our family and friends (and cats)!