Posted by: Alicia Phillips | August 13, 2013

Chiang Mai and Pai! Oh My!

After the craziness that is Bangkok I needed to go somewhere a little bit more chill. Enter Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city, it’s much smaller than Bangkok and the difference between the two is huge. In Chiang Mai I felt like I could just sit back and relax, it wasn’t too busy, traffic wasn’t so bad, there were GREAT super cheap restaurants and coffee shops on every corner. Temples were scattered all over the city. It was easily walkable and the people seemed friendlier.

Temple in Chiang Mai

Temple in Chiang Mai

Ringing the Bells

Ringing the Bells

There is a 2 km by 2 km square right in the middle of Chaing Mai called Old City and it is surrounded by a moat! Built hundreds of years ago to keep invading armies out.

There are so many fun things to do in Chaing Mai!

#1- Go shopping! The night bazaar is AMAZING! Selling you all the Thai handicrafts and clothes and food you could ever want!

The market!

The market!

#2- Get a traditional Thai massage! Also known as the lazy man’s yoga. Because little Thai ladies will poke and prod and push and pull you into all sorts of awkward positions but you’ll like it. And feel so good afterwards! A 1 hour massage will cost you a whooping $5. I’m not going to lie….I got one everyday.

#3- Rent a scooter and explore! At first I was a little apprehensive about renting a scooter, I had seen SO many wrecks in Malaysia! But, I overcame my fear and rented a scooter for 24 hours! The guy just handed me a helmet and the keys and walked off! So I thought “How hard can it be to drive a scooter?”  Well…..after not driving for over two years I was a little bit rusty to say the least. But, after hours practicing on back roads I ventured out into the street and weaved my way in and out of traffic. Eventually making my way up the mountain to see some temples! However, in true Alicia fashion I did manage to have a little wreck at the end of the day. I was parking outside of a little used book store and instead of hitting the break- I ran full speed ahead into the book store; knocking over a big case of books in the process. Of course. So, to make amends I bought about 700 bhat worth of books.

My scooter, RIGHT before I ran it into a book store....

My scooter, RIGHT before I ran it into a book store….

#4 Go volunteer with the Elephants! I already wrote about this (see: Elephant Nature Park). Amazing experience.


#5 Eat. The food here in unbelievable. Street vendors selling Thai food are where it’s at. But if you’re tired of eating noodles and all you want is a big burger or some pasta then you have that choice too! There are western restaurants and fast food available here.

Sunset and street food

Sunset and street food

#6 Go zip lining!! Flying through the jungle like a flying squirrel was a definite highlight of my trip! So much fun!


My Zip Lining group

After about a week in Chiang Mai I decided to do a little side trip to celebrate my birthday. Earlier in my travels another backpacker I sat beside on the train told me when I’m in Thailand I MUST go to Pai. So, I thought “Why not?” and booked a ride in a mini van there. The ride took 4 hours from Chiang Mai and was, without a doubt, the hilliest curviest scariest road I have EVER been on. There were 762 curves on the road there. 762!!! All mini-vans came equipped with vomit bags. And they were definitely put to good use. Gross.

What Chiang Mai was to Bangkok, Pai is to Chiang Mai. Even more laid back and chill. There are no taxis here and very few cars. Everyone drives scooters! I got a sweet little bungalow on the river with my own private balcony and huge bathroom. Once again, all I did for 3 days was drink coffee, eat, sleep, and read.

Coffee in Pai

Coffee in Pai

I turned 27 while I was here and on my birthday I treated myself to a Thai cooking class and learned how to make all kinds of yummy Thai dishes.


Pad Thai!

Pad Thai!

Green Curry with Tofu

Green Curry with Tofu

And yes, I learned how to make Mango sticky rice!!

And yes, I learned how to make Mango sticky rice!!

Then I faced off with the scooter again. But this time I owned it! I drove all up and down the countryside looking at rice paddies, temples, waterfalls and jungles. The freedom of being in charge of my own transportation was amazing. I actually caught myself breaking out into song while I was driving through the countryside, true story. Pure Joy. But then, of course, I got hopelessly lost, and then it started raining and it was starting to get dark and it took me hours to find my way back to Pai! Once I did I retired my bike and stuck to my own two feet.

Beautiful countryside in Pai

Beautiful countryside in Pai

Villager with her huge cock

Villager with her huge cock

Northern Thailand is awesome and Pai was the highlight of my trip. It also brings my time as a tourist in Thailand to a close. From here I am going back down south to do a Vipassana for 11 days in the Kanchanaburi district, then I am flying into Cambodia. (A Vipassna is a silence meditation course- More on this in my next post.)

So, here are some thoughts on Thailand

1- They really love their royal family. Portraits and banners of them are plastered all over the country. The queens birthday is a national holiday. All the shops have calendars with the kings face on it. He has done a lot for the country and they show their appreciation.

2- Thai people are gorgeous. Especially the women. Even the lady boys are gorgeous!

3- The Thai alphabet is completely different from our alphabet. So even if you show where you want to go on a map to a Thai taxi driver, he still probably won’t know, because even though it’s a Thai word, it’s written in English. Get’s very confusing….

4- A massage a day will keep the doctor (and stress) away!

5- Mango sticky rice is the dessert of the gods.

6- Chiang Mai is cooler than Bangkok.

7- Next time I’ll fly in and get the 30 day tourist visa. And yes, there will be a next time.

8- Once you get used to them, squat toilets really aren’t all that bad. Really.

Not my photo, but pretty accurate depiction of the toilets here.

9- If you’re a tourist in Thailand, especially a female tourist, you must wear harem pants everyday.A Thai woman wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them, but they are sold on every street corner as traditional wear. Whatever, I jumped on that band wagon- they are so comfy.


  1. So glad you enjoyed your time in Thailand lewa! It’s such an amazing country, I loved this post!

  2. Bookmarked! I love this post! Hoping I could go there next year!

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