The First Chapter of Chiang Mai
Our train trip left us exhausted, and we arrived earlier than expected. We had booked our accommodation in a Hostel called Potae’s House. It had amazing reviews and a review score higher than any others in the city.
The information page for the hostel said they opened at 7am but check-in was around 2pm so we thought we would take a chance and at the very least we could unburden ourselves of our heavy backpacks and just go sit in a restaurant or Café and waste time before checking in.
We arrived at the door and managed to catch the attention of a Lady who was dressed in her pyjamas. She opened the glass door looking VERY confused, but was very polite. We apologised and explained that we had a booking for 3 nights and we knew that we were extremely early, but asked if we could leave our bags and wait for our room to be ready. She was more than happy for us to leave our bags and explained that the room was still occupied but she would get it ready as soon as possible. We came to realise that this was Potae herself and this was her “House”.
She told us of a few places we could go to eat and pass some time before checking in. Just from walking around for a few hours we both realised that Chiang Mai was a pretty place and it was going to be an amazing part of our trip. The Old City is laid out in a Square, surrounded by a Mote. The roads in the old city were small and some could only be navigated by scooter or on foot. There are Cafe’s, Massage spas, Hostels, restaurants and Temples EVERYWHERE. The buildings have been restricted to 3 stories, this allowed the whole square of the old city to feel quaint and not over urbanised. The temple gardens had the most amazing, old Maple trees that towered over most of the buildings, it almost made the entire Square feel like it was just one big Botanical garden. It is a very Charming place.
We Checked in at around 12. The place was extremely clean and we immediately fell in love with Potae. She was the most resourceful, helpful and No-Bullshit kind of person. If you connected with her you came to realise that she also had the biggest heart, and her kindness was like that of a close sibling.
The first night Potae told us of a local food stall around the corner that had good food. We had amazing street food from there and walked around by the gate on one side of the Old City Square.
The second day was a Temple and Museum day. We walked the entire square and visited most of the Buddhist Temples and a Museum. There was something special in each one and some held some fascinating historical artefacts, one being the White Quarts Buddha and an extremely Old Library dating back to the 14th Century. The museum explained and also illustrated a lot of the cultural history of the area.
The entire day was used to visit as many of the temples as we could and it was quite a number of kilometres that we put on our legs, so we were extremely tired at the end of it all, so of course that night was Party Night!!!
The third day was spent with our dear friend Robert, from the train trip. We hired a scooter and Robert took us through all the back roads and showed us a completely different side of Chiang Mai. We went to an amazing Garden Coffee shop that is a hidden gem! We drove around the university and had to take shelter from the afternoon shower. Finally we headed up to the famous Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Theravada Buddhist Temple). The temple holds a replica of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu god – Ganesh. It also has fantastic views of Chiang Mai City.
At this stage we had extended our stay at Potae’s House for a further 2 nights, after-which we planned on doing a 6 day loop of North-West Thailand on a scooter. Another Belgian friend we met, Jeroen, had returned from a similar trip on our second day in Chiang Mai. He recommended the hell out of it and so we made a plan to do it. That 6 day trip will have it’s own post, hopefully coming soon!
The fourth day was a special “Potae’s Crew” outing. She had decided to drive Jeroen and ourselves out to Chiang Rai, another city in the North of Thailand, to visit the White Temple. It was quite a long drive, but a pretty one. The White Temple is something nobody should miss if they are in the area. It is more of an Architectural Marvel than a holy or sacred one. The eccentricity of the place leaves you feeling amazed. The beautiful building in glistening white in front of you, surrounded by a bright green garden, along with the sculls and demon sculptures leaves you feeling quite conflicted. Then to add to that they throw a whole lot of figurines of Marvel & DC and other hero/villain characters into the mix…… Its a strange and beautiful place.
We walked around the tribe of the Karen Long neck people. They were the opium farmers of the past. They have resorted to tourism, selling of trinkets and clothing, as a source of income since the opium trade was strangled.
We also visited the Black House Museum which is located in the back yard of the artists personal home. It is a large place made up of very dark wooden buildings that house numerous animal trophies and animal furniture, mainly made from the horns of Water Buffalo. It has an extremely Viking feel to it.
We finished the day off by visiting the Tea Plantation in the hills and had some awesome Tea and Cake…. Potae then got us lost on the way home and it took us double the time to get back than it should have… To her defense, it was a pretty drive.
The fifth day was another day spent with Robert. He wanted to show us some more hidden gems further out from Chiang Mai. We rented the bigger scooter that we were going to use for the 6 day trip already, and headed out with Robert. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and it was just a soggy experience. We could see the potential in each place we visited and some were still beautiful, however as the day progressed, our moods also started to dampen. Robert was quite persistent in seeing “one more thing” and we had to insist on calling it a day after “one more thing” turned into a few things. We did see a baby elephant though!!! We returned back to Potae’s and had a hot shower before meeting up with Robert again for a decent burger and Nachos just around the corner. We went over the best routes to take for our 6 day trip, as Robert knew this part of the world extremely well.
Then next morning was the start of the 6 Day Loop adventure!