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Traveling

A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016

A First Timer in Chiang Mai

Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Mountain Town?
I long heard about Chiang Mai as the mountain town of Thailand where the air is cool and crisp. Somehow, images of Sagada came to mind. But with only 14 days given to me for Thailand (over land), it was hardly enough for more than one destination. So I defaulted to Bangkok on my first few visits. Finally, since I just spent time in Bangkok not over a month ago, I could spend my next 14 days in Chiang Mai. Upon arrival though, it was a surprise awakening for me - Chiang Mai is a big city!

Struggle
In my energetic parlance, when there is a struggle, it's a hint that something is not right. I felt that with Chiang Mai even as I started heading for it from Bangkok - fully booked train, fully booked hotel, night border crossing with no bus on the other side, bad hostel on my first night, etc. I was beginning to wonder why I even bothered to continue. But the struggle only lasted the first week. What followed was abundance. I'm glad I decided to stay on.

A First Timer in Chiang Mai

Nawa Sheeva Hotel | Nawa Saraan Hotel | Caffeine Fix | Waya Massage

Nawa Sheeva Hotel Nawa Saraan Hotel Caffeine Fix Cafe Waya Massage
While walking along the street, I happen to pass by an interesting establishment. It didn't even look like a hotel but it was, plus a cafe. It was only 2 months since they opened. Everything was new. I asked to talk to the owner about a barter deal. He liked my plan to put the word out about his business and in return, I got to stay in his 2 hotels, including breakfast, massage and coffee from his Caffeine Fix Cafe. The quality of the service and product from these establishments are first rate and impeccably delivered by a perfectionist. I am glad to be working with such people. That stroke of good fortune seem to turn the tide for me. Everything else after that was characterized by abundance.

Peoplescape

peoplescape

If I were to state the highlight of Chiang Mai, it would be the kaleidoscope of people that went in and out of my orbit like people in a revolving door. Some were passing blurs while others left me inspired. It would range from a fleeting Hi and Hello with a few drinks to one of hanging with for a couple of days with a lingering feeling of connection. As travelers, these friendships had a limited shelf life, usually from a few hours to a few days...and the cycle repeats itself.

Mike ChongMike
One guy that impressed me the most in Chiang Mai is Mike. He's only 40 years old and he already owns a string of businesses - hotels, cafe, massage parlour, travel and tours, and looking to expand even more. No, his being rich is not what impressed me. He has no air about himself. He's like the guy next door you want to have beer with. He knows what he wants and makes quick decisions without being bogged down on trivial details. He's not the kind to nickel-and-dime you. He's a perfectionist and understates what he offers. You just get blown away because you get more than what you expect. With his obsession to have consistency with his coffee, he purchased the top-of-the-line fully programmable Victoria Arduino VA388 Black Eagle espresso coffee maker - the most expensive in all of Chiang Mai (according to him - and he wasn't bragging...it's not like him). I looked it up, it's about $26,000. Who would spend that kind of money just to get a good cup of coffee? He very seldom makes mistakes. In my 4-day stay in his hotel, I was impressed. The only flaw I saw was a slow drain in the shower. He was quick to fix it. In fact, he lavishes you. He kills you with kindness and generosity to a point where the only reciprocity is to go the whole 9 yards with your very best with what you have to deliver. I resonate with such people. Before I left, I told him I don't want his money but I'll give him carpet coverage on all his enterprise...my way of saying 'Thank You' in my own currency.

SamanthaSamantha
Increasingly, I see more and more intrepid lone lady Chinese travelers - beautiful ones at that! I met Samantha in one of the temples, had an extended conversation with her at a cafe and later rode her bike with her in tandem as we searched for the best Khao Soi dish around town in the middle of the night. It was spontaneous adventure. She brought me back to my hotel and I never saw her again. All that happened within a few hours - short but memorable. As travelers, you live in a world of impermanence as detachment is forced upon you.

Eva Popoluska Dora GutaiEva and Dora
2 beautiful Hungarian ladies I met while enjoying a local dish in the market eatery. We spent a few times together having breakfast at my Nawa Sheeva Hotel, taking a dip in its salt-water pool, an exploration of Warorot Market and discovering Thamel Coffee in the area. I'm sure our paths will cross again.

HelenaHelena
Helena and I go back to the monastic retreat at Thai Plum Village in Pak Chong. We hung out and did yoga there together with an Austrian traveler, Sabrina. It was great seeing her again in Chiang Mai. We spent time over coffee, at the pool in Nawa Sheeva and enjoyed extended talks.

MalinaMalina
Malina and I met while enjoying our fruit shakes during Songkran, and braved getting wet during the festivities. We had sporadic coffee conversations in the days that came by. We even met at the bus station where she headed out for Laos, while I went ahead with my Tachileik border crossing.

Ana KostakosAna
Ana is perhaps the friendliest I met. A wonderful Greek lady now residing in Australia, she was my neighbor in Chiang Mai before I moved to Nawa Sheeva Hotel. We would share breakfast coffee talks and enjoy city walks over beer and eats. She was a kindred soul. Safe travels Ana!

TonTon
Ton, from the way I saw things, was the overall manager of Nawa Sheeva and Nawa Saraan. He was on the ball who went the distance for me. When I would casually tell him something, he would be quick to suggest something better. If he is not sure, he would even make the trip to ascertain the information and come back to me with a map. He was prompt and alert. When I left the hotel, he even had a to-go sandwich for me. What a guy! I wish we had a picture together.

Pareena ArsirawajanaPareena
Like Helena, I met Pareena in the retreat at Thai Plum Village. She resides in Chiang Mai so we met up for coffee at Thamel Coffee in Warorot Market. It was a relaxed and leisurely conversation that took us back to Plum Village and to the prospects of tomorrow. Too bad that meeting wasn't followed-up. Next time perhaps.

Uyen NhiNhi
I'd been crossing paths with Nhi since I met her in Kho Rong (Cambodia). We met again in Ho Chi Minh City and enjoyed a night meal with Phung, a common Vietnamese friend. Now we meet again in Chiang Mai. Always good to be catching up with her.

JinJin
We met inside a minivan in Siem Reap en route to Chiang Mai. I thought that was it. Then we bumped into each other during Songkran...then accidentally met again on several occasions, up until she was boarding the red taxi for Bangkok. It was uncanny how we would keep bumping into each other. I'm sure I'll be surprised again.

The Frenchman from Toulouse
While staying in a budget B100/night dorm bed hostel, I met a fellow hostel guest, a Frenchman from Toulouse. He said he was traveling with no money and finding ways to survive on the road. I was thinking, "He's like me!". He left that night and came back at the crack of dawn. Around 9am, the hostel owner barged into our room and yelled at the Frenchman to pack up and get out. She continued yelling how the Frenchman promised to help clean up the place in exchange for free lodging, but he was still asleep at 9am after partying the entire night. The Frenchman hurriedly packed-up and was gone. I saw him again after a few days coming out of another hostel - scruffy, disheveled and looking dazed. In the meantime, I was already staying at the $100/night luxury Nawa Sheeva Hotel. Again, I couldn't help but contemplate. I am just like him - no home, no money, no job. But he ended up being thrown away and I end up lavished with luxury offerings. Did God just play dice? Or is there a natural law governing all this? How could two people in the same predicament end up on two separate ends of the spectrum?

The Wooden Elephant Puzzle
In Siem Reap, I bought a wooden elephant 3D jigsaw puzzle and I didn't really know what to do with it. Upon unpacking at Nawa Sheeva Hotel, I placed it on top of the tv stand together with some fixtures. It blended in. Having had a wonderful time at this hotel, it felt fitting to leave the elephant there where it seemed to find a comfortable home. It's my thanksgiving to a place that offered a roof over my head. Hotel staff later called my attention that I left an elephant after my checkout. I asked them to leave it there.

Bike LED Rear Light
When I saw a LED rear bike light for cheap, I purchased it and installed it on my rented bike. I forgot to get it back upon my return of the bike. I didn't like the owner for playing hardball, which made me want to get the light back even more. Then I got the nice hotel deals. With this abundance, getting the bike light back didn't seem too imperative. I was thinking...it won't benefit the bike owner since he doesn't use the bike. But it will benefit the next renter. I let it go. Pay it forward.

Ending Thoughts
Chiang Mai was a big blessing. I can't really ask for more. A guy knowing no one with little money in a strange place ends up living in lavish hotels, Eggs Benedict for breakfast, dips in a salt-water pool, enjoys coffee from a $26,000 top-of-the-line coffee machine, gets kneaded like a bread dough by an expert Thai masseuse, participates in a Dance Mandala and meets the most interesting people - without spending a cent! What can I say? I remain humbled at all these blessings. The more I receive, the more I want to give back. Thank you Universe!

--- TheLoneRider

Next stop: Tachileik, Myanmar

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai massage in Chiang Mai - massage hotels in Chiang Mai - hotel cafes in Chiang Mai - cafe
my bohemian neighborhood on the upper east end of Old City in my first hostel...pricey, mosquito infested..I moved out meeting Uyen Nhi at Maya Mall the Thais are naturally festive and know how to party
Chiang Mai has its fair share of temples food is everywhere....cheap and good eats wedding pictorial at Tha Phae Gate on the east side of Old City lovely meeting Helena again at Wawee Coffee
Khao Soi is the regional specialty in Chiang Mai meeting Malina during the Songkran festivities water fight at OK Corral with the lovely Ana and her friend Tui
my morning ritual at a neighborhood cafe before I moved to Nawa Sheeva BBQs come in all shapes, sizes and flavours my B100/night dorm bed...my 2nd address in Chiang Mai with Ana and some frolicking revelers for Songkran
meeting Dora, Eva and Bruno for the first time at the market bumping into my Korean friends whom I met in Siem Reap my luxurious digs at Nawa Sheeva street dining in Chiang Mai
more street food at the Saturday Night Market my hotel breakfast...Eggs Benedict, perfectly made with Helena, joining me at Nawa Sheeva's salt-water pool (no chlorine)
hooking up with Eva and Dora at Sunday Night Market with their friends rummaging at Night Market Eva and Dora loved the pool and breakfast at Nawa Sheeva ...with Eva and Dora en route to Warorot Market
dried fruits of all kinds at Warorot Market Thai pillows choose your deity or guru meeting Pareena at Thamel Coffee
a tangerine sun setting on a pagoda hmmm...there is something not right about this picture...LOL meeting Samantha and indulging in some caffeine fix Dance Mandala at The Yoga Tree
in the foreground, the $26,000 top-of-the-line Victoria Arduino Espresso Coffee Machine...too much money even for a perfect cup of coffee...only at Caffeine Fix rain shower-nozzle at Nawa Sheeva parkour at Tha Phae Gate at the Tha Phae Gate
Blues music at the Night Bazaar night busker at Tha Phae Gate living the life at Nawa Sheeva now at my new address, the Nawa Saraan...just as comfortable and lavish as Nawa Sheeva
authentic full body Thai massage at Waya Massage mango with sticky rice is a Chiang Mai staple B40 breakfast + coffee continue to be part of my Nawa Saraan stay the upscale container-themed Nawa Saraan
if she would only say, 'coffee, tea or me?' coin-operated laundry and water dispensers are handy and price friendly with Mike...the guy who inspired me the most in Chiang Mai Durian is not cheap...but I can't help it
at the Green Bus Station in Chiang Mai for Myanmar a quick stop in Chiang Rai....goodbye and thank you Chiang Mai    
Nawa Sheeva Hotel Chiangmai

Nawa Sheeva Hotel Chiangmai

Location: 184/2 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: 061.272.8008 / 053.326.583
Features: salt-water swimming pool, expansive space, big luxurious rooms, great hotel cafe using top-of-the-line espresso brewer
Nawa Saraan Hotel Chiangmai

Nawa Saraan Hotel Chiangmai

Location: 37/1 Singharat Lane 2, T.Sriphum, Muang Chiangmai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel:
Features: upscale container-themed, luxury appointments, central location
WAYA Massage

WAYA Massage

Hours: daily, 1:00pm to 12:00 midnight
Caffeine Fix Cafe Chiangmai

Caffeine Fix Cafe, Chiangmai

Location 1: (at Nawa Sheeva Hotel) 184/2 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Amphoe, Muang Chiangmai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Location 2: (at Nawa Saraan Hotel) 37/1 Singharat Lane 2, T.Sriphum, Muang Chiangmai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: 061.272.8008 / 053.326.583
Features: top-of-the-line fully programmable Victoria Arduino VA388 Black Eagle espresso coffee machine

Chiang Mai FYI / Tips

  • the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Northeast area of the Old City area
  • to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai

How to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

  • train - for more info: Bangkok to Chiang Mai trains. Main train departure is from Hua Lamphong - MRT (Bangkok)

    • #51 - best value. It's a sleeping train leaving Bang Sue Junction (at the Bang Sue MRT station), leaves 10:50pm, arrives Chiang Mai 1pm, non aircon, $14 or B271
    • #7 - Bang Sue Junction (at the Bang Sue MRT station), leaves 8:40am and arrives Chiang Mai 7:30pm (allow for delays), aircon, non sleeping train (so you stay seated the entire time), B638

  • bus - B450

How to Get around Chiang Mai

  • red taxi (shared) - B50 standard fare
  • tuk-tuk
  • bicycle - B50 daily rental

Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai

  1. North Gate Pub - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session
  2. Road House - in front of Porn Ping Hotel
  3. Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Cost Index

backpacker places (US$1 = Thai Baht 35.11 = Php P46.10 as of April 11, 2016)
  • B60 Chiang beer
  • B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
  • B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage (highly recommended)
  • B50 noodle soup with meat
  • B50 coffee
  • B40 pad thai
  • B30/kilo wash-only laundry
  • B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
  • B100-150 dorm bed/night
  • B250 fan room/night
  • B30 internet cafe/hour
  • B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
  • B130-150 Movies weekdays
  • B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
  • B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
  • B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
  • B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
  • B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva (highly recommended)

  • Transportation
  • B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
  • B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
  • B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
  • B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
  • B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
  • B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
  • B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
  • B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
  • B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
  • B638 #7 a/c train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
  • B50 red taxi fare from point to point
  • B100 red taxi fare from train terminal to city

  • Tours
  • B2000 full day elephant sanctuary
  • B750 Chiang Rai one-day tour
  • B1500 mountain biking scenic ride

Thailand Blogs by TheLoneRider

    Bangkok
  1. Loving Bangkok All Over Again Feb 22-26, 2016
  2. Adventure Hostel Review Feb 22-26, 2016
  3. Hotel Review: Riva Surya Bangkok Oct. 20, 2014
  4. The Shopping Malls of Bangkok Oct 6-20, 2014
  5. Bangkok's Street Food Delight Oct 6-20, 2014
  6. Bangkok Revisited 3 Oct 6-20, 2014
  7. Bangkok Dec 31, 2005


  8. Chiang Khong
  9. Ten Days in Chiang Khong, Thailand Apr 30 - May 9, 2016


  10. Chiang Mai
  11. A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
  12. Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
  13. Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
  14. Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiangmai (Thailand) April 9-10, 2016


  15. Chiang Rai
  16. Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand May 11-16, 2016
  17. Visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) May 15, 2016


  18. Chiang Saen
  19. Exploring Chiang Saen, Thailand Apr 28-30, 2016


  20. Mae Sai
  21. 4 Days in Mae Sai, Thailand Apr 25-28, 2016
  22. Border Crossing - Mae Sai (Thailand) to Tachileik (Myanmar) Apr 23, 2016


  23. Pai
  24. Exploring Pai, Thailand May 19-24, 2016
  25. Visiting the Land Split in Pai, Thailand May 23, 2016
  26. Trekking the Ridges of Pai Canyon May 23, 2016
  27. Climbing up the White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) May 21, 2016


  28. Pak Chong
  29. Pak Chong (Thailand) En Route to Siem Reap (Cambodia) Mar 20-21, 2016
  30. Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016
  31. Yoga at Thai Plum Village Mar 19, 2016
  32. Pond Picnic with the Monastics Mar 14, 2016
  33. Sentence Expansion Mar 12, 2016
  34. Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics Mar 10, 2016
  35. First Day of Teaching English at Thai Plum Village Mar 8, 2016
  36. Cyber Monk Redefined Mar 6, 2016
  37. Thai Plum Village, Day 6: Plum Village and Vipassana Mar 2, 2016
  38. Thai Plum Village, Day 5: Visa Snag Mar 1, 2016
  39. Plum Village, Day 4: Picnic with the Monastics on Lazy Monday Feb 29, 2016
  40. Plum Village, Day 2-3: Getting Settled Feb 27-28, 2016
  41. Plum Village, Day 1: Arrival Feb 26, 2016


  42. Phan District, Chiang Rai Province
  43. Yoga with Amm Prajna Pitchaya and the Sivananda yoga community of Phan May 16-18, 2016
  44. Visiting the Nam Lot and the Pha Khong Caves of Phan District May 18, 2016

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Facebook Users

Reader Comments:

Eva PopoluskaEva Popoluska
(April 24, 2016) It was a pleasure to meet you Gigit! Enjoy Myanmar

Honey GoodeHoney Goode
(April 25, 2016) there's a great digital nomad meet up there Git, I recommend it. I love CM

Ana KostakosAna Kostakos
(April 25, 2016) Safe travels Gigit.

Camille VenturinaCamille Venturina
(April 24, 2016) Read your blog Gigit and just a happy surprise to see Tui Pavinee Khemphet n your photo, cheers! I'm jealous of you both. Wish I were in Thailand now haha

Erica BoucherErica Boucher
(April 24, 2016) This is great, Gigit. I miss you so much! Your light is palpable even in your writing, just as it was the very moment I met you. I just KNOW our paths are going to cross again soon, my dear friend.

Ayn LatonioAyn Latonio
(April 24, 2016) Chiang mai always seems to work its magic

Apr 9-23, 2016

»» next Traveling story: Border Crossing - Mae Sai (Thailand) to Tachileik (Myanmar)
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Chiang Mai Essentials

Nawa Sheeva, Chiang Mai hotel


Nawa Saraan, Chiang Mai hotel


Caffeine Fix Cafe, Chiang Mai, using top-of-the-line Victoria Arduino Espresso Machine


WAYA Massage, Chiang Mai authentic Thai massage






Chiangmai Hotels

Nawa Sheeva Hotel, Chiangmai
Nawa Sheeva Hotel
big expansive space
Old City, Chiangmai


Nawa Saraan Hotel, Chiangmai
Nawa Saraan Hotel
upscale container-themed hotel
Old City, Chiangmai


Caffeine Fix Cafe, Chiang Mai
Caffeine Fix Cafe
using top-of-the-line Victoria Arduino Espresso Machine
Old City, Chiang Mai


WAYA Massage, Chiang Mai
WAYA Massage
authentic Thai massage
Old City, Chiang Mai






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