Travel Guide: Chiang Mai, Thailand

The night on the sleeper train was so cozy, a little rocky and I was definitely woken up a few times but overall it was wonderful. I was woken up by a train conductor peeping in through my curtain and knocking on the wall saying “wakey wakey.” In a total daze and half asleep I go “huh? are we there yet?” Everyone on the train, now sitting in their seats all dressed for the day, starts laughing at me.

When we arrived in Chiang Mai I walked across the street to a cafe to get a coffee and WiFi. I booked my Chiang Mai hotel on AirBnB, it’s called Choona’s Place.  I couldn’t check in until noon so I walked to Woo Cafe & Art Gallery for breakfast. The 2nd largest city in Thailand does not feel like a city at all. It feels like a cute little village. There are used book stores and cafes at every corner, stores and authentic restaurants. The city is a square surrounded by a mote.

TIP: I recommend booking a place within the square, if you do a cooking class or an elephant tour most groups will pick you up at your hotel as long as it’s within the city square.

Choona’s Place was really nice, clean bathroom, attentive staff, you could book anything right in the lobby and they would organize everything for you, they also had food and drinks, moped rentals and an in house masseuse.

I had planned on doing a cooking class on this night which didn’t start until 5PM so I had a bit of time to kill. I rented a moped from the hotel and set off to the Buatong Waterfalls.

TIP: Don’t do this.

Driving a moped in this city made me feel like I was naked on a motorcycle in NYC except everyone was driving on the wrong side of the road and speaking Chinese. I didn’t have a map or a GPS or anyone telling me where to go. I got lost 3 times, honked at more than I can remember and almost ran over at least 5 times before I found the highway that was going to take me to the waterfalls. Almost immediately upon entering the “highway”  I get stopped by bunch of cops on the side of the road. They ask for my passport which I had to give to the people I was renting the motorbike from as collateral. I start to panic and then remember I had enough sense to make a copy of my passport so I whip that out all proud of myself and they laugh at me and show me a handwritten note that says “no ID: 30 days in prison or 1,000 THB.” So I pay up, get back on the bike and head home. I gave up.

TIP: Make a copy of your passport and license before you leave. I asked the people I rented the bike from if I could give them the copy instead and they said yes as long as I paid a 3,000 THB deposit. I wish I had done this I just didn’t have the cash on me at the moment.

On the bright side I didn’t go to prison and I was home in time to go to the cooking class. There are plenty to choose from but I went with Asia Scenic because they had the best reviews. The class was 800 THB which I paid to the hotel. I was picked up on a motorbike and brought to their kitchen where I joined a class of 8. We were given a few options of meals to make then our instructor took us in back to their garden. He showed us the ingredients we were going to be using and then we went to the market to pick up some more goods. He explained each of the ingredients, what goes into making them, how long they last etc. then it was back to the kitchen to cook. We each had a station to prepare the veggies, a hot plate and a wok. Over the course of the evening we learned how to make meang kum, pad thai, spring rolls, panang curry and hot and sour prawn soup and we ate it all along the way. This was honestly the best meal I had, which isn’t to say I’m a great cook, I think it just has a lot to do with the fresh ingredients and cooking everything slowly and precisely. At the end of the course we all got a cookbook to take home.

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