19 April 2016

Thailand, Parts 2, 4, and 6 — Chiang Mai

I spent a couple days in Chiang Mai making final arrangements for my six-day motorcycle ride on some of the famous and not so famous roads in the northwest of this beautiful country. I also spent two days here in-between riding the Mae Hong Son Loop (see Thailand, Part 3) and the Samoeng Loop (Thailand, Part 5).

On the first day, I had and lunch spent some time with local resident Frank whom ViLa and I met on our November bus ride from Phnom Penh to Saigon; walked through most of the Old City; and had an afternoon beer and then a couple more at the first evening of the annual Horizons Unlimited Chiang Mai Community Mini-Meeting at Riders' Corner, an adventure motorcyclists' gathering point and a good place for a meal or a beer even if you've never ridden.

My newest friend...
The Old City is set-apart from the rest of Chiang Mai by a moat and the remnants of a brick wall that once protected the city, and is quite beautiful.

Although I'm sure it's less, it seems as though there are at least 2 wats per city block in the Old City.

There were a few other unique things worth photographing, too...
They also have many shops where you can have little minnows nibble the dead skin off your feet. This was the only sign I saw advertising snails for your face. I didn't try it...
The windshield sticker and vest say EMT and I'm guessing the
dual front wheels give you a stable platform for carrying patients?
First scooter I ever saw with a sidecar... and a lumbar support.
If you're rocking that scooter, ya gotta have a cool helmet and goggles! 
(The goggles were only there the second time I saw this beauty.)

Cong Buak Hard Park on the south edge of the Old City
A Thai Air Force jet flies over Chiang Mai
Helmets, as you know, are something I notice. Thailand is the only place I've seen this—and I saw a LOT of it...
Helmets in the front basket, at-the-ready in case the police stop them...

The HU Community Mini-Meeting is the Asia version of the meeting I attended last August in Naksup, BC. This one was mostly Adventure Motorcyclists swapping stories (belief it or not, I mostly listened) the first evening and enjoyed a couple of interesting presentations after a great bar-b-que dinner the second.

The presenters were "Adventurer, Author and Global Motorcycle Entertainer, Geoff Thomas" and, I think, Ian Gatenby. It's been a few months, so I'm unsure if it was Ian. Whomever it was, both presentations were quite interesting and entertaining.

The first night we were entertained by two young and talented local Thai dancers:

Riders' Corner is a great pub with good food and I highly recommend it to anyone who's in or traveling through Chiang Mai. It's easy to find on the northeast corner of the Old City just inside the ring road. In a previous post I recommended a blog by Steph Jeavons, who's already ridden her Honda CRF250 on six continents, including Antarctica, during her around-the-world adventure. I mention her here because as I exited the rest room, I was greeted by a sticker featuring her avatar.
Steph was here...
After the HU meeting, and many nights in Chiang Mai, I walked for hours through the extensive night market. It goes on and on and on up and down the streets and takes hours to walk.

There are dozens of street food options (I had a insect egg omelette and a chocolate/banana waffle).

I also saw thousands of hand-made items, and tons of mass-produced Chinese crap, so it pays to take some time to peruse before buying anything. My thought is that if I walk for blocks and blocks and blocks and don't see it sold by another vendor, it's more likely to be an authentic local item. I bought a pair of hand-made flip-flops that I'll show in my next post and a few gifts for ViLa and her family.

After riding the Mae Hong Son Loop, I returned to Chiang Mai for a couple days. During my initial visit I stayed at a hostel I found on-line. It was nice enough, but about a 10 minute walk to the Old City. This time I stayed inside the moat at Siri Guest House:

It is a nice, quiet place, EXCEPT for room 8; it's adjoining the pump room and is rather noisy. I stayed in room 4 directly above 8 and there was no noise. The owner is a bit standoffish at first, though he warms up after a day or so. There's a good laundry and a couple good restaurants just down the street and it's an easy walk to most of the Old City.

I now have two favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai. The first (serving breakfast & lunch) is Angels Secrets, just a block and a half from the Siri Guesthouse. The ambiance is that of a hippie coffee house and the food is awesome!

I highly recommend the Devil's Omelette! 

My other favorite restaurant (lunch & dinner) is El Diablo, on the outer ring road, just one block outside the Old City. They have wonderful burritos and outstanding salsas choices...

As well as some thought-provoking wall art.

I also found a little street stall with an interesting and tasty drink offering;

5 Baht is about 15 (US) cents

the motorbikes/pedestrians-only Iron Bridge that's a bit difficult to find;

a talented crepe maker—I again chose the bananas and chocolate;

and The Piston Shop, where I bought a 12V compressor and a battery tender as backups since they aren't available in Vietnam or Cambodia.

I'll head back to Chiang Mai later this year or early next to volunteer for a week at the Elephant Nature Park elephant sanctuary.