Now that we’ve settled into life in Chiang Mai a little more, I can see why it would be very easy to live here. For one thing the weather has continued to be glorious. The sun has been shining everyday but it is not humid at all – it’s dry and rather spring like. There are lots of restaurants, bars and cafes etc.
Now that we have seen the elephants and we are approaching the end of our travels, there has been a natural anti-climax. Infact spending the day with those amazing animals seems quite a long time ago now but thankfully I have some pictures and videos to remind me of what an amazing and surreal day it was.
Despite the fact that Chinese New Year is in mid February – the Chinese have swarmed this city like a plague so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when Chinese New Year arrives. Being in a city – walking on concrete pavements, with no beach or nature in sight as such is a little wearing, and despite the ease of living here, I don’t find Chiang Mai much different from living in any other city. We loved Bali in particular for the fact that it was so natural but also had a uniquely Balinese atmosphere.
We have exhausted the shopping mall and the night market and have no real interest in going shopping anyway. We have almost exhausted the fine dining restaurants here because there aren’t many to choose from to start with (most people seem to eat in casual restaurants or from the street food sellers who have their food carts posted on almost every roadside). Many of the tourist attractions include the mistreatment of animals in some way – whether that’s riding elephants, making monkeys do tricks, putting on a show with drugged up tigers or teasing crocodiles. None of which I am interested in experiencing.
I have no interest in seeing anything that is cruel to animals so we have made a concerted effort to avoid doing any touristy things here that exploits them in any way. That leaves extreme sports, such as white water rafting, bungy jumping and zip lining still available but apart from zip lining, and perhaps quad biking, none of those things really appeal to me either, partly because they can be done in most places in the world. And I have seen enough temples to last a lifetime. So basically, what I’m saying is, we have kind of run out of things to do! The highlight of our trip thus far has definitely been seeing the elephants at the elephant sanctuary and I’m not really expecting to be able to top that but I would have at least expected to find some interesting things to do here other than visiting imprisoned animals and going shopping.
We haven’t tried out any of the spa’s yet here so that’s something we are going to do very soon, and then there’s the national parks, of which they have plenty of and which look amazing, but other than that, there’s only so much pounding of concrete I can do and afterall, I’m from London, we have plenty of concrete to pound.
We went to the cinema today – the one that is in the shopping mall. Surprisingly, the cinema was almost empty, despite it being their discount cinema ticket day and despite them hyping up this film that I didn’t know the name of or what it was supposed to be about. It was an American film with Thai subtitles so needless to say, it was another ultra commercial American blockbusters with special effects up the hoo har type of film. Not my kind of thing. But they were advertising the new Black Panther film which is coming out on the 15th February which was cool. Before the film started, before the related promotional films came on suddenly everyone in the auditorium stood up and on screen a picture appeared of their since deceased King (who died last October I believe and who they are partly still in mourning for), and unbelievably, everyone there (including us_ was required to stand and listen to the kings song which was played with an accompanying film of him standing very solemnly whilst people bowed and bestowed blessings upon him for about 7 minutes. It was very odd I have to say.
Food here has been a bit of a challenge. We are walking distance from lots of restaurants in theory but most of them are Thai restaurants and I have been having Thai food almost everyday for 2 months so I’m getting kind of sick of it. This means that we have had to go to the shopping mall for food which has it’s own food hall but most of the restaurants are Japanese (which is fine if you want sushi everyday but we’ve had it twice already since being here). The other restaurants in the mall are just peculiar – the menu’s are either not in English, but in Thai or even Chinese sometimes, or they don’t have a list of the ingredients in the foods they are offering. Instead of knowing what is in the food, you have to look at the pictures provided and guess what might be in it. That does not appeal to me and of course, being in Asia, they do eat a lot of questionable things such as Duck Lips for instance (trust me that IS a thing).
My eyebrows need doing and I can’t find a salon that does eyebrow threading. Thankfully my beauty regime is minimal at the best of times and even more so here as even though my skin is probably the worst it’s ever been in the 4 months been here (due to the fact that we’re in the city which is full of pollution and despite the glorious weather are spending more time indoors due to the fact that it’s both busy and noisy outside), I have been able to keep it in check with my trusty Liz Earle skin regime, but the eyebrow thing is beginning to annoy as I can only seem to find salons here that do eyebrow waxing but not threading.
I walked into the only salon I could find the other day that advertised that they did eyebrow waxing and finally after much towing and frowing as the lady couldn’t speak a word of English and had a mouth mask on (very popular here in Asia due to the pollution), I finally understood that she wanted me to follow her to another salon. I didn’t really understand why as the sign outside said that they done eyebrow waxing there but I was so desperate to have it done that I decided to follow her. About 4 minutes walk and we arrived at another salon (which looked new as it didn’t even have any signage up) and I followed her inside. I wasn’t sure whether she was dropping me off so that another person could do my eyebrows or whether she would be doing it herself but after asking me to follow her into a private room I understood that she would be doing it.
Since I hadn’t planned to go to the salon that day I was still wearing my eyebrow pencil but I assumed she would just wipe it off as all technicians do but she didn’t. This woman was by far the most gentle I have ever experienced doing this technique, which by rights should hurt as it’s removing hair from it’s roots in one yank. But everytime she pulled the waxy strip off my skin she apologised and patted the sore area as if to ease the throbbing. I couldn’t work out how she could possibly do a decent job when she hadn’t even removed the eyebrow pencil that was still on my eyebrows – how could she see what needed waxing even?
But I was left assured that she was infact fully committed to doing a good job when I felt a cooling gel being gently applied to my eyelids to ease the soreness and rose water being dabbed on my forehead and above my brows, the sweetness of which filled my nostrils and magically seemed to numb the pain. She was so gentle that I couldn’t even feel the tweezers plucking the stray hairs or the scissors trimming the unruly ones but by the time she had finished I was delighted and surprised to find that she had done a good job – a great job infact, better then many I’ve had in England – my eyebrows were neat, she hadn’t touched the eyebrow pencil at all – it was still in one piece and I now smelt like of a bed of roses. Happy days.
Whilst I was having my eyebrows done Josh was at the local barbers having his hair cut but rather then coming out looking like a well groomed Josh, his hairstyle came out more closely resembling Kim Jong Un’s, lol.
When I get back to the UK, which is in a mere 2 weeks would you believe, I am looking forward to seeing my cats of course, getting my house back in order (as I have had 2 strangers living there for the past 4 months and have no idea how they have left it), seeing my family – of course a big highlight, and then believe it or not I am going to need to prepare myself for work as I will be back to work on the Monday and I also have my perfume workshops to prepare for as despite me not doing any advertising whatsoever whilst I have been away I have sold out almost 3 of my workshops.
Chinese Picture Taking
There are a couple of things I have noticed since being in Asia for a substantial amount of time and that is the clone like way of the Chinese who seem intent on looking exactly the same and doing exactly the same things. Tis annoying enough having to dodge their umbrella’s for fear of them getting darker but there is another thing I find annoying too, and that is of course their constant picture taking. It is something that I noticed first when I was in Santorini, Greece when literally swarms of them turned up with camera’s, tripods, selfie sticks and phones and took pictures from dusk til dawn, allday everyday of themselves mainly, but occasionally of the staggeringly beautiful surroundings. I found it odd then and I find it odd now that they seemingly are unable to function without either of these devices especially when it’s pointed at themselves. They are on their phones taking pictures of themselves incessantly, and it doesn’t matter whether they are alone or in a group, infact they scarcely talk to one another if they are in a group asides from to show, take or share pictures. It is both predictable and a little sad I have to say. For if everyone you know is doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time always, how do you become an individual? If you all share exactly the same interests with exactly the same tastes, how can you be different? I would say it’s fascinating but I don’t find it to be so really. I find it more than a little peculiar and a little bit sad.
Monks lose their way too 🙂
Songthaews are the main local mode of transportation in Thailand. Unlike in Bali, when we got around using our motorbike, and in Koh Samui, when we hired a car, we have been commuting via this very popular and regular mode of transport in Chiang Mai. These vehicles are like converted lorrys/buses with the windows more like slightly wider slits that you can barely see out of, the back where you enter has no door and rather then having individual seats facing forwards they have two long seats adjacent to each other where about 7 or 8 people can get in either side. There are lots of them around the city and you just hail them like you would a black taxi. The difference of course between them and the black taxi’s are that the ride isn’t as comfortable and you share it with others who the driver picks up along the way BUT the price is UNBELIEVABLY CHEAP. CRIMINALLY CHEAP. INSANELY CHEAP. For a mere 80 p you can basically be taken anywhere in the city you want to go and most of the time because there are so many Songthaews in the city, you don’t have to share yours with anyone. It just makes you realise how expensive things are in the UK and ultimately, how much we are all being ripped off!
Asides from being a reliable and cheap way to get around we have also got into conversations with a couple of tourists in the Songthaew too. For some reason, despite the fact that it’s so cheap, the locals do not seem to use the Songthaew. I guess most of them have a scooter but for all of the other tourists in Chiang Mai is seems ridiculous not to take advantage of something this reasonable and thus we have met and got talking to people all the way from Canada, to Sweden to Bangkok. And they all have the same story: They’re here to escape the winter!
Since being here I am pleased to say that I still haven’t seen ANY stray dogs whatsoever. I’ve seen a few gecko’s but none in or around our apartment and despite me not wearing any insect repellent at any point in time whilst arriving here I have literally only been bitten once on my ankle. Other then that I have been mosquito and therefore Skeeter Syndrome free! Usually I am terrorised by mosquitoes so this really is something special as it’s very hot here and I haven’t been wearing any protection. Unbelievable. It must have something to do with the climate, which as I’ve described is very hot but also very dry and quite chilly in the early morning and evenings which is when they usually come out to munch on people.
Despite my love of Dom’s Cafe, with it’s tasty steamed chicken buns and coconut rolls, I was determined to find another cafe that we could go to so when I came across one called Fern Forest Cafe, near the Old Town, which had a rainforest theme, surrounded by trees and plants in a pretty and quaint courtyard, I was sold. When we arrived to see the dappled streams of sunlight coming through the trees with the feeling of being in an English country garden in spring I was very happy. I had been searching for a place like this in Chiang Mai. Somewhere that was in the city but didn’t look or feel like it was in the city and here it was. Off a busy road, hidden from view, we arrived to find a natural, leafy sanctuary, surrounded by fern trees within it’s own walled garden. Within it there was a waterfall and steam being gently pumped from a multitude of hidden mechanisms which created the look and feel of you being within an actual rainforest. The sound of birds relax you and the service is friendly but calm. It is a magical and tranquil place. Fern Forest is definitely our favourite place in Chiang Mai thus far and they have live jazz on Sundays too which we look forward to checking out!
Fern Forest Cafe – a rainforest in the city!
A Fern Forest special -pancakes with fruit and cream
Dom’s Cafes legendary Coconut Roll Cake
I thought I’d left the perves behind me in Koh Samui but it appears they are here too, in Chiang Mai. The amount of Western men who are here with their Thai brides or seeking Thai brides is staggering, and I’d like to think that this is mostly a perfectly normal union but alas I fear it is not. Most of the Western men I have seen here are with Thai women who are far younger, and far more attractive then them, understandably can hardly speak a word of English (and vice versa it’s fair to say), and similarly to what Trump (who is a big fool) said of the Mexicans “They’re not bringing their best”. Well I can certainly confirm that the men here, waltzing around with their Thai women are most definitely NOT the best of the West. Infact I could say that in most cases from what I’ve seen, they are the worst.
The worst how you ask? Well put it this way, the men I have seen here, are not the most attractive, not the most intelligent, not the most interesting, and not the most well to do – so they are indeed some of the dregs. They are the ones that that the Western women do not want and therefore they come here to be welcomed with open arms by the Asian women who either do not know any better or who have been brainwashed into believing (as have most of the world), that any white man equals a prize to shout about. It does not. Sorry. Some of these men are bloody awful! I have seen them, I have heard them and all I can do is shake my head. A terrible, terrible state of affairs.
The Bed of Rock
The bed in our apartment is bloody uncomfortable. It is so hard that it actually gives us aches and pains when we wake up in the morning! I couldn’t tell you the last time that I’d actually had a restful sleep – it was probably back in Bali at Sense, Canggu where the bed was huge and luxurious, not to mention creature free. In our villa in Koh Samui I slept badly too as I was constantly awoken by the sound of gecko’s and tookay’s running rampant and now our bed is so hard it hurts. Not great!
Saturday Night Market
I thought I was all nightmarketed out but we heard about yet another nightmarket, called the Saturday night market which was supposed to be one of the better ones so we decided to check it out. We arrived late but still we could see that it was far better then the ones we had been to previously because we could actually walk as the streets the stalls were posted on seemed a little less narrow, the sellers were selling some original things lots of which we’d never seen before, and of course it was huge. We didn’t get to see all of it but we did get the general scale of its so we concluded that it would definitely be worth going to earlier and checking it out properly. Whilst we were there we went to a cafe for dinner where our meal cost £6 (TOTAL not each) including alcohol. These kinds of obscenely low prices is why Chiang Mai is so popular! The food was delicious too.
On our way home we came across two stall sellers, a couple, and they had 2 adorable dogs with them, one of which was a Pomeranian (the breed of dog I’ve always wanted) and one of which was white, smaller and fluffier breed that I didn’t recognise. They were utterly adorable, and just sat on their designated areas – a box for the fluffy white dog, and a chair for the caramel coloured Pomeranian who was wearing a fitted checked shirt. These dogs were clearly pampered pooches but unlike the pampered pooches that I usually see around town, these two were very well behaved! They didn’t bark, they didn’t mind people oohing and ahhing over them as you couldn’t help but do, they didn’t mind being stroked and they sat obediently on their respective posts. They were so cute it was painful! Especially the boy in the tailored shirt, who had been groomed to have a big fluffy head and a short haired body. He looked like a mini fox. A cute mini fox I hasten to add!
The fluffy one
The adorable Pomeranian
The Pong that Ponged
Whilst we’ve been in Thailand we have had a few massage treatments, though not in Chiang Mai yet, one of which was a herbal compress treatment which incorporates the use of a bunch of herbs, specially chosen for their health benefits, bound tightly in a woven fabric which is then emersed in water and heated then applied to the skin and massaged with. It is said to relieve tightness and relax the muscles and I had tried it myself in Koh Samui and thought it was great but I wasn’t a big fan of the smell, afterall it was herbs and not necessarily supposed to be olfactorily pleasing. So when we came across a seller selling these herbal balls in various sizes at the market I wasn’t inclined to buy any but Josh has been suffering from a bad back for the past couple of weeks and said he wanted to buy one to see whether it worked to ease his pain and afterall, it was only a pound! A pound I tell you! I said I would be interested in trying it too since my Mum suffers from a constantly aching arm so perhaps she might benefit from it so we got one.
The following day I used the herbal ball on Josh and I got the shock of my life. The thing was POTENT. We had to sprinkle some water on it first and then put it in the microwave to heat it up but when I opened the microwave door a pong such as I never believed could be produced from such a harmless looking thing rushed up my nose and almost knocked me out. This thing smelt like weed and Cerasee, a vile tasting bush plant that’s grown in Jamaica and is drunk to cure ailments, and suddenly our whole apartment stunk of the stuff. I gave Josh a massage with the thing but the smell was so intense and getting steadily stronger as the herbs were released with each kneading stroke it that I had to cease breathing through my nose and switch to breathing through my mouth and Josh, the patient himself, was also getting a whiff of the stuff and said that the fumes were making him high, lol.
As I had done the massage on our bed I was dismayed to later find the smell of the herbs had permeated the bed all the way down to the mattress and I was convinced that had anyone walked past our apartment at that very moment, they would have thought that we were growing weed up in there! I’m not sure that I can transport this thing back to the UK!
A massage at this perfectly sweet place called Calm Massage is as cheap as £11.00 for an hour so needless to say Josh and I were only too happy to pay that to get 60 glorious minutes of authentic thai relaxation. And I did feel very calm afterwards. Positively lightheaded infact!