Chiang Mai, Pai, and Chiang Rai, Thailand
23.08.2013 - 04.09.2013
After the constant movement in Vietnam, Stets and I were excited to head to northern Thailand for some rest and relaxation. Ah! Life is hard! We arrived in Chiang Mai about midday and checked into our hotel. We decided to stay at a place that was nicer than most of our other guest houses and found a hotel with a gym and a pool. Paradise! Chiang Mai is located in the hills of northern Thailand and therefore the weather is a bit cooler than most of SE Asia, which we were extremely grateful for. We headed out on foot, had some lunch, and stopped by the Muay Thai Boxing stadium to grab some tickets for that evening. I was excited as I have never been to a boxing match, let alone, Muay Thai Boxing. We walked the city for a while and then headed back to our "home" to get ready for the night. After a delicious dinner of tacos...yes we found tacos and they were delicious...we made our way to the stadium and found our seats. The agenda said there would be 8 different fights for the night. The first set came on and the men looked like they were about 15-16 years young. The boxing is made up of punching, kicking, elbows, and knees. At first, I wasn't too stoked about the fight. I thought the boys were too rough and too young to be fighting this way. After two or three fights, the men got older and I realized that this style of fighting is traditional and well respected in Thailand. The men were very respectful to each other, hugging after fights, and actually making sure they were okay as each round ended. It was a great night out and a fun insight into northern Thai culture. The rest of our time in Chiang Mai was spent riding around town on our motorbike, walking through all the markets, and also looking for fabric to have a two person sleeping bag made in preparation for our Everest Base Camp Trek. Success! On one of our motorbike excursions, we made our way to a temple called Doi Suthep. This is a Buddhist place of worship that dates back to 1383. We road our bike about 15km out of town and way up on the mountain. We then hiked up about 300 steps. The views were beautiful, the temple is stunning, and the monks blessed us. We road around for a while at the top of the mountain where the air was cool and the fog was eerie. Our time in Chiang Mai was just what we needed and so we headed off to the land of piranhas...Pai.
Three and a half hours on a bus through winding mountain roads and we arrived in Pai. We had already reserved a bungalow at the Pai Piranha Fish Farm so after grabbing some lunch, we called the owner of the farm and he gladly sent his girlfriend to pick us up. As we drove onto the property, Stets was excitedly checking out the three ponds looking for fish rising. We settled into our bungalow and grabbed some bait and spin rods to test out the water and fish. Almost immediately, the line started to unravel and I knew Stets had a fish on the line! A carp. He was happy to catch it but looking for the monster Piranha and not settling until he hooked it. Our time in Pai was mostly spent fishing and exploring the surrounding area and the town of Pai itself. The town is very small with many tourists and lots of young westerners who come to visit and end up staying due to the low cost of living and the endless partying. We weren't too excited about town itself so we stayed mostly at the fish farm. After a couple days of spin fishing, which is the way the owner fishes the ponds, Stets pulled out the fly rod. It was dusk and sunset was lighting up the sky. He made a few casts and then settled in for a spot in the middle of the pond. Bam...a fish on the line...and it was putting up quite the battle. Stets fought it for about five minutes and finally had me get a net and get this fish in. Finally...a piranha. And it was huge! Now he was on a roll. He stayed out for at least another hour and caught several other fish. That is the recipe for a happy man.
Our next and final stop in northern Thailand was Chiang Rai. This town is known as Chiang Mai's little brother. The town is small and quiet. We found a guesthouse that felt like home. The owner was very friendly and helped educate us about the town and fun things to do while we were there. We spent a lot of time on bicycles getting to know the city. We had researched the area before arriving and learned about "The Golden Triangle" which is an area where Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar meet. The area has a lot of history and is also know as "The Opium Triangle" as lots of opium was grown in this area for medicinal purposes. We booked a day long tour that took us through the country side, tea plantations, hill tribe villages, to the Golden Triangle, into the museum and also to the border town of Thailand and Myanmar. It was a long, educational day and we enjoyed every moment.
Our time in northern Thailand was fantastic and we were happy to once again be in the land of smiles.