If you’re on one of the Thai islands and searching for a gas station, chances are you’ve probably already passed several…you just didn’t realize the whiskey bottles lined up on the side of the street are actually filled with petrol.
This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Sarah who’s currently living in Vientiane.
I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and I live in Vientiane, Laos. I’ve been based here for over a year and a half, which practically makes me a lifer in this expat community.
Before I came here I was working as a graphic designer in Ubud, Bali. I had a tremendously beautiful life there, but when that feeling hit that it was time to move on, I couldn’t shake it. So I took a break to go backpacking around Southeast Asia. When I made it to Laos I met another graphic designer who told me about the job, and I applied on a bit of a whim, and it all worked out!
Okay, I admit a few of these places and activities may end up costing you a few baht – but 50 Practically Free Things to Do in Chiang Mai just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, now does it? That said, between chatting with monks and getting a tattoo, to learning to dance and even scoring free meals, there’s something for everyone on this list.
1. See the monks in the morning - The only cost for this is getting your bum out of bed. Each morning beginning around 6:30 monks will walk the streets collecting their morning alms and food for the day.
2. Listen to jazz – On the north side of the Old City Northgate Jazz Co-Op. The bar opens up on to the street and on busy nights people will be standing in the road and sitting on the lawn across the street to listen to the tunes. No cover and no need to buy a drink.
3. Catch a documentary - Documentary Arts Asia screens free documentaries every Thursday evening at 6:30 at their gallery location off of Wualai Road. You can see their screening schedule here.
I love receiving books as presents. They’re personal, interesting and always welcome as a traveler who doesn’t want (or need) many things – I can always use another book to devour. Many of my favorite travel books aren’t specifically about travel and actually have to do more with history and food. I haven’t really enjoyed reading much from established travel writers, but get excited about different destinations through books that weave in details about places, people, food, and culture that are different than what I’m used to without the entire focus being on travel itself.
Thailand has its share of unique architecture and impressive attention to detail when it comes to making things suay, or beautiful. From traditional costumes to meticulous flower arrangements all done by hand, decorative finishes and elements are found everywhere.
But the White Temple in Chiang Rai takes that fixation with painstaking detail and beauty to the next level.
Wat Rong Khun, known to most foreigners as the White Temple, is the ongoing project of Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. Originally from Chiang Rai, Kositpipat has a long history of creating modern Thai art based off of traditional Thai styles. While many of the lines, shapes and themes you see running throughout his work stem from what you would recognize in other temples or Buddhist art, his personal style has a certain distinctness to it and isn’t without controversy combining traditional Buddhist imagery with social commentary, contemporary ideas, events and characters. (more…)
Chiang Mai’s a pretty small place and after being here for a while sometimes I slip into ‘nothing to do, nothing to see’ mode. It feels like I’ve seen it all. I know the ‘hidden’ places, have walked most of the little streets and been to all of the restaurants that interest me.
So when I find something new to me, in a way it’s even more surprising and special than when I was first exploring the area and everything was new and different.
A couple weeks ago I announced a new guest post series highlighting daily life in different places around the world. I’m starting it out with a post of my own from living in Chiang Mai, but if you’re an expat or are traveling/staying in a one place long enough that you’ve developed a daily routine and understanding of local life I want to hear all the little details.
If you’re interested in participating please shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the details.
My typical day in Chiang Mai has changed considerably over the past couple of years – starting out teaching at a high school from 7:45 a.m. – 4:50 p.m. everyday, to now having a more flexible schedule and better understanding of this place. Many things though, the little things that make up the day and life in Thailand, have stayed the same.
I’ve lived on my own in the bottom floor of house, slept for months in the back of a tattoo shop (not as strange as it first sounds considering many people throughout Southeast Asia live where they work…but still probably not something my parents appreciated hearing), and now live in an apartment just on the edge of town. While there are many travelers within the Old City of Chiang Mai and certain pockets just outside of it, the area around my apartment building is fairly green, with smaller apartment buildings, local Thai shops and few hotels or guesthouses. It feels real.
As I’ve mentioned before, part of my growing admiration for Bangkok has been in part to discovering how many boutique, and fairly affordable, places to stay. Now each time I go, instead of just finding a cheap room off of Khao San Road, I make a point to book ahead and try a new place in a new part of town. My list of boutique Bangkok hotels to hit is growing though with each trip…
Loy La Long Hotel
With its rustic bohemian feel, Loy La Long Hotel along the Chayopraya River is at the top of my list. The property is the definition of a boutique hotel, located within temple grounds with only seven rooms that are all individually decorated (most with views of the river!).
The last two weeks have been a blur of islands, temples, mountains, markets, motorbike rides, boat trips and festivals… Having visitors always gives you the opportunity to show off your favorite spots and do things you wouldn’t do otherwise, like spend a week in nice hotels, go on impractical day trips instead of working and realize, again, what an incredible place you live in.
Lots of posts are coming covering everything from the most interesting Bangkok markets, to getting from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by boat, and how to survive the ever-growing Loi Krathong/Yi Peng lantern launch in Mae Jo. (This year it included jumping a fence and climbing through barbed wire to escape the sardine-packed crowd. True story.)
But first, here’s a quick taste of what you can pack into two weeks in Thailand.