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  • Sarina Harper

Adventures Around Northern Thailand ↣ Part 1

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Park 1: Bangkok ↣ Chiang Mai

What’s a girl living in Asia to do with seven weeks off from work, a relentless thirst for adventure, and a boyfriend just as excited to explore the world with her? Wanting to spend some time in Thailand as well as see my family, a devised a plan: a few weeks exploring Thailand, then a few weeks in the U.K. with my family! So once again Adam boarded a flight from the U.K. and made his way out to Asia, meeting me on my birthday to start our whirlwind trip that would take us through northern Thailand all the way to northern Scotland.

I flew into Bangkok where I’d spend just 2 days before heading up north. Riding the sky train into the city I chuckled at a sign asking passengers to save priority seating for pregnant ladies, the elderly - and monks! Hailing a tuk tuk, I made my way to our B&B near the Palace, scooters and songthaews zipping around me. Weaving through the city, we passed hundreds of food stalls, the spice and aromas rich, varied - and tempting! Since it was my birthday weekend, I treated myself to a luxurious spa afternoon. Given my own room, for three hours I was pampered with a tropical body scrub, facial and luxurious long massage before being flung out into the craziness that is Khao San Road.

The famous party street was exactly what it was rumored to be. Bars and restaurants competed for the loudest music, while lady boys paraded around the street, dancing and attempting to draw you in. Drunk backpackers sucked down lethal buckets of mysterious booze, and people of different ages, ethnicities and levels of suspect roamed about. But most importantly there were dozens of street vendors!

Ravenous from my afternoon of lounging, I opted for Pad Thai from a nearby cart. After selecting my noodles, the chef used scissors to cut the desired amount and set about tossing fresh ingredients into a wok. Viola! Minutes later I was feasting on a sumptuous Thai delight!

The next morning I awoke invigorated - despite my age increasing a year overnight, I was bursting with energy and excitement thinking about what the next few weeks held. With Adam arriving later in the day, I opted to go see the most famous palace in all of Thailand, which he’d seen on a prior visit anyhow. After feasting on mounds of tropical fruit I set off, map in hand, towards the magnificent complex of buildings which kings of Siam called home for hundreds of years. Exploring the grounds I felt astonished - hundreds of thousands of tiles in every color adorned each unique and ornate structure. I stared at buildings for minutes at a time, noticing more details emerge the longer my eyes explored. No longer a residence, the Palace today is still used for ceremonies - and more importantly: for everyone to appreciate its unmatchable beauty.

Just two weeks after his last trek out to Asia to celebrate New Years together (talk about frequent flier miles!), I was once again reunited with Adam! We set off to explore one of the world’s biggest marketplaces - Chatuchak Market. With over 8,000 stalls, one could get anything they could possibly desire in the vast 35 acre marketplace.

After feasting on various street food, we continued to replenish our energy throughout the afternoon with sweet and savory mango sticky rice and rich Thai iced teas. Before departing the big city, we visited Wat Pho to admire gorgeous chedis (which reminded me of ornate tiered cakes!) and the giant reclining Buddha.

That night we boarded a 6pm train bound for Chiang Mai, a 12 hour journey that would whisk us north, where the jungles we were so eager to explore awaited. We departed the hectic city at dusk and awakened to the sun rising over the hills the next morning!

After a surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep, I awoke and peered out my window. From my cushioned bed, I grinned - the rough buildings of Bangkok had been replaced with beautiful rice terraces! Sharing a songathew, we were whisked into the Old City. Passing through the gate, I noticed part of the old wall was crumbling in some sections yet still quite intact in others. I felt like I was riding in a fairy tale - everywhere I looked were colorful temples, majestically peaking out between tropical trees, the gold sparkling in the morning light! Greeted warmly and served a healthy breakfast at our B&B for the night, we soon set off to visit some museums on the history of the province. Before we headed to more remote areas, I wanted to get a lay of the land, and learn more about the hill tribes we would soon visit and live with. We visited the Chiang Mai National Museum as well as the Hill Tribe Museum which gave us comprehensive insight to the cultures we’d be surrounded by and the provinces we’d be staying in. Many museums and temples later, we headed to the night market to feast on Chiang Mai’s street food!

Of course we wanted to spend more time in Chiang Mai, but we decided to see more of the city on the tail end of our travels. The next morning we had over 800 curves through the mountains to reach a small village near the Burmese border that we’d be exploring for the next 5 days: Pang Mapha!

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