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Chiang Mai – It Could Have Been Worse

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It Could Have Been Worse…
Chiang Mai, Thailand

I think the Rainforest Boutique Hotel in Chiang Mai was one of my favorite spots we stayed at over the 3 weeks in Southeast Asia. It’s on a very quiet side street off Charoen Mueang Rd and about 100 baht ($3.30) tuk-tuk to the Old Quarter or even walk-able had we felt like it. The plush vegetation and flowers combined with a relatively elegant decor was welcoming the second we pulled up in the cab. The sound of the waterfall coming out of the (partial) infinity pool was definitely soothing as I got directions in pretty decent English to a small market right down the road.

My only beef with hotel was the beds – I’m fairly confident the queen bed was a piece of plywood (or possibly cinder blocks) with a sheet on it. And on top of that plywood is where I essentially spent my first 16 hours in Chiang Mai curled up in the fetal position, shivering while profusely sweating and hallucinating through the night. The only food I had been able to keep down during an entire day of travel from Krabi was a couple Pringles and I had spent the majority of my two flights in the back of the plane by the bathrooms. I don’t know whether it was food poisoning or something else, but I was not in a good place getting to Chiang Mai.

After 16 hours of restless sleep, I woke up late feeling surprising well. I was still pretty weak and out-of-it after rehydrating and getting a little food in me, but I was at least functioning. Four of us decided to head up to the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep about 15km outside of town into the hills. The Theravada Buddhist Temple is perched (and named after) Doi Suthep Mountain 1,300 meters above Chiang Mai. According to tradition, the site for the temple was chosen by a white elephant that was carrying a holy relic up the mountain. The elephant reached the level piece of ground where the temple now stands, trumpeted three times, circled three times, and laid down and died. The relic was buried at the site and then covered over by a 7 meter chedi. It’s now an important pilgrimage spot and of course, tourist attraction for Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

That night, the rest of my group was heading to well-reputed cooking class, but given what my stomach had been through the day before, I didn’t think that was the best use of my time and money. After a short nap, I hired a tuk-tuk to Wat Chedi Luang around sundown and spent an hour just walking around the grounds. Wat Chedi Luang is a 14th century Buddhist temple in the heart of the Old Quarter. At one point, the chedi was 90m tall until an earthquake in 1545 partially destroyed it. Until modern times, it was the tallest structure in Chiang Mai, but the preset restored chedi is only 60m high.

Chiang Mai Wat Chedi Luang

Chiang Mai Wat Chedi Luang

I wandered around the temple for a while before meandering through the old quarter, a bustling night market, and finally home. 

It was my first ‘city experience’ in Thailand and despite being bed-ridden for the majority of my time there, I still loved it. My friends came back raving about the cooking class and getting drunk at the night market, but for me, I think wandering around the old quarter and just soaking it in was one of the best things I could have done to experience the city in one night. I’m so, so glad that whatever virus I had seemed to only last 24 hours… It could have been much worse.

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